Summertime means more time for one of my favorite pastimes: reading. And I’ve read a lot so far, but I haven’t taken time to write my usual reviews. I’m combining several here because, honestly, I haven’t read anything lately that was truly worthy of a solo entry.
My Father’s Secret War by Lucinda Franks is a memoir written by Franks after her father’s death. It details her quest to uncover the mystery of his wartime activities, all the while she deals with her father’s declining health and worsening dementia. It was an interesting read, one which felt personal to me both because of my father’s wartime experiences and because of our family’s recent challenges with my grandmother’s memory issues. Franks’ father was a World War II veteran, and my father served in Vietnam. Like Franks’ father, my father is very reluctant to speak of his service, which, again like Franks’ own father was in the intelligence area. Franks account of her father’s one stock tale of his wartime work, one that involved stealing a pet pig, reminded me of my father’s own tale of sleeping through a mortar attack, which he makes into a humorous escapade.
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult resonated with me for an entirely different reason. This novel traces two children and their parents as the children grow from toddlers to teenagers. The action alternates between their childhoods and the event alluded to in the title: the nineteen minutes of a school shooting. As a high school principal, it’s hard for me to read about school violence, even when it’s fictionalized. I can’t help but relate it to All-American High. We spend a great deal of time planning for contingencies such as the situation presented in Nineteen Minutes. Honestly, when I picked this book up, I didn’t realize the exact subject matter. A few years ago we had an incident with a student who brought a gun to school. Fortunately, the situation came to a peaceful end with no one injured, but I will never, never, forget what it feels like to run down the halls of my school behind a SWAT team. I was glued to this book, and it was a quick read, but I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more if I’d had a bit more distance from the topic.
I picked up Best Friends by Martha Moody because the blurb on the back reminded me of my own relationship with my best friend. Like the main characters in the novel, my friend and I met in college and have followed each other through various phases in our lives. In the novel, which is set in from the 1970s through the 1990s, the two main characters have their ups and downs as they struggle through career changes, marriages, family difficulties, and parenthood. I’m happy to say that my own best friend and I have had a smoother journey through life so far. I enjoyed most of this book, though it sort of sputtered to an end. And, when I think back on it, neither of the characters was particularly likable by the time they’d suffered through all the twists Moody dealt them. I did learn that the author is also a practicing physician. I was left wondering how she managed to fit in a writing career, but that answered some of my questions about the fact that the physician character ends up being by far the most sympathetic in the novel.
Currently, I’m working on some fluff reading as a break from my more serious professional reading I’m doing for my new job. I’m reading Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Krause (Nanny Diaries) and planning on reading the latest Stephanie Plum novel as well. Reviews of those to follow soon!