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Girl Well Read

Developmental Editor by day, Book Blogger by night.

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

Give Me Your Hand - Megan Abbott

A special thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Kit Owens and Diane Fleming have a complicated past. Before Diane transferred into her high school chemistry class, Kit was just a regular student. Diane's brilliance pushed Kit, and the two became friends—that is until Diane confessed a chilling secret to Kit that changed everything between them and almost derailed Kit's life.

 

Fast forward more than a decade and Kit is a scientist working in a lab. Her past collides with her work when she learns that Diane Fleming is her competition for a highly coveted opportunity to work on a groundbreaking new study led by their idol, Dr. Severin. The two former friends find themselves once again vying to get noticed, only this time, they share a secret that could derail everything that they have worked so hard for.

 

Abbott is a master with imagery. The theme of blood is prevalent, both in the colour red and subject matter. I enjoyed reading about the PMDD study and the hysteria that ensues as a result. This makes for interesting subject matter as well as an interesting premise.

 

The girls have such an complicated dynamic that blurs between friendship and rivalry—an interesting relationship to explore in today's climate where successful women are often pitted against one another. Abbot further examines this by illustrating how difficult it is for a woman to succeed in a male-dominated field like the sciences. Her character study is amazing. Diane is a complete sociopath that oddly captivates everyone she comes in contact with, including the reader.

 

It was dark and twisty with just enough suspense that is built by consequence. Abbot does not reveal her hand, she plays her cards one at a time, her pace is spot-on! The writing is tight, she leaves nothing to the imagination which is refreshing.

 

This was a thrilling page-turner and I could totally see this being adapted into a movie. Congratulations, Megan, on another master of a thriller. Well done!

The Life Lucy Knew by Karma Brown

The Life Lucy Knew - Karma Brown

A special thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Park Row Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Lucy Sparks hits her head after suffering a winter weather related fall.  When she wakes up in the hospital with her parents and co-worker, Matt, by her side, she wonders where her husband, Daniel, is.  She believes that Daniel is her husband, but he's actually her ex-boyfriend that she hasn't spoken to in four years.  

She is suffering from what are fictitious memory recollections and her life as she knows it is completely different from her actual life.  Essentially, it's like honest lying—Lucy's memories are false, but because she can even recall such vivid detail, the memories seem incredibly real to her. Given that Lucy's memory can't be trusted and that this may be a permanent condition, it is a devastating experience for her friends, family, and especially for Matt.  You see Matt is Lucy's doting boyfriend, not just her coworker which is how Lucy remembers him.

Despite Matt's best efforts, Lucy continues to have feelings for Daniel.  Lucy must make a difficult choice about which life she wants to lead, who she wants to lead it with, and who she really is.

 

Karma Brown is one of my new favourite authors.  I had the pleasure of attending an author event featuring Karma last May and she is delightful!  It was a high tea and book signing at the King Eddy in Toronto that was hosted by BookClubbish.  Lainey, as in gossip maven, etalk correspondent, co-host of The Social, and founder of laineygossip.com Lainey, joined Karma for a Q&A session.  The women chatted about the writing process—Lainey has also has written a book Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What's A Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of)—what it's like being a woman in the publishing industry, and where Karma gets her inspiration from.  Both ladies were well-spoken and super interesting!  If you have an opportunity to attend an event with Karma, I highly recommend you do so, you won't be disappointed.

For fans of Karma's books, The Life Lucy Knew is a bit of a detour in style, but one that I liked! Without giving anything away, the ending of this novel is further developed than her other stories and in this case it really worked.  Also unique to this book was all of the Canadian references and I enjoyed Toronto's presence in the story.

Karma is such a gifted writer.  There were a few decisions that could have gone either way, and any of those scenarios would have worked because her writing is that good.  Congratulations, Karma.  Another fantastic read and I can't wait for your next book!

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

When Life Gives You Lululemons - Lauren Weisberger

A special thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Lauren Weisberger is back and so is Emily Charlton!  

Readers will remember Emily from The Devil Wears Prada as Miranda Priestly's chief assistant. Emily is now living in Hollywood and is an image consultant for the rich and famous.  Although her roster of clients includes high profile celebrities, she is losing clients to another younger image consultant and seems to be in a downward spiral.  She needs to put herself back on top—nobody does damage control like Emily, but the problem is she is hopeless when it comes to social media.  

Karolina Hartwell is the ex-model wife of a senator on track for the presidency.  Their life seems picture perfect until Karolina is arrested for a DUI with a Suburban full of children.   

Although the women met at Runway years earlier, Miriam is the link between them.  She was a partner at a prestigious Manhattan law firm, but decided to move to the suburbs of Greenwich, CT to spend more time with her children.  Being a stay-at-home mom in a wealthy affluential neighbourhood sounds like every woman's dream, but Miriam is discovering that it is more stressful than her high-profile job.

The three women band together over Karolina's woes to navigate their way through life in the burbs.  All is not as it appears, Hollywood has nothing over Greenwich.

Can I tell you that I tore through this book?  It was completely addictive and indulgent.  And the title...can we just take a moment to appreciate how clever and cheeky it is?

Weisberger has penned three very different, but as equally intriguing, characters.  Fans of The Devil Wears Prada are not going to be disappointed.  In my opinion, this was far better than Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns and I'm wondering if it is because this book came home to the characters that made the series what it was, Emily and Miranda.

This book should be top of your summer reads pile.  Perfect for discussing with your girlfriends over your favourite cocktails!  Cheers, Lauren Weisberger.      

The Death of Mrs. Westaway

The Death of Mrs. Westaway - Helen Ruth Elizabeth Ware

A special thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Harriet, who goes by Hal, is down on her luck.  She reads tarot cards on the Brighton pier and struggles to make ends meet.  She is all alone after her mother was tragically is killed by a hit-and-run a few years earlier.  When she receives a letter that bequeathes a large inheritance, Hal knows it to be a mistake but acts on it anyway.  She only needs a few thousand pounds to change her luck once and for all—she deserves a bit of happiness.

She makes the trip down the English coast to attend the funeral of her "grandmother" and meet her "family".  Being able to read people as well as she does, Hal quickly realizes that something is very wrong with the situation and finds herself at the centre of it because it revolves around the inheritance.

It turns out what she thought was a lie, may actually hold some truth, and someone is determined to keep it a secret.

Ruth Ware, this is fantastic!  I loved it as much as The Woman in Cabin 10. You truly are a master of your genre.  

She's checked all the boxes: a creepy old house, suspense, symbolism.  But the best part is the writing—Ware reveals just enough to keep the reader completely enthralled, but doesn't give anything away.  I especially loved the use of the tarot cards to help Hal figure out what's going on.  "Don't rush—her mother's voice in her head.  Build your story.  Lay it out—card by card."  That's exactly what Ware does.  Brilliant!  

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah

A special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Kristin Hannah's newest book takes place in Alaska in the 70s and 80s.  The land is wild, unpredictable, and harsh.  The Allbrights think Alaska will be their salvation, but for a family in turmoil, it will become the ultimate test of survival.

 

Ernt Allbright has returned from the Vietnam war a broken and volatile man.  After losing another job, he makes a rash decision to move his little family north, to Alaska, where he has been left property by a fallen soldier.  Here they can make a fresh start, live off the land and by their own rules.

 

Leni is thirteen and is the voice of reason in her parents' passionate and tempestuous marriage.  She hopes that the new opportunity will lead to a better life for her family.  Her mother Cora would follow Ernt anywhere, even at the cost of a relationship with her parents.

 

They seem to be adjusting well to life on the great frontier.  They have forged relationships with some men and women in the community that show them the ropes and how to survive.  Winter is coming and they need to learn how to prepare and survive the wrath of Mother Nature.  When winter arrives with dark days, Ernt's mental state suffers and he turns just as dark.  Life outside is nothing compared to life inside their small cabin.  The women are isolated—they are on their own with no one to save them so they must save themselves.

 

Hannah explores the resilience of the human spirit juxtaposed against the beauty of Alaska.  This is a story of love, loss, survival, and man against nature and himself.  I was completely caught up in the the story, it was absolutely riveting.  Hannah's writing is such a gift.  Her descriptions of Alaska were sweeping and vivid.  Alaska becomes a character and at times is the hero and other times is the villain.

 

The theme of survival dominates the story—the family are surviving the harsh winter and the women are surviving the harsh realities of living with a POW with post-tramatic stress.  Cora and Leni must carefully navigate Ernst's outbursts that lead to his explosive rage and violent outbursts.  Hannah does an incredible job in her execution—you hate Ernst for his abuse and yet you feel sorry for him because he is living with an undiagnosed mental illness.  The reader also flip flops with their loyalty to Cora—there is a level of frustration for staying with Ernst and exposing Leni to his violence, but on the other hand you pity her because she is a victim of domestic abuse.  

 

Hannah pens some dynamic supporting characters.  I just wish she would've come up with something more original than 'Large Marge'.  She creates a whole town of interesting personalities that are integral to the plot.  This is no small feat.             

 

The difference between 4 and 5 stars is because of the last part of the book.  There was a disconnect and I wasn't as invested in their journey by that point.  Without spoiling the ending, it didn't work for me.  I wonder if her editor made her rewrite it?  That being said, Hannah fans are going to love this book.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Bring Me Back: A Novel - B.A. Paris
A special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A young British couple are in France on a vacation.  When they stop for gas, Finn goes in to pay and Layla stays in the car.  When he returns, her car door is ajar and she is not inside.  Layla vanishes without a trace.

Ten years later, Finn has put the past behind him and is engaged to Ellen.  When he comes home from work to find his fiancée sitting on the sofa with an object in her hand, he quickly realizes something is amiss.  This object would mean nothing to most people, but Finn and Ellen know what it is—it is a Russian doll that belonged to Ellen when she was a child.  Only three people know about the Russian dolls: Ellen, Layla, and Finn.

As more questions surface, fractures form in their relationship.  Has Layla returned?  And why after all this time?

Paris' debut Behind Closed Doors was great and I loved The Breakdown.  Unfortunately, after reading this, I was left both wanting and expecting more.  Make no mistake, it was definitely a page-turner, and did ultimately hold my interest but there was nothing new and just simply felt old hat.

The alternating perspectives between past and present worked well.  I was hooked from the beginning which I found was the best part of the book.  The middle slowed and I was left struggling to connect with Finn and wasn't vested in his relationships.  At first the Russian dolls were interesting, and then I just found the whole thing incredibly repetitive.  And then the ending...  Well, if you can suspend your disbelief, than you will love this book.

I'm hopeful that this is a one-off since her other books were so good.  This one was simply not as clever or developed.  
 
 

 

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen

Alternate Side: A Novel - Anna Quindlen

A special thank you to NetGalley and Random House for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Tension permeates a close-knit neighbourhood and happy marriage after an unexpected violent act.

Nora and Charlie Nolan seem to have it all.  They live on a dead end street in a lovely home in a New York City neighbourhood.  Their twins are away at college and all is well.  Nora has always loved the city and Charlie loves it even more now that he has secured a highly coveted parking spot.  One morning, Nora returns home from her run only to discover a terribly tragedy has occurred that has shaken her once tight community.  Cracks start to appear in her seemingly charmed life, not only on the block, but at her job, and her marriage.

In Anna Quindlen's latest book, she explores motherhood, being a wife, and a woman in the stages of unravelling.      

Quindlen is a fantastic writer, and this book is no exception.  However, it took me a long time to get into the book and by time the story really started to develop (after the "incident"), I had checked out.

I liked the parallel between Charlie and Nora's dead-end marriage with them living on a dead-end street.  But, the parking space and a mundane marriage seem to eclipse the rest of story.  Or maybe because the first part of the book is so drawn out that the reader is just not as vested in any of the issues.  Maybe it's because I live in the burbs, but I couldn't relate to the parking issue and felt that it had too much presence in the story.  Perhaps because NYC was so integral, the city was almost a character in itself, that Qindlen dedicated so much to the parking space.

Unfortunately for me, this one is a pass.  It was just okay.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Jar of Hearts - Jennifer Hillier

A special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

At sixteen, Anglea Wong, one of the most popular girls at school, disappeared.  She left behind wonderful parents, and two best friends, Georgina Shaw and Kaiser Brody.

Fourteen years later, Angela's remains are found in the woods right near the house that Geo grew up in.  Her father, a respected physician still lives in the family home.  Nobody ever suspected that Geo, now an executive at a pharmaceutical company owned by her fiancé's family, had anything to do with Angela's disappearance.

Kaiser, now a detective with the Seattle PD, learns that Angela was a victim of Calvin James a.k.a. the "Sweetbay Strangler" who is also responsible for the murders of at least three other women.  To Geo, Calvin James is something else—he's her first love.  It was an instant attraction that grew into an intense, obsessive, and abusive relationship.

For the past fourteen years, Geo has carried the secret of what really happened to Angela until all comes to light with her arrest.  Or is there more to the story?  Geo is sent to prison while James has escaped from prison.  Past and present collide when a string of copycat murders start happening.  Did Geo set in motion a new chain of events or is she the missing piece to catch the killer?

This is my first book by Jennifer Hillier and I was impressed.  Her writing is sharp and the pages flew by.  Hillier developed the characters enough to not be predictable or stereotypical, but I did want more from Kai.

Told by alternating points of view between Geo and Kai, past and present, this style really served the story well and helped lay the ground work.  I felt that their particular relationship in the backstory wasn't fleshed out enough.  It seemed like a harmless little crush versus any kind of relationship that gave Kai the emotional baggage that he brought to any of his other relationships.  I also thought that Geo was a user—she used Kai when they were friends, knowing he'd always be there for her because he was attracted to her, used her fiancé for a title/career, used people in prison for protection, and uses Kai's loyalty to protect her outside of prison.  Relationships in this story seemed to always be a struggle of power, especially between Angela and Geo.  Neither of the girls could stand it when the other one was receiving attention.  I also found that Geo (even though she went to prison), always came out on top—without giving anything away, I'm sure when you are finished you will have the same musings as I did.        

Hillier does a great job with the pace of the story.  She doesn't show her hand, she plays her cards one at a time and lets the story unfold naturally.  Sometimes with this genre, I feel that plot twists are forced and I didn't get that sense here.  I was intrigued right off the bat when Calvin hands Geo a note in court that says "You're welcome", welcome for what?

The difference between three and four stars is for a couple of reasons.  First, for a detective, Kai is incredibly daft.  Is it because he was too close to the case, and actually, he shouldn't have even been on this case.  Is it not a conflict of interest?  He knows both the victim and the perpetrator—I guess you have to suspend your belief on that front.  Second, the story was a little bit gruesome for me.  If dark and twisty is your bag, you will love this book.  

Find You in the Dark by Nathan Ripley

Find You in the Dark: A Novel - Nathan Ripley

A special thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Martin Reese digs up murder victims from cold case files he buys from the police.  He calls in his findings anonymously to the police but Detective Sandra Whittal is suspicious of her caller and his motives.  As she moves in on discovering who her 'Finder' is, Martin is being hunted by someone who is not happy with his discoveries.  With his family's safety on the line, Martin must go even deeper into the dark realm of murder.  

 

Hailed as a cross between Dexter and The Talented Mr. Ripley, I thought this book was going to be a mesmerizing study in character development.  Well...some comparisons just shouldn't be made.  I got completely lost in the story, and I don't mean that in a good way, I literally mean that I couldn't flesh out the actual story from the messy plot.  I really had to push myself to finish and this was because I didn't connect with the characters—they weren't believable.  Nathan Ripley's Martin Reese lacks the depth and likability factor of Dexter Morgan, or the creepy brilliance of Highsmith's Tom Ripley. 

 

Here So Far Away by Hadley Dyer

Here So Far Away - Hadley Dyer
A special thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I don't like to give negative reviews, especially to a Canadian author.  My mother also taught me that if you don't have anything nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all.  But here is my dilemma...as a reviewer, I am obligated to provide feedback. 

So here goes...I couldn't relate to the main character, George, at all.  The dialogue was trite, and the story itself was simply not engaging and at times bordered on ridiculousness.  For me, it was a struggle to even finish. 

Dyer really needs to up her game in this genre.  There are so many outstanding YA novels out there that are deserving of your time.  Here are some of the ones that have left me completely gutted and honoured to have read them: The Hate U Give, All the Bright Places, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, A List of Cages, One Half From the East, and Andrew Smith's Winger and Stand-Off.  

That being said, Dyer is a champion of literacy here in Canada, and I admire her efforts and contributions to the children's book industry.
 
 

How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson

How Hard Can It Be? - Allison Pearson

A special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This is Pearson's part two of the Kate Reddy series—oh how I've missed you, Kate!  I actually liked this book better than the first, which I think is an anomaly to like the sequel better than the original.

Kate Reddy is re-entering the work force after being at home with her children because her husband, who appears to be suffering an identity crisis, has gone back to school.  To bag the job, she lies about her age.  She is feeling the pressure from the much younger workforce, from her demanding mother, ailing in-laws, her contractor, and from her sullen teenagers.  And to top it all off, her marriage is F-L-A-T, flat.

How hard can it be to face 50, your husband's mid-life crisis, and to restart your career?  Pretty hard I would say, especially when you are shouldering the entire household workload as well because your husband is useless, and you are also feeling strangled not only from your shaping garments, but from your obligations.  

Kate is every woman, whether old or young, as she embarks on this often hilarious journey of self-discovery—she's more than just a career woman, mother, sister, friend, or wife.  She is as smart as she is funny, she is sassy and strong, and above all, resilient.  With every turn of the page, you will be rooting for Kate and wishing she was your friend.

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage

A special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This debut by Zoje Stage will not be for the faint of heart. Baby Teeth is a deeply disturbing psychological thriller told in alternating point of view between Hanna, a silent and disturbed seven-year-old, and Suzanne, her barely coping mother.

Hanna is conniving and precocious and is beyond her years mentally. She is able to play her parents off one another for her own gain as well as at the torment of her mother. When she is around her daddy, who she wants to marry, she is a sweet and silent angel that is eager to please. In the care of her mother, she is evil and violent, and plays on her mother's fear of her.

Suzette loves her daughter, but is exhausted both mentally and physically, and like her marriage, is breaking down. Hanna is home schooled so Suzette rarely gets time away from her. The little girl is becoming more conniving with each passing day—she has turned their family dynamic upside down by making Suzette look crazy and neurotic. Suzette fears that there is something seriously wrong with her daughter and that Hanna is too much of a threat to her at home.

Stage takes the reader down the rabbit hole that is is Hanna's mind. It is a dark and twisty ride, and as mentioned will not appeal to all readers. If a creepy kid story is your bag, you will love it. If stories about demented children are not your thing, I suggest you pass. I have to be honest, this is not something I would have normally picked up, but was intrigued by the cover and synopsis. After reading, I'm on the fence. The story is well-written and captivating, but there was a lot of suspension of disbelief—for a seven-year-old, Hanna is far too advanced and this was distracting from the actual story.

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The Perfect Mother - Aimee Molloy

A special thank you to Edelweiss and Harper for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

A mommy group dubbed as the May Mothers meet at a park twice a week to discuss being new mothers, swap stories, alleviate their anxieties, and offer advice and support.

 

It is one of the hottest summers on record.  As a break from the heat, and the babies, the members decide a night out is in order at the local hip bar.  Winnie, a single mother, had never left her six-week-old infant, Midas.  One of the May Mothers offers up her babysitter so that Winnie can join them, insisting everything would be fine.  On this stifling Fourth of July, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted right from his home.  Midas is missing and the police are asking disturbing questions that are putting Winnie's private life on display and the media can't get enough.

 

None of the other members are particularly close to the guarded Winnie, yet three of them will go to great lengths to help find her baby.  Secrets are exposes, relationships are tested, and the mothers are scrutinized.  

 

All I can say is, what a surprise!  Apparently this book will be adapted for the big screen and will star Kerry Washington (um...yes, please).  Molloy's novel is also eagerly anticipated as one of this coming summer's must reads and I would definitely recommend it as well.    

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Then She Was Gone - LISA JEWELL

A special thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada, and Atria Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Laurel Mack's daughter has been missing for ten years.  Ellie was the perfect daughter—beloved by her family, friends, teachers, and boyfriend.  She was fifteen when she disappeared, just days before school let out for summer.  The case had gone cold, the police believed that Ellie ran away, that is until new evidence surfaces.    

 

Not only did Laurel lose her daughter, but her marriage did not survive.  She also has strained relationships with her two other children.  To stay close to her other daughter, Hannah, she cleans her flat, and she he barely sees her son, Jake, who lives with his girlfriend in another town.      

 

To her surprise and delight, Laurel meets a charming man in a cafe.  What starts out as flirtation quickly turns into something more meaningful.  Floyd is a single father of two, and before she knows it, Laurel is being introduced to his daughters.  When Laurel meets Poppy, his youngest, she is stunned.  Poppy looks exactly like Ellie.  All of the questions Laurel has pushed down for years come bubbling to the surface.  Where did Ellie go?  Did she really run away?  And why does this little girl resemble her missing daughter?    

 

Told through multiple points of view, and alternating from past to present, Jewell pens some interesting and engaging characters with enough backstory to keep the reader vested and engaged.  There is one minor plot flaw, but if you can suspend your disbelief, you may not be bothered.  

 

With an incredible hook, this is Lisa Jewell's best book yet.  Predictable?  A little.  Heartbreaking?  Yes.  Dark and twisty?  Check and check!  Although there was nothing new here, I would recommend this book for those looking for a page-turning, thrilling read.  

 

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Every Note Played - Lisa Genova

A special thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada, and Gallery/Scout Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

This stunning, raw, heartbreaking glimpse into the world of ALS from Lisa Genova will leave you emotionally spent and in awe of those living with this cruel disease, and in awe of their loved ones and the real-life superheroes that are their caregivers.  

 

Richard is a renowned pianist that sells out concerts all over the world, a fine-tuned instrument that executes his performances with precision and passion.  Fast forward eight months—Richard has been diagnosed with ALS and no longer has the use of his right arm.  The loss of his hand is like the loss of a true love, like his own divorce from Karina.  It is only a matter of time before it is his left hand, and the rest of his body.  

 

Karina hasn't moved on from her divorce from Richard, in fact she is stuck in limbo in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher.  It is easy for her to blame Richard for where she has ended up and for the dissolution of the marriage.  

 

When the disease progresses to the point that Richard is fully paralyzed, Karina reluctantly steps in to care for him.  He moves back in with Karina, in the home that they once shared with their daughter, Grace, who is away at university.  As Richard becomes a shell of a man he once was, the couple is forced to face their regrets head on and learn what it means to forgive.  

 

What I love about Genova's books is her ability to educate her reader, not only in matters of the heart and relationships, but about actual neurological diseases and conditions that most would not be familiar with unless they were affected personally.  She doesn't "dumb-it-down", instead she elevates her reader and empowers them with knowledge.  It is this knowledge that makes her stories rich, not only in information, but in character development, yet doesn't bog down the narrative.  Her writing is poignant, sharp, and captivating.  Lisa, congratulations on this book, and your continued success—it is always a pleasure to read and review your work.    

I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice

I Found My Tribe - Ruth Fitzmaurice

A special thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This rambling, manic at times, narrative is a raw and honest book about living with MND (here in Canada known as ALS—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—or Lou Gehrig's disease). Ruth Fitzmaurice's filmmaker husband, Simon, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2008. He is wheelchair-bound, not able to move or breathe on his own, and can only communicate through the use of an eye gaze computer. It is these eyes that Ruth uses as the windows in which to find her husband—she knows he is still in there even though he can't speak to her, or touch her.

Ruth and Simon are parents to five children, all under the age of ten. As if that weren't chaos enough, there is a constant parade of nurses that come and go 24 hours a day, and a gaggle of pets including an aggressive basset hound. One of the many challenges Ruth faces is to find any sort of peace in the chaos, any moment of stillness and calm to keep her sane and grounded. She craves connections, whether it be to her "Tragic Wives' Swimming Club", or to her favourite nurse, Marian. Human connection is so important to survival, especially in times of tragedy.

Fitzmaurice doesn't use any type of timeline, or write in any kind of order. Instead, she chunks her staccato type narrative into mini essays. To be honest, it took me a while to get into her groove, there are times where she is all over the place and scattered and it feels like she has simply taken every thought in her head and put it on the page in order to make sense of her life. While this type of writing doesn't appeal to everyone, it works for this book. This memoir is raw, honest and heartbreaking, while at the same time showing the beauty of love. It inspires, and demonstrates the resilience of the human spirit. Ruth is unabashedly open with her thoughts and feelings and I think she is incredibly brave to bare her life in this way.