Books to take you through the final weeks of winter

By Lynda Rego
Posted 3/17/18

Despite being relatively mild, the winter seems to be dragging on. Probably a combination of so many gray days and the teasing warmer days recently — even though there’s as much as a …

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Books to take you through the final weeks of winter


Despite being relatively mild, the winter seems to be dragging on. Probably a combination of so many gray days and the teasing warmer days recently — even though there’s as much as a month of winter left (remember those early April snowstorms?). But, books during the gray days can take you around the world or back into the past or both. Enjoy!
“The Shadow Land” (2017) by Elizabeth Kostova. I enjoy her books, and this one is personal because it’s set in her adopted country, Bulgaria. The action moves between 2008 and the 1940s and ‘50s. In 2008 Sofia, Alexandra Boyd, who has come to Bulgaria to teach, bumps into people on the steps of a hotel and winds up with one of their satchels. It’s contains a carved box full of a man’s ashes. Trying to return the box, with the help of a young cab driver, Asparuh “Bobby” Iliev, will take her across the country in search of the ashes owners and back in time to a sad chapter in the country’s history and its ramifications in the present. I liked the mystery and the relationships between all the characters. And, I hadn’t known much about Bulgaria, which sounds beautiful.
“Faithful” (2016) by Alice Hoffman. I’m a huge fan of this author (“Turtle Moon” is my all-time favorite) and got to meet her when she visited Barrington a while back. She’s such an inspirational writer. I love the touch of magic in most of her books and how her lonely, scarred or damaged characters manage to make a life for themselves and triumph over adversity.
In “Faithful,” 17-year-old Shelby is in a car accident that puts her best friend in a coma. Shelby was driving and can’t forgive herself. Guilt drives her destructive actions until she moves to New York City, gets a job and starts learning to reconnect with people and the dogs she’s drawn to save. And, who is sending her mysterious postcards with beautiful drawings and simple messages on how to move forward? If it sounds like a downer, it’s not. She, her mother and boyfriend have a sense of humor and can still find things to laugh about. And, the maturing of the relationship she has with her mother is wonderful to watch.
“The Kashmir Shawl” (2011) and “Sun at Midnight” (2004) by Rosie Thomas. I love this writer. Her books are about strong women (even if they don’t know they are). The books are often referred to as love stories, and the women do find love. But, the adventures these women find themselves in, usually far from home, are more about finding themselves and their strength than finding a man. The author also paints very vivid pictures of these lands (Kashmir and India in the first and Antarctica in the second).
In “The Kashmir Shaw,” Mair discovers a beautiful shawl and a lock of hair among her grandmother’s possessions after her father dies. She embarks on a quest to discover their meaning. Her grandmother, Nerys, traveled from England to India in 1941 with her missionary husband. The book is about the journey both women take — in the past and present.
In “Sun at Midnight,” geologist Alice Mather heads to Antarctica after a failed relationship and as a favor to her mother, a famous anthropologist who is too frail to return to the place of her biggest triumphs. Nothing has prepared her for the beauty and danger of the pristine landscape or the odd, claustrophobic relationships of a small scientific base where she is one of only two women.
“The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” (2009) by Katherine Howe. You all know how much I love historical fiction, especially set in colonial times. This one mixed a lot of fact with some fiction to tell the story of a “cunning woman” in Salem and a descendants in the present. Little does Connie Goodwin know that her trip to Marblehead to clean up her grandmother’s house before selling it will result in the upheaval of her entire life. The Harvard graduate student has just passed her oral exams in American colonial life and is searching for a dissertation topic. What she finds in Marblehead will lead her to research Deliverance Dane, a Marblehead cunning woman (and ancestor), and try to track down her physick book of potions. Interspersed with Connie’s story are chapters set in the 1680s. This is a great debut novel. I can’t wait to read the other two books she’s written. She is a descendant of Elizabeth Proctor (who survived the Salem witch trials) and Elizabeth Howe (who did not).
And, I received author Louise Penny’s newsletter with the announcement that she has written a new Gamache book, “Kingdom of the Blind,” and it will be out on Nov. 27. If you haven’t met Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and visited the entrancing village of Three Pines, get started! There are 13 books right now. The first is “Still Life.” I envy anyone visiting them for the first time.
Visit Lynda Rego on Facebook at where she shares tips on cooking, books, gardening, genealogy and other topics. Click on Like and share ideas for upcoming stories.

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