are my all-time favorites. They are books I return to over and over
again, finding something new in them each time, reading them each
time and catching my breath at the brilliance of the writing and
Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver
Dalva, Jim Harrison
Sleeping in Flame, Jonathan Carroll
The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
Horse Heaven, Jane
Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
Shiveringly brilliant. Terminal underachiever and
self-designated outcast Codi Noline goes back to her home town of
Grace, Arizona to tend to her father, who is suffering from Alzheimers.
During the visit, she faces the ghosts of her past, including Loyd
Peregrina, the one-time high school bad boy who'd unknowingly gotten
her pregnant. Loyd's straightened himself out and is a terminally
sexy temptation to Codi, who tries to remain as alienated from Grace
as she had been when she'd lived there before.
is much deeper than this, though, a story of personal revelation,
of surmounting past tragedy, of the true meaning of community. Through
Loyd's Apache roots and the Hispanic culture that dominates Grace,
Kingsolver shows us a different way of thinking about the land,
property, the environment, and our connection and responsibility
as human beings to the rest of the world. I've read this book easily
a dozen times, and each time it triggers an amazing array of emotions
from me: joy, sadness, desire, anger, responsibility. Kingsolver
writes impeccably, investing each sentence with a sense of timeless
beauty and importance. It is an amazing read.
by Jim Harrison
An achingly romantic and painful story, Dalva
is the story of a woman's attempt to deal with the demons of her
past. Dalva returns to her Nebraska home to face the tales in her
great grandfather's journals of living with the Lakota Sioux and
to begin the search for the son she gave up for adoption at birth,
the son from her first and only love. Harrison switches between
Dalva's point of view and that of the stories told in the journals,
each so absorbing that it is a wrench when each section ends.
does an amazing job of writing believable women characters. Strong,
independent, and insightful, Dalva is someone you'd want to know.
Yet she is wounded from the tragedy of her first love. The prose
is hauntingly beautiful, the characters are pitch perfect, and the
ending will take your breath away.
in Flame by Jonathan Carroll
A tale of magical realism that jumps from Vienna
to L.A. and across time, Sleeping in Flame exists in the
space where real life intersects with fairy tales. Even as Walker
Easterling falls in love with Maris York, his world begins to unravel
into a series of unbelievable events.
takes the tale of Rumpelstiltskin and deconstructs it into a story
of reincarnation and obsession. The story is fascinating, wildly
romantic, and surprising in its depth.
English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Forget all you know about the movie. The book is infinitely richer
and more brilliant, the prose haunting, the characters drawn with
gorgeous precision. Hanna the nurse, Caravaggio the thief, Kip the
bomb-defuser, and the English patient, all drawn together in a bomb-scarred
villa at the end of World War II. The story veers from the controlled
insanity and alienation of the post-war period to a dark tale of
love and betrayal set amid the pre-war exploration of the northern
Heaven by Jane Smiley
I loathed A Thousand Acres, but I adored Horse
Heaven. Capturing the depth and complexity of the horse-racing
world, Horse Heaven features a cast of trainers, owners,
breeders, jockeys, bettors, six horses, and a Jack Russell terrier.
At its core, Horse Heaven is about relationships, passion,
hope, and forgiveness. It is wise and wry and full of scenes of
great fun, such as the story line in which an animal psychic communicates
with a stable pony to determine which horse to bet on in a race.
Give Horse Heaven a read; you won't regret it.
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