Editor’s note: The opinions of the smart, well-read women in my Denver book club mean a lot, and often determine what the rest of us choose to pile onto our bedside tables. Sure, you could read advertising blurbs on Amazon, but wouldn’t you be more likely to believe a neighbor with no skin in the game over a corporation being fed words by publishers? In this new series, we are sharing some mini-reviews with you. Have any to offer? Email [email protected].
“Stealing,” by Margaret Vreble (Mariner Books)
A Native American girl’s life is seemingly idyllic — until she is suddenly sent to a Christian boarding school in the 1950s due to some event that she doesn’t consciously remember. Her experience at the school is horrific on many levels. She starts a journal, which she uses to bring her comfort through remembering her life prior to landing at this school and which she also uses to slowly remember what happened to land her there. It’s the slow reveal that gives the novel a bit of a mystery twist. Vrebel’s first novel, “Maud’s Line,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is also about a Native American heroine. Both novels are definitely worth reading. — 3 stars (out of 4); Kathleen Lance, Denver
“Lincoln in the Bardo,” by George Saunders (Random House)
Don’t just read “Lincoln in the Bardo”; listen to it on audiobook instead and see if you recognize the voices of the many celeb readers, such as Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Susan Sarandon, Ben Stiller, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Bill Hader and many more. What a treat. In Saunders’ groundbreaking novel, Abraham Lincoln’s beloved 11-year-old son, Willie, dies and is entombed in a crypt in Washington, D.C. In Buddhism, a bardo is a state of existence between death and rebirth, and in this cemetery, that’s where we find an unsavory group of spirits hanging out, watching Lincoln despair. Sure, there are a lot of names thrown at you early on (there are 166 characters in “Bardo”), but don’t give up on it. The payoff is huge. Just. Brilliant. Don’t just take my word for it: “Lincoln in the Bardo” won the 2017 Booker Prize and was lauded by many critics and publications as the book of the decade. — 4 stars (out of 4), Barbara Ellis, Denver Post staff
“The Chinese Groove,” by Kathryn Ma (Counterpoint)
A novel about family losses, immigrant dreams, the tall tales told to those left behind to cover up the lack of immediate success and riches in the new country, and disappointments, both large and small along the way. The title refers to the cultural bonds and unspoken understandings among Chinese, regardless of where they live. — 2 stars (out of 4); Kathleen Lance, Denver
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