Matt’s Weekly Reads, December 17, 2022


Small Things like These, Claire Keegan (2021)

In the lead up to Christmas, coal man Bill Furlong is busy with last-minute deliveries and his own family preparations. But an encounter with a young woman locked in a shed outside the local convent confronts him with his own past and the harsh realities of life for so many ‘under the protection’ of the Church.

This is a critically-acclaimed (Booker Prize shortlisted) novella by a very well-regarded author. As such, the writing is fantastic and the book does exactly what the author sets out to do. The reason why the book fell a bit flat to me is that the ground it covers — truth telling about abuses in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland — has been covered so many times already over the past thirty years or so. It’s an important story to tell, but it’s been told by so many people now, it seems to me like one needs a unique spin, or some new contribution to the story-telling to make it worthwhile. As such, this one was a bit underwhelming for me.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Irish History
  • Systemic Abuses
  • Social Issues
  • Empathy

My Rating: Premise 7, Atmosphere 10, Main Character 10, Plot 7, Intrigue 5, Relationships 8, Success 8, Writing 8, Enjoyment 7, Meaning 6: TOTAL 76

Weekly Roundup

  • The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers, Adam Sass (2022), 74: High school student Micah Summers has posted ninety-nine fairy tale images of his crushes to his Instagram and wants to make number one hundred count: not just a crush but an actual, real life boyfriend. When a chance encounter on the Brown Line L train throws him into a Cinderella fantasy, he’s sure this must be it! There was a lot that was great about this — I liked many of the characters and the genuine romance underneath it all was earned. But, I just couldn’t get past the ridiculous premise of a teenager being so insistent that his chance at love was slipping by for ever; and while it was lovely to see a supportive family in action here, the extent to which they were involved in Micah’s love life was a little … creepy to me. I really wish I enjoyed this book more than I did, since it’s a great Chicago book and I do love Chicago! (YA, Romance, Fairy Tales, LGBTQ2S+, Chicago)
  • The Cloisters, Katy Hays (2022), 85: College graduate Ann arrives in New York for a summer internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art feeling like everything is on the line for her. But when her team’s research takes a turn for the strange – and then the deadly – she has to figure out where her loyalties truly lie and what she’s willing to do to escape her past. This was a solid, gentle, dark-academia thriller. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if it didn’t quite live up to all of my hopes. (Academia, Museums, New York City, Esotericism, Tarot, Renaissance History, Thriller)
  • Daddy-Long-Legs, Jean Webster (1912), 88: An orphan is given the chance of a lifetime when a secretive benefactor offers to send her to college on the condition that she write him monthly letters of her progress. This is a classic piece of early twentieth-century epistolary fiction, and it’s in the letters — the writing, the crackling wit that feels fresh over a century later, and the vividness of the picture of college life they present — where this book succeeds the most. There can be no doubt that aspects of the plot are very creepy by today’s standards, but I prefer to celebrate it for the ways it is so far ahead of its time than to damn it for the ways it is very much of its time. (Epistolary Novel, Coming of Age, College Life, Early Twentieth Century)
  • The Story of Arthur Truluv, Elizabeth Berg (2017), 68: An elderly man struggling to find meaning after the loss of his beloved wife is given a new lease on life when he strikes up a surprising friendship with a troubled teenager. This is a much beloved book but unfortunately it didn’t work for me; I love a sweet, feel-good story about found family, but this one just didn’t feel believable or meaningful to me. (Found Family, Grief and Loss, Aging, Teenage Mothers)
  • Come, Thief, Jane Hirshfield (2011), 90: I rarely read poetry, but I was so glad I picked up this tremendous volume by a contemporary master. (Poetry, Cats, Nature, Philosophy)
  • The Blue Castle, Lucy Maud Montgomery (1926), 79: At 29 and single, Valancy Stirling is a verified spinster and living under the thumb of her dismissive family. But, when she gets a diagnosis saying she has only a year to live, she decides to go out on her own terms. There is a lot to love in this less well-known work by this famed Canadian author. I found the plot a bit slow, but it was a solid good time nonetheless. (Canadian history, Muskokas, Old Money, Romance)
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky, Mackenzi Lee (2019), 88: This novella, set directly after the events of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, finds that book’s two heroes trying to navigate their ‘first time’ together from their very different perspectives and life experiences. I really enjoyed this and it plays to the series’ strengths — the witty and charming writing and the relationships among the main characters. (LGBTQ2S+, YA, Historical Romance)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: