FAITHFUL by Alice Hoffman
There are certain books about which you discover, I needed to read this book at this very moment. Faithful is such a book. Shelby Richmond’s life has been derailed by a sudden tragedy for which she feels responsible, and the rest of this amazing novel is an atonement, a story of redemption and forgiveness, of moving forward in the most literal sense. It is raw and beautiful, not overly dramatic, but always honest. “She is vindictive, even when she’s the guilty party,” Hoffman writes. “Perhaps it’s always true that when you wreck your own life, you blame everyone else for your misfortune.” Shelby is a complicated character, pushing love away because she doesn’t deserve it, burying her feelings, shrinking into a pale, bald-headed, empty vessel. That’s what I took away, but the writing is too beautiful to be captured in these trite descriptions. At Alice Hoffman’s deft hand, Shelby Richmond is also worthy, understandable, honorable, a young girl set adrift, but one who will ultimately find her shoreline. I give nothing away by saying that Faithful is tragic, optimistic and highly recommended.
MY SWEET VIDALIA by Deborah Mantella
One of my favorite reads this summer, MY SWEET VIDALIA, has the most unique point-of-view since Death narrated The Book Thief. Though Vidalia Lee Kandal Jackson loses her unborn baby through an act of spousal abuse, Cieli Mae, the “determined spirit child,” will not leave her mother’s heart and psyche. She stays on with the poverty stricken young woman through successive births and abuses, giving advice and moral support to her “Sweet Vidalia.” Only an author as talented as Deborah Mantella could pull off this technique in such a seamless manner. Cieli Mae becomes a cherished confidante to her mother and a delightful character to the reader. You will root for this family and the colorful array of secondary characters too. The well-plotted story reminded me a little of FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFÉ with its southern charm and suspense. Kudos to Deborah Mantella. Can’t wait to see what she writes next!