The Ice House by Laura Lee Smith

The Ice House

From a writer who’s been praised for her “intelligence, heart, wit” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls), The Ice House follows the beleaguered MacKinnons as they weather the possible loss of the family business, a serious medical diagnosis, and the slings and arrows of familial discord.

Johnny MacKinnon might be on the verge of losing it all. The ice factory he married into, which he’s run for decades, is facing devastating OSHA fines following a mysterious accident and may have to close. The only hope for Johnny’s livelihood is that someone in the community saw something, but no one seems to be coming forward. He hasn’t spoken to his son Corran back in Scotland since Corran’s heroin addiction finally drove Johnny to the breaking point. And now, after a collapse on the factory floor, it appears Johnny may have a brain tumor. Johnny’s been ordered to take it easy, but in some ways, he thinks, what’s left to lose? This may be his last chance to bridge the gap with Corran–and to have any sort of relationship with the baby granddaughter he’s never met.

Witty and heartbreaking by turns, The Ice House is a vibrant portrait of multifaceted, exquisitely human characters that readers will not soon forget. It firmly establishes Laura Lee Smith as a gifted voice in American fiction

I have to admit there were a few times I put this one down. Although the story was a good one. With themes of family, forgiveness, second chances and more, the characters were real and flawed. To be honest the only one I cared about was Chemal.

There was a point in the story where all of the bad blood between father and son could have been mended with apologies, but Pauline never mentions it. No one was really talking to anyone on a deep level. And I can’t count how many words were a mile long and left one looking for a thesaurus!

For me these characters and the story were rather surface deep. But I will definitely try another of the authors works.

Netgalley/Grove Press   Dec. 05, 20017

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg (Random House)

The Story of Arthur Truluv

A beautiful, life-affirming novel about a remarkably loving man who creates for himself and others second chances at happiness.

A moving novel about three people who find their way back from loss and loneliness to a different kind of happiness. Arthur, a widower, meets Maddy, a troubled teenage girl who is avoiding school by hiding out at the cemetery, where Arthur goes every day for lunch to have imaginary conversations with his late wife, and think about the lives of others. The two strike up a friendship that draws them out of isolation. Maddy gives Arthur the name Truluv, for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. With Arthur’s nosy neighbor Lucille, they create a loving and unconventional family, proving that life’s most precious moments are sweeter when shared.

This was a charming and moving story of Arthur, a recent widower in his 80’s who meets a 17/18-year-old Maddy. A girl without a mother and a distant father. Maddy is a smart young lady but falls for an unsavory young man. When she turns up pregnant her fathers reaction leads to a fracture in their already strained relationship.

Maddy finds solace at the cemetery. Sitting peacefully in the tree line watching and listening. When Arthur, who visits his wife’s grave every day to lunch with her, sees Maddy he strikes up a conversation that leads to an unlikely friendship.

Arthur has never been an outgoing person. But he tries to be neighborly to Lucille, his elderly neighbor.

Three people feeling alone in the world. Three people who change each others worlds just by being there. By filling holes left by the ones they loved. Proving that a family is not necessarily the people you are related to but the people you relate to.

This was a charming story of hope, love, and family. I enjoyed it immensely.

Netgalley/Random House    November 21, 2017

The Charm Bracelet by Viola Shipman

The Charm Bracelet

I was very surprised to learn that Viola Shipman is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning writer. He chose his Grandmother’s name to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel. According to the author page he is already at work on his second “heirloom” novel, which should be out in 2017.

Through an heirloom charm bracelet, 3 generations of women will rediscover how important family is and how each charm on their bracelets have impacted their lives.

Every year, on her birthday, Lolly’s mother gave her a charm, along with a small piece of advice that there is nothing more important than keeping family memories alive, and that Lolly’s charm bracelet would be a constant reminder of that love.

Now 70 years old and starting to forget things, Lolly knows her time is running out to reconnect with her daughter, Arden and her granddaughter, Lauren whose lives have become too busy for her and her stories.

When Arden and Lauren come home to Scoops, Michigan, to check on Lolly and spend some time with her during the long Memorial Day weekend they all will find their way closer to not only each other, but to finding the joy, love, and faith in life that they have lost.
The past and the present are remembered and told through each of the charms on Lolly’s bracelet.

The minute I saw this book I wanted it. It was the charm bracelet for me. Being from Southern Georgia, getting your first charm bracelet at age 10 is a high point. After that every birthday, holiday and special occasion is marked by the gift of a charm. My mother’s bracelet rests in her jewelry box now, too heavy for her delicate wrist. Every charm has a story just as Lolly’s did.

I thought this was a charming story of family, love, and forgiveness. A story of listening and really hearing the generations that have come before you. Of seeing our own mothers as real people who still have a lot of life, love and wisdom to impart to us. Wisdom that we will pass on to our own daughters.

I laughed and cried and then read some more and then I read it again. And still cried.

Great Book Club selection as well as a great summer read!