As August comes to a close, I'm in the middle of some wonderful books. These are the ones I finished this month.
Alice and Oliver by Charles Bock: The writing of this story was beautiful though the tale was sad and the characters unsympathetic at times. Alice and Oliver welcome their first child and find out months later that Alice has cancer. Her fight to survive and Oliver's struggle to deal with all the technical aspects of handling disease tests their marriage. The book is honest and heartbreaking and not at all like any book I've ever read about couples dealing with cancer. It doesn't avoid the ugly, the unexpected, or the inevitable.
Siracusa by Delia Ephron: This was a quick read that surprised me and left me thinking about the characters and story way after I turned the last page of the novel. Told from the perspective of four different characters, Siracusa shows us marriages in turmoil set against a beautiful backdrop. The characters feel real, and the twists and turns this novel takes lead to an ending that is unexpected but realistic.
Like a River From Its Course by Kelli Stuart: Forty pages into this one I had to walk away. The writing is vivid, the story so real that I read it in small bits over a week. Like a River From Its Course tells the story of citizens living in Ukraine when the Germans break their treaty with Russia and decide to attack. As the stories overlap in places, a full, horrific picture comes into view. The biggest surprise was the hope Stuart managed to offer despite the topic she covered.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave: Be prepared to neglect the laundry, sleep, and your children when you pick this one up. Another WWII story, Everyone Brave is Forgiven is set mainly in London during the bombings between 1939 and 1941. It's historical fiction, a bit of romance, and a walk through the past that reveals injustices at home that had nothing to do with war. Despite the subject matter, Cleave manages to infuse the book with wit and snark using dialogue. Cleave's writing is poetry made into prose form, and though your heart will be broken over and over again, you won't mind.
Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich: If you've ever seen the movie Memento, then you are already somewhat familiar with Patient H.M. The movie was based off the real Henry Molaison, an epileptic whose attempt to have his seizures stopped using brain surgery led to him having constant amnesia for the rest of his life. The surgeon who performed Henry's surgery is Dittrich's grandfather, so this book is full of family secrets and details previously unknown.
Dittrich's skills as a journalist shine through as he juggles many different stories easily, tying everything together perfectly and saving some of the biggest punches for the end without making it feel contrived. Exploring this particular history, especially since his family was involved, couldn't have been easy, but he manages to stay objective, though the reader may have a hard time doing that. Also, lobotomies were sometimes performed with ice picks by people who did not have training as surgeons. That detail has been killing me, so I just had to put it out there so everyone else would have to deal with it as well.