A historical fiction and two contemporary fiction book reviews round out the critique of my summer reading. If you want to catch up on the reviews of three romances I loved, go to My Summer Reading, Part One.
A Name of Her Own Jane Kirkpatrick
A Name of Her Own is more than a good book, it’s an “important” book. Based closely on the documented evidence of the 3,500-mile journey of Marie Dorion with the Astor expedition of 1811-1812, A Name of Her Own follows Marie, her two children, and her abusive translator husband, Pierre, with fictionalized richness of place and characters.
The only woman on the greed-driven expedition, Marie, a Native American of the Iowa tribe, is faced with unspeakable hardship and prejudice. Along the way Marie meets Sacagawea, who traveled the route six years earlier with Lewis and Clark, and the two women share a bond that nourishes both of them.
The story is difficult to read. It’s brutal. The times were brutal. And there are always brutal people of all races. But Marie toughens and does what she must to survive and assure the survival of her children. Again, evidence supports how Marie changed to become a survivor of the push West.
Reading A Name of Her Own was, for me, an interesting experience. I didn’t feel close to the story or Marie, mainly due to the language of Kirkpatrick’s dialogue and narrative which is reminiscent of the language of the time. But that also gave me the extraordinary experience of watching Marie as if through a rent in time. A story I can’t forget.
Beartown Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman is a very good writer, don’t get me wrong; I thought A Man Called Ove was one of those “fresh” books. But, sorry, I didn’t care for Beartown at all. I think it’s a nasty story with no character I could root for—I didn’t think even the victim was written very sympathetically. The overall feeling I got was as cold as a Swedish lake. Why would anyone want to live in Beartown, know those people, or play hockey?
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman
Not giving up on Fredrik Backman because of Beartown, I read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. And I was so glad I did! Sparkling writing. Clever. Insightful.
When the story opens we meet Granny and Elsa; Granny has escaped from the hospital and driven off with Elsa for an adventure; it’s the middle of the night in the monkey house at the zoo, and the police are involved. But Granny has to go back to the hospital where she stashes smuggled-in beer under her pillow and where she and Elsa play their last games.
Elsa, a “different” almost-eight-year-old, is faced with life without her granny, a crazy lady and Elsa’s best and only friend. Elsa and Granny had spent the first seven years of Elsa’s life visiting the Land-of-Almost-Awake and its six kingdoms, where fairy tales are the currency and being different is normal.
After Granny’s death, Elsa is reluctantly compelled on a treasure hunt with a series of clues and letters she has to deliver. Accompanied by The Monster and a wurse, Elsa embarks on the hunt Granny has set out for her.
Backman skillfully weaves in the fantasy from the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the outlandish escapades Granny has taken Elsa on. And he wrings the reader’s heart for Elsa as she wisecracks and smart-mouths her way through her anger and hurt.
Big five stars! I miss Elsa and the wurse.
What have you read this summer?