LitPicks Book Reviews—June 2015

Theme—The Sibs: Brothers and sisters make for some of our most intimate life relationships. Undergirding the rivalries, jealousies and suspicions, is a shared history and often deep, abiding love.
 

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A Reunion of Ghosts
Judith Claire Mitchell, 2015
400 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
June, 2015
Take three sisters on a mission to commit suicide, toss in guilt over an ancestor who perpetrated two of the 20th century's greatest miseries, and you have a ready-made comic novel. Seriously.

For the Alter family, bad luck is followed by more bad luck, the result of a family curse harkening back to the first world war. By 1999, the three middle-aged Alter sisters decide they've had enough—the buck stops with them. They will add their own names to the chart of family suicides that sister Delphine drew up and attached to the back of her bedroom door. So why is it we're laughing?

 

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Early Warning (Last Hundred Year Trilogy, 2)
Jane Smiley, 2015
496 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
June, 2015
Much of Jane Smiley's power as a writer lies in her remarkable ability to place readers smack in the middle of a circle of characters and make us feel intimately connected. Her latest novel showcases that talent, engaging us in the minutiae of her characters' lives—all the while carrying us along in an epic sweep of 20th-century history.

With this second installment of her "Last Hundred Years" trilogy, Smiley continues the trajectory of the Langdons—an Iowa farm family—picking up with them after World War II. Like the first volume Some Luck (2014), each chapter covers a single year, taking us from 1953 to 1986.

 

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The Children's Crusade
Ann Packer, 2015
448 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
June, 2015
Ann Packer's gorgeous new novel begins with a family creation myth—a giant live oak tree on three acres of land in California. That tree, reminiscent of the wych elm in E.M. Forster's Howards End, is what roots the future Blair family to place and one another.

It is after the Korean War when Bill Blair, a young doctor, meanders down a country road. He finds himself in a woodland clearing where a "majestic oak tree stood guard"—"the most splendid tree he'd ever seen." Falling under its spell, Blair decides to purchase the property then and there.

 

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