THE FAMILY by Naomi Krupitsky

It is difficult to believe that this is Krupitsky’s first novel. The Family is both riveting and endearing. I picked up the book casually but held on to it thirstily. After devouring it, I am closing the back cover, satisfied and intrigued for more.

Krupitsky is a beautiful writer who seamlessly unfolds a story like a seasoned novelist. The good news is that I am certain she will have many more books to come. The bad news…I fear she put all of her fantastic material into this debut book.

The phrasing. The story build. The likability of the characters, protagonists and otherwise. I fell quickly for her writing style – her brimming descriptions and metaphors. She has a luscious grip on our language and an appealing orchestration of its words.

Winter can be a welcome means by which to narrow the world down to the most important parts.

As summer turns hot, deadly hot, and the asphalt softens and the buildings collect the sun so even through the night they radiate a thick warmth.

Two families, united in culture and Family involvement. Two mothers raising their daughters – best friends – in a world of Italian mafia men in 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s Brooklyn. The hardships (probably very different from your own) are recognizable. Krupintsky allows her readers the room to weigh the circumstances and question what they would do in a similar situation.

Antonia, measured and imaginative…

Antonia finds that though she is expected to stay inside her own body, she often feels like she is in Sofia’s body, or her mamma’s body, or the body of the princess in a story. It’s easy for her to slip away, spread out, and exist in the whole universe instead of within the confines of her own skin.

Sophia, daring and adventuresome…

Sophia never means to belittle Antonia, and perhaps Antonia lets herself be made small too easily.

You will be quickly immersed in the lives of Sofia Colicchio and Antonia Russo through childhood, teenage years, and motherhood – each stage filled with secrets kept. They have grown up together since birth. They feed on their differences until age threatens to separate them into different worlds. “They both want to speak. But they cannot hear one another over the roar of the old world as it turns into a new one.

Follow them as they wrestle with their desire for independence from the unspoken worlds of their fathers as they push against the expectations of place and purpose.

This 368 page, coming-of-age novel is a quick read as you absorb each sentence with excited expectation. The overarching themes of love and dedicated friendship will strengthen your own place within the relationships you find yourself in.

I suddenly realized, as I read the last pages, I was no longer sitting on my couch. I was leaning forward with my elbows on my knees, the book dangling in the air, as the plot became just as unmoored as the physical book in my hands. The ending will leave you somewhat breathless as you struggle to hold tightly to the scattered bits of available hope.

I highly recommend this book. Not because it’s a debut novel but because it is a damn good novel. The appreciative reader within you will stop occasionally to roll the words around in your mouth and the writer within will jealously wonder: “Why didn’t I think to write that phrase myself?!” Such a delightful story and the writing therein.

Prayer is an acknowledgement of fear, of that which cannot be controlled or contained or even understood. It is a surrender and an attack, all at once.

A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES by Shea Ernshaw

I was opening my Book of the Month box just as my dad called yesterday. I told him what I was doing and he (84 years old) immediately said he remembered the first Book of the Month they ever received: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962) He also said he remembered ordering To Kill a Mockingbird through BOTM. Can you imagine?! My parents’ neighbors told them about the iconic book club when they were a young couple and as a kid, I remember looking through the (magical!) catalog they received each month.

(This sounds like a commercial, doesn’t it? I promise it’s not. I’m just a fan.)

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw was my selection for December. Magical realism is a genre I didn’t know I enjoyed until a few years ago. And oddly enough, I enjoy reading it the most in the winter months. This month’s selection sounds like a thrilling one.

Everything I have read about this book mentions the brilliance of the atmospheric experience you go through while reading it. You are completely immersed in the reclusive community of Pastoral as Travis – someone who has the uncanny gift of finding missing people by touching an object of theirs – dares to enter where he isn’t permitted. When he goes missing too, the plot thickens. 

I’m excited to jump in with Travis and see what we discover!

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS by Alice Feeney

“Shhhhhhut UP!”

That is what I yelled into my empty home. It was just me, alone, reading the twists in this fast-paced thriller. 

“Wait. What?!”, I continue my one-sided conversation as I rapidly flipped back to the earlier chapters.

I still have questions. I’ve never googled, so quickly, to compare plot ending explanations online. 

1. Main character has prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces.
2. Old, secluded chapel turned into a home (complete with church pews, iron keys and a crypt!)
3. Takes place between London and the Scottish Highlands, for pete’s sake.

Quick read (seriously – put away all responsibilities.) Few characters. Multiple plot twists. 

I’m going to fix me a stiff holiday elixir and catch my breath. 

“Most people see the writing on the walls, even if they can’t read what it says.”

Have you read it? Let’s compare notes! 

WHEN THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS AREN’T ENOUGH by Taylor Schumann

An excellent, excellent, excellent book.

I have been following Taylor Schumann for a little while now on Instagram and Twitter. I was excited when she decided to write a book because I was interested in reading her story in whole rather than the bits and pieces I’ve picked up over time. What I didn’t expect was to read a book chocked full of personal experience AND logical steps we can take to clarify and strengthen our society. This book met me at the crossroads of faith, patriotism, and common sense gun reform.

Taylor is ‘just a mom’. A young, married, mom of an adorable and precocious son – just like many other young moms you know. But Taylor was also shot, at 23 years old, while hiding in the closet of the community college where she was employed. Reading her account of this shooting was enthralling. Hearing about the court proceedings – so interesting. Feeling broken-hearted while reading her immediate and continuous challenges since the shooting (example: She can’t be without her phone. While hiding in the closet, she didn’t have her phone with her.) Taylor covers common myths, policy changes, and a very important item: how to discuss gun violence with others.

This book outlines some of the loopholes that would help strengthen all of our safety. Taylor doesn’t discount gun ownership. She lives a life based on faith and belief in God’s creation. I appreciate that she holds the two firm beliefs – Christianity and gun reform – in a balanced embrace. I firmly believe her approach is that of the majority of us, not the extremes we see on the nightly news. It was refreshing and affirming to read.

Here are a few loopholes that caught me off guard:

1) The Boyfriend Loophole: Currently, the federal law prohibits people from possessing or purchasing a gun if they have been convicted of domestic violence and/or are under a restraining order BUT only if the abuser has been married to, lives with, or has a child with the victim. The law does not cover abusive dating partners. Dating violence = simple assault. And simple assault doesn’t prevent someone from owning a gun.

2) The Stalking Loophole: People with a misdemeanor stalking conviction are not prevented from owning a gun.

3) If a background check doesn’t come back after three business days, the gun sale may proceed. Along with this loophole we need a notification to local police if a convicted abuser or stalker tries to buy a gun and fails a background check. Victims should also be notified.

Some states have these laws in place but without a federal mandate, people will simply travel from a strict state to a neighboring state that has looser gun laws for their gun purchase.

One of my favorite lines from the book actually came from Taylor’s husband:

“We all need to remember the last time we changed our mind about something.”

This isn’t one of those crazed books about taking away all guns or advocating for laws so strict that no one can afford a gun. This is a book about a personal encounter in a prominent shooting incident, the resulting consequences, and reasonable requests for gun safety purchasing and ownership.

I was so impressed by the totality of this book. I took more notes on this book than I have for any book in a very long time. Please consider picking it up for yourself. I think you’ll be as moved and empowered and challenged as I was. What more can you ask of a book???

THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN + Book of the Month

I was very honored that Book of the Month posted one of my pictures today on their social media. It was a photo of this fantastic book about J.P. Morgan’s assistant, Belle da Costa Greene, who helped build the J. Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City in the early 1900’s.

THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN is a celebration of art and ancient book manuscripts and Gutenberg bibles. I actually stopped midway through the book to re-watch The Monuments Men, which took place during a different time period but always gives me the same debt of gratitude for those who have gone to great lengths to preserve and uphold the honor in art.

You will stop and Google dates and names and it will spark an even deeper appreciation of the importance of the fine arts. This book will certainly be one of my top favorite books this year. Authors, Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, went to great lengths to research this novel. Each author’s note in the back of the book were fascinating to read in order to see how they went about collecting Belle’s story as well as information about the beginnings and early days of the library.

Extraordinary. Extravagant. Empowering. Thought-provoking. This would make an excellent book club read and discussion. I highly recommend this book about a section of our history you may not know much about. I will be thinking about it for a very long time.

Thank you, Book of the Month, for using my picture but mostly for bringing to the forefront a life story that needed to be told.

Sidenote: I have been a BOTM member for five years and have very fond memories of the catalogs that used to come in the mail to my parents each month. I read the book descriptions in awe and thought that BOTM must be the most grown up thing you could possibly do. What a dream to have books sent to you in the mail, I imagined! I’m so glad I get to enjoy them now. Each month is a new adventure that begins with an exciting blue box waiting for me at my front door.

Another sidenote: the decadently delicious waffles were a new recipe that my DEAR husband was trying out. It very quickly went into the MUST MAKE AGAIN section of our recipe file: whole wheat waffles with bananas and walnuts baked inside. (They’re practically health food.)

SING, UNBURIED, SING

This family drama was true southern prose full of spirits and stories and spells. Sin and family and forgiveness. No one dies quite like a southerner, taking their specific cooking and unique lineage, leaving us our heritage and pockets full of stories to embellish for many generations to come.

“…. sorrow is food, swallowed too quickly, caught in the throat, making it nearly impossible to breathe.”

This was a book with a strong second half. I appreciated the lyrical writing and ghostly references only a southerner could fully appreciate.

fines are no longer fine

I started a new jigsaw puzzle and am in that never-mind-it’s-too-hard-put-it-all-back-in-the-box stage. It’s a puzzle of classic paperback book covers.

USA Today published an article recently about library fines and how much they impact those who can least afford the fines or the punishment of no longer being able to check out books. Library fines are an insignificant amount of a library’s annual budget. In San Francisco, for example, they collected $300,000 in fines for a $138 million dollar budget. As a result, they did away with the fine system. 160 other libraries have since opted out.

In an increasingly volatile world, libraries offer so much more than books. Whether it’s free WiFi or resume help, patrons turn to the library as a source of information on many levels. As well as a familiar place of community.

“Sometimes going back to an old book is like going back to an old friend.”

reading. listening. learning.

I reach for books to learn while listening to people who have lived the injustice. There is so much for all of us to learn…

library love.

Feeling very…sentimental…today about all the trips to the library I’ve made in my lifetime. The excitement never changes. I am so deeply appreciative that libraries have coped and adapted so that we can still sail to other lands while huddled safely in our homes.


Thank you from the bottom of my heart, library systems. Your work is enormously essential.

THE INVISIBLE LIFE of ADDIE LARUE by V. E. Schwab

What is it about my weirdo brain that says, ‘Oh…this is a really popular book out there in the world? Then let’s be sure and NOT read it yet.’ What? Why??

Whatever mental defect I have, it happens every time a book skyrockets to popularity. But I’ve heard so many fantastic things about this one, maybe it’s time I ignore myself and dive in? What do you think?

Have you read it? Did it live up to the hype?

INTIMATIONS by Zadie Smith

I didn’t check to see what this book of essays was about before starting to read it. Some respected people recommended it, so I opened the front page with no expectations.


I found a collection of essays filled with reflections on the first half of 2020. Unique reflections. Powerful comparisons. But all with room enough for me to think about other perspectives and process my own 2020 experience.

Powerfully beautiful essays, not overindulgent in trite hope nor overwhelmingly oppressive in gloom. I closed the back cover, filled with new insight.

Finding Calm

These are a few books that have meant a lot to me personally during this pandemic season. I find reliance on the liturgy comforting when you don’t feel like praying. Leaning into ancient traditions (even rote memorization) gets you through at times when your heart just isn’t in it.

I especially recommend the book, Flee. Be Silent. Pray. by Ed Cyzewski. I’ve found a great deal of comfort (and shame release, to be honest) reading this book. It’s no accident I bought it right before the pandemic.

“Find a space for walking with God”, Cyzewski writes. Thomas Merton wrote about the moment he walked into his monastery to stay for the first time: ‘Brother Matthew locked the gate behind me and I was enclosed in the four walls of my new freedom.’”

Has Quarantine 2020 been our own monastery? Has it forced us to slow down, to engage more authentically with each other, to pay closer attention to the blatant injustices that have been hiding in plain sight? I keep using the phrase ‘Quarantine as monastery.’ That’s what it’s felt like to me. I’ve been stir crazy at times, yes. But I also have come face to face with Greta in a way I haven’t taken the time to do before my regular routines were broken apart. I’ve learned some ugly traits and I’ve seen talents I have stepped around too often before. I am processing my own prejudices and I’ve embraced a forced contentment with less. I’ve found, through this pandemic of all things, the newly available space to walk intentionally each day with God. I want to go to movie theaters and hug people and travel, but I don’t want my ‘quarantine monastery’ to disappear too quickly. Or to be forgotten too easily. My mind and my heart still has so much work to do. In time. No hurry. Let’s have just one more chai together as I continue to try to memorize this nightly prayer:

‘Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Attend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest for the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love sake. Amen.’