Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty’s books, all set in suburban Sydney (if I remember correctly), are compulsively readable / listenable. (I think I’ve listened to most of them. It takes me back to my year on exchange in Adelaide, South Australia.) Her latest, which came out fall 2021, centers on a family with a tennis school. The recently-retired parents, Joy and Stan, have just sold Delaney Tennis Academy, where their four children grew up playing. The book opens when Joy has gone missing after leaving a strange text. The story is told in two segments: the present and six months before, when a stranger showed up on the Delaneys’ doorstep. Part mystery, part commentary on generational patterns and differences, I challenge you not to get sucked in!
I’ve learned so much about storytelling from Liane Moriarty. Her characters are always interesting, and watching them interact is a lesson in itself. I imagine a stone being thrown into a pond as I read her books. She’s really good at developing those ever-expanding ripples that are triggered by the inciting incident (in this case, the appearance of the mysterious stranger). And last of all, her light tone while dealing with some pretty heavy subjects is a very appealing. I love me some hard-hitting books, but I equally welcome a light touch. It’s a refreshing break sometimes.
This book brought to mind Anne Tyler’s Ladder of Years.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
My freshman year of college, I started a ritual that carried me through the rest of school: I find a big, juicy novel to read during exam week (a gift to myself at the end of a day of studying). That year I read Watership Down because the boy I was dating (who is now my husband!) told me it was his favorite book. Years later, he read it as a family read aloud. (For months afterward, our boys would pretend to be Fiver or Hazel or Bigwig. Both have gone on to read Watership Down multiple times themselves.)
This read with my book club was my third time through.
The story opens with Fiver, a rabbit who has visions, telling others in his warren something bad is coming. The bad thing, the reader learns, is the warren is a future construction site. A handful of rabbits leave with Fiver to create a community of their own. What is so cool is Adams’s creation of the rabbit world, from the lapine glossary in the back of the book to their folktales and sayings and religion. Every warren or solitary rabbit the wanderers meet is an exposure to a new rabbit culture. This time through I realized the rabbits who were poets also served as community prophets. They didn’t share warnings or longings directly but told things at a slant, as Emily Dickinson would say, speaking the words that had to be said but most were unwilling to utter.
See our well-loved family copy above!
Saffyre Maddox has gone missing. The girl was last seen Valentine’s night in front of her former psychologist’s house. What she was doing there is a mystery. A number of women in nearby neighborhoods have recently been assaulted. Could there be a connection between the attacks and Saffyre’s disappearance?
This is the second Lisa Jewell book I’ve read, and I’m certain I’ll seek out more. It’s told in three voices and takes place in two time frames — before and after Valentine’s. We hear from Saffyre, the missing girl; Kate, the wife of Saffyre’s former doctor; and Owen, the creepy neighbor who recently lost his teaching job because he was accused of misconduct. It’s gritty and dark and very engaging. Chapters end at perfect moments. You can’t help reading (or listening) on.
Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham
“Something strange happened on an unremarkable day just before the season changed.” The opening of this picture book leads readers into those first months of the pandemic that were so solitary and strange. Outside, Inside is a thank you to essential workers, it’s a glimpse at the wild world turning a little wilder without people around, it’s a collection of memories showing the ways we spent our inside time, and most of all, it’s a celebration of community. Pham says in her author’s note that almost every face in the book was “inspired by a real person,” and the hospital images were “based on real events.” She ends her note by saying, “This book is a time capsule of our moment in history, when the world came together as one to do the right thing.” Lovely and uplifting.
*** Teaching Books is giving away five copies of my newest middle-grade novel, MIRACULOUS. Check it out! ***