Do you remember how it felt to fall in love? The way you couldn’t wait to spend time with your beloved and how much you thought about them while you were apart? That’s the way I feel when I fall in love with a good book.
Wait! Before you stop reading and resume scrolling, give me a second to explain. This blog is NOT about romance novels or lighthearted chick-lit in which the heroine weathers a personal crisis and finds the man of her dreams in a beach house she just happens to inherit from a great aunt she never knew existed. The books I fall in love with are varied, but generally more substantive than your average Harlequin bodice ripper. I like memoir, historical fiction, some thrillers and anything by Barbara Kingsolver, Anna Quindlen, Sue Miller, Elizabeth Berg or Ann Tyler. But we’re talking about falling in love here, so in honor of Valentine’s Day, here are a few of the books I’ve recently enjoyed:
This Little Light: I read this fast-paced story in two sittings; it was that intense. Told through the very authentic voice of 16 year-old Rory, it takes place over 2 days in 2024. Rory and her bestie Fee are falsely accused of detonating a bomb at their school, as well as other heinous crimes. The author Lori Lansens skillfully weaves today’s hot-button issues into the tale, including religious conservatism, immigration, abortion rights and poverty. A LOT happened in the 48 hours I spent with Rory and Fee; I couldn’t put the book aside and didn’t want it to end. Kinda like being in love!
Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss: Unlike This Little Light, this collection of essays by New York Times opinion writer Margaret Renkl is a book to savor slowly and return to again and again. The prose is exquisite, as are the illustrations by the author’s brother, Billy Renkl. The essays weave together memories of Renkl’s family with observations of the natural world she inhabits in her neighborhood near Nashville. The essay After the Fall deals with grief. It is especially poignant to me after the recent loss of a dear friend. Renkl’s words of wisdom resonate with me and give me hope as I navigate this unfamiliar terrain:
“Here is what no one told me about grief: you inhabit it like a skin. Everywhere you go, you wear grief under your clothes. Everything you see, you see through it, like a film…you are the old ungrieving you, and you are also the new ruined you. You are both, and you will always be both. There is nothing to fear…walk out into the springtime and look: the birds welcome you…the flowers turn their faces to your face. The last of last year’s leaves, still damp in the shadows, smell ripe and faintly of fall.”
The Pull of the Stars: This novel takes place over three days in 1918. The book’s protagonist Julia Power is a nurse working in a Dublin hospital’s isolation maternity ward, caring for mothers stricken with the Spanish flu. An inexperienced volunteer changes Julia’s life amidst devastating illness and loss. Obviously, the juxtaposition of the Spanish flu pandemic and the current COVID-19 crisis made this book an intriguing read. But what really made me fall in love was Emma Donoghue’s skillful character development of Julia and Bridie, the young volunteer, and the way she so vividly portrayed the environment of an intercity hospital during a pandemic in the early 20th century. I will never again look at the stars from a rooftop without remembering Julia and Bridie.
These are just a few of the books I’ve fallen in love with lately. Other works include The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline, Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phedra Patrick (the 2021 One Book One Community selection), and A Good Neighborhood by Therese Fowler. These titles and so many others are waiting for you at the Dillsburg Area Public Library. Call or go to yorklibraries.org to reserve your copy, or come in and browse the shelves. Hopefully you too will fall in love with a good book (or six). Happy Valentine’s Day!