WWW Wednesday — Mother-Daughter Version 2.0

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Too cold to sit outside . . .

It’s WWW Wednesday, where I answer three questions:

What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? What do you plan to read next?

I’m visiting my mother in Hilton Head, South Carolina, so I’ll answer those questions for both of us. And no, we are not reading outside on lounge chairs. The temperature is 44 degrees — not outdoor reading weather, although it’s balmy compared to Chicago’s current 19 degrees.

Here’s what we are currently reading:

9781594205712MI’m in the middle of Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. My book group is discussing it tomorrow night, so you might say I’m cutting it a little close, but I like to read my book group books as close to the meetings as possible so they’re fresh in my mind.  I’m impressed with Ng’s assured, precise writing style and her careful, well-paced narrative structure. It’s the kind of book you want to read in one sitting. All the reviews I’ve read, including this one from the New York Times, have been excellent:

Celeste Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, is a literary thriller that begins with some stock elements: a missing girl, a lake, a local bad boy who was one of the last to see her and won’t say what he knows. The year is 1977, the setting, a quiet all-American town in Ohio, where everyone knows one another and nothing like this has ever happened before.

This is familiar territory, but Ng returns to it to spin an unfamiliar tale, with a very different kind of girl from the ones we’ve been asked to follow before. If we know this story, we haven’t seen it yet in American fiction, not until now.

One of our members emailed today to say she wouldn’t be able to make it to the meeting (it’s her daughter’s birthday — I guess that’s a decent excuse): “I loved the book even though I thought it was heart-wrenching. Can’t wait to hear about the discussion. Two great books in a row. We are on a roll.” (Last month we discussed All the Light We Cannot See.)

My mother is reading What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, for her next book club meeting. It’s about a 39-year-old woman who loses her memory and thinks she is 29, pregnant with her first child. She thinks it might be a little lightweight for a book club discussion. I am embarrassed to admit that I keep confusing this book with Still Alice by Lisa Genova, which is a moving novel about a woman suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Genova is a Harvard-trained neuroscientist who has written several novels about families dealing with brain disorders. (Still Alice, by the way, has just been made into a movie starring Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin, with a wide release scheduled for 9780062325143January 2015.)

Here’s what we just finished reading:

The last book I finished was The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless. McCandless is the sister of Chris McCandless, the young man whose journey of self-discovery and eventual starvation in the Alaskan wilderness was told by Jon Krakauer in Into the Wild. I don’t really know what to think about this book. Into the Wild raised more questions than it answered, and The Wild Truth answers some of those questions. But it was disconcerting to learn that Krakauer (and also Sean Penn, who directed the movie version) were in possession of key missing information and agreed with the McCandless family not to reveal it. The conclusion I reached as a reader about McCandless’s reasons for severing ties with his family and disappearing “into the wild” turned out to be faulty. I feel a bit cheated knowing that Krakauer didn’t present the whole story in his book, although I understand why he couldn’t reveal family secrets.

coverMy mother recently read The Children Act by Ian McEwan, about a London family court judge who must make a decision about whether to order a lifesaving blood transfusion for a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness. My mother highly recommends The Children Act, although her favorite McEwan novel remains Atonement. The London Independent echoes her thoughts, saying, “In short: this novel is not as good as Atonement, but what modern novel is?”

What’s next?

I’m going to return to Us by David Nicholls, which I was finding absolutely delightful, but had to set aside to read my book club book. I got a text from a friend last week who asked me if I’d read Us yet, saying, “Loved Us, read it next if you can . . . it’s a perfect book.” So of course I had to pick it up right away! It was longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. I also just picked up a copy of Maureen Corrigan’s And So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, which I can’t wait to read. (See Ann Patchett’s thoughts on the book here.)

I see that my mother has a big stack of books to be read. Right on top is A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith, the story of a group of Gold Star mothers (women whose sons were killed in World War I) who make a government-sponsored pilgrimage to Europe to visit their sons’ graves.

I’d love to know what you’re reading and what you’re thinking of reading next. I’m especially interested in book club selections, since I’m planning a book club roundup of great discussion books.

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18 thoughts on “WWW Wednesday — Mother-Daughter Version 2.0

  1. I loved A Star for Mrs. Blake and think you will too if you like historical fiction. I am currently reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, which I kept putting off and actually started once and put down, but stuck with it this time and am so glad I did. Beautifully written…not quite done yet but think I can safely recommend!

  2. Always enjoy these WWW posts Ann. They continue to fill my list of books I want to read and that list is never in short supply! I just started Reconstructing Amelia. I have had it on my list forever and picked it up last night. I just finished Garth Stein’s, The Art of Racing in the Rain, and feel like I want to go out and buy this book for everyone on my holiday list! Who would have thought a book narrated by a dog could be so moving! I think up next for me will be Me Before You. I have somehow never read a Jojo Moyes book and feel like I might be missing out. Very excited to see the announcements this evening for the National Book Awards!

    • Hi Amanda! Yes, isn’t The Art of Racing in the Rain a wonderful surprise? And what an upset last night with Redeployment. I need to read it now! Let me know what you think of Me Before You . . . it’s a tearjerker. It’s the only book I’ve read by Jojo Moyes, though.

      • An upset last night for sure! I read all 5 of the short list and Redeployment was not in the Top 3 for me. I found the book to be an inconsistent set of short stories and struggled to connect for the majority of the 12 stories.

  3. I LOVED Everything I Never Told You–I’m sure it will end up on my Top 10 Fiction list at the end of the year. I also really liked Us, and What Alice Forgot is waiting for me on my kindle.

    • I loved it as well! We had a wonderful discussion at our book club last night — our poor leader could barely get a word in since everybody had so much to say about it. I’ve just finished Us and really enjoyed it, although I wanted to tell Albie to SHAPE UP.

  4. We read/like so many of the same books, and have similar “to read” lists. I live in Chicago, too! I need to investigate where you sell books! I saw a woman in Starbucks here recently and she was reading Everything I Never Told You. She raved about it and was flying through it. All the Light We Can Not See is on my Kindle and a must read soon as another friend hailed it highly. What Alice Forgot is pretty light, but enjoyable. I need to make more time for reading that’s for sure!

    • Hi Gina — so great to connect with another Chicago reader! I work (very) part-time at two different bookstores — the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square and Lake Forest Book Store in Lake Forest. I worked for 16 years at Lake Forest and now I’m a semi-retired bookseller, helping out here and there. Hope sometime we can meet in person and discuss books!

  5. I want to read Everything I Never Told you too. I’m with your mother in that I thoroughly enjoyed What Alice Forgot although it is much lighter than the author’s more recent books and Atonement is one of my favourite books of all times!

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