THE WINTERS IN BLOOM by Lisa Tucker and BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett: Books 37 & 38 of 2011 [BOOK WEEK 2]

Alrighty, we’re down to my last group book report for BOOK WEEK 2, and we’re ending it with two ensemble pieces. My second book was an ensemble, so I was kind of shying away from these for a while. But my third book, which I’m currently working on, only has two main points of view, so now it’s on like Tron as far as ensemble is concerned. Shall we?


Lisa Tucker is on my top ten list of contemporary authors and one of the few authors I pre-order in hardcover. She’s a favorite because she has three qualities that I greatly value: 1. The ability to create compelling characters, 2. The ability to bring the drama while keeping her writing literary, and 3. The ability to weave in suspense so well, that you can’t turn the pages fast enough.

Her latest offering, THE WINTERS IN BLOOM revolves around two extremely anxious parents whose strange son has been kidnapped. We get POVs from the parents, the father’s ex-wife, the father’s mother, the son himself, and the kidnapper (who may or may not be one of the aforementioned).

What I Loved: I read this book on the plane home from a friend’s East Coast wedding. I started it while waiting in the terminal with the intention of just reading until I was allowed to pull out my laptop and work on the plane. The next thing I knew, I was done. The cabin was dark and the captain was telling us to put away our electronics because we were about to begin our descent into Los Angeles. Time flies when you’re reading a Tucker book. Also, this novel’s last line is so utterly perfect and superb, I can’t get it out of my head. It’s my favorite last line of any book written this century so far.

What I Didn’t Like: The MIL’s POV never quite pays off and one has the feeling that the book would have still been a good read without her presence.

Writing Lesson Learned: On its surface, this book is a “whodunit” revolving around the son’s kidnapping, but at its heart, its really a mystery about how its characters came to be the way they are. It reminds me the mystery isn’t the exclusive domain of plot, it can also be applied to character.

Click HERE to buy the book at Amazon.


BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett

Debra Goykhman (who’s out on maternity leave) wrote a rapturous post about Patchett’s work for our last BOOK WEEK back in June. And then author, Carleen Brice, totally cosigned on her opinion. I felt compelled to download up an e-copy of BEL CANTO, her novel which is loosely based one (really it’s more inspired by) the 1996 guerrilla seizure of the Japanese embassy in Lima, Peru.

What I Loved: If you love opera, then this book will make you love it more. If you don’t love it, you will heavily reconsider your opinion. Patchett is a deft master of her craft and makes you love both things and people you never thought you could love before. You will certainly never look at a guerrilla hostage situation in the same way again.

I seriously could have eaten this book up. I wanted to consume in bites with a glass of Argentinian wine. I also wanted to listen to opera while reading it, but I had no idea which one to choose — then I realized this book is an opera within itself. It has such lightness, but also so much tension and foreboding, that as I neared the end, I could barely stand to turn the pages. The brilliance of Pachett is that she makes you care about this novel, about her writing, about everything. I was an emotional mess when this glorious, glorious book finally let me go, but I feel like a better person and writer for having read it.

What I Didn’t Like: The only reason this isn’t my favorite novel of all time or even the year, is simply because it isn’t. I can offer no better explanation. It’s made me realize that all forms of love are completely subjective.

Writing Lessons Learned: Write beautifully; love every character, big and small; notice the details; make your audience give a damn.

Click HERE to buy the book at Amazon.