It’s the homestretch for summer before it’s back to a different pace in scheduling and lifestyle. Soon the days will be shorter, kids will be back in school and “summer Fridays” will a thing of the past. For most, this means so too will there be a change in reading habits. Although the acclaimed writer and bookstore owner, Ann Pachett, says that “Any book you take to the beach is a beach read,” many avid readers switch gears when it comes to seasonal “beach” reads. As such, I have what I call a short take on some recent books I’ve delved into that I think for various reasons will be perfect to take you through the last few weeks of summer ... or even an Indian summer, if we’re so lucky.
YOUNG JANE YOUNG by Gabrielle Zevin - from the fun writer who gave us THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY, comes a story about, Aviva, a young political intern in Florida who goes Monica Lewinsky on her congressional boss and blogs about it. The impact of the affair is told from the perspective three generations of women- Aviva, her mother and eventually her daughter. You would never think a book with such a premise could be handled with such a light touch, but Zevin inserts just the right amount of humor, coupled with reality and poignancy. It’s laugh-out-loud enjoyable, and fast paced readable.
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A.J. Finn - If you’re looking for a quick, engrossing, suspenseful mystery, look no further than this highly anticipated, much talked about, best selling debut novel. When I say, “much talked about,” I mean this was getting a buzz before it hit the stands, and movie studios were vying over adaptation rights. This has a premise that is very loosely based on Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW. In this though the main character is a woman who was once part of a loving, thriving family, is stuck in her house because of agoraphobia due to recent initially undisclosed series of events. As such, she stays inside perusing therapy chat rooms, checking out a few neighbors, but mostly the new family on the block. At the onset of the book you think it obvious and predictable, but soon enough twists ensue. This book is the very definition of “page turner.”
A SEPARATION by Katie Kitamura - Summer reads like real estate can largely be about location, location, location. This is why I include this title- for the locations of London and beach resorts in Greece. Location is a factor as well as it is a short, easy reading clocking in at just over 200 pages. The premise and feel of the book are not light and breezy. It is a somewhat intense story of intimacy and infidelity as a young woman comes to terms with her husband’s cheating ways and is determined to find him and proclaim her freedom. He is supposedly on a business trip in Greece, but seems to be m-i-a. Assuming that he is lost by design, she treks to his last known location. Her journey there is a catalyst to her own personal journey of emotions and rediscovery of priorities. While the tone of the book is somewhat distant and cold, Kitamura has distinct presence and promises to be an emerging talent to watch.
THE WEDDING by Dorothy West - Summer is always a good time to do a re-read and include a classic. With this title, you’re checking both those boxes. West was part of the historic Harlem Renaissance writers and this was her first book in forty-seven years. It also happened to have been encouraged and edited by Jackie Kennedy Onasis who worked at Random House at the time. THE WEDDING is an intimate story of family and community set in the 1950s within the predominantly middle class black district of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. The protagonist, Oval, is expected to marry of a “certain kind” within her community, but instead falls for a white jazz musician from New York. The ripple effects throughout her people are searing and Oval is constantly conflicted. Ultimately, we are led down the path of a society in transition and we feel the growing pains and understand the dilemma. Yes, this is a deep topic for what should be a light, seasonal read, but most of the book depicts summer at the Cape, and West’s brilliant gift for storytelling ensures the short 240 page book will be wholly engaging and quick.
FROM THE CORNER OF THE OVAL by Beck Dory-Stein - Although this time of year is generally thought of as escapism from reality (now more than ever) and not usually associated with non-fiction, but a fun memoir is definitely an acceptable exception. In 2011 when Dory-Stein was 25 and piecing together several dead-end part-time jobs, she noticed a vague posting for a random stenographer’s position in Craigslist. After missing one interview for the job and getting a reschedule, she soon found out that the job was for none other than President Obama and in the White House. Just like that, she went from diminishing finances and an uncertain future, to working full time for the Commander-in-Chief. Included in her stenographer duties were traveling extensively aboard Air Force One, with the president and press corp., attending and recording official diplomatic obligations, both domestically and abroad. Amid work was much fun and frolicing, falling in love, falling out of love and personal growth. This breezy romp of a read is something like a mix of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, SWEET BITTER and THE WEST WING.