A Light in the Hallway by Amanda Prowse is the story of a family. The story opens as Kerry is battling cancer and her husband Nick is trying to manage the day to day task and be there for their teenage son Oliver. Nick struggles to manage everything and he finds it harder as time goes on. I know this makes it seem like a tear-jerker, and I admit I cried, but I also admired Nick for his strength in the face of the situation and his drive to keep going. The story spans a few years. The narrative moves through time showing us Nick’s scenes from Nick’s life and even letting us know what Kerry thinks. Nick plucked my heartstrings as he navigated the changes in his life and tried to do the best thing for his son. This story leaves you feeling hopeful and optimistic as you take Nick’s journey with him. He is supported by his friends and family and they add their own special touches to his journey. This book became available on November 11th and it might be just perfect for you or someone on your gift list.
Frances and Stella are the kind of friends who challenge each other and make each other better, and they are always honest with each other so at Stella’s insistence Frances agrees to do a week long charity bike ride with Stella and go to prom, but when the world goes sideways as Frances is trying on prom gowns neither girl will ever be the same. Frances must find something to do and some way of keeping the hopes and dreams she and Stella had going and when she finds a list of challenges for the bike ride on Stella’s desk she knows she has to do them like it or not. There are easy things on the list like swimming in a biking outfit and a wearing a swimsuit for one days ride and then there are harder things like that amusement park ride that has always terrified Frances. Can Frances really do this? Frances will learn many things about herself and about her biking teammates during a week of self discovery that will benefit others but teach Frances and her fellow riders about themselves as well. I loved the dynamic between Frances and Stella and I love Frances for doing this ride despite how hard it is for her and how out of place she feels. I admire her spunk and grit, but even that isn’t enough to get her to the finish line, it will take being honest with her team mates and a shared goal to get them all across the finish line and into their future. A warm and touching read about growing up in many ways, yet still being innocent and open to the things life presents to you.
When Sarah dies unexpectedly her family and her sisters worlds are forever changed. Sarah has survived Cancer and is making a life for herself, there is college in her future and she has a wonderful boyfriend, so her family is stunned when she is found dead after falling while hiking with her sister Rachel. Sarah is the golden good sister who seems to always know and do the right thing, but is she really? Her death will raise more questions than answers especially for middle sister Asha who was her favorite. Asha must reconcile the Sarah who was with the sister she idolized. As Asha learns more about Sarah she realizes that Sarah and Rachel had issues of their own and all the while life is moving on without Sarah. A touching story of love, family, and responsibility. Asha is full of teenage quandries which are only intensified by the issues with Sarah. Her hippie Mom Lena chooses to make sweeping changes in her life and the tragedy reconnects her to her father Ravi, but it is her friend Sinclair who truly helps Asha navigate not only the landscape of growing up, but the landscape of loss and moving on as well.
When Jesse and her family end up in Bent Tree she thinks at first that it will be just another of their stops since their father became a defrocked minister, but Bent Tree ends up becoming Jesse’s back drop as she navigates the world and grows up. Her brother Phillip adjusts easier because he is younger and her depressed and moody mother has shifts from a 5 to a 1 on Jesse’s scale of what kind of day she is having and what kind of mood she is in. It is the other people who inhabit Jesse’s world that really make her who she is though. There is Sandy the young single mom with the hot boyfriend who Jesse idolizes until she she’s more than what is on the surface, there is kind older Mrs. Smith and her friend Jill who lives up the street and becomes her best friend for a time until she isn’t there. Watching Jesse learn to navigate the adult world along with her friends each of which brings something special of their own to the mosaic that is Jesse is heartwarming and sweet and as one would expect full of bumps along the way.
While this is a story of growing up and creating the life one truly wants, it has a great feel to it. Kara is in her late 20’s and while she is done college she is still in that life could be whatever I want it to be period and you can almost feel how fun and light her life is. She spends lots of time with her best friend Bobby Ebadi and his family, often pretending to be more girlfriend than best friend, and life with Bobby does have it’s perks, free rent, designer castoffs from his mother Leila, a great deal on a car from his father Hossein who owns a car dealership, the perks are many. But as life moves on Kara must decide what she really wants and how she wants to get there. A moving and fun story about life being what you make it.
I loved Josie from the first page. She has a quirky sense of humor and wit. Josie is busy navigating high school and college at the age of fifteen, and as if life isn’t hard enough her sister Kate gets engaged to Geoff whom Josie has issues with and the voyage from Kate’s engagement to her wedding day will test the sisters relationship and Josie’s thoughts on love in ways neither of them could have predicted. To Josie her interactions with each person in her life happen though her language with them. So Josie speaks Josie and her friend Stu speaks Stu. Most of her friends in high school speak “Ohmig*d” and the college kids speak” Ohmig*d 2.0″. Josie does her best to deal with Jeffrey and Kate’s increasing stress and wedding issues as best she can, but sometimes her efforts fall flat. The events that lead Josie through her exploration of Love help her find a way to deal with her sister and the world in a new and possibly better way. I found this book touching and heartwarming, and although Josie is young and so are her friends I thought the book easily crossed the divide between young adult and adult readers.
I loved this book, it flows well, the pacing is great and I love the narrator the “Invisible Queen”. I think she often does feel invisible and not just because she is a teenaged girl. Her brother is constantly told he will be king, which makes her at least in her own mind an invisible queen. Not only goes she have the normal teen issues, first dances, boys, the social groups and rules, but she is a stranger in a new land, she must learn to navigate super sized packaging, junk food and just the pure abundance that America provides. Let’s not forget that she fled her county after her father was killed, and her new friends have a different view of her father, and in an effort to prove them wrong she reads up on her family and the history of her country at the library which makes her wonder what the truth really is since she can’t make what she reads in the press mesh with her memories. Her mother is helping the CIA and she must do what she can to help with this project. The Tyrants daughter is a beautifully told story of finding one’s place in the world and being comfortable with it which means reconciling the past and finding hope for the future.
This one is a memoir, I seem to be reading those lately. I really like the voice in this story, the flow is great and I kept wanting to read more. I grew up in a similar time period so I may have identified with it more than other readers, and even though I didn’t grow up in a factory town, I felt like I was there as I was reading. The prose is vivid and flows very well. It is a story of growing up, finding one’s place in the world and one’s place in their family as well. One of the strong themes of this book is the narrator’s ( I assume the narrator is meant to be Karen at a younger age) struggle to connect with her mother. She always seems to fall short of the connection she seeks, yet in spite of this she leaves the reader with a sense of hope and promise as the story closes.