Countdown – My Favorite Reads of 2020 – 4, 3, 2…1!

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

This mythical, epic American opus follows the lives of brother and sister Maeve and Danny Conroy. They spin through their mansion feeling as if nothing in the world can hurt them, and it can’t, until their mother leaves. They soon learn that their father cares more about his work in real estate, and the buildings that represent his work than he does about anything else. He marries a much younger woman who moves into the house with her two young daughters and thus begins infighting, staking claim for the home and it’s traditions and most signifigantly, the battle for the love of the father.

The second half of the book follows Danny and Maeve into adulthood. Their pathways through school and love, throught turmoils and joy. The house is always looming as a symbol of what was and what could be, it is the very embodiment of their American dreams. I listened to the audiobook, read by Tom Hanks. His voice was the perfect match to the story, which is written from Danny’s perspective.

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

The prequel to the famous novel, and perhaps even more famous film, Practical Magic, Magic Lessons tells the origins of the Owens family. In the 1600’s Maria Owens was abandoned in England as a baby. Hannah takes her in and teaches her all about herbs, crystals, spells and love. She encourages Maria to be true to herself and to practice the art of magic, but to never dabble in the dark arts. The infamous curse on the men who love the Owens women is cast in this book and the fate of the Owens women is set with it. Chock-ful of enchanting and fascinating women who live with courage and bravado and lush descriptions of the homes, clothes and men who bind them, each page holds a lovely turn of phrase, or unexpected twist of nature. Anywho who enjoys the escapism of the lifestyle of a witch, or who wonders if there may have been any warrant to the Salem massacres will certainly enjoy this chocolate truffle of a read.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Benett

Sitting high atop most top 10 reads list for 2020, The Vanishing Half is a stunner. It is the story of identical, light-skinned black twin sisters who grow up in a predominantly black town in the Southern USA. One sister chooses to pass as white. She lives an exotic life as a performer. She falls in love with a woman in transition to becoming a man and they lead a tumultuous and passionate life. Meanwhile, her sister remains in the home town. Their stories are interwoven by era and family secrets are revealed, hidden and confronted. I feel that the summary on GoodReads states it best: “The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origin.”

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

I have stalled on writing about Untamed because it has such a tremendous, healing and inspiring impact on my life, that I want to be sure to give it justice. Glennon Doyle, writes about her personal transformation from a woman in a traditional family with a traditional marriage to a divorcee, in love with and ultimately married to a woman. She unwraps the origin of tradition and the false messages that staying in unhealthy situations is always the noble path. The indoctrination of women starts at a young age. Doyle proposes that at 10 years old, she was asked by the world to sit down, be quiet and follow the rule of order. Young girls are taught to express feelings a specific way, act a certain way, believe, love and fear certain people. This book, includes tips of how to break free from those binds, and how to be true to yourself. Perhaps the most written in, flagged and dog-eared book I’ve ever owned, Untamed has been a treasure that I have returned to regularly. Every book club I’m in is discussing it and I have tried to share as many copies with friends as I can afford to spread around. Ending with the words first made famous by Sylvia Plath, “I am. I am. I am,” women can seek new ideas, in the safe space of this book.

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