Book Blog: February 2022 Favorites
The shortest month of the year might give us fewer reading hours, but it’s more about how we spend them, right? Even though it was a shorter months I enjoyed 12 books, the best below. February is Black History Month in the USA, so I am happy to recommend a few great books by Black authors too!
Let’s get to it…
Purple Hibiscus (Chimamandaa Ngozi Adichie): This was a fascinating and at times disorienting story of a Nigerian brother and sister who live at the mercy of their father’s treatment of them. Presenting a wonderful front to the world, he is merciless behind close doors, using his Catholic faith as the justification for beating his wife, pouring hot water over the feet of his daughter, cutting off part of his son’s finger, etc. The book is told through the eys of 15-year-old daughter Kambili as she works to follow her father’s schedule and avoid his wrath. This comes into sharper focus when they are allowed to spend a few weeks at their aunt’s house, who, while a poorer single mother of three, lives life with joy and love, bringing into focus that Kambili’s family might be rich in some ways but not in others. As Easter approaches the tensions increase until we learn that someone has had enough before something drastic happens. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Dear Child (Romy Haussmann): This book was creepy. It follows multiple unreliable narrators as we try to uncover what happened to Lena, a college student that disappeared in Munich many years before. The story is told from Lena’s perspective, once she is found having been hit by a car, her daughter Hannah’s perspective, and the perspective of her father, Mathias. Who was her captor, and why did they let her go? Why does her father not recognize her? And how can the authorities get a better understanding of the situation from 13-year-old Hannah? This gave me goosebumps.
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls (Anissa Gray): At the heart of this story are three sisters (Athena, Viola, and Lillian) who are adjusting their lives after oldest sister Athena is convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison. The story moves through their perspectives and weaves together their childhood traumas with the realities of supporting Athena, her husband (also imprisoned) and Athena’s twin teenage daughters. The characters and their complexities are really what makes this book lovely — no one is good or evil but a mixture of so many different traits. I look forward to reading more of Gray’s work!
Crooked House (Agatha Christie): I can see why Christie loved this particular book — it is has the perfect amount of creepiness and the enigmatic characters that Christie writes, as well as an eerie mood that permeates the book. The patriarch of the Leonides family has been poisoned — but was it his rather young second wife? One of his two sons? The unfavored grandchildren? His sister-in-law? As the book progresses what was confusing is that no good suspect had emerged and I feared it was something too complex or too much of a throwaway, until at the end I realized how I had missed an important angle that would have let me to the killer!
The Downstairs Girl (Stacey Lee): Jo is a talented young teenager — a milliner, a horse rider, and a writer. But she’s trying to make it in segregated Atlanta in 1890, and as a Chinese girl she doesn’t really fit anywhere. To boot she and Old Gin, her caretaker, live in an earthen basement unbeknownst to their upstairs neighbors. As the book progresses she has to navigate more and more secrets. Lee’s writing is literary and still very approachable, and for a YA novel the characters were multi-faceted without being over-dramatized.
Number the Stars (Lois Lowry): Another elementary school favorite, Number the Stars, was well worth the re-read. It’s 1940s Denmark and best friends Annemarie (a Christian girl) and Ellen (a Jewish girl) are navigating life during the Nazi occupation. One day things go from bad to worse and Ellen and her family are in grave danger. This is a fantastic book for elementary-aged kids to learn about WWII.
The Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson): Wow. This book helped me better understand a topic that my history teachers always skipped over — the migration of millions of Black Americans from Southern states to Northern and Western ones. Wilkerson uses the story of three people to personalize this migration — Ida Mae, who left Mississippi for Chicago in the 1930s; George, who left Florida for New York City in the 1940s; and Robert, who left Louisiana/Atlanta for Los Angeles in the 1950s. The story shares both the culture they brought with them and the people they left behind, the less-subtle but still powerful racism of their new hometowns, how they adapted and what they missed the most. What a powerful book.
The Temporary European (Cameron Hewitt): I love, love, love Rick Steves, so I’m not surprised that Hewitt, one of his most prolific guidebook writers, also tickles my brain. Hewitt boldly wrote a letter to Steves asking to work for him, and it worked out; he started his travel career leading tours for the company. This book details both his love of Europe and his love of the travel industry. I especially enjoyed the behind-the-scenes chapters about travel research (much, much less romantic than you’d think), how to film a Rick Steves show, and his views on over-touristed places like Dubrovnik and Cinque Terre. Let me also say that even though he loves Italy much more than one should, his favorite European country is Slovenia, and that’s one of mine too.
Send me your book recommendations — I’m always looking for the next good read! Spring is almost here, so I look forward to the season of outdoor reading.