Light & Heavy

Three recent reads of mine couldn’t be more different.

First up, The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz.

Ever since the untimely death of her mother, 14 year-old Joan Skraggs has been desperately unhappy. Under the thumb of her cruel father and three sullen brothers, Joan lives like a servant on their farm just outside of Lancaster, forever cooking, cleaning, and attending to the many demands of the home. But she has little freedom, and less support from her family for her love of reading and blossoming interest in education. But when her father tells Joan she can’t go to school anymore, it sets off a journey that will see her become first a runaway, then a hired girl on $6 a week, and finally her very own young woman. Set in America during the optimistic years before the First World War, and told through a series of journal entries, THE HIRED GIRL is the story of a young girl in search of Real Life and True Love. It takes in feminism and housework; money, religion, and social class; literature and education, romanticism and realism, first love and sexual yearnings, cats, hats, and bunions. And it’s a comedy.” ~ GoodReads

I listened to this via Libby and I tend to listen to my audios at a faster speed. For this one, I listened at 1.75x and I have to say I really felt the speed of the audio fit the character. I envisioned her speaking at a fast rate like she was racing to talk and experience life as fast as possible.

I found this book by a post in the Currently Reading Podcast Patreon Facebook Group. The person posting likened it to Anne of Green Gables and I think she was spot on. The same general vibe. I enjoyed the main character and grew to really like the supporting characters.

I recommend this audio book!

Second, Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien.

The last place Lana Lee thought she would ever end up is back at her family’s restaurant. But after a brutal break-up and a dramatic workplace walk-out, she figures that helping wait tables is her best option for putting her life back together. Even if that means having to put up with her mother, who is dead-set on finding her a husband.

Lana’s love life soon becomes yesterday’s news once the restaurant’s property manager, Mr. Feng, turns up dead—after a delivery of shrimp dumplings from Ho-Lee. But how could this have happened when everyone on staff knew about Mr. Feng’s severe, life-threatening shellfish allergy? Now, with the whole restaurant under suspicion for murder and the local media in a feeding frenzy—to say nothing of the gorgeous police detective who keeps turning up for take-out—it’s up to Lana to find out who is behind Feng’s killer order. . . before her own number is up.” ~ GoodReads

I’m sure I heard about/saw this book in many places, but I picked it up after seeing it as an alternative choice to John’s Cozy Corner Cozy Mystery Subscription that I subscribe to (Murder by the Book Bookstore).

I always enjoy finding a new to me series, I love knowing that there are many more books for me to enjoy.

I liked the main character, I thought she was charming. I liked all the supporting characters and I really liked reading about an Asian American protagonist. I would classify this is a light read. As I write this, I can’t recall who the murderer was, so in essence the book didn’t “stick” with me…but for me that is what a cozy mystery is. I enjoy it when I’m reading it, but it doesn’t take up too much brain space.

I look forward to reading book two when I need a palette cleanser.

Lastly, Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy by Eilene Zimmerman.

Something was wrong with Peter. Eilene Zimmerman noticed that her ex-husband looked thin, seemed distracted, and was frequently absent from activities with their children. She thought he looked sick and needed to see a doctor, and indeed, he told her he had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Yet in many ways, Peter also seemed to have it all: a beautiful house by the beach purchased after their divorce, expensive cars, and other luxuries that came with an affluent life. Eilene assumed his odd behavior was due to stress and overwork–he was a senior partner at a prominent law firm and had been working more than 60 hours a week for the last 20 years.

Although they were divorced, Eilene and Peter had been partners and friends for decades, so, when her calls to Peter were not returned for several days, Eilene went to his house to see if he was OK.

So begins Smacked, a brilliant, moving memoir of Eilene’s shocking discovery, one that sets her on a journey to find out how a man she knew for nearly 30 years became a drug addict, and hid it so well that neither she nor anyone else in his life suspected what was happening. Eilene discovers that Peter led a secret life, one that started with pills and ended with opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine. Peter was also addicted to work; the last call he ever made was to dial into a conference call.

Eilene is determined to learn all she can about Peter’s hidden life, and also about drug addiction among ambitious and high achieving professionals like him. Through extensive research and interviews, she presents a picture of drug dependence today in that moneyed, upwardly mobile world. She also embarks on a journey to recreate her life in the wake of loss, both of the person–and the relationship–that profoundly defined the woman she had become.” ~GoodReads

This was my heavy book. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in 48 hours.

Although my life hasn’t been touched by addiction/drug abuse, I could connect with so much in this book. Not knowing what is going on with someones health…taking them at their word that what they say is wrong is true…wondering why you didn’t see things that now seem obvious…regretting choices you made and wondering if you did the right things because even with your best intentions, things turned out badly.

Most of all, regretting that someone died alone…were they scared, did they even know what was happening, what were they thinking/feeling? Even as I write this, I feel my stomach clenching up…all these years later I still have all these thoughts about my brother and his illness and death.

I don’t think you need to have experienced the heartache of having a loved one addicted or seriously ill to connect with this book.

Peter wasn’t really a likable character, but you could understand why Eilene cared for him…she cared for the man she knew and loved before drugs entered…she longed for that man to return.

I recommend this book.

Those are some of my recent reads.

Next I’ll be back with my May book roundup!

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