The Mothers by Brit Bennett Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Mothers by Brit Bennett; Riverhead Books, 2016.  275 pages; $26.00 (hardcover); reading level:  adult. Oceanside, California is a comfortable, middle class black community, but Nadia Turner wants out anyway. She plans to graduate from high school, pursue a degree at the University of Michigan, and achieve all the things her mother (who has just… [Read More]

Bellevue by David Oshinsky Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Bellevue; Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky; Doubleday, 2016. 387 pages; $30.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult. As the subtitle promises, this history of New York City’s oldest public hospital is far from dry. Following Bellevue from its beginnings as an almshouse established in the early 1700s to… [Read More]

On My Reading List – September 2018 through June 2019…

Early each year I pick out the books I’ll be reading with my Book Discussion Group for the coming year. We read nine books from September through June, three nonfiction and six fiction. After reading reviews, getting opinions from readers I trust, and scanning classics I might have missed, here are the titles I’ve come… [Read More]

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich; Random House, 2017. 308 pages; $27.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult. The central act of Ruskovich’s graceful first novel – the murder, on an Idaho mountain, of 6-year-old May by her mother, Jenny – has already taken place when we begin reading. We are haunted by two questions: Why did Jenny (who… [Read More]

On Christmas Eve by Ann M. Martin Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

On Christmas Eve by Ann M. Martin. Scholastic, 2006. 149 pages. Reading level: grades 2-5. It’s 1958 and Tess McAllister is in third-grade. This is the year, she decides, that she really will stay awake and meet Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. She has a special wish this year: Her best friend’s father is very… [Read More]

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.; HarperCollins, 2016. 322 pages; $27.99 (hardcover); reading level: adult. Nothing happens according to expectation here. In chapter one, we meet all the major characters at a 1964 christening during which an illicit kiss begins an affair. Then we fast-forward to 2014 to listen in on the husband/victim of the affair and… [Read More]

Hillybilly Elegy by J.D. Vance Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Hillybilly Elegy by J. D. Vance; HarperCollins, 2016. 264 pages; $27.99 (hardcover); reading level: adult. This is a “travelogue” in the spirit of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Our tour guide is James Donald/David Bowman/Hamel/Vance (the names reflecting the revolving door of fathers in the author’s life). Writing his memoir at the tender age… [Read More]

Edith Wharton: Traditional or Modern?

A recent Wall Street Journal article takes on a key question raised in Edith Wharton’s 1920 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Age of Innocence. She writes it with one foot planted in the sureties of the Edwardian garden party that preceded World War I and the other perched precariously on the shifting ground of the… [Read More]

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf; Knopf, 2015. 179 pages; $24.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult. This tale begins the day Addie Moore (a 70-year-old widow) approaches Louis Waters (a 70-year-old widower) with a proposition: would he like to come to her house and sleep beside her each night, just to talk and ease the… [Read More]

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Europa Editions, 2012.  331 pages; $17.00 (paperback); reading level: adult. In granular detail, the narrator, Elena, chronicles her friendship with the magnetic Lila, from their meeting in first grade through their late teen years. The girls, born near the end of World War II, grow up in a dangerous,… [Read More]