Brief moments of delightful silence during spring break have summoned my pen to paper; I am drafting a summer reading list. Though I will likely crack open only half my selections—and a voice tells me to consider the many books waiting on my shelf—April is when I greedily pile on the possibilities. This month we recommend titles that can help kick off your summer reading list.
Creative Nonfiction Editor Kate Haas shares, “I’m reading What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. It’s 1998, and Alice Love is expecting her first child, happily married to Nick, and renovating a big old house. She loves chocolate and sleeping late, and she doesn’t take life too seriously. Then one day, she awakens after falling and hitting her head at the gym. Bewildered by this—since when did she work out?—Alice is even more shocked to learn that ten years have passed, and it’s 2008. She is the toned, fit, busy mother of three children, in the midst of a divorce from Nick, and inexplicably estranged from both her beloved older sister and her closest friend. And she remembers none of it. The fun of this book is watching Alice haphazardly navigate her own life: the children she doesn’t recognize, the marriage gone so terribly wrong, the bewildering relationship with her unexpectedly angry sister. With her memory gone, Alice must search, like a domestic detective, for clues to her own identity. Can she figure out how she ended up in a life she never wanted? And can she get back the one she dreamed about? Perfect for a vacation or a break from more serious literature, What Alice Forgot is a quick, fun read—but it’s impossible to put it down without imagining yourself in a similar situation.”
Literary Reflections Editor Andrea Lani offers a nonfiction selection, “I just read How to Catch a Frog: And Other Stories of Family, Love, Dysfunction, Survival, and DIY, a memoir by textile designer Heather Ross. I read Ross’s vivid account of her childhood in rural Vermont with one part envy (from my inner Pioneer Child who would have loved traipsing through the woods, swimming in waterfalls, and riding horses bareback without adult interference) and two parts horror (from my inner Security Child who grew up with two loving parents who ensured their children were well-fed and adequately clothed and housed). Ross details how a childhood free of authority led to a shaky start at adulthood and her struggle to achieve stable ground as an artist, mother, and wife, and sprinkles the book with whimsical projects from soup recipes to a plastic flower tepee. When I finished, I handed the book to my husband. ‘I know this looks girly,’ I said, referring to the flower-strewn cover, ‘but I think you’ll like it. It reminds me of your childhood,’ which he spent roaming the Maine woods with little adult supervision. To my surprise, he read and enjoyed it, too.”
Profiles Editor Rachel Epp Buller writes, “I just finished reading Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman. The story follows Aaliya Saleh, a late-in-life recluse and self-taught translator who surrounds herself with great works of literature. Set in Beirut, the story moves around in time throughout Aaliya’s life but returns again and again to the importance of female relationships. What captivated me throughout, though, was Alameddine’s stunning use of language and beautifully interwoven passages from other works of literature.”
“Birthing the Mother Writer” columnist Cassie Premo Steele raves about her newest find, “Yesterday, I took a little break and went to my local bookstore. I took four books from the shelf and sat in the café and read the first chapter of each one. And the one that hooked me was Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s hard to describe this novel. Sometimes it feels like an intimate portrait of mothering young children. Other times, it’s about having a depressed mother. Then it switches into the most vivid portraits of what it means to have a sister that I’ve ever read. It’s also a novel about anxiety, psychic powers, and marriage. Suffice it to say I was up way too late last night reading. And I can’t wait for this day to be over so I can dive into it again.”
Editor-in-Chief Maria Scala adds, “I’ve been enjoying Lorna Crozier’s 17th collection of poetry The Wrong Cat. Here, as always, Crozier’s writing is irreverent, lyrical, and seemingly effortless. I keep returning to a poem in it called ‘Book of Small Mistakes,’ which details, initially, all the little things a husband does, that, when added up, get under his wife’s skin, inspiring her to write a book. Not surprisingly, as is characteristic of Crozier, there is a twist at the end of this particular poem, letting readers know there is something larger at play:
… In the Book of Small Mistakes,
a small mistake, she writes for her defence,
should be the size of a screw that holds the hands
of a watch together, the size of a spot before it becomes
a melanoma, the size of one eyelet
in a child’s white shoe
she never had the chance
to lace and tie.
Whether you are new to Crozier’s work, or a staunch fan like myself, I highly recommend The Wrong Cat for its well-crafted and accessible stories.”