Normal People by Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney

Normal People

This unassuming little book is anything but. NORMAL PEOPLE  by Sally Rooney is bound to be a force. Already chosen to win  the Costa Award for literature, it’s also been long-listed for the Man Booker.  Sally’s awfully young at age 27 for all of this, but it’s certainly rightly earned.

NORMAL PEOPLE is so much more than a coming-of-age novel in Ireland.  It’s a quiet, literary novel with characters you will come to care for as they struggle through the challenging years of their young lives.

Connell is a popular football star at school. He’s outgoing and well-liked. Marianne is introverted to the nth degree, unpopular, and awkward.  Then there’re  the social issues. Connell’s mom cleans Marianne’s house.  Marianne’s family is rich.  What is the attraction between these two young people? Total opposites, right? Maybe not so much.

Things switch quickly after the teens leave their small town to attend Trinity College in Dublin. Here they live away from all their familiar things. While Marianne becomes a social butterfly and blossoms in front of our eyes, Connell becomes quiet and shy.

Written with such spare prose that not one word is wasted, Rooney brings to the writing table a fresh and very smart coming-of-age story set in Ireland.  This story reeks of class angst, family strife, the trials of friendship, and first love.

Irish writer

Sally Rooney

I can only imagine what we have to look forward to from sassy Sally Rooney in the coming years. I only know I can’t wait!

My review copy of NORMAL PEOPLE came to me via the generous publishing people at Hogarth, a division of Crown Publishing, all in exchange for an honest review. I loved it!

The Editor by Steven Rowley

Steven Rowley

The Editor

This cover is pretty insightful if you look carefully. What a great new novel from the bestselling author of LILY AND THE OCTOPUS.

A review copy of THE EDITOR was thrust into my greedy hands in September at SIBA ( Southern Independent Book Association) by one of our publishing reps.  She knows what I like. I can’t thank you enough Virginia!

Who is James Smale?  James is a young gay writer living in New York City hoping to catch a break for his first novel. Boy does he get it!  This manuscript has caught the eye of none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Jackie quickly sees that James’s novel has autobiographical roots.  Its  story of complication between a mother and son is surely based on James’s  actual life. But there is something lacking and it needs a good ending. At first James is intimidated by working so closely with Mrs. Onassis as she is known in the office.  But they become close when Jackie invites James to her home on Martha’s Vineyard where they work diligently on the novel.  She has some advice for James. Advice he is not keen to take. And once he does, shocking secrets erupt at the dinner table during a family visit at Thanksgiving. Life will forever be changed for everyone in the family.

Written in the early 90’s, this novel is not only a testament to mother/son relationships, it’s a glimpse into that small timeline when Jackie was working in publishing; the happiest time of her life.  Rowley has so nailed her voice that it resonated in my mind while reading. Brought back so many memories.  So much important history. Made me want to read  books about Jackie’s life in publishing.

I’m putting THE EDITOR in the hands of my book clubs. Good book for discussion.

Thanks so much Putnam. I totally enjoyed this novel and look forward to more novels by Rowley. I received this review copy in exchange for an honest review. You can certainly tell I loved it!


The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

Tracey Garvis Graves

The Girl He Used To Know

Nice cover. Great story.

THE GIRL HE USED TO KNOW arrived unsolicited from St. Martin’s Press this past week. I read the first few pages and was off and running. I have been really lucky lately with publisher’s sending me great books just because they think I might like them. This one is no exception.

Annika is shopping at her local food market in Chicago  one August day. Never suspecting she’d run into her old college flame. But that is exactly what happens. Jonathan and Annika had been involved in a serious relationship, then suddenly they parted. Meeting Jonathan brought back all the memories, both good and bad.

This unique novel is told within a 10-year span. So we go back and forth in time from when they are in college until they both are settled into careers they love in the future.

There is a mystery to the story that I only guessed at. You see, Annika is very beautiful, she’s smart as a whip, and she’s a gentle and kind soul. However, something is not quite right.  She might just be on the autism spectrum. And that makes her life socially challenging. She’s so trusting. She was bullied at a young age and her mom pulled her out of public school and began home-schooling. So when she went off to college it was more difficult for to fit in than the average freshman. She almost pulled out before giving it a chance. Thank goodness Janice, her room mate, was an understanding and kind young woman. Without Janice Annika’s life would most certainly have been torture.  And then along comes Jonathan who shares her love of chess. This is the perfect opportunity for friendship and what comes after.

So much has been written about autism the past several years.  But this is so unique and wonderful. I have a new insight. Being socially inept doesn’t have to mean disaster. But what it does take is being surrounded by a kind and understanding support system  Graves shows us just how this can work.

As the book moves to an ending a tragedy occurs that changes everyone in this story. My heart began pounding, and I really started routing for Annika to get through it.  Yes, this is a love story. But it’s not a silly romance novel. It’s refreshing.  It’s smart.  And I’m so glad I’ve discovered a new novelist.


Tracey Garvis Graves

My review copy of THE GIRL HE USED TO KNOW by Tracey Garvis Graves, was sent by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. I loved it!

Elaine Newton-Critic’s Choice 2019 Summer Reading List

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (available October 10)
  • The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash
  • The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict
  • Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin (available May21)
  • The Guest Book by Sarah Blake (available May7)
  • Milkman by Anna Burns
  • The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
  • In the Distance by Hernan Diaz
  • Gone So Long by Andre Dubus III
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  • Promised Land by Martin Fletcher
  • The Witch Elm by Tana French
  • Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley
  • The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey
  • The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
  • The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
  • Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok (available June 4)
  • Severance by Ling Ma
  • Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan (available April 23)
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
  • There There by Tommy Orange
  • The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer (available May 7)
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney (available April 16)
  • The Editor by Steven Rowley (available April 2)
  • A Woman is no Man by Etaf Rum
  • The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (available July 16)
  • American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
  • The Border by Don Winslow


Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher

Mary Phipher

Women Rowing North

Here is an unexpected book that came out of nowhere.  And it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was so excited. Finally, a book written for women of that certain age. And written by a very capable woman psychologist with a proven track record. And she’s the right age to be writing this….Almost seventy.

I have had a few women ask me if the book is about actual rowing, as in of a boat. No, not that kind of rowing. It’s about moving up the stream and transitioning from middle age into older age. Hey, we all are going to do it. Might as well embrace it and this book can help you do just that.

I found myself flagging pages, underlining sentence after sentence, and sometimes even entire paragraphs. Then, I had a revelation; why not lead a discussion of this book at Copperfish. And the rest is history. That discussion is going to happen this evening. I wanted to keep the number of participants manageable and that is why I did not advertise it on the blog. If you are thinking of attending please call to see if there is still availability.

When I was a young woman married with small children we had no one to talk to. That’s just how it was back then. Women kept everything bottled up inside. Dr. Spock was all we had to tell us about bringing up kids. Masters and Johnson told us about sex. No one gave us a leg up about much of anything. It was challenging. Now, I find women my age and older are anxious to talk about what they are experiencing in their lives.  All of it. We have each other.

Mary Pipher does go on about finding bliss. I don’t know that I would go that far. But I encounter women everyday in my travels who are enjoying the best part of their life. Now, their kids are grown and their lives have taken a turn. They are busier than ever with activities they might not have had time for her in years past, they have close friends to share their trials and tribulations with, and many are still working. I find the work most older women are enjoying is passionate work. Could even be work they’ve only just discovered they love. Yes, many women still need to work, too.

We all experience aches and pains. Most of us have learned how to tolerate the normal pain of aging.  There are good days and not so good days. And then there are days  you want to just pull the covers over your head and escape the real world. That’s okay, too. Give yourself permission to do this now and then.

Mary Pipher brings up issues that are going to be very controversial.  Not everyone can relate to everything she says here. And that is why I believe this book is going to be a great one for discussion. I am leading the discussion tonight. I am not doing the speaking. I want to hear everyone’s opinions. Everyone shall get a chance to speak up. It should be quite a lively talk.

We have copies of WOMEN ROWING NORTH by Mary Pipher at Copperfish Books. They are marked 20% off.  Come on in and see us. We can’t wait to see you.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

New Winner!

Dana Reinhardt

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun

Peri Pantazes, you are my winner today! Congrats.

Summer is coming quickly here in S.W. Florida. Our mornings are still cool, but, it’s really heating up. Time for lighter reads….

Thanks for entering my contest.  And thanks to Pamela Dorman and Viking Books for providing the giveaway book.