Monday, April 25, 2016

Julie's Review: Lilac Girls

Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Series: None
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Ballatine Books
Pages: 496
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: One person can make a difference
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Summary: New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France. An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences. For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power. The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of unsung women and their quest for love, freedom, and second chances. It is a story that will keep readers bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final pages.  

Review: Lilac Girls is a novel that will keep you thinking throughout the novel. Just when you think you've read a lot of historical fiction about World War II, along comes a book that exposes you to something you hadn't known. Oh the atrocities that were done on humans by other humans is truly mystifying to me. I was intrigued and horrified about how Ms. Kelly was going to make these stories intersect. I was hoping that there would be justice for Kasia and the other women from the Ravensbruck camp.

I found Caroline Ferriday to be a modern day heroine; a person who is to be admired and revered. She is a woman who has a huge heart and sees her life as a way to help those who need it the most. When we first meet Caroline she works for the French Consolate in New York working to help families that are looking to escape the war in Europe and relocate to the US. She also puts together care packages for a variety of orphanages in France.

It is perhaps Kasia's story that is the most horrific, brave and hopeful. Her story is the one that will rock you to your core. She carries around her guilt until it weighs so heavily on her that she doesn't know how to enjoy the life that she has been given. She closes herself off to those the closest to her, even her sister Zuzanna who she went through everything with in the camp. She doesn't know how to move on. She might be free of the camp but she's not free of the darkness it instilled in her.

We are also told the story of Herta Oberhauser who is a young doctor looking for a job and ends up at Ravensbruck. She is a dedicated Reich doctor who doesn't question the orders that she is given. She doesn't question the inhumane surgeries that she performs on young women. Even years later, after she is released from her prison sentence, she has little to no remorse. She said she was just doing her job.

It is easy to see how Herta and Kasia's story are going to intersect but I was curious how Caroline was going to fit in.  I loved how she fit into Kasia's life and how she helped Kasia get closure.

When you read  Lilac Girls , you need to read the Author's Note at the end, it is amazing the amount of work and sheer love that went into this novel. It was a labor of love for her and one that took years to come together. I have a great amount of respect for authors in general but historical authors have to be one of most extraordinary ones because they bring historical figures to life by imagining some of the conversations that took place in their lives.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Julie's Review: Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Author: J. Ryan Stradal
Series: None
Publication Date: July 28, 2015
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Pages: 320
Obtained: on loan from a friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Food-Lit
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: An interesting look at food, culture and family
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Summary: Kitchens of the Great Midwest, about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country's most coveted dinner reservation, is the summer's most hotly-anticipated debut and already a New York Times bestseller. When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine--and a dashing sommelier--he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter--starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that's a testament to her spirit and resilience. Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life--its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.  

Review: Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the type of novel not to read when you are hungry, especially towards the end. It is also the story of how our culture revolves around food and the evolution of "foodies". How people will pay for an experience just to say that they have experienced the trendy new idea or concept. It is also about how some people find great joy in the creation of a meal and of creating that experience for others. It is about finding your passion and creating your life around that passion.

Eva Thorvald hasn't had the easiest life but she's always had a passion for food, starting when she was 11 and growing habaneros in her closet. Her gift and passion continues to grow until  She has a true love for food and for giving people a once in a lifetime experience. She might not have known where she belonged with her peers but she always felt comfortable in the kitchen.

Eva's story is told by various people that she encounters throughout her life, starting with her father Lars and ending with her mother, Cynthia. In that way, the novel comes full circle. Which is great because for a moment I thought I had lost Eva's story in the beginning of the novel because it is her whom the reader becomes instantly invested in.

By seeing Eva through different people's eyes you get a more well-rounded version of who she is, although without her full perspective, it is truly hard to really know her. We get her view of her life sprinkled throughout the novel but never get her adult story through her eyes.

It is told in a variety of short stories but they are all tied together. Just when you think that Mr. Stradal is going to leave you hanging with a character, he brings them in later. I felt the ending of the book was the only one that could happen, otherwise it would have just been wrapped up too neat.

For anyone who loves food, who loves food when it's tied to a certain region and wine, then you won't want to miss Kitchens of the Great Midwest.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Julie's Review: The Year We Turned Forty

 photo Year We Turned 40_zpsrju0931i.jpg
Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Series: None
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 336
Obtained: author(s)
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Poignant, Funny and Endearing
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Summary: If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently? This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and also get the opportunity to change their future. Jessie loves her son Lucas more than anything, but it tears her up inside that he was conceived in an affair that ended her marriage to a man she still loves, a man who just told her he's getting remarried. This time around, she’s determined to bury the secret of Lucas’ paternity, and to repair the fissures that sent her wandering the first time. Gabriela regrets that she wasted her most fertile years in hot pursuit of a publishing career. Yes, she’s one of the biggest authors in the world, but maybe what she really wanted to create was a family. With a chance to do it again, she’s focused on convincing her husband, Colin, to give her the baby she desires. Claire is the only one who has made peace with her past: her twenty-two year old daughter, Emily, is finally on track after the turmoil of adolescence, and she's recently gotten engaged, with the two carat diamond on her finger to prove it. But if she’s being honest, Claire still fantasizes about her own missed opportunities: a chance to bond with her mother before it was too late, and the possibility of preventing her daughter from years of anguish. Plus, there’s the man who got away—the man who may have been her one true love. But it doesn’t take long for all three women to learn that re-living a life and making different decisions only leads to new problems and consequences—and that the mistakes they made may, in fact, have been the best choices of all…  

Review: The Year We Turned Forty is about having the opportunity to go back and fix the mistakes you made but do you fix the old ones only to create the new ones? Who's life ever fully goes as they "plan" it? If it does, then did they ever take risks? For Gabriela, Jessie and Claire life hasn't really been what they thought it would be in the 10 years since turning 40. As they approach 50, they wonder where their lives would be if they had done some thing(s) differently. They get the chance to go back to that year but there are some condition: one being at the end of the year they either all have to agree to stay on that path or come back to the point in time when they went back. That could be the real tricky part of this whole second chance.

What I loved about this book is that you can see yourself in each of these characters even if you don't necessarily identify with their problems. Each of the friends' gains something in the year they go back but I also think they lose something as well. This was most evident for me with Gabriela. She went from this kick-ass, take no prisoners, best selling author to a woman who was laser-focused on the one thing she thought she wanted, thought she was missing out on. She was sacrificing her health, mentally and physically, and her marriage. Before she went back, her and Colin had a solid marriage that was built on love and respect. Not so much this time around.

Jessie lost herself when she had an affair and lost her marriage. In the 10 years she's been divorced, she's never gotten over it, forgiven herself and moved on from her mistakes. This is her chance to undo all of that.  While I didn't agree with how she approached the situation by not being honest again. We all know the truth comes out eventually and she spent her year full of worry about when it would happen. I did like how in the end she did learn to fight for herself and her family. Perhaps that was what her year was about.

Now Claire, she thought her life going into 50 was pretty great. She has a man, she loves and is finally getting on good footing with her adult daughter, Emily. She has her regrets but I would say hers aren't as dire as perhaps her best friends. She would have liked a better relationship with her mom before she passed, been a bit tougher on Emily instead of giving in all the time and maybe she would have tried a bit harder with her former boyfriend. I liked Claire, a lot. She seemed to be the most leveled headed one of the group of girls. She knew what she had to do to repair her relationship with Emily and started doing it even though it was hard. She knew what 10 years in the future would look like if she didn't. She worked on her relationship with her mom, even if the ending was the same. She strove to make things different this time, although I think one of threw her for a loop, she ended up accepting it because she knew the alternative was selfish.

I have read Liz and Lisa's other two books and I enjoyed them immensely but there is something different about their writing and the soul of The Year We Turned Forty. It feels like they left it all out there for their readers. They created characters you cheered for, cried with and yes at times wanted to shake but that's friendship. While there is magic in the book, the words on the pages were magic. This book was just what I needed, even if I didn't know it.

If you haven't read these two authors you need to pick up their other two books: Your Perfect Life and The Status of All Things, you can come back and thank me later.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Julie's Review: The Dinner Party

Author: Brenda Janowitz
Series: None
Publication Date: April 12, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 304
Obtained: Author/Publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Will make you appreciate your crazy family that much more
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Summary: This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City. The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold's daughter is dating one of them. When Sylvia finds out that her youngest of three is going to bring her new boyfriend to the Seder, she's giddy. When she finds out that his parents are coming, too, she darn near faints. Making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who'll be coming with her less than appropriate beau and his overly dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won't stop there. Because despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family. In Brenda Janowitz's The Dinner Party, long forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.  

Review: The Dinner Party is a hoot. I laughed out loud throughout the whole book and there were poignant moments but the message is about family, love and forgiveness. Syliva Gold is all a twitter because her youngest daughter Becca is bring a Rothschild home for Seder. For Seder! Plus his parents are coming as well so that means her house has to be up to their standard. You see the Rothschild's are old money; old banking money. It's not like the Gold's don't have a very nice house and live a great lifestyle but their money isn't old. She's bending over backwards for people she doesn't know.

You pretty much know from the get go that this Seder isn't going to turn out exactly how Sylvia hopes and that's what makes it a great book. Sylvia is so uptight and high strung that she even gets a chef to cook dinner for them and again you know that doesn't turn out well.

Sarah was my favorite character. She knows who she is except when she steps foot in her mother's house. There she feels like the awkward teenager all over again. Plus she's a little irritated at her mom for inviting these stranger when she won't invite her boyfriend's parents to join them. It's pretty evident that Sarah and Sylvia are a lot alike; therefore they butt heads a lot of the time.

Each family member and guest has their own secret to hide. Of course, they all come out at this dinner and there are of course consequences.  It's how these come out at the dinner that I found intriguing. What a better place to air all your dirty laundry than at a formal family dinner.

If you are looking for a great novel that will have you laughing out loud and appreciating your own crazy family. The Dinner Party isn't a book you will want to miss this summer.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Julie's Review: Sister Dear

Author: Laura McNeill
Series: None
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Books
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: One twisted sibling realtionship
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Summary: All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start.  But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever? Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish – time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows. But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.

 Review: Sister Dear kept me turning the pages and wondering how it was all going to come together. Were the deeply buried secrets going to surface? Would Allie finally prove her innocence without sacrificing her freedom? Allie is set free from prison for serving time for a crime she didn't commit. It isn't one of those novels where you wonder if she's innocent or not because it's pretty clear from the get go she is. Although it isn't reveled quickly exactly what she was in prison for but you know you don't get locked up for 10 years for something minor.

Her dedicated younger sister, Emma, comes to get her as she's released and all Allie wants to do is see her 15 year old daughter. Unfortunately, Caroline isn't quite ready to deal with the fact that her mom is back. She's been raised for the last 10 year by her Aunt and has built up a good life for her including a busy social life. All of that comes crumbling down quickly when word spreads that Allie is out. The local Sheriff isn't too pleased with the release of Allie Marshall either. He thoroughly believes she's guilty because he couldn't see another way out because of the blood on her hands. He refused to entertain anything other possibility. He even pays a visit to Allie's parole office to make sure that she's not allowed to investigate to prove her innocence.

The book literally unravels, in the best way, with each page you turn. While the book is about Allie and her innocence it is much more about Emma's story and her issues with her sister. Emma is probably the most interesting character in the novel. She isn't what she seems to anyone, least of all herself. It is quite interesting the amount of rage she has carried around since she was 10 years old. Always feeling 2nd best to her sister, she was out to prove everyone wrong.

Caroline is confused, hurt and scared. She didn't visit her mom in prison but tried to carry on a normal life with her aunt, friends and grandparents. She doesn't want her mom messing up the delicate balance she's created for herself. Caroline starts to isolate herself from her aunt, her grandparent, her friends and she refuses to reconnect with her mom. She doesn't trust her. She was too young to remember how much her mom loved her. The only thing she remembers is feeling abandoned and lost. It's not that she doesn't love her Aunt and appreciate all that she's done for her but she doesn't know what normal is or what it feels like.

Ms. McNeill does a fantastic job of pulling you in and making you turn the pages. She writes characters that are flawed and intriguing. She tells a story that will keep you up and thinking about it long after you've closed the covers. This is my 2nd novel by Ms. McNeill and let me tell you, I can't wait to see what she writes next.

 Do yourself a favor and pick up Sister Dear. 


Monday, April 11, 2016

Julie's Review: The Forgotten Room

Author: Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig
Series: None
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: NAL
Pages: 384
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Loved how the stories ended up linking in the end
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Summary: 1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion. Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel's portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate? And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother? In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known. But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room? The Forgotten Room, set in alternating time periods, is a sumptuous feast of a novel brought to vivid life by three brilliant storytellers.

Review:  The Forgotten Room is a sweeping family saga that spans decades and is woven together by one room in a former Manhattan mansion. These stories are also linked by love stories that span lives and decades, love lost and love found. There is tragedy and misunderstandings; love and loss; passion and dedication.

I'm actually not sure which story line I loved the most because I think I loved all 3 equally. I loved the moxie that Olive, Lucy and Kate had. I loved that they were forging their way before their time. Each went against their family in their own way. For Olive it was putting herself in a house where she was seeking revenge; Lucy was the first woman to go to work outside the family business and Kate was forging her own path as a female doctor.

Each has their own story to tell and each woman has a distinctive voice but there is a thread that ties them. Is it the men they love, is it the room or something else?

I loved that 3 authors wrote this book but I couldn't tell where one's voice started and another ended. I loved each of the time periods that the book ventured into and explored.

If you are a fan of historical fiction then you won't to miss The Forgotten Room.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Julie's Review: Second House from the Corner

Author: Sadeqa Johnson
Series: None
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A novel about how our past always catches up to us
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Summary: Second House from the Corner centers on the story of Felicia Lyons, a stay-at-home mother of three drowning in the drudgeries of play dates, lost pacifiers and potty training who occasionally wonders what it would be like to escape the demands of motherhood. But when an unexpected phone call threatens to destroy her life, Felicia is forced to return to her childhood home where she must wrestle with an ex-lover and long buried secrets to save the family and home she loves despite the daily challenges. Felicia Lyons is a character who mothers can identify with and laugh along with. You can't help but cheer for her in Johnson's engaging and well-written novel.  

Review: Second House from the Corner is probably one of the most honest looks at being a mother and wife that I've read in a long time. Ms. Johnson doesn't hold back and that is refreshing. Felicia Lyons or Faye has 3 children 6 and under and at times feels harried taking care of the kids since her husband is always working. She finds herself losing it at times and that's when she needs a break. She's done well for herself as an actress and strives to give her kids the stable family life that neither she or Preston had. She's a good mom that spends a lot of her time with the kids while also trying to resurrect her acting career.

One phone call on a regular evening changes how Faye reacts and overreacts to things going on in her life. It also leads to some very poor decisions on her part as well. There isn't a lack of times in he book where you won't want to smack or shake her. In the end, though it's a journey that she needs to take to rid herself of the ghosts that have been haunting her since she was a young girl.

I want to talk about Preston for a moment because I think how he treats Faye leads to her journey. I think that Preston is still stunned that he landed someone as beautiful as her for a wife. He holds her on a pedestal and where else is there to go but down form there. He's never home to help with the kids even on the weekends it's up to her. Everyone needs a break even the most devout mother. Part of me felt that he wanted her as a trophy wife but didn't want to share her with anyone. I also think he was a bit naive to think that he was her first lover. I wanted to shake him a few times and ask him to treat her like a person instead of a possession.

This is a novel that kept me turning the pages until the very end. I wanted Faye to desperately figure out what it is that she needs to get out of her system. I wanted her to wrestle with her demons once and for all so that she could be the person she wants to be.

Second House from the Corner is an intriguing and fast-paced novel. It will have you up late finishing it and you probably won't be able to get it out of your head after wards.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Julie's Review: Lies and Other Acts of Love

Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Series: None
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A heartwarming story about what it takes to be a family
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Summary: After sixty years of marriage and five daughters, Lynn “Lovey” White knows that all of us, from time to time, need to use our little white lies. Her granddaughter, Annabelle, on the other hand, is as truthful as they come. She always does the right thing—that is, until she dumps her hedge fund manager fiancé and marries a musician she has known for three days. After all, her grandparents, who fell in love at first sight, have shared a lifetime of happiness, even through her grandfather’s declining health. But when Annabelle’s world starts to collapse around her, she discovers that nothing about her picture-perfect family is as it seems. And Lovey has to decide whether one more lie will make or break the ones she loves.  

Review: Lies and Other Acts of Love is a wonderful and quick to read novel. It has everything I would expect from a book set in the South. It has a wonderful and wise matriarch and a spunky, kind of spoiled 20 year old girl trying to figure out life. We get both Lovey and Annabelle's stories through alternating chapters. Instantly I fell for Lovey. You'd have to work hard as a reader not to like her and if you don't, let's talk.

Now Annabelle took a bit for me to warm up to. It was hard for me at first not to think of her as spoiled, sorority girl who went to college but has no clue what to do with herself because she doesn't really have to work. She does seem to be down to earth and have a good head on her shoulders. She's always done what is expected of her, except when she dumps her well to do fiance, Holden, and marries a musician after only knowing him for a short time. She's convinced it's true love and you pretty much know it's not going to end well. You just hope that by the time she realizes it that she's found out who she is and what she wants to do.

Lovey has much to tell and has lived through a lot. She got married to Dan later than women did back in those days and their lives have been wrought with love and some bumps along the way. Now with Dan's health fading, Lovey is reflecting on their time together. It is making her wistful and wondering if some of the things she has kept to herself should be revealed.

I loved Lovey and Annabelle's family. I loved how they deeply cared about each other even when their methods of showing it were questionable at times. It is also quite clear that Annabelle and Lovey share an extremely special bond and that even though it gets shaken, it can't be broken.

I have to say that Ms. Harvey through in a little twist in the end that I wasn't expecting but I really liked how she ended the novel. I really don't think, reflecting back, that it should have ended any other way.

If you are a looking for a wonderful read about family, love and finding yourself, then do yourself a favor and pick up Lies and Other Acts of Love.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Julie's Review: Terrible Virtue

Author: Ellen Feldman
Series: None
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 272
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A fascinating novel about a complex and forward thinking woman
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Summary: In the spirit of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, the provocative and compelling story of one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the twentieth century: Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood—an indomitable woman who, more than any other, and at great personal cost, shaped the sexual landscape we inhabit today. The daughter of a hard-drinking, smooth-tongued free thinker and a mother worn down by thirteen children, Margaret Sanger vowed her life would be different. Trained as a nurse, she fought for social justice beside labor organizers, anarchists, socialists, and other progressives, eventually channeling her energy to one singular cause: legalizing contraception. It was a battle that would pit her against puritanical, patriarchal lawmakers, send her to prison again and again, force her to flee to England, and ultimately change the lives of women across the country and around the world. This complex enigmatic revolutionary was at once vain and charismatic, generous and ruthless, sexually impulsive and coolly calculating—a competitive, self-centered woman who championed all women, a conflicted mother who suffered the worst tragedy a parent can experience. From opening the first illegal birth control clinic in America in 1916 through the founding of Planned Parenthood to the arrival of the Pill in the 1960s, Margaret Sanger sacrificed two husbands, three children, and scores of lovers in her fight for sexual equality and freedom. With cameos by such legendary figures as Emma Goldman, John Reed, Big Bill Haywood, H. G. Wells, and the love of Margaret’s life, Havelock Ellis, this richly imagined portrait of a larger-than-life woman is at once sympathetic to her suffering and unsparing of her faults. Deeply insightful, Terrible Virtue is Margaret Sanger’s story as she herself might have told it.  

Review: Terrible Virtue is a story about a driven, complex but flawed woman. Margaret Sanger is determined to make life better for women. She goes to incredible lengths to teach women about means to not get pregnant. She wants women who live in the tenements to be in control of how many children they have, especially because with each pregnancy it becomes more of a burden.

I would almost say that for most of her adult life, Margaret had tunnel vision on her mission to give women the power over their bodies that most desired. I don't think Margaret was going to win any mom of the year awards because she was so often gone from them and when she was around, she was too busy. I'm not saying that she wasn't a good mom because it was evident that she loved her  children fiercely, she just loved her mission more. She might have also loved Bill but she wanted the freedom to be who she was and do as she pleased. She didn't want to be tied down.

Her affairs and sexual appetite were part of who she was and who she wanted to be. She didn't want to be defined by the times. She definitely wanted to buck the system and she did. She turned heads wherever she went. Men wanted her and usually they got her, if she was interested in them as well. Women admired her and wanted to be her.

Her drive is what got her to break through a system that held women back. It is what abled her to get funding for her first women's center, even if it was closed by the police.Most would say she sacraficed her family to help women; I don't think that's what she would say. She would say it was her purpose in life.

I shudder to think where we might be if she had not been as successful as she had been. As I was reading this book, I was also thinking about how a lot of what she went through seems to be replaying itself today, which is sad. She would be so disappointed that women are still fighting for equality in some ways and that what she fought for is still being fought for.

I went into this novel knowing very little about Ms. Sanger and I do believe that Ms. Feldman did her life justice. I think that she portrayed Ms. Sanger's strong voice and drive extremely well. As I usually do with historical fiction, I googled on Ms. Sanger.

If you are looking for a novel on a strong, pioneering woman than look no further than Terrible Virtue.