Keeping Lucy #TGreenwood

Keeping Lucy is the first T Greenwood novel that I have read and it is one that grabbed me, pulled me in and still will not let me go. It is heart breaking and heartwarming, historical and timely all at once. It’s a book that I highly recommend.

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Keeping Lucy begins with Ginny Richardson giving birth to her daughter, Lucy, who is born with Down Syndrome, known as ” a mongoloid” at that time. Ginny’s husband and father in law make the decision to put Lucy in a state-run facility called Willowridge where she will be cared for until she dies. Those are their words. For several days, Ginny is given “twilight,” the drug most women were given during that time to forget the pains of childbirth and her loss. Remember, natural childbirth was not in vogue at this time. When my own daughter died in-vitro, I was given “twilight” so that I would “forget” everything. Trust me, you don’t forget. Your body remembers everything and your mind desperately tries to fill in the pieces that it was forced to black out. This drug is horrific. I cannot believe and entire generation of women were routinely given this drug. For two years Ginny is forced by her husband and her father in law to pretend her daughter did not exist until her best friend brings her news articles about the horrors that have been uncovered at Willowridge: children lying in their own feces, roaches in the food, children malnourished and far worse. Ginny and her friend, Marsha, decide – finally – to go to Willowridge only to discover that, while she can visit Lucy, her parental rights have been terminated by her husband. Ginny takes matters into her own hands at this point and a battle for Lucy’s survival ensues.

I actually loved Keeping Lucy for multiple reasons and many of those reasons are the very ones for which other readers are disparaging the book. First, Keeping Lucy is based on an actual place called Willowbrook. You can read more about it HERE. It was so horrific that legislation was passed in the late 70s that allegedly altered the way that we in the US care for the “disabled.” I use the word allegedly because I grew up in the south near a facility aptly called the Conway Human Development Center. It was a place of filth and horror where people with mental and physical disabilities were sent just like Lucy was sent in this story. It still exists in one of the poorest states in the US and the residents are not developing anything other than bedsores and diseases. It’s a disgrace. If you doubt that, then you can read this article from today’s news.   Nothing has changed. Nothing. Books like Keeping Lucy are necessary to educate readers about these horrors then as well as now.

Furthermore, every time I read a book set in the late 60s and early 70s and that book is historically accurate regarding the plight of women, I am utterly amazed at the number of female reviewers who write scathing reviews about the passivity of the female protagonist. Here’s a reminder for you strong women of today. My daughter and I purchased a home two years ago, We literally had to jump through hoops in the state of Indiana to get a bank to approve a home loan to two women without a male co-signer! This is the 21st century. Until 1978, it was legal to fire a woman from her job if she got pregnant. An abortion was not legal until 1973 – and in some states in the southern US it still is not regardless of what you might think otherwise. Until 1977, you could be fired for reporting sexual harassment in the work place, a woman could not apply for a credit card on her own without a male co-signer until 1974,  and could not refuse to have sex with her husband under any circumstances until the mid 1970s. Are you beginning to get a picture here ladies!? Ginny was not passive. She was living her life according the law of the land. While most others were guaranteed rights in 1965 and 1966, women were not granted any rights, other than the right to vote, until the mid to late 70s and we still obviously are fighting for the right to decide what is best for our own bodies! In Keeping Lucy, Ginny literally had no rights. Furthermore, everyone smoked!! They smoked in restaurants, they smoked in their cars, they smoked in stores, they smoked when pregnant and they smoked around kids! My doctor, whom I adored, smoked every time I visited – in his doctor’s office! I don’t know where you were in the 50s, 60s and 70s but there were advertisements for cigarettes extolling the benefits of nicotine! You are looking at the behavior of these women through your 21st century glasses and missing some very valuable lessons that we all need see and learn. Primarily this – nothing has changed!! We have politicians and religious leaders who want babies born at all cost. These children are then put in institutions like the Human Development Center and no one ever considers the toll that it places on the women who have given birth. No one EVER thinks about the women – period – much less these poor children!

So, with all of that said, please read Keeping Lucy without blinders, with an open mind and with the idea that there is more here than two women on a joy ride across the south. This book is available for pre-order now.

Thank you very much #Netgalley, @tgwood505 and #StMartinsPress for my advanced copy of #KeepingLucy.

 

 

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Tomorrow There Will Be Sun #DanaReinhardt

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun is a marvelous written piece of women’s fiction that humorously explores a woman’s life as she realizes that she has reached “middle age,” and her life is not as perfect as she had planned.

51Z11MUh0oL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_amazonJenna Carlson has planned the perfect birthday party for her husband, Peter. Each year Peter and his best friend, Solly, celebrate their birthdays together but this year, their 50th, has to be the best ever! Jenna has been planning for more than a year for the couples, she and Peter; Solly and his second wife Ingrid, to vacation for a week at a luxurious villa in Puerto Vallarta. Joining them will be Jenna and Peter’s daughter, Clementine, Solly and Ingrid’s out-of-control 5-year-old son and Solly’s teenage son, Malcolm from his first marriage. Malcolm has recently has been expelled from school but we don’t talk about that. It sounds like a real delight, doesn’t it? The bottomless, perfect margaritas do help, really, just keeping drinking those. What doesn’t help is that Peter insists on taking “work calls” from his gorgeous assistant back in the states, Solly is incredibly overbearing and Clem is glued to her phone the entire trip – except when she’s trying to seduce Malcom. At the point that a drug cartel disrupts the local town and the villa loses both internet and phone connectivity, the nerves of everyone are frayed. An emotional explosion is inevitable; what the fall out will be may surprise you.

I admit that I, in my 50s, obviously am the target demographic for Tomorrow There Will Be Sun. I found Jenna to be so completely relatable. Her fears, her worries, the things that annoy her – even the words that she makes “off-limits” – all are things that I completely understand and do and say. Okay, there is a lot of Jenna in me. I found the other characters reprehensible and it almost got to the point that I couldn’t finish the book because I, quite literally, despised Solly so much. I’m also very VERY glad that I no longer have teenagers in my world because the more that I read about them in fiction, the less I like them as a whole. When the book finally reaches its crescendo, I am right there with Jenna. I get it! But then, I also totally understand what she does next. Why? Because I’ve been there and done that. Not that my husband did what Peter did, but when you get to be my age and your entire life has been committed to raising your children, your career was set aside for them and them alone, you wake up and realize that the comfortable life you enjoy is very much wedded to the income of the partner that you have. Would you dissolve a business partnership over something like this? It’s questionable. Would you learn to make compromises so that you each had what you wanted in the end? Maybe. Every person involved makes the decisions that are right for them and that is exactly what Jenna does in the end. My gosh, the author does an amazing job conveying the emotions, the fears and worries of every woman who ever has found herself in Jenna’s circumstances.

I loved the book, I loved Jenna and most of all I LOVE that women are writing books about real, live women, warts and all, who are not in their twenties , rather, those who are faced with the ugly parts of life! This was a stellar read for me and I hope it will be for you as well.

Much gratitude to #Edelweiss, #PamelaDormanBks, @PenguinBooks and #dsreinhardt for this incredible read!

The Secret of Clouds @AlysonRichman

From the #1 international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours comes an emotionally charged story about a mother’s love, a teacher’s promise, and a child’s heart…

the-secret-of-cloudsMaggie Topper has left the bustling life of a New York public relations world to become a teacher on Long Island, a job she adores and one at which she is quite good. She is approached to tutor a homebound child who is too ill to attend daily classes and, although Maggie is uncertain at first due to a past trauma of her own, she comes to enjoy and look forward to her time with Yuri, the young Ukrainian-American boy who is quite ill. Soon they are bonding over baseball and their mutual love of reading and writing. As  her weekly visits become routine, Maggie discovers more about Yuri’s parents’ tragic life that they left behind in Ukraine, including their survival of the horrific Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

This is so much more than just Maggie and Yuri’s story. Told in alternating timelines, there are flashbacks to Katya and Sasha’s time spent in Ukraine. We read as their love unfolds and grows and their struggle to reach a decision about leaving their families behind to come to the US. We also have Maggie’s interactions in her private life as she struggles with relationships: private, familial and with her other students in the classroom. It is a joy to watch as she grows as a woman, as a teacher and as a friend to those around her.

The Secret of Clouds touches on so many important topics and, if there was one critique, and really there are none but if there was to be a minor one, it would be that there almost were too many important topics covered. The Holocaust is a recurring topic and a very poignant section of the book is when one of Maggie’s co-workers recounts a memorable story of an art teacher who taught Jewish children in the concentration camps, most of whom were killed. The story is tragic and beautiful but brief. There is Chernobyl and the horrific after-effects of this disaster, how even today this tragedy still is playing out physically and mentally in those who were affected and their offspring and even in their offspring. And then there is Maggie and her parents, her familial relationships, her budding romance, her work as a teacher. It was quite a lot for a short book. All of that not withstanding, Richman does an incredible job weaving it all together seamlessly and the book flows brilliantly so that it is over before you realize and far sooner than you wish for it to be.

This is a rare book about friendship on so many varied levels. It is a look at cross cultural relationships and how important it is for each of us to interact with one another. Most importantly, it is about hope and love and learning to live a life with a full and open heart. It will make you smile, cry, and laugh but, most of all, it make you ponder long after you turned that very last page.

With a grateful heart to #Edelweiss, #AlysonRichman and @BerkleyPub

Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop @RebeccaRaisinAuthor

Rosie had everything she ever had wished for: the perfect husband, she was the sous chef at a Michelin rated restaurant, two perfect children – well, they were perfectly planned out in her future where they would be perfect to be sure – and she lived in a perfect apartment. Until she walked in on her birthday to find her not-so-perfect husband with a pre-packed bag walking out on her for another woman! Rosie’s very perfect life was shattered. So she did what any sane woman would do – she drank a lot of cheap wine and unknowingly used all of her savings to purchase a hot pink RV named Poppy! Rosie gives it all up – the perfect apartment, the perfect job, the Michelin stars and hits the road with Poppy to open a pop-up tea shop.

41962558I’ve recently read quite a few books about women who have hit a crisis point in their lives and, throwing caution to the wind, leave everything behind to open a bakery, bookstore, coffee shop, etc. Rosie’s story, however, hit notes of reality that I found myself relating to on multiple layers. She was alone, in fact she was a loner in general. She had used her savings to purchase Poppy so money was not a luxury for her. When Poppy breaks down, she has to rely on the kindness of others and scrabble together new ways to make money to pay for the repairs. She got herself mixed up in a “catfishing” scheme that was extremely realistic and, sadly, happens far too often to women online. I found myself nodding throughout the book, saying yes, yep, been there, done that. I suspect we all have – or will – find ourselves in similar situations. That’s not to say that Rosie did nothing except make mistakes. Along her journey, she made true friends, learned real lessons, renewed her self-esteem and discovered that she could fall down, take chances, and get back up again to carry on. She found love and laughter in the most unusual places but learned that she also could stand on her own two feet when she needed to do so.

Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop is a wonderfully written story of friendship, love, self-discovery and person growth – a true delight to read for all.

Many thanks to #Netgalley, @Jaxandwillsmum and @HQDigital

 

More Than Words @JillSantopolo – Publication Day

More Than Words is a beautifully written, poignant story of life, love, metamorphosis and relationships.

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Nina Gregory is an heiress to one of the most wealthy hoteliers in the US. She was raised by an authoritative but very loving father who was her sole parent after the tragic death of her mother. She knows that someday she will have to take over the helm of her family’s successful business, but for now, she is very happily involved in her job as speech writer for up and coming politician and NYC Mayoral candidate, Rafael O’Connor-Ruiz. Nina also is very happily dating her childhood best friend, Tim, whose family has been a part of her life forever. Tim’s parents are intricately involved in the hotel’s business and his parents and Nina’s have been friends since their university days. The only cloud in Nina’s world is that her beloved father is dying of cancer. Upon her father’s death, Nina slowly begins to discover secrets about their company and her mother’s death. As the ramifications of these lies and misdeeds are revealed, Nina realizes that her life, her legacy and the image she has worked so hard to maintain has been a ruse. It is now up to her to put the pieces back together and to create the company and woman she truly desires .

At the heart of More Than Words is a romance, a love story, but the book is far more than that. It isn’t solely about the love that Nina has for the men she has fallen for, but also about her own self love and self worth; the love she believes she has missed by not having a mother in her life; the adoration and love she has/had for her father despite his many shortcomings and the love she has for the strong women in her life. It is a story of self-discovery and how people, especially women, are admonished to behave, look and dress in certain ways in order to fulfill rigid expectations and, often, those expectations don’t correspond to the person’s true identity. As Nina’s façade begins to crack and fall around her, she discovers her true self and what emerges is completely different and beautiful. That is the true story of More Than Words and it is a lesson for us all to learn. It is significant and touching and Santopolo has done a masterful job illustrating this caveat of wisdom for us through a touching love story.  With February being the “month of love,” what better way to celebrate than reading a love story?

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #JillSantopolo and @PutnamBooks for my copy of #MoreThanWords on sale now.

Dear Rosie Hughes @Melanie_Hudson

Those of us who write book blogs obviously adore reading, literally consume books, or we would have blogs about sports or politics or some other random interest instead. Often I find myself writing about how much I “love” a book and how terrific it is – and it is – because it is rare that I don’t thoroughly enjoy a book with its power to transport me to a different place or another time, to escape for just a little while. So when a book comes along that genuinely surprises me, catches me off-guard and completely rocks me to my core, often I am left speechless. Such was the case with Dear Rosie Hughes, a beautiful book written by Melanie Hudson. I finished this book very early on Christmas morning before anyone else was awake. The family woke to find me sitting in front of the fire bawling my eyes out wondering what, on earth, was the matter with their poor old mom! It has taken me several weeks to compose myself and my thoughts well enough to write this review and even now I know I will not do it justice.

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When I received Dear Rosie Hughes I assumed it was a sweet, cozy read. The cover is cute, the premise is precious. Two adult women who have been lifelong friends since childhood fell out of touch over something that happened in their early adulthood. When Rosie signs up to go to the Persian Gulf as a meteorologist, she and Aggie begin writing to one another again – just to pass the time while Rosie is away. The book itself is a series of letters between Aggie and Rosie, Rosie and her parents, Rosie’s fellow soldier and Aggie, and various other peripheral characters that come in and out of their lives throughout the story. As the book unfolds we learn more about each of the women, their relationships with one another, with their parents, their town, with Rosie’s husband whom she may or may not be divorcing, the child Rosie lost and Aggie’s myriad of interesting dates. We watch as Rosie first adapts to life in the desert, then becomes dejected as the truth is revealed about why they actually are there, her horror as the war begins, her struggle as one of the few women in the camps. We read about Aggie who uses humor, hysterical, laugh-out-loud humor, to cover her pain of rejection that she has suffered throughout her life and we see her growth as she takes on the responsibility of writing her own book as well as running a café in Scotland. The growth in friendship and maturity for everyone involved is a beauty to read and behold as it unfolds.

As I began reading, I was somewhat dismayed that the entire book was nothing except correspondence between various people but as I continued reading I realized that this truly was one of the most intimate methods of communicating thoughts and feelings that I’ve ever come across in fiction. By the time I concluded the book, I was so completely and utterly invested in these characters’ lives that I felt as though they were my friends, my daughters, my son, my town. Perhaps it is because my husband was in the military and we were involved in the Persian Gulf, the first one not the second, and we had friends who fought and who died there. Perhaps the relevancy was so close to me that I identified with the hope, the joy and the pain. Or, perhaps, Hudson captured it all so perfectly that we all can identify with these women and their friendship, their family, and their loss. Regardless of why this book affected me so deeply, I only know that it did and it is, by far, one of the very best books I have read in a long time. If you don’t read another book that I recommend in 2019, please read this one. Rosie and Aggie’s story are waiting for you.

My eternal gratitude to @Netgalley, @HarperImpulse and @Melanie_Hudson for allowing me the honor of reading #DearRosieHughes

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Unmarriageable, as many no doubt know, is an entertaining re-telling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – with a twist.

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If you are familiar with the original Austen story, then the premise of Unmarriageable will be familiar to you; it is, in fact, the same. The difference, and what works so well, is that it is set in today’s modern Pakistan. If you are unfamiliar with the history of Pakistan, it once was part of India, separated now after a war for Independence, and is a thriving democracy that still very much is based on its British colonial past that it learned while it was part of  British colonial rule. All that to say, they study English classics more often than many westerners outside of the UK and have a fascination with British literature rarely seen outside of Europe. And, while so much of Pakistan is quite modern, its class structure still is very much stuck in the colonial past. The roles of women, while evolving, still is stuck there as well. That is why this particular setting for this particular book is so utterly fascinating.

Kamal’s writing is tight and, while she doesn’t have a flare for wit like Austen (few do,) her characters are charming and their observations about the Pakistani culture are very much on point. I have several friends from Lahore, Pakistan and while reading Unmarriageable I could hear their voices and see their streets come alive in my mind. Although Kamal now lives in America, her Pakistani roots still very much shine through in her writing and those of us who rarely get a glimpse of the sub-continent are able to see a bit of it through her work.

Whether you are an Austen fan or just a fan of great fiction, you will find Unmarriageable delightful, entertaining as well educational.

My copy was furnished by #Netgalley, #RandomHousePublishing, #BallentineBooks