Tom Hanks writes about characters that he would love to play in the movie had they been written. This collection of stories holds a myriad of emotions, settings and time periods (yes he has one time-travel piece) with two common threads - the typewriter and uncommonly normal men and women.
You love the characters because you have something in common with all of them - some win, some lose, some heroic and some timid but they are all borne of the human existence and go largely unnoticed. You cannot help but see yourself in these vignettes. Hank's charm and wit come through but also his sense of right and wrong and chivalry which is a very uncommon type these days.
1929 and for both the black and white mill workers in Bessemer City North Carolina times can't get much harder. Ella May finds herself husbandless and with four near starving children to feed worn out from working long shifts at the mill six days a week for a few dollars. She writes songs and after singing one at a rally to organize a union, she becomes a believer and one of their most energetic supporters. As she fights for both white and black workers to unionize her singing and reputation grows gaining attention from the wrong people. Gritty, honest and heartbreaking - Ella May's story is just one of many women - fighting to support her family working exhausting hours both inside and outside the home without the respect or equal pay. It seemed to me that mules and farm animals were given more care than these industrious courageous women.
Charlie is a recently fired talk show star who feels unmoored. Her longtime lover wants to get married and is hurt to find resistance and their son off to college seems distant. She gets a call from her cousin Megan who gives her an interesting offer that she really can't refuse - Meg is dying and wants one more summer with the cousins at the family lake house in Minnesota. It doesn't matter that the aunts aren't speaking to one another or that the house has been boarded up after a tragic accident years ago or that one of the cousins is just out of prison. Charlie takes on the challenge and soon some of the family will be pulled into the snare. Spending the summer at the lake house will dredge up good times but also many unhappy memories will come to the surface. They need to go back and fix that summer to begin to survive this one. "Secrets of the YA-YA Sisterhood" meets "Young and the Restless" - this story cuts deep to the heart of the matter. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
A recently widowed woman along with her brother-in-law plan a last ditch effort to save their family fortune by going on a massive buffalo hunt. They venture from Kansas with a rag tag party and face indians, bad weather, vermin (both animal and man) all just to keep out of the poorhouse. Elizabeth is the perfect role model for the tough pioneer woman- independent, tough as nails, but still graceful under pressure and kind. Everything lives up to the title - savage people, savage animals and an even more savage landscape. Fans of the classic westerns will appreciate the author's use of language. He writes in a style that seems true to how they would have spoken. While the short formal sentences may make for more careful reading, the voice feels authentic.
Paul and his lovely wife, Mia are headed to their lake house for their best day ever. They have left their children in the hands of a young girl and are going to rekindle their marriage or are they? Paul loves his wife and has planned this weekend to show her how devoted he is or is it that Paul wants others to think he is the devoted husband and he really can't tolerate anyone who goes against his every desire. As the book progresses we begin to wonder if their relationship is all as it seems. Will this truly be their best day ever or is it the start of a nightmare they will never forget. Paul is the perfect unreliable narrator and you want to hate him but you will feel compelled to keep reading.
Jacob Koopman lives in Holland with his family as war breaks out and suddenly his world turns upside down. His father, eager to land a big account with Volkswagen for his lightbulbs, travels to Germany frequently and encourages Jacob and his brother to improve relations with them by sending the boys to a German summer camp. Soon after war is declared , the Koopmans begin to feel the sting of the Third Reich and also from the relentless bombs of the Allied troops. Jacob begins to help his Uncle sabotage the Germans while pretending to aid in ferrying troops and supplies using his Uncle's boat.
With the war raining down hardships and Jacob's losses adding up he begins to lose his way and finds he can no longer help either side but just survive. He begins as a boat runner and ends as a boat runner. This tragic tale is one of many in an ugly war where families were torn apart and heroes made where yesterday children stood.
Ernst finds himself on his way to America after his Chinese dirt poor mother gives him up. Just as he finds his way at the boarding school/orphanage in Seattle, he is once again given away as the lottery prize at the World's Fair ending up at a high end brothel. After being reunited with his savoir on their dark voyage across the Pacific, Ernst meets Maisie and the three become inseparable. Fast forward to the 60's and Ernst is now fighting to help his wife remember their life together. When her memories unearth their real story, Ernst must decide to share what really happened with their daughters. This is a story of a great love, an undying spirit of hope and a true look at the immigrant experience in the States.
In early 1800's in Brittany, the Orchiere women led by Grandmere Ursule keep the old faith alive but always in secret. Persecuted by the church for witchcraft, they are hunted down and killed. Each generation of these women produce one daughter who will inherit the skill, power and the crystal tailsman but always it must be kept a secret. Some use the power for love, some for safety and others for less noble means. The book follows five generations of these women in language rich with historically vibrant stories. The storytelling of these women, both brave and devious, is magical.
Historical fantasy at its best.
Classic coming of age story about the have and the have nots - about the choices we make that keep us going or haunt us forever. Mia and her daughter Pearl lead a nomadic existence but soon try to put down roots in Shaker Heights where the beautiful well off people live. They are lucky to be renting a small cottage nearby for a modest sum which still allows Mia to work odd jobs to support herself and Pearl but really focus on her art. Soon their landlords, The Richardson's lives and their own are woven tight as kids and the adults form relationships and friendships. Pearl gets on well with the Richardson kids and is soon spending more time with them than with her mom. Life is good until the past comes to light and present jealousies get in the way. There are no good guys or bad guys here - only the misguided victims. Beautifully crafted - these families are like all those around you. It stays with you long after the last page is turned.
Naomi is in search of a little girl who is lost in the woods - three years ago. She has been hired by the girl's distraught parents as her reputation for finding lost people has reached desperate ears. The story is split between Naomi and the missing "snow child". Not only did the "snow child" survive but she may not feel like a captive. A side case that Naomi is working on does not have a happy ending. We see through Naomi's eyes that the circumstances of all the missing may take many forms. Naomi herself is dealing with issues. This multi-layered novel is quiet and heartbreaking and violent all at once.
I love to read good books and share the new books that are available and those that are coming soon