Posts Tagged ‘heartbreaking’

Tell No One

October 3, 2012

Tell No One by Harlan CobenTitle: Tell No One

Author: Coben, Harlan

Publication Date: 2001

Pages: 339

Geographical Setting: New York City

Time Period: Modern Day

Genre: Suspense

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: For eight years Dr. David Beck has been living under the shadow of his wife Elizabeth’s abduction and murder.  It was supposed to be a celebration, a trip to the family’s private lake commemorating the anniversary of the first kiss they shared when they were twelve years old.  What followed instead was a scream piercing the placid summer night and Beck’s last view of his wife before she was taken from him forever.  Unable to move on, Beck has thrown himself into his work at a pediatric hospital serving New York City’s poor.  But the absence that is Elizabeth cannot be filled.  That is until he receives an email containing information that only Elizabeth would know.  With only this one piece of desperate hope, Beck plunges into the middle of a web of secrets, lies, and hidden truths that all lead back to one central question: Did Elizabeth die all those years ago, or is there something else afoot?  Coben really moves the story along with quick chapters that shift viewpoint from first-person (Beck) to third-person.  Vivid language that verges on poetic draws the reader into the space of the novel.  Characters, both good and bad, doing all manner of surreptitious and shadowy things, populate the pages and lead the reader on a twist-filled sprint that is at the same time heartbreaking and hopeful, ruthless and tender.

Appeal Characteristics: Compelling, Breakneck, Intense, Dramatic, Multiple points of view, Plot twists, Suspenseful, Action-oriented, Cinematic, Details of New York City, Vivid, Complex, Descriptive, Heartbreaking, Resolved Ending

Subject Headings: Missing Persons, Murder, Frameups, Betrayal, Physicians, Husbands of murder victims, Serial murderers, Father and adult daughters, Husband and wife

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Compelling, Dramatic, Action-oriented

Similar Fiction: 

Vanished by Karen Robards

This novel also features the return of a missing person presumed dead, this time the protagonist’s young child.  The plot is fast-paced and suspenseful like Coben.  But where Coben’s novel contains light romantic elements, Robards is downright steamy.

High Crimes by Joseph Finder

Betrayal and conspiracy feature high in this novel where a woman must learn the secrets of her husband’s past in order to defend him in a top-secret, military court-martial.  The examination of the relationship between husband and wife as well as the breakneck speed with which secrets are unveiled will appeal to readers of Coben. 

Money to Burn by James Grippando

Another wife who disappeared under mysterious circumstances may have returned from the dead, but this time, she’s out to financially ruin her husband.  A tale of corporate espionage set against the backdrop of Wall Street, this novel contains plenty of twists and deceptions to boot.

 Similar Non-fiction:

The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad by Stacy Horn

Mysterious and unsolved cases set against the backdrop of New York City.  This book offers an intriguing look at the detectives who work to solve cold cases against the obstacles of time, technology, and department politics.

The Company We Keep: a Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story by Robert Baer and Dayna Baer

Here readers will find the true story of a couple who met while on a mission for the CIA that echoes the theme of husbands and wives under difficult circumstances.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Scientific discovery and murder collide in this Edwardian era true mystery.  Those who appreciated the technology aspect of Coben’s novel may find similar ground in this non-fiction.

Name: Jessica

The Postmistress

September 26, 2012

Author:  Sarah Blake

Title:  The Postmistress

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  384

Geographical Setting: Franklin, Massachusetts and London, England

Time Period:  1940-41:  War-torn London/Pre-WWII America

Series: N/A

Plot summary:  After leaving a letter with the local Postmistress to be given to his young wife should he not return, a doctor departs his small, Massachusetts town for London in 1940 to volunteer his services to care for those injured in the Blitz.  A gritty, female war correspondent, devastated by all she has witnessed in war-torn Europe, travels to Massachusetts in 1941 to deliver news of the doctor to his wife.  She soon suspects that the Postmistress may be keeping a devastating secret similar to her own.  The novel offers an engrossing portrait of a small American town’s growing understanding of the issues at stake in the war, and is heartbreaking in its depiction of the impact war can have on those not caught in actual battle.

Subject Headings:  World War II; London Blitz; Radio; War Correspondents; American Home Front; Small-town Life; Postmasters; Secrets

Appeal: compelling, atmospheric, emotionally-charged, romantic, dramatic, foreboding, heartbreaking, well-developed characters, multiple plot lines, character-driven, thought-provoking, historical details (World War II), small-town, descriptive, lyrical

Three Appeal Terms That Best Describe This Book:  emotionally-charged; small-town, historical details (WWII)

Fiction Read-alikes:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

A British author strikes up correspondence with the members of a literary society on the German-occupied island of Guernsey during WWII, and quickly becomes invested in their lives.  Like The Postmistress in its portrayal of the impact of WWII on a small community not caught in the midst of battle.

Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald.

BBC radio staff struggle to report the news and maintain morale during the chaos of WWII London.  Like The Postmistress in its depiction of the impact of war on the personal lives of civilians, and the quest to get information out to the public.

Coventry by Helen Humphries.

The lives of a widow, a single-mother and her son intertwine as they struggle to escape the chaos and carnage of Coventry, England after it is destroyed by German bombs in 1940.  Like The Postmistress in its portrayal of the devastating impact of war on civilians and the strength of women in dealing with the realities of war.

Related Non-fiction:

WWII on the Air: Edward R. Murrow and the Broadcasts that Riveted a Nation by Mark Bernstein.

The story of Edward R. Murrow and his fellow radio broadcasters who brought news of WWII to Americans at home.  Includes recordings of historic broadcasts.  In The Postmistress, the fictional character of Frankie Bard worked for Murrow.

Blitz: The Story of December 29, 1940  by Margaret Gaskin.

An historical account of one of the worst nights of the London Blitz, the event that drives the story of The Postmistress from afar.

Women of the Homefront: World War II Recollections of 55 Americans by Pauline E. Parker.

A collection of personal stories that illustrate the impact of WWII on American women at home, a perspective shared by The Postmistress.

Becky King

Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0-22

April 18, 2012

Author: MariNaomi

Title: Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0-22

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 331

Geographical Setting: California

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

This graphic novel is full of sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and often surprising stories from the authors life.  The stories, told in chronological order, follow MariNaomi’s love life from before she was born, starting with her parents story and ending when she is roughly 22 years old.  Some of the stories are short and sweet, while others are longer or more complicated. In addition to her stories of sex, love, and heartbreak, MariNaomi tells of her adolescence rebellion, getting kicked out of her house and running away several times throughout her youth.  She also tells of her experiments with drug use and sexuality. Almost anyone can relate to at least a few of the stories from Naomi’s life.  The black and white illustrations depict the stories well.

Subject Headings: MariNaomi, Young women – Identity, Mate selection for women, Women – Sexuality, Dating (Social customs), First sexual experience, Self-discovery in women, Women — Interpersonal relations

Appeals: touching, fast-paced, sexual, heartbreaking, candid, bittersweet, character-centered, self-discovery, sympathetic characters, funny, relatable, coming of age

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: fast-paced, touching, coming of age

Non-fiction:
Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson- In this coming of age, autobiographical graphic novel the author takes us through his adolescence.  Thompson describes the experience of falling in love for the first time as well as the power of sexual attraction and young love.

Talking to Girls about Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield- In this funny, upbeat coming of age novel the author describes his experiences trying to find love starting at the age of 13.  The book leads the reader all the way through to the author’s first apartment and real girlfriend with 80’s and 90’s music as a guide.

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel. This graphic tells of the love life of a diverse group of lesbian friends.  These funny, witty stories explore sexuality between women, which MariNaomi experiments with in Kiss & Tell.

Fiction:
Shortcoming by Adrian Tomine- This funny graphic novel follows a twenty something, Ben, as he looks for the perfect girl. Much like MariNaomi the story is told with humor and follows the life of a Japanese American in their quest for love.

Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross. This semi-autobiographical story follows Melissa as she enters high school. Experimenting with drugs, failing classes, and dealing with the opposite sex are just some of the subjects discussed in this coming of age graphic novel.

Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun. Korean teen Joon runs away from her home in Brooklyn at the age of 12. This novel follows her as she lives in homeless shelters, struggles with drug abuse, and puts herself in dangerous situations. MariNaomi also ran away and was kicked out of her home several times as a teenager.

Fun Home. A Family Tragicomic.

November 30, 2011

Author: Bechdel, Alison.

Title:  Fun Home. A Family Tragicomic. 

 Genre:  Autobiographical Graphic Novel; Nonfiction.

Publication Date: 2006

Number of pages: 232

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania, United States.

Time period: Contemporary

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: In this autobiographical graphic novel, Alison Bechdel, an author of a long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, draws a darkly funny and emotionally complex picture of her childhood and her coming-out experiences. The central part of this graphic novel focuses on the author’s loving yet ambivalent relationship with his father—a small-town closeted homosexual, a teacher, a funeral-home owner, and an obsessive interior decorator.  The tone of the story ranges from outrageously funny, especially when describing her father’s obsession with house decor, flowers and fashion, to darkly disturbing, when recalling his inappropriate relationships with male students and the effect of his behavior on the author’s mother. The prose is simple, expressive and often filled with references to literary classics, and the art, with its traditional blue, black and white panels, integrates beautifully into a graphically and textually powerful tale of a family marked by love, sadness, repression but also redemption.  For any skeptics of graphic novels, Fun Home should be an example of this format’s potential for expression, beauty and literary value.

Subject Headings: Graphic Novels; Memoir; Coming-Out-Story; Sexual Orientations; Family and Relationships; 1960’s Small Town–Pennsylvania.

Appeal: heartbreaking, darkly funny, thought-provoking, engaging, literary, disturbing, poignant, character-driven, reflective, psychologically complex, moving, witty, uneasy, well-drawn, candid, sympathetic, sexually explicit, family-centered, small-town setting.

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book: heartbreaking, witty, and literary.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi: A compelling and darkly funny tale of an Iranian girl growing up during the Iranian Revolution. Similarly to Fun Home, it is an autobiographical, character-driven, and textually and visually powerful graphic novel.

2) Epileptic by David B: In this moving graphic novel, the author describes his real-life experiences of growing up with an epileptic brother and how it affected his decision to become a cartoonist.

3) Blankets: an Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson: An autobiographical graphic novel about brothers growing up in a strict, evangelical family and struggling with rivalry, love and doubt.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: the Beauty Supply District by Ben Katchor.  A collection of witty, nostalgic and character-driven graphic strips picturing the experience of Julius Knipl, a real estate photographer, and other mid-century Jewish characters.

2) The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger: A graphic story of a woman who enters a bookmobile that contains every book she has ever read. Like Bechdel’s story, it is character-driven, literary, reflective and stylistically complex

3) Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine:  This graphic novels tells a story of Ben Tanaka, a not entirely sympathetic, twenty-something American-Japanese, searching for his identity and a place in the world by testing sexual, cultural, philosophical and political waters of the contemporary America.

Megan Rosol

Giovanni’s Room

November 15, 2011

Author: James Baldwin

Title: Giovanni’s Room

Genre: GLBTQ / Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1956

Number of Pages: 169

Geographical Setting: Paris

Time Period: 1950s

Plot Summary: With his fiancée Hella away in Spain, David—a twenty-something American living abroad in Paris—moves in with an Italian man named Giovanni and begins a romantic affair with him. David is conflicted about his burgeoning homosexual identity and this conflict grows more intense when Hella returns to Paris. David loves Giovanni, but his conditioning as an American male of the mid-twentieth century precludes him from committing to the relationship and to the truth of his homosexuality. David narrates the story from some time in the future, in a house in the south of France, at which point Hella has returned to America and Giovanni has been sentenced to death for some crime which is revealed near the end of the book. The story thus recounts how David ends up alone, with neither a gay nor a straight companion.

Subject Headings: Homosexuality; Gay fiction; Love triangles; American expatriates—Paris

Appeal: bleak, character-centered, compelling, concise, emotional, first-person narrative, heartbreaking, introspective, melodramatic, psychological, reflective, somber, tragic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character-centered, introspective, heartbreaking

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present by Neil Miller [Comprehensive guide to the history of homosexuality, including information about the time and place of Giovanni’s Room]

Gay Fictions: Studies in a Male Homosexual Literary Tradition by Claude J. Summers [Lit-crit text featuring essays about male homosexual fiction, including one about Giovanni’s Room]

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway [About life as an American expatriate in Paris]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Married Man by Edmund White [Love story about gay men set in Paris; tragic, bleak, heartbreaking; protagonist is an American expatriate]

Maurice by E.M. Forster [Ahead-of-its-time depiction of gay romance; examination of inner conflict produced by having homosexual feelings in a time when being gay was socially unacceptable; European setting]

The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal [First American novel to openly discuss homosexuality; more inner conflict about gay identity; tragic love story]

Name: Brian W.

Columbine

November 8, 2011

Author: Dave Cullen

Title: Columbine

Genre: Nonfiction / True Crime

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 432

Geographical Setting: Jefferson County, Colorado

Time Period: 1999

Plot Summary: On April 20, 1999, Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out one of the most infamous mass murders in American history. This book, written by a journalist considered the leading authority on the Columbine killers, peels back the layers of myth and misinformation (fed by media blunders and police cover-ups) that surrounded the Columbine incident, delving into the factual details of what really happened and attempting to answer the elusive question of why the killers did it. Cullen examines the backgrounds of Eric and Dylan extensively, as well as the investigation that followed the shooting and the Columbine community’s long healing process. In addition to profiling the killers, Cullen etches character studies of victims and survivors, creating the definitive nonfiction account of a tragedy whose impact continues to reverberate in American society.

Subject Headings: School shootings; High school; True crime; Columbine murders

Appeal: character-centered, detailed, disturbing, engrossing, eye-opening, fast-paced, heartbreaking, informative, investigative, journalistic, multiple points of view, psychological, thought-provoking, well-researched

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: detailed, investigative, thought-provoking

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote [True crime; about a pair of young male murderers; detailed, journalistic, psychological]

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi & Curt Gentry [True crime; informative account of infamous murders (Manson family); fast-paced, detailed]

The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer [True crime; assumes POV of killer and gets inside his head (Cullen also does this); covers killer’s background, crimes, and aftermath]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Project X by Jim Shepard [School-shooting story from the POV of the killers; delves into psychology of killers; realistically depicts teenage alienation]

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver [School-shooting story from the POV of the killer’s mother; delves into psychology of killer; detailed, disturbing]

Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland [About a Columbine-esque school shooting; deals with victims, survivors and parents; multiple points of view]

Name: Brian W.

A Lesson Before Dying

August 17, 2011

Author:  Gaines, Ernest J.

Title:  A Lesson Before Dying

Genre:  African American Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1997

Number of Pages:  256

Geographical Setting:  Bayonne, LA

Time Period:  late 1940s, post-World War II

Series:  N/A

Plot SummaryA Lesson Before Dying is the story of Jefferson, a young black man in rural Louisiana in the 1940s sentenced to die for a murder he did not commit.  In his closing statement, Jefferson’s defense lawyer argues that Jefferson is as ignorant and stupid as animal, no better than a mere hog, incapable of planning such a crime, but the all-white jury finds him guilty.  From that point on, Jefferson only thinks of himself as a hog.   Miss Emma, Jefferson’s grandmother, persuades Grant Wiggins, the local schoolteacher to speak to Jefferson to help raise him up to believe in himself again as a man, so that he may die with dignity.  The story is told in first person by Wiggins, the black boy who was able to leave the plantation to pursue a better life, but is back as the schoolteacher, burned out now by the futility of teaching poor blacks in the rural South.  Full of self-doubts, Wiggins doesn’t feel he is up to the task, but during their meetings in prison, he discovers as much about himself as Jefferson, and both men re-examine what it means to be a human being, and the strength of the human spirit.  A Lesson Before Dying is a realistic and insightful look at life in the rural South in the 1940s, and the racial prejudice that was an accepted part of everyday life. The characters are believable and very human.   In simple but powerful prose, Gaines lets the realities of the story speak for themselves almost as if this were a nonfiction peace of work.

Subject Headings: Rural Poor, African American Death Row Prisoners, African American Men, African American Teachers, Injustice, Manhood, Race Relations, The South

Appeal: moving, character driven, eloquent, emotional, detailed, ennobling, heartbreaking, powerful, classic, realistic, touching, thought provoking, simple, deep, honest, unflinching

3 terms that best describe this book: simple, honest, eloquent

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors: A Saint on Death Row:  The Story of Dominique Green by Thomas Cahill is an eerily similar story of a black man on Death Row accused of shooting a white man during a robbery.   Jackie Robinson:  A Biography by Arold Rampersad is the story of the first black Major League baseball player.  Brainwashed:  Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell deals with the disturbing question of why so many blacks still think and act like slaves.

3 Revelant Fiction Works and Authors:  As I Lay Dying by William Falkner has the similar bleak setting of life in the rural South, as well as the same poignant feel .  To Kill a Mockingbird has a similar plot, setting, and sense of hopelessness of a black man falsely accused and judged by whites.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck has the same simple prose and similar theme of rural poverty and injustice.

Chris M.

The Other Wes Moore

August 8, 2011

Author: Wes Moore

Title: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

Genre: Nonfiction; African American; Biography, Autobiography and Memoir

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 233 (including a 45-page resource guide)

Geographical Setting: primarily Baltimore, Maryland, and the Bronx, New York

Time Period: 1982-2000

Plot Summary: Before writing this book, Wes Moore had been haunted for years by the idea of a man from his neighborhood, with his name, whose path started out so similar to his own, yet ended up widely diverging. Born just a couple of years apart, both were raised by single mothers in the inner city; both had ready access to the drug culture, early run-ins with police, and trouble in school; both had numerous turning points and second chances. The author emerged as a Rhodes Scholar, White House Fellow, Wall Street investment professional, and decorated Afghanistan war veteran. The other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence in a Maryland jail for his role in a botched jewelry store robbery that left an off-duty cop dead. Unable to shake questions about who the other Wes Moore was and how his life unfolded, the author reached out to him and began several years of correspondence with a goal of shedding light on how their various circumstances and choices made the difference in their lives. Through a series of interviews with Wes and other important people from both their lives, this book pieces together a chronological story that tells about more than just these two men. It looks at the broader social and cultural factors that impact inner-city youth, and tries to motivate readers to think differently about their lives, and have different expectations for others. At its close, it includes a call to action and a detailed resource guide of organizations that help youth across the country.

Subject Headings: Family and relationships – Growing up; African American teenage boys; Moore, Wes, 1978- – Childhood and youth; Moore, Wes, 1975- – Childhood and youth; Baltimore, Md. – Social conditions 20th century; Violence – Baltimore, Md.; Prisoners – Maryland; Turning points.

Appeal: Accessible, candid, contemplative, compelling, details of urban life, family-centered, haunting, insightful, issue-oriented, thought-provoking, well-researched

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book: Character-driven, inspiring, heartbreaking

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors
Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges by Byron Pitts (Autobiography by 60 Minutes correspondent Pitts about overcoming obstacles such as poverty and functional illiteracy growing up in Baltimore; emphasis on family and faith.)

Stand by Me: The Risks and Rewards of Mentoring Today’s Youth by Jean E. Rhodes (Examination of mentoring programs that serve underprivileged youth, and analysis of what makes them effective; good for readers inspired by Wes Moore’s message about the importance of mentors and setting high expectations for at-risk youth.)

Brothers and Keepers: A Memoir by John Edgar Wideman (Memoir and social history examining why the author was successful while his brother ended up in jail for murder; similar themes and character-centered approach to uncovering where two paths diverged as in The Other Wes Moore.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors
Chyna Black by Keisha Ervin (An urban coming-of-age tale in which the protagonist is an African American female caught up in St. Louis street life. Character-driven, and with many themes that overlap with The Other Wes Moore.)

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers (A young adult novel and National Book Award finalist that follows a 14-year-old in a juvenile detention center and his efforts to change his life’s direction. Gritty, moving, compelling and true-to-life.)

Between Brothers: A Novel by C. Kelly Robinson (Compelling story of four men at a historically black college and obstacles they still face, including funding for education, drug dealers, and other social issues from The Other Wes Moore. Character-centered and issue-oriented.)

By: Elaine

A Blessed Event

November 4, 2009

Title: A Blessed Event

Author: Jean Reynolds Page

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 352

Genre: Women’s Lives

Geographical Setting: Smalltown Texas

Time Period: 1974-1977, 1983, 1988 (Epilogue)

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Childhood friends Joanne (Jo) Timbro and Darla Stevens are challenged by Darla, and her husband Cal’s, fertility problems. Together, the two women decide that Cal will impregnate Jo the old-fashioned way, and then Cal and Darla will raise the child. Everything seems to be working as planned, until the night Joanne’s car veers off the road and into Darla and Cal’s bedroom wall. Jo, severely injured, is brain dead. Five months pregnant, she lays in the hospital bed in a coma. Distraught and afraid for the life of her child, Darla finds herself in a court battle, with consequences she never imagined coming to light. Darla’s best friend from high school, Sean, is a Catholic priest, and the one person Darla knows she can depend on. Relationships are not always what they seem to be during times of crisis, and Darla must make heart-wrenching decisions about her best friend, her marriage, and the future of her baby. The date-stenciled chapter flashbacks offer readers insight into Joanne and Darla’s friendship during high school, and the secrets they shared, and a few they kept from one another. A Reader’s Guide (a conversation with the author) and Reading Group Questions are also offered in the back of the book.

Subject Headings: Best friends, Women and friendship, Marriage, Husband and wife, Infertility, Childlessness, Motherhood, Surrogacy, Extramarital relations, Interpersonal triangles, Traffic accidents, Brain injuries, Coma patients, Child custody, Family secrets, Family relationships, Mothers and daughters, Ethics, Law, Family Planning, Suicide, Secrets, Custody, Infidelity, Love, Father and daughter, Coming of Age, Moral issues

Appeal: Hopeful, Sympathetic, Melodramatic, Obsession, Suspense, Heartache, Intimate, Powerful, Mysterious, Riveting, Compelling, Heartbreaking, Family oriented

Three terms that best describe this book: Intriguing, Sympathetic, Psychologically Suspenseful


Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Origin of Haloes (2005) by Den Hartog Pregnant, sixteen-year-old gymnast Kay Clancy marries her high-school sweetheart, Joe LeBlanc, although he is not the father of her child, an action that has profound repercussions years later when Joe mysteriously vanishes. An excellent read-alike that involves family, secrets, and repercussions.

In Another Man’s Bed (2007) by Francis Ray — Justine is forced to make a difficult choice between her adulterous husband, left comatose following a devastating car accident, his supportive mother, and the old flame who has just walked back into her life. An awesome tie-in to A Blessed Event, with a twist.

Family Secrets (2007) by Judith Henry Wall Two bombshells fall on Vanessa, Ellie and Georgiana the night of their mother’s 60th birthday: widowed mom Penelope is moving to France with a man they’ve never met, and they learn their paternal grandmother did not die in childbirth as they’d been told all their lives. Families, like friends, often have secrets that change everyone involved, much like the lives of the characters in A Blessed Event.

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

Surrogacy Was the Way (2006) by Zara Griswold — Twenty Intended Mothers Tell Their Stories documents the true stories of twenty women who had children via surrogacy. Surrogacy is a complete possibility in today’s day and age, but anyone considering this route to parenthood should know the pros and cons. The women featured go to surrogacy for a variety of reasons, ranging from Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH) to cancer to unexplained infertility and everything in between. An excellent tie-in to A Blessed Event and the real life experiences of mothers and surrogate relationships.

Management of Post-mortem Pregnancy: Legal And Philosophical Aspects (2006) by Daniel Sperling — Recent advances in medical technology have provided healthcare staff with the possibility of maintaining the life of a brain-dead pregnant woman on life-support in order to achieve successful delivery of the fetus. Covers the topics found in A Blessed Event: the moral, legal, psychological, religious, spiritual and physical aspects of the question on the interests of dead people, as well as the jurisprudential question of the fetus’ interests.

The Fabric of Friendship: Celebrating the Joys, Mending the Tears in Women’s Relationships (2006) by Joy Carol — Explores the emotional hurdles that women face in their relationships. The Fabric of Friendship reveals a simple truth: friendship is never simple. This work of fiction connects and enlightens readers as they reflect on the friendship between Darla and Jo in A Blessed Event.

Name: Maurine

Joy School

June 15, 2009

Joy School
Author: Elizabeth Berg
Title: Joy School
Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships
Publication Date: 1997
Number of Pages: 208p
Geographical Setting: Missouri
Time Period: Late 1950s/Early 1960s
Series (If applicable): The Katie Nash Series

Plot Summary:
Katie Nash is a 13-year-old “army brat”.  Her mother recently passed away, and her father has moved her from Texas to Missouri.  Katie is left to fend for herself in a new school with new neighbors in a new town.  Her best friend’s letters are getting shorter and shorter, and Katie is not so sure about her new friends.  While ice skating one day, she falls through the ice and eventually makes her way into a nearby gas station to Jimmy (who looks just like Superman and saves her life.)  Told from Katie’s point of view, this book covers a lot of ground in the 13 year old’s life from scary new friendships, the bad girls at school, how love is supposed to feel, and what it has been like growing up without a mother.  Katie is precocious, careful and full of questions that she has to answer for herself.

Subject Headings: First Loves, Adolescence, Loss of Mother, Father and Daughter Relationships, Coming of Age Story

Appeal: Character driven, heartfelt, measured, heartbreaking, honest, awkward, giddy, funny, introspective, reminiscent, nostalgic, sweet, memorable.

3 terms that best describe this book:
Internal, passionately youthful, reflective

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Still Here With Me:  Teenagers and Children on Losing a Parent by Suzanne Sjoqvist and Margaret Myers (children and teens express their own feelings of loss)
Vintage Fashions for Women: the 1950s & 60s (photos and patterns for A-Line Skirts and Peter Pan collar blouses that Katie and Taylor Sinn love)
Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Tough Stuff: Stories of Tough Times and Lessons
Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Kimberly Kirberger (Teens sharing stories about difficult life situations)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
Object Lessons by Anna Quindlen (12 year old’s perspective of family life)
Offsides: A Novel by Kerry Madden-Lunsford (Coming of age story of a girl who moves to a new town with her father)
The Usual Rules by Joyce Manard (a young girl moves in with her father after the loss of her mother)

Name:
Katy A. Hite