Mennonite in a Little Black Dress {book review}

It’s my mom’s fault I am such an avid reader.  In the 35 years that I have known my mother, I have never known her to have fewer than five books checked out of the library at a time.  There is a spot near their fireplace that is a bottomless piles of books–the titles change each time I am there, but the pile is constant.

Mysteries are my mom’s brain candy of choice and I would not be surprised if she has read every mystery in our local library.  Twice.  From time to time she will read a non-mystery book that someone recommends to her.  (In fact, she picked up The Great Gatsby after my review of the movie.)  A couple weeks ago she asked me if I had ever read Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen.  It was autobiographical and pretty “cute” my mom said.

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter {a review}

There is nothing more frustrating to me as a reader than when characters fail to communicate with each other and get angry and make life-changing choices based on that miscommunication.

It’s also what propels me through a book the fastest because I have to know how messed up they are going to make their life by doing instead of talking things over.

This was my love/hate relationship with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards.

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A Good American

9780425253175_p0_v2_s260x420I’m a sucker for historical fiction.  Make it American historical fiction and I will be lost in the book for as many hours as I can possibly devote to reading each day.

That is how it was with A Good American by Alex George.

Before signing up for this book review, I read, “This is the story of the Meisenheimer family, told by James, a third-generation American living in Beatrice, Missouri.”

Done and done.

Some of my most favorite novels are stories of family histories: East of Eden, Middlesex, Fall on Your Knees, and anything by Wally Lamb.  I love to follow a great story of a family through multiple generations…to see how history weaves itself amongst the choices and secrets and directions the characters’ lives take.

A Good American was no different.

The story starts with Jette and Frederick in Germany and follows them as they immigrate to the United States at the turn of the century.  Rather than the typical story of immigrants on Ellis Island, however, Alex George has his characters come ashore in New Orleans and travel up to Missouri.  They live through wars and prohibition growing their family.  There are deaths and births, failures and victories.  And there are plot twists that will break your heart and make you burst out laughing.

The writing flows so well from one chapter to the next, it was difficult for me to stick my bookmark in and call it a night at the end of a chapter.  George left each chapter with a hint of a tease that made me want to read on.

Sometimes, however, Alex George’s blatant foreshadowing annoyed me.  Instead of just ending a chapter or section, he almost always had to add a “but that wouldn’t be the last time…” or “or so they thought…” or something along those lines.  The book, to me, didn’t need these obvious teasers; the plot itself was intriguing and endearing enough to push the reader to want to read one more section…one more chapter.  I felt that these little lines were too obvious and assumed too little of the audience.

It was easy to overlook the obvious foreshadowing, though, because as I said, the plot was really good.  I liked the development of the characters, although there was also a tone shift once the narrator’s character was born and he began talking about his own contribution to the family story.  I suppose, since this is a first person novel, that is to be expected.  But I didn’t enjoy that part of the book nearly as much as the beginning.

Overall this book was one of those perfect “winter” books:  just right for curling up with in a big chair under a blanket while sipping hot chocolate.  It reads as if you are being told an actual collection of stories from someone’s past, so it makes for a lovely companion on a chilly evening.

It left me remembering why I love books like this: I love to get caught up in the characters and their lives as if they were real.

Come see what others think and follow {or join in} to our discussion at BlogHer Book Club.

Legal Stuff: This post is sponsored by BlogHer, but all opinions are my own.

 

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