What to Read in 2022

It was a busy month of reading for me. I got mostly caught up on Reese’s Book Club book. I’ll go into details below, but suffice it to say I should be finishing up all of Reese’s recommendations for 2022 in 2022. I consider that a major achievement.

On to the books:

On the Rooftop, by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. 

Description from Kobo.com 

A stunning novel about a mother whose dream of musical stardom for her three daughters collides with the daughters’ ambitions for their own lives—set against the backdrop of gentrifying 1950s San Francisco

At home they are just sisters, but on stage, they are The Salvations. Ruth, Esther, and Chloe have been singing and dancing in harmony since they could speak. Thanks to the rigorous direction of their mother, Vivian, they’ve become a bona fide girl group whose shows are the talk of the Jazz-era Fillmore.

Now Vivian has scored a once-in-a-lifetime offer from a talent manager, who promises to catapult The Salvations into the national spotlight. Vivian knows this is the big break she’s been praying for. But sometime between the hours of rehearsal on their rooftop and the weekly gigs at the Champagne Supper Club, the girls have become women, women with dreams that their mother cannot imagine.

The neighborhood is changing, too: all around the Fillmore, white men in suits are approaching Black property owners with offers. One sister finds herself called to fight back, one falls into the comfort of an old relationship, another yearns to make her own voice heard. And Vivian, who has always maintained control, will have to confront the parts of her life that threaten to splinter: the community, The Salvations, and even her family.

My take:

Sexton delivers an emotional tale of what could be a real life account from the 1950s. All of her characters’ personalities are distinctive and interesting and the tension between them kept me reading. 

The Salvations sing a variety of Soul classics from “Teardrops From My Eyes” to “Underneath the Harlem Moon”. Esther, the middle sister, eventually writes her own lyrics, which are a reflection of how she is feeling about what is happening in the community at the time. 

I mentioned last month I’d gotten side tracked by Reese’s “Book-A-Likes” link between On the Rooftop and Daisy Jones and The Six. Just to be clear, there is nothing “A-Like” about these two books other than the fact the main characters are singers. Both books are good for different reasons. Very different reasons. 

Our Missing Hearts, by Celeste Ng

Description from Kobo.com 

Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. His mother Margaret, a Chinese American poet, left the family when he was nine years old without a trace. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, his family’s life has been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic.

Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.

Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact.

My take:

This one’s scary. Scary because there are so many similarities between the book and what is currently going on in America. Scary because Ng offers a prediction of what could happen if the country doesn’t come together in a common way. Scary because of the division amongst neighbors. 

Ng’s writing is effective and thought-provoking, but in the end, it left me disturbed and uncomfortable rather than satisfied. That may have been what she wanted to do. If so, great. I prefer my books to be entertaining though and there wasn’t a satisfying ending to this one. There couldn’t be. 

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed

Description from Kobo.com 

For more than a decade, thousands of people have sought advice from Dear Sugar—the pseudonym of bestselling author Cheryl Strayed—first through her online column at The Rumpus, later through her hit podcast, Dear Sugars, and now through her popular Substack newsletter. Tiny Beautiful Things collects the best of Dear Sugar in one volume, bringing her wisdom to many more readers. This tenth-anniversary edition features six new columns and a new preface by Strayed. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

My Take: 

This book came out in 2012. Its advice is still sound (although somewhat profane in several cases), but it makes for an interesting read. Strayed wrote the advice column to be humorous but helpful. It speaks to people in real terms, in a way that reaches them. (But again, if you don’t care for profanity, steer clear of this one.)

One thing that had me puzzled: why put out a tenth-anniversary edition? Then I discovered the book is being made into an eight-episode series on Hulu, and Reese Witherspoon will be one of the executive producers. That explains the updated edition and how it ended up being on Reese’s pick list. Excellent marketing on their part. 

Update on the Apple series to check out: 

My husband and I finished Bad Sisters last weekend and wow, was it a thrill! If you haven’t seen it and you like twisty, turning murder mysteries with intriguing three-dimensional characters, this one’s for you! And I may rewatch it because I liked Eva, Grace, Ursula, Bibi and Becka so much I’m already in withdrawal. 

I like happily ever afters and in a weird sort of way, this series delivered on that premise. The other thing I really liked is that it was supposed to be a limited, one-season show. I say supposed to be because on November 8, Apple + said they are renewing it for season 2. Only because I loved the sisters so much, will I watch it. But I really was good with it ending where it did.

Up next month is TBD. This is the first time I’ve finished the previous book before Reese has released a new one. We’ll have to wait to see what she has up her sleeve for the last month of 2022. 

If there is a book you think I should read, drop me an email at carole@carolewolfe.com. I’m also deciding on my 2023 reading plans. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Until next time…