The Monday Check-In ~ 5/13/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

It’s been another slow reading week — and not because I haven’t been enjoying my books! Just life getting in the way, I suppose. In any case, I read…

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon: Really enjoyable and diverse YA. My review is here.

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce (and others): A “guide” to Pierce’s amazing fantasy world, as shown through notes and other documents written by the characters of Tortall. This is a nice-to-have for fans — not essential reading, but I can see it being handy as a reference and a side bit of entertainment. Excellent timeline too!

Heads Will Roll by Kate McKinnon and Emily Lynne: An absolutely perfect listening choice for me this week. Sublimely silly. My thoughts are here.

Bookish heaven:

I finally got to meet one of my all-time favorite authors, Seanan McGuire! She did a reading and signing at Borderlands Books in San Francisco, and it was amazing, of course. I felt like a total fangirl.

Fresh Catch:

So, funny story… I got to Borderlands about an hour before the event started. And what else would I do with time to kill in a bookstore? I bought books. Oodles. Piles. But hey — I’m a believer in supporting independent bookstores, so I get to feel good about myself AND come home with a bag full of books!

Stocked up on Seanan McGuire’s books (all of which I’ve read… and now I own!)

… plus, some new-to-me books

And meanwhile, a couple that I bought online arrived this week too:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs: The newest Mercy Thompson book! I’m surprised I haven’t finished it already, but it’s been a really distracting and distracted week.

Now playing via audiobook:

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua: My book group’s pick for May!

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads at the moment:

  • Besieged by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection — we’re finishing our group read this week.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — my book group’s current classic selection. I’ve fallen a bit behind (sorry, it’s just not grabbing me yet!), but I’ll aim to catch up this week.

A pop culture footnote:

As I get ready to save and schedule this post late Sunday night, I’ve just finished watching the 2nd to last episode of Game of Thrones. Holy hell.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/6/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Goodness, I’ve barely read or posted anything this past week! Well, okay, the main book I read was on the longer side, so maybe it just feels like I didn’t do much reading — I read A LOT, but all in one book!

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Weird and wonderful, and I loved it. My review is here.

I also finished the audiobook of The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. Great story, with terrific narration by Bronson Pinchot. My review is here.

Pop culture goodness:

It had to happen sooner or later — I saw the new Avengers movie! And enjoyed it, although I do have some doubts and quibbles about various plot points. Ah well, despite that, it was a very entertaining way to spend three hours.

Fresh Catch:

Quite a splurge this week, I can’t figure out what got into me!

Some books I’ve already read, some that are new to me… I’m excited to have them all!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon: It’s been a while since I’ve read YA. I’m happy to be starting this one, since it’s a follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi, which I really liked.

And meanwhile, I’m just waiting and counting the hours until Tuesday — release day for the newest Mercy Thompson book! I can’t wait for this book to arrive so I can dive in:

Now playing via audiobook:

Heads Will Roll by Kate McKinnon and Emily Lynne: I was going to start a serious novel as my next audiobook… but why do that when I have Kate McKinnon to listen to? I’m just starting today, but I have a feeling this will be exactly what I need this week!

Ongoing reads:

Three ongoing reads at the moment:

  • Besieged by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection — a group read for my Outlander book group, two sections of the story per week.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — my book group’s current classic selection. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week.
  • Tortall: A Spy’s Guide –– I’ve had this on my nightstand for weeks now, reading it in teeny-tiny chunks. Maybe I’ll finish this week…

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/29/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters: Gothic historical fiction about the younger days of Edgar Allan Poe and his muse. My review is here.

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs: I finished my audiobook re-read, and loved it so much!

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: The excellent sequel to Trail of Lightning. My review is here.

Fresh Catch:

Two shiny new books this week:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Yeah, I guess you might say that I’m a little obsessed when it comes to this author. As in, give me all her books. NOW. I’m excited to be starting her newest (although I’ll admit that I felt a little daunted when I picked it up to start reading and realized it was over 500 pages.)

Now playing via audiobook:

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King: It must be over 20 years since I first read this book. The audiobook is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, and is just so, so good! I’ve listened to about 60%, should finished up this coming week.

Ongoing reads:

Three ongoing reads at the moment:

  • Besieged by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection — a group read for my Outlander book group, two sections of the story per week.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — my book group’s newest classic selection. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… and since this book is over 800 pages, we’ll be doing so for quite some time. Great fun so far!
  • Tortall: A Spy’s Guide –– a collection of writings and notes related to Tamora Pierce’s kingdom of Tortall. It’s pretty entertaining, but I prefer reading it in small pieces, since it’s not actually a novel to be read straight through.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/22/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: A book group book. My review is here.

Kingdom of Needle & Bone by Mira Grant: Another awesomely chilling novella from one of my favorite authors. My review is here.

I read a total of ELEVEN short stories by Seanan McGuire about the amazing character Tybalt from the October Daye series — find out more here.

Aaaaaaand… I finally finished reading this gorgeous book about Hamilton! If you have Hamil-fans in your life, this would be a perfect gift, trust me.

Fresh Catch:

Two new books this week! I had to have a copy of the new release from Cat Winters (which I’m just starting). And even though I’ve already read the stories in American Hippo, once I saw this paperback edition, I just NEEDED it.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters: I’ve loved every book I’ve read by Cat Winters so far! High hopes for this one.

Now playing via audiobook:

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs: A re-read via audio, because I love the worlds created by Patricia Briggs and want to immerse myself again before her new book comes out in May!

Ongoing reads:

My Outlander book group is continuing our Lord John read-along with two Lord John (or Lord John-adjacent) stories from the Seven Stones to Stand or Fall collection. We’re reading the story Besieged right now.

And — time to start a new classic! My book group’s new classic read is The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, starting this week. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… and since this book is over 800 pages, we’ll be doing so for quite some time. Wish me luck!

I’m also indulging my love for Tamora Pierce’s fantasy world of Tortall by dipping in and out of Tortall: A Spy’s Guide, which isn’t a novel exactly — it’s a collection of writings and notes by Pierce’s characters explaining what it takes to become an expert spy, as well as personal correspondence between the characters. It’s all good fun, but I’m finding I appreciate it better in small chunks rather than trying to read straight through.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

Audiobook Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.

Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward – with hope and pain – into the future.

Once again, my book group has chosen an emotional, thought-provoking book that’s sure to prompt some passionate discussion. We seem to really know how to pick ’em this year!

In An American Marriage, Celestial and Roy are a devoted couple, but they’re still finding their groove as husband and wife after a year and a half of marriage. Their levels of trust seem to rise and fall, and in some ways, despite the obvious love between them, they’re still learning and growing together and establishing who they want to be together.

When Roy is accused of a violent crime and then convicted, they end up separated by his incarceration, facing a sentence that’s many years longer than their time together as a married couple. At first, Celestial visits regularly and they communicate constantly through letters, but over time, the physical separation becomes emotional separation as well — and when Roy’s conviction is overturned, he no longer knows if he has a wife to return to.

This book contemplates marriage, love, commitment, as well as the role of race in American society and the American justice system. Roy and Celestial are young, upwardly mobile African American professionals, but their run-in with the law in rural Louisiana — while awful and ghastly and unjust — doesn’t seem at all far-fetched in today’s society. Sadly, as shown through the experiences of the characters in this book, the threat of incarceration for African American males is very real and not avoidable simply by living a good and honest life.

Spoilery bits ahead:

I’ve said in other reviews that truly thought-provoking books evoke emotions, then make us question our emotions and get involved in internal debates. An American Marriage definitely had that effect on me.

Here come the spoilers:

While Celestial and Roy seem committed at the beginning of his prison time and determined to stick together no matter what, their relationship is eroded by time, distance, and the simple fact that they no longer share a life and experiences. After a few years, Celestial reaches the point where she stops visiting and finally tells Roy that she can no longer be his wife, even though she does not file for divorce. When Roy is released, he takes the lack of divorce papers as a sign that he has a marriage to return to, although he finds out soon enough that Celestial is in love with another man and planning to remarry.

Part of me was really angry with Celestial. Roy’s innocence is never in doubt. The reader, and Celestial, know absolutely that Roy is innocent of the rape for which he’s convicted. He’s sent away from her through a miscarriage of justice, not through any fault of his own. It made me really upset to see Celestial abandon Roy. BUT, at the same time, every time the narration switched to her point of view, I began to (unwillingly) feel sympathy. Celestial and Roy had only a short time together as husband and wife, and by the time a few years of his sentence passed, they’d been apart longer than they’d ever been together. They never really got to find out what sort of marriage they’d have. Roy is stuck in prison for all those years, but Celestial is out in the world, pursuing her artistic passions and starting to make a name for herself. Maybe if they’d been on this journey together, their marriage would have grown along with their developing talents and careers, but here, every change for Celestial means a change away from the marriage that’s had no chance to be anything other than stagnant.

It’s not at all fair to Roy — nothing that’s happened is fair in any way — but I had to grudgingly admit that Celestial had impossible choices to make and didn’t deserve to face what was supposed to be a 12-year sentence with no life of her own.

So while I was often angry with Celestial, I also made a point of trying to understand her actions and to feel pity for her experiences, not just for Roy’s. It was hard, because he’s the one victimized by a false conviction and my sympathy was naturally drawn to him. As I said, I had a full-fledged internal debate going on, and it was next to impossible to fault one or the other without also immediately feeling sorry for them.

In terms of the plot itself, I did have one minor quibble — Roy was convicted on rape charges, and the woman who accused him was raped by someone, just not by Roy. Why wasn’t there a rape kit done? Shouldn’t a DNA analysis have been able to clear him right away?

Even so, the story is tragic and so, so sad. Roy has a moment when he’s thinking about the trial and how the woman who accused him looked straight at him while describing the attack in the courtroom, telling her terrible story while being 100% sure that Roy was the rapist. Roy remembers feeling shame and guilt, despite knowing that she has the wrong man, simply from realizing how strongly the woman is convinced that this is who Roy is.

The book is told from multiple perspectives, mainly Roy’s and Celestial’s, and the audiobook uses different narrators for their pieces. Both do a very good job conveying their personalities, although it’s sometimes disconcerting hearing the “Roy” narrator doing Celestial’s voice when narrating a conversation between the two of them, and vice versa.

Overall, I’m very happy to have had the experience of listening to An American Marriage, and recommend it highly, whether in print or audio. There’s much to think about and digest, and I think this story will really stick with me. Looking forward to discussing it with my book group!

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Narrators:  Sean Crisden, Eisa Davis
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication date: January 29, 2018
Print length: 308 pages
Audiobook length: 8 hours, 59 mintues
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Purchased

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/15/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

This seems to have been quite a week for graphic novels! But some other reading too…

The Beauty, volumes 1 – 5 by Jeremy Haun et al: See my write-up of this graphic novel series here.

The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert HIllman: Moving historical fiction. My review is here.

A Fire Story by Brian Fies: A graphic novel portraying the author’s experiences during the 2017 California wildfires. My review is here.

I also LOVED…

I swear, this book IS me. And I suspect it’s all of you too — the author absolutely nails the glories and obsessions that come with being a book lover.

Pop culture goodness:

As I write this on Sunday night, I’m counting down — just like everyone else — to the season premiere of Game of Thrones!

Fresh Catch:

A few treats:

Any Kate Bush fans out there? I bought a copy of this gorgeous new volume of Kate Bush song lyrics as a little gift from me to me. (It doesn’t really come through in the image, but the lettering is silvery and so pretty.)

Aaaaaand… I also splurged on two special edition hardcovers that I needed for my shelves:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Kingdom of Needle & Bone by Mira Grant: Trust Mira Grant to completely freak me out! A novella about deadly disease outbreaks, with a decidely anti-anti-vaxxer agenda.

Now playing via audiobook:

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: Just finished Sunday afternoon – review to follow. And since I finished, I started…

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs: A re-read via audio, because I love the worlds created by Patricia Briggs and want to immerse myself again before her new book comes out in May!

Ongoing reads:

My Outlander book group is continuing our Lord John read-along with two Lord John (or Lord John-adjacent) stories from the Seven Stones to Stand or Fall collection. We’re reading the story Besieged right now.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/8/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Newest reviews:

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See: My review is up! Check it out, here.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher: This very well may be my favorite of 2019 so far. My review is here.

Roar by Cecelia Ahern: A collection of 30 terrific stories. My review is here.

Read but not reviewed:

The Editor by Steven Rowley: An okay read, but not one I’m inspired to review. I sped through this book, not because I loved it, but because I was afraid that if I slowed down, I’d end up just walking away.

The Walking Dead, volume 31: The Rotten Core – the newest release in the comics series, which is now hopelessly confusing to me as I try to separate the living from the dead while comparing the books and the TV show. I’m still enjoying the series… but this panel from volume 31 kind of sums up a lot about both versions of the story:

And in audiobooks…

I finished my re-read of Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs, book #10 in the ongoing Mercy Thompson series. Fabulous.

Fresh Catch:

When my favorite local bookstore got in a stash of Seanan McGuire’s Velveteen books (now out of print in hardcover)… well, how was I supposed to resist? I just picked up these lovelies over the weekend — signed and everything!

Plus, I treated myself to a few more books as well — a pair of graphic novels that seem perfect for me…

… and a paperback copy of my book group’s upcoming classic read:

 

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman: Honestly, they had me at “bookshop”. I’m just starting this novel, but the description makes it sounds like a book for me!

And just to lighten (?) things up a bit, I’m switching off my more serious reading with some graphic novels, starting with volume one of The Beauty, a horror series that I’d never heard of. But hey, this is what happens when you go to the library with time to spare — you never know what you’ll find on the shelf!

Now playing via audiobook:

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: This is my book group’s pick for April. I seem to end up doing audiobooks for my book group books a lot, maybe because I never figure out how to squeeze in all my “for me” reads alongside all my obligation reads. I’ve only listened to the first chapter so far, but I’m really liking this one!

Ongoing reads:

My Outlander book group is continuing our Lord John read-along with two Lord John (or Lord John-adjacent) stories from the Seven Stones to Stand or Fall collection. We’re reading the story Besieged right now.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/1/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I just got back from a trip to the East Coast. It was a jam-packed week seeing family and friends, lots of fun, but I’m glad to be home and sleeping in my own bed.

And just a little highlight — while in New York for a day, I wandered by (and into) The Strand bookstore, which is such a happy place to be. This is from outside the store:

What did I read during the last week?

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen: Terrific survival story. My review is here.

Wingspan by Chris Bohjalian: I read this and two other flight-related short works this week. My thoughts are here.

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See: Powerful and beautiful. I’ll post a review once I catch up on some sleep!

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: What a gorgeous book. This was my book group’s classic read for the past two months — and while we still have two chapters left to read and discuss as a group, I couldn’t wait, and read through to the end. I’m so glad we chose this one to read together!

In audiobooks, I finished my re-read of Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. I’m ready for the sequel!

Pop culture goodness:

I’m sad about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend coming to an end! The series finale is this coming Friday. The current season hasn’t shone for me the way the earlier ones did, but it’s still creative and goofy and just all-around terrific. Here’s a clip from last week’s episode that made me giggle:

Fresh Catch:

Subterranean Press was having a $10 sale, and I treated myself to two books:

And this isn’t a book, but it’s book-ish — my daughter sent me a super cute Jane Austen game!

Now I just need her to come home for a visit so we can play it.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher: Really great so far!

Now playing via audiobook:

Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs: It’s time for a Mercy re-read! The new Mercy Thompson book comes out in May, which means that April will be my month to revisit the most recent book in the series (and then the most recent Charles and Anna story too). And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the first Mercy book, Moon Called. Maybe you’ll discover why this is one of my very favorite urban fantasy series!

Ongoing reads:

My Outlander book group is continuing our Lord John read-along with two Lord John (or Lord John-adjacent) stories from the Seven Stones to Stand or Fall collection. We’re starting the story Besieged this week — and while I’ve read it already and didn’t exactly love it, I’m hoping to get some new appreciation for it by reading it with the group.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 3/25/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I’m away this week, visiting family on the East Coast. Still reading, of course! I may not be online much until I get back home next weekend… so if I don’t connect with you this week, I hope you have a great one!

What did I read during the last week?

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin: A book group book! My review is here.

Inspection by Josh Malerman: So weird. So good. My review is here.

I also finished two frothy, fun, sweet books on the plane:

  • The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston
  • Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Over in my book group, we finished our group read of A Plague of Zombies, a novella starring Lord John Grey. It’s a good one!

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week. Yay, me!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See: I’ve only just begun — but I’m really looking forward to getting further into the story.

Now playing via audiobook:

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: It’s fun to listen to the audiobook version!

Ongoing reads:

My book group’s classic read is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. We’ll be done next week. What a powerful book.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Audiobook Review: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

Readers of Jodi Picoult and Liane Moriarty will also like this tenderhearted debut about healing and family, narrated by an unforgettable six-year-old boy who reminds us that sometimes the littlest bodies hold the biggest hearts and the quietest voices speak the loudest.

Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.

Be careful reading Only Child. There’s a good chance it’ll rip your heart out.

As Only Child opens, six-year-old Zach is crammed into a closet in his classroom, listening to popping sounds from somewhere outside the door his teacher is desperately holding closed. When the police finally move in and escort the children to safety in a nearby church, Zach can see that there are some people lying on the floor in the school hallway, and he sees splashes of red, even though the police officer keeps telling the kids to keep their eyes forward and not look around. When Zach’s mother arrives at the church to get him, we hear the terror in her voice as she asks Zach where his brother is. At that moment, the world begins to fall apart for Zach and his parents.

Zach’s older brother Andy is one of nineteen fatalities in a horrific school shooting, along with many of Andy’s classmates and the school principal. The shooter is the mentally ill adult son of the school’s long-time security guard Charlie — a man who has cared for the children of McKinley Elementary for 30 years.

How do we learn about these events? Through Zach. Only Child is narrated throughout by Zach Taylor, so we see all events unfold from this six-year-old’s perspective. We’re with Zach as he undergoes confusion, discomfort, misunderstanding, and terror. Zach’s first-person narration lets us into his thoughts, as he sorts through his feelings about Andy, who wasn’t always the kindest of brothers. We also can feel Zach’s terror at thoughts of returning to school, his boundless loneliness in his house, and his need for parents who are so wrapped up in their own grief and horror that they can’t always see what’s going on with Zach.

Look, this book is heart-breaking, no two ways about it. At the same time, I found it hard to spend the entire book looking at the world through Zach’s eyes. I had a similar response to Room. It’s a powerful story, but the limitations caused by having a child narrator can be frustrating. We never know more than Zach knows. We can only participate in conversations that Zach’s present for, so even though he does a fair bit of lurking in hallways to hear what his parents are talking about, we only ever get bits and pieces.

I had a hard time too suspending my disbelief in places where Zach recounts what he’s heard on TV or comments made by adults he’s overheard. His inner thoughts are a little precious on occasion, and maybe a bit more sophisticated for his age than is truly believable. My other complaint (sorry, I realize I’m being a curmudgeon): As you might expect in a story told by a six-year-old, I think I heard more than enough about pee, poop, snot, and puke. Oh my, little boys can be gross. (Sorry, truly.)

Still, I was very engaged by the story and the characters throughout. I had the unusual experience while reading this book of trying to analyze why I felt certain ways about characters, and forcing myself to embrace empathy even when I was having a visceral reaction against a particular person. For example, Zach’s mother comes across as pretty awful for much of Only Child, when viewed through the lens of Zach’s fears and unmet emotional needs. She’s unable to see past her own fury and loss to truly see Zach’s suffering, consumed by the need to get revenge on the parents of the shooter, pursuing TV interviews and making  lots of noise about their role and their responsibility for the children’s deaths.

Meanwhile, I typically have little sympathy for unfaithful spouses in novels, but despite the fact that we learn that Zach’s dad was having an affair prior to Andy’s death, he comes across as the supportive, loving, gentle parent who’s present for Zach and who attempts to find a way toward healing. I ended up liking the father much more than the mother, and had to continually remind myself that there’s no wrong way to grieve. She was not being a good mother to Zach following the shooting, but who among us can say how we’d behave in that unimaginable, terrifying type of situation? As much as I wished for better for Zach — like for his parents to be on the same page long enough to get him counseling — I couldn’t hate the mother for being swallowed up by her pain and grief.

Kudos to the talented young narrator of the audiobook, Kivlighan de Montebello, who does a terrific job with Zach’s voice, really giving life to Zach’s emotions. The audiobook is an immersive listening experience, and in places the raw emotions of the characters are almost too painful to hear.

I’m thankful to my book group, as always, for choosing terrific books to read and discuss. I finished Only Child right in time for our discussion, and can’t wait to share impressions and thoughts with my bookish friends. Only Child is a powerful, timely, deeply affecting book, and I strongly recommend it.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Only Child
Author: Rhiannon Navin
Narrator: Kivlighan de Montebello
Publisher: Knopf Publishing
Publication date: February 6, 2018
Print length: 304 pages
Audiobook length: 9 hours, 10 mintues
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Library