I love books. I have loved them my entire life but during COVID books felt like even more of a lifeline: a way to escape into another world and not be worried about all of the uncertainty. It felt like we all pressed pause on our lives during quarantine and there were many great losses from death of a loved one, the end of a company, missing graduation, birthdays, weddings, the birth of a baby and so many more. Now that things are re-opening in California and in other places, how do we press play again on our lives?
During this prolonged pause, I spent 450 days in Los Angeles, the longest I have ever been in one place. How do we begin again? What do we want to keep that we learned about ourselves during this challenging and uncertain time? What have we gotten rid of? What is most important to our lives?
These sizzling summer reads all made me feel like I could not put them down as well as reminded me about the importance of having a village of people who believe in you.
THE SECRET KEEPER OF JAIPUR
When I started Alka Joshi’s first book, THE HENNA ARTIST, I was immediately enthralled. I felt like I was back in India. I know so many others agreed with me as it was a New York Times Bestseller as well as a Reese Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine Book Club pick.
I was waiting for her second book, THE SECRET KEEPER OF JAIPUR, which honestly I enjoyed even more because I already knew some of the characters like Lakshmi and Malik. Following along in their stories and meeting their new friends was a gift during the loneliness of COVID. “Books contain magic,” and as each part of the adventure unfolded with Ravi Singh, gold jewelry and the Royal Jewel Cinema, I had to keep reading to figure out what would happen next.
I interviewed Alka and we talked about how Lakshmi, was inspired by her mother, Sudha Latika Joshi. She wanted to create another life for her. Thank you Alka for sharing your marvelous imagination with all of us.
Jamie Brenner’s BLUSH reminded me of when I first read Jackie Collins and Judith Krantz years ago. She brings back these books with their heroines who inspire three generations of women in her novel who have been dismissed by the men in the family at their vineyard in Cutchogue, New York.
They re-create a book club which helps them start to find their strength and shed their secrets so they can discover what truly matters. Sadie is a college student who is missing all the deadlines for her thesis and maybe the point, she is told “the purpose of this time of your life is to push yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Dig deep.” Her mother, Leah, wanted to run the winery but her father picked her disinterested brother so she ended up in the city with a cheese shop. And Leah’s mother, Vivian, has been pushed to the edge. Can the women of the family find the courage of Lucky Santangelo and change their fates? While I was reading, I felt like I could smell the bud break and could not wait to drink wine and discuss this book with friends!
T.J. Newman’s FALLING is a completely wild ride. During a time when I had not been flying at all, I was mesmerized with what might happen in this story. When I read, “We’re just working through the cards life dealt us. So putting you in this position—It’s about the choice,” I had no idea what would happen, but I felt terrified. However, it says in the book, ““It’s okay to be scared,” and I was. I cannot wait for the movie from Universal Pictures and Newman is already at work on a second book.
At one point, I could not decide if I should keep reading because I was so nervous about what would happen next. I knew I would never sleep if I did not stay up and discover the next twist and turn. As each piece in the puzzle was revealed, I was surprised. This book is written with details that only a flight attendant would know. I agree that this book is Speed at 35,000 feet. Run, don’t walk, to get your copy and then buckle up with Bill!
CLEO McDOUGAL REGRETS NOTHING
Allison Winn Scotch’s book, Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing, made me laugh out loud as well as be so sad for when your life is in turmoil and you blame yourself for all your choices. Maybe they seemed right in the moment but then the next day or next decade you think, did I really do that? Did I really leave these bread crumbs all along to blow up my life like this? Maybe you never had that happen but either way, you will enjoy this story as it unfolds with best friends, former best friends, teens who know how to date with flexibility that adults wish they understood and politics. Whether it is personal or in Washington DC, we have to deal with finding a way to get some people on our side and live with or resolve our regrets.
While this book arrived as the world shut down for COVID, it does suggest a plan for a way back to ourselves. Have you been considering if you can go home again? And who hurt you and how you hurt yourself and others? Maybe Cleo– who regrets nothing–can offer you a path of ONLY FORWARD!
WISH YOU WERE HERE
When people wonder in twenty years or two hundred years, what was it like to live in NYC in the eye of the tornado called COVID19, they will pick up this book and know. My favorite part was how I was transported to the Galapagos which was my last trip before the pandemic shutdown. It felt like enchantment for the character in the book and for my memory. Being reminded of the beautiful islands and creatures I saw like the blue footed booby made me happy and hopeful that one day I will travel again. Picoult always makes us think about our choices and if we need to change our minds. Pre-order this one as your favorite Fall read!