Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
After last year's disappointing release, this was back to the Jennifer Weiner that I know and love. Her books aren't deep or full or meaningful symbolism, but they are easy to read, funny and always contain great characters.
This book centres on Rachel and Andy. They first meet when eight year old Rachel, who has a congenital heart disorder, is hospitalized yet again and while recovering wanders into the emergency room where she meets Andy, also eight, alone and suffering from a broken arm. The two cannot be more different - Rachel is Jewish, upper middle class and doted upon by her parents who fear for her health. She is also close to her Nana (Weiner almost always has a wonderfully strong grandmother figure). Andy is the son of a single white mother whose father was black. He is often neglected by his mother, he never knew his father, and his mother cut her off from her parents. He does have a wonderful role model, Mr. Sills, a local handyman who takes him under his wing and keeps him out of trouble in his rough neighbourhood. The two children bond as Rachel tells Andy a story and gives him one of her many stuffed animals.
About 8 years later the two meet again while working on a Habitat for Humanity style building project. They both remember each other well (Andy admits having saved the stuffed animal) and, despite obstacles, they fall in love. They maintain a long distance relationship until graduating high school when they meet again briefly (aided by Rachel's nana). In college their differences cause them to part.
The rest of the book deals with their separate lives - Rachel becomes a social worker while Andy is an olympic runner. And with their long lasting feelings for each other that just don't seem to survive in the real world. And though they each have other relationships, you know that eventually they'll find their way back to each other.
A thoroughly enjoyable summer escape.
Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova
This is essentially the Huntington's Disease version of Still Alice. Joe O'Brien is a Boston police officer in his early forties when he is diagnosed with Huntington's Disease. The book deals with the impact of this terrible disease on him and on his four adult children who struggle with whether or not to get tested for the gene and the implications of that decision.
The book is primarily written from the points of view of Joe and his youngest daughter, Katie, who is a yoga instructor and involved in a very new relationship. We see her struggle with whether she even wants to get tested.
This is an eye opening description of a terrible disease. But it is not all dark. Genova also illustrates the power of family bonds and how the family members can help each other through the tough times. There are even some humorous parts - like where Katie speculates that her Irish Catholic father may get over the fact that her boyfriend is a black Baptist but will struggle mightily with his affinity for the Yankees.
I found the book a little depressing though not quite as bad a Still Alice. It's not a bad read though not so great that I would run out and get unless you're just looking for something easy to read.