Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home by Leah Lax – Lax joined the ultra-orthodox Jewish Hasidic sect as a teen in the early 1970’s as a refuge from her chaotic liberal, secular upbringing. Lax spent 30 years in an arranged marriage, raising 7 children before coming out and abandoning the life she knew. I found parts of this book fascinating, although the amount of work that goes into being an ultra-orthodox Jew, as well as having every detail of your marriage and your life dictated by religious law seemed stifling and overwhelming to me. Trying to wrap my head around the fact that she chose that was slightly mind-boggling, particularly when you realize the time period in which she chose this life.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – Set in a small town in India in the 1960’s, this lyrical telling of the tale of childhood experiences of fraternal twins explores how the small things affect lives. Written sparsely yet beautifully.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler – A fictionalized biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, the muse and wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He has been one of my favorite writers since high school – there is an entire section in my home library dedicated to his writings as well as biographies, letter collections and Zelda books. I’d read some unfavorable reviews of this book, but stumbled upon it at the recycling center book exchange, so I grabbed it. Written from the perspective of Zelda while drawing heavily upon already published books and letters, this book made me cringe at the cheesiness at times. It got picked up and set down quite a bit, but eventually, I managed to preserver and finished it.
The Happy Hooker by by Xaviera Hollander – Another recycling center book exchange find, this one with part of an envelope from the Girl Scouts stashed in it where I suppose it had been used as a bookmark. Just for that alone, I picked it up and brought it home.
The racy, best selling memoir tracks Hollander’s life from her early days and first sexual experiences to becoming the most powerful madam in New York City in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Frankly written by a woman who absolutely loves sex and has a sense of humor, this book was far more entertaining to read than those awful 50 shades books.
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson – Kate Atkinson is one of those writers I like to re-read on a regular basis. This follow up of sorts to “Life After Life” isn’t quite as good as its predecessor, but “Life After Life” is a very hard act to follow. Still, I do rather like this book, even if I feel it stalls at some point in the middle. I’d read this book last year when it first came out, which then led to my reading “Life After Life” again, which led to reading this again….but I stopped it there. For now.
A Little Life: A Novel by Hanya Yanagihara – Beginning as a coming of age story of four college friends, the story soon focuses in on Jude, an orphan who keeps his heartbreakingly hard childhood hidden from everyone around him. This book is haunting and beautiful and I couldn’t put it down, reading all 700+ pages in a weekend. After finishing it, I had an ugly cry and then wanted to read it all over again.
Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson – Edited by two of her children, this collection of early, unpublished and uncollected short stories and essays shows the range of her work – spooky short stories and humorous, spot on Erma Bombeck style musings on motherhood written years before Erma. My favorites in this collection were her essays, particularly the ones on the subject of having young teenage daughters. They may have been written close to 60 years ago, but as it turns out, the trials and tribulations of living with young teen girls haven’t changed much.
The Devil’s Diary: Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich by Robert K Whittman and David Kinney – The story of the diary of the man who was considered the ‘chief philosopher’ of Germany’s Nazi party and how it was found, stolen and hidden away for decades by a crusading Nuremberg prosecutor, himself a German Jew who managed to get out of Nazi Germany. While the two narrative threads aren’t always pulled together in a satisfactory manner, the tales they tell of Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi and Robert Kempner, the prosecutor, were fascinating. For a time, Kempner made a small fortune out of helping fellow Jews escape Germany before realizing he too, needed to get out. He was one of many that did not think Hitler would rise to the power he did nor would his threats to the Jews ever become so deadly serious. Reading this while watching the current situation in our country was chilling. The parallels are disturbing.
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume – Blume’s most recent book, set in 1950’s New Jersey and based on real events from her own childhood. This was absolutely vintage Judy Blume and having it be the follow up to The Devil’s Dairy on my reading list was pure comfort food for the brain. I found it to be slightly reminiscent of my favorite Judy Blume Book, “Starring Sally J. Freeman as Herself“, probably no doubt due to the fact that both books were set in a similar time period. It was a quick little read, perfect for the beach.