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REVIEW: Stay With Me and My Sister, the Serial Killer

Last February, I read two unique and surprising debut novels about family relationships by Nigerian authors. I have never read anything like either of these books before. Stay With Me  by Ayobami Adebayo is the story of Yejide and her husband, Akin, who married for love and want to break from the tradition of polygamy. But when Yejide is unable to get pregnant, Akin’s family pressures him to take a second wife. The characters are so complex… the events are unforgettable. I felt so many emotions reading this novel. I’m looking forward to reading anything this author writes. “Yejide would have a child and we would be happy forever. The cost didn't matter. It didn't matter how many rivers we had to cross. At the end of it all was this stretch of happiness that was supposed to begin only after we had children and not a minute before.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Stay With Me Ayobami Adebayo Published August 1st, 2017 by Knopf 288 pages   My Sister, the Serial Killer  is darkly humorous
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REVIEW: American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

  Lauren Wilkinson sets the bar high in her debut novel. It is written as a letter from the protagonist, Marie, to her twin sons. She tells the story of how she became a spy and what it was like for a black woman to be working for the FBI in the 1980s. Marie is contracted by the CIA to go undercover and spy on Thomas Sankara. The political aspect of the book is inspired by the true events surrounding Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso during the Cold War. Ultimately, this is a story about family. The novel spans decades as Marie also tells her boys their entire family history – from her relationship with her parents and sister, to meeting their father and what became of him. “I’m writing this to give you honest answers to the questions I hazard to guess you’ll ask while you’re growing up. I’m writing it all down here just in case I’m not around to tell you.” The pace is a bit slower than the average spy thriller, but for me it pays off because of the depth of the characters

REVIEW: The Unseen World by Liz Moore

In 2020 , my reading goal was 90 books. I surpassed that goal, reading 91, many of which stood out as exceptional. The Unseen World was the first of these. I read three Liz Moore novels last year, and each one was completely different. Long Bright River is a police procedural set in an opioid crisis. The Words of Every Song is a series of interconnected short stories about the music industry. The Unseen World , my favorite, is a family mystery with a touch of sci-fi. What the books all have in common is an emphasis on characters and relationships. There was something nostalgic for me in The Unseen World . I identified right away with the child narrator, Ada, who was born the same year I was. She is 13 at the start of the book when her father develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. When I was about that age, I read A Wrinkle in Time and it became one of my favorite books. In it, Meg Murray (also 13) enlists the help of her neighbor to find her father. He is a scientist working on a scient

REVIEW: The Harpy by Megan Hunter

What would you do if your husband cheated? Would you stay together? Would you seek revenge? Maybe you would do both. The writing style is distinct and fanciful—it took me a while to get into its rhythm, but it works well for this story that is mostly stream of consciousness told from Lucy’s point of view. Lucy is a very flawed but relatable character. I was on team Lucy from the first page.   Lucy finds out her husband has cheated, and it makes her question her own present, past and future. At times she even steps out of herself and the point of view switches to third person, narrated sometimes by the harpy that Lucy has obsessed about her whole life. “ I asked my mother what a harpy was, and she told me: they punish men for the things they do .”   This is another novel that doesn’t have quotation marks, which seems to be very popular right now. In this case, it adds to the surreal quality of many scenes—we are totally in Lucy’s mind, and we are not sure if it is completely sound

REVIEW: Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Mickey Fitzgerald is an officer on the streets in Kensington, Pennsylvania, where an opioid crisis is killing hundreds of people a year. The situation is hopeless, but Mickey can’t give up hope because her sister is one of the addicts. It is heartbreaking to read the “Then” sections of this novel, which chronicle the sad and neglectful childhood that Michaela and Kacey had growing up after their mother died of a drug overdose. They live with a callous and cruel grandmother. Mickey is smart, shy and serious, and doesn’t fit in socially. Her younger sister defends her, but as Kacey falls in with the wrong crowd, the sisters drift apart and Mickey finds a mentor in a policeman she meets at a youth program.   The “Now” sections of this book are terrifying—a serial killer is targeting prostitutes and Mickey is afraid that one of the victims will be her sister, who has been missing for weeks.   “I wonder, as always, whether I’ll know the woman: whether she’ll be someone I recognize fro

REVIEW: Watching You Without Me by Lynn Coady

Why do we feel the need to be polite to people who cross the line and act inappropriately? Maybe it is part of the Maritimes etiquette which requires us to be friendly and polite.  I'd like to believe I would never be a  na├»ve  as Karen , but what makes this story so scary is that maybe it actually could happen to me. “I had forgotten how smallish cities like this one worked, the way people found out about one another—and east coast people had a knack for this in particular.” Karen’s mother has just died, and her older sister, Kelli, needs a caregiver. So Karen takes a month off work in Toronto to come home to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to transition her sister into a care home. Her mother left a binder called “Kelli’s World!” which details the programs and helpers that are part of Kelli’s schedule. One of these helpers is Trevor, who takes Kelli for walks twice a week. Right from the get go, Trevor is annoying. After a few chapters, I want to punch him in the face, and

REVIEW: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I first read Rules of Civility in 2013, and since then I have loosely thought of it as my favorite novel. This is one of those books that I loved so much I wish I could read it again for the first time. I have always been afraid that I would like it less the second time around. So it felt strange reading this book again. In the prologue, Katey Kontent sees a photograph of a friend she knew 30 years earlier, in her twenties. Her thoughts then turn to the events and people of 1938, a year that changed the course of Katey’s life. As Katey and her roommate, Eve, meet Tinker Gray on New Year’s Eve, I feel like I am also remembering long forgotten friends. “Yes, my thoughts turned to Tinker and to Eve—but they turned to Wallace Wolcott and Dicky Vanderwhile and to Anne Grandyn too. And to those turns of the kaleidoscope that gave color and shape to the passage of my 1938.” The details in the writing are so rich and evocative they transport me to 1930s New York, just as