I press novels into friends' hands and swap books with them. I chat about characters or plot a couple of times a week. I don't, however, write book reviews. Why? It's complicated.
Readers insert themselves into and may bend a theme, ever so slightly, to serve what they know to be true--or need to be true. We tweak characters and filter their actions or inactions through the sieve of our experiences. We don't mean to do this but can't help ourselves.
The good news: what we bring to a novel enriches our reading of it. The bad news: what we bring may result in a review of a book its author doesn't recognize.
I enjoy thrillers, paranormal stories, and frothy romances, but women's fiction is my go-to read. By WF, I mean stories about relationships in crisis, or families facing the kind of challenge that will shatter them or draw them closer. Give me sibling rivalry, mother and daughters who barely communicate, and father and sons who expect too much of each other.
Once upon a time, I told an acquaintance this was the kind of story I wanted to write. She groaned. "You mean a slice-of-life story?"
"Exactly." I was thrilled she'd grasped what I probably struggled to articulate.
"I hate those," she said. "I read for escape."
Hey, I read for escape, too, but just as we prefer different kinds of vacations (mountains for me, beach for you), we pick different escape routes.
The above is my roundabout way of letting you know what I hope to find in a book. That said, if you're a fan of slice-of-life stories, give Lucy Dillon's WALKING BACK TO HAPPINESS a read.
In it, author Dillon introduces us to Juliet Falconer, a young widow who is pushed by her mother into taking the first baby steps past grief. After those first steps, Juliet manages to limit her mother's interference and wobbles mostly forward. Her sister, meanwhile, struggles to maintain a façade of married bliss and uber-competent motherhood. She doesn't share her growing unhappiness because she's sure the pain of Juliet's widowhood trumps what she's going through.
If the above sounds grim, know Juliet has a self-deprecating sense of humor and entertaining if exasperating next-door neighbors, including a clutch of children without boundaries. There's also an intriguing rock-group tour manager, and Minton, a dog so receptive to Juliet's moods, he makes Lassie appear one-dimensional.
I trudged back to happiness with Juliet. More tellingly, when I finished the book, I longed to wipe my memory clean and read it all over again.
Do you have a go-to genre? Have you ever wanted to wipe your memory clean and reread a book? Got a fave right now? What is it?