FAYE DASEN: Looking Back at Favorite Books From 2008
In this column, I am paying a return visit to my favorite books of 2008. I hope some of the readers like them as well.
The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes
By Diane Chamberlain
Mira, 2008, $13.95
Oh, my gosh, this was a wonderful book. I hated to put it down! The first chapter ends: "Corinne stood next to him, clutching his arm, as her mother cleared her throat.
"'Timothy Gleason is not guilty of murdering Genevieve Russell,' she said. 'And I can prove it because I was there.'"
And the reader is hooked right there. We have to know the whole story, which is told from the perspectives of CeeCee and her daughter, Corinne -- who is really not her daughter at all. The book is set in North Carolina and Virginia, so many of the locales are familiar.
I don't want to give away the story here. Suffice it to say that I loved this book.
Chamberlain is the author of 16 books, including the Keeper of the Light trilogy, and lives in North Carolina.
Her next book, which came out in June, also made my list of favorites.
Before the Storm
By Diane Chamberlain
Mira, 2008, $13.95
I can never put down one of Chamberlain's novels once I start reading. Maybe one day I'll learn not to open the book at bedtime!
Laurel Lockwood is the mother of two children, 15-year-old Andy, who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder due to the fact that she was drinking during her pregnancy, and Maggie, his older sister. Laurel, now a nurse, has pretty much gotten her life together.
She is over-protective of Andy due to his problems, but has started allowing him a bit of freedom. When a fire breaks out in the church as a youth group meets, Andy is actually credited with saving some people. The fire is determined to be arson, and then Andy comes under suspicion.
Meanwhile Maggie, who has always felt somewhat ignored by her mother, is involved with an older man. I loved the characters and the story. Luckily a sequel, "Secrets She Left Behind," is due out in June of this year.
Now You Know
By Susan Kelly
Pegasus, 2008, $24
Susan Kelly is a superb writer.
This story of Frances and Libba, who maintain their college friendship until the end, is poignant and compelling.
After graduation, Frances married and had children. Libba lived vicariously through Frances, soaking up every iota of information about her life -- and using it over the years in her novels. Frances' daughters resent the relationship between the two women, not to mention the fact that their childhood and teenage exploits were often the basis of scenes in Libba's books.
After their mother dies, the girls find that Frances has left their mountain cabin to Libba, who asks them to come and get anything they'd like to have. This offers them a chance to get reacquainted with one another as well as to learn things from Libba that they did not know.
This book was another that I wanted to read in one sitting. My only complaint is that Susan Kelly takes too long between books. I'm not sure when the next one is coming out.
By Nancy Horan
Ballantine, 2008, $14
This is one of the best novels I've read in many moons. When I picked it up and read the jacket, I thought, "I don't know if I'll like this or not, but I don't have anything else to read at lunch, so I guess I'll take a look." Boy, am I glad I did.
Horan based her book on the true story of renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and his mistress, Mamah (pronounced May-ma) Cheney. After years of research, she felt confident that she could create a fictionalized version of their romance.
Mamah, a wife and mother, meets Frank when she and her husband hire him to design a new home for them in the Chicago area. As Mamah and Frank discuss the house plans, they also find that they are somewhat kindred souls, but it's only later that they move on to a more physical relationship. There is no way that Frank's wife will give him a divorce, so the affair remains clandestine.
Eventually though, Mamah leaves behind her husband and children to follow Frank to Italy. (All of this takes place in the early 1900s, when folks weren't so forgiving of men who left their spouses, much less women who dared to do so.) It's while in Europe that Mamah meets Swedish feminist Ellen Key, who happens to be a proponent of "free love."
Mamah is also discovering that Frank certainly has his faults, but she stands behind him
He convinces her to move back to the United States (by now she and her husband have divorced) and agrees to build a house near his mother and sisters, who live in Wisconsin. It is in that home that the complicated story comes to a close.
The bookclubs will definitely want to consider this book. Horan has done a wonderful job.
Where the River Ends
By Charles Martin
Broadway, 2008, $19.95
Charles Martin's novel pulled me in from the very first page.
It's heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.
Doss Michaels and Abbie Coleman would seem to have little in common. He's a fishing guide and part-time artist; she's a supermodel and the daughter of the senior senator from South Carolina. Needless to say, her upper crust Charleston family look down their noses at Doss.
That doesn't matter to Abbie, and she marries him anyway. Ten years roll by, and it seems as though they will live happily ever after -- until Abbie finds a lump in her breast, leading to four years of grueling treatments.
Doss, who refuses to admit that Abbie might not make it, decides to fulfill a promise he had made her years before. They pack up and leave in the middle of the night (because of her father) and take off on a 130-mile trip down the St. Mary's River.
Abbie's wish list is the focus of the trip, and the time she could share with Doss was precious. The two have some intriguing adventures, including trying to elude people sent by Abbie's father, who insists Abbie should be hospitalized, to track them down.
I can definitely see this book make the transition to the big screen, and I hope someone with the clout to make that happen gets hold of a copy.
Contact Faye Dasen at 693-2475 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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