Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

The Similars

Ms. Hanover’s debut novel about clones is, simply put, fantastic. The Similars is everything I love about reading. The story is engaging; I could not stop reading it everything I predicted ending up not coming true. The characters may be archetypes, but I still felt a full range of emotions over Emma’s struggles. I loved the friction caused by the clones, and I appreciate that the students did not wholeheartedly accept them. It is an element of the story that feels accurate, especially given the ethics surrounding cloning that scientists continue to debate. Nothing about the story felt contrived or as if it was checking the boxes. The Similars is fresh and exciting with an ending that will blow your mind. I can’t wait for the sequel!

The Only Woman in the Room

The Only Woman in the Room is the remarkable story of Hedy Lamarr. Starting with her early adulthood in Austria during the rise of National Socialism and Hitler’s Germany and ending with her struggles to develop a means to keep American submarines safe from enemy fire, we learn about Hedy’s abilities as well as her loneliness. I have seen other readers criticize the novel for rushing through some of Hedy’s life, with the most significant criticism coming from her scientific tinkering that seems to appear out of nowhere. In my mind, careful reading explains all this, and I like how Ms. Benedict introduces Hedy’s experimental nature. It is subtle, but then again, any woman married to her first husband would have to be subtle in how she expresses herself and shows her intelligence. I found no faults with the way Ms. Benedict tells Hedy’s story, which I found fascinating from start to finish. Hedy was not afraid to take chances, even though those chances could harm her in some way. From appearing naked on-screen to attempting to flee from her abusive husband to fighting for increased wages to developing prototypes designed to help the U. S. Navy, she was always a woman who knew her mind and was not afraid to do what she deemed necessary. Ms. Lamarr was a woman who reminds us that we should always be true to ourselves, and Ms. Benedict’s novel is a fitting tribute to an amazing woman.

An Anonymous Girl

Ms. Pekkanen and Ms. Hendricks are quite the team. Their first collaboration was an excellent bit of fiction, but I genuinely think An Anonymous Girl is even better. The dynamic between our everyday heroine and elegant scientist is deliciously creepy and surprisingly realistic. I have no problems envisioning any number of people who would do what Jessica does in sneaking into a paid study or developing a slight case of hero worship with a woman who appears to have it all and who seems to know you so well. The co-authors keep you guessing in this cat-and-mouse tale as the identities of the cat and mouse remain fluid until the very end. Well-written and well-executed, An Anonymous Girl is the type of novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat without you realizing it. With two fabulous collaborations under their belt, I cannot wait to see what this duo has for us next.

Annelies

I adored David R. Gillham’s previous novel, which meant I had high expectations for his latest body of work even though I worried about his subject matter. Anne Frank is so well-loved, and sometimes, it is better to let the dead rest in peace rather than revise history no matter how much we want it to be true. It turns out that my worries were for naught because Annelies is an outstanding novel. Mr. Gillham’s diligent research pays off in a story that is sensitive, thought-provoking, and faithful. Through our familiarity with the Frank family and their travails during the war, we better understand the trauma – mental, physical, emotional, social – the Holocaust survivors experienced because we see it play out in this version of Anne. Watching the survivors rebuild their lives, as well as watching them deal with their grief and their guilt, is not easy, and I had to take reading breaks because the story is emotionally dense. I would reread it in a heartbeat because Mr. Gillham does such an excellent job making readers feel the enormous range of emotions Anne feels upon her release from the camps and does so while creating an imaginary future for Anne that fits what we know of her through her diary. I cannot recommend Annelies highly enough.

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