We Are Water by Wally Lamb

“We are like water, aren’t we? We can be fluid, flexible when we have to be. But strong and destructive, too. And something else, I think to myself. Like water, we mostly follow the path of least resistance.”

We Are Water is a layered portrait of the modern American family. It centers on Anna Oh—wife and mother; outsider artist and lesbian bride-to-be—and the family relationships that are severed and mended as Anna moves through her life. Anna’s hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut serves as a quaint backdrop masking a history of personal trauma and racial tension. Anna’s turbulent past and transitional present intersect as each chapter is narrated by a different character: Orin, martyr and ex-husband; Andrew, Ariane, and Marissa, Anna’s dissimilar children; and Kent, Anna’s cousin and childhood tormenter.

We Are Water is more than the portrait of a broken American family. Alternating narrators spring between past and present to capture the emotional trauma that leads to the Oh family’s destruction. As readers begin to fully know the Oh Family their secrets peel away chapter by chapter unveiling the destructive nature of silence. We Are Water is a lengthy emotional upheaval demanding sympathy, disgust, and forgiveness. 

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The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

jacket art the beautiful mystery"'And a man's foes,' she read out loud, 'shall be they of his own household.'"

Throughout Louise Penny's award-winning mystery series, this Bible verse has been a constant theme, most significantly in The Beautiful Mystery. Chief Inspector Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir travel to a remote monastery populated by an order of monks who escaped the Inquisition and have lived in solitude for hundreds of years in the woods of Quebec, Canada. Gamache and Beauvoir’s mission is to solve the murder of the order’s choirmaster. With the suspect list limited to the other monks in the monastery, the hunt begins – slowly, painfully, as these men are not accustomed to outsiders. Two even more unexpected and unwelcomed guests heighten the anxiety for the inspectors and the monks, and for good reason. These men are heralds of chaos.

I had a bit of trouble connecting with the book at first, but that quickly changed. The monastic setting really does convey a cloistered feeling, making the characters seem a bit distant. Eventually, I found myself completely sucked into the facets of the central mystery and felt a growing sense of dread for my beloved Gamache and Beauvoir. The ending left me gasping, a little heart-broken, and immediately wanting more.

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Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

Cover of speaking from among the bones“’Dangerous killers on the loose!’ The words which every amateur sleuth lives in eternal hope of hearing.”

The irrepressible child chemist and detective, Flavia de Luce, is at it again in the fifth installment of the award-winning series that began with The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie. The town folk of Bishop’s Lacey, an English country village, are eagerly anticipating the unearthing of the bones of St. Tancred, the 500 year-dead patron saint of the village church. Flavia, as always, is ahead of the game and discovers the body of a much less saintly person instead – St. Tancred’s organist, Mr. Collicutt. With the help of her trusty bicycle, her chemistry lab, and her boundless tenacity, Flavia sets out to discover who would have wanted Mr. Collicutt dead and why.

I’ve loved every one of Bradley’s exceedingly charming, funny, and sharp mysteries, but this might be my new favorite. The central mystery is intriguing enough, but the real gems here are the secret of Flavia’s lost and presumed dead mother and the precarious hold Flavia’s family maintains on their ancestral home, Buckshaw. Of course, Flavia herself is dripping with mischief, charm, and mud, as is her bicycle, Gladys.

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