Pick of the Week: The Good Boy by Theresa Schwegel
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Mystery author Theresa Schwegel has written a heart-wrenching suspense story that plays out on the mean streets of Chicago with her new book, The Good Boy.
The action starts when 11-year-old Joel Murphy and his dog Butch follow Joel's teenage sister to a party because he thinks she is in danger. When Joel is spotted by some gang members who threaten to kill Butch, he runs away to protect his best friend. But Butch is more than the family pet -- he also is an officer with Chicago Police Department's K-9 Unit, working with Joel's dad, Pete.
Pete, who is determined to find his son and dog on his own, leaves his frantic wife, Sarah, behind at home. The stress of Joel's disappearance exacerbates the pain and tension the Murphy family has been going through. Pete and Sarah, whose marriage is on shaky grounds, barely speak to each other. Their rebellious teenage daughter McKenna is riddled with guilt because she blames herself for Joel's disappearance. And Pete is worried about his future as a cop because he was slapped with a lawsuit from a gang member who was bit by Butchie during a police stop.
The Good Boy isn't a murder mystery, but it is filled with suspense. Will Joel and Butchie survive with all the real dangers they encounter? Will Pete find his "boys'' before it's too late? Will the Murphys finally stop fighting each other come together as a family?
As a parent, my heart ached when Joel was trying to survive with $2 for a couple days on the mean streets of the Windy City. His relationship with his four-legged friend is endearing. Schwegel's characters can be frustrating because they don't always make the best choices, but that's what propels the story along. The Good Boy is a compelling book with its authentic Chicago descriptions and its sometimes noir-like feeling.
Pick of the Week: Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
When I picked up this book, I was a little skeptical of an actor writing fiction, but Lauren Graham won me over with this funny, charming novel. Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, taking acting class and waiting tables to get by. She's given herself three years to "make it," after which, she figures, she'll stop pursuing her acting career if she hasn't had any success. The book follows Franny through various escapades in acting class, commercial auditions, meetings with agents, even a movie premiere, and follows her ups and downs in her career and her romantic life. Things don't work out the way Franny expects them to, and yet everything comes together exactly as it should.
The book's chapters are punctuated by handwritten entries in Franny's day planner, complete with doodles, grocery lists, and a mileage log for her daily runs. These pages embody Franny's quirky, self-deprecating character (not unlike Graham's character on the TV show Gilmore Girls). Graham has given Franny a wry, humorous voice, and Franny always comes up with snappy one-liners, even if she’s feeling overwhelmed by awkward situations. She’s an endearing character, someone I’d like to hang out with. Franny is much more courageous and talented than she’s willing to acknowledge, and I went through the novel cheering her on. Pick up this book and you probably will too!Add a comment
Pick of the Week: The Husband's Secret
At the beginning of The Husband's Secret, Liane Moriarty recalls the Greek myth of poor Pandora, who couldn't resist opening a jar (yes, it was a jar, not a box) and releasing all the evils of the world. The author then brilliantly examines what her characters face when the proverbial jar is opened.
Moriarty's Pandora is Cecelia Fitzpatrick, who can't resist opening a letter she finds hidden in her attic written by her husband, John-Paul. The envelope instructs her to open it upon John-Paul's death.
At first Cecelia resists the temptation, but then succumbs, and must deal with the consequences of her husband's terrible secret. The letter will not only threaten the happiness of her marriage and family, but will also impact two other women, Tess and Rachel.
Filled with suspense, humor and complexity, The Husband's Secret is a real page turner. Highly recommended.
Pick of the Week: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Australian author Hannah Kent’s debut novel, Burial Rites, is a grim, heart-wrenching tale inspired by a true story from 1829.
When Agnes Magnusdottir is sentenced to death in rural Iceland for murdering two men, a farming family is forced to take her in while she awaits her execution.
The family naturally is horrified at the prospects of sleeping and eating next to a murderer. The only person who initially shows her kindness is an assistant minister who is assigned to give her spiritual guidance in her final days. But as the weeks pass by, the farm family learns more about Agnes’ side of what happened on the fatal night that claimed two lives.
Burial Rites is beautifully written and portrays the tough existence farmers had at the time. Kent adeptly imagines what it might be like facing a death sentence. Agnes is an unforgettable, tragic character who will stay with me for a long time.
Pick of the Week: A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
This book is like a punch in the gut: it hits you unexpectedly, and it hurts. And yet I couldn’t put it down. I’d been meaning to read it since it was published to huge critical acclaim a year ago, just because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Now I understand. I listened to the audiobook, and it was outstanding. The story is told from three points of view – Jess Hall, a nine-year-old boy; Adelaide Lile, an elderly midwife; and Clem Barefield, the town sheriff. Three different readers performed these roles, and their accents and inflection seemed so authentic that they transported you right back to the “scene of the crime.”
And there was definitely a crime scene in this book. Christopher, Jess’s mute older brother, dies mysteriously in a healing ritual in his rural North Carolina church. The publisher calls this book a “literary thriller,” and while it’s clear early on who committed the crime and why, the suspense lies more in how things will resolve themselves. The murder sets in motion a chain of events that will change the characters’ lives forever. Will Jess’s father become like his own violent, alcoholic father? Will Clem Barefield be able to separate these tragic events from those he’s experienced in his past?
This book touches on many of the darkest aspects of the human experience. It makes you feel the wrenching hopelessness of loss, and the anger and frustration that gets passed down through generations. It also portrays the insularity of small rural towns, where secrecy still reigns, and where people see only what they choose to and look the other way in order to protect their own. And yet, through all the anger and grief in this book, there is still love – sometimes misplaced, sometimes destructive, but achingly real. This is a stunning, powerful novel.