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  • C. P. Lesley

Books We Loved, Nov. 2017

Eve Chase, The Wildling Sisters (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017)

Applecote Manor is an English country house with a history. In 1954 the twelve-year-old daughter of Applecote’s owners went missing and was never found. Five years later, her cousins—the Wildling sisters—are sent there to stay with their aunt and uncle while their mother travels to Africa. What follows is a story that echoes Daphne du Maurier as the sisters explore the house while avoiding their overbearing uncle and a delusional aunt who believes her daughter will still come home. Attempts to solve the mystery lead to events that affect the family that buys Applecote Manor, unaware of its sad history, fifty years later. The deliciousness of first and forbidden love is a running theme here, as is the sacred bond between sisters and what they will do to protect each other.—CMK

Jacqueline Kudler, Sacred Precinct and Easing into Dark (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2003, 2016)

Sacred Precinct and Easing into Dark are two collections of verse. The poems are beautiful and accessible at once, speaking to women through the Old Testament of women (Sarah, Leah, Lot’s wife) who were without their own voices. They are poems that speak to women today, on the birth of a grandchild, on widowhood, on life, on loss. And they are voices of women on poetry.

I first came across this poet when I read her amazing poem “Revelation” during the service for the Jewish New Year. It left me shivering with recognition and delight. This collection includes “The Machines,” an unforgettable poem of widowhood. This collection will give you something new to read at the Thanksgiving table and would be a terrific gift for a woman in your life!—CHL

Barbara Ridley, When It’s Over (She Writes Press, 2017)

On the whole, I’m not a big fan of World War II novels. The reality of the Holocaust is so overwhelming and horrifying that my mind can’t encompass it as entertainment, whatever the circumstances. But this beautifully written novel takes a different tack, and it works.

Lena Kulkova, a young Czech woman burdened with an abusive father, runs off to Paris with Otto, the man she loves. Otto, a socialist German opposed to the Nazis, has been dedicating his waking hours to helping the Communists in the Spanish Civil War, but when it becomes clear that Franco has won, Otto gradually abandons his history of the war in Spain as irrelevant. He finds sanctuary in England, but his plans for Lena to join him run smack into British bureaucracy. He and his friends find a way to get her out just before Hitler invades Paris, only to face new troubles as the British public loses its tolerance for German-sounding foreigners and war draws ever closer. —CPL

Gabriel Tallent, My Absolute Darling (Riverhead Books, 2017)

This dark literary novel has more suspense and action than a reader is likely to find in most, yet never at the cost of sacrificing character development or setting or precise and fabulous writing. It tells the story of a Mendocino County survivalist who raises his daughter, called Turtle or Kibble, to be, well, his absolute darling. His goal is to make her as self-sufficient as he believes he is while ensuring she lacks the confidence that would allow her to make any friends and escape his constant oversight. But in fact it is the survivalist skills he teaches her that allow her to escape on occasion, a feat for which there are always consequences. My Absolute Darling is a wonderful, dangerous story in which two worlds come to clash in one young girl’s life.—JS

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