Diametrically Opposed Books About “Girls,” by Ellen Ward
LILAC GIRLS by York Times Bestseller List has already declared Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel a book to be reckoned with. But let me add that, in the opinion of this bookseller, LILAC GIRLS is one of the finest books I’ve read all year.
Expertly told from the point of view of three women who experienced the holocaust in different ways, you cannot help but be drawn into their stories. The American, Carolyn Ferriday, and the German doctor, Herta Oberhauser, are historical characters; their backgrounds have been meticulously researched by Kelly. The third story is fictitious, but all too real among the atrocities of war; in this case, Kasia, captured as a young girl, is the victim of medical experimentation at a concentration camp, Ravensbruck, an actual all-women’s camp known for hideous surgeries on its prisoners.
It’s a dark time in history, but much seems relevant to today’s highly charged political climate: xenophobia, propaganda, and a glaring naiveté to what is happening right in front of us. Still, Lilac Girls is oddly hopeful. In the end there is forgiveness, rebuilding and enduring love. We all know the story of the Holocaust and how it ends, but reading this award-worthy novel will give you sparks of enlightenment, contributing to an awareness that may keep us from repeating the past.
VINEGAR GIRL by Anne Tyler
In this thin volume, Anne Tyler does what she does best—develop quirky, loveable characters with lives trapped in the mundane. Whether it’s a mother walking down the beach and never coming back, or a businessman who writes travelogues for a living, Tyler’s characters are stuck in motion, defensive about their quicksand lives until they see freedom on the horizon.
Kate Battista is the Vinegar Girl, and Pyotr, her father’s lab assistant, is freedom, no matter how unattractively it’s packaged. Tyler’s novels are not so much surprising as they are pleasantly familiar, like catching up with a good friend you haven’t talked to in years. VINEGAR GIRL is a quick read with a satisfying story but nothing that will keep you up at night pondering its philosophical implications. What makes this Anne Tyler novel unique is that it is a modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. Those who enjoyed READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND will jump rightinto the plotline of VINEGAR GIRL. Signed first editions are available at FoxTale Book Shoppe.