From Margaret Mezzacapo
Author: Maeve Binchy
Title: Chestnut Street
Chestnut Street is a collection of short stories published posthumously. The common thread is that all of the characters live on the same street, albeit with different lives and circumstances, and serve as proof that appearances can be deceiving. People can differ significantly from the images they project (although you’ve never met such a large cast of philandering husbands and deserting fathers in any of Binchy’s prior works). The stories seem a little disjointed at times, yet you’ll still hear the lilt of the characters’ accents as you read along, and you’ll still wish that there would be more Maeve Binchy books to come.
From Catherine Given
Author: Robert Olen Butler
It’s amazing what the element of suspense adds to most any plot. I picked up A Small Hotel by Robert Olen Butler expecting to read the sad tale of a couple’s separation after 20 years. Instead, because the book juxtaposes flashbacks of the couple’s first meeting with a dangerous present-day situation spinning out of control, I couldn’t put it down. Butler is highly adept at capturing both male and female voices delivering a strong dose of emotional truth. The setting further heightens the novel’s impact, highlighting the contrast between the hushed luxury of a landmark New Orleans hotel, and the messy, stressful challenges of an American marriage.
From Catherine Given
Author: Kaui Hart Hemmings
The descendants: a novel
By now you’ve probably seen either The Descendants’ promos or the movie featuring George Clooney and Beau Bridges. In the novel it’s based on, Hemmings provides a sensitive account of the dealings of a comfortably numb man. Matthew, the mostly emotionally absent father of a wacky,disconnected family, along with daughters Alex, a scornful young adult, and Scottie, who’s ten going on 30, have just suffered a great shock. His wife, Joanie, has had a boat-racing accident, leaving the threesome in limbo, for the first time totally dependent on each other.
Matthew hasn’t spent any time with the girls as they were too young to relate to. He’s been so busy preserving his founding Hawaiian family’s legacy that he and his kids are strangers to each other. “I come from the school of thought where a dad’s absence is something to be counted on,” he says. . . . “I remember the girls sort of bothered me as babies, the way everyone raced around to accommodate them. . . .It felt like I was living with royalty.”
These characters are beautifully delineated, realistically flawed and out of necessity, it seems, eventually nurturing to one another. You’ll feel you know them well by the time a few plot twists have churned and settled to momentary stillness, like a surge of Hawaiian surf. Their newly-reconstituted family’s warm but bumpy ride has just begun.