The past few months have brought opportunities to connect with writers I have loved and loathed! Mad Honey by Jodi Piccoult was a book I loved by a writer I have been disappointed with on other occasions. This one, co-written by Jennifer Finney Boylan, was a gripping mystery with all you ever wanted to know about bee keeping. I’m not a big bee person but now I feel morally responsible to help save these little pollinators. When a woman moves to her father’s farm after a brutal divorce, she begins taking care of his beehives. The care and work are industrious and she has only her son Asher to help. Asher becomes a central character when he falls in love with Lily, another newcomer escaping from a dark past. From there, the book leads to an ending filled with shock, emotion and unbearable pain. Be prepared for swirling emotions and an inability to put the book down.
I also read Lessons in Chemistry by a new author, Bonnie Garmus. Elizabeth Zott is a chemist who unbelievably becomes a cooking show star in the 60s. The show is a hit, and her inspired cooking expertise mixed with chemical equations, lots of great friends and other women who have suffered through betrayal turns male-dominated science and television on its head. This is a fun book to read and also inspiring, as Elizabeth continues to rise and bring others with her on the wild ride.
Another new-to-me author, Rachel Kapelke-Dale, lured me in with The Ingenue, an intense story of a young prodigy pianist seduced by an older man. Her future is shaped when her passion for playing is altered by the intensity of her pain when he terminates the relationship. She ends up in New York City with a disappointing career and returns home to Minnesota when her mother dies. Her future as the heir of the historic Elf House is destroyed when she learns her mother has left the family home to her seducer, who is now a prominent faculty member at the University where her mother taught art. She and her father are stunned by the betrayal. She files a suit to overturn the will and begins to probe into her mother’s last year of life. The book held my attention throughout the investigation. Although the ending was more unbelievable than the well written beginning, it intrigued me enough to read The Ballerinas by the same author.
The Ballerinas offers a different setting but with a similar theme of girls becoming women who are committed to their talent. As ballerinas, they don’t all succeed at the same level. Betrayal and compassion are the ribbons woven throughout the book. Again, a shocking ending that feels inevitable as the ballerinas realize their lives are as women, not dancers.
Reading a new book by a favorite author is like having a birthday present and slowly unwrapping it. Sadly with a book, though, you come to an end before you are ready. Homecoming, by Kate Morton, was like savoring the gift and the cake and then realizing there are no more bows to untie or crumbs to lick. Morton’s latest novel, set in Australia, began in the hot summer on Christmas Eve. A young mother, transported to Australia in the 1950s from England by her husband, is found dead with three of her children. The fourth child, a newborn daughter, is missing. The mystery surrounds the village, and lives are irretrievably changed, particularly for the three generations of women who lived in the shadow of Halcyon and its final doomed days. The mystery looms over the women until the final solution is revealed in 2018. It was a book I didn’t want to finish but I couldn’t stop reading.