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Bourke's Bookshelf: 1st reads of 2022

My first books of the year include "Mayday" by Jonathan Friesen, "1984" by George Orwell and "Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James.

Books stacked on a bookshelf.
This month's books include "Mayday" by Jonathan Friesen, "1984" by George Orwell and "Death Comes to Pembereley" by P.D. James.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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I’ve got three main reading goals for 2022.

Theresa Bourke headshot

  1. Keeping reading Minnesota authors.
  2. Read books suggested by friends and family.
  3. Make a dent in the books already on my shelves.

Now, I realize that I can’t make as big of a dent in the books I already have if I keep seeking out others, but I still plan to read at least one book from my fully stocked shelves per month this year, so if all goes as planned, I should knock out at least a dozen of those, and hopefully more.
I also plan to read at least one book recommended to me by someone each month. I feel like this is a good way to continue venturing outside my comfort zone so that I don’t get stuck reading nothing but mysteries and Regency-era romances, especially since that would make for fairly dull columns.

And if my reading endeavors go as planned this year, readers might be able to expect columns a little more frequently than just once a month.

So without further ado, here are my first reads of 2022.

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‘Mayday’ by Jonathan Friesen

I love that the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library book sales always have a section dedicated to Minnesota authors. That’s where I picked up “Mayday,” which is set primarily in the Twin Cities and written by Mora native Jonathan Friesen.

"Mayday" by Jonathan Friesen
"Mayday" by Jonathan Friesen.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

I’m in a similar boat as others who have reviewed this book in that finding the right words to describe both the novel and my feelings toward it is difficult.

I know I liked it enough to stay up until 2 a.m. finishing the last 100 pages in one sitting. It had a unique storyline that made for an interesting read. The book is written from the perspective of Crow, a 17-year-old girl on life support after a serious car crash. While Crow’s body lies in a hospital room, her soul sits by her side and watches those who come to visit.

Among them is Crow’s younger sister Adele, who Crow spent most of her life — and risked her life — protecting. As Crow’s soul dangles in limbo between life and death, she thinks about how she failed Adele and what will come of her sister in a world without Crow.

But then she gets a chance to change things. Crow is allowed on a walkabout, during which her soul inhabits the body of another person and travels back to her past in hopes of changing the course of her future. But as Crow rushes through her walkabout, trying to save Adele before she runs out of time, she ends up learning more than she bargained for and effecting change she never expected.

A couple words that come to mind when I think about “Mayday” are haunting and tragic, which is coincidentally the same way I described “The Lovely Bones” — the first book I read in 2021.

‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell

I know there are a lot of books considered to be classics that I haven’t read yet, so I like to be able to cross some of those off, too. George Orwell’s “1984” fits that bill and also comes highly recommended by my brother-in-law, so it checks off two boxes on the list this month.

"1984" by George Orwell
"1984" by George Orwell.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

I can’t say that I loved it though. The horror of a totalitarian government in which citizens are under 24-hour mass surveillance and sentenced to death for their thoughts is not lost on me, and I can understand how even more horrific those themes must have been when the book was published in 1949. But perhaps it doesn’t quite resonate with someone my age as well.

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The internet was quickly gaining traction by the time I was in elementary school, so technology has almost always been a key part of my life. Before that, there were a lot of unknowns around the idea of the world wide web and how technological advancements could affect everyday lives. And with World War II ending just a few years before “1984” was published, many people were on edge, anticipating and dreading another global conflict. I think a lot of those unknowns contributed to the terror felt by Orwell’s work.

I also live in a time when the dystopian genre is nothing new, with popular books like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Hunger Games” trilogy. I’ve grown accustomed to books of this nature and am able to see them as little more than just an entertaining story and a reminder of how good I have it.

I can definitely appreciate “1984” for what it is but will not be adding to my list of favorites.

‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ by P.D. James

“Death Comes to Pemberley” combines two of my favorite things in literature — Jane Austen and murder mysteries — so naturally, I loved it.

"Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James.
"Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

P.D. James picks up a few years after Jane Austen left her beloved “Pride and Prejudice” characters with a quintessential happily ever after. But it’s not quite the happy ending Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy imagined — at least not right away — and likely not the future Austen imagined for her characters.

The night before the Darcys’ annual autumn ball at Pemberley, Elizabeth’s disgraced younger sister Lydia shows up out of the blue, hysterically yelling that her husband was killed. As the tale unfolds, she reveals that George Wickham — with whom she eloped during “Pride and Prejudice” and besmirched her family’s good name — is lost in the dark woods with Captain Denny. And shots were fired.

Though it wasn’t quite Austen’s writing, James’ love and enthusiasm for the original author is apparent, and I think she wonderfully captured the characters and their personalities while adding a thrilling, suspenseful twist to the story that sharply contrasts with the lightheartedness of “Pride and Prejudice.”

And those who are fans of Jane Austen’s other works — like “Emma” or “Persuasion” — will be happy to see little pieces of those worlds etched into the background.

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THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

Related Topics: BOOKS
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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