It’s always nice to start off anything new with a quiet, gentle approach -right? So why not start off the New Year with a Gentle Read?! If you’re reading along with us, that means you found a book that has a low-key, charming book that centers around a small community or group of people and their everyday joys or sorrows. Or maybe you were waiting to see what we all choose to read and share at our discussion? If so, then you’re in luck today! Here’s what everyone had to say:
Carol: In Morning Glory by Sara Jio , Ada is a travel writer who is mourning the tragic loss of her husband and child. When her psychiatrist offers to rent her a houseboat in Washington and the suggestion that she get away, Ada jumps at the opportunity. The houseboat and surroundings are just what she needs, and, with nothing but quiet and calm, and a few helpful old timers as neighbors, Ada begins the healing process and is given a second chance at love. She also learns about Penelope Wentworth, a woman who lived in the same houseboat in the 1950s. Penny was in an unhappy marriage and went mysteriously missing one night decades earlier. Ada attempts to unravel Penny’s story and the secret of her disappearance—a secret that some of her new neighbors are still trying to keep. This gentle read is about love, friendships, grief and healing and makes for quick reading. An added bonus is the addition of some tasty sounding recipes and a twisty surprise end.
Chris: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is an absolutely charming story. It all begins when Queen Elizabeth’s corgis go into a bookmobile parked near Buckingham Palace and she follows them in. Once there, she feels obligated to check out a book, does so, and that one checkout, ultimately turns her into a voracious reader. So much so, that she starts neglecting her royal duties; she’s more interested in staying home to read. Naturally, her palace staff is troubled, but never more so than when she turns her thoughts to becoming a writer. As wonderful and witty a story as you might expect from one of England’s most celebrated writers.
Dori: Miss Buncle’s Book, written by D.E. Stevenson and published in 1936, is a cozy story of small town village life. Barbara Buncle, a wallflower and spinster, is in need of money, so she decides to write a book about the only thing she knows – the villagers of Silverstream, England. Much to her amazement, the book is accepted for publishing under a pseudonym and becomes quite popular, but when her fellow villagers read it and recognize themselves, she creates quite the tempest in a teapot. Some residents vow to either sue the author for libel or hunt down the viper in their midst, but have no idea that Miss Buncle is the culprit. When events in the book begin to take place in real life, life in the village changes for the better. First of a trilogy, this is a humorous, quick read, perfect for a winter afternoon.
Beth: The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag is a whimsical, magical tale of self-discovery and love. Cora Callaway is a scientist who spends her days in the research lab trying to complete her parents’ life work to save the world, at least until her grandmother, Etta Sparks, takes action. Etta’s dress shop is magical and every dress helps make her customers’ dreams come true. With a little meddling, Etta works her magic into the life of her granddaughter’s world, opening up new feelings, memories, and mysteries. This was a whimsical and lighthearted (despite some heavy circumstances) read. Though it wasn’t the most riveting storytelling, you can’t help but fall in love with some of the uncanny characters.
Lauren: Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof interweaves the lives of myriad characters on a quaint college campus. We meet professor Tom Putnam, his troubled wife Marjory and her mother Agnes, and Rose, the new campus bookstore employee who seems to charm everyone she meets. But everyone’s lives are upended with the arrival of ten-year-old Henry. Henry arrives at the train station with a backpack containing a teddy bear, a change of clothes, a birth certificate with Tom Putnam’s name on it, and a half million dollars. Woodroof calls upon each of her characters to cope with changing life circumstances, secrets, surprises, and true matters of the heart.
Steve: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson finds Mr. Malik, a widowed 61 year old, vying to identify the most birds that he can in a week, hoping to top his old school acquaintance, Harry Khan, for the chance to invite Rose Mbikwa to the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball. Mr. Malik is secretly in love with Rose, who leads the weekly bird walks of the East African Ornithological Society that he attends. The story revolves around his challenge to identify the birds, and his nightly meetings at the Asadi Club, a social club where he and fellow members review the day’s events (the unassuming Mr. Malik surprisingly gets into more than his fair share of dangerous situations), and more importantly the bird totals.
Emma: The River is a stand-alone novel by Beverly Lewis. Tilly and her father have always had a strained relationship. She believes her father holds her responsible for her little sister’s death. Tilly left the Amish community, married an Englischer, and has young children. Ruth, Tilly’s sister, followed her into English life cutting off all ties with the family in Lancaster. The sisters are invited home to celebrate their parents’ 40th anniversary and discover their father is in poor health. An engaging story of family relationships that begin to reconcile after many years.
Stacey: In A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley, Sara Thomas, the main character in the contemporary setting, is a loner with uncanny ability to see patterns and break hidden codes. When Sara’s given the task of deciphering the diary of Mary Dundas, a seemingly average woman of the Jacobean era, everyone is surprised at the secrets revealed. The complex relationships, in both the present and the past, will provide plenty for readers to ponder and the historical information adds a little easy learning for all.
Next time? We’ll be sticking with the unexpected genre + month = theme by reading Romance! Yes, that’s right. We’ll be reading Romance in February… surprise! So if you’d like to read along with us -and who wouldn’t?- you’ll want a book that appeals to your emotions and will give you a fabulously happy ending. (Sweet!) All the characters can be strong and independant but it’s their romantic relationships that are the main focus of the story. Enjoy the love people…yep yep…enjoy the love!