Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Pulitzer Prize winning author, Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kittredge) is back to what she does best...stringing separate short stories together through similar motifs as well as character connections. Few authors are so skilled at the sparse, spare writing that has the ability to illuminate so much. Admittedly, this author could write a grocery list and I would purchase it; I am consistently in awe of her brilliance. In a nod to her latest book My Name is Lucy Barton, Strout takes the peripheral characters from that short novel and gives them each their own moment of fame, in this case, their own chapter. We return to Amagash, Illinois, the town of Lucy's birth, reminded once again of the amalgamation of society in the heartland of America: the desperately poor, trapped by drugs, lack of education, and the disappearance of economic opportunity; the small town well-to-do folks, who have little concept of the 'other' and their needs; the folks who desperately seek love, sometimes finding it, sometimes not; the ones who escaped the small town trap, seeking bigger lives for themselves; and most importantly, we meet Lucy again, finally, in her attempt to return and reconnect with her siblings. Does it help to have read Lucy Barton? Yes. Is it necessary? No. (However, you should anyway - it is a fabulous book!). This book illuminates so much of what not only divides our country today, but also what heals our country; it is the story of men and women, adults and children, old and young, and their struggles to find a modicum of happiness in their one brief time on earth.
Beartown by Frederick Backman
The author of the international bestseller, A Man Called Ove, is back! On the surface, Beartown is a novel of a small town where every man, woman, and child is obsessed by hockey, driven to watch, cheer, and kowtow to anyone connected to the rink, and willing to look the other way for both small as well as life-changing offenses. Yet, hockey only grazes the surface. This is the story of Amat, the phenom who skates for free while his mother cleans the rink. It is the story of David, who needs to win and will motivate his boys any way he can. It is the story of Benji, a player with a huge heart and an even bigger secret. And it is the story of a family and a girl, whose core belief in their town, in what is true and honorable and right, is shaken to its very core. All these dynamic characters are drawn together and tested as a terrible tragedy strikes the hockey family, and ultimately the entire town. This story will sear your heart, force you to question your own actions, and make you cheer for the heroes that emerge. Backman is back...and this is his most powerful book yet.
Reviews reposted with permission from Laurie's Lit Picks.