A Flicker in the Dark
Author: Stacey Willingham
Publication Date: January 2022
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: BOTM hardcover

And to begin, story time. In June of 2021, in a small independent bookstore in Michigan, I found myself in conversation with a lovely woman pre-ordering a debut thriller written by her niece set to release in January of 2022. She excitedly shared with us it had already been picked up by HBO and Emma Stone was signed on for the lead role. All to say, I was very, very excited to get my hands on this book.

And I’m sad to report, it was just okay. This was one of my most anticipated thrillers for the year, but I was left underwhelmed and disappointed. Unfortunately, I just didn’t find it that thrilling. It didn’t help that I guessed nearly all of the plot twists, the most significant one I caught on to on page 30. When you’re writing about a limited number of characters, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to narrow down the suspects. Also, I’m so over the wine-drunk, prescription drug abusing, unreliable character. It’s just boring to me. Thank you, next.

I’ve seen tons and tons of positive reviews and 5 star ratings across social media. I think this book is perfectly suited for Megan Miranda fans. I’ll be curious to see what Stacey Willingham writes next. Fingers crossed it’s not another unreliable narrator.

The Express: The Ernie Davis Story
Author: Robert C. Gallagher
Publication Date: 1983
Genre: sports biography, nonfiction
Method: audiobook via TPL

Following the death of baseball legend Hank Aaron in January 2021, I picked up my first sports biography, Hank Aaron: Home Run Hero this time last year. When planning for my January TBR this year, I knew I wanted to include another sports biography, a tradition I hope to continue each January. My partner, being the Cleveland Browns fan that he is, recommended the legend, Ernie Davis.

The Express: The Ernie Davis Story tells the tale of All-American and Heisman Trophy recipient Ernie Davis and his upbringing in Elmira, NY to his collegiate career at Syracuse University, then his untimely death due to leukemia. Ernie Davis is remembered for his courage, integrity, and great character on and off the field. Not the best audiobook I’ve ever listened to, but the story was impactful nonetheless.

How Lucky
Author: Will Leitch
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: fiction
Method: hardcover BOTM

How Lucky: if Fredrik Backman rewrote Tuesdays with Morrie as a piece of fiction with a splash of kidnapping and a huge dose of humor. And commentary on Twitter. Can’t forget Twitter.

Like many books, I went into this story with basically no expectations. Picked it as a BOTM selection primarily because the main character is described as “unable to speak or move without a wheelchair.” As a physical therapist who works in extended care with a range of diagnoses including neuromuscular disorders, I enjoy reading stories from the perspective of those with disabilities. Really, I set out to judge the ability of the able bodied author to write from the perspective of someone living with a disability.

I think Will Leitch nailed it. Rarely, if ever, do I reach for a highlighter when reading fiction but I went to town on this book. From the perspective of an empathic healthcare provider, when Daniel writes about a caregiver’s “empathy meter near(s) zero” I felt that reverberate inside of me. I’ve struggled trying to verbalize this feeling of exhaustion after an emotional and giving work day, but thinking in terms of my empathy meter nearing zero makes me both feel validated and seen.

Leitch’s writing style reminds me of Fredrik Backman in that the main character is in conversation with the reader as he’s sharing this story, a piece of himself. The tone and voice felt very fresh and new to me. And young to be honest, given the references to Reddit, Twitter, college football, fake news, and memes. This book does such a great job of validating the lived experience online for so many. I think Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers are so quick to judge Millennials with their online presence, or what they see as dependency, as a laziness when in all actuality, it’s safety and comfort. Main character Daniel states, “my internet experience is different than yours. I think of the internet like my disguise. It’s the only place where people don’t treat me like I’m either a monster or a charity case to be pitied.”

A beautiful, fresh story about loneliness, grief, friendship, and the importance of been seen and heard as your authentic self. I leave you with this quote, “we all sequel in delight differently, but we all sequel in delight the same.”
Buzzword Readathon: January selection

Hungry Hearts: Essays on Courage, Desire, and Belonging
Editor: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh 
Publication Date: March 2021
Genre: nonfiction, short stories
Method: hardcover via TPL

A collection of essays about strength, motivation, grief, love, inspiration and so much more. Picked this up solely because Ashley C. Ford contributed to the project and I enjoyed reading her memoir Somebody’s Daughter last month. My favorite of the 16 essays was that of Cameron Esposito titled “On the Horrors of Fitting In” with this profound concluding statement, “I’m no longer choosing to position myself outside of life.” Overall a quick and insightful read, will likely never revisit it.

A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publication Date: July 2014
Genre: fiction
Method: audiobook via TPL, personal paperback

My second book by Backman and it was just as stunning and uplifting as Anxious People, if not more. The epitome of a comfort read. Backman has such a unique voice and style that is just so fun to be invited into. And the audiobook was spectacular.

An inherently sad story made humorous, delightful, and heart warming in a way Fredrik Backman does with ease. Well-crafted and likable characters fill the pages, from the grumpy old man to the delightful pregnant neighbor to the pesky neighborhood cat, and it’s impossible not to fall in love with each and every one of them.

Favorite quote: “One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead.”

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn

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