Quick Lit: July 2020 (Part Two)

I read 18 books in July, and I'm reviewing six of those books today. You can find thoughts on the other books in Quick Lit: July 2020 (Part One), posted yesterday. I'm excited to share the rest of my July reads, which were all so great with only one exception! If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

LATE MIGRATIONS BY MARGARET RENKL – Another book that was on my radar because of my sister, though I ended up reading it first! She was looking up past Read with Jenna selections, and this one caught my eye. This collection of essays is part memoir and part nature writing but reads like poetry. Renkl alternates between observations on the natural world, primarily from her own backyard, and recollections from her family's history. At first, many of the essays seemed random to me – and I wasn't sure I understood the point. But the more I read, the more I found myself immersed in the beautiful storytelling and keen view of the world. The way Renkl explored loss and grief was so moving that I cried. It was unexpected favorite – a slow, beautiful book to savor – and I So Loved It.

A BURNING BY MEGHA MAJUMDAR – Once again, I read this book because of my sister. A Burning is set in India, and I loved that aspect! It's always fascinating to learn about another culture. This book follows three characters who want to change their station in life – to become middle class, to gain political power, and to find fame through film. But one reckless comment on Facebook spins a web that entangles all three characters in different ways. I loved how the book immediately caught my attention and moved quickly. Even with three POVs, this is a slim, restrained story and does so much without wasting words. I listened to the audiobook and thought the format added so much, too! I wasn't fully invested in the characters emotionally, but I still So Enjoyed It overall.

FRIENDS AND STRANGERS BY J. COURTNEY SULLIVAN – I loved Sullivan's The Engagements but wasn't fond of Saints for All Occasions, so I went into this with low expectations. Thankfully, it immediately became a new favorite! I love Sullivan's writing style, and it worked particularly well for me here. Her characters were well developed, and I was so invested in their lives. Even when I didn't like their decisions, I couldn't put the book down. It's a long and a little slow – there isn't a lot of action – but I loved how it explored motherhood, marriage, class, privilege, and a complicated friendship between a mother and her child's nanny. I'm So Obsessed With It because it worked so perfectly for me but probably wouldn't recommend it to everyone. But it's still on my mind weeks after finishing!

A MARRIAGE GAME BY SARA DESAI – What I expected from this book and what I got were two very different things. I loved the Indian culture, especially any scene involving the heroine's family or their restaurant. But everything else was painful. I should have DNFed, but I was 50% in before realizing just how much I hated it and then had to see how it ended. I wrote a more in-depth review on Goodreads if you're curious, but here are the five main reasons I didn't like it: an asshole hero, a revenge plot that led to an AWFUL conflict, a romance built solely on sexual attraction without much of an emotional connection, being told a character was smart when their actions are the total opposite, and over-the-top awful arranged marriage dates that lost all sense of realism. I So Disliked It.

DEVOTIONS BY MARY OLIVER – I almost never read poetry because I don't "get it" most of the time. But I recently had the itch to try something new, so I picked up this book. It's a collection of Oliver's poems spanning her decades-long career, and it's arranged from most recent (2015) to oldest (1963). It was interesting to read her work in reverse, and I enjoyed seeing what stayed consistent through the years.  She had a deep love and appreciation for the natural world and wrote so beautifully about it. Some poems were very moving but others were a little boring or repetitive. But that's more about me – my general disinterest in poetry and the fact that I'm more of an indoors person – than Oliver's work. She was a gifted writer and this was a lovely introduction to her. I So Enjoyed It.

NOTES ON A SILENCING BY LACY CRAWFORD – In this memoir, Crawford looks back at the time she spent at the elite St. Paul's School, the sexual assault she suffered there, and how that trauma affected her. It's a cerebral memoir – the writing felt literary in its crisp directness and is evidence that education was central to Crawford's adolescence. I loved how it examined power and privilege, silence and speaking out. The non-linear structure did not always work for me, but it's a minor quibble. It's more about the effect of being silenced than an investigation and exposé on the school itself, but I found it very insightful. I'd give this my equivalent to a four stars, So Enjoyed It, though the wording doesn't exactly work here. This was a heartbreaking, important read.

What have you been reading lately?

1 comment

  1. I'm pretty curious about Late Migrations now! It sounds intriguing. And I love the cover!


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