This week, I wrote the first review up at GreatNewBooks.org, my favorite place to find great books to read, and also, it happens, to be a place I started up in 2012 with a bunch of dear writing-reading-blogging friends from across the U.S. If you enjoy reading, even casually, GNB is a great place for you to resource for which book to read next. We have books organized in categories on our home page — literary, book club, women’s, young adult, historical, memoir, non-fiction, and on… — and have over 3 years of weekly book recommendations to share. That’s over 170!
The best part is that at GreatNewBooks.org, we only recommend books we truly love, not ones sent to us by publishers or friends or writers looking for a kudo or two. Come by and sign up for our weekly recommendations. We look forward to discussing and reading books with you!
My First Recommendation for 2016:
I have to confess I planned to write about a different book this week. But then I brought a book with me on a long flight, and it was good — so good that I finished it in hours. It was then that I knew that I loved it, and must recommend it here. It is Susan Meissner’s new novel, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard.
The back flap copy talks about a present day story involving a hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in the making of Gone With the Wind, which ties to 1938 Los Angeles and two characters named Audrey and Violet.
In the opening pages, Audrey and Violet are secretaries on the film set of Gone With the Wind. Audrey, seasoned and glamorous, becomes roommates with Violet, newcomer to Hollywood by way of Alabama. Audrey dreams of becoming a movie star; Violet hopes to someday become a mother. Their lives intersect and collide, and they become friends.
At first glance, it feels like a predictable plot with a predictable outcome. But the value and draw in this novel is so much more. It was the story within the story that got me.
Stars Over Sunset Boulevard is about friendship, but also about the ways fear can wreck all that is good between true friends. It is a story of motherhood, of best intentions and trying hard, and the ways our best can be too much.
It’s clear that Meissner’s life experience and insight shines a light into the dark corners of normal existence — the friend we love but fall away from, the child we love but hold too close, and the ways we can ruin the best things in life by holding them too tight.
Violet, toward the end, says:
“Everything is changing, Audrey, and nothing is turning out the way I thought it would.”
“How did you think it would be?”
… “I don’t know. I guess I thought I would feel it had all been worth it. But instead I feel like … I feel that everything I’ve ever held close is being torn from me.”
That, to me, is a truth of real life. It is never easy.
A great book somehow evaporates the long hours of a cross-country flight into nothing and makes the reader forget she is even reading at all. These are books written by true storytellers.
Meissner is a true storyteller, and so much of what she writes is perfectly said.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about Stars Over Sunset Boulevard or other books you’ve read by Susan Meissner … comments are closed here, but please venture over to GNB to share with me and other readers there. Thank you, and happy reading!