This month, I managed only one novel-length book due to the intensity of my teaching schedule and other commitments. As much as I would love to spend days lounging and reading, it’s just not in the cards at this time in my life– though, maybe I can sneak in a bit more of that in the summer, fingers crossed!
The novel I read was a historical fiction: “The Two Lives of Sara”, the sophomore novel of author Catherine Adel West. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but what can I say? This one lured me to its place on the library shelf with its intriguing collage-style artwork and the beautiful woman and flowers. The story itself is deeply poignant but fascinating. We learn early on that Sara King has led a difficult life, losing her mother at a young age and fleeing Chicago for Memphis with the thought to escape her past. She and her newborn son are welcomed in by “Mama Sugar”, owner of the popular boardinghouse The Scarlet Poplar, and Mama Sugar’s complicated, but (mostly) loving, family (there are some unfortunate, violent outliers). The story takes place in the 1960s and alludes to segregation and the fight for equal rights; though this doesn’t become a central theme of the story, readers see historic events incorporated fluidly through the experiences of the boarders at The Scarlet Poplar who mention the Freedom Riders, MLK Jr, and other Black figures of the time. We slowly discover more about Sara’s painful past as she learns to appreciate those in Memphis who have brought her into their own family. She falls in love with Jonas, a local teacher, and things seem to be changing for the better in her life.
While I really enjoyed the book overall, and I’m considering reading “Saving Ruby King”, another book by the same author, there are a few points that I think some readers may find difficult (others have voiced similar insight on Goodreads as well). One is that Sara is very rude to everyone throughout the book. I don’t think that’s enough to dismiss a character; people are rude in real life, too, obviously, so it’s realistic, but keep in mind that she is not a very likeable character if you’re a reader who prefers loveable character. Secondly, the book is very sad. There are moments of joy and laughter, but the book deals with topics like incest, rape, murder, and death. It does not have a happy ending. It is a more realistic ending, though, in fitting with Sara’s character. That being said, if you’re a reader who enjoys more realistic perspectives or engaging in thought-provoking topics like our human ability or inability to move on after difficulty, “The Two Lives of Sara” is an interesting read.
In honor of poetry month, I also read two poetry collections from amazing poets I met right here on WordPress!
First, I read “For the Girls” by our lovely poet D. Avery (on WordPress @shiftnshake), a compilation about cancer diagnosis, treatment, loss, and life afterward. It’s a short read that I was able to complete (somewhat ironically) while in the waiting room during 2 remission-related appointments this month. I really enjoyed the poems, especially the tributes to other survivors and to the ones who have been lost to cancer. The poem “Aftermath” especially stood out to me; I think it hits home with where I am at in my remission process. Here is a snippet: “there’s the aftermath and the math that came before/ the math beginning/ at conception/ studies in symmetry/ cell division/ beyond your perception/ dividing dividing/ doubling doubling/ whole greater than the sum of its parts”.
The other poetry collection I read was from our amazing poet Michelle Ayon Nayajas, or Mich, as she appears most often on WordPress. “It Ain’t Winning If Without You” includes many beautiful poems about love and overcoming difficulty. My favorite element besides the poetry were the little tidbits explaining different poetic forms throughout. One of my favorites from this collection was “Why?” Here is a little snippet: “i was sixteen when i read contemporary romance novels/ ready to love, ready to be loved/ but damn, my tender heart loathed the authors/ for making money, race, and education an issue/ when choosing a loved one/ oh, how my heart cried./ why can’t it be and why can’t they be together?/ two souls, two hearts separated by social status/ was it essential to be equally the same?”
I suspect I’ll have a bit more time for novels again in May as the semester winds down. I’m slowly making my way through my ever-growing reading list; however, it seems that every time I cross a book off my TBR list, it’s replaced with 3 or 4 more! Hah! A good problem to have, I believe. What have you all been reading lately?
6 thoughts on “April’s Reading List”
I struggled but with Lessons in Chemistry. It was interesting but I had trouble really getting into the story… Next on the list is my 5th and final attempt at War and Peace. I still haven’t been able to finish it but with every try I get farther so maybe this time I’ll finish it!!
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I only attempted War and Peace once when I was an overachieving English major trying to look smarter than I was 😅 and I didn’t make it far. That’s great that you have gone back to try again. You can do it!
I’ve been reading a lot of fun dragon books (usually in YA genre). I like what you’re reading, though. Have you ever read Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry? A great book in the genre of your book of Sara.
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Yes, I remember reading “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” back in middle school. I can’t remember a lot about the plot or characters, but I remember finding it interesting.
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I’ll be looking for The Two Lives Of Sara, sounds like an interesting read. I appreciate the suggestions 🙂😉😁
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It was an interesting one. It would make a great book club read!