Quantitatively, 2016 wasn’t a year of many books in our household. The parenthood package included a whole lot of worry, never-ending lists of new things, and an almost automatic lead to the holy grail that are other mummy blogs. Reading moved online, in 5 minute mini-breaks and in-between the rest of life. If anything though, I’ve learnt to be selective on what I spend my time on and the books below were worth every minute.
Picoult’s most recent release tops my list. There has never been a more appropriate time for this book, especially following Mr Orange’s take on extremism. The story follows a lawyer, a white supremacist father and an L&D nurse of African origin, whose lives intertwine after the death of a newborn. Picoult addresses issues related to race head on, including the limitations of the justice system in dealing with cases whose root cause is, in fact, race. She goes into the process of the white supremacist’s radicalisation, presenting a stark reminder that extremism is not only attributable to one specific section of society.
2. Blackbird House – Alice Hoffman
In a period of change and newness, this book helped me stay grounded and simply astounded by the power of Hoffman’s writing. In a world where everything ends, where people come and people go, Hoffman explores immortality and permanence through a house: Blackbird House. The book itself is a compilation of 12 short stories connected through the nature and landscape they evoke and the family ties that emerge. I couldn’t take up another book easily after this one; it stayed with me for days.
3. Rocks in the Belly – Jon Bauer
More than anything, Rocks in the Belly was a painful read. I lost count of the number of times I was on the brink of closing it and returning it to its shelf but the author’s prose and skill kept me going. The story follows a troubled boy with a snake in his tummy whose mother made it her life’s purpose to foster and provide a loving home to other boys. The relationship between mother and son is a complex one, even more so when one of the foster boys ends up severely disabled. You won’t know whether to hate both mum and son or neither. Years on, the boy, now a young man, returns home to take care of his cancer-stricken mother. Weak, vulnerable and demential, yet with an element of spite still vibrant, the mother becomes a victim of her son’s new found power.