Sometimes, as a reader, there’s an author’s voice that is always a pleasure. Such is the case with me-the-reader and author Anna Quindlen.
What is it about Anna Quindlen’s writing? I like it that the central character is almost always a woman; and a woman who has been around long enough to have an interesting backstory. And then there is Quindlen’s ear for dialogue, which is flawless. I enjoy her characters’ conversations. Also, her characters develop and change in interesting ways throughout the story. Sometimes they develop more insight into their own interior lives; sometimes they continue to question their own choices and how their lives are going along. These three elements are absolutely things I am alluding to when I describe a Really Good Book.
So, without further ado, here is a list of recently-read titles, written by Anna Quindlen:
Alternate Side: Quindlen’s most recent novel, set in contemporary Manhattan. I especially like Quindlen’s New York stories; she couples sincere affection with a wry awareness of the occasionally petty and superficial preoccupations of city dwellers. Nora Nolan has lived in the same block for decades; her children are in college, and she is working harder and harder to convince herself that she is really living out her dream. A tragic incident on the street shakes the world of Nora and her neighbors, leading to unexpected changes.
Miller’s Valley: This novel demonstrates that Quindlen writes as beautifully about rural America as she does about city life (how does she do that? Oh, right, she’s brilliant.). Mimi Miller is part of a family that has farmed in the same Pennsylvania valley for generations. The story is told in first-person from Mimi’s point of view, and details the story of her growing up. Mimi’s family is beautifully delineated, and the story is about families and choices and accepting the inevitable.
Blessings: This one is somewhat of a departure; it has two main characters, one a young man called Skip, and one an elderly woman named Lydia. Lydia, a stubborn and strong-willed old lady, hires Skip as a caregiver for her home and country estate, Blessings. When Skip receives the surprise of his life, both of them have to question their assumptions about one another and about the lives they live.
Black and Blue: I would never, never have guessed that I would love a story where domestic abuse drives the plot. But I love this one. Most of the violence happens offstage, and it is the main character Fran’s responses to her marriage that make up the plot. Fran tells her own story, and comes to realize what she is willing to live with and what she has to leave in the past.
Rise and Shine: This one is my favorite, and I’ve read it more times than I can count. Another one of the New York books, adult sisters Bridget, a social worker, and Meghan, a daytime talk show host, navigate the pains and pleasures of sharing their lives as they grow older. The rich, relationship-driven plot brings up questions of how well you can really know another person, in spite of shared history and close connections.
If you are saying to yourself, “Hey! I like those kinds of books, too!” try one of these. They’re terrific.