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Marianne’s Pick of the Week: How to Read a Book by Monica Wood


Book Cover

“Books won’t solve my problems, Harriet.”  

“No, but they give your problems perspective. They allow your problems to breathe.”  – Monica Wood, How to Read a Book 

Chances are if you are a regular library visitor that you are a booklover. I know that I love books. They provide not only an escape, but a way to develop empathy; to live other people’s experiences; to travel to foreign lands; to run amok in different eras. Books expand our minds and our lives.  

How to Read a Book is a story of second chances; redemption and the secrets and lies that we tell ourselves and others. Violet Powell is a young woman imprisoned for a drunk driving offense that resulted in the death of a kindergarten teacher. Harriet Larson is a widowed, retired English teacher leading a weekly book club in the women’s penitentiary where Violet is serving her sentence. And Frank Daigle is a retired machinist who works as a handy man at a local bookstore and is the husband of the woman Violet accidentally killed.  

Violet is released from prison and is dropped off by her older sister (who wants nothing to do with her) in Portland, Maine, home to Harriet and Frank. Violet wanders into the bookstore where Frank works and Harriet is picking new books for her book club. Frank sees Violet and experiences a meltdown (not for reasons one would think). Harriet comes to the rescue and helps Violet secure a job at the local university studying parrots (who knew they were brilliant and hilarious?). Frank and Harriet begin a romance which helps Frank come to terms with his not so perfect marriage. And the three form a friendship with Harriet and Frank acting as Violet’s parents.  

As she lives on the “outside” Violet faces a host of problems and issues, including an ill-advised romance and an ex-boyfriend dilemma. Harriet and Frank’s relationship blossoms, proving that retirement does not mean finished with love or life. I found myself empathizing with these characters and rooting for them; hoping that they could give themselves the time and space to breathe.  

A heartwarming tale of found family and forgiveness, that proves again the beauty of books and what they offer – a chance to begin again every time we open a new book. Pick up a copy of How to Read a Book if you were a fan of Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt or A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Bachman. And remember to breathe.  


Categories: Books and More

Tags: Books and More

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