The Red Thread by Ann Hood – Book Review

The Red Thread by Ann Hood
Published by W.W. Norton & Co

After losing her daughter – and subsequently her marriage – in a tragic accident, Maya Lange moved across the country and began the Red Thread Adoption Agency, helping families adopt baby girls from China. None of Maya’s new friends, clients, or coworkers know about her loss, they simply know she is completely devoted to her job and to bringing families together with the little girls destined to be part of their family. The latest batch of families seeking new additions includes Maya’s good friend, Emily, who is desperate to make her marriage – which is her husband’s second – feel like a family, despite her sullen stepdaughter who wants nothing to do with her.

Instead of focusing solely on Maya, or solely on Maya and Emily, Hood gives roughly equal time to each family contemplating adoption, in addition to writing chapters from Maya’s point of view as she works to help these families bring home babies and works out her own painful personal history at the same time. I was actually somewhat worried when I discovered that so many characters were receiving sections from their own point of view and that each Chinese family whose daughter would find a new home would have their story briefly told as well. Often novels with large ensembles do not work well for me because they frequently seem to sacrifice good character and even plot development for too many points of view, and “The Red Thread” had only 300 pages to tell all of these stories.

My fear was totally unfounded.

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how she did it, but Ann Hood managed to evoke in me an intense emotional connection to the story she was telling and to the plights and lives of all of the families involved, even those Chinese families whose stories were given only a few pages. Maya’s story brought me to the point of tears more than once, and books very rarely make me cry (other than a few Harry Potter deaths, which still get me every time). Part it may have been that this is a highly personal story for Hood who also lost a child and went through the adoption process, but I think it is just as much the fact that she is a phenomenal writer whose backlist I now can’t wait to read.

The writing was gorgeous, the plotting was perfect, and the characterization was superb; it was emotionally engaging without being emotionally manipulative. I can very highly recommend this “The Red Thread.”

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Source: author.
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Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis – Book Review

Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis
Published by Berkley Trade, an imprint of Penguin

As someone who has been overweight her entire life until very recently, it might seem odd for Melanie to open a cafe, but after attending culinary school she has discovered how to make healthy food that actually tastes good and she wants to make this – and her own story – available to other people. But then, just around the time of her grand opening, Melanie’s husband announces that he is no longer in love with her and has been seeing someone else who he is leaving her for – her former boss and friend, in fact, a woman who is just as heavy as Melanie ever was. Now Melanie must learn to move forward, dealing with stress, anger, and sadness without eating emotionally. The fact of no longer being married also opens Melanie up to new relationships, both romantic and otherwise, of the sort that she has not encountered for a long, long time.

“Good Enough to Eat” was a fabulously emotionally authentic book. I honestly cannot remember the last character I read who was so 100% real as Melanie. She is devastated by the turn her life was taken and has serious trust issues because of it. And yet, she is still generous (even when she sort of regrets it) and caring, ready to cautiously open her heart again. She is also still dealing every day with the reality of her food addiction and weight loss and knows she will be for the rest of her life without being too self-pitying about it.

I really don’t know if there was anything I didn’t love about “Good Enough to Eat.” I really enjoyed the very realistic wrenches that Ballis threw into Melanie’s relationships, as well as the ways they were resolved. The plotting, characters, and writing all really came together, although I think that even had the plotting and writing been only adequate this book would have been worth reading just for the absolute authenticity Ballis infused into Melanie.

Very highly recommended, I’ll be checking out Stacey Ballis’s backlist after this.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Stacey Ballis’s website
Stacey Ballis’ blog

Other Books by Stacey Ballis:
The Spinster Sisters
Room for Improvement
Sleeping Over
Inappropriate Men

This review was done with a book borrowed from the library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin – Book Review

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan

When Nick has to leave in the middle of their anniversary dinner, Tessa doesn’t really mind. That is, after all, the price of being married to a pediatric surgeon: when other families have emergencies, their family often loses his attention. This time, though, his attention isn’t just lost for an evening. Things have been a little difficult at home where Tessa feels less than fulfilled as a stay-at-home mom and they have two small children, and Nick finds himself drawn to Valerie, the single mother of his newest patient, Charlie.

This is my first experience with Emily Giffin. In the past, I have passed over her books due to the pastel covers. They looked like just the sort of chick lit that I don’t enjoy. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I actually opened “Heart of the Matter.” I really liked her style, characterizations, and writing in general. I thought that having both Tessa and Valerie narrate the book was a good decision for this story, as was telling Tessa’s story in the first person and Valerie’s in the third, which made it easy to immediately tell who was speaking since both narrators were women in similar places in their lives.

Although I was impressed by Giffin’s writing, I’m still somewhat conflicted about “Heart of the Matter” overall. The premise seems to be that Tessa was at least equally responsible with Nick and Valerie for her husband’s cheating, which is a somewhat reprehensible idea to me. Tessa’s earlier broken engagement for Nick and the fact that her brother cheated on his once-fiancee with the woman who is now his wife, along with her father’s cheating on her mother when she were younger also adds to this interpretation. Valerie knew she was doing wrong the entire time, but never actually bothered to put the brakes on what was going on with her and another woman’s husband. Of course, Nick is the one who actually had a responsibility to Tessa and his family to remain faithful. I really wish that he had been one of our narrators as well, so we could have gotten a better idea of what he was thinking.

If the cheating doesn’t bother you, then I recommend “Heart of the Matter,” but if it is a hot button topic with you, I don’t think you’ll like how Giffin approaches it, so stay away.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.

This review was done with a book received from the publisher for my participation in the SheKnows Book Club.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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