A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1963)

Inspired by the imminent release of the new A Wrinkle in Time film from Disney, one of my book clubs selected to read this children’s literature classic for our March book selection, followed by a of group viewing the movie. A Wrinkle in Time is a slim volume, book one in a quintet written by Madeleine L’Engle, and took just a few hours to read. The story follows high-schooler Meg Murry who goes on an intergalactic journey to find her missing father and attempts to lessen the power a dark force that is exerting its evil over the universe.

On Earth, Meg is awkward, angry, and quarrelsome; often in trouble in school and lacking close friends. Her social isolation is made worse by her longing for her father, whose work for the US Government has taken him away from his family for several years. One of her only consolations is her deep connection to her five-year-old brother Charles Wallace, whose startling intelligence and empathy are those of a much older boy and who has what at times seems like a supernatural power to read minds.

With the arrival in town of three very unusual women — Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit — Charles Wallace and Meg are launched on a journey into the far reaches of the universe, along with their neighbor, Calvin. Traveling along the fifth dimension, using a series of time travel short cuts or “wrinkles in time,” the children are taken to the outer edges of the universe to save their father from a planet whose residents have succumbed to the Dark Thing.

Using their own unique skills and gifts given to them by the Mrs., the children temporarily defeat the Dark Thing’s accomplish the IT and rescue their father, returning him home to reunite him with their mother and siblings. While this is a book loved by my sons, I find myself a bit underwhelmed by the story which fluctuates between too complex and too simplistic and which seems unsophisticated to today’s reader. I have no doubt, however, that the movie will be outstanding and more than make up for the book’s shortcomings.



Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (2017)


“Everything that I am seeing is all physically balanced on the cusp between the now of things and the big, incomprehensible change to come. If it is true that every living particle that I can see and not see, and all that is living and perhaps unliving too, is trimming its sails and coming about and heading back to port, what does that mean? Where are we bound? Is it any different, in fact, from where we were going in the first place?” 13

Louise Erdrich’s stunning new novel, Future Home of the Living God, is an ecstatic, psychedelic, feminist masterpiece: one that tells stories about the raw power of women, of mothers, of the continuance of life against all odds: and it is about the inevitable, horrific ways that men in power will dirty and corrupt change in an effort to control the uncontrollable.

A series of huge and irreversible environmental disasters have set into motion massive global changes; whether or not human-kind can survive those changes is unknown. Everything that is known, or even guessed, about the origins of life on planet Earth are being called into question and no one — neither scientist, politician, nor religious leader — can predict what will happen to those left on earth. The question that emerges as even more urgent to answer is: what will happen to those who are about to arrive on earth?

As governments crumble and people devolve into violence and chaos, the call to round up all pregnant women and detain them against their will is is growing louder. Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a young Ojibwe woman living in Minneapolis, sees the world crumbling and is unsure where to turn: towards her white, adoptive parents or to her biological Native parents on their reservation in Norther Minnesota? Who can best protect her during these uncertain times, and who can best protect her unborn baby from a government that wants to take it for their own experimentation?

” I know this: there is nothing one human being will not due to another. We need a god who sides with the wretched. One willing to share misery.” 153

The dystopic story that follows is riveting and horrifying, but expertly written by Erdrich. The author blends Native story-telling, Catholicism, New-Age spirituality, evolutionary biology, and her own unique visions of the future to tell Cedar’s tale. What will become of women, she asks, when men in power decided that they will seize complete control of human reproduction?  The answer, nothing good.

The future of the world is not a devastating and dramatic end but a complete reversal. Things begin to move backward, time reverses, and humans shed their civility in response. Women, as always, are simultaneously the key to the Future and  extraordinarily vulnerable to the ill-intent of science, religion, and men who want to claim their power to create life for their own.

This book is, I say again, a masterpiece of science fiction — of fiction! — and should not be missed.

“That my body is capable of building a container for the human spirit has inspired in me the will to survive. It has also shown me truths. Someone has been tortured on my behalf. Someone has been tortured on your behalf. Some in this world will always be suffering for your behalf. If it comes your time to suffer, just remember. Someone suffered for you. That is what taking on the cloak of human flesh is all about, the willingness to hurt for another human being.” 205


The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer (2010)

The women of Stellar Plains, New Jersey are preoccupied with sex: how much they are having, who they are having it with, whether they are enjoying it, and what to do to get more. From teenage girls who are just beginning their sexual lives to long-married women for whom sex is a distant memory; it is on the minds of the women of the entire town this December. (To be fair, sex is on the minds of the men in town too, but given that this is true most of the time, the thoughts the male residents of the town have about sex are less important in this story.)

The intimate lives of the women in town are heading for a shake-up, although in the opening pages of the book none of the female characters in The Uncoupling suspect what they are in for.  It is only when the high school drama teacher selects the Greek play, Lysistrata, that a cold wind begins to blow into the bedrooms of every woman in the story.

In the play, the women of ancient Greece are sick of the decades-long war that has stolen their husbands away, some forever, and decide they only have one weapon left: sex. They will withhold sex from all men until the war is brought to an end. In The Uncoupling, it is as if the ideas from the play begin to cast a spell one woman after another, causing each to inexplicably and irrevocably refuse to have sex.

It becomes clear that each woman’s refusal of sex has a deeply different cause from that of her neighbors. For sixteen year-old Willa, it is as if she is suddenly doubting whether love is real and whether she has let sex have too much power of her relationship. For Ruth, a mother of two toddlers and a newborn, the respite from her husband’s lackluster nightly sex sessions allows her time to set some guidelines for self-care which include stopping sex until her husband makes it worth her while. For Leanne, pausing all three sexual relationships she is in forces her to take a hard look at whether causal sex is really all she wants as she approaches 30. For forty-year-old Dory, it is the first time is more than 20-years of marriage that sex has not been at the center of her marriage and her sudden refusal shines a light on what the rest of her relationship with her husband brings to her life. For Bev, whose recent weight gain has led to conflict in the bedroom, the refusal to have sex is a demand to her husband: love me as I am (not as I was) or get out.

Wolitzer tells her tale with laugh-out loud humor as well as deep insight into the social forces that influence who a woman sleeps with and why. The book sheds a light on the various paths to sexual fulfillment women follow and attempts to remove the shame women feel about their bodies and their sexual appetites. A wonderful book that I highly recommend, even if you have found Wolitzer’s other works to be difficult to read.


In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende (2017)

in the midst of winter

Lucia Maraz, a Chilean woman and visiting scholar, and Richard Bowmaster, Lucia’s American colleague at NYU and her landlord, live together in a brownstone in Brooklyn. Despite the fact that both Lucia and Richard are experts on South American politics,  their relationship is strictly professional. Both Richard and Lucia are approaching their mid-sixties and both feel that they have reached a cross-roads in their lives. Lucia is recovering from a second bout of breast cancer and has moved to America wanting to live her life with verve and adventure. Richard is punishing himself for the horrific end to his marriage twenty years prior and has decided that, despite crippling loneliness, it is best to protect his heart and finish his life alone; a decision that has meant Lucia’s attempts to befriend Richard have all failed.

That is, until a blizzard strikes New York City trapping the two in the house they share and setting into motion a bizarre series of events that will ask the two to bridge the gap between them to help others. On an errand, Richard is involved in an car accident with a young woman and, even though the crash is not too serious, the woman is clearly terrified. In rapid Spanish, she attempts to tell Richard about her predicament but he is unable to follow her story: all he can make out is she is driving her employer’s car without permission. In desperation, Richard gives the young lady his home address and asks her to come see him after the storm with promises that he will help her explain the crash to her employer.

Evelyn Ortega knows as soon as she is hit by Richard Bowmaster that she cannot return to her employer’s home. With no other options given the horrendous conditions of the blizzard, she does the only thing she can think of: she goes to Richard’s home. Richard is shocked to find the young woman on his doorstep just an hour later, speaking Spanish and insisting on coming inside. Feeling as though he has no other options, he begs his housemate Lucia to help translate.

What transpires next will change the lives of all three people forever. Evelyn tells the two a story that began more than twenty years ago. From the time of her birth in a small Guatemalan village, Evelyn’s life was one of endless hard work. She tells the others of horrific acts of violence, wars, abuse, hunger, and about the terror that consumed her entire childhood; and in doing so paints of picture of Guatemala in the early twenty-first century.  Her story is one of survival; survival only made possible by Evelyn’s harrowing immigration to the US and her job working illegally for a man in New York who would not hesitate to punish her harshly for “borrowing” his car.

Snowbound in the house and unable to calm Evelyn  — who is terrified her boss will track her down and fire her, deport her, or possibly even kill her — Lucia tells the young woman and Richard about her own childhood in post-WW2 Chile and her own struggles with political upheaval, violence, and fear over the following decades.

Finally Richard shares his family’s story; beginning with his father’s escape from the Nazi’s; through his years married to a Brazilian woman and living in South America; to present day. His story also highlights the enormous changes — political and social — that have swept over South American in since the middle of the twentieth century.

As they tell their stories, the three begin to bond. Evelyn begins to trust that these people will help her escape her situation in New York. Lucia and Richard begin to grow closer to one another, their loneliness lessening with each word shared. By helping Evelyn, the other two begin to see a new purpose for their lives and a new path forward together.




The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine (2017)

last mrs parrish

Amber Patterson may seem unassuming and naive, a young girl who is out of her depths living among the super-rich residents on Bishops Harbor, Connecticut; but she is not. Behind the plain clothes and subservient demeanor is a scheming, ambitious woman who will do just about anything to become the wife one of the town’s super-rich men. Her target is the wealthiest of them all: Jackson Parrish.

The only problem is that Jackson Parrish is already happily married to a gorgeous and smart woman named Daphne. Amber decides winning Jackson’s temporary attention is not enough, she wants to become his second wife. In order to do that, she must implement a complex plan that will allow her to befriend Daphne, grow close to the family, and try to worm her way into Jackson’s heart from his inner circle.

As her plan is set into motion, Amber is thrilled to find that Daphne accepts her with ease and soon she is almost a part of the family. With skill and ease, she manipulates Daphne time and again, each move bringing her closer and closer to Jackson.

But Daphne has a secret of her own, her life — while lavish and filled with glamour — is not the fairy-tale it appears from the outside. Amber, blinded by greed and lust, misses all of the warning signs and positions herself to take over a life she knows nothing about.


Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (2017)

young jane young zevin

Zevin’s novel, Young Jane Young, centers around a political sex scandal that changes the lives of the women who take turns narrating the story. When twenty-year old congressional intern, Aviva Grossman, has an affair with her boss, she thinks the worst thing that can happen is that her heart will be broken. She is terribly wrong. Their affair is revealed — in excruciating detail, by multiple press outlets for months — and her life is completely ruined while the Congressman’s only mildly disrupted.

The book’s opening chapters are told from the point of view of Aviva’s mother, Rachel Shapiro, who is reflecting on the scandal more than a decade after it happens. Not only did the affair cost her daughter her name and reputation, but it contributed the end of Rachel’s career as well and hastened the end of Rachel’s marriage to Aviva’s father. Worst of all, the scandal drove Aviva away from her home and she has not spoken to her parents since she fled Florida in disgrace. Rachel outlines the nitty-gritty of the scandal and remains dazed that her family is still suffering aftershocks all these years later. The damage to her family seems especially outrageous considering the fact that the Congressman has gone on with great success, winning multiple terms in office and even remained married to his wife.

The next narrator up is Jane Young, a wedding planner in rural Maine and single mother to Ruby. Jane was been involved in the Aviva Grossman scandal and her subsequent fall from grace; she is haunted by the power the scandal seems to have even after almost a decade and finds it outrageous that Aviva suffers all of the consequences while the Congressman seems to have faced none. When she crosses a local man who is threatened by her ambition and his inability to bully her, she suddenly finds that connection between Jane Young and Aviva Grossman might come back to haunt her once again.

Our third narrator, 13-year old Ruby Young, tells her story through a series of emails to her pen pal. Ruby has been helping her mother Jane run for mayor of their small town and an internet search reveals that her mother is Aviva Grossman, that she became Jane Young after the scandal drove her away from Florida and into a life of hiding. Ruby is outraged by her mother’s dirty secret and swayed by the blatant slut-shaming she finds in the online stories.  Ruby also begins to suspect that the Congressman is her father.

Next up, we hear from the wife of the Congressman, Embeth Levin, and about her life during the 13 years since the scandal. We learn of her thirty-year long marriage to a man she deeply loves and believes in, but a man who cheated on and humiliated her in front of the entire world. She has had to suppress her own ambitions to be his supportive spouse and has been forced to smile while he admits his affairs to the public. When Ruby Young arrives on her doorstep, she is forced to relive the entire scandal and is now left wondering if her husband is the young girl’s father. If so, it would be another scandal…one she is too exhausted to weather.

Finally, we hear from 20-year old Aviva Grossman about how she entered into the affair that would change her life and how she emerged from the wreckage of the scandal as Jane Young, a entirely new woman she if forced to create to avoid being shamed for her past mistakes.

With humor and honesty, Young Jane Young draws attention to the outrageous double standards that women face throughout their lives: the emphasis on their looks and youth; the disparagement they face for having ambitions; the judgement they face for their mistakes, especially sexual indiscretions; and the professional uphill battles they often endure.