Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Book Reviews - Stories that Stay with You

Wow, y'all, this was such a unique round of reads. They were stories unlike anything else I've read - Literally. So, let me tell you about them. Okay, cool.

Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir unlike any other I have read ever. As I read, I had to remind myself this was in fact nonfiction as so much of this story is hard to even comprehend. It is the ultimate story of perseverance. The author has been raised in rural Idaho with her family of survivalists. She has little to no contact with the outside world. She doesn't even go through any sort of formal education until she is 17 years old and starting her freshman year at BYU. The author shares such a honest and authentic story of her upbringing. At times, this is hard to read as there are serious concerns around violence, mental health and physical health that arise. Given the lack of connection to the rest of the world, the way these situations are handled are just hard to explain. These instances were the times I most had to remind myself this was real life as they were full of such raw emotion as they were detailed. Above all else, the amazing part of this story is all the author has achieved. To come into the education system so late is unbelievable, but it happened. To also see what she has done is beyond incredible. This is a book that will stay with you. It's unlike any story - fiction or nonfiction - you will ever read. It is the ultimate coming of age story, the truest show of what dedication can bring you, and a book you need to read. Trust me.

Read this book if - You need no specific reason y'all. Just read this one. It's outstanding.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos is a unique exploration of a resort for surrogate mothers of wealthy clients. Told through several perspectives, it explores how this "farm" came to be, why surrogates have chosen/been selected, and who the clients are. In particular, it focuses on the struggles and challenges of the surrogates. Drawn by a wealthy payout, these women have agreed to this role for a variety of reasons. They realize that part of this agreement does mean a loss of freedom which they each feel a certain kind of way about, and they also each react/rebel/conform differently. This was dystopia grounded in motherhood, and honestly y'all, it wasn't something that is totally out of the realm of possibility. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this upcoming May release.

Read this book if - You dig dystopian fiction told in unique scenarios.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez is a story that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. It focuses on immigrant stories, primarily through the stories of Maribel and Mayor. Maribel has come to Delaware from Mexico with her parents after a serious accident. They believe the relocation will provide Maribel with needed support and are committed to getting this for her. Mayor crosses paths with Maribel when she moves into the same apartment complex. He's drawn to her. While others have come to know Maribel through her accident and limitations, Mayor sees Maribel as someone who he wants to know for her. Through their stories and those of others in their complex, this book tells the stories of those who come to America wanting more. They have to make difficult decisions and leave much behind, but they come here with the hope to find their place. The end of this one is one that didn't just break, but shattered my heart. 

Read this book if - You want to read a story not often told. You want to read about an emotional experience in all of the ways. You want to learn more about the experience of immigrants.

Opposite of Always by Justin Reynolds is a love story told in an intriguing way. Jack and Kate meet at a party. They fall in love. Months later, Kate dies. That should be the end of the story, but then Jack is transported back to the party where they first met. He then has to decide what to do with this do-over. Of course, each decision has a consequence. He gets many tries at this, and with each iteration he tries to do things better to get to his goal of saving Kate. I loved the way this book told the story of Jack and Kate. With each cycle, I hoped this was the one where Jack figured it out. However, along the way, it was also about Jack's other relationships, particularly his best friends and parents. He had to make choices about how to engage with these people, as well as evaluate who he could help and/or hurt with what he decides to do or doesn't. This is a spin on Groundhog Day with all the feels. I was rooting so hard for Jack throughout. This is a story that makes you think about the decisions we make each day and what we do with the time we are given. The ending of this one is unexpected, but it was the ending that was meant to be with a story like this. This is just a beautiful look at relationships, and I so loved it y'all.

Also, Justin Reynolds, the author, explained his inspiration for this story, and it is a perfect explanation of what this book is that I must share, "In a word, heartache. I was coping with the loss of my best friend and still grieving an aunt who'd passed far too soon, and I was struggling with their absence. I couldn't wrap my brain around a world without either of them. But they were such vibrant, happy, often hilarious people. And so this story became a celebration of life, a way to embrace their memories, and travel back in time."

Read this book if - You want something that