You might know that I devoured 17 books in August and had plenty of favorites, which included the following 2 adult fiction reads and my non-fiction read of the month: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, The Book of V. by Anna Solomon, and Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres.
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Rodham is for sure a read that divides readers. This adult fiction reads follows a young Hillary Rodham and what her life could have been like if she didn’t marry Bill Clinton. The first third of the book or so does follow Hillary and Bill’s relationship until their eventual break-up and Hillary’s personal life and political career from that point on.
Many readers & reviewers have questioned how the ethical the book is, since it is a fictionalized account of Hillary’s life and includes depictions of many real figures. However, I can’t help but I admit that I absolutely loved this book and found it so thought-provoking! It’s clear that Curtis Sittenfeld put a ton of research behind Rodham, since the book does take into account Hillary’s real life and many real people. I thought it was so clever how Curtis Sittenheld meshed the real and fictional together. The book takes place from Hillary’s graduation from Wellesley College and all the way through the 2016 presidential election. Yes, this is especially where Curtis Sittenfeld really makes her own alternate reality, but it was just so, so fascinating to think about what could have been. Although I loved it, I know some readers might again recognize that some readers might not feel comfortable with Curtis Sittenfeld’s choices, especially when it comes to Bill Clinton and his depiction, specifically regarding his relationships with other women. I think I did a biography report on Hillary Clinton back in middle school, but I admit that immediately after I finished Rodham, I went into a Google deep dive about the Clintons! Rodham would make for such an interesting and endless talk-worthy book choice amongst friends or a book club! I could see myself picking up Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep or American Wife in the future.
The Book of V. by Anna Solomon
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
I found The Book of V. back in March in a Spring 2020 Releases article. I really enjoy books with multiple perspectives that intertwine in unexpected ways, which matches Anna Solomon’s book. The book alternates between three stories set during various points in time: Set in 2016, there’s Lili, a wife, mother and daughter living in Brooklyn who’s trying to figure out her purpose in life aside from being a housewife. Set in 1973 New England, there’s Vee, the wife of a senator who is regularly abused by her husband. And then there’s the retelling of the story of Vashiti and Esther, a biblical and Purim story.
I devoured The Book of V. in less than 24 hours. I really think most readers could read this book in a sitting or two like I did, since it’s less than 300 pages and I soon found myself heavily invested in its story. I do admit that the writing style was hard to follow at times, especially when it came to Esther and Vee’s stories. I’m familiar with the story of Esther already, so I think that helped my understanding. I often had trouble distinguishing between what actually happens and what Vee imagines in her mind. Vee’s story was definitely the hardest to read, since she is regularly abused by her husband. Vee eventually goes to live with a close friend, but her life does not get much easier there. I was most attached to Lili’s story, and I saw so many of the Vashiti and Esther allusions in hers. I also loved her relationship and the focus on the relationship with her mother, Ruth. Lili is one of those characters whom you want nothing but the best for after the book is over.I don’t want to be too spoilerly, but I absolutely loved the way all 3 stories came together by the end. Although it may take the readers the first 50 pages or so to settle into the story, I definitely recommend holding on to The Book of V. for it’s journey and conclusion.
Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
If you’ve been following my Summer 2020 reading journey, you’ll know that I’ve been on a slight non-fiction/memoir kick. Grace and Becca of the Bad on Paper podcast recently interviewed Traci from The Stacks Podcast, where she discussed her love for non-fiction and her go-to recommendations. One of Traci’s memoir recommendations was Julia Scheeres’ Jesus Land. This book originally came out in 2005, but I think has a recently published new edition – Traci warned to NOT read the new author’s note in the newer edition because it has spoilers for the memoir’s epilogue. Jesus Land unravels Julia Scheeres’ childhood and growing up with her adopted black brother, David, in a fundamentalist Christian family. The first half of the memoir follows Julia’s childhood and early teenage years in rural Indiana, while the second half of the book follows Julia and David’s time at a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic.
In short, Jesus Land is one of the most mind-blowing and difficult books that I’ve ever read. This memoir is so incredibly layered, between the almost regular physical abuse Julia and her adopted brothers faced from their parents. Julia’s brothers were abused by their father more than Julia, however, I will warn by saying that Julia always described encounters of sexual abuse she faced as well. Julia also delves deeply into how her family was viewed and treated differently for having adopted black children, as Julia and her biological family are white. Julia and David were both bullied and taunted by their peers, with David receiving constant discrimination and hate from the members of their community. I think the second half of the book is arguably even more horrifying to read, as after ‘acting out,’ Julia is set to a Christian reform school in the DR, where David has already been sent to. To put it simply, this school is a nightmare. Julia and David have to ask for permission for literally any act, from walking into a room to being able to eat. It was so insane to think that these types of schools exist. I don’t want to delve into too many details for the sake of spoilers, but Jesus Land is one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read.
Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR? Do you have any adult fiction or nonfiction recommendations for me? Share in the comments!