The #WritersRead theme for July was a masterwork or comp title. I have been struggling with comp titles for Sundays with Oliver, so picking a book to read for this month was hard. I polled friends and book club buddies and everyone who’d beta read for me. We all had long lists for one half of the story, but kept coming up blank for the other half. For Oliver’s half.
Eventually, I gathered a few author names and started searching library databases with keywords like midlife crisis, unemployed, middle age, and empty nest. One of the returned results was Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah.
The premise wasn’t an exact match, but sort of close, so I grabbed a copy of the book and started reading.
My only prior experience of Kristin Hannah was The Great Alone, which is at once magnificent and probably the most depressing book I’ve ever read. The beginning of Distant Shores lulled me into thinking this might not be so depressing, but as the distance between Elizabeth and Jackson increased, the more I felt as though I was having a root canal. Without anesthetic. The apparent dissolution of their marriage was long, protracted, and painful. There were times when I wanted to smack Jackson. I wanted to smack Elizabeth too. They needed to talk and listen. Or Elizabeth needed to talk, really talk, and Jack needed to listen with his head, not his ears.
Before you go thinking this was the most awful book ever, let me assure you it is not. The painful part was merely (hah!) a necessary (double-hah) prelude to the real meat of the story, which is these two figuring themselves out.
I’m not entirely sure what happens with a root canal, but my sort of vague understanding is that a rotten tooth has to be pulled out and the area cleaned so that shiny new tooth can be slotted back in. Elizabeth and Jackson had to go through the painful part, dragging the reader along for the ride, so that when they got to the cleaning part, and the shiny new tooth part, we were all right there. You know how when something hurts and then the medicine kicks in and it doesn’t hurt anymore and you can’t quite believe how good not being in pain feels? That. That’s the point we all needed to get to and Kristin Hannah is a marvel and writing from here to there. I was a wreck by the time I turned the last page.
As far as being a comp title–eh, maybe. There were some parallels but it’s not really a good fit. If I ever do write another of the stories in my notebook, however, Distant Shores will the perfect reference.
Other Notable Reads for July
Check, Please! Book 1: # Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu is pretty much the most adorable comic I have ever read. I devoured the online version and then ordered the books (there are two volumes) and read it from start to finish all over again.
Bitty is wonderfully engaging, and the series includes as much hockey as it does haus drama, cooking, romance, and sheer fun. If you’re a fan of ANY of these things, you should read this series. I laughed out loud and sniffled several times. But the biggest feeling I got from these books was the ahh of satisfaction that comes from a story well-told.
The Joe Ledger series keeps getting better and Extinction Machine is a thrill ride. Crop circles on the White House lawn, UFOs, and human-alien hybrids? Sign me up.
I listened to a talk given by author Jonathan Maberry where he noted that a lot of his ideas for the Joe Ledger books come right from the news headlines. I want to know which headlines inspired this one! Speculation aside, though, this is another great entry into the series with some serious consequences for the DMS. As always, I’m looking forward to reading on.
The Bright Lands by John Fram was one of those books I didn’t remember putting on hold. Nevertheless, it showed up on my ereader one day and after scanning the blurb–football, a murder investigation, and small town Texas–I flipped to the first page and started reading. And kept reading. And kept reading.
I could not put this down, even when the story got weird and disturbing and weird again. Talk about intense. Like, a mouthful of sour skittles followed by a swig of Dr. Pepper intense. And I loved every word.
What really separates this book from similar titles (I mean, football, Texas, murder… it’s been done) was the characters. And the premise. The premise is f*cking disturbing. But it was the characters who kept me turning the pages because I had to know who they were and who they’d turn out to be. I’ll definitely be looking for more from this author.
What can I say about Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb that could possibly do the book justice? You get to a point in a long series where book reviews are pointless. Instead, you simply tell other readers how the book made you feel. Where you cried, where you felt as though you’d been run over by a team of dragons. The one page that had you smiling beofre the soul-crushing agony crept back in.
I pretty much sobbed my way through the final five hours of the audiobook. While walking my neighborhood. My neighbors are used to the sight of the weeping walker by now.
But at after the final word, I did feel a sense of completeness. The book and the trilogy does have a good end, but as always, Hobb makes us take the long way there. For as satisfying as the conclusion to this trilogy is, though, I’m glad to know there is another Fitz and Fool trilogy out there.
Just have to wade through the Rain Wilds first.