26-29 books finished in 2016: Neopolitan Novels

26 books finished in 2016

I can’t talk about these books individually.

Partially because I read them all in a row, and would find it difficult to remember the divisions. (Though, I do think they were well-structured and well-divided, breaking up their lives into ages/stages.)

But mostly, I won’t talk about them separately because I can’t imagine that anyone could read just one. (Ferrente is particularly sneaky about the break between books one and two, creating a VERY dramatic, and very satisfying, cliffhanger.)

27 books finished in 2016

READ THESE BOOKS. You will enjoy them.

You might enjoy them for the dramatic moments which are far more violent (and perhaps more satisfying) than the dramatic moments you enjoy in Jane Austen novels.

You might enjoy the way one woman uses knowledge as power, and pursues an education as a way to get out of the rough neighborhood she grew up in.

You might enjoy the way another women uses knowledge as power, foregoing school, but mastering new trades and dominating in each field.

You might enjoy one character being HAUNTED, for their entire life, by the belief that someone else is smarter/stronger/better than they are, and the only reason the haunted character is successful is that the other has chosen not to compete with them.

28 books finished in 2016

Ultimately, this book is about two woman who grow up together, and the ways they complement and compete with each other throughout life. It’s written from the perspective of one, with occasional glimpses into the mind of the other, and that adds SO MUCH to the mystery/intrigue of their relationship.

But it was also about Naples, about Italy, about the ways they are shaped and change over the course of 50 or so years. And it so beautifully describes the transition from child to spouse to parent to grandparent, and I loved the varying levels of attention given to each which probably coincides with the amount of drama one is willing to put up with at each age.

29 books finished in 2016

I rushed through the first two books, and couldn’t put down the third. By the fourth, however, I was really stretching it out. I set aside the last half, the last 100 pages, the last 20 pages even, because I wasn’t willing to accept that it would be over. My only hope/comfort is that Elena Ferrente would decide to release another set of novels, this time from the perspective of the second friend.

25 books finished in 2016: Scary Close

25 books finished in 2016

So I’m sitting at home discussing relationships with a housemate – specifically how I think every successful relationship is nothing short of a miracle – and she says, “You need to read Scary Close. I want you to read Scary Close. I don’t own it, but I want to buy it RIGHT NOW so I can loan it to you.” I laughed at her and tried to talk her out of such absurdity, but she would NOT be persuaded. Our conversation had to stop so she could run to the local bookstore and purchase the book.

It was only appropriate that I read most of this book in one sitting, the same night she brought it home.

Donald Miller disclaimer: I both enjoy his confessional, relatable writing style AND find his name dropping and self-depreciation to be exhausting. This book, thankfully, lived mostly in the vulnerable, confessional, “let me tell you about this particular failure of mine and the things I have learned on the path toward healthy relationships” realm.

finding that place where
emotionally healthy
relationships live


24 books finished in 2016: The Bluest Eye

24 books finished in 2016

Have you noticed that I am FULLY on Team Toni Morrison at this point? Because I am, and now I can’t get my hands on her books fast enough.

Thank you to the friends who loaned this book to me when I was losing it over the ghost in Beloved, for KNOWING that I would need to read another book of hers IMMEDIATELY.

Another amazingly creepy book right here. Which basically starts with, “Hey sister, remember that summer our flowers didn’t grow and Pecola was pregnant with her daddy’s baby? That was One Crazy Summer.” I love the boldness of that, the confidence that she doesn’t have to build up to a terrifying reveal, that she can tell us FROM THE BEGINNING what horrors we are going to face, and then show us how to have compassion for every single person in the story.

innocence stolen
a broken way of living
all that they can claim

23 books finished in 2016: Beloved

23 books finished in 2016


I’d never read this book, and it felt like a significant education failure. (Even more so when I realized that the story takes place in my home state!)

But the best thing about this book is that, every time I told people I was about to read Beloved, they’d groan in a way that was difficult to interpret. They wouldn’t elaborate, perhaps for fear of spoiling the story? It left me with this fear that the book was going to be really dense, difficult to read, gruelingly sad, or that I’d feel a significant amount of White Guilt while reading.

I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR A GHOST STORY! I was also not prepared to be so thoroughly entertained by this creepy ghost story. Oh my goodness, the tension in this book is palpable, and the direction of the story was so delightfully unexpected. I mean, yes, this is a terribly sad story about HORRIBLE things that actual humans have done to other humans and is an accurate representation of the effects of those horrors, but I LOVED the physical manifestation, the literal physical manifestation of a ghost from the past, and the hope and vulnerability that comes with that hope.

Oh man, this book was so horrific and terrific and hilarious and beautiful and deep and I don’t know if I would have appreciated all of that back in high school but I wish someone had tried to show me how.

compelling story,
pairs these two horrible things:
slavery and ghosts