Ava saw it as soon as she turned the corner. She stopped, squinting as if that would change what she was looking at. It was a week before Christmas on Weybosset Street in downtown Providence. The Christmas lights already shone, even at five o'clock, because the day was so dark and gray. The air had that festive holiday feeling that came from people bustling about with oversized shopping bags, cold air, tired decorations, a guy selling Christmas trees on the corner.
I wanted to change up my reading for a bit after suffering from 'psychological thriller'-itis and this book definitely helped with that. I took my time and, though I didn't love every character or every decision made, I really liked the book as a whole. The idea of a book group using the theme of 'the book that matters most' for an entire year was lovely. I liked how the chapters took us through the calendar year, gave us quotes and a bit of discussion about the various books chosen, and also presented the story from more than one viewpoint. I also liked the fact that the book group had a couple of men. I've moderated (as part of my library job) two of them, have participated in several more, and one of the commonalities is that there are never very many men. Right now, our mystery group has two - at one time. We've rarely have that happen.
The story is told mostly from Ava's point of view, but we also see what's going on with her daughter, Maggie, and a detective that investigated when Ava's younger sister, Lily, died when they were children. Maggie is frustrating. She's a young woman supposedly studying art history in Florence. Actually, she's in Paris and reeling from one bad decision to another - drugs, men, more drugs, more men. She's got a lot to learn. Ava is trying to recover from the end of her marriage and the fact that her husband's new 'love' is a yarn-bomber - someone who covers important statues and monuments with knitted covers as a protest or a form of art. I found that rather odd and had never heard of it. Is it a real thing? (I looked it up - it is a real thing.)
In the end, the characters discover that the book that matters most is one that comes to you at just the right time, depending on what's going on in your life. And then, at another time, another book might matter most. It's flexible and, as our lives have seasons, so will our reading. For me personally, there have been books that seemed to come into my hands at just the perfect moment. Two that I can think of are Still Alice and Being Mortal. They were both very meaningful to me when I read them, based on my life experiences. So, what book has 'mattered most' to you? Share with us.
Oh, and Ann Hood tells the reader that before she wrote this book, she spent a year asking everyone she saw the question - what book has mattered most to you? Her results can be seen here. Also, my friend, Les, wrote such a good review of this book here, it encouraged me to try it. So, my thanks, Les!
Ava’s twenty-five-year marriage has fallen apart, and her two grown children are pursuing their own lives outside of the country. Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group’s goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood—one that helped her through the traumas of the untimely deaths of her sister and mother. Alternating with Ava’s story is that of her troubled daughter Maggie, who, living in Paris, descends into a destructive relationship with an older man. Ava’s mission to find that book and its enigmatic author takes her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers her and Maggie the chance to remake their lives.