The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain
The story begins in 1977 when you meet CeeCee. She’s 16 and working at a diner when she becomes interested in Tim. He’s a 22-year-old college student that brings his books and studies at the diner. CeeCee is living in this college town and working to save money for college herself. CeeCee’s mom died when she was 12 and she never knew her father. Tim comes barreling into her life with promises of love and she craves this attention. It all seems picture-perfect, right?
Suddenly, Tim begins to tell CeeCee about his sister who is wrongfully accused of murder but is being held in prison anyway. He wants to help get her out and has hatched a convoluted plan to kidnap the governor’s wife and hold her captive until the governor releases his sister. The plan includes CeeCee. She will guard the woman until the plan works and then the woman will be released. Uh, okay.
Well, the plan moves forward and all is going as they thought until Tim, CeeCee, and Tim’s brother discover the governor’s wife is 8 months pregnant. The boys leave CeeCee and the woman in a remote cabin and go to make a deal with the governor anyway. And then, the woman goes into labor.
I will stop there with telling the story because you will want to find out the details yourself. However, here are some of the problems I have with it. CeeCee is 16 and Tim is 22. What is he doing with the young girl? Okay, easy answer, I think. It is 1977 and I don’t think that ages were focused on as much then. In today’s world, this would be considered rape and it was in 1977, too, but not reported as much as today. Problem 2: the kidnapping plan. It just seems silly and improbable, but it is the heart of the story. Without the kidnapping and what happens at the cabin, there is no book. So, just go with it. Those are my two main problems- at least the ones I can mention without telling you more of the plot. This motley crew of schemers stuck with me for a few days – if for no other reason than just to wonder what on earth they were thinking! I would give this one 4.5 stars- just because it was almost 500 pages long and didn’t have to be.
House Rules: A Novel by Jodi Picoult
Mesmerizing! Jacob is an 18-year-old boy with Asperger’s. There is also a 15-year-old brother Theo and mom Emma. Jacob struggles with the normal problems of children on the autism spectrum. He has OCD tendencies, sensory overload issues, and problems with communication. He thinks and responds in literal terms and cannot understand when this causes confusion for him (like telling him to study by saying to hit the books doesn’t make sense). Jacob is also very honest and a rule follower. Always a rule follower! And very quickly into the book, you meet his social therapist Jess and eventually her boyfriend, Mark.
Also, complicating this story are the problems Theo has in dealing with how much attention and time his brother requires. Theo begins to go out at night to break into houses, stealing things or using other people’s belongings. This leads him to accidentally going to the therapist’s house and seeing her unclothed – which inadvertently results in tragedy.
Jacob is then accused of a crime and manages to confuse everyone because he actually stages the crime scene using forensic techniques he is very knowledgeable about. The remainder of the book tells the story of his trial and the problems created by his own conflicting behavior. Does he really understand the Miranda rights he can quote verbatim? Can he give a testimony on his own behalf- given that he thinks completely literally? At one point in the trial, he is asked if he knows what it means to waive his rights. His response:
“Then slowly, the right fist Jacob has been banging against the wooden railing unfurls and is raised over his head, moving back and forth like a metranome.”
As I finished this book I can tell you I had learned a great deal about Asperger’s and how the brains of those with this disorder function. That makes it a great book in my mind and the reason it will stick with you for a while like it did for me. Yes, it has some improbable parts and it is quite lengthy. I still give it 5 stars! It’s a typical Picoult book with alternating chapters told from each character’s point of view. I have listened to other books by this author in which different readers read the character parts. This one would be great if read in that style. Try it!
Oh. My. Meet Rachel Childs, a journalist assigned to ho-hum stories and seemingly just waiting for her big break. Her husband, Sebastian, even predicts that she will be asked to do a BIG story and he was right. Rachel is sent to cover the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
While there Rachel gets so caught up in the destruction, the poverty, and the devastation of the villages and people, she has an on-air breakdown. Of course, she loses her job and eventually gets a divorce. For a few years after that, she lives as a recluse. Until Brian enters the picture.
Brian is someone she knows from before her breakdown. He was once a private investigator that would not take her case because he honestly thought the job could not be completed and he didn’t want to rip her off. Suddenly, he is back in her life.
With Brian’s help, Rachel is slowly recovering from her panic attacks and ventures out one day on her own. It seems to be going well until she sees a man that she thinks is her husband. Only he is supposed to be on an airplane at that moment. This is when the book takes a complete turn around!
Rachel slowly uncovers what has really been happening with her husband. And, the best part is that she begins to quickly become a different person. She begins to do things you would never have expected – like diving underwater to investigate something. Don’t forget this is a woman that was afraid of elevators and would not drive a car, yet she has suddenly taken over her life!
Should you read this one? The first half of the book is slow and tedious and I wondered where on earth it could go. I was really tired of little mousy Rachel never doing anything. From the moment she sees her husband in a place he is not supposed to be the book picks up and then takes off. It became a page-turner at that point. Having said that, I also wondered several times how Rachel could recover so quickly. The look inside the mind of someone suffering from PTSD is a reason this book will stick with you for a few days! I give the book 4 stars only because of the slow beginning.
The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve
I started this book about a week after returning from a trip to Maine’s southern coast so it was especially poignant to read about Biddeford Pool and Kennebunkport and the other little towns that were mentioned. The descriptions of the houses were easy to “see” because I had just seen them in real life! This book was excellent for making me live in the story and think about it for days after completing the book.
This is the story of Grace and her escape from a disastrous fire that destroyed many of the coastal towns in Maine in the late 1940’s. The area was suffering from a severe drought and when the fires started they traveled quickly. Grace is able to get away from her home with her two very small children and a neighbor, Rosie. The women and children bury themselves in the sand on the beach to escape the fire and miraculously they do. After their rescue Grace is stunned when her husband, who had gone to fight the fire, does not come home.
Remember, it is 1947. Grace has no income, no home, and two small kids. How will she survive and take care of her kids? Will the husband ever return?
There are some surprises in store for you in the latter half of this book. The writing style is typical Shreve. The story is told in slow, meandering prose, rich with details, and mesmerizing. Sometimes Shreve gets right to the point and sometimes she leaves you hanging a bit. I would give this book five stars. I love this author!
On a side note: go visit Maine! It is gorgeous.
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
This one has a very unusual way of being told! It starts near the end of the story line and then is told in reverse. It’s somewhat confusing because you will read about something happening and then go back to the day before. So, as the events unfold you already know about them. Complex and an interesting format.
Now, to the story! Nicollette Farrell comes home to a small town to take care of her ailing father. She is helped by her brother, Daniel, and also becomes involved with an old boyfriend, Tyler. The first missing girl is Corinne and she disappeared when all of the main characters were teenagers. Very soon after Nic returns to the town another girl, Annaliese, is missing. Then we add to this story when Nic’s fiance, Everett, comes to town. Goodness, just where is this headed? How much does Nic really know about the missing girls? Who else is involved? And why is Daniel digging up the garage floor? Hmmm… that is about all I can tell you without revealing too much!
Should you try this one? I would give it 4 stars because there was just too much meandering around (it’s a 400-page book), but I would definitely say you should read it. The format is one that will make you rethink everything that happens and that is why I kept thinking about this one for days It’s actually a book that should be read twice! Knowing how it ends you might pick up on some of the clues earlier in the book with a second reading.
So, there you have five books that are likely to stick with you for a few days- or even longer! Try one and let me know what you think!