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I went on another reading jag at the end of last week, thanks to boxes and bags of books gifted by friends.  Statistically I’m half-way toward my goal of 50 books read this year, but I read more in the colder months anyway, so will for sure reach that goal.

This first book is a bit of catching up for me, as it was read a couple of weeks ago.  I had seen Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen, many times in Target, and had it in my cart once or twice before putting it back on the shelf.  Then my sister sent it to me, and once I started reading I could hardly put it down.  If you have ever run home to your parents’ house to hide, regroup, or recuperate (as I did after Divorce #1), you will appreciate Rhoda’s struggles to remain an adult woman in the eyes of the people who once knew you best.  She grew up in the Mennonite community in and around Fresno, California, and I recognized many of the landmarks in her stories.  Heartwarming and hilarious, this was definitely a fun read.

Gift book #2, The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens, is at first glance a murder mystery, and as such would not usually be my choice to read.  But beyond that it is the story of a young man trying to find his way, hampered by a horribly dysfunctional mother who dumps his autistic younger brother into his care.  Throw in a college writing assignment that leads him to a Viet Nam vet who did time for a murder he says he didn’t commit, and a war buddy who insists the truth be told, and you have a story that insists on being read in one sitting.

After The Life We Bury, I needed a little lighter fare, and found The Hurricane Sisters, by Dorothea Benton Frank, to be the perfect dish.  Three generations of Southern women with larger-than-life personalities face life’s challenges in very different ways, but are bound by family and tradition.  It was funny, sad, and bittersweet…very much like life in a family.

I took Blue Asylum, by Kathy Hepinstall, along for the weekend in case I finished The Hurricane Sisters early (which I did).  There is something very satisfying about curling up in a lovely hotel suite with a rainstorm outside and a gothic novel in hand.  This tale of a proper Southern plantation wife who defied her husband publicly and was confined to an insane asylum, was compelling as it asked what determines lunacy and sanity.  This one, too, begged to be read in one sitting.

Reading score so far:  26 of Reading Challenge 2015 goal of 50.

(Next on the stack:  Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup)