Charles and Lily, James and Nan. They meet in Greenwich Village in 1963 when Charles and James are jointly hired to steward the historic Third Presbyterian Church through turbulent times. Their personal differences, however, threaten to tear them apart.
Charles is destined to succeed his father as an esteemed professor of history at Harvard until an unorthodox lecture about faith leads him to ministry. How then, can he fall in love with Lily—fiercely intellectual, elegantly stern—after she tells him with certainty that she will never believe in God? And yet, how can he not?
James, the youngest son in a hardscrabble Chicago family, spent much of his youth angry at his alcoholic father and avoiding his anxious mother. Nan grew up in Mississippi, the devout and beloved daughter of a minister and a debutante. James’s escape from his desperate circumstances leads him to Nan and, despite his skepticism of hope in all its forms, her gentle, constant faith changes the course of his life.
In The Dearly Beloved, we follow these two couples through decades of love and friendship, jealousy and understanding, forgiveness and commitment. Against the backdrop of turbulent changes facing the city and the church’s congregation, these four forge improbable paths through their evolving relationships, each struggling with uncertainty, heartbreak, and joy. A poignant meditation on faith and reason, marriage and children, and the ways we find meaning in our lives, Cara Wall’s The Dearly Beloved is a gorgeous, wise, and provocative novel that is destined to become a classic.
August 13th, 2019
Family Saga Fiction
I wasn’t sure what book should follow The Most Fun We Ever Had (you can read my full review HERE) but I knew I wanted to read another family saga. The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall fit into this category so I decided to give it a go.
Wall introduces us to two couples, Charles and Lily and James and Nan. The beginning of the book gives us a rich background for each character starting from their childhoods through early adulthood. These couples lives then become intertwined when Charles and James become pastors at a New York City Presbyterian church. Over the years we see them struggle with their faith, beliefs, marriage, parenthood, and friendships.
This book is a deep dive into these four characters, who navigate many joys and heartaches over the decades we follow along with them. I loved seeing their evolving relationships with both themselves and one another and having the rich backstory to these multi-dimensional characters made this storyline even more rewarding.
While there are religious themes in The Dearly Beloved, Wall presents them without judgment or bias toward any belief system and the writing never feels preachy. I appreciated that it showed the struggles of all four characters at some point within their own belief systems. I highly recommend this one and it definitely makes my favorites of 2019 list!
The compelling, poignant true stories of victims of a notorious adoption scandal—some of whom learned the truth from Lisa Wingate’s bestselling novel Before We Were Yours and were reunited with birth family members as a result of its wide reach
From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents—hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.
The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.
Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Christie and Wingate tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, many of the long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.
October 22nd, 2019
Non-fiction, U.S. History & Adoption
Two years ago I read Before We Were Yoursand it remains one of the most impactful books based on true events that I have ever read. While the characters were fictional, Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Adoption Scandal were not.
Books like Before We Were Yours are powerful because they bring to light heartbreaking parts of history that many people were unaware of before. In addition, this book took on an even bigger role for a group of people who came forward as children were connected to these actual events.
Before and After shares the non-fiction real-life accounts of 12 victims and their personal stories including photos and artifacts from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage. Authors Judy Christie & Lis Wingate took on the powerful role of connected these victims to each other and to siblings some of them never knew they had.
While what Georgia Tann did was just horrific, I did appreciate that some of the stories shared moments of light in a time of such darkness. The story of baby Lillian who’s adoptive parents chose her over a healthy baby boy when they found her sickly and covered in a rash in a corner of a room on their way to pick up their baby was especially impactful. Her adoptive parents ended up elbowing past Tann and choosing Lillian, which ultimately saved her life. Tann would leave the sickly children to die since they were what she assumed “worthless” and it is estimated that over 500 children lost their lives while in the care of Tann.
This book felt very satisfying as Before We Were Yours opened the door to such a tragic part of fairly recent U.S. History. I love the idea that this group of survivors was able to come together and now have each other to process with and support one another. While the stories in Before and After are heartbreaking it was also filled with lots of hope and I highly recommend it but definitely read Before We Were Yours first!
Thank you to Ballantine Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the Russian refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.
Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate.
Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief.
Slipping between Nazi-occupied Poland and the frenetic pace of modern life, Kelly Rimmer creates an emotional and finely wrought narrative. The Things We Cannot Say is an unshakable reminder of the devastation when truth is silenced…and how it can take a lifetime to find our voice before we learn to trust it.
March 19th, 2019
World War II Historical Fiction
The Things We Cannot Saycame highly recommended to me by some of my favorite Bookstagram friends. I enjoy the historical fiction genre but it can be a hard one to really wow me as a reader. I went into this one with a little trepidation because it is quite long and while the summary was intriguing I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for this kind of book during this more hectic time of year. I ended up choosing it as an audiobook and it was a perfect choice. My worries were completely unnecessary because I ended up becoming completely engrossed in this storyline.
This book ending up checking all the boxes of a memorable historical fiction reading experience. Told in a dual narrative format, we meet Alina, a girl who is growing up in Poland during World War II and Alice, a mom who lives in present-day Florida with her husband and two children. We quickly realized that these two storylines are connected and the story unfolds beautifully over these 400+ pages.
“Not for the first time, I wish just once when I asked my grandmother about the war, instead of her telling me “that was a terrible time, I don’t want to talk about it,” she’d been able to say something more. Anything more. Maybe if she could have shared some of her story, I could have learned from it, I could have taught my children from it—we could have built a better world from the hard lessons she surely learned.”
― Kelly Rimmer, The Things We Cannot Say
This was my first book by Kelly Rimmer and I was blown away by her ability to share multi-faceted characters that felt so real and raw while also diving into a heartbreaking part of our not so distant history. I love the dual storylines and how they wove together and kept me guessing until the end. Rimmer captured the power of sharing our stories while also reminding us that so many people have a history we might know nothing about.
As well as being completely enthralled by Alina’s harrowing and heartbreaking time in Poland, I connected so much with present-day Alice and her struggles to find herself amidst the daily challenges of family life.
“I can’t wait to tell him how much of a revelation it has been to do something like this – standing on a mountaintop for no reason other than the sake of the experience. This moment is an investment in myself. I’m giving myself permission to make a memory that benefits no one but me. I love being a mother, and I love being a wife. I even love being a daughter and a granddaughter. But as I stand here on the mountaintop, I’m not any of those things. I am simply Alice, and for one breathtaking moment, I’m completely present.”
This book captures heartbreak, resilience, persistence and the power for standing up for what is right, not only for yourself but for those around you. This is definitely one of my favorite books of 2019 and I highly recommend it.
You keep hearing how story is the latest-and-greatest business tool, and that storytelling can do everything—from helping leaders better communicate to motivating sales teams and winning customers away from competitors.
But what stories do you need to tell? And how do you tell them?
In Stories That Stick, Kindra Hall, professional storyteller and nationally-known speaker, reveals the four unique stories you can use to differentiate, captivate, and elevate:
the Value Story, to convince customers they need what you provide;
the Founder Story, to persuade investors and customers your organization is worth the investment;
the Purpose Story, to align and inspire your employees and internal customers; and
the Customer Story, to allow those who use your product or service to share their authentic experiences with others.
Telling these stories well is a simple, accessible skill anyone can develop. With case studies, company profiles, and anecdotes backed with original research, Hall presents storytelling as the underutilized talent that separates the good from the best in business. She offers specific, actionable steps readers can take to find, craft, and leverage the stories they already have and simply aren’t telling.
Every person, every organization has at least four stories at their disposal. Will you tell yours?
September 24th, 2019
Communication & Marketing
As someone who works in the creative side for multiple small businesses, I have seen time and time again how a connection is such an important part of a lasting relationship with clients and customers. When I think about my own experiences, authenticity, and sharing is what has brought me closer in so many of my relationships, both personally and professionally.
I loved this accessible, poignant and very timely resource on how we can better share our stories. A narrative can add the personal component that boosts connection and also a memorable experience. In a time where people are overwhelmed with data and information from sun up to sundown, this book shares how you can share and have your stories standout.
Kindra Hall excels at writing something that is both relatable and inspiring. I took so much away from Stories That Stick and I know I will refer back to it time and time again.
Thank you to NetGalley & HarperCollins Leadership for an advanced copy.
Good morning and happy Tuesday! I am working from home today so I thought I would prioritize checking in here. September has been jam-packed and it has taken a bit to get back into a routine. The boys are happy at school and Kristy and I are adjusting to our regular work hours again which has been nice!
Fall Photographer Life…
This time of year, work is filled with editing lots of school photos, high school senior portraits and lots and lots of family sessions! It feels nice to have our longer workdays back again as this is definitely our most hectic work season. Our family has also made a big transition that has added 30 minutes to my own workday…the boys are now taking the bus home from school!
Our kids started at a new school last year so it was a lot of new things all at once so we took our time making all of the changes at once. This year they were ready and it has been wonderful and also a time saver.
Buzz and our neighbor dog Mason love meeting them at the end of the driveway. I am trying to prioritize walking to the bus stop instead of just grabbing them in my car on the way home if I have the extra time. It is nice to have that quiet transition period between my workday and full-on family mode again and the weather has just been amazing. I even grabbed an iced latte one day for my walk and it was pretty much perfection.
Currently Enjoying…Fall in Vermont
We have had an amazing month of weather and I am hoping fall hangs on a little longer than last year! Fall in Vermont is amazing when the stars align, but often it ends up being super warm or freezing! We have had that perfect September sweatshirt weather for the most part which is my very favorite.
Sweatshirt & Highschool Shopping Memories
I grabbed this fleece pullover from Abercrombie the other week for $25 (I used the Honey plugin and the sale codes stacked!) and it is so cozy! It also makes me giggle to think about shopping there because I remember when we got an Abercrombie store when I was in high school and I haven’t shopped there since. We don’t have one of these stores anymore but I will never forget how you could smell it from a mile away…yikes!
While I don’t plan on doing my regular clothing shopping there (don’t worry Talbots, I still love you the most!) this fleece pullover is awesome! I ordered a size large and it is a roomy and comfortable fit.
Peaches & Beeswax Wraps
A couple of weeks ago we went peach picking. It was fun and we just picked enough to eat. We didn’t make anything creative with them but they were amazing sliced and also on top of overnight oats. I have been trying to be better about having a filling breakfast and these are great. I soak the oats with some milk and chia seeds overnight in our fridge and I have been using these reusable beeswax food storage wrapsto cover the bowl instead of saran wrap. I thought this 6 pack was a great deal and we use them for covering everything!
So we didn’t bake anything with our peaches but we did have great luck with this Carrot Apple Bread! Me actually baking is a lot like capturing a butterfly with your iPhone, it doesn’t happen a lot! I find it incredibly frustrating because you have to measure everything so accurately and I always make the biggest mess. But after some inspiration from The Kitchen Table restaurant, I knew I needed to try and recreate their dessert bread from their Fall Harvest Dinner. This was a great duplicate and was super moist and include the perfect flavors of fall.
Currently Loving…Ursa Major!
Speaking of more eco-friendly options, I was so excited to see that they having Ursa Major products at The Lodge at Spruce Peak. I loved that they have reusable containers and are featuring a great Vermont product!
I normally use my own shampoo and conditioner when we travel because I am picky, but I couldn’t wait to use this! The Daily Shampoo & Conditioner are amazing. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Body Wash but the body lotion was awesome! It makes me happy that so many hotels are continuing to get rid of single-use containers too!
Currently Loving All Things Stripes…
Speaking of favorites…I will never stop loving anything with stripes. The other week I shared about my love for the Striped Funnelneck Pullover from LLBean on IG stories because it was on sale. So many people DMed me back and said they loved it so much too! Then a few days later I ran into my buddy Katherine who was wearing it at the grocery store! It’s the best, seriously.
Currently Loving…Beyond Booked Book Sleeves!
I love being able to support my friend’s small businesses when I can and my Bookstagram friend Tancy recently opened a book sleeve shop on Etsy! It has been a great way to safely transport both my paperback and hardcopy books around and I especially love the Rifle Paper Co. fabric choices!
Pure Barre in the Wild…
I love bringing my books just about everywhere and a few weeks ago they visited the Pure Barre Pop Up class at Perkins Pier. I have never taken an exercise class outside before and it was the perfect cooler weather and cloud coverage for doing Pure Barre in the wild.
Currently Loving…Fall Soccer!
Fall soccer is in full swing and our younger son still isn’t sure about actually playing soccer but he loves running around with his buddies…If you have ever seen a 1st-grade soccer game, it is something else!
I am not super competitive and I wasn’t ever great at sports myself, but I always loved being part of the team and community of the sports teams I was a part of. It makes me happy they love this part of it too.
Pure Barre Socks & Milestones
Speaking of communities, a few weeks ago I celebrated 750 Pure Barre classes since I joined the Pure Barre community in August of 2015. While I love the workouts, I love my friends there even more. It has been such an incredible source of support and a great way to make adult friends.
I still find the classes incredibly difficult but I love seeing how much progress I have made, personally. When I first began my core strength was zilch and now I can (usually) do a plank for 90 seconds, which is huge for me. Like many people, I have certainly had body image and eating issues in my life and I love that there is a wonderful focus there about being your best self and working out to be healthy and strong.
I also have found my new FAVORITE barre socks. They just started having them in our local studio as well but I found one of my pairs on Amazon HERE. I wasn’t sure if I would like the criss-cross straps but they are super comfortable and they stay sticky month after month! I am size 8.5 in women’s shoes and I have the size small socks.
Last week I finished The Dearly Beloved on Audible and I highly recommend it!! I am little behind on my book reviews on here but if you are looking for an audiobook suggestion, this one was fabulous! And hopefully, my full review will be up soon.
On my Kindle, I have been catching up with some of my NetGalley & Edelweiss advanced reader books because there are so many books that will be published in October!
Alright, I think I have chatted on long enough here but I hope you enjoyed this random assortment of things I am currently loving!
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small percentage that helps support this blog at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.
Last Thursday we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary! It was a regular work and school day for us so we went to a 4:45pm pizza dinner with the kids followed by ice cream at the Scoop and then called it a day.
Anniversary photo by our 9-year-old! We did manage to get away though…
On Friday we headed away for a 24-hour escape!
We got married in Stowe so we have always liked celebrating up there every year. We have managed to make it there 9/10 years so that is pretty good! It is close by but feels like a whole different world and has so many special memories for us. We, of course, had to stop at Cold Hollow Cider Mill on our way! I love cider donuts but I don’t like the ones with sugar sprinkled all over them so these ones are my very favorite!
We got married at Stowe Mountain Lodge, which is now The Lodge at Spruce Peak. Our wedding was one of their very first ones because they had just opened in 2009 so it has grown and changed so much since then!
I like to act like I am a tourist when I am in Stowe (actually all of the time really…) and so I totally made Lucas pull over so I could take the iconic Stowe shot. We also took lots of selfies at our wedding ceremony location.
We didn’t have big plans which was exactly what we were looking for! These days, our lives feel like go, go, go, all the time. I know this is just part of the stage of life we were in with our kids, but downtime is a special thing right now!
We had lunch on the patio and then read by the pool with our Kindles. It was amazing! Our kids had school on Friday which is why we decided to go up then because it allowed us to need a little less childcare help and a weekday is always a little quieter up there so that was nice!
We had dinner and then read our Kindles by the fireplace, Facetimed with the kids and were asleep by 9:30! Regular routines are hard to break but it was lovely to have zero demands from anybody!
The next morning we were up by 6:30 so we found some coffee & maple lattes and had a relaxing morning.
After breakfast, we said “goodbye and see you next year!” to our special spot and headed off to meet our boys at their fall soccer jamboree. Our friends watched the kids for us so we could go away which we are so grateful for!
And just for fun, here is what we were doing 10 years ago right now…
We were on our honeymoon in St. John USVI. We rented a villa and a jeep for the week and it was just the best. Maybe for our 15th anniversary, we will go back there! I am also very proud of these honeymoon “selfies” because I took them with my little Canon digital camera! We definitely did not have iPhones back then…
We had the best time exploring, snorkeling, eating lots of delicious food and reading(in the shade!) See, some things never change, ha!
Thanks for letting me reminisce a little! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. <3
It started with the Sh*t I Do List. Tired of being the “shefault” parent responsible for all aspects of her busy household, Eve Rodsky counted up all the unpaid, invisible work she was doing for her family — and then sent that list to her husband, asking for things to change. His response was… underwhelming. Rodsky realized that simply identifying the issue of unequal labor on the home front wasn’t enough: She needed a solution to this universal problem. Her sanity, identity, career, and marriage depended on it.
The result is Fair Play: a time- and anxiety-saving system that offers couples a completely new way to divvy up domestic responsibilities. Rodsky interviewed more than five hundred men and women from all walks of life to figure out what the invisible work in a family actually entails and how to get it all done efficiently. With four easy-to-follow rules, 100 household tasks, and a figurative card game you play with your partner, Fair Play helps you prioritize what’s important to your family and who should take the lead on every chore from laundry to homework to dinner.
“Winning” this game means rebalancing your home life, reigniting your relationship with your significant other, and reclaiming your Unicorn Space — as in, the time to develop the skills and passions that keep you interested and interesting. Are you ready to try Fair Play? Let’s deal you in.
October 1st, 2019
Time Management, Gender Studies, Parenting & Family Life
If you follow me on social media, you know I have been going on and on about Fair Play but I am just so excited about it. I love parenting books, I love self-help and relationship books and as soon as I saw the premise of this I knew I needed to read it ASAP!
The Adjustment to The Roles in Parenthood…
The adjustment to parenthood did not happen super easily for us both personally and in our relationship together. It was a huge transition and we struggled in many ways as we navigated our new roles and expectations of one another.
“On many days, feeling the full weight of exhaustion that would seize me the moment my baby was down and I was finally offline, I’d wonder What did I do all day? When even I couldn’t answer the question, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d lost all control of my time. Sound familiar?”
While we have learned a lot as the years have gone by, figuring out the daily logistics of life with work, marriage, kids and household tasks is a constant juggling act. Fair Play both takes on and tackles the topics of the mental load, second shift, emotional labor and invisible work that in the 21st century still cause a great imbalance in many families ‘ home lives.
Relatable and Proactive!
Not only is Eve Rodsky’s writing accessible and totally relatable, but it is also helpful! I love a good plan. I feel the absolute worst when life feels tough and I don’t know what my next steps are going to be. Even when things are still rocky, when I am moving forward, things always feel more manageable.
Rodsky created a simple and straightforward approach to help equitably restructuring the balance of domestic “duties” while also factoring in time to focus on creative and personal growth so that everyone feels fulfilled and happy.
While our relationship does follow a similar path as Rodsky’s (heterosexual married couple with kids) she has also done her due diligence. Rodsky worked with 500+ couples to include a wide variety of multiple social constructs that can alter perspectives, challenges, and accessibility so this book really is for everyone!
Eve Rodsky’s Q&A on her own website is super informative if you are looking to learn more about why she took on this project. Resources like this are so awesome to help raise awareness of these important conversations that are so important to navigating family life.
Thank you to Putnam for sending this amazing book mail and to Edelweiss for an ARC ebook edition.
***On October 1st, 2019 Reese’s Book Club Hello Sunshine chose Fair Play for their October 2019 book club selection!! You can read more HERE on their Instagram page and this articleis a great summary of what Fair Play is all about! Congratulations Eve, what a well deserved accomplishment! <3
Hello out there! How is September going for you? Besides the semi-regular book review posts, it has been very quiet around here. I will eventually get back into the swing of things and be back with more regular Currently Loving posts, guest posts and that old summer vacation to Maine post I promised a couple of weeks ago…oops!
The “B” Word
I try not to use the “B” word (BUSY!) because it is one of my pet peeves but this time of year would probably fall into that category with work obligations…I like to say it is just a little more hectic and blogging on here doesn’t fall high on my priority list because that is really what it is. While my photography work is year-round, this beautiful time of the year in Vermont means we are running in high gear and our days are full.
I certainly have some free time but I am just doing other things, like putting away laundry while listening to my audiobook!! I do a lot of extra things in the morning before the kids wake up, but if doesn’t get done, it gets pushed off to the next morning and the blog posts tend to fall into that category.
I am NOT a computer before bed kind of person and I think it is important to have some time of the day to just “be”. Reading before bed is sacred to me, and I tend to read even more when life is hectic because it helps shut my brain off and wind down. Do you do this as well?
Busy as a Status Symbol
Busy has somehow become some kind of status symbol which is a bummer to me. Have you noticed this too? I think maybe because we see so much more of each other’s lives because of social media posting in general, which can be a great thing in many ways!
I love when it helps make me feel less alone, or feel connected to someone else experience the same thing. But usually, if you have time to write about how BUSY you are, well, yeah…
Blogging vs. Social Media Posting
Anyway, I love blogging because I have a lot to say and sometimes(most times…) I reach the maximum amount of text on Instagram, ha! But blogging is a process, and so posting on social media tends to reign supreme when I have a smaller chunks of available time.
So if you are wondering what I have been up to, you can find some links to my recent Instagram posts below. You can also find me at @genthebookworm if you are interested in following along on a regular basis!
As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.”
In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear “out back.” Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold onto Dr. King’s ringing assertion “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.
The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy. Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.
July 16th, 2019
The Nickel Boys is a powerful story that takes on important American history. Colson Whitehead uses rich metaphors and ornate descriptions in this haunting tale based on true events at The Dozier School for boys in Florida. The Nickel Boys is a historical fiction coming of age story centering around a young black man named Elwood Curtis at the beginning of the civil rights movement. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time when he was then sentenced to time at a “reform school in Florida.
Curtis and many other young black boys were sent to the Nickel Academy, and the mistreatment and abuse they encountered is just heartbreaking. This is absolutely an important story to tell but the book felt lacking for me at many points. While the story was impactful, I feel a lack of connection with the characters and felt wanting more. The ending, while definitely having the “wow” factor, did not feel satisfying to me as a reader because of my lack of connection with the characters.
Many will appreciate the shorter length of this book but for me, I feel that I missed something and wished I could have been given more details. His writing is powerful and filled with beautiful prose but I just didn’t feel as engaged as I had hoped with such an important subject matter. The book didn’t flow easily for me and I would have loved to get more inside the heads of these characters that while they were described with great detail, I never felt I really knew. I so respect how Whitehead brought this important history to life and the inequality that existed in this country much too recently the execution just didn’t totally work for me.
“Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy. Jeffrey Dahmer. The names of notorious serial killers are usually well-known; they echo in the news and in public consciousness. But most people have never heard of Israel Keyes, one of the most ambitious and terrifying serial killers in modern history. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as “a force of pure evil,” Keyes was a predator who struck all over the United States. He buried “kill kits”–cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools–in remote locations across the country. Over the course of fourteen years, Keyes would fly to a city, rent a car, and drive thousands of miles in order to use his kits. He would break into a stranger’s house, abduct his victims in broad daylight, and kill and dispose of them in mere hours. And then he would return home to Alaska, resuming life as a quiet, reliable construction worker devoted to his only daughter.
When journalist Maureen Callahan first heard about Israel Keyes in 2012, she was captivated by how a killer of this magnitude could go undetected by law enforcement for over a decade. And so began a project that consumed her for the next several years–uncovering the true story behind how the FBI ultimately caught Israel Keyes, and trying to understand what it means for a killer like Keyes to exist. A killer who left a path of monstrous, randomly committed crimes in his wake–many of which remain unsolved to this day.
American Predator is the ambitious culmination of years of interviews with key figures in law enforcement and in Keyes’s life, and research uncovered from classified FBI files. Callahan takes us on a journey into the chilling, nightmarish mind of a relentless killer, and to the limitations of traditional law enforcement.”
July 2nd, 2019
(you can find the referral link for American Predator HERE)
I am a huge fan of true crime podcasts and documentaries and I especially enjoy going down the rabbit hole and diving into a series about a specific event or person. I had previously read and listened to a lot about Israel Keyes because of one his crimes happened just a few towns over from us. I wasn’t sure if this book would seem repetitive but after a few of my friends kept recommending this I decided to go for it.
I really don’t read a lot of true crime novels because I have found some of them to be a little dry in the past but I have to hand it to Maureen Callahan! Not only did she write an engrossing book that read almost like fiction, but I learned a lot of new things about Keyes that I had not heard about before.
It does feel a little strange to be raving about this type of genre, but if you are interested in this kind of topic, I think you would just find this book fascinating. I won’t go into too many details but if you are interested in the backstory of Keyes as well as the behind the scenes moments in the investigation of his crimes, you will love this.
This was a hard book to put down and Callahan is truly given at weaving these stories together in an informative and engaging manner. Highly recommend!
I picked this as my add-on book in August through my Book of the Month subscription. You can get your first BOTM book for free by using my referral link HERE.