Amy Clark

Great Reads for Moms: February ’11 Edition

Welcome to this month’s edition of great reads!  This month was a little slow for me, in terms of reading, as I have been doing a lot of knitting this month instead of reading. One of these days I will embrace the power of audio books, but for now I am content alternating between reading and knitting. I just restocked my book stack for next month’s reading list so I look forward to sharing more wonderful reads next month.

If you are looking for a little inspiration this new year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!

Just as a reminder, I read many more  books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of the month here. If you want to read more, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! My username is momadvice and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads. Don’t forget to make your own commitment towards a reading challenge this year!

Here are a few book ideas this month to add to your reading pile and I look forward to hearing what you are working on too!

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Being a huge fan of Lisa Genova’s, “Still Alice,” I could not wait to dive into her latest novel.  The novel chronicles the lives of Sarah & Bob Nickerson a couple that truly seems like they have everything. Sarah and Bob both have fabulous careers, their children seem to want for nothing, and they lead the lives of a typical busy family.

Sarah’s life is always filled with multitasking and balancing her career and family. As a mother, you can relate to Sarah’s difficulties balancing all of it in her life. Sarah is moving at the speed of light and is so busy multitasking that she awakes eight days after crashing her car on the way to work, and finds that her entire world has changed. Diagnosed with a condition called, “left neglect,” Sarah discovers that the impact of this car crash is more than she could ever imagine. Left neglect is a lesser known condition where the brain cannot process anything on the left side of the brain, including awareness of what is happening to the left of her own body.

Sarah struggles with physical therapy, desiring more than anything to get back to her fast-paced career and continuing to provide financially for her family. When her condition does not improve, her mother moves in to assist Sarah, a mother whose relationship that Sarah has lacked her entire life. Suddenly, Sarah is dependent on the help of her mother and others, when she has lived a life that is fiercely independent and is forced to put her career on hold until she can get better.

After a difficult medical journey, she discovers that there is more to life than her career and the importance of learning to slow down.  I loved that particular message and it served as a wonderful reminder that sometimes moving at the speed of light and the ability to multitask can take us away from the things we should most treasure.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard

After reading, “Labor Day” and “The Good Daughters,”  I was excited to read another book from Joyce Maynard. A girlfriend shared this read with me and I am so glad she did! The Usual Rules, published in 2004, was a wonderful and heartbreaking read about a family of those left behind after the tragic 9/11.

Wendy is just a typical thirteen year-old little girl who lives in Brooklyn with her mother, stepfather, and half-brother Louis. She is struggling with the things all thirteen year-old little girls do until her mother heads off to work over at The World Trade Center and never comes home again. Maynard beautifully captures every emotion that a family might go through from the moment they find out the building has been hit, as they hang fliers of their missing family member, to the realization that she really is not coming home.

Surprisingly unannounced and virtually unknown in Wendy’s world, her father shows up to take Wendy to live with him in California. Wendy uses this opportunity to leave behind the memories and heartache of her family home, to seek a new identity in a new state. With her father being unexperienced in his role as a father and more laid back than her mother & stepfather were, Wendy rebels against the good girl that she has always been. She begins skipping school and spending her days wandering around town, befriending an unlikely cast of characters, and spending her days at a bookstore instead of at school.

The book is filled with enchanting memories of Wendy’s amazing mother, a mother that I would strive to be, and the family that she left behind in Brooklyn. A beautifully told coming-of-age story is told where Wendy finds where her true home lies and finds love and acceptance can exist in two different places.

I could not put this book down, as heartbreaking as the story was, and it was a wonderful reminder of what being a family is all about. Don’t overlook this wonderful read!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Elizabeth Lerner was kidnapped and raped by serial killer, Water Bowman fifteen years earlier in her life. Elizabeth is the only victim of Walter’s that is not killed and remarkably escapes the experience relatively unscathed and is now leading a happy & normal life with her husband and two kids.  After living in London, the family returns to the US for her husband’s job and Eliza (formerly Elizabeth) receives an unexpected letter from Walter, who is now facing death row, that begins,  “I’d know you anywhere,” after running across Eliza’s picture in a newspaper article.

Walter desires to have a relationship with Eliza and through the help of an advocate who believes in Walter’s innocence, he has found a way to contact Eliza through letters. Eliza feels the safe world she has created for herself and her family is threatened to unravel if Walter tells anyone about her or what has happened as the letters and visits from his friend on the outside start to intrude in her life. With the threat of her safe life in jeopardy, she agrees to speak with Walter weekly about what happened, in hopes that her children and others will not find out what happened to her as a child.

The reader is taken through Eliza’s harrowing ordeal as the book flashes back to the incident fifteen years ago where Eliza is kidnapped for over a month’s time, and how she survives the ordeal with Walter.

Eliza continues to talk to Walter and consents to a visit with him when Walter dangles a carrot in front of Eliza that she just can’t refuse. He agrees that if Eliza meets with him, he can tell more about the other victims he has killed and it is that carrot that brings Eliza and Walter together again.

This book is a fast page turner that can easily be read in a day or two. The book would have gotten four stars from me if the ending had not fallen short, and if Eliza had been a character that I could have related to. Walter is perhaps the most interesting character in the story, and it was his story (rather than the victim’s) that really seemed to hold my attention.

Nominated as a Best Book of 2010 on Amazon, it has not deterred me from reading another book by Laura Lippman and definitely would make an interesting read for a book club discussion.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 1/2 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

The book opens with a tragedy when a bride and groom die in a car accident on the way to their wedding reception.  John & Becca are a modern-day Romeo & Juliet who come from two families from different sides of the tracks. John’s family is a hard-working Maine family that is rough around the edges. Becca’s family is filled with old money and they vacation in Maine during the summers. When John & Becca die, these two families are thrust together as they plan their funerals and cope with the tragedy of losing their children.

The book is divided into summers following the death and the reader experiences how each of the seven characters deal with the loss of their loved ones. Marriages are challenged, unlikely relationships are forged, grief is experienced, and the lives of Becca & John are celebrated in surprising ways.

This was a good solid read although I thought it was a book focused on character development rather than plot development since the truly pivotal moment in the plot starts within the opening chapter. This book is great for fans of Joyce Maynard or Anna Quindlen as the focus seems to be simply on character development following a family tragedy, which I find with those authors as well.

The book was really brought into fruition in the final two chapters with the beautiful Coda & ending thoughts on the struggles in a marriage.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 1/2 Stars out of 5 Stars)

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Not enough great reads for you? Check out our Books section of our site for monthly recommendations and ideas for making reading a priority again in your busy mom life!

Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead.  Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!

What has been in your book stack this month? Feel free to share your book recommendations or feedback on any of the books that have been mentioned above! I love getting new suggestions for my book pile!

Published March 01, 2011 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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