Ashley Hay’s The Railwayman’s Wife

If I could describe reading Ashley Hay’s The Railwayman’s Wife briefly, I would say that it was like going on a journey of the soul. One year in the life of a widow, trying to make sense of a world that took her husband away from her, learning how to navigate life in an unfamiliar way, and discovering new facets about herself. It is about love and loss, and finding oneself again after your whole world has crumbled.

The protagonist, Anikka Lachlan – Ani – goes through quite the transformation. In the beginning of the novel, Ani is content with her life as a wife, a mother, a homemaker. She is a voracious reader, frequently getting lost in the pages of a book, but her life is calm, relaxed. There is a ‘stillness’ about her. She’s careful in her actions, always holding back as though she’s afraid that someone will notice her, afraid to let go and live in the moment. Unlike her husband, Mac, who we get to know – both through Ani’s memories and individual chapters – as a man who isn’t afraid to let life grab a hold of him and lead him. She is docile with him, complacent. After his death, Ani has no choice but to reinvent herself, and by the end of the novel, she is able to act carefree, doing cartwheels on the beach and actually wishing for an audience.

Ani is not the only character that we see go through a transformation. Roy McKinnon and Frank Draper return home three years after the end of WWII changed men. Before the war Roy had been a teacher. He is also a poet, having published a poem while he was away. Roy walks around aimlessly searching for something to write about, discouraged by his inability to write in a peaceful setting, until he befriends Ani, finally finding the inspiration that he needs to write again. As a doctor, Frank saw a lot more death than he could have imagined while he was away and felt helpless to stop it. It is only after he resumes his relationship with Roy’s sister and gets to know Ani that he is able to start enjoying life again.

It only took me three days to read this and I distinctly remember two times when it brought me to tears. The first was after we learn of Mac’s death, and the second when something completely unexpected occurs. The novel is full of beautiful prose and descriptions, and teaches you that life does not end with death, that sometimes it can be reborn.


“The oceans and the skies…and the sun coming up each new day. That’s all there is, I think. That’s all that matters to think on.”

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay, coming April 2016
The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay. Coming April 2016. Atria Books.

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Maybe in Another Life

“Every second of every day, the world is splitting further and further into an infinite number of parallel universes, where everything that could happen is happening.”

Have you ever wondered about what would have happened if you had made a different choice? If you had chosen to follow your heart and not your head? If you had said yes to something, instead of no? How different would your life be? I would like to think that there are certain things that happen in your life that are supposed to happen, and that the choices that we make are just part of the process to get there, that their impact – whatever it may be – is not significant enough to change our destiny. But what if that isn’t the case, and certain choices really do change your destiny? In Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new novel, Maybe In Another Life, she explores the concept of destiny and the affect our decisions have on it.

When Hannah moves back home to Los Angeles after yet another failed relationship and mediocre job, she runs into her high school boyfriend, Ethan, while out celebrating with her best friend Gabby. At the end of the night, Hannah has to decide between going home with Gabby and staying out with Ethan. Such a simple decision, but one that ends up having a huge impact on her life, as we are shown both parallels.

It’s funny how a simple decision can be life altering. Simple, every-day decisions. We don’t think that the little things always matter and tend to take a lot of things for granted, but this novel makes you reevaluate things that you once thought of as insignificant. It makes you question your life and your choices. It makes you question whether or not you are living up to your potential – living out your dreams. This is what I love about Reid. She has a way of conveying emotions that stick with you long after you’ve finished the final page, and her words have the ability to alter your views on life and the way you live it.

Coming July 7, 2015


Lene Kaaberbol’s Doctor Death

“Around her the city is living its nightlife….But here in the passageway where she lies, there is no life.”

What if understanding death could help the living?

In Lene Kaaberbol’s novel, Doctor Death, the reader is brought back to a time when doctors had to fight in order to perform autopsies. It is 1890s France, and a young woman is found dead in front of her home, but the cause is overlooked because the family forbids an autopsy, and so a diagnosis cannot be properly determined. After a few more bodies are discovered to have some of the same symptoms as the young woman, a pathologist and his daughter Madeleine take it upon themselves to search for the true cause of her death. When her father turns up injured, will Madeleine be strong enough to shoulder most of the work herself?

What I find to be interesting of this novel, and of all period pieces really, is that it takes you to an entirely different world, one where rules were made according to gender (oftentimes) more so than by qualifications. It was unacceptable for women to do many things, and most of them resigned to that fate, to being considered the weaker sex. And here is Madeleine, desperate to become her father’s (Doctor Death) partner rather than his occasional assistant. Her work and success is limited merely because of the fact that she is a woman, but that doesn’t stop her from trying. Which is a big part of what this novel is about. One woman, going against the societal norm in order to pursue her life’s passion.

Doctor Death is at once a gripping mystery and a coming of age story that takes you on a journey to find the truth. It is definitely one to add to your collection.

Coming February 17, 2015


Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Forever Interrupted

“’I love you Elsie Porter Ross,’ he says, and he bends down to the couch to kiss me.  He is wearing a bike helmet and bike gloves.  He grins at me. ‘I really love the sound of that.’”


Three pages into Taylor Jenkins Reid’s debut novel, Forever Interrupted, and it looks as if Ben and Elsie have the rest of their lives in front of them.  They were married less than two weeks ago and seem deliriously happy, the kind of couple that is meant-to-be.  By the end of that same page however, Elsie is running barefoot in the street to the sound of sirens, and Ben’s body is being placed into an ambulance, Fruity Pebbles scattered in the street.  He had gone out to get them for Elsie and was hit by a truck a block away from home.  At the hospital Elsie meets her mother-in-law, Susan, for the first time…a woman who didn’t even know she existed.  Their relationship starts off rocky – Susan can’t understand why her son had never told her about Elsie – but after a while they both realize just how much they need each other in order to heal, or, at least, to start healing.

The story alternates every few chapters from the six months that Elsie and Ben were dating to Elsie dealing with the grief of Ben’s death.  At times her grief is so overpowering that it leaves you in tears – okay, more than half of the time…I cried a lot while reading this.  Why read it then?  Because, simply put, it is amazing; I honestly could not put it down.  For all of the sad points of Elsie’s grieving it really is worth it…an unconventional love story of sorts.  At one side you have Elsie and Ben.  You get to watch their love story unfold – see their chance meeting over takeout pizza one rainy night, their first date where Ben caught Elsie trying to break into her house, how they were moved in together and married after only six months of knowing each other.  Then you have Elsie and Susan.  At first Susan seems mean and unreasonable (understandably), but she has more in common with Elsie than either of them realize.  She also is one of my favorite characters; she is stronger than she knows.  It’s a shame that it took Ben dying for them to meet (his reasons are valid…sort of), but something tells me that was the way it was supposed to be.  Elsie needed a mother figure in her life, someone to love her having not been close to her parents, and Susan needed to be needed since both her husband and son were no longer alive.

I really loved Forever Interrupted, and there’s a good chance that I pick it up again soon.  Perhaps the second time around I will cry a little less, then again, perhaps not.  I leave you with a quote (because I love quotes).  It is from a conversation between Elsie and Susan.  Elsie had just gotten home from jail for punching someone at work.  Her friend Ana had called Susan and brought Elsie home.  Susan got there and Elsie started crying and fell apart, and this was Susan’s advice, right before she suggested that Elsie come spend time at her house to grieve.  I thought it was very powerful…and it still brings me to tears reading it.


“…you have to find a way to remember him and forget him.  You have to find a way to keep him in your heart and in your memories but do something else with your life.  Your life cannot be about my son.  It can’t.”

Karen Brown’s The Longings of Wayward Girls

This past weekend, I finished reading Karen Brown’s The Longings of Wayward Girls.  It’s being published on July 2nd (as of now) by Washington Square Press, and I was lucky enough to snag an Advanced Reader’s Copy from my instructor, who happens to be kind of a big deal over at Atria Books, of which Washington Square Press is an imprint (she is the president/founder).  It took me a little while to get into it, but when I finally did, I couldn’t put it down.  The story revolves around the main character Sadie, taking on the perspectives of her both as an adult and an adolescent, with the promise that there is something dark looming over adult-Sadie from her past. 

As an adolescent, Sadie grows up in a small community (the same one that she settles into as a wife and mother).  Her mother is an actress with lots of expensive clothes, some of which have been forgotten and live in the basement, used by Sadie and her friends in their child games.  They play house, turning the basement into another world, and walk outside in the woods – of which they are forbidden to go – dragging the hems of the dresses in the leaves and dirt, and sometimes in the water by the pond.  A few years prior, a young girl had walked through the woods on her way home from playing at a friend’s house and disappeared, never to be found; a girl who looked like Sadie’s identical twin, if she had had one.  The missing girl becomes a backdrop throughout her childhood and young adult life, as Sadie is constantly being mistaken for her.

As an adult, Sadie is mother to two children (a boy and a girl), and has just lost a third (stillborn).  Most of the novel takes place during the summer, where Sadie and other mothers in the town spend the days lounging by a pond, however, at the beginning Sadie is left at home with the empty nursery while her husband is at work and her kids are at school.  Sadie unexpectedly runs into a childhood crush and, against her better judgment starts an affair with him that, not only could change the course of her entire life, but also sheds light on events from her past, including a secret that she had long since thought she had buried.

The Longings of Wayward Girls can be viewed as a coming of age story, where innocence is not only lost once, but twice.  The first time it happens is when Sadie is young, as when it happens with all of us, then again when Sadie is an adult finding out about things from the past, things that will forever change her views and opinions of people she had grown up with.  I think that the way Brown tells the story, by alternating adult-Sadie with the adolescent one, the reader gets to know the character on a much deeper level than the “norm,” seeing Sadie’s childhood behavior carried on into her adult life, how some things haven’t changed, but also seeing how the character has ultimately grown. 

I must admit, I was a bit skeptical at first as to the looming darkness that the novel promises, but with its unexpected twists and revelations, Brown delivers.  I promise you will not be disappointed.  There is much more to this story then I have let on, but with the publication date still months away, I couldn’t spoil it for you, could I?