Awesome Mr. Dumas and I made our quick weekly trek to the local Costco a couple days ago and I (of course!) took a quick peek at the book selection.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of books I read when they came out a few years ago. I’m not sure why they’re making an appearance now, but I’m not going to argue—and I’ll highly recommend them again, like I did when I first discovered them. So, here's my #TBT from the Costco book aisle.
First off, I found Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. If you missed this charming romantic debut that came out in 2010, I hope you’ll pick it up. The titular major is the epitome of a retired British army officer—proper, proud, and always aware of his duty. He’s also a widower who befriends Jasmine Ali, the lovely widowed Pakistani proprietress of the village convenience store. The two discover a shared sense of humor, love of literature, and irritating young family members they can commiserate over, but when they move slowly and cautiously into a relationship, they face disapproval from every angle, which they greet with courage, wit and grace. There are so many things to love about this book, including a post-middle age romance, beautiful writing, shrewd humor and the subtle yet spot-on coverage of things like small town small-mindedness, and racial, cultural and family tensions.
It looks like Simonson has a book coming out in March that is set just before World War I, so I’ll have to add The Summer Before the War to my TBR pile. (It received a starred review too.) Last Stand was a delightful read, and I simply love anything set around that era, which was so fraught with emotion, loss, and turbulence. (Though I’ll cross my fingers for a happily-ever-after….)
Another find in the book stacks (and another debut, too, released in 2011) was The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. This quirky little book tells the story of three sisters—Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia, all named after Shakespeare characters by their professor father—who come together ostensibly to help their mother as she fights cancer in their fictional Ohio college town. Each has secrets and challenges they must overcome, but their relationships are prickly and complicated, so they have to come to terms with their own weaknesses and relearn how to love, trust, and depend on each other before any of them can move forward. Brown chooses a sort of “collective consciousness” narrative style which comes out as third person plural, which is novel and clever, and it works most of the time. The epilogue might be a little too neat, and possibly a little out of character for Bianca, especially, but overall, the journey of the sisters as they find their way back to each other and their true selves is compelling and poignant, and a core value of the love of words and books will appeal to most of you, I think!
Another 2011 release I absolutely loved was Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers (which was not at Costco…). I’ve waited years for this author’s next title, and it finally released last August. I checked out We Never Asked For Wings from my library’s audio platform while I was in my hometown, El Paso, Texas, a couple weeks ago, which seemed a pitch-perfect match for this book, with its themes of displaced hearts and the struggles and triumphs of generations of Mexican-Americans, both citizens and undocumented, though it was set in the San Francisco Bay Area. Diffenbaugh’s storytelling is both heart-wrenching and uplifting, with themes of redemption, friendship, love and connection, and a gripping look into our messy, problematic immigration system, especially where children are concerned.
While none of these books are traditional romance novels, they all have a core romance, and if you’re an eclectic reader like me, I think you’ll love them as much as I did.