October has been an incredible month of reading for me. I flew through 3 books from my fall reading list and I am currently reading 3 more. I also devoured one of my MMD reading challenge picks. Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading…
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Susannah Cahalan’s memoir was my pick for ‘a book I previously abandoned’ for the MMD Reading Challenge. I read this book back in 2010, but I only made it halfway through. The story of a 24-year-old New York Post reporter’s horrifying descent into madness frightened me. But this time around, Cahalan’s story hooked me; I could not stop reading and it didn’t scare me as much. With no recollection of what happened to her, Cahalan depends on video footage from the hospital, the journals her father kept, and interviews with her doctors to piece together that missing month of her life. Incredibly brave and brilliantly-executed, I am happy I gave it a second chance. The film adaptation starring Chloë Grace Moretz premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September.
These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
My librarian recommended this page-turner from New York Times bestselling author Gudenkauf and it’s my favourite from the author so far. Allison is the perfect daughter and student. But her perfect world comes crashing down when she is sent to prison for a shocking crime. Her younger sister, Brynn, shoulders the burden of what really happened that night, and faces the whispers in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. Told from five different points of view, Gudenkauf skillfully explores the crushing weight of secrets on those who keep them and the devastating consequences on all involved when secrets are revealed. A taut, thought-provoking, lyrical, moving thriller; I read it from cover to cover in 8 hours. I can’t stop thinking about it. This would make a great book club pick.
I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
This debut historical novel is inspired by the more than 200 women who disguised themselves as men to fight in the Civil War. Newly married Rosetta Wakefield doesn’t want her husband, Jeremiah to enlist, but he joins up anyway, hoping to make enough money that they’ll be able to afford their own farm someday. Strong-willed Rosetta decides that her place is by her husband’s side so she cuts off her hair, dresses in shirt and pants, and volunteers as a Union soldier. Told in Rosetta’s powerful voice, this story captured my heart from page one. I laughed, cried, and rooted for Rosetta. McCabe’s prose is absolutely stunning and I hung onto each and every word. Beautiful, lyrical, heart-wrenching, unforgettable, and thoroughly researched; it’s one of the best historical novels I’ve ever read. Highly recommended.
Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf
Sarah Quinlan’s husband, Jack, has been haunted by the sudden death of his mother when he was a teenager, her body found in the cellar on their family farm. The case shook the sleepy farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, and for years Jack stayed away from home. But when he receives news that his beloved Aunt Julia has been in a horrible accident, Jack and Sarah are forced to return to his hometown. Upon arriving in Penny Gate, they are greeted by the family Jack left behind twenty years ago.
Gudenkauf does a masterful job of capturing the nuances of small-town life. While everyone knows everyone else and their business, can you ever truly know everything? Gudenkauf really dials up the suspense and I found myself glancing over my shoulder as I read (I am not kidding). A well-written, creepy story of closely-guarded family secrets that kept me turning the pages. I read this in one sitting. A friendly warning: Cancel all plans before picking up this book.
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
I spotted Lapena’s debut thriller on the staff picks’ table at Chapters Indigo and was immediately intrigued. Lapena considers the questions: How well do you know the couple next door? Or your husband? Or even–yourself? Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a gorgeous home in upstate New York, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one summer night, the couple decides to leave their six-month-old daughter home alone while they attend a dinner party next door. When they arrive home, their daughter is gone. Detective Rasbach questions the couple over and over and knows that they are hiding something and he will stop at nothing until he uncovers the truth. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.
Lapena explores issues of parenthood, postpartum depression, marital unfaithfulness, and family secrets. While I couldn’t stop reading (I read this in 8 hours), I found the story to be a bit too over the top in places and I felt very little connection to the characters. I wish Detective Rasbach’s character was fleshed out a bit more and there was more of a focus on the actual investigation.
Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente
Told in the most stunning prose, Valente’s debut is the story of a St. Louis high school shooting and its aftermath. Valente paints a vivid portrait of how those left behind cope: the four survivors who must put together the yearbook while attempting to process what they’ve been through, their parents, the families of the deceased, investigators, and the town as a whole. A lyrical, heart-wrenching, timely, and necessary read. The writing is so beautiful it hurts. I’m reading this one very, very slowly.
Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders
I’ve been telling everyone about this book. I am learning a ton and making notes. Enders does an incredible job of breaking down the science and I have a new-found respect for my gut. Smart, funny, and easy-to-digest. The accompanying illustrations are amazing. Who knew the gut could be so fascinating? I’m currently reading a library copy, but I plan on buying my own copy. It’s that good. A must-read!
Through the Glass by Shannon Moroney
This memoir has been on my reading list for two years and I’m happy I finally picked it up. Moroney, a high school teacher and guidance counsellor married her boyfriend of three years. One month into their marriage, her husband is arrested and charged with sexually assaulting and kidnapping two women. Moroney shares how she dealt with the loss of her husband, the publicity of a criminal investigation, the rejection and judgment from neighbours, friends, and colleagues, and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. I am halfway through and hoping to finish it this weekend.
What have you been reading this month?