Where the Crawdads Sing- My Book Review

By: Delia Owens

“Autumn leaves don’t fall; they fly.  They take their time and wander on this, their only chance to soar.”

Let me begin by saying I absolutely loved this book.  I was incredibly attached to this story from the very beginning.  The writing was incredible, detailed and moving. 

What was this story about…

Where the Crowdads Sing revolves around a young girl named Kya, who lived in the marshes of North Carolina. These marshes are close to a small town called Barkley Cove.  We are introduced to Kya as a young girl, and we follow her through her life.  Her family moved to the marshes during the 1940s; there were 5 children and their parents.  Kya is the youngest in the family.  Quite early on, we learn about how abusive her father is to her mother and the children.  One by one, each family member decides to leave home.  Kya is too young to remember much about the oldest three siblings; they go when she is very young.  Eventually, Kya’s mother leaves; we understand that this is not the first time her mother has left, which gives Kya the hope that her mother will return.  However, there is something different this time that brings Kya this horrible feeling that her mother won’t be coming back.  The closest relationship Kya seems to have is with her brother, Jodie.  He tries to bring some normalness into her life.  Eventually, though, Jodie also cannot stay and live with their father anymore.  He apologizes to Kya and then also leaves her.

It’s at this point where Kya begins to live alone with her dad in the marsh.  However, Kya spends most of her days alone since her dad usually leaves for multiple days at a time.  Kya’s father hasn’t abused her like he did the other children, and for a short time, after everyone has left, he starts to be quite nice to Kya.  Eventually, this friendliness ends, and then he too leaves her for good.  During this time, Kya is also being sought after by the local school.  She legally must attend school; therefore, the principal is coming to find her.  Kya decides to go with the principal and spends one day at the school.  This day does not go well; she is starred at by her peers; she doesn’t have proper clothes or shoes and already feels very behind from the other kids.  After that day, every time the principal came to find her, she would hide.  Kya knows the marsh better than anyone; therefore, finding her was impossible.  Eventually, the school stopped trying.

Near the beginning of the book, we are introduced to a black man named Jumpin.  He is a friend of Kya’s father, but once Kya’s father leaves the marsh, Jumpin becomes a father figure to Kya. Jumpin’s wife, Mabel, also cares for Kya and tries to help her by providing her with donated clothes and food.  This book is set in the 50s and 60s, and therefore, segregation is widespread, including in Barkley Cove.  The black community cares for Kya much more than any of the white people in the town.  The white community treat her like a leper who is to be avoided at all costs.  No one thinks about caring for this little girl; instead, they isolate her even more. 

As Kya gets older, she begins to wonder about the other teenagers in the town; she specifically notices her interest in the boys.  There are two love interests that Kya gets involved with.  Both are offering her very different versions of love and care.  It is from one of these experiences that the community turns on her, accusing her of murder with very little evidence. 

My thoughts…

I really enjoyed reading this story.  It was a very different story about a small part of American history that I know almost nothing about.  The story made me curious to learn more about the marshes of North Carolina.  I learned that these marshes have a deep history of providing isolation and safety to different groups of people throughout American history, beginning with freed or escaped slaves.  They built homes and communities in the marshes.  The marshes grew in popularity again during the Great Depression and after the War by white families who had lost everything, which is where Kya’s family fits.  It was enjoyable learning about this time in history; I always like it when a book brings me into another part of the past. 

The characters in this book represented so many different types of interesting people.  Each one playing a crucial role in Kya’s story.  Kya’s two love interests were extraordinarily different, and understanding how Kya’s relationship with each man forms and grows reminds us of how complicated love can be, especially when you feel alone in the world.   The people who live in town talk negatively about Kya, further isolating her from her love interests.   It is unfortunate to see how this community treats Kya from such a young girl and onwards, for no other reason than she was different than everyone else. The horrible manner of this community comes to fruition during the murder trial Kya is dragged into.  

I enjoyed learning about the black community, specifically Jumpin and Mable, and seeing their love for Kya.  It is clear they have a good understanding of how Kya may feel, and they know they don’t want to cause the same hurt to Kya that the people of Barkley Cove cause them.   This is more clearly seen during Kya’s trial, where Jumpin and Mabel attend in support of Kya. This was a very powerful moment in the story when Jumpin and Mabel come and sit in the assumed “white” sections of the courtroom.

It is clear the writer has a biology background in how she describes the nature surrounding Kya.  It is incredibly descriptive and clear; you can picture everything she is saying and imagine how Kya fits into that world.  I must admit, at times, it did become tiring reading about all the specifics of the marshlands.  However, I understand its importance to the story.   It was fascinating to see Kya’s resiliency living in the marsh and how she becomes one with nature.

The second half of the book was difficult to read and heartbreaking to imagine.  Although this was not a true story, we know this prejudice occurred for many innocent people in the past.  People are always fearful of the unknown and Delia Owens does a great job in showing this in Where the Crawdads Sing

The Author:

“Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa—Cry of the Kalahari, The Eye of the Elephant, and Secrets of the Savanna. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and International Wildlife, among many others. She currently lives in Idaho, where she continues her support for the people and wildlife of Zambia. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.” – Good Reads Delia Owens Description


The Love that Split the World – Book Review

By: Emily Henry

What is the story about…

This story follows a teenage girl named Natalie Cleary, who has just finished high school and is preparing to attend college in the fall.  Natalie was born into an Aboriginal community; however, she was adopted at a very young age by a non-Aboriginal family.  Therefore, she knows very little about her background.  From the beginning of the book, Natalie is going through an identity crisis.  Some of this crisis is due to her guilt of not trying to learn more about her community.  Natalie begins to have conflicting feelings about her life that confuse her, and she’s skeptical about what she wants to do in college or if she even wants to go. 

Natalie also carries a lot of baggage around with her from her childhood. These traumas are exposed to the reader slowly throughout the book.  Through the discussions of her childhood, we are introduced to an important character that Natalie calls ‘Grandmother’.   Grandmother visits her at night (we’re unsure if she is a dream or a real person) and gives her life lessons.  When this first began, Natalie was very young, and she would casually bring up Grandmother in conversations with her family.  They were apprehensive about this woman who “appeared” to Natalie at night.  Her parents eventually decided to send her to a child psychologist to help her understand these visions.  After seeing the psychologist, Natalie stopped seeing Grandmother for a while.  It wasn’t until Natalie’s last year of high school that Grandmother reappeared to her.  However, this time Grandmother reappeared to her with a very cryptic message.  She decided not to speak of these new encounters with her parents.  She knew they wouldn’t understand.

The message from Grandmother sends Natalie into a panic.  She begins a quest to understand what Grandmother is talking about, why she sees visions and why she sees alternative realities all around her.   At this time, Natalie meets two other characters who try to help her understand what she is experiencing. 

My thoughts on the book…

This is a very different book than I have read in the past.  This book fits into multiple genres: fantasy, romance, young adult, to name a few. 

The love story didn’t really work for me; it seemed a bit immature and predictable.  There was minimal build-up to the romance; they just seemed to meet one day and fall for one another almost instantly.  Also, there is something about 18-year-olds talking about marriage that makes my eyes roll.  The two characters were also complete opposites, so their love didn’t seem to work, in my opinion. For that reason, I wasn’t attached to the romantic connection in this book.

The fantasy portion included time travel and different versions of reality, and to be honest, it kind of lost me.  I was pretty confused during most of the book, and the hope of understanding it all, in the end, extinguished pretty quickly.  The ending was a bit of a let down because the result seemed even more eye-rolling than the romance that took place.  Most of the reason I kept reading this book was to see what all these visions meant, and then when I found out, I felt pretty disappointed. 

As well, the ending was just too open-ended.  I didn’t get closure from this ending and very few answers about what was going on with Natalie.  However, the book did intrigue me to keep reading to find out what Grandmother’s message meant.  For this reason, I can’t say I love this book, but I didn’t hate it either.

About the Author…

Emily Henry wrote Beach Read, which is another book I have reviewed on this blog. I absolutely loved Beach Read and highly recommend it.


Cilka’s Journey- A Book Review

By: Heather Morris

Cilka’s Journey is a sequel to the bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  I have not read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and I was a bit concerned that I would be confused reading Cilka’s Journey, but that was not the case at all.  This book stands on its own very well.  Heather Morris includes a bit of information about the characters from The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  These small details made me curious and interested in reading it.

I must admit, though, I won’t be jumping right into The Tattooist of Auschwitz anytime soon.  After reading such an emotional story, like Cilka’s Journey, I need to give myself some time to recoup before I dive into a similar story.  I usually like to follow that genre of book with a fun, light hearted and easy to read book.

What is the book about:

The book follows the life of a young Jewish Czechoslovakian woman named Cilka Klien, who is actually a real person.  Heather Morris, the author, explains that she uses the true story of Cilka Klein to inspire some aspects of the book. Therefore, this a historical fiction novel, not a biography.  However, that should not dismiss the events in the story because what she experienced did happen to many women during this terrible time in history.

We are first introduced to Cilka near the end of World War II when Auschwitz is liberated by the Red Army (the Soviet Union).  The Red Army soldiers liberate this camp on their march to Germany.  During this time, the Soviet Union, now under Joseph Stalin, had created “labour camps” all over Russia, mostly in the northern regions.  These camps were for political prisoners, people Stalin believed were betraying the communist state, and prisoners who had actually committed crimes.  When the Red Army arrived in Auschwitz, they began questioning the prisoners to find out more information about each of them.  The Red Army learn that Cilka had been a prisoner of the camp for many years and that she had sexual relations with some of the Nazi guards.  However, these sexual encounters were not consensual; the camp guards were raping Cilka.  This allowed for Cilka to survive all her years at Auschwitz.  For these reasons, astonishingly, Cilka is considered a Nazi collaborator by the Red Army and, therefore, an enemy to the Soviet Union. The Soviets are suspicious of prisoners who managed to stay alive in the camps, sadly suspecting many of them to be collaborators (to the Red Army, this is the only answer as to why they survived these camps). Therefore, she is sent directly from Auschwitz to the Soviet Union to complete a 15-year sentence of hard labour in the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia.  She is pushed onto another train for her long journey from Auschwitz to northern Russia.  This train ride reminds her of the train ride she took many years prior to Auschwitz.

Once she arrives at the Gulag, she experiences many of the same events that she endured when she arrived in Auschwitz for the first time.  Cilka has become numb to humankind’s brutality and follows along with what is told and asked of her. Cilka’s only focus is to survive the Gulag camps just as she survived Auschwitz.

Most of the book is focused on Cilka’s time in the Vorkuta Gulag camp, but Morris also includes short memories Cilka has of Auschwitz to paint a picture of Cilka’s past.  These memories also show us how her experiences at Auschwitz influences her life at the Vorkuta Gulag camp.  It brings so much sadness knowing that this poor young woman endured such brutality at Auschwitz, and then to be forced to undergo more brutality at a new camp seems unimaginable.

Cilka’s time at Vorkuta is extremely difficult.  However, she meets many new people that end up playing a significant role in her life.  She learns a lot about herself and the courage and determination she has.  Every day she fights to survive and live, hoping to return to her home in Czechoslovakia one day.  

My thoughts on the book:

Heather Morris creates a captivating story about suffering, loss and love.  She writes with such detail that every scene seems to come to life; I felt that I could picture every part of the camp and how Cilka fits into it.  What is so incredibly moving about this story is how Morris shows you the courage of these characters, and although these are fictional characters, the reader knows that the real prisoners of the camp had to have the same resiliency if they had any hope of surviving.   Although there is so much evil and sadness throughout this story, Morris also includes incredible stories of heroism, compassion and tenderness.  I also like that it is focused on a topic that many people probably don’t know much about; it sheds light on another dark part of history.

Additionally, this book’s main events, the Gulag Camps, are a very familiar topic for me.  As a history major in university, I chose to write my mock thesis on the Soviet Union’s Gulags.  Therefore, I had an added interest in this book.  


The Bad Mothers Book Club- My Book Review

By Keris Stainton

This is another great mom read; I highly recommend it!

What is the story about?

The Bad Mothers’ Book Club is a fictional story about a group of mothers but focuses mostly on following the life of Emma Chance.  Emma and her husband, Paul, have two young children.   They have decided to move their family out of the city and into a smaller town.  Keris Stainton begins the book in Emma’s kitchen the morning before the first day of school.  The first day of drop off does not go well for Emma, but we get a glimpse into Emma’s personality.  As days progress and drop-offs continue, she begins talking and meeting new moms.  She finds out that there is one woman named Jools, who seems to run the town.  Jools also holds an exclusive book club for only some moms from the neighbourhood school.  From the outside, Jools seems like a very mean and egotistical woman, but, as the story continues, you see the struggles Jools is experiencing. 

A few chapters of the book are dedicated to some of the other moms Emma meets.  These women and their stories slowly intertwine with Emma’s.  Jools is one of the moms we learn more about; her story is very moving and emotional.  When Emma uncovers Jools’ secret, things between Jools and Emma completely change.  Maggie is another mom whose story is featured in a few chapters. Maggie’s story adds in another layer focusing on love, new love and the importance of loving yourself. 

One thing I should also note, the book barely includes any book club meetings.  The title is a bit misleading.  The Bad Mothers Book Club doesn’t even come up until the last few chapters.

My thoughts on the book…

This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will remind you that you are not alone in your motherhood journey. Emmas’ story shows the struggles she is experiencing as a stay at home mom, her absolute love for her children, the highs and lows of her marriage, and so much more. It was interesting reading about her insecurities as a mother, or the insecurities she began to feel as a wife.  I am sure these feelings have been experienced by mothers everywhere. 

As mentioned above, the book also focuses a few of its chapters on the other moms Emma meets.  I think Stainton does this for multiple reasons, one, to show the readers different motherly perspectives and two, to show how much people go through behind closed doors.  One of the most important lessons in this book is to remind ourselves that how someone appears on the outside is often very different from how they feel on the inside. 

I enjoyed this book, and if you are looking for an easy, quick, and fun read, this book is for you!

About the Author:

Keris Stainton is a best selling author who has written over 14 books. The genres she writes in include adult, romcoms and young adult. She is Canadian born but now lives in England with her two boys.

Some other books by Keris Stainton:

The One That Got Away 

The One who’s NOT the One

All I want for Christmas


City of Girls – Book Review

Book by: Elizabeth Gilbert

My Rating: 3/5 Stars — Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction — N. of Pages: 496

What was this story about:

City of Girls is written as one long letter.  A woman named Angela asks Vivian Morris, the main character, to explain Vivian’s relationship with Angela’s father. Vivian responds to this letter with the story of her life beginning at age 19.

Vivian Morris is from a wealthy family who lived in the suburbs a couple of hours away from New York City.  Vivian is a lost teenager when we meet her; she specifically calls herself “an idiot” at the beginning of chapter one. She fails out of college and needs to return home to her disappointed parents.  Her parents are at a loss as to what to do with their teenage daughter, who doesn’t seem to fit in in the high society surrounding her and is not academically successful.  They decide to send Vivian to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City. Therefore, in 1940 Vivian Morris gets onto the train and heads to New York City. 

Aunt Peg lives and owns a theatre in a poor neighbourhood in New York City.  The theatre is not in good shape and is not really in the centre of the ritz and glamour of theatre in New York City, but Vivian loves it! Vivian is in amazement of The Lily Playhouse, Aunt Peg’s theatre.  She is impressed and fascinated by the showgirls, the dancers, the actors, the play writers and everyone else involved in this theatre. Aunt Peg discovers Vivian’s sewing skills and asks Vivian to be the seamstress for the theatre.  She then becomes consumed with making, fixing and purchasing fabrics for the costumes in the plays.  This is when she begins to create friendships with the showgirls, specifically Celia.  Celia is a beautiful showgirl who seems to take a liking to Vivian.  Celia teaches Vivian how to showcase her beauty, go out in New York City, and have sex with lots of men.   Vivian adapts this new way of life and thrives in it, until one horrible night where she makes a mistake that will derail the life she built and loved in New York City at the Lily Playhouse. 

After a brief return to her parents’ house and a pivotal interaction with her brother, Walter, who is about to go to war, she eventually returns to New York City with Aunt Peg.   She returns to New York City to help her Aunt Peg with a new theatre job supporting the war effort.  This is where we begin to see Vivian’s character mature a bit and better understand who she is. 

My thoughts on the book

What I liked:

I loved the description of New York City in the 1940s.  The glamour, the parties, the social scene all were described perfectly.  I have only been to New York City once, during Christmas time, and I loved it, but it seemed even more amazing how Gilbert told it.

I also loved the fun and excitement that was described in theatre life at the Lily Playhouse.  It seemed like such a fun place to work and live.  Most importantly, the characters who lived and worked at the Lily Playhouse were all interesting in their own way.

The relationships that Vivian made with the other characters were the best part of this book.  There was something Vivian learned from every person that came into her life.  Sometimes people came into her life for a brief moment, and sometimes she created lasting friendships with people she grew to love.  However, it was clear that every relationship, whether long or short, played a role in creating who Vivian Morris was.  I have always believed that everyone who comes into your life plays a role.  It could be a brief one, someone you enjoy at that time, or a life long friendship. I feel this was one of the most critical messages from City of Girls.

What I didn’t like:

Unfortunately, there was quite a bit that I didn’t like about this book. Vivian’s character was just not that interesting.  I feel she lacked depth, excitement and maturity.  I was more interested in the characters around her; then I was in her story.  About halfway through the book, I realized I didn’t care what happened to Vivian’s character, and I found her kind of annoying.  Her character growth was so focused on her sex life that it became redundant to keep reading about. Vivian’s central character trait seemed to only be about her love for sex, and it is tough to keep the book interesting when you’re solely focused on that.  At the beginning of the book, I found Vivian to be extraordinarily naive, but that never seemed to go away, even as she grew older.  She got herself into dangerous situations with men but, for some reason, never really learned from these experiences; what’s worse, she never seemed to care.  I knew pretty early on that I wouldn’t love this book, but I was able to keep reading based on the character development of the people around Vivian.  The book is also very long, and it seems it could have been summed up in far fewer pages. It was also challenging to keep reading when the main character seemed to lack depth.   

If you have read this book, what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with my comments?


How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division – Book Review

Author: Elif Shafak — My Rating: 5/5 — Genre: Current Events, Non Fiction — N. of Pages: 90

This is a very short read but an important one.  I find that in today’s world of division it is sometimes hard to see where you fit.  To see where your ideas, values and opinions meet.  Society focuses on the “us vs them” narrative leaving little room for people in the middle. How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division by Elif Shafak encourages people of all different opinions to communicate. 

This book was very recently published, so recent, that it includes commentary on the current protests in the United States and the ongoing global pandemic- COVID.  I recommend everyone read this book, in hopes that it will underline the importance of understanding the views of others.

Since this book is short, I will not detail what it is about (the title gives the plot away anyway!).  Instead, I will list below the quotes that impacted me the most.

Book Quotes:

Part 1: Introduction

“We are made of stories — those that have happened, those that are still happening at this moment in time and those that are shaped purely in our imagination through words, images, dreams and an endless sense of wonder about the world around us and how it works.  Unvarnished truths, innermost reflections, fragments of memory, wounds unhealed.  Not to be able to tell your story, to be silenced and shut out, therefore, is to be dehumanized.  It strikes at your sanity, the validity of your version of events.  It creates a profound, and existential anxiety in us.” (page 9)

“… when you feel alone don’t look within, look out and look beyond for others who feel the same way, for there are always others, and if you connect with them and with their story, you will be able to see everything in a new light.” (page 14)

“The moment we stop listening to diverse opinions is also when we stop learning.  Because the truth is we don’t learn much from the sameness and monotony.  We usually learn from differences.” (page 16)

Part 2: Disillusionment and Bewilderment 

“Whether in public or digital spaced nuanced debates are not welcome anymore. ”  (page 29)

“In the aftermath of the pandemic fewer tourists will be able to take overseas trips, fewer international students will apply, and fewer immigrant workers will be welcomed.  It worries me immensely, seeing the walls rise higher and higher.” (page 45)

Part 5: Apathy

“When we are indifferent, disconnected, atomized.  Too busy with our own lives to care about others.  Uninterested in and unmoved by someone else’s pain.  That is the most dangerous emotion —  the lack of emotion.” (page 77)

“One of the greatest paradoxes of our times is the hardliners are more passionate, engaged and involved than many moderates.  When we do not engage in civil discourse and public space, we become increasingly isolated and disconnected, thereby breeding apathy.” (page 77)

Part 6: Information, Knowledge, Wisdom

“Perhaps in an era when everything is in constant flux, in order to be more sane, we need a blend of conscious optimism and creative pessimism.” (page 87)

“It is natural to seek out a collegial and congenial group who will reinforce our core values and primary goals, and bring us closer to the stories we want to hear and prioritize.  That can be a good starting point but it cannot be the entire destination.” (page 89)

About the Author:

Elif Sharak is a British – Turkish author, that has published 17 books.  She advocates for women’s rights, minority rights and free speech.  Sharak is a founding member of the European Council of Foreign Affairs.  She has also spoken at TED Global.

Other books she has published: 

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World 

Three Daughters of Eve

The Forty Rules of Love 


Beach Read – Book Review

My Review: 5/5 — Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Adult Fiction — N. of Pages: 361

“…when the world felt dark and scary, love could whisk you off to go dancing; laughter could take some of the pain away; beauty could punch holes in your fear.  I decided then that my life would be full of all three.” (Henry, 3)

I want to start by saying I do not like the title of this book; it does not do this book justice AT ALL. I’m not sure why the author chose this title because it also doesn’t seem to connect to either character.  That being said, the title is literally the only negative thing I can say about this book.  Beach Read by Emily Henry was simply amazing. 

I came across this book at a local bookstore in Switzerland.  They had a small English section near the back.  I saw Beach Read perked up on display broadcasted as a new read.  I almost ignored it because of the title.  However, once I looked into the reviews, they were all fantastic! I was on a hunt for a funny, easy read, and this seemed to match perfectly.  I am so glad I picked up this book, it was exhilarating from beginning to end.

What is the book about?

This book centers around two characters, Augustus Everett (nicknamed Gus) and January Andrews. The book is narrated by January. It is set in the summertime in a small lake town called North Bear Shores.  Gus and January are both staying in cabins next door to one another.  January is visiting this cabin for the first time and stumbles upon her neighbour, Gus Everett.  January realizes that she recognizes her neighbour Gus from her college years, she remembers that he often was rude to her, but she always had a small crush on him.  She always felt like they competed with each other, even after college, when they became published authors.  When Gus and January first stumble upon each other outside of their cabins, their interaction does not go well.  Gus is visibly angry about something, and January is mad with the way he is speaking to her.

As time progresses, Gus and January find themselves continually running into each other; they realize later on that the town people may have had something to do with that.   They eventually form a friendship with one another, becoming more and more fond of each other.  Their relationship challenges both of them to come outside of themselves in different ways. This book is a story of grief, love, laughter and acceptance.  It is so much more than just a ‘rom-com’.

My review…

I think you can already tell how much I love this book.  The book made me cry, made me laugh and made me yearn for the characters to fall in love.  Henry’s writing is so detailed that although I knew these characters were not real, I found myself genuinely caring about them.  She shows how different these two characters are, but she also makes you feel like they belong together. The smart, sarcastic way the characters communicate is so entertaining.  The heartwarming story she forms around January and Gus is tantalizing.  As well, the father-daughter relationship that January is trying to figure out is heartbreaking. Simultaneously, the reader is trying to understand Gus’s tortured past with his father. I did not want this book to end; I was incredibly sad when it was over.  Emily Henry knows precisely how to captivate her audience. I had never read anything by Emily Henry before but, I have already ordered another one of her books!

More books by Emily Henry:

The Love that Split the World 
When the Sky Fell on Splendor 
A Million Junes
People we Meet on Vacation (will be released May 2021)


The Dutch House- Book Review

My Review: 3.5/5 Stars – Genre: Historical Fiction, Family, Contemporary – N. of Pages: 337

Why I chose to read this book…

I had seen The Dutch House by Ann Patchett on display at many of the bookstores I was visiting. It is also considered a historical fiction novel, which always entices me. The book is very positively reviewed. For all these reasons, I decided to read The Dutch House.

A little bit about the book…

The book centers around a large estate in Philadelphia nicknamed The Dutch House. The interior of the home is decorated with large painted portraits of past residents and covered with embellishments compared to the Palace of Versailles. The inhabitants of The Dutch House are the Conroys. The book follows a brother and sister, Danny and Meave Conroy; Danny narrates their story. Patchett divides her book into three parts.

Part one focuses on the Conroy siblings’ childhood and their introduction to their soon to be stepmother, Andrea. Readers get a glimpse into what it would have been like growing up in the Dutch House through the perspectives of Danny and Meave. The house is especially important to their father, Cyril, who looses his first wife due to his blind love for the home. Eventually, Andrea and her two daughters move into The Dutch House, and it becomes increasingly obvious things will be changing. Some catastrophic events follow for the Conroy family, and by the end of part one, the siblings have lost The Dutch House and need to rebuild their lives elsewhere.

Part two begins with Danny returning home from college for Thanksgiving. Home is now a small apartment that Maeve lives in. Patchett paints a clear picture of how the siblings, especially Maeve, live without The Dutch House. Maeve has a steady job she likes, and Danny is studying in Medical School even though he doesn’t want to be a doctor. The siblings always feel this urge to go back and visit The Dutch House. They look from a distance and talk about what life in the house would be like now. Danny’s life seems to move on from the house; he goes to school meets a woman, gets married and has children. In contrast, Meave’s life does not seem to change as the years pass. After a close encounter with Andrea, part two ends with the siblings vowing never to revisit the house.

Part three began with some trouble for Meave, which sent Danny into a whirlwind of emotions. This event also brings back an old family member that Danny isn’t ready to accept back into his life. Part three follows how the siblings deal with the return of this family member. It also focuses on Danny’s experience as a father and husband. The ending is quite moving and has a couple surprises.

The central theme of the book…

One of the most dominant messages of the book was the power of love. You see this in the relationships that are formed, kept and treasured among family and friends. The love that Maeve and Danny have for one another is a perfect example. We also see this with their love for their childhood nannies, for their father, and all the new characters throughout the book. The power of love is shown from the beginning of the book through to the end. The different relationships that are formed in the book are what interested me the most.

My thoughts on the book…

My overall thoughts are that it is a good story about the lives of two siblings and their broken family. Ann Patchett is a skilled writer and makes the characters of her book come to life. However, I did find the book a bit predictable, which didn’t allow for much excitement or intrigue. It also seemed that Patchett added a bit too many unnecessary details that made the book a bit too long.

Other books by the Author:
The Patron Saint of Liars
The Magician’s Assistant
Bel Canto
Run
State of Wonder
Commonwealth


Educated- Book Review

My Rating: 5/5 – Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction — N. of Pages: 334

How I came across this book:

I had seen this book on many bookshelves for a while. Every time I read the summary, truthfully, I just wasn’t that interested. I thought I’d heard this story before, a brainwashing family keeping their children trapped by not educating them, ; been there, heard that. Despite my disinterest, something kept drawing me back to the to its cover! I don’t know what it was, but I finally caved. After digging into the first few pages, I started kicking myself. This book is awesome. What was I waiting for?

My Review and what I learned from the book:

Educated by Tara Westover is a remarkable memoir about a Morman family living in Idaho. Each chapter entangles you deeper into her story. It follows Westover’s family life living in their farm house by the mountains.  You see the complexity of the life they lived following their father’s strict interpretation of Mormonism.  She details the physical and psychological abuse she endures from her brother, during her teenage years.  Then we read about the beginning of her exodus from her family as she chooses to go to college and leave home.  Her seclusion from the world is then magnified in college when she learns about world events that she had never heard of, like the Holocaust. In the end you follow her through the final stages of her excommunication from her family.   I kept reading, hoping that things would get better for Tara and her family; I was hoping that something would be done about her brother. Westover keeps you holding on to hope, the same way she holds hope today that she will one day be reunited with her family (under her terms).

Westover wrote about her feelings and thoughts in great detail and clarity. It was easy to read through this book and get a glimpse into her life.  

I especially liked that she emphasized, from the very beginning, that this book was not about Mormonism or any other type of religious belief. She wanted to make sure it was clear that she was not putting faith or religion down because, in many situations, other Mormons or people of faith had tried to help her. To me, the real problems were the mental health issues her father and brother faced. Westover shows how bad things could get if people don’t get the treatment they need.  

This book taught me more about mental health and how it impacts not only the people who have these health issues but also how it can affect the people around them. I think this lesson is so important for our world right now as we try to gain a clearer understanding of what mental health is and how we can support people who suffer from it. 

The themes of this book:

There are many different themes in this book. Some of the themes that stood out to me were: male patriarchy, mental health, physical abuse, psychological abuse, the power of manipulation and the impact of family love. I know that seems like a lot, but, honestly, I don’t think that even covers half of the themes of this book.

Patriarchy:

In her household, Mormonism was the practiced faith, but as she makes very clear, her family’s version of Mormonism was not standard and far more strict than most other Mormon families. Her father was the clear head of the household, and the wife and children had to listen attentively to the father at all times. She was raised with the idea that the man would be the head, and the women would raise children and tend to household duties. A woman’s role would only be in the kitchen. Throughout the book, her father and brother make many comments to her reminding her that she should be focusing on redirecting her life to be a proper woman and become a housewife. 

Mental Health

It is clear from the very beginning that her father has severe mental health problems. His version of Mormonism teeters between faith and insanity. The way he treats his wife and children seems to change daily, rotating between kind and fatherly to authoritarian and angry. I noticed his mental health problems the most during his spats of paranoia. He spent so much of his time and money preparing for the end of time. The whole family spent many days preparing for the end of time, canning fruits and vegetables and storing gasoline. He also forced his children to stay home from school, which is another way he tried to control his family. Many Mormons attend school, and many go on to continue their studies in college and university. In my opinion, her father is a perfect example of what happens when people who suffer from mental health don’t get the help they need.

As well, her brother Shawn clearly suffers from mental health. The way he manipulates and abuses women and finds joy out of their embarrassment are all signs of severe psychological problems. The fact that her brother is still living in Idaho with his family is terrifying.

Physical and mental abuse 

This theme was probably the most obvious. The violence that Shawn showed towards multiple members of his family was genuinely frightening. After each physical altercation took place, he would manipulate his victims into thinking they were at fault or that he was just playing with them. This was indeed the most frightening part of her brother. Through her portrayal of these incidents, how she felt and how quickly she forgot what he had done, the reader sees why so many abused women go back to their abuser. For this reason alone, I think it is a book that many people should read to gain a clearer understanding of the mind of those that get abused by someone they love.  

Power of manipulation

In the final part of the book, Tara and her sister confront their parents about the abuse they have experienced from their brother. This is the most shocking moment in the book. The way their mother cowers to their father, the way their parents refuse to believe what they are saying, really upset me. Later on, Tara’s sister is manipulated into thinking she was wrong about what she said about Shawn abusing her. Tara’s sister blocks out all of the abuse because of the parents’ manipulation. It is scary to see what the human brain can convince itself with just a bit of encouragement.

Family love

Tara struggles so much near the end to figure out how her new educated life can fit into her life with her family. She doesn’t want to lose her family because, ultimately, she does love them. This love keeps her tied to her family; this love keeps her returning to her home town. In the end, she realizes that despite the love she has for them, she cannot go back to that life. 

I believe the book’s overall message is by becoming educated; you free yourself to feel and understand the way you want to. Only through this freedom can you live your own life and make your own decisions.

Author Info:

Here is a link to her website: https://tarawestover.com/


About Trish

Hello everyone, my name is Trish! Thank you for visiting my blog.

I’m here to discuss BOOKS! I always have (well maybe not when I was younger) LOVED to read! I find my love for reading is only increasing every day through my exploration of many different genres. In the beginning, I found myself gravitating towards historical fiction novels because I LOVE history (please don’t automatically turn away, I read many other topics too!). I also love fun romantic books, humour books, biographies, current event books, political books, and so many more BOOKS.

I enjoy getting recommendations on my next book from friends, family and sometimes a blog or two. I always enjoyed writing little notes and reviews about the books I read. After writing my reviews, I would decide whether I would recommend the book to a friend or family member. That is when I began thinking about turning my reviews into a blog that everyone can view, writing for other people who love reading and are looking for some book recommendations! I also love discussing the books that I have read, so please comment on the blog whenever possible.

I have no reviewer awards or anything of the sort but, I have recommended lots of the books to friends and family, and their responses are always great! So if you are interested, take a look through some of the books I have read and reviewed and tell me what you think!

Some personal notes about me:

I have been married for about 5 years now; I have a beautiful 2-year-old daughter (who is going through her terrible twos right now). As a new mom, I sometimes enjoy reading fun and humorous books about motherhood, that I think all new moms need to read (to help us relax a bit)! I have a career I enjoy (but not overly passionate about), and I am always looking for new things to do and explore. This blog is my next adventure! I have a large, loud and loving Greek family that I absolutely adore. I have always lived in Canada, but I recently relocated to Switzerland for my husband’s job!

So please explore, comment, and if you’d like, subscribe to my blog for updates!