Robin’s November Book Reviews

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler. It was only by coincidence that I was reading this book on the day we had our two hundred year old Ponderosa Pine tree removed. Our tree was sick, she had a big wound/weak area way up there and was right next to the house..where is all this leading? This is the story of Aaron, and his wife Dorothy, who is killed by a tree crashing into their house (not a spoiler, this is mentioned on the back cover blurb)….anyway, this was a wonderful read as Tyler has such a way with characters. The flow, the tension, it is all perfect. A simple love story? Almost, but there is so much more. Rate: 4.0

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas. I’m a bit pompous with my declarations that I really won’t read non-fiction and I am particularly turned off by memoirs. My mother insisted I read this—and who knows me better than her—she was right, I loved it. More a humorous satire than a plodding memoir. And the author grew up in California so that was pretty fun for me as well. Rate: 3.8

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff: This one is from my mother. She is a great “book screener” for me and she works in the Moraga library used book store, so there is always plenty to read after I visit her. In fact, I’m a couple of bags of books behind. This book is not just another “war story,” but the tale of two women, sixteen-year-old Noa and Astrid (who has changed her Jewish name for her own protection) and how they meet as aerialists in a German circus. Yes, there is the underlying escape from the SS and Nazis, but this is really a story about the two women and their relationships. The writing tended to be a bit repetitive for my taste and the first person/ alternate characters by chapters was a bit confusing at time because the voices of the two women were not totally distinct, but I liked it overall. Rate: 3.5

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. Also from my mother. This is the story of Jess Thomas, a working mother with never enough time or money. As is Moyes’ way the characters in this story come to life and are totally engaging. It is a love story, of sorts, but also an adventure tale and the story of a mother’s love. Rate: 4.0

After You by Jojo Moyes. The sequel to Me Before You, I was wondering how Moyes would continue the story. She proves she is great at writing a sequel that introduces a whole new story arc and doesn’t just play off the wave of success from the first book. In this story Louisa has moved forward in an attempt to do what Will asked of her: live her life. But of course things don’t go as planned and…well, I don’t want to spoil the story, but it was very enjoyable. Rate: 3.8

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlein. I had the sense as I read this novel that I had read it before. But if I did I didn’t remember all the details, which led me to believe I might have read a very similar story? Regardless, this is based on historical facts of forced sterilization which were common in all states, but seemed to linger in North Carolina. Because I have experience working with the public school and mental health areas I wasn’t at all surprised by the things that happened, but they still left a terrible taste in my mouth. I couldn’t help but compare things that still happen in our world with the laws that allowed officials to make medical decisions for the poor or infirm. This is the story of a young white, middle class, social worker who refuses to join in the deceitful practices of the system. She is compassionate and attached to her clients, in spite of the fact she is warned this will not make her a good social worker. Rate: 3.7


Key for my personal rating system:

5.0 – A book I will never forget, will quote, will tell everyone I know they MUST read it.

4.0 – An excellent book, but doesn’t quite make the best books of all time list.

3.0 – A recommendation, good read, decently written

2.0 – Some redeeming qualities, I finished it, but I’m not likely to seek out more by the author.

1.0 – Don’t wast your time.