Two Upcoming New Releases: Woman of Light and The Woman in the Library
Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publish Date: June 7, 2022, 336 pages
This book took me a few chapters to get involved, but once I was, I stayed engaged. A historical novel set in 1930s Denver, it's a character driven story, focusing on Luz, a 17-18 year old Chicano girl living in poverty and trying to figure out her life while living with her aunt in Denver. It's sort of a COA story as she and her cousin move from teens to young adults and navigate finding jobs, dating, falling in love (is it REALLY love?), loss and tragedy.
Though the book is set in the west, I wouldn't characterize it as a "western". The landscape descriptions are wonderful and evocative of the west as a place, but Denver at that time and from the perspective of a poor Chicano could have been any town dealing with Klan activities and prejudices of all types.
In the big picture, it is an immigrant story of a marginalized culture and the difficulties of getting ahead in those circumstances. There's instances of racism and some violence depicting the attitudes of the time. Told in a non-linear way, the back story of many generations (sometimes confusingly presented) is revealed through Luz's visions when doing tea leaf readings. The book is an ambitious undertaking to cover the events of past events and family while keeping the current day story relevant and moving forward. It's mostly well done though there were a few times when looking to the past that I lost the thread of the relationship connections.
I loved Luz's story and reading about finding her way and discovering and honoring the importance of her family history. Her struggles, thoughts and decisions seem very appropriate to her age - she's a well developed character. I also fell in love with her strong Grandma (that she never knew) - she was my favorite character after Luz. A solid ending. Watch for it in June and add it to your wish list.
The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
Publish Date: June 6, 2022, 288 pages
When I request an ARC, I do it based on the jacket blurb but by the time I read the book I've often forgotten exactly why I requested it - so every book is started with no expectations. This book has a really unusual treatment. It's a story within a story in a way I haven't read before.
One story is a series of letters exchanged between an Australian author writing a mystery set in Boston and an American living in Boston. The second story is the novel she's writing in which the main character is an Australian author working in Boston. Yes, there's a chance for confusion at first, but I quickly settled into the rhythm of the story and it was done SO well - the man in Boston corresponding with "helpful" commentary on the progression of the novel and then the actual novel.
"I am a bricklayer without drawings, laying words in sentences, sentences into paragraphs, allowing my walls to twist and turn on whim...no framework...just bricks interlocked...no idea what I'm building or if it will stand...no symmetry, no plan, just the chaotic unplotted bustle of human life...[Am I] just a woman in the library with a blank page before her?"
The mystery is a closed room ala Agatha Christie - a scream is heard in the Boston library and 4 people sharing a table in the library become friends, then suspects - is one of them a killer? Of course, twists and misdirections abound in the best way. Good characters, unusual friendships, a peek into an author's thought processes. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend you pick it up when it's out in June!
Reading advance copies is a privilege but also a responsibility. The publisher is depending on early readers to give honest opinions and maybe even guidance and encouragement to readers to pick up the book when it comes out. Without giving too much away, I try to give a broad synopsis of the story and writing style so readers might determine if the book will appeal to them. I hope I've succeeded with these two reviews - the books are good and definitely worth watching for (and that's not always the case!).