What I Read This Week: May 8-14

After finishing zero books last week, I’m happy to have gotten back into a groove of reading this week. Here are the books I finished, most of which I enjoyed.

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

If you read my book review post of The Measure by Nikki Erlick, you already know that I loved this book. Its premise is that age-old question of would you choose to know when you are going to die, but the story is nuanced with beautiful characters facing their own dilemmas and choices when given the opportunity to learn the length of their lives. This is a gorgeous book, and despite being about death, it is somehow life-affirming.

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

This was an impulse add-on to a Book of the Month order, and it sat on my shelf for a long, long time. I listened to the audiobook because I wasn’t feeling invested in the overall story from the beginning. While I think maps and cartography are fascinating, this wasn’t a book that I enjoyed, mainly because I didn’t connect with the characters. So, The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd rests solely in the “glad-to-have-finished” category for me.

Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin

Two best friends decide to move in together after their adult lives diverge from their original plans. Lauren is a single mom to precocious, adorable Adelaide and is dealing with her ex-fiancé’s on-and-off again presence in their lives. Jude is a fitness influencer who lost her money in a bad investment but is still burdened by financing her widowed mother’s lavish lifestyle. Lauren and Jude lean on each other through it all and find happiness in their new lives. Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin is a sweet book about friendship, starting over, and finding strength when you think all is lost.

The Measure of Your Life

The Measure by Nikki Erlick – A Five-Star Book Revieve

I finished The Measure by Nikki Erlick early this morning before work and am so excited to tell you why this is a five-star read for me!

  1. The Premise – I think most of us have pondered the question, if you could learn when you were going to die, would you want to know? This book takes that question and shows people’s answers, whether they choose to open the mysterious boxes that arrive at their doorsteps and measure the lengths of string found inside or not. Long- and short-stringers must contend with their fates, whatever they may be.
  2. The characters – I ship several of the duos in this book, particularly Nina and Maura, as they face their strings as individual and partners. Their story was full of emotion, but also tender, without unnecessary drama adding to the emotional toll the strings put on their relationship. With each chapter told from a different point of view, The Measure tells a host of characters’ stories, and I loved finding the Easter eggs of how they intertwined.
  3. The writing – This is Ms. Erlick’s debut novel. Her debut, friends! With such a powerful first book in which every word, sentence, and paragraph is crafted with care and talent, she blew me away.
  4. The ending – I won’t spoil the end of The Measure, but I will say that it was wholly satisfying and worth the journey that Ms. Erlick carried us through for nearly 350 pages.

I hope you’ll read The Measure soon. I’m certain you won’t regret it!

The Power of the Girls

Five-Star Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

Do you ever pick up a book from your to-be-read stack and think, why did it take me so long to read this? Well, that was certainly the case for me when I read The Power by Naomi Alderman this week. This book caught my eye years back because it’s dystopian fiction, a favorite genre of mine, but it sat on my shelf unread for too long. Then when I saw that Amazon has adapted The Power into a drama series featuring Toni Collette and Toheeb Jimoh (hello, Sam from Ted Lasso!), I decided it was the perfect time to finally read this book before I tune into the show.

And I’m so glad that I read this book. It starts a little slow, but I quickly found myself wrapped up in a dystopian world where girls have the power to spark electricity from their hands and change society. This is a novel with multiple points of view, and you know from the prologue that the events happened in the past, although it’s unclear what the impact is now. The premise is that somehow young girls around the world are imbued with electrical powers from awakened skeins in their bodies. They can now shock people, send currents of electricity through metals, and play with electrical arcs with their hands. First. these girls keep these powers secret, but then on The Day of the Girls, they can no longer hide, and the patriarchal world turns upside down. Here are a few of the reasons I loved The Power and consider it a five-star book.

Themes within The Power

So many themes are pitted against each other in The Power as young girls learn to harness their electrical strengths, share their sparks with older women, and become the stronger gender across current social norms. Gender norms flip, men become beholden to women for their freedom, and power structures are rebuilt.

Religion is another primary theme in the novel. Mother Eve, a main character, teaches that the Christian mother of Jesus, Mary, was the true giver of life, as Ruth was the most powerful in the Jewish tradition, as Fatima was in the Muslim faith, and as Tara was in the Hindu religion. Mother Eve asserts that women from all religious teachings should be the most worshipped as the Mother of all, and her preachings spread across the world. From that, however, comes the uprising of cults, as other women use their power to control, abuse, and even sacrifice men, and we see concept of humanity challenged across the world.

The Characters of The Power

The majority of the main characters whose viewpoints we experience in The Power are young teenagers at the beginning of the novel before The Day of the Girls:

  • Roxy is the illegitimate daughter of a British gang leader. She has few scruples and immense power with the potential to take down armies of men.
  • Ally is the adopted daughter of a strict, abusive southern Florida couple. Despite their cruelty, she knows her power is a gift. The voice she hears tells her so.
  • Jocelyn is the privileged but vulnerable daughter of a prominent, powerful mayor. Her power is unreliable, as is her behavior.

Mayor Margot Cleary, Jocelyn’s mother, is another main character in the novel. At first she faces decisions on how to stop girls from spreading the power to others and then becomes engaged in a morale battle of how to succeed in her career without damaging her daughter or the world.

And then there is Tunde, the only male point of view in the novel. He is an ambitious young man who seizes the opportunity to capture a girl using her power on video that launches his career as a rogue journalist who will stop at nothing to document the power across the world.

All of these characters grow over the decade or so that their stories span. Roxy, Ally, and Jocelyn learn to harness and use their powers to different effects, and they along with Margot and Tunde each experience the positives and negatives that come from the power itself. With additional side characters who are just as interesting and morally grey as these five, Ms. Alderman has created a character-driven story that is full of tension and leaves you hoping that each will come to their own right conclusions, whatever those may be.

The Structure of The Power as a Novel

The multiple points of view give a depth to The Power that is very intense and engaging. You are engrossed in each character’s experiences as they are well-developed, nuanced individuals. But the structure of the novel is interesting for another reason, as it is presented as an anthropological study at first, with letters in the prologue and epilogue between two authors debating the value of the history within the pages. The book includes illustrations of sculptures and artifacts from the time period, which these two authors refer to as the Cataclysm. This adds another layer to the book and makes it feel like an even more realistic history of what a dystopian world could have been.

The Power was my first five-star read for April 2023, and now I’m hungry for more dystopian fiction. Is this a genre you like to read? If so, drop a note and tell me about your favorites!

The Important Story of the Yellow Wife

Five-Star Read: Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

I recently wrote about five reasons I love reading historical fiction, and Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson is an excellent example of why I love this genre.

About Yellow Wife

Yellow Wife is the story of Pheby Delores Brown, born on Bell Plantation in Virginia. She was favored by the owner of the plantation, who is her biological father, and his sister. Her mother, Ruth, protects Pheby from as many of the horrors of slavery as she can. However, when tragedy strikes, Pheby is taken from the plantation and loses all whom she loves, including her beloved Essex Henry.

Pheby is transferred to Lapier Jail, also known as Devil’s Half-Acre, where she quickly sees and experiences the brutality of the enslaved who are held at the jail, whether they are to be auctioned to new owners, punished for perceived wrongdoings, or forced into work of many nightmares. The owner of Lapier Jail takes her as his own, and Pheby must decides what sacrifices she must make as she lives under his rule.

I don’t have the adjectives for a review that encapsulate my feelings for Yellow Wife, but here are a few of the reasons I loved it and firmly believe it is a book to be recognized by all.

Revealing Real History in Yellow Wife

Yellow Wife is an example of what U.S. schools have not taught in history classes. Like most products of this education system, I studied the Civil War, but I’m ashamed to acknowledge that slavery wasn’t covered in detail. While it’s been several decades since I was a public school student, I should know more now. Learning about the jails that slaves were sent to, like Devil’s Half-Acre, was eye-opening, and now I am determined to learn more about what my teachers never discussed, and it’s my responsibility to ensure that my children learn the entire history.

Sadeqa Johnson and Research for Yellow Wife

Alongside learning about history by reading this novel, I greatly appreciated the research in Yellow Wife. Ms. Johnson explains how she was inspired to write the book, and she outlines all of the research she conducted. This is really important because it reveals a part of history that needs to be shared in a correct, authentic way. Reading her explanation made the story of Pheby and her time at Lapier Jail even more powerful, even though she is a fictional character.

A Vivid, Brutal World

Ms. Johnson’s book took me into a vivid, but horrifying, world with a well-researched, well-told story about Pheby and how she and others experienced deep pain and injustice in Lapier Jail. This was a difficult book to read because of the subject matter, but I know that the story was important for me to read. I encourage everyone to do the same because of the quality of Ms. Johnson’s writing and storytelling, but most importantly because it demands attention to a part of history that may not have been shared otherwise.

A Family Saga — Pheby’s Sacrifices

The spirit of family is integral to Yellow Wife, as we meet Pheby’s mother, Ruth, and her children. I felt the power of these familial connections, as well as the impact of found family. Pheby’s relationships with the other slaves at Bell Plantation and in Lapier Jail showed how connections to others was key to Pheby’s survival as she made extreme sacrifices to help her family and loved ones.

Yellow Wife is an excellent novel, one that I’m glad to have read. I hope you will read it, too!

Five Reasons I Love Reading Historical Fiction

“What’s your favorite genre?” Nearly every avid reader will have heard this question at one point or another, and sometimes it can be as difficult to answer as the dreaded question: “What’s your favorite book?”

I read nearly every genre–contemporary, fantasy, thrillers, some romance, and young adult. As a mood reader, it’s really about what suits my fancy at the moment, but I stay away from horror and science fiction generally–they’re just not my vibe. However, my favorite genre is historical fiction. Give me a book about the past, let me explore that time and place, and I’m a happy reader.

Before I get into five reasons I love reading historical fiction, a important note from this well-read blogger of a certain age. Books set in the 1980s and 1990s are not historical fiction yet. I refuse to accept that premise, and I stand by my position that if I was alive for the period in question, it’s not historical fiction yet. Come on, publishers. Let’s be gentle with the Gen Xers of the reading world. We were latch-key kids raised on ABC Afterschool Specials, punk music, Tupac, Kurt Cobain, The Outsiders, Flowers in the Attic, American Psycho, and Heathers. We know how things work.

Diatribe over.

Why I Love to Read Historical Fiction

Here are five reasons I love historical fiction. I hope they’ll encourage you to pick up a book from this genre soon!

Reason 1: Putting the History in Historical Fiction

It’s in the genre name, right? Every historical fiction book teaches me something about history. Some examples of this are in two of my favorite historical fiction books. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir is the story of Lady Jane Grey who was queen of England for nine days in the 16th century before she was beheaded. A most recent novel that I loved, Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins Valdez, tackles the horrific period of eugenics in U.S. history and fictionalizes the story of two real-life teenage sisters who were surgically sterilized against their knowledge Alabama. I love history as a whole, but I often find that the historical fiction genre really brings true events into focus, even when fictionalized, and I generally finish the book wanting to learn more.

Reason 2: The Research that Historical Fiction Requires

I love research. If I could make a living at being a researcher and fact checker, I would. I can’t tell you how many wormholes I fall into on a regular basis when I’ve gone to Google to get a simple answer. I spent hours reading about eugenics in the U.S. during and after reading Take My Hand. I researched the Dust Bowl and the exodus to California during the Great Depression because I loved The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. As I’m conducting my own research, I’m intrigued even further about the types of research that historical fiction authors do to write their books.

However, and this is a huge caveat, the authors have to capture history correctly. Historical fiction novels have to be factual and correct; otherwise they become more like history-light fantasy books. There are many instances of books that don’t accurately depict history or elements of the chosen time period. I’m not a historian, but if I can pick up on inconsistencies or errors, then it tells me that the author took too many liberties with history or was just — simply — disinclined to do a fact check about their work.

Reason 3: The Escape into Worlds of Historical Fiction

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton is a book I highly recommend because it pulled me deep into the world of 1970s music in England and America, not a topic I thought I’d find interesting as a whole. But this book, like other historical fiction novels that I love, delved into that world with such detail and attention to detail, I couldn’t put it down. The book focuses on music and the partnership of a white English male musician with a powerful, talented Black singer who should take the U.S. by storm with her voice and stage presence. I was engaged in every part of Opal and Nev’s world, from the descriptions of Opal’s clothing to the ignorant, racist actions of side characters to Nev’s reactions to becoming a musical star.

This reason to love historical fiction isn’t solely for this genre, obviously, but it is an important aspect of what historical fiction means to me. When I read a historical fiction novel, I want to feel like I’m part of that time period, and that’s accomplished with accurate, expansive details that are carefully woven into the story by brilliant authors.

Reason 4: Historical Fiction Often Includes Multiple Timelines

Not every historical fiction novel is structured around multiple timelines, but when it is and is done well, then that helps deepen the story for me. An author who masters this literary device is Fiona Davis, author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue and many other historical fiction novels. Davis’s books generally center around a mystery or event in the past that is somehow tied to a character in the more recent past or current day. In The Lions of Fifth Avenue, the story is set at the New York City Public Library in 1913, shortly after it was built, and in 1993, when a main character is set to learn more about her family’s heritage. As books like The Lions of Fifth Avenue alternate between the two time periods, you can see the differences and similarities of the human condition across history. While an author like Davis controls those aspects, the interconnected plots add another layer to a historical fiction novel.

Reason 5: A Family Saga Across History

Like multiple timelines, not every historical fiction novel includes a family saga, but when it does, I am here for all of it. I love a deeply nuanced, complicated family drama, and all the better when the saga includes historical elements. Kristin Hannah is well known for a great family saga, and The Four Winds does this exceptionally well. Another novel that bridges two families’ joint struggles and challenges is The Family by Naomi Krupitsky. As two best friends grow up in families with ties to organized crime in the mid-twentieth century, we learn about about the various definitions of family, the social expectations on women during this time period, and the complications of tested loyalty. This multi-family saga would take on a different look and feel had it been set in a current or more recent time period.

These are just five reasons I love to read historical fiction. Is this a genre you enjoy? Tell me why or why not!

Seven Days in June with Eva and Shane

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams – A Five-Star Book Review

“I wish you the most brilliant, weird, and wonderful things, every day of the world.”

Tia Williams, Seven Days in June (pg. 113)

This might be one of my all-time favorite book quotations now, and it encapsulates everything I feel about Seven Days in June, a brilliant novel by Tia Williams that has been sitting on my to-be-read shelf for far too long.

Eva’s life is full in Brooklyn. She is a celebrated Black author with her bestselling he erotic fantasy series Cursed; friends with vibrant, inspiring women like her editor Cece and renowned poet Belinda; and, most importantly, a devoted mom to her precocious pre-teen daughter Audre. All Eva has is focused on giving Audre a better life than what Eva experienced during her childhood.

Yes, her life is full but it’s far from perfect, something that Eva has come to accept. She deals with her invisible disability–debilitating migraines that bring her to her knees–in silence, taking precautions and hiding her emergency painkillers outside of her inner circle. And, while Cursed has been her life’s work for 14 novels, she feels trapped in the fantasy world of Gia and Sebastian because those stories sell copies and there’s a movie deal on the table. Eva wants to move beyond those stories and explore her own family’s stories, those of her mother Lizette, grandmother Clotilde, and great-grandmother Delphine.

But, one steamy day in June, a man walks back into Eva’s life from decades before, and all is no longer fine. Shane, an award-winning novelist himself, disappeared from her life after a heady, drug-infused week of their senior year in high school. Now he wants to make amends, and Eva starts to question all that she’s known.

What I Loved About Seven Days in June

There is so much to love about this book. Ms. Williams pours emotion onto the page and lets you sit with the characters as they feel happiness, doubt, pain, and heartbreak. Those characters and the representation of not just race but also disabilities, mental health, and poverty are what made me love this book with ferocity, but really, every bit of this novel is perfect, in my opinion.

The Characters

Eva is a beautiful protagonist, one who isn’t perfect but is endearing in every way. Her devotion to Audre is palpable, as is her love for Shane, even when she tries to deny that love. Through flashbacks, we see how Eva developed into a fierce but tender woman despite her mother’s neglect, and we see how writing became a survival mechanism for her. Also, Ms. Williams did an excellent job of showing us how trapped Eva felt in continuing Cursed, a sure-thing for her finances, rather than pursue what she really wanted to write about. I loved Eva’s character, her nuances and flaws. She is a character I would want to meet in person, learn from, and be friends with.

Shane is just as imperfect and endearing as Eva. We learn so much about his troubled, heartbreaking past in the book’s flashbacks, but we also see how he has started to rebuild his life, first by choosing to become sober and then by teaching at inner-city schools, despite his resounding literary success. Shane hasn’t written a new novel in awhile, but everything he’s written has been praised–and it’s all been written for Eva. Shane is a deeply feeling man who places so much of the world’s burden on himself.

Audre is the picture of a 12-year-old girl about to explode into womanhood. She’s dramatic with a capital D, but she’s also incredibly intelligent and insightful, and she’s determined to use those gifts for the good of others. After all, she runs a side business of Snapchat therapy sessions for her friends. Every scene with Audre was like a burst of color and emotion.

While Eva, Shane, and Audre are the main characters in the book, the secondary characters like Cece, Belinda, Ty, and Lizette bring so much to the story. They are fully realized characters, with their own strengths and flaws. Ms. Williams spends time with each, and I appreciated how even the characters with the shortest presence in the book were still well-developed and realistic, not just acting in the background of the story.

The Representation

From the descriptions of the Black literati celebrations to the way Eva plaits Audre’s hair, this book gives beautiful representation to Black identity and experiences. Throughout her novel, Ms. Williams addresses whitewashing, generational trauma, and the systemic injustices that occur as children are born into poverty. Yes, this is a love story between Eva and Shane, but it is more than that.

Disability and mental health play key roles in Seven Days in June as well. Eva hides her migraines despite their crushing daily presence. Flashbacks show both Eva and Shane self-harming and using alcohol and drugs to numb their pain. In the present, Shane uses running to keep himself from turning back to alcohol, but he still keeps the burden of others on his shoulders and feels deep shame and guilt if he cannot help them.

Seven Days in June is more than a romance novel. Yes, it is steamy and brings all the feelings when you read about Eva and Shane’s past and current interactions, but it is a story about growth and identity as well. I loved the characters and the representation in this novel, and I can’t wait to pick up another book by Ms. Williams.

You Have Entered Beartown

Beartown by Fredrik Backman – A Five-Star Book Review

Beartown is a mainstay in book club conversations and on Bookstagram, with so many reviews raving about the power of this book by Swedish author Fredrik Backman. It took me until 2023 to understand why.

I had trepidations about reading this book when I first heard about it. Ice hockey? Sexual assault? A tight-knit community’s reactions to one girl’s accusation of rape against the star hockey player right before the championship game? I didn’t think it was a book I’d enjoy, but while it took me several weeks to read it, the payout was so amazing.

What I Loved About Beartown

Beartown is a definite five-star book for me, with so many aspects that I loved. Here are a few.

The Themes of Beartown

On its simplest level, Beartown is laid out like the plot of a 1990s Lifetime Movie of the Week: the high school star athlete sexually assaults a vulnerable teenage girl, and the aftermath of this violence impacts everyone from the victim and perpetrator to the parents and townspeople surrounding them. But Backman weaves in themes of family, friendship, community, and justice in such a way that it is much more than an old TV movie starring Tori Spelling. He accomplished this by using multiple points of view, crafted with precision in beautiful prose and an awareness of the fragility of all that he includes.

The Writing of Backman

Backman wrote this book in Swedish, so I read the English translation. But, friends, the beauty of his words transcends languages. Not only are his syntax, diction, and skill on pointe, but also the level of detail and precision in descriptions are so impressive. And Backman is the king of foreshadowing, leaving important touchstones throughout the book to know you’re in safe hands as he guides you through the story.

The Relationships of the Characters

Every relationship within the community of Beartown is nuanced with tension and emotion. From the current l teammates and the adults who once skated the ice together, to the business owners and sponsors, to the parents and children and friends, there are layers of interactions, histories, and feelings.

My Personal Connection

I was sexually assaulted at 18, just two weeks into my freshman year at college. The perpetrator was a college boy who’d gone to high school with my dorm roommate, and he was a member of the fraternity associated with my sorority. I was embarrassed and frightened, in denial for the most part. I’d been so desperate to be liked, I kept my mouth shut. Other than making light of the bruises on my arms, I didn’t tell anyone the truth about what happened until three months later during an emotional breakdown fueled by vodka and desperation.

So I deeply empathized with Maya in this story, and it brought up many emotions surrounding the responses from family and friends when I finally explained what happened. This is probably why I resisted reading this book for so long, but what Backman wrote resonated with me on many levels, and I deeply appreciate his tender, honest look at what happens to those impacted by trauma.

Five Stars for Someday, Maybe

Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli – A Five-Star Book Review

What would you do if you lost the person closest to you? And how would your response be if that person chose to leave by suicide? That’s what Eve, the protagonist of Someday, Maybe, must experience when she finds her husband, Quentin, in a pool of his own blood. Eve doesn’t know why her Q died by suicide. All she knows is grief at this unimaginable loss.

What I Loved about Someday, Maybe

This book, the debut by Onyi Nwabineli, is a deeply moving novel about grief, family (both born and found), and grappling with death. I loved Someday, Maybe for so many reasons, including the characters, the writing, and the message.

The Characters

Much of this book is a character study of a widow who is entrenched in guilt, shame, and loss as Eve tries to understand why Q would die by suicide. He did not leave a note, so there is no evident answer, despite Eve’s efforts to find the reasons. I loved Eve’s journey as her actions and thoughts were realistic and uncontrived. And, just as important, I loved the side characters in this story. From Eve’s Nigerian parents and grandmother, to her headstrong sister Gloria and her blunt brother Nate, to her best friend Bee and the people she meets along the way, these characters are four-dimensional, true-to-life loved ones who help Eve find her way. And then there’s Aspen, Q’s mother and Eve’s antagonist. Somehow Nwabineli makes this snobbish, hateful woman a realistic portrait of a mother in grief, too.

The Writing

I highlighted so many passages in Someday, Maybe. Not only are Nwabineli’s words powerful and impressive, but she fits together sentences and meanings, uses metaphor to show us the pain Eve feels, and lets us sit in Eve’s grief alongside her. This is one example:

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

Onyi Nwabineli (Someday, Maybe, pg. 337)

The Message

Reading this book at the end of December 2022 (and finishing it on January 1, 2023) felt especially timely as we saw news of Stephen Laurel “tWitch” Boss’s suicide. News story after news story have posited questions about tWitch’s death by suicide, as the dancer and DJ appeared to have a happy family, career, and life. But it’s not our place to know all the details of why. It’s our job to have empathy for his family and friends, letting them grieve and share if/when they are ready. Also, it’s our job to understand that whatever outward presence a person shows is not always a true indicator of their internal thoughts, struggles, and feelings. That is the message that I felt carry through Someday, Maybe. Eve doesn’t understand why Q died by suicide. She feels shame for not being able to save him and shame for not seeing beneath his charismatic, successful exterior and place as her husband of more than a decade. She blames herself for not knowing he was in pain, and her journey in this book walks us through those stages of mourning and grief.

There aren’t enough adjectives to properly describe how much I loved Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli. Please just take my word for it, and pick up this book to experience on your own.

All the Stars for Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
A Five-Star Book Review

Do you enjoy video games? I played Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt when I was a kid (yes, I’m that old), but I’ve never gotten into console games. Well, I did have a couple periods of life in which I was obsessed with The Sims and Candy Crush. I’ve never felt compelled to dig deeper into games. I’m much more interested in finding another book to read.

Given my general disinterest in gaming, I was hesitant to pick up Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (Tomorrow x3) by Gabrielle Zevin. But, as they say: #BookstagramMadeMeDoIt. And I am so glad it did!

Tomorrow x3 is a longform character study of two friends, Sadie and Sam, who met just before they became teenagers in the 1980s. They bonded over their love of video games while Sam and Sadie’s sister Alice were in the hospital, but then lost touch until they run into each other in Massachusetts during college. That chance meeting begins a journey of friendship as they build a groundbreaking new video game, Ichigo, and eventually form their own company, Unfair Games. Tomorrow x3 is a love story about these friends who never become romantically involved. It is a beautifully written, complex novel that shifts time periods, perspectives, and even brings you into the world of video games.

What I Loved about Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

  • The characters: Sadie and Sam are the protagonists within the book, and they are flawed but fully developed characters who made me root for them as well as yell at them for poor decisions. However, my absolute favorite character in the novel was Marx, Sam’s Harvard roommate. Marx could have been a 2D side character, but Ms. Zevin brought him into the story as a real, human character. He is innately a good person who wants good for his friends, and that was so impressive. When I first started reading the Tomorrow x3, I thought Marx was going to be a stereotypical envious third wheel, but he’s not. I loved him!
  • The representation: This book addresses race, mental health, disability, and sexuality. The representation is so well-represented here, and the author really refined each character’s struggles and experiences.
  • The plot (and its sideplots): This book could have been a linear story told from two points of views – Sam’s and Sadie’s. But it’s not. There are flashbacks and shifts that create a more layered story. It brought so many nuances to the characters. What was also important to me is that the gaming industry was part of the story, but only as it benefits the characters and the plot. Those gaming sections brought more to the story.
  • The writing: I highlighted so many passages in this book! Ms. Zevin is an amazing writer. Not only does she deliver beautiful prose, but also she leaves little moments of foreshadowing throughout the book. I love when an author uses that narrative device in a smart way. These moments weren’t blatantly obvious in the book, but I could tell when Ms. Zevin wanted us to prepare for something that was going to happen soon.

I was worried this book wouldn’t feel accessible to me because of the video gaming aspects, but it was so enjoyable. There is clearly a reason why Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin is getting accolades this year, including being named the Book of the Year by Book of the Month! I highly recommend this one!

Take My Hand for a 5-Star Read

Sometimes an author gives the amazing gift of a beautiful read that is page-turning and educational. Dolen Perkins-Valdez did exactly that with her 2022 book, Take My Hand.

The Tuskegee syphillis experiments are a horrific, tragic part of US history. It’s still unimaginable to think of what doctors did to Black men in Alabama for 40 years (1932 to 1972). It’s reprehensible.

But that’s not the only story of its kind. As Ms. Perkins-Valdez explores so eloquently in her novel, the involuntary sterilization of Black and poor girls and women was commonplace in the US as recently at the late 20th century. Take My Hand is based on the true case of Mary Alice and Minnie Relf, who were sterilized without their consent by US government workers. In the book, the sisters are Erica and India Williams, and the narrator is Civil Townsend, a 23 year old nurse in Montgomery, Alabama, who champions these children, their father, and their grandmother as she is desperate to right the terrible wrong that took away the girls’ fertility.

What I Liked about Take My Hand

  • The writing: Ms. Perkins-Valdez is a talented author who moved between the past and the present with ease and who crafted a story that is not only about tragedy but also about love.
  • Civil’s journey: Civil is a motivated young woman who is determined to make a difference as a nurse. She deeply loves the Williams family and must grapple with boundaries while trying to help them.
  • The sisters: Erica and India have a deep bond, particularly because India is not verbal, placing more responsibility on Erica. These girls are children facing experiences that adults haven’t witnessed, and their story is beautiful.
  • The message: I knew about forced sterilization in US history, but I didn’t know how far it went. This book opened my eyes to so much more, and, unfortunately, it is apropos for what is happening in the US in 2022.

In short, please read this book. It will stay with me for a long time.