Fiction & Memoir
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I call books friends because that is what a good book feels like to me. A friend that has told me a wonderful story I never want to end or a friend that has inspired, encouraged or taught me how to do this life better. A friend who takes me on adventures and shows me the joys and sorrow of other lives and worlds. I share these friends with you because I love to read and I am grateful to these authors who have labored long and hard to bring such joy to my life. Happy reading! (Let me know if you enjoyed one of these books and I’m always looking for another good book to read if you care to share it with me.)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (historical fiction) by Annie Barrows, Mary Ann Shaffer
What it’s about: This historical fiction book is about popular British author, Juliet Aston’s search for a new topic to write about. When she receives correspondence from Dawsey Adams, a farmer on Guernsey Island, her life begins to change. This story is set after World War II and deals with the struggles of the island when it was occupied by Nazi Germany. The book format is letters and telegrams written between Juliet, her publisher, best friend and the charming characters on the island. Author, Mary Ann Shaffer traveled to Guernsey in 1976 where she became stranded at the Guernsey airport and read “Jersey Under the Jack-Boot”. Years later, encouraged by her book club, she started writing her first novel, but died in 2008 knowing her book was scheduled for publications, left in the hands of her niece, Annie Barrows.
Why I liked it: Historical fiction is my favorite type of literature because I learn history and read a great story at the same time. These simple, but charming characters will pull you into their world and make you want to buy a cottage beside them. The sadness of this time, is filled with friendships and simple pleasures as these island folks learn to endure hardship, laugh, cry, and lean on each other. Such a delightful book that I wish I could read more about these friends. I highly recommend it.
Chasing Frances (fiction) by Ian Morgan Cron
What It’s About: Hero Chase Falson is the pastor of an evangelical megachurch in New England whose crisis of faith inopportunely manifests itself in a sermon to his congregation. He’s urged to take some time off and flees to visit a relative in Italy who happens to be a Franciscan priest. As Chase travels to restore himself spiritually, he learns about Francis of Assisi and is challenged in his faith.
Why I liked it: The characters in this book are real and refreshing. For Christian literature it is not predictable or preachy, but leads you on a journey of a pastor’s crisis of purpose, faith, and love. Unexpected roads and delightful, refreshing characters help Chase and us as we struggle to find a deeper walk with Christ in the era of the modern mega church.
The Kitchen House (historical fiction) by Kathleen Grissom
What It’s About: Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook, clean, and serve food, while guided by the quiet strength and love of her new family. In time, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, caring for the master’s opium-addicted wife and befriending his dangerous yet protective son. She attempts to straddle the worlds of the kitchen and big house, but her skin color will forever set her apart from Belle and the other slaves.
Why I liked it: Grissom does an amazing job telling this story full of heart-warming and terrifying characters. The difficult lives of these people at the turn of the nineteenth century on a tobacco plantation are hard for us to comprehend, but so important to remember. The bond of love that goes beyond skin color and family is so beautifully told, you will wish you could help these poor souls. A wonderful piece of historical fiction.
*If you liked this book, the sequel “Glory Over Everything” is just a moving.
Dancing Under the Red Star (memoir) by Karl Tobien
What It’s About: Between 1930 and 1932, Henry Ford sent 450 of his Detroit employees plus their families to live in Gorky, Russia, to operate a new manufacturing facility. This is the true story of one of those families–Carl and Elisabeth Werner and their young daughter Margaret–and their terrifying life in Russia under brutal dictator Joseph Stalin.
Margaret was seventeen when her father was arrested on trumped-up charges of treason. Heartbroken and afraid, she and her mother were left to withstand the hardships of life under the oppressive Soviet state, an existence marked by poverty, starvation, and fear. Margaret was ultimately sentenced to ten years of hard labor in Stalin’s Gulag. Yet in the midst of inhumane conditions came glimpses of hope and love as Margaret came to realize her dependence upon “the grace, favor, and protection of an unseen God.”
Why I liked it: This true story is full of sorrow and hardship and yet gives us hope that it is possible to endure even in the most difficult of situations. It will make you thankful for even the smallest blessing and encourage you to endure any situation you find yourself in today.
Where the Wind Leads (memoir) by Dr. Vinh Chung
What It’s About: Where the Wind Leads follows Vinh Chung and his family on their desperate journey from pre-war Vietnam, through pirate attacks on a lawless sea, to a miraculous rescue and a new home in the unlikely town of Fort Smith, Arkansas. There Vinh struggled against poverty, discrimination, and a bewildering language barrier—yet still managed to graduate from Harvard Medical School. Where the Wind Leads is Vinh’s tribute to the courage and sacrifice of his parents, a testimony to his family’s faith, and a reminder to people everywhere that the American dream, while still possible, carries with it a greater responsibility.
Why I liked it: This amazing true story of family devotion, unity, and sacrifice is riveting. The bountiful life they left to the new impoverished, hard-working life in America and all the hardships in-between helped me see the difficult road many make to come to our country. It made me want to never complain about my life or any hard work and to be grateful for all I had been given.
The Nightingale (a novel) by Kristan Hannah
What It’s About: Bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of World War II and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France―a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women.
Why I liked it: Once again it is my favorite – historical fiction. The story of these sisters and what they endure and sacrifice during the occupation of their country is soul wrenching and powerful. A story of love, endurance and sacrifice that you will keep you turning pages.
The Lake House (fiction) by Kate Morton
What It’s About: Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. After a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as a novelist. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old Edevane estate—now crumbling and covered with vines. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.
Why I liked it: Kate Morton is a master story teller who will keep you guessing about what happened to the young boy until the end. The characters from different time periods are charming. A delightful, enthralling read.
The Glass Castle (memoir) by Jeannette Walls
What It’s About: The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to feed, clothe, and protect one another, and eventually find their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.
Why I liked it: A truly unbelievable story of children living in poverty and dysfunction who overcome their hardships to become responsible, successful adults. A story of great family love, adversity, fun and sadness. A wonderful story of achievement despite great obstacles.
The Walk series (fiction) by Richard Paul Evans
What It’s About: The first book in the inspiring New York Times bestselling series about an executive who loses everything he holds dear and embarks on a walk across America that changes his life forever. Taking with him only the barest of essentials, Alan leaves behind all that he’s known and heads for the farthest point on his map: Key West, Florida. The people he encounters along the way, and the lessons they share with him, will save his life—and inspire yours. A life-changing journey, both physical and spiritual, The Walk is the first of an unforgettable bestselling series of books about one man’s search for hope.
Why I liked it: I am a fan of Richard Paul Evans and this four book series did not disappoint. Even though I was expecting it to be somewhat predictable, Evan’s creativity in his characters and storytelling kept me turning the pages until Alan reached his final destination in Florida.
All the Light We Cannot See (historical fiction) by Anthony Doerr
What It’s About: New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo carrying what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. Werner Pfennig, an orphan in Germany, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Why I liked it: The story of these two young people who must struggle to survive and overcome hardships during World War II is a magnificent and moving novel. Wonderfully told bringing two lives together at a most difficult time in history.