One for the Books
Jessi Cape's Top Reads of 2015
Circling the Sun tops a list of novels featuring uncommon women
Reviewed by Jessi Cape, Fri., Jan. 1, 2016
This is dedicated to the one(s) I love ... but, due to time and space constraints, did not get to give a shout-out to in 2015.
Paula McLain's second work of historical fiction – her follow-up to The Paris Wife – is one of those rare finds that immediately begs to be re-read. The lovely language of Circling the Sun (Ballantine) unfurls the story of Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo, east to west, across the Atlantic and the first licensed female racehorse trainer in Kenya. Born in 1902 Britain, raised by her father in Kenya, she was also one-third of a fascinating love triangle with Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen (who, under the pen name Isak Dinesen, wrote Out of Africa), and there the novel finds its page-turning, remarkable core. Women can be wildly successful and fall in love, remember?
Next up, Edwidge Danticat (Breath, Eyes, Memory; The Farming of Bones) published her third YA novel, Untwine (Scholastic), a poignant story of twin sisters separated by a tragic car accident. The surviving girl's journey through grief sticks in the mind's eye for quite some time.
Adrienne Celt's first novel, The Daughters (Liveright), is a haunting, musical tale that weaves four generations of women together in operatic beauty.
Sarai Walker's debut, Dietland (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), came highly and frequently recommended (Jennifer Weiner included), but for some strange reason hasn't yet shot through the stratosphere. Once Plum Kettle's story takes a foreshadowed turn, her lonely life as an overweight replier to fan mail at a girls' magazine becomes entwined with a gripping (read: totally bonkers!) story of revolution, one hell-bent on blowing the lid off beauty standards and gender inequality in a razor-sharp and unapologetically bold feminist battle cry.
Rounding out the list with a therapeutic savasana is Elephant in the Dark (Scholastic), a beautifully illustrated, kid-friendly retelling of Rumi's "The Three Blind Men and the Elephant" by Mina Javaherbin and artist Eugene Yelchin. Finding our truths and recognizing perspective are imperative for readers of all ages.