Database Part 2

The Salt House by Lisa Duffy

The Salt HouseA family still struggling with a death in the family will either be destroyed like a boat in a storm or come together and survive the winds. 

Title: The Salt House
Author: Lisa Duffy
ISBN: 
1501156551 (ISBN13: 9781501156557)

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Series? No

Publisher: Touchstone
First Publication Date: June 13th 2017 (304 pages)

Available Formats on Amazon:

  • e-book $9.99
  • Paperback $12.65
  • Audio CD $26.22
  • audiobook available through audible

Why I chose this book: 

I have a hard time reading Women’s fiction and know I need to explore more of the genre. This one seemed interesting without being too ‘whiny.’

Author Interviews: 

Kimmery Martin
The Review Review

Significance:

The multiple points of view from everyone in the family is quite unique, while the writing itself I found to be outstanding. 

Awards: N/A

 
Synopsis:
 
It has been over a year since baby Maddie didn’t wake up from her nap. Her tragedy of her death still affects the remaining Kelly family: Hope, Jack, and two sisters: Jess and Kat. They all deal with the grief differently with Jack keeping busy at work on his lobster boat and Hope breaking down, unable to let go. Even the daughters still struggle to understand what has happened and wonder about their future when their parents seem at odds. Jack is desperate to move on and continue their life, but Hope still cannot let go of Maddie’s ashes.
Then Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, comes to town. He stirs up more than just old memories with Jack and puts Jack’s family on even more shaky ground. The Kelly family will either be torn apart by this tragedy or will find a way to overcome the grief and become a whole family again. 
Evaluation: 
This is a lovely book about a family needing to overcome their grief. While I generally have a difficult time with Women’s fiction, this book wasn’t as bad as they usually are, for me. 
The story is quite simple with little plot. The whole point of the book is the family getting past the grief or not, so this book is really more about the journey and not the destination. The multiple points of view allow the reader to look at each character from different lens, see how they are coping with the death and the turbulent home life, and what they are doing to reach a normal state. Through Hope we learn more about Maddie and her grief, while Jack is going through his own problems, feeling unable to tell his wife what is going. Kat, the youngest daughter, is more concerned with her parents not being happy and she deals with wanting to fix the problem, while Jess is trying to live her own life and once again feels alone, unable to communicate her problems. These different perspectives made the story interesting, instead of redundant. 
I also enjoyed the characters who were full of life. All the characters were distinct in their own way and had their own voice. Hope’s chapters could seem a bit dull to me, if only because continuing to hear about her grief was difficult, but even her stories had gripping moments when talking about what happened or how she was trying to move on. I did think her blaming people or not understanding why they wouldn’t tell her things since she is so absorbed in her grief. Other than that, I liked the characters, especially Jess and Kat. 

Other Reviews:
Kirkus Review
From Amazon:“Duffy eloquently displays the emotional complexities of a family going through the healing process. Readers of Elin Hilderbrand or Luanne Rice will enjoy.” (Library Journal)
 

Appeals:

slice of life, realness, maine -location, family problems, happy ending, mainstream fiction

This is a book from people who enjoy slower books full of emotion.

“Clues for the Future”

Maine, toddler death, lobster fishing, pneumonia, Jess – teen, Kat – youngest, Hope – mom, Jack – dad 

Rating:

  • Quality: 4★
    I think more could have been done to improve it.
  • Popularity: 2★
    This book isn’t well known yet and is a book for specific people, not everyone.

Read-alikes

The Stars Are FireWhen I'm GoneFates and FuriesA Hole in the Earth

  • The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve
    This book is also set in Maine with a mother character, but is historical fiction
  • When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker
    A book about overcoming grief and raising children, but with a dash more romance
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
    Both are set in Maine and deal with a husband and wife relationship
  • A Hole in the Earth by Robert Bausch
    Both books take place in summer are mainstream fiction and deal with family relationships

Booktalking Ideas

 

“I wrote about how you can love your child with something that surpasses logic and reason and words, and you can still screw up. Even with the best intentions and loftiest goals, sometimes, as a parent, you fail. I wrote how so many of these moments stare back at you and say, See, you were told being a parent would be harder than you imagined, the hardest job in the world, and you didn’t believe it. Did you?” 

I think this is a great quote to start with because it captures Hope’s feelings about how she has screwed up as a mother.

Spending time talking about each character would be a good method with this book. It is very character driven so, describing the characters and how they are dealing with the grief would work. 

This is a booktalk I would give to adults, probably not teens, book clubs, and specifically parents because they might understand the feelings more. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you think of the title? It is the name of the home they are remodeling, but was left abandoned, do you think it has some significance to the story? 
  2. What are your impressions of Finn? How about his interaction with Jess when he was at his house to talk to his youngest step-son? 
  3. Do you think Hope and Jack are right in their decision to not tell Kat what happened to Maddie? How about Jess’s decision to not tell her the trust about Jack in the hospital?
  4. What did you think of the multiple points of view? Was there one you preferred or one you did not? Could you have done without one or added another? 
  5. Do you think Hope was right to be confused about no one telling their problems or new things in their life with her? Do you think the family should have still been open with her? Was there something else they could have done?
    (Issues/Secrets: Jack and the traps or his issue with Finn, Jess with her love life, and Kat with being bullied)

 

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Database Part 1

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014)

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry His wife has died and his retirement plan stolen A.J. grumpy, but a surprise package in his bookstore will change his perspective on life. 

Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin ISBN: 1616203218 (ISBN13: 9781616203214)

Genre: Mainstream Fiction – Contemporary,
Series? No

Publisher: Algonquin Books
First Publication Date: April 1st 2014 (260 pages)

Available Formats on Amazon:

  • e-book $8.24
  • Hardcover $33.97
  • Paperback $8.67
  • Audio CD: $21.84
  • Audiobook through Audible

Why I chose this book: 

This was a book we had to read for the class discussion, but I have also needed to expand by mainstream fiction since I rarely read these types of books.

Author Interviews: 

NPR
Kirkus TV

Significance:

Award Winners
•Library Journal Best Books: 2014
•Library Journal Top Ten
•LibraryReads Favorites: 2014

This book brings up an interesting perspective on second chances, life & death, and how to live ones life, which I think may be significant to people.

Synopsis: 

A.J. Fikry owns a book shop on a small island. It is full of books of ‘literature’ and stuffy, much like his own personality which deters his neighbors and fellow islanders from getting close to him. The recent death of his wife weighs on his shoulders making him gruff. One night, his prized possession: a copy of Tamerlane by Edgar Allan Poe, which he was planning on selling to fund his retirement is stolen. As far as Fikry is concerned, he has nothing left in life, even his bookstore brings him little joy anymore. Even the kind police chief Lambiase, his well-meaning sister-in-law Ismay, or Amelia, a spunky sales rep from Knightley Press cannot seem to pull him out of his funk.

Then one mysterious night, his store is one again invaded, but instead of something missing, a package is left instead. Slowly, but surely A.J. Fikry changes because of the package’s arrival. It doesn’t take long for the rest of the island to see the changes in him and for Fikry to start looking at life with a different perspective.

Evaluation:

A.J. Fikry is going through a rough patch in his life, and that is stating it mildly. The author definitely highlights how the character’s life has almost hit bottom, yet everything changes when a baby is left in his store. Now, while I ended up liking how things turned out after the inclusion of Maya, I thought this point of change was done rather quickly. A grouchy old man persona turns into someone rather caring and willing to change in an instant! It is also true that time skips and spaces are not really mentioned outright, but do happen, so that may account for the rapid change here, but then begs the question of why many other aspects are so slow. Honestly, the timing and pacing really threw me off. Keeping the ages of the characters correct is rather difficult.

There are some wonderful characters here, most definable and set apart. A.J. Fikry may be hard for some readers to like, but he is definitely relate-able. Maya is the idealistic child that rarely exists, but she makes for a good store. The side characters, for the most part, have charm and make this book feel quite cozy.

The plot though is rather beautiful and wonderfully written, although not dramatic, so I wouldn’t recommend this to fans of action or intrigue. This is a book of subtle pleasures, giving the reader a slice of A.J. Fikry’s life and of those around him. One might compare this to the Studio Ghibli movie, Kiki’s Delivery Service, where nothing truly happens, but everything changes.

This book may be more effective if given to someone who needs reassurance that life is full of second chances and the possibility of change is always there.

Book Reviews:

Deseret News

Pulishers Weekly (From Novelist) – The  only thing that’s “storied ” in the life of  A.J. Fikry, a curmudgeonly independent bookseller, in this funny, sad novel from Zevin (The  Hole We’re In), is his obvious love of  literature—particularly short stories. Fikry runs Island Books, located on Alice Island, a fictional version of  Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a “persnickety little bookstore,” in the  words of  Amelia Loman, the  new sales rep for Knightley Press. Her first meeting with Fikry does not go well. He’s disgruntled by the  state of  publishing, and bereft because his beloved wife, Nic, recently died in a car accident. Soon after the  meeting, he suffers another loss: a rare first edition of  Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Tamerlane (Fikry’s primary retirement asset) goes missing. But then Fikry finds an abandoned toddler in his bookstore with a note saying, “This is Maya. She is twenty-five months old.” Somewhat unbelievably, Maya ends up in his care and, predictably enough, opens the  irascible bookseller’s heart. The  surprisingly expansive story includes a romance between Fikry and Amelia, and follows Maya to the  age of  18 before arriving at a bittersweet denouement. Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty, and her affection for the  book business is obvious. Agent: Doug Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Apr.) –Staff (Reviewed January 20, 2014) (Publishers Weekly, vol 261, issue 03, p)

Appeal:

cozy; wrapped up ending; book about books; slice of life

This book may appeal to people looking for reassurance of a second chance or people who want a cozy feel-good book.

“Clues for the Future”

island bookstore; grumpy old man; children change everyone; main character death; world keeps spinning

Rating:

  • Quality: 4★
    A few moments I thought could have been improved
  • Popularity: 3★
    I haven’t heard this book talked about widely. Most people I mention it to, don’t know it. I also wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone, but a certain group of people.

Read-alikes:

Midnight at the Bright Ideas BookstoreThe Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendA Man Called Ove

  • Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
    Both books feature independent book sellers whose book stores are the scenes are major events.
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
    These books features books and messages about second chances at lives.
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
    Grouchy old men who are widowers find a new light in their life through specific characters in their community

Booktalking Ideas

“A place ain’t a place without a bookstore” -is a quote I’d use to start and proceed into how A.J. Fikry’s shop is the only bookstore, but is practically dead inside because he is.

I would put more attention on the characters, describing them and their roles on the island, or in life.

Bring up the surprise package and how Fikry slowly blossoms and makes changes to his shop which brings the island closer to together.

Fikry is given a second chance at life and a new perspective of the world he lives in. Open up this book today and learn how A.J.’s life and those around him are changed forever.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think in real life, A.J. would have really changed from receiving a child?
  2. Why do you think the author chose to have this book take place on an island? What does it say about A.J.?
  3. Did you find Ismay’s motivations for stealing Tamerlane to be forgivable? What did you think about Lambiase’s reactions to her stealing it?
  4. “In the end, we are collected works.” What do you think of A.J.’s opinion on how our lives aren’t novels, but collected works? Do you think this is exemplified in the story?
  5. How do you feel about the ending of the book? How would you have ended it?