May was a good reading month for me! There were a couple of misses, but there were also a couple of big wins! I even read a couple of books in (almost) one sitting because I got so wrapped up in them, and SUMMER HAS STARTED, so… why not?
Here’s what I read in May:
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People was a much-anticipated new release this month, and it’s already been short listed for several awards etc. I totally agree that the writing style is unique and strong; but, honestly, I just didn’t love it… It is the story of Connell and Marianne (I had to go look up their names to write this post, so, that probably tells you something). They begin an unlikely relationship in high school that follows them throughout college. The premise seemed like something I would enjoy, but I never really connected with the characters. Maybe because so much of their relationship was based on sexual chemistry / tension, but I didn’t feel invested. I didn’t really care if they ended up together; which, I guess was a good thing, because the ending left MUCH to be desired in my opinion… I’m not sad I read it – and obviously lots of other people are liking it – but it was just “meh” for me. (P.S. The author doesn’t use quotation marks in dialogue, which I found a little odd / distracting at the beginning, but I got used to it quickly!)
The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying 10 Times to Live by Heather B. Armstrong (audio)
I recognized this author from her blogging days as Dooce, and – I admit – I was totally curious about the title… The memoir – which is about the author’s experience with an experimental treatment for severe depression that involved ten rounds of a chemically induced coma that made her effectively brain dead for a short time in an attempt to re-wire her mind – was extremely vulnerable and pretty fascinating from a medical perspective. It was also pretty dark and hard to read at times. I applaud Armstrong for courageously sharing her story – even the ugliest parts. I think her account of depression is one of the most realistic and authentic I’ve ever read. For someone struggling with severe mental illness, I think there is solidarity and – perhaps – options + hope to be found here. That makes this an extremely important book, for sure. From a strictly, “reader” perspective though, I’m kind-of undecided on the book… It was not enjoyable: at times it made me anxious, and, since she goes through the same treatment 10 times, it felt repetitive by the end… Still, I’m glad I read it, and learned a lot about both the human and the biological side of depression and the brain.
Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and The Way Forward by Gemma Hartley (audio)
This book probably wins the award for “most talked about” this month. I have found myself bringing this up in conversation ALL.THE.TIME since I read it. I resonated with SO much of it, and it really made me think about why things are the way they are for women in our society today. The best part though was that I felt like Hartley struck the perfect balance of being FOR WOMEN without being anti-men. This wasn’t a woe is me book, and it wasn’t about splitting household duties or marriage tiffs or even about politics — it was about the INVISIBLE work that women do all.the.time (mostly without even realizing it) and it offered hope and practical advice for taking some of that weight off of us now and for future generations. I really loved it and have been recommending it like crazy!!
Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt
I was really excited about this one — about family friends on a “dream vacation” in Mexico — but it missed the mark for me. It was an easy summer read. Too easy, I think. The plot – which had a lot of interesting components but never really developed any enough for my taste – just never drew me in. Oh well.
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth (audio)
I don’t know why I’m just now discovering Sally Hepworth, but – in the vein of Lianne Moriaty – she is GOOD! I really, really enjoyed this book. It has some twisty mystery elements; but, even more than that, it explores female relationships (particularly the mother-in-law / daughter-in-law but also mothers and daughters, sisters, etc.) so authentically. My own relationship with my MIL is VERY different from the one presented here; however, I think lots of women will find it quite familiar. It also addresses some complicated issues of mental health in a way that makes you think, but not too much for a “beach read.” I’m already halfway through another Hepworth novel and loving it too. Yay for a new author to binge!
The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
This book took me a little while to get into, but once I did, I read the last 200 pages in one sitting. Jonathan and Annika met in college and fell in love despite (or maybe because of) A’s atypical behaviors and awkwardness in social situations. They broke up rather dramatically and are reunited ten years later in 2001. The story alternates back and forth between the two time periods as their relationship develops and redevelops. I LOVED this love story. It was quirky and sweet, but also felt real and raw. Though I’ve read a couple of books featuring a male character on the autism spectrum, this was the first I’ve read about a female – and I thought it was very well done. There’s also a plot twist at the end that I 100% should have seen coming (the author basically BEGS you to notice the signs), but I completely missed it because I was so wrapped up in the relationship. I just loved this book. If you’re only taking one on vacation this summer, I strongly recommend it be this one!! #fivestars
And there you have it! I’ve got a BIG list ready for June and can’t wait to get going. Summer reading season is the BEST. What are you reading these days?!?! Have you read any of the above?!? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. Don’t forget to follow my reading in “real time” at #samandscoutreads on Instagram, and on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/39685855-elizabeth