This is a witty and engaging contemporary family saga set in a Hudson Valley town in New York. The family members featured are Astrid, who takes a long look at her life after the sudden death of an acquaintance, her three children and oldest grandchild. Was Astrid a good enough parent to Elliott, Porter, and Nicky after the early death of their father? Is it time to tell them about her new love interest? Will an extended visit from granddaughter Cecelia, 13, be a chance to start over? Everyone here is at a turning point, including single and pregnant Porter, who raises dairy goats, Elliot deciding what business is best for a building he’s secretly bought on the downtown roundabout, and Cecelia starting school with only one new friend, August. Realistically flawed yet likeable characters make for a memorable read. Readalikes include Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel, Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry, Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, and The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo. This will be the library’s June book discussion selection.
Mackenzie Dienes, winemaker at her mother-in-law’s winery, Bel Après, has an enviable quality of life. She and Rhys have a lovely house on the family compound, and his sisters Stephanie and Four have been her good friends for over 16 years. The extended family shares a personal chef, and Mackenzie has an office at home as well as at the winery, and her own bedroom suite. It’s true that she and Rhys have been friends rather than lovers for several years, but shouldn’t that be enough? Her wines are highly valued, her nieces and nephews live nearby, there are regular family dinners, impromptu gatherings when someone bakes cookies, and weekly Girls’ Night. When matriarch Barbara gets engaged, Mackenzie and Rhys see their marriage in a new light, and she decides it’s time to start over, perhaps with her own winery. I enjoyed the rural Washington vineyard setting, the camaraderie of Mackenzie and her friends, and the theme of starting over, along with a hint of romance. I did find the story rather predictable, and the character of family matriarch Barbara was over-the-top unlikeable. This is a quick, compelling read, perfect for a long weekend. Readalikes include Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Davie, The Promise and New Hope by Robyn Carr, The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas, and the forthcoming Blush, by Jamie Brenner.
Workaholic Londoner Leena Cotton has a panic attack at work, and takes two months off. She ends up switching places with her grandmother Eileen, and moves to her cottage in a small Yorkshire village. The Cotton women even exchange phones and laptops so Leena won’t be tempted to work. Eileen, 79, is pretty happy but is having trouble finding romance in her small town. At Leena’s London flat, with two quirky roommates, she organizes a social club for seniors and has a fling or two, while also spying on Leena’s London boyfriend. Back in Hamleigh-in-Harksdale, Leena ends up on the May festival committee, befriending her grandmother’s grumpy neighbor Arnold, and plays Easter Bunny with the help of former classmate Jackson’s little girl. Both women have challenges adjusting to their new environments and neighbors, but relish their new projects and Leena learns to re-connect with her mother Marian, and start dealing with her grief over her sister’s recent death. Mixed grief and humor, with a strong sense of place and appealing, quirky characters. Grandmother Eileen is especially appealing, embracing life and love in London at 79. A light feel-good story that makes for an absorbing, enjoyable read.
Faith Frankel’s life is rather chaotic. Her boyfriend Stuart proposed with a ring made of red thread and set off to walk cross-country, posting frequent selfies in bars and with former girlfriends. Her father has left her mother and is painting faux Chagalls for bar mitzvahs. Faith is in some trouble at the private school where she works, supported only by coworker Nick Franconi. And the small house she’s impulsively purchased at a bargain price may have more history then she can handle, with one or more suspicious deaths. I enjoyed this frank and funny look at work, love, and family relationships, with great dialogue, appealing characters, and some very funny scenes. Enjoy!