Tag Archives: literary fiction

Sisterly by Jorja DuPont Oliva

Janie returns to her hometown to make things right with her sister, and her ex-boyfriend who married her sister, by revealing her secret to them. She stays in the yellow house run by Mrs. Francis, where the otherworldly seems to creep in, everything is too connected for reality, and Mrs. Francis forbids her to enter the mysterious, yet beckoning, backyard. Though the dialogue is stiff—no contractions are used, and can sound unrealistic—Mrs. Francis’ dialect is over the top, the characters’ interactions with each other and Janie’s “episodes” are vivid. When Janie’s missing time and chaotic, dreamlike events are explained in the final scenes, the brilliance of Oliva’s storytelling skills burst forth like fireworks. Though hints are sprinkled like candy throughout the story, the reveal is surprising, and the reader can only be impressed by the descriptive details and timeliness of those “episodes.” References to the inciting incidents are well placed in the story, with emphasis in the reveal for a satisfying ending.

The author offered this novel gratis in March and I was fortunate to pick it up and read it, posting a review for the book gift and for my delight in the story. Thank you, Jorja!

The Little French Bistro by Nina George

Finding Femininity and Feminism in France

Does love have to be earned through suffering?”

Marianne determines that the Seine is preferable to one more minute of accommodating her husband’s controlling condescension. She walks away from the tour group during dinner to dive into the river, and her husband does not even notice her leaving. A homeless man “steals her death” by pulling her from the water. In the hospital, her husband expresses his concern that her attempt affects him adversely. She again walks away, bent on reaching Kerduc, the seaside town depicted in the nurse’s placemat tile, a town in which she invests her romantic notions of a larger death than her life has been. Circumstances lead her there as if by magic, pulling her into a setting amongst colorful, complicated characters that could have been created by Maeve Binchy. She falls into employment at Ar Mor restaurant, fitting seamlessly into the rhythms of the kitchen. At 60, Marianne begins a new life, of wonder, of real love, of authenticity. Toward the end, the novel gets a bit over the top (with the young waitress Laurine inexplicably removing all her clothing to rescue Jean-Remy’s love letter boats from the water, but maybe that one’s a French thing), yet maintains the integrity of its characters and Breton setting. A woman blooming into a fully realized individual after decades of being an extension of her spouse evokes feminism, when she can see herself as an equal to her lover.

Brittany, France, stands proud as a character in this story, new friends emphasizing Breton identity and sharing Breton folklore. Marieanne’s mysterious introduction to the community as “the woman who came from the sea” invokes the legend of Ys, the city swallowed by the sea, and her new love takes her to the magical forest of Broceliande. Although German, Marianne feels at home amongst her new friend, from the little touches, such as her return to playing the accordion, a long-stored instrument given to her by a Breton reluctant to fall for her charms based on memories of the war. She discovers that there are various ways to thwart love and defy romance. In another nod to Maeve Binchy, the ending provides closure without complete resolution, as in real life. There is death, rekindled romance, illness, love rescued, dementia, and new life, with all their complex and tangled emotions.

International bestselling author Nina George, after “The Little Paris Bookshop” (translated into 35 languages), again lays out beautiful, complicated relationships in seemingly impossible situations and offers readers wildly emotional connections and absolution as human beings in “The Little French Bistro,” on its way to multiple translations.

I was fortunate to receive a copy of this wonderful book through NetGalley.

Nina George’s gorgeous website

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay—pub date April 17, 2018

This story opens in an interrogation room, with Angela prepared to tell her story to police, if they will only listen. Finally, Detective Novak allows her to share everything that she feels is relevant, beginning with her meeting H.P. in high school, where he changed her life. They became best friends who fell in love, or as Angela tells the story, soul mates. She leads Detective Novak through their complicated relationship, hampered by her lack of a healthy role model and his small town contentment, and further strained by Angela attending Oxford, where she’s befriended by Freddy, who dotes on her against her will. Detective Novak perks up at the entrance of Saskia, the missing wife, the reason for Angela’s interrogation, during H.P.’s visit to England. Misunderstandings ensue, emotions tangle, and new pathways are formed. Angela blames losing her first love on everyone else, spending her life from that point on waiting for him to do the right thing. When her mother moves in uninvited after leaving her father, she pursues an unhealthy friendship with H.P. as their houseguest and babysitter, which culminates in Saskia’s disappearance. Detective Novak pieces together the evidence through the long night of storytelling by Angela, who is either also an innocent victim or a truly unreliable narrator.

Nay leads the reader through a maze of Angela’s fears, internal struggles, unrealistic desires, and inevitable disappointments. Angela is brilliantly depicted as a minor character in her own life, for which she can then lay guilt at whoever she allowed to make the decisions for her, as she waits in vain for things to go her way without taking action herself. Failure to communicate is a key element in the derailment of Angela’s life, and Nay relays every misstep taken by those underestimating her. The ending is not as well captured as the entire novel leading up to it, subtlety left behind in the previous chapter.

I was fortunate to receive an early copy from the publisher through a giveaway.

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline—pub date April 10, 2018

Dr. Noah Alderman is on trial for his life, accused of murdering his stepdaughter. Her father fought ruthlessly for custody of baby Anna as a power play after Maggie suffered the relatively unknown, but common, postpartum psychosis. With his recent death, Anna reaches out to the mother she wants to know. She enters the family, which includes Noah’s 10-year-old son Caleb, with a fortune from her father and an attitude of entitlement. Her accusations of molestation against Noah rend Maggie’s heart. Though circumstantial evidence points to Noah as Anna’s killer, Maggie retains a sliver of hope, not quite able to believe he is capable of such an atrocity. A phone call with shocking news sets Maggie on an investigation that may possibly free Noah and return him to her.

Told in alternating timelines, moving back in time through Noah’s trial, while Maggie’s story moves forward from the initial contact with Anna, the stories come together after the trial, with the reader learning information along with the characters. In true Scottoline fashion, the reader is kept guessing who did what until the perspective-shifting bombshell, and the action fast forwards. Un-put-down-able!

I received a digital ARC through NetGalley of this fantastic novel from one of my favorite authors.