Dover, Massachusetts, 1969. Ginny Richardson’s heart was torn open when her baby girl, Lucy, born with Down Syndrome, was taken from her. Under pressure from his powerful family, her husband, Ab, sent Lucy away to Willowridge, a special school for the “feeble-minded.” Ab tried to convince Ginny it was for the best. That they should grieve for their daughter as though she were dead. That they should try to move on.

But two years later, when Ginny’s best friend, Marsha, shows her a series of articles exposing Willowridge as a hell-on-earth–its squalid hallways filled with neglected children–she knows she can’t leave her daughter there. With Ginny’s six-year-old son in tow, Ginny and Marsha drive to the school to see Lucy for themselves. What they find sets their course on a heart-racing journey across state lines—turning Ginny into a fugitive.

For the first time, Ginny must test her own strength and face the world head-on as she fights Ab and his domineering father for the right to keep Lucy. Racing from Massachusetts to the beaches of Atlantic City, through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to a roadside mermaid show in Florida, Keeping Lucy is a searing portrait of just how far a mother’s love can take her.

My Thoughts: Set in the 1960s and 70s, in a time when attitudes toward special needs were uninformed and harsh, a young mother suffers a great loss at the hands of her own husband and father-in-law.

Striving to accept the loss of her daughter, Ginny tries to cope. But the news of the scandalous neglect at the supposedly “best place” for her daughter took her on a journey to discover the truth and take a stand with the powerful men in her family.

Throughout Keeping Lucy, I rooted for Ginny and Lucy, and wanted to shout for joy at each step forward that she took. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.



When dull professor Gerald leaves London for the United States, his fiancée, Ann, is a bit afraid and sad to see him go—never has he looked so handsome and masculine as when he’s about to board the plane. But a few days later at a religious service, Ann is beckoned to sit next to a stranger with yellow curls and a nose like a prizefighter’s. Her heart inexplicably begins to race; she feels like she has the flu. This stranger, William McClusky, tells Ann in his Scottish accent that he is a playwright who will be interviewed on TV the very next day. Furthermore, he promises to have a television dropped by her house so she can watch him! From this first bizarre seduction, Ann is infatuated, and in the days following, William begins to take over her life.
In the throes of the affair, Ann gives up her BBC job, helps a friend get an abortion, encourages adultery, and writes a break-up letter to her fiancé. Her engagement to Gerald had been rushed, after all, and was designed to serve her mother’s desires more than her own. With William, on the other hand, everything feels different. But is this new man really who he says he is? Is he a genius or a fraud, a compassionate soul or a cheater? Perhaps William is simply a means by which Ann can play out her dangerous fantasies and finally take part in the swinging sixties. Only one thing is certain: Now that she’s with him, there’s no turning back.
Was Ann a victim of the times? Did she throw herself into the affair with William to prove something to herself, to show that she was “with it”? Or might she have been rebelling a bit against her mother’s life choices?It was hard for me to understand how this young woman could be so blinded by William, since it was clear to this reader that any charms he had were absent by the end of the first week or so. I just could not see anything “sweet” about this William. Furthermore, he very quickly took control of Ann’s life until she had nothing to depend upon but him, and his fickle ways often left her alone.

His behavior was “crazy-making.” I have known men like that. When the woman questions his behavior, or tries to get a straight answer out of him, he turns it around on her, making her believe that she is wrong or delusional.

I had a hard time continuing to read Sweet William, as all of the characters were unlikable in one way or another. I suspect that the author’s goal was to stir up a variety of emotions, maybe even laughter at the idiocy of the times and these characters. The book was well-written, but I did not enjoy it. 3.5 stars.







In 1965, Queens, New York, was still set in the old ways. Freedom and feminism had not struck there, so Ruth Malone, a single mother of two small children, Frankie, 6, and Cindy, 4, who worked as a cocktail waitress and had men friends, was looked down upon. She had one female friend, Gina, and feeling the scorn of other women and some men were a regular part of her life.

When her young children went missing one July night, she couldn’t explain what had happened. But right away, the cops on the scene had already decided to point the finger at her. Garbage cans with empty liquor bottles meant, to them, that she was a bad mother.

Cindy was found dead first, and a little while later, so was Frankie.

Little Deaths takes the reader behind the scenes as the cops, led by a bully of a man named Devlin, are searching for whatever evidence they can find to fit the story in their heads. That she, a bad mother, is guilty.

But not everything is that simple, and it will take months before a Grand Jury indicts her…and then a trial starts.

Meanwhile, a rookie reporter, Pete Wonicke, has fallen under Ruth’s spell. He is suspicious of the cops on the case and wants to help. He believes there is more to the story. But can he do anything? Will his determination lead to a different outcome for Ruth?

Alternate narrators reveal the story, as it swings back and forth, with the beginning showing Ruth on her “last day,” before everything changes…and then later, as she works in the prison library. How she got there becomes the meat of the story: A character study of one woman out of step with the norms in her neighborhood, set against the Old Boy network and those who would punish women like her.

As I read, I felt for Ruth, even as I could also see how the perceptions of others would be her downfall. Could anyone find out the truth? Or would her life be forever defined by one night in the summer of 1965? A final reveal does bring closure for this reader, but does nothing for Ruth’s future. A sad story with no happy ending. 4 stars.ratings-worms-4-cropped***



bookish thursdays

Welcome to Thursday, a day that once seemed lost, with nothing exciting happening anywhere.  But then that changed, and today I am celebrating a couple of the bookish events around the blogosphere, like Lexxie’s Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts; and Christine’s Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts.



Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts:

Today’s featured book is an e-ARC I just finished reading.  Cruel & Beautiful World, by Caroline Leavitt (click for my review), is set in 1969, near Boston, and takes us into the lives of several characters, including a sixteen-year-old girl named Lucy, her eighteen-year-old sister Charlotte, and their caretaker, Iris.  Lucy has run away with her high school teacher, living off the grid, while her family tries to manage despite her absence.




Iris sells her house and moves into a senior residential center.  She rediscovers companionship, and in this excerpt, she is preparing dinner for a gentleman caller.


The following night, Iris stood at her stove, panicking.  She had chicken breasts roasting in the oven and string beans frying in olive oil.  She had made a salad with dark lettuce instead of iceberg and had thrown in some walnuts to make it different.  Her little table was set with her good china and silverware, and she was wearing a rose-colored dress that Charlotte had bought her.  She’d fixed her hair with a rhinestone barrette, which she hoped didn’t look ridiculous.  She kept looking at her watch, and then at the door, and once or twice she even opened it to peer down the hall, which was silent as a bottle…She was about to peel off her apron and take his plate from the table when there was a knock on the door, and when she opened it, there he was, in a suit jacket, his hair combed back so she could see the rake marks from his comb.


It had been years since Iris had “entertained” a gentleman caller, so she was understandably nervous.  Her planning and attention to detail was rather sweet.






My Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts:

  • This week has been especially busy with outside appointments and activities.
  • Last Friday and this Monday, I had appointments to see new homes, since I have been contemplating a move.  They were lovely, but the more I think of the hassle of moving, I am probably stepping back from that idea.  For now.
  • On Tuesday, I went in for my flu shot…and an eye exam.  I’ll be getting new eyeglasses, which I’m excited about, as I’ve had my current frames for a few years.  I kept them whenever the lenses needed to change because I really liked them.  But now I am ready for something new.
  • Today I had lunch with a friend at The Olive Garden.  Delicious things!




  • I finished watching Offspring on Netflix, and I’m halfway done with Season 5 of Longmire.
  • So far this week, I finished Sunshine Beach, by Wendy Wax (click title for my review) (in addition to Cruel Beautiful World).





  • Tomorrow, I want to stay home all day!  I have a stack of books to choose from, and hope to do some serious reading.


That’s it for my week.  What did yours look like?




Today I’m participating in Sam’s WWW Wednesdays Here’s how it works:


The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?


Currently Reading:

I  am halfway finished with a very engaging e-ARC from NetGalley:  Cruel Beautiful World, by Caroline Leavitt, a haunting, nuanced portrait of love, sisters, and the impossible legacy of family.   Release Date:  October 4, 2016.






Blurb:  It’s 1969, and sixteen-year-old Lucy is about to run away with a much older man to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy’s default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte’s youth has been marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy’s dream of a rural paradise turns into a nightmare.

Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, and explores what happens when you’re responsible for things you cannot make right.


I am loving how the story alternates between the various characters, moving from the girls, Lucy and Charlotte, in 1969, and then veering into the backstory of Iris, the girls’ caretaker.  Her story takes us back to the turn of the twentieth century.

The part of the story set in the late sixties and early seventies brings up some reminders of how that so-called peaceful time and existence can turn into mass murder (Charlie Manson’s family).



I loved Book Four in this Ten Beach Road series:  Sunshine Beach, by Wendy Wax. (Click for my review).






Another totally engaging story about friendships, conflicts, challenges, and starting over…again.



I just discovered the existence of this new book, the sixth in a series I have loved, a series that features Frieda Klein, a psychotherapist who sometimes works with the police.  Set in London and thereabouts, we often follow some twists and turns to reach a resolution of each case.

Saturday Requeim, by Nicci French, is not available in the U.S. yet, so I ordered it from a third-party seller in the UK.  That’s how much I love this series.





Blurb:  It was an open and shut case when eighteen-year-old Hannah Docherty was arrested for the brutal murder of her family; she’s been incarcerated ever since. When psychotherapist Frieda Klein is asked to assess Hannah, she reluctantly agrees. What she finds horrifies her…Frieda is haunted by the thought that Hannah might be as much of a victim as her family. Frieda soon begins to realise that she’s up against someone who’ll go to any lengths to protect themselves…


What are you reading and/or anticipating today?



18812464It was 1969, and a man had just walked on the moon. In Biloxi, Mississippi, the town is ready to celebrate and ponder the possibilities.

For the Blake sisters, Beth (Sis) and Emily, family and those bonds are everything. Together, along with their grandmother Lucy (Sweet Mama), they run the town café, specializing in down home recipes, including one famous for miles around: the Amen Cobbler. Helping out at home and in the café is Beulah, Sweet Mama’s oldest and dearest friend. To round out the family, Emily’s twin brother Jim has come home from the war in Vietnam, minus one leg, and his emotional scars are deep. But they all hope that time will heal these wounds.

As they struggle to deal with adversity and death (the girls’ parents), and rise above the shame of Emily’s illegitimate son Andy, age six, this new era seems to promise only good things.

Like the man Emily is planning to marry, someone she hopes will lend her the respectability she has sought.

But Sis has a bad feeling about Larry, and before long, there is evidence that she was right.

What will Emily have to survive in order to finally put her life back together? How will the Category 5 Hurricane headed their way change everything? And will the turmoil and new problems keep them from their happiness?

The Oleander Sisters was filled with wonderful characters that made me smile and root for them, and when they came up against the evil that would stand in their way, their strength would see them through. A story of courage, hope, and sacrifice…not to mention some very deep secrets, kept me reading. Recommended for those who enjoy family drama, and stories set in the South. 5.0 stars.


91wYirk+gzL._SL1500_Our story begins on November 22, 1963, when we meet Charlie and Nell Benjamin, poised for an ordinary day, living the writer’s life in Manhattan. But nothing about this day would be ordinary. Grief, both the country’s grief and her own, would overwhelm Nell for the foreseeable future.

We are then swept back in time, to college years, and to how Charlie and Nell first met. We are exposed to what happened to them during the McCarthy years, and how that era felt to writers and intellectuals with liberal leanings, and we can experience the dark and malevolent shadow of evil that lingered for years.

They were a couple for whom writing was a way of life and even though their choices tested the conventional roles of their time, the two of them, even after the birth of their daughter Abby, seemed to be coping. Their idealism kept them going, even when life was difficult.

But in the pivotal moments after Charlie’s mysterious death, bits and pieces of who he really was began to come to Nell from various sources, including a televised piece that suggested some unethical funding for the literary magazine they both loved. How did the secrets and lies change who they were and what they contributed? Did the secrets change who they had been, or is there another way to see it?

When Nell writes a piece about what she has learned, readers react in interesting ways. Some applaud her, while others suggest that Charlie was just doing right by his country. “Others railed against him for undermining the American system and warned that the road to tyranny was paved with means justified by ends.”

In the end, Nell comes to her own conclusions that allow for the imperfections in others, the ambiguity of ideals, and holding onto what remains. A person could focus on the transgressions and misdemeanors or zero in on the “glue that held you, no matter what.” The Unwitting: A Novel was a thoughtful journey through a time in our country and in the life of one family. Memorable. 4.5 stars.





With lyrical prose and haunting imagery, the author tells the numerous stories that make up Beach Music: A Novel, beginning by introducing the characters of Jack McCall and his daughter Leah, who have fled to Rome after the suicide of Shyla, Jack’s wife and Leah’s mother.

Jack grew up in Waterford, South Carolina, a true Southerner blessed with all that makes a person feel that particular spirit and identity. Coming of age with the sound of the waves and the beach music that lulls the nighttime moments and greets the day with each sunrise, a child can come to a true understanding of all that Nature has to give.

Narrated in Jack’s first person voice, the story helps us feel the lost little boy inside, along with the angry, embittered soul who has been scarred by tragedy and betrayal. Each decade of his life has been marked by something auspicious, just as it has for his whole generation. But others have their stories, too, and Shyla’s parents, George and Ruth Fox, barely escaped the Holocaust to live to tell about it. But they kept their true stories hidden, even as those tales would mark their lives indelibly, just as the next generation would be marked by the Sixties and the lingering trauma of the Vietnam War. And Jack’s own mother Lucy, who created a fictional background, has a true story to share as well.

While some of the stories are poignant and bring us the powerful moments of young childhood and early adolescence, with the fishing trips and the childish pranks, it would be the betrayals of a contentious Antiwar Movement and those who would turn on their best friends that would remind us that nothing can injure us more in life than the turning away of those we call friends or family.

What has to happen to bring Jack home to South Carolina? What will he discover about his family and his legacy that will ultimately allow him to heal? And what mock trial staged by an old friend will finally bring out those last hidden truths and show Jack how to forgive?

There is nothing like an epic story told with special attention to the details, as well as one that allows the thoughts and feelings of the characters to unfold gradually, that can bring the reader into the midst of the tale and feel along with the characters. An unforgettable novel. 5 stars.



They met in 1960s Pasadena, CA, at a time when everything was in flux. The cultural revolution was about to change the lives of American women, and young women coming-of-age during those years were caught between the repression of old and the revolution ahead. The lines were blurred and the rules were unclear.

But Rebecca Madden and Alex Carrington hadn’t yet reached the point of being able to articulate how everything was changing around them, nor were they aware enough at that point–in their early teens–to even know anything other than that they didn’t want to become their mothers.

Autobiography of Us: A Novel is narrated by Rebecca, who tells the story as if she is addressing someone not in the scenes: one of her offspring, perhaps. We don’t find out who she is narrating the story to until the very last chapters.

The friendship between Rebecca and Alex seemed out of balance from Day One. Alex took control, and because of her recklessness, her brashness, not to mention her life of privilege, she seemed to exert an undue influence on Rebecca. Lest one see Rebecca as the victim, however, she did tend to be complicit in this lopsided arrangement. I sensed that Rebecca needed Alex desperately–to help her move beyond her isolated existence. Alex also needed to have someone admire and look up to her–Rebecca’s role.

During their college years, the friendship continues, but new layers and expectations change the dynamic between them. Therefore, it is not that surprising that something happens during their senior year at a wedding between some friends. A betrayal that changes everything.

Was Alex complicit in these events? Did she somehow manipulate the situation? Afterwards, how was Rebecca affected by it all, and what lasting consequences changed her life from then on? And will the breach between Rebecca and Alex remain, or will they find a way to mend it?

While at times I really despised Alex and her manipulations, I also could see the vulnerabilities behind her tough facade. And Rebecca’s own inability to verbalize her needs and her tendency to block out reality was frustrating.

In the end, as the two women once again seemingly connect, a shocking scene leads to unexpected and disturbing life-changing events. These events, like the two women, seemed to symbolize the societal changes of the times, with each of them representing one-half of a dichotomy: women on the verge of revolution. Five stars.


Q & A with the Author:

A Conversation with Aria Beth Sloss about
—from Autobiography of Us

A Conversation with Aria Beth Sloss about
—from Autobiography of Us
1. In a recent interview about the novel with Publishers Weekly, you mention that the book is about a
group of women “caught between two eras.” What interested you about this group of women? How did
you come to write about them?
At a certain age I became aware that my mother was older than my friends’ mothers (I’m the youngest of three by six and nine years). Because of a margin of no more than a few years, everything about her experience as a young woman differed from theirs. She didn’t protest Vietnam; she didn’t go to Woodstock: in short, she didn’t match the vision of American youth during the 1960’s I’d pieced together from my friends’ parents’ photographs and stories. As I got older, I became fascinated by the idea that there was an entire pocket of women history had passed over. My mother’s generation was born late enough to glimpse opportunities for women beyond marriage and motherhood, but they were also, cruelly, born too early to benefit from second wave feminism and the changes that swept the country in the late 1960’s on into the 1970’s. By the time leaders like Gloria Steinem and Germaine Greer appeared on the horizon (not to mention NOW and the Equal Rights Amendment), it was too late: my mother and her friends were married with children, settled into lives that turned out to look very much like their own mothers’ lives. So much changed over the course of that one little decade. All it took was graduating college a few years earlier, and the world into which you entered was a very
different one.
2. How did the story for your book originate? You’ve mentioned that you used your mother’s life as inspiration—how personal was the endeavor of writing this book? Did you learn anything about your
mother in the process?
Autobiography originally grew out of that same curiosity about my mother, who was raised in Pasadena during roughly the same time frame as the book’s main characters. Though I grew up in Boston, my family flew to California every year to spend time with my maternal grandparents, so from a very young age I knew Pasadena as the place where my mother had grown up. I think it must come as a shock to all children, that moment when you realize your parents were once young. Suddenly, they’re people. With that peoplehood comes a past. I could say something nobler drove me, but the truth is that I started this book – a book which explores women coming of age during the era in which my mother came of age – out of sheer frustration with what I perceived as the limitations facing the young women of my own era. In many ways, Autobiography is less about my mother than it is about me.
3. You capture amazingly vivid details of the time and essence of 1960s Pasadena, California including:  how people dressed, what they ate, how they interacted socially, their worries and joys, the highlights in the news, and the social practices. What kind of research did you do for AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF US?  Did anything surprise you?
I used two types of research while writing the book. One involved looking up news headlines and double checking dates, making sure I had all the facts down right – what time did the sun set in May of 1962? Was I remembering the correct kind of palm tree for that area of Southern California? The other kind of research relied on sheer imagination. It’s always important to get the facts straight: as a fiction writer, you’re building a dream, and that dream needs to progress without any logistical snags, or you risk the reader getting nudged awake. But the crucial truths in story-telling are emotional. And to my way of thinking, a lot less changes from decade to decade in terms of what people want and regret than we’d like to think. It’s made me happy to hear women of that era say that the struggles the main characters face in the book ring true, but, sadly, it hasn’t surprised me.
4. This story is ultimately about a friendship between two women who have grown up together. Did you rely on any of your own experiences with girlfriends to articulate the ins and outs of their relationship?

I tend to deliberately avoid using specifics from my day-to-day in my writing: I find the hard facts of my own life distracting when I’m trying to create a world with its own truths, its own peculiar climate. That said, Rebecca and Alex’s relationship is undoubtedly a mish-mash of dozens of different friendships I’ve witnessed and experienced, particularly during adolescence. There’s a fluidity to teenage girls and their sense of identity that makes those intense friendships so many women have during those years possible. Over time, that intimacy is generally (and quite naturally) replaced by romantic relationships. It occurred to me as I worked on Autobiography that it would have to be both an extraordinary friendship as well as an extraordinary set of circumstances to break that natural progression. There was so much about these two women and their lives that seemed to me to create the perfect storm of disappointment and desire, exactly the kind that might allow a relationship like theirs to continue to carry so much weight. In the end, I wasn’t surprised to find myself writing about a friendship that looked a lot more like love.
5. How did you first become interested in writing?
Like most writers, I spent my childhood buried in books. I think of those years now as the seed that would eventually appear above ground as this, my life as a writer. I never consciously considered writing books of my own; in fact, I spent the first twenty-odd years of my life training to be a musician. I suppose what I was searching for all those years was a way to communicate – I just had the medium wrong. When, in my mid-twenties, I realized I didn’t have the talent to achieve what I wanted to through music, I went back to my childhood love. I had the wild idea I might be able to speak through words the way I couldn’t through music.  Luckily, it was the first of many endings that turned out to be a beginning.




Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Today I’ve decided to go back to the past to read about events that happened in August 1969.  It was a time I remember well.  I lived in a nice suburban house with my husband and two small children.  We were sitting on our lovely patio the night after we heard…horrified by the events of that time.

Restless Souls:  The Sharon Tate Family’s Account…, by Alisa Statman with Brie Tate, is the family’s story.



Intro/Beginning:  Patti – August 9, 1969

“My God, Sharon’s been murdered.”  Barely able to get the words out, my mother collapsed against the scarred door frame and then to her knees.  I looked up from my favorite cartoon in time to see the first tear spill from her eyes.

Paralyzed by her emotion but not understanding it, I could only stare at her while the seconds passed, waiting for an explanation.  Her lips fluttered, but there was no sound.  Leaning forward, I strained to hear.  Then, in a scarcely audible whisper, she said, “My baby’s dead.”

As if floating to me in delayed time and space, her words eventually reached my ears, forever altering the stability of my life.


Would you keep reading?  Even knowing most of what happened from the news and TV movies, I am eager to read the family’s perspective.


Teaser:  Patti:

The media swarmed the downtown courthouse like journalistic sharks drawn into the feeding frenzy by the Manson family.  Months before the trial started, reporters played a high-stakes, cutthroat game for exclusive interviews with the suspects.  (p. 119)


Amazon Description:  The gruesome murders of the beautiful and talented actress Sharon Tate, her unborn child and four others that same night at the hands of the notorious “Manson family” rocked the nation. As one of the most horrific crimes in modern history, these atrocities, the trial and the subsequent conviction of Charles Manson and his followers caused a media sensation, spawning movies, documentaries and bestselling books, including the classic Helter Skelter. A defining moment in an era otherwise associated with radical peace, love and understanding, this incident is one that still resonates with millions today.

Yet while this crime left an indelible mark on society’s consciousness, it was, first and foremost, a shattering personal tragedy for those closest to Sharon—the loving family left to cope with the emotional devastation of her loss. Now, after nearly forty years, their story is finally revealed.

Compiled by close family friend Alisa Statman and Sharon’s niece Brie Tate, Restless Souls draws on a wealth of material including interviews with the Tates, personal letters, tape recordings, home movies, public interviews, private journals, and official documents to provide a powerful, poignant, and affecting four-decade, three-generation memoir of crime and punishment, anguish and hope, rage and love, that is both a chronicle of death and a celebration of life.

Extending beyond all previous accounts, Restless Souls is the most revealing, riveting, and emotionally raw account not just of these heinous murders, the hunt and capture of the killers and the behind-the-scenes drama of their trials, but of the torment victims families’ endure for years in the wake of such senseless violence….


Now I’m off to see what the rest of you are sharing….