Posts Tagged Tova Mirvis

STEELE PICKS: 12 BEST FICTION BOOKS of 2014

boy snow bird

1. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi [Riverhead]

clever, stunningly gorgeous novel about race.

daring ladies of lowell

2. The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott [Doubleday]

If you grew up in Massachusetts like me, you likely went on a Lowell Mill tour at some point during an elementary school or junior high field trip. I went twice because when my Aunt and cousins visited from Texas they wanted to go. While you rode on a boat along the Merrimack River listening to a guide speak about girls and young women leaving their families from all over New England to work at the Lowell mills it was easy enough to disassociate from it yet dreadful to think about the harsh conditions these women faced back in the 19th century.

Like the Salem witch trials the industrial revolution and bitter working conditions for Lowell mill girls happened essentially in my backyard and I feel particularly close to the plight of the mill girls depicted in this novel. It’s only the second five-star rating I’ve given to any book this year. Kate Alcott vibrantly brings the stories of the Lowell mill girls to the page as she creates strong, outspoken female characters enduring adverse situations that dare imagine and dispute better working and living situations.

complete review

everything i never

3. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng [Penguin Press]

Anything I write will never be enough to convey the power and magnificence of this debut novel.

complete review

fallout

4. Fallout by Sadie Jones [Harper]

Fallout revolves around Luke Kanowski, a young man with a mother living in a mental institution and a a former Polish POW father who remained in England after the war. Both parents rely tremendously on Luke. Living in a rustic northern town, Luke escapes the familial strain and dead-end choices through a passion for theatre. He reads everything and remains updated on all theatrical goings on. One night he meets aspiring producer Paul Driscoll and theater student Leigh Radley who will influence his future in myriad ways

complete review

visible city

5. Visible City by Tova Mirvis [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]

Author Tova Mirvis writes with a melancholy gorgeousness about connectivity and disparity. When we imagine others’ lives we never expect what we eventually discover to be true. Perfection masks insecurities. Contentment hides dissatisfaction. What is happiness? Our ideal is never another’s ideal. How something looks from afar rarely looks as virtuous once you start to delve into the grit and imperfections.

complete review

pioneer girl

6. Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen [Viking]

Author Bich Minh Nguyen writes about a Vietnamese-American family and its connection to the beloved American Ingalls-Wilder family as seen through the eyes of a savvy, inquisitive young woman. Almost everyone remembers reading the Little House on the Prairie books about Laura Ingalls and watching the television show.

complete review

love me back

7. Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce [Doubleday]

One of the best novels in a while about finding your way and developing a sense-of-self in your twenties.

review

garden of letters

8. The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman [Berkley Trade]

When I’m thinking about a novel for some time after reading it, I know it’s remarkable. Think you’ve heard all the stories about WWII. Think again. The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman focuses on the Italian Resistance. Elodie, a young student and cello player, becomes involved in the Italian Resistance when artists and teachers at her school become targets for Mussolini’s Fascist regime.

interview with Alyson Richman

dept of speculation

9. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill [Vintage]

impressively creative.

all days are night

10. All Days are Night by Peter Stamm [Other Press]

A popular television news reporter wakes up severely disfigured by a car accident. The novel beautifully traverses past and present. Stamm writes in an effectively laconic and melancholy style. He’s exploring appearances from various angles. It’s a gripping read about art and connection.

review

life drawing

11. Life Drawing by Robin Black [Random House]

stunning writing. brilliantly explores marriage in all its nuances.

boston girl

12. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant [Scribner]

This is the story of the education of Addie Baum. Jewish daughter to immigrant parents Addie grew up during the mid-1900s in a one-room tenement house in Boston. In telling Addie’s story, author Anita Diamant covers a lot of history: prohibition; 1920s flappers and artists; WWI; The Great Depression; illegal abortions, birth control and Margaret Sanger; the Spanish Flu; women’s education; women’s careers; journalism; civil rights. Like The Red Tent, Diamant depicts history through a feminist eye. Intelligent, resourceful and intellectually-curious Addie is a wonderful feminist character. I probably truly fell in love with this novel when Diamant mentioned Simmons College, my women’s college alma mater in Boston. At one point, Addie discusses her goal to attend college but that she fears many won’t accept her because she’s Jewish. [“There’s Simmons College,” I said. “They even accept the Irish if you can imagine.”]

complete review

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IN THE REALM: BEST BOOKS of 2014 [SO FAR]

daring ladies of lowell

The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott
–Lowell mill girls. a murder. riveting historical fiction.

everything i never

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
–heartbreaking exploration on race and identity in the 1970s.

JoannaSmithRakoff.jacket

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
–Rakoff makes her memoir about a year working at a literary agency in New York heartwarming, relatable and intriguing through exquisite writing.

fallout

Fallout by Sadie Jones
–fell in love with this book about a group of 20-somethings entangled with the theatre and each other’s lives in 1970s London.

boy snow bird

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
–stunning re-telling of a fairytale and examination of race.

visible city

Visible City by Tova Mirvis
–cool writing, intriguing premise. reflection on connectivity, relationships and urban dwelling.

pioneer girl

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen
–another wonderful novel about race. this time a young woman’s connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder via Vietnam.

Cured

Cured by Nathalia Holt
–Berlin patients. painstakingly researched and explained.

fallen beauty

Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck
–Robuck imagines the connection between poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and a seamstress in her small town. Robuck conducted impeccable research and allowed Millay’s vibrant spirit, sensuality and creative force to come forth on the page.

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book review: Visible City

visible city

Visible City by Tova Mirvis. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 2014). Contemporary fiction. Hardcover. 256 pages. ISBN13: 9780544047747.

In Visible City, Author Tova Mirvis writes with a melancholy gorgeousness about connectivity and disparity. When we imagine others’ lives we never expect what we eventually discover to be true. Perfection masks insecurities. Contentment hides dissatisfaction. What is happiness? Our ideal is never another’s ideal. How something looks from afar rarely looks as virtuous once you start to delve into the grit and imperfections.

The lives of three couples unexpectedly intersect in New York City.A young mother, Nina, watches the neighbors with her young son’s Fisher-Price binoculars. She imagines their perfect lives and how different they are from hers. As she gazes upon the older couple in the building across from hers she’s jealous at their seemingly contented existence as they read together on the couch. Another night she see a young couple engaging in passionate sex. Who are these people she wonders? As the weeks pass she ends up meeting her neighbors out on the streets in the neighborhood. Boundaries get crossed, intimacies shared and nothing’s the same again. No longer able to hide in their respective apartments, these people begin to reveal their true selves to varying degrees. Veneers stripped away, insecurities magnified and they all begin questioning their life choices.

Nina gave up being a lawyer when she had children but she never particularly enjoyed being an attorney. Her husband’s also an attorney. They met in law school. Lately he’s been interested in anything but the law. They rarely talk about it. Claudia’s been working on a book about a little-known stained glass artist for years. [“For years after, she had floated from college to college, holding various adjunct positions, always carrying with her the taste of failure.”] Her daughter Emma doesn’t think she wants to be in grad school anymore but is afraid to disappoint her mother. [“In the past, she had flitted from one passion to another; she might not have known what she wanted to do, but she hadn’t worried about it. The world was filled with possibilities, especially when you had parents who trusted every decision you made and were willing to support you through any adventure.”] Claudia’s husband and Emma’s father Leon is a therapist but can talk to his patients better than to his own wife and daughter.

Mirvis describes New York in wide angles and intricate details with a vibrant palate and consideration for its nuances. Exemplary writing. Lovely turns of phrases that make you pause to appreciate certain sentences such as: “He would live as most people did, perched between acceptance and resignation.” She writes fascinating, memorable (not always likeable) characters. She doesn’t seem compelled to write merely about the contented, satisfied and faultless. She can write beautifully about failures, near misses, regrets and second choices. Truly a wonderful novel.

RATING: *****/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from HMH.

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