Book Reviews

by Sally Drake

Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile

An authentic and wonderfully written memoir by Americana singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who happens to be my favorite musician. This story tells about her journey from a chaotic but loving childhood, growing up in severe poverty, moving from place to place, and struggling to stay in school while at the same time immersed in bluegrass/country music culture. Yet, she knew from a young age that she was destined to be on stage. Carlile’s career has been completely on her terms, unmarred by corporate or popular influences, her success built on her vision, hard work, and immeasurable talent. I enjoyed the insight into her songwriting--every song is tied to a personal connection, relationship, loss, or experience. Her deep empathy and compassion resonates in her music, and, in this book, she tells the often heartbreaking stories behind the songs.  I highly recommend the audiobook--each chapter ends with a song or two, and over an hour of music is included at the end.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

An edge-of-your-seat literary thriller about an author who borrows a story idea for a best-selling novel--a choice that leads him down a terrifying path of reckoning with the truth. There are many twists along the way, and I never saw the end coming. In addition to being a compelling story, this book asks interesting questions about the nature of fiction: whose stories are ours to tell? Where do we draw the line between shared experience and shared story-telling? This is a great choice for the beach.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

A poignant memoir by a young Korean-American woman coming to terms with her beloved mother’s aggressive cancer and death. Growing up as the only Asian kid in her Eugene, Oregon community, Zauner and her mother have a deeply forged connection based on their shared Korean heritage. Zauner took many trips with her to Korea throughout her life, connecting to the culture, particularly through food. A lot of this memoir is about food--the Korean snacks she finds in American H-Marts to the complicated meals she learns to make from her mother, her aunts, and grandmother. Zauner, an indie musician, struggles to forge her identity, feeling much of her life as a part of two worlds, and she struggles with her mother through a fraught adolescence. As she cares for her mother in her last months, she finds strength in their shared cultural traditions.

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