It’s been a few weeks since the last chapter, but I’ve been reading two new books that I’d love to share with you!
Let’s begin with our first title!
Writers & Lovers by Lily King is about Casey Peabody – a 31-year-old struggling writer. After the sudden death of her mother and end of her most recent relationship, Casey arrives in her home state of Massachusetts in the summer of 1997 without a plan. A former child golf prodigy, she now waits tables and rents a tiny, moldy room at the side of a garage while trying to pen a novel that she’s been working on for the last 6 years. At her age, Casey holds on to what her old friends have let go of: the determination to live a creative life. When she falls in love with two different men, her world falls apart even more. Casey’s fight to fulfill her creative ambitions and balance the conflicting demands of art and life is challenged in ways that push her to the brink.
So far, this is a compelling character study. Even though not much happens throughout a good chunk of the book, I find Casey to be an interesting character. At age 31, she’s still trying to figure things out, while everything falls apart around her. This explains why she’s stuck in a rut. I think some readers might be annoyed with her since she doesn’t do much. At the same time, she’s experiencing a big writer’s block, so it’s understandable why she’s incapable of doing a whole lot outside of work. Also, she can be snarky and cynical, but these are mainly defense mechanisms from getting too vulnerable with others.
Also, the two men that Casey falls in love with couldn’t be more opposite from one another. In one corner, Oscar is a successful author with two sons, and he adores her. In the other, Silas is of Casey’s age and is too trying to figure out life. However, he is full of mixed signals. This is especially apparent when he drives across the country on the day of what was supposed to be their first date. There would be a clear choice, but Oscar has been showing more of his true colors to Casey lately, and she’s not really liking it. I can’t wait to see what happens, even if she doesn’t end up with either of them.
I’ve been listening to the audiobook, which is narrated by Stacey Glemboski. Glemboski is a professional audiobook narrator who has recorded books from a variety of genres. In 2020, she was a Sovas finalist for Audiobook narration–fiction–best voiceover for this title, and I can see why. From the moment I heard Glemboski speak, I immediately imagined Casey being Charlize Theron in the movie “Young Adult.” This is very fitting since that movie also tackles with the struggles of trying to figure out one’s life while in their thirties. Additionally, this vocal performance provides Casey’s snarky and vulnerable sides effectively. As for the other characters, Glemboski does a fine job distinguishing among them like Harry – Casey’s gay friend from work – with a posh British accent, Oscar with a Pierce Brosnan charm without the dialect, and Silas with a slightly slower and rougher tone. I can see why Lily King recruited her again for the audiobook of her 2021 collection of short stories Five Tuesdays in Winter. Overall, it’s the strongest vocal performance I’ve heard in awhile.
And now, we’ve come to the second and final title in this chapter.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is about Ada – an eleven-year-old girl who lives with a clubfoot during World War 2. She has never left her family’s one-room apartment. Her mother is far too humiliated by Ada’s disability to let her outside. When her brother Jamie is shipped out to London to escape the war, Ada takes the chance and leaves too. The siblings end up with Susan Smith – a woman who initially didn’t want to have children, yet she takes them in anyway. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan, and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
This book is a 2016 Newbery Honor Book, and it’s easy to see why. Its protagonist is disabled, yet the novel only feels sorry for her when it needs to. For the rest of the time, it highlights what Ada does to become more independent and trusting of others. It also shows her as a flawed child. At times, I was frustrated by her because it was clear that the people around her wanted to help, but she would have none of it. However, I understood why she felt that way due to the trauma inflicted by her mother and the environment she lived in prior to residing with Susan.
I also want to point out that there are parts that can be tough to get through. For example, the scenes in the apartment can be intense. This is especially true when Ada uses rather cruel methods to keep Jamie in the apartment, and when their mother stuffs her in the cabinet. Fortunately, that’s mainly in the two chapters. In addition, there are moments, in which Ada has panic attacks. Luckily, from where I’m at in the story, it’s slowly getting better for her. I look forward to seeing what the outcome is.
We have now come to the end of the twenty-sixth chapter of “What Am I Reading?”
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