Conversations With the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer
Everyone seems to be getting on with their lives except Maggie. At 26, she’s still serving coffee at The Beanery Coffee House, while her friends are getting married, having babies, and having real careers. Even Olivia, Maggie’s best friend from childhood, is getting married to the doctor with whom she lives. Maggie’s roommate? Her dog Solo (his name says it all). The man in Maggie’s life? Well there isn’t one, except the guy she has a crush on, Domenic, who works with her at the coffee shop as a bus boy.
I really enjoyed Conversations With the Fat Girl and found myself quite invested in Maggie, the 26 year old woman who’s been overweight her whole life and works at a coffee shop despite her education. This book touches on a range of issues that effect many people — weight, self esteem, the pursuit of happiness, childhood bullying, changing friendships, family dynamics…
I found the book dealt with all of these issues well and with some humour, which is something I love. The story was a bit predictable, but that was fine because there were so many touching moments and sparkles of self realization. It was a cozy read with someone who is learning about themselves and deciding what she wants for herself — and I loved watching Maggie figure it out. So many of us can probably relate on some level.
Maggie’s friendship with Olivia, her best friend from childhood who has had gastric bypass and is now engaged presented the perfect foil for the themes of the book. And the other employees at the coffee shop were fantastic in their supporting roles.
Overall, a nice, light, feel good read that has many relatable moments and lovely, engaging writing.
Thank you to Netgalley and Warner Books for the review copy.
Octavian Munroe is haunted by the life and death of his older brother in one of the most racially segregated cities in the country. Mina Rose has never quite fit in and wishes she was anything but white. Once lovers, now estranged, they both left St. Louis for fresh starts in the wake of grief and heartbreak.
In the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death and the awakening of the Black Lives Matter movement, Octavian and Mina travel homeward. The record shop where they fell in love as teenagers in the 1990s is closing for good, sparking a desire for closure of their own.
This raw, powerful story of love and loss reckons with how where you come from shapes even the most fleeting collisions between friends, neighbors, and strangers.
I loved this book and tore right through it. I love how the story used the record store as its touchstone for the book and the chapters were based around a mixed tape.
This is a powerful story of now and the past, of the characters as they are and as they look back on those formative teenaged years from where they are now. The book explores the characters figuring out what they want, what they like, what it means to be African American in a racially segregated neighbourhood.
There is the love story between Octavian and Mina Rose, there are friendships built around music and experience. The characters are wonderful, flawed, and are trying to find their place in the world and I was totally engaged with them. On its surface, the book is a coming of age story, but the looking back from their adult years makes the book so much more than that. There are wonderful friendships and bonding at the record store where the owner seems to know just what everyone needs.
The author does a fantastic job of captivating the reader and I highly recommend this book.
Thank you to Netgalley and Amberjack publishing for the review copy.
The Birth House by Ami McKay
The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of the Rare family. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing and a kitchen filled with herbs and folk remedies. During the turbulent years of World War I, Dora becomes the midwife’s apprentice. Together, they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives.
When Gilbert Thomas, a brash medical doctor, comes to Scots Bay with promises of fast, painless childbirth, some of the women begin to question Miss Babineau’s methods – and after Miss Babineau’s death, Dora is left to carry on alone. In the face of fierce opposition, she must summon all of her strength to protect the birthing traditions and wisdom that have been passed down to her.
Filled with details that are as compelling as they are surprising-childbirth in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, the prescribing of vibratory treatments to cure hysteria and a mysterious elixir called Beaver Brew- The Birth House is an unforgettable tale of the struggles women have faced to maintain control over their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the world of modern medicine.
I’m really torn by this book. I loved reading about midwifery, being immersed in the history, and the reactions to change. I enjoyed the beginning of this book when Dora was apprenticing to be a midwife and all of the parts with Mss Babineau and her journal. I like how the author wove the story by including letters, newspaper articles, and ads. It was clever. However, I found the book dragged for me after Dora decided to get married.
It is clear that McKay has done her research. I did find that she tended to put everything in, however, that she found interesting from that time and place. For example, it is highly unlikely that this young woman would have really helped with the Halifax explosion survivors and that section of the book didn’t really lead anywhere. The part that took place in Boston also seemed a bit contrived simply to give Dora that experience.
I love to think that Dora was as open minded as she was, for example, being feminist, a pacifist, and not homophobic, but it also didn’t feel that realistic.
But, I did like Dora. The women in her knitting circle were fantastic and the friendship the women showed each other was great.
Overall, I thought this was a good book, if a bit unfocused, and provided an interesting look at a pivotal time in Canadian history.
INGA Karlson died in a fire in New York in the 1930s, leaving behind three things: a phenomenally successful first novel, the scorched fragments of a second book— and a mystery that has captivated generations of readers.
Nearly fifty years later, Brisbane bookseller Caddie Walker is waiting in line to see a Karlson exhibition featuring the famous fragments when she meets a charismatic older woman.
The woman quotes a phrase from the Karlson fragments that Caddie knows does not exist—and yet to Caddie, who knows Inga Karlson’s work like she knows her name, it feels genuine.
Caddie is electrified. Jolted her from her sleepy, no-worries life in torpid 1980s Brisbane, she is driven to investigate: to find the clues that will unlock the greatest literary mystery of the twentieth century.
The Fragments tells 2 stories, separated by time and location, but are intertwined in an unexpected way.
Caddie grew up with and loved Inga Karlson’s one iconic novel. Inga died in a terrible fire before her second novel could be published. All that is left are some fragments. At an exhibit about Inga’s life and work, Caddie comes across an elderly woman who quotes a line from Inga’s work that does not appear in any of the existing fragments, thus the mystery begins. Caddie is sure that there is something going on and she works tirelessly to figure out the truth.
The novel alternates between Caddie’s life in present day Australia where she investigates what really happened to Inga, to the story of Rachel in America, a friend of Inga’s.
The story is lovely and I enjoyed learning about all of the women involved, from the shy Rachel, to the eccentric Inga, and the tormented Caddie. Their lives were woven together masterfully. The one thing that bothered me were Caddie’s decisions sometimes — they seemed strange and more designed to further the plot than feel authentic. However, the ending and good writing more than makes up for any shortfalls.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.