The Course of Love: A Novel
by Alain de Botton
We all know the headiness and excitement of the early days of love. But what comes after? In Edinburgh, a couple, Rabih and Kirsten, fall in love. They get married, they have children—but no long-term relationship is as simple as “happily ever after.” The Course of Love explores what happens after the birth of love, what it takes to maintain, and what happens to our original ideals under the pressures of an average existence. We see, along with Rabih and Kirsten, the first flush of infatuation, the effortlessness of falling into romantic love, and the course of life thereafter. Interwoven with their story and its challenges is an overlay of philosophy—an annotation and a guide to what we are reading.
This should be required reading. For everyone. Period. — Jen Payne
by Chloe Benjamin
It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies inform their next five decades. A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.
While a bit predictable, the premise of this book is interesting, and you are certainly set-up for a good story from the very early pages. It wanders off a few times, puts you in some compromising positions with the characters, and trips on itself here and there, but overall it offered a new take on an old question and several distinct answers. — Jen Payne
Saving Fish from Drowning
by Amy Tan
San Francisco art patron Bibi Chen has planned a journey of the senses along the famed Burma Road for eleven lucky friends. But after her mysterious death, Bibi watches aghast from her ghostly perch as the travelers veer off her itinerary and embark on a trail paved with cultural gaffes and tribal curses, Buddhist illusions and romantic desires. On Christmas morning, the tourists cruise across a misty lake and disappear. With picaresque characters and mesmerizing imagery, Saving Fish from Drowning gives us a voice as idiosyncratic, sharp, and affectionate as the mothers of The Joy Luck Club. Bibi is the observant eye of human nature – the witness of good intentions and bad outcomes, of desperate souls and those who wish to save them. In the end, Tan takes her readers to that place in their own heart where hope is found.
I have had this book in my To Read pile for about 8 years. I never got much farther than 20 or 30 pages before losing focus/patience/track and setting it down. But it came highly recommended and I’ve loved so many of Tan’s books, I had to give this one last good effort. Turning the final page, I can say, it’s a great story told from a creative, fascinating point of view. And in that, it’s well worth the read. But unfortunately, that very point of view is what makes this story so cumbersome – too many characters, too much background information, and way too many sidetracks and side stories to ever really get a good foothold. — Jen Payne
“Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.” — President Clinton
Photo of President Bill Clinton by Gage Skidmore.