Weddings and family seem to the themes this week. I have two books that would make good book club selections because the characters seem to invite discussion.
The first recommendation is Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak. I can’t remember where I first learned of this novel, but I’m glad I read it. There’s not always redemption in family sagas, but the novel has some mixed in with heartbreak.
Emma and Andrew Birch have both of their grown daughters home for the Christmas holidays. Phoebe, the youngest and more than a little flighty and shallow has recently gotten engaged to George. Olivia, “a serial aid worker” according to her mother, has just returned home from Liberia where she has been part of an international medical team responding to a Haas epidemic. All medical workers have to be quarantined for 7 days above arrival home. The family has mutually agreed to quarantine together at their ancestral home in the English countryside. Sounded fun in theory. In reality, not so much.
Olivia and Phoebe have nothing in common. Phoebe is obsessed with wedding plans, and Olivia is dealing with culture shock of being back in the developed world, as well as the trauma caused by all she has experienced in Africa. Add to this mix, Daddy Andrew gets an email from an unknown grown son he fathered decades ago while being a news journalist in Lebanon. This young man is emailing that he will be in the region over the holidays and would like to meet his birth father. So what does Andrew do? He deletes the email in believing it makes this little inconvenience go away. Bad move on Andrew’s part. And Emma, sweet accommodating mama Emma? She has a secret too- one that undoes her family in the midst of an already stressful holiday.
An underlying thread in the plot is the resilience of family ties- how love and grace helps to oil the cog of relationships. Redemptive situations never takes us back to how things were in the beginning, but they can take us forward. There is so much in his book to discuss over a good glass of wine!
The second recommendation is By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank. What is so unusual about the book is that the characters’ names are the names of actual people. It was part of a fundraiser- people paid for Frank to use their name in one of her books. I’m not sure how she determines who are the “villains”and who is not.
This is the story of two families- one is an old Lowcountry peach farming family from South Carolina who are the hardworking salt of the earth. The other is a wealthy family from Lakeshore Drive in Chicago. Their children fall in love and wedding plans begin. How does a peach farming woman relate to a hedge fund wife who thinks nothing of spending $40,000 on butterflies to be released at the reception? It’s a comedy of manners and faux pas until the hedge fund father of the bride is arrested in a Ponzi scheme. The comeuppance becomes a story of redemption for some of the characters.
Speaking of characters, you will love them, except for a few uber witches thrown in for spice. Frank’s characters are truthful, empathetic and realistic. We’ve all known these folks regardless of where we live. If you’ve ever been the mother of a bride or groom you’ll relate to trying to tiptoe through sticky situations. This is a great book selection. It’s fun and funny!
#sevendaysofus #francescahornak #byinvitationonly #dorotheabentonfrank