I’ve read several good books in the past few weeks. I want to share three of them today.
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell– Robert Dugoni
Dugoni is a mystery writer, but he moves in a different direction with this coming of age book. It is well written with great characters, particularly Sam Hill, aka Sam Hell. Sam has ocular albinism which is a rare genetic disorder which usually affects males. It’s a complicated disorder, but for the purpose of the plot it only affects the color of Sam’s eyes- they are red, as in the pupils are red. Hence many nicknames, like Devil Boy and using Hell instead of Hill as his last name. Sam’s mother is a steadfast character of remarkable faith who believes her son will live an extraordinary life and its God’s will that Sam was born with red eyes. Not that Sam buys any of this, not when his life is full of bullies, including the nun who is his principal! Sam becomes an ophthalmologist in his home town until…..he takes off running away. While serving as an ophthalmologist in the developing world, Sam meets a Central American orphan boy. It’s then that Sam’s life takes on an extraordinary richness he never imagined. Heartwarming and redemptive.
Lisette’s List– Susan Vreeland
One of my favorite kind of novels- French villages, art and love! The story is set in Roussillon, a quaint village in Provence and Paris during the 1930s and 1940s. Lisette Roux and her husband Andre move to Roussillon to care for Andre’s aging grandfather Pascal. Pascal, a frame maker and ocher miner, who befriends Impressionist, Post Impressionist and Modernist French painters. He amassed quite a little collection of some of the greatest painters of this time. When World War 2 breaks out and France is invaded by Germany, the paintings are hidden by Andre to keep them out of the hands of the art-grabbing Nazis. When Andre dies in battle, the secret location of the paintings dies as well. Thus begins a decades-long search by Lisette to recover the paintings. What she finds along the way is love and acceptance as she learns to live again in the post-war years. You will cheer her on!
Warlight– Michael Ondaatje
Ondaatje is also the author of an all-time favorite, The English Patient. Warlight is set in the murky years of World War 2 in London and surrounding countryside. If it’s made into a movie, it will be called a ‘film noir’. Until then, we’ll call the book a ‘novel noir’- it’s secretive, shadowy, ambiguous, winding and beautifully poetic. It’s a coming of age story, a spy novel, a war novel, a family tragedy all rolled into one. Told by Nathaniel in real time and recollections, it’s a story of a brother and sister who are abandoned by their parents. Nathaniel never stops trying to piece together who his parents really were, what were their roles during and after the war, and who were these strange guardians. It is not told in a clear cut manner, so just meander through the confusion of the war years and the memories of a scared boy.
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