Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
Several turning points in Willa’s life are described, from age 11 to 61, with the largest part set in the present. Willa, to her husband Peter’s dismay, agrees to fly from Tucson to Baltimore when her son’s ex-girlfriend Denise is injured and a neighbor is looking for someone to take care of Cheryl, Denise’s daughter. Willa has always been agreeable and responsible. At age 11 she coped with her mother’s sudden absence, next staying quiet on a scary plane ride with her college boyfriend, then reacting to being abruptly widowed. Willa remarries and doesn’t realize her grown sons dislike Peter, who is rather critical and calls Willa “Little One”. In a small house in Baltimore, Willa gradually spreads her wings, feeling welcome in the quirky neighborhood, and adored by 9-year-old Cheryl, who likes to bake, and her dog Airplane. I thoroughly enjoyed this engaging, bittersweet yet hopeful novel of renewal.
Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles
Cameron Harris, a young veteran who was paralyzed in Afghanistan, is visiting the local convenience store with his sister Tanya. Suddenly, he stands up and walks. Is it a miracle? Does it matter if it’s a miracle, and what does his regained health mean for Cameron, Tanya, and the Vietnamese American owners of the convenience store? The Vatican investigates a possible miracle, while Janice, Cameron’s doctor at the VA, struggles to understand what might have happened medically, and a reality TV producer comes calling. Tourists start visiting Biloxi to see the spot in the parking lot where Cameron first walked. We learn about Cameron and Tanya’s family, how Hurricane Katrina affected them, and why Cameron stopped playing football and enlisted in the Army. The siblings are stunned to find themselves being filmed for television, and Cameron doesn’t want to talk about his past or the secrets he’s hiding, especially from his time in Afghanistan. Witty and engaging, though not very fast paced, this contemporary novel is a thought-provoking read.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This is an absorbing novel about two very different families in the planned community of Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. Set in 1998, the Richardsons and their four children seem to have everything, but it’s their house in flames as the book opens, with one of their children suspected of arson. 11 months earlier, Elena Richardson rented a small house to artist Mia and her teen daughter Pearl. Mia and Pearl are used to moving frequently, fitting all their belongings in a VW Rabbit, buying clothes and furniture at thrift stores. Izzy Richardson spends time with Mia, wanting to learn how she makes her unusual photographs. Pearl is befriended by Moody Richardson, and is fascinated by his older siblings, Lexie and Trip. Full of secrets gradually revealed, this is a story about mothers and daughters, and different paths to motherhood. Adoption, surrogacy, unwanted pregnancy, and premature birth are all covered here. Reporter Elena’s friend is hoping to adopt an abandoned Chinese American baby, whose birth mother works with Mia at a Chinese restaurant. Everything is connected, and the author gradually peels back the layers of the characters, dazzling and sometimes stunning the reader. Deservedly popular, this is a memorable and compelling read.