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July reads: Different genres bring a variety of tales

This month’s books include “A Long Fatal Love Chase” by Louisa May Alcott, “For One More Day” by Mitch Albom, “Camino Island” by John Grisham and “Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons” by Minnesota author Lorna Landvik.

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This month’s books include “A Long Fatal Love Chase” by Louisa May Alcott, “For One More Day” by Mitch Albom, “Camino Island” by John Grisham and “Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons” by Minnesota author Lorna Landvik. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

All the books I read in July were very different from one another, but each had their own appeal that drew me in and made me want to keep reading.

This month’s featured Minnesota author is Lorna Landvik, a Twin Cities native who has about a dozen novels to her name.

‘A Long Fatal Love Chase’ by Louisa May Alcott

Many readers no doubt know Louisa May Alcott for her classic novel “Little Women,” and a few may be familiar with the sequels, “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys.” But even fewer have likely heard of “A Long Fatal Love Chase,” which actually predates “Little Women” in terms of when it was written but was not published until 1995 — more than 100 years after Alcott’s death.

I hadn’t heard of it either until recently, when I picked up a used copy at a book sale. It’s apparent after the first sentence that this book differs dramatically from the style of “Little Women.”

“‘I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.’”

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The beautiful young Rosamond Vivian utters this line while living a lonely life on a solitary island with her grandfather, who doesn’t pay her much attention. But when a mysterious man — an old friend of her grandfather’s — comes to the door, Rosamond has no idea how close she is about to come to her hypothetical deal with the devil.

Philip Tempest offers her everything she wants — love and freedom — when he ferries her away on his yacht to continental Europe. Everything is right in the world at last, and she couldn’t be happier.

But that wedded bliss is short-lived when she learns dark truths about her husband, and her life suddenly turns into one giant, unending game of cat and mouse. The chase carries her across Europe as she runs from a life of cruelty, using any and all means available to her. But with every step she takes, Tempest is there.

I found my heart pounding while I neared the end of each chapter, knowing something — but not exactly what — was about to happen.

“A Long Fatal Love Chase” was originally written in 1866 and planned to be published in installments in a magazine but was deemed too sensational for the time. It wasn’t until educator Kent Bicknell acquired the manuscript in 1994 that the pages of Alcott’s gothic novel finally saw the light of day. Alcott makes her love of Charlotte Bronte’s classic “Jane Eyre” apparent throughout “A Long Fatal Love Chase,” which is perhaps why I enjoyed the novel as much as I did.

‘For One More Day’ by Mitch Albom

I will absolutely read anything Mitch Albom writes, and I have no shred of doubt that I’ll enjoy every word.

“For One More Day” was another exceptionally beautiful work by Albom, who is always able to drag me into his story right away. The book always ends before I even realize I’ve gotten that far.

This 2006 novel poses the philosophical question — if you could get one more day with a loved one who has died, how would you spend it? What would you say?

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Well, Chick Benetto gets that opportunity after a failed suicide attempt puts him in a sort of limbo where he sees his mother, who died several years earlier. During the day he gets to spend with his mom, Chick develops a newfound appreciation for all the sacrifices she made for her family and comes to realize the value of his life. It truly is a story of a mother’s love and a son’s journey to understand it.

“Behind all your stories is always your mother's story. Because hers is where yours begin.”

‘Camino Island’ by John Grisham

An elaborate heist, a shady bookstore owner, a down-on-her-luck author, an undercover operation, hidden cameras, stolen goods and money-hungry thieves. All that and more are wrapped up in one of John Grisham’s newer novels, “Camino Island,” written in 2017.

The original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels are stolen from Princeton University, setting in motion a top-secret mission to get them back.

It doesn’t quite have the same tone as some of Grisham’s older, more popular courtroom thrillers, but it was an enjoyable read for the most part. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the ending of this novel, but the story itself definitely drew me in, as did Grisham’s writing.

When a murder occurs, garnering only a few lines in the book and paling in comparison to the rest of the story, you know it’s going to be a thrill ride. And who better to deliver such a tale than John Grisham?

‘Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons’ by Lorna Landvik

Lorna Landvik’s Norwegian heritage and influences are apparent in her 2003 novel “Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons,” set in Minneapolis.

The novel spans 30 years, beginning in 1968 when five women living on Freesia Court decide to start their own book club. The women couldn’t be more different, but their love of reading binds them together, almost as much as their affinity for sweets.

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There’s Faith, a lonely pilot’s wife and mother to twins with a dark, secretive past; shy, beautiful Merit, trying hard to please her husband, who tries equally hard to knock his wife down — both emotionally and physically — every chance he gets; Audrey, the voluptuous, sex-crazed friend who is always unapologetically herself; Slip, the tiny red-headed spitfire fighting for social justice and against her body negativity; and Kari, the oldest of the group by about a decade, a widow whose only desire in life is to be a mother.

Their personalities both clash and mesh, bringing about honest discussion, heart-wrenching confessions and undeniable love. The connection the women have with each other — brought about by books — made me want to form a book club of my own, complete with good food, good drinks and good company.

I was hard-pressed to put this book down each night. It was one where the characters really came alive, and not just on the pages. As I laid in bed after finishing it at 3 a.m., I found myself wondering about the women’s futures after the book and couldn’t quite wrap my head around the idea that they weren’t real people. And that, in my mind, is the mark of a good book.

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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