Mini-reviews: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight; Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister; and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

reconstructingTitle: Reconstructing Amelia
Author: Kimberly McCreight
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Harper
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library

Goodreads blurb: Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is stunned when her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, calls with disturbing news: her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.

Kate can’t believe that Amelia, an ambitious, levelheaded girl who’s never been in trouble would do something like that. But by the time she arrives at Grace Hall, Kate’s faced with far more devastating news. Amelia is dead.

Seemingly unable to cope with what she’d done, a despondent Amelia has jumped from the school’s roof in an act of “spontaneous” suicide. At least that’s the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. And overwhelmed as she is by her own guilt and shattered by grief, it is the story that Kate believes until she gets the anonymous text:

She didn’t jump.

Sifting through Amelia’s emails, text messages, social media postings, and cell phone logs, Kate is determined to learn the heartbreaking truth about why Amelia was on Grace Hall’s roof that day-and why she died.

This has been a year of page-turners for me, and Reconstructing Amelia continued that trend. Kate’s story of discovering what happened to Amelia alternates with Amelia’s own story and text messages and Facebook updates, and it was a story that had me guessing until the very end. It is a terrifying read in many ways, especially if you are the mother of a teenage daughter and under the assumption that you know your daughter well. This is a must-read; just make sure that you have plenty of uninterrupted time when you start it!

farewellTitle: Farewell, Dorothy Parker
Author: Ellen Meister
Genre: Contemporary fiction; paranormal fiction
Publisher: AudioGO
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Angela Brazil
Audiobook length: 9 hours and 40 minutes
First line: Violet Epps stood before the maitre d’ in the lobby lounge of the Algonquin Hotel, waiting to be noticed.

Goodreads blurb: When it comes to movie reviews, critic Violet Epps is a powerhouse voice. But that’s only because she’s learned to channel her literary hero, Dorothy Parker, the most celebrated and scathing wit of the twentieth century.

If only Violet could summon that kind of strength in her personal life.

Gripped by paralyzing anxiety, Violet visits the Algonquin Hotel in an attempt to pull strength from the hallowed dining room, where Dorothy Parker and so many other famous writers of the 1920s traded barbs. But she gets more than she bargained for, and the feisty spirit rematerializes . . . hitching a ride onto Violet’s already troubled life.

An irreverent ghost with problems of her own—including a refusal to cross over to the afterlife—Mrs. Parker helps Violet face her fears, becoming mentor, tormentor, and, with any luck, friend.

Angela Brazil is one of my new favorite narrators! I loved this story of a woman who is haunted – willingly – by the ghost of the wry and acerbic Dorothy Parker, and Brazil’s reading brought it to life. I have never read Parker, although I’ve heard many of her short poems and witticisms, and I am now determined to read some of her work, as well as one of the many biographies written about the woman. This book is funny, heartfelt, and reminded me a bit of Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl, which I also loved.

unlikelypilgrimageTitle: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Author: Rachel Joyce
Genre: Contemporary fiction, literary fiction
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday.

Goodreads blurb: Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.

Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie–who is 600 miles away–because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die.

So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Along the way, strangers stir up memories–flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband.

Ironically, his wife Maureen, shocked by her husband’s sudden absence, begins to long for his presence. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?

This book was a joy to read. I’m glad I read some reviews of the audio, though, that mentioned that it was a bit slow, because I think it would have bothered me. It is a leisurely read, anyway, but since I could read at my own pace, it didn’t bother me all that much. The writing was absolutely beautiful, and I loved Harold. As Harold walks, he looks back over the decisions he made in his life, his relationship with his wife, and his relationship with his son. The literal walk is representative of the journey Harold must take in order to come to peace with the season he is in. This one is definitely worth all the buzz it’s getting and I look forward to what Joyce writes next.

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18 Responses to Mini-reviews: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight; Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister; and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

  1. irene says:

    I enjoyed Harold Fry as well, I haven’t read the other two you mentioned and I’m not sure I’m not too old to be terrified. I still like to think I know my children, but how many of us really do.
    irene´s last post ..Mailbox Monday… What are you Reading ?

  2. JoAnn @Lakeside Musing
    Twitter: lakesidemusing
    says:

    I’m adding Reconstructing Amelia to my wish list, and I agree with you about Harold Fry – it was wonderful!
    JoAnn @Lakeside Musing´s last post ..Top Ten Tuesday: Books for the Beach

  3. yaaay I loved Reconstructing Amelia, too!
    Amy @ My Friend Amy´s last post ..Every Minute

  4. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I loved Harold, although yes it did start slow, but the end was so satisfying and heartbreaking all at the same time. I do have a hard copy of Amelia. I just wish I had TIME!!!! to read!!!!!
    Sandy´s last post ..New on the iPod

  5. bermudaonion(Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    Lots of great reading for you! I just listened to Reconstructing Amelia and found the adults in the story more disturbing than the teens.
    bermudaonion(Kathy)´s last post ..Wondrous Words Wednesday

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – oh, yes, the grown-ups were scary in their behavior and how they justified it!

  6. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads
    says:

    I had mixed feelings about Reconstructing Amelia. I have been wanting to read the Dorothy Parker book.
    Beth F´s last post ..Guest Post and Giveaway: Three Truths and a Lie about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by Ania Szado

  7. Beth Hoffman says:

    I enjoyed Harold Fry’s journey but have been very reluctant to pick up Reconstructing Amelia. I’m a wimp and I think it sounds a bit too creepy for me.

    Hope your weekend is a good one!

  8. Susan says:

    Yeah I too liked & reviewed The Pilgrimage of Harold over at http://www.thecuecard.com/node/767. The Amelia one sounds scary; I’ll add it to my list, thanks
    Susan´s last post ..Where’d You Go, Bernadette

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Susan – I decided to move Harold Fry to the top of my to-read pile after reading your review. :)

  9. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – June 30, 2013 (plus, wraping up June’s reading) | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  10. Pingback: Favorite audiobooks of 2013 | BOOKS AND MOVIES

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