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5 Novels to Kick Off the Fall

By Pam Lamp October 01, 2022 Lifestyle

As I’ve grown older, I’m getting better at letting go.

When a friend rings my doorbell unexpectedly, I no longer apologize for the bills and catalogs scattered across the kitchen table. Or the dog toy minefield she must navigate to reach the coffee pot.

I don’t fret when I scramble a few eggs, pop bread in the toaster, and call it dinner.

If my text or phone call goes unanswered? Oh well!

And I don’t feel obligated to finish a book.

Years ago, when a novel and I didn’t mesh, I plowed through the tedium and pushed on to the final page. Either I didn’t want to waste the good money I’d spent on it, or I felt loyal to the author who had devoted years of her life to writing the story. I couldn’t let the book go.

But not anymore! I’ve bailed on several novels this year, but I loved every single book on this list…

The Matchmaker’s Gift by Lynda Loigman

The stunning, colorful cover (based on ketubah designs) grabbed me, and I adored the author’s last book, The Wartime Sisters. Although fantasy is not usually the genre I crave, I had to try Lynda Loigman’s latest novel.

And I’m so glad I did!

Abby, a late-century divorce attorney, comes across journals written by her beloved grandmother, Sara. Sara had a gift for matchmaking at a time when only Jewish men on New York’s Lower East Side earned money in that vocation. Is it possible Sara has passed this gift along to her granddaughter?

Along with a delightful and heartwarming storyline, I enjoyed learning about Jewish culture and the historical tradition of Jewish matchmaking.

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

“It is a gift in this life that we don’t know what awaits us.”

After finishing this thought-provoking book, I had one question for myself: How in the world was this my first Elizabeth Strout novel?

In 2020, when the world shuts down, Lucy and William leave their Manhattan apartments for a seaside cottage in Maine. The divorced couple rides out the pandemic together, rekindling friendship and compatibility.

Strout writes in an autobiographical, relatable way. Her reflections about love, aging, suffering, grown children, and hope might be any reader’s thoughts. I saw myself time and time again as I lost myself in the pages.

Now that I’ve met the characters in this novel, I plan to pick up Strout’s bestseller Oh William! next. And also, her Pulitzer Prize-winning, Olive Kitteridge. I have some reading to do!

Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah

Along with 35 other Smith College coeds, Jacqueline Bouvier (don’t call her Jackie!) set sail for a study abroad program in 1949. Living with the Comtesse de Renty and her daughters in Paris, Jacqueline signed a pledge to speak only French – at all times – for her entire one-year stay.

In this well-researched novel written in Jacqueline’s voice, the young student discovers a world of art and passion in France. Jacqueline’s year abroad brings her new possibilities, other points of view, and a relationship with a man her mother would never deem suitable. It sparks her lifelong love affair with art, design, and all things French.

Despite the lack of central heating, ample food, and toilet paper, Jacqueline doesn’t miss her suffocating home or her mother’s tight control. She doesn’t miss Mummy’s constant reminders to marry a man with money, power, and political aspirations.

Which she did… Years after her time in Paris, Jacqueline returned to France with her husband, President John F. Kennedy, on a state visit. The President introduced himself to a Paris crowd as “the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris.”

Heaps of books exist – fiction and non-fiction – on the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I’ve read many of them. But this is the first I’ve come across focusing on her study-abroad year in Paris. And I loved it.

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

Lots of media buzz swirls around this recently published mystery. And the hype is well-deserved; I could not put it down.

Jen watches her teenage son stab a man on the street in front of their home. In the wee hours of the morning, her handcuffed son rides off to jail. His – and her – life is in ruins. Jen finally falls asleep, worrying about how she will help her son when she wakes up. Except she wakes up a day before the murder.

How would it be to live our lives in reverse? Like Jen, would we look at situations with a fresh lens? Would we take more time to stop and smell the roses? No doubt, when given a chance, any human would do things differently.

For readers who don’t appreciate a time travel story (like me), this novel is seamless, clever, and well executed.

The Social Graces by Renee Rosen

Fans of HBO’s The Gilded Age will also savor this historical fiction novel narrated by Caroline Astor, Alva Vanderbilt, and Society. Caroline – the Mrs. Astor is a Knickerbocker. Alva is new money. And Knickerbockers do not want to mingle with the nouveau-riche.

Alva will stop at nothing to persuade society to accept her. Based on fact, this novel is a delightful romp of the extravagant measures the two women undertook to maintain their places in society’s hierarchy.

Several of Ms. Rosen’s other novels seem intriguing, including her next one (April 2023), which revolves around cosmetic icon Estee Lauder.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What’s your philosophy? How long do you stick with a book before you bail and move on to another? Do you feel obligated to finish? Any books you’ve plodded through and were glad you read to the end?

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Jen

We’re not falling in Australia—it’s spring time, the days are getting longer and warmer & it’s good to be alive. Sixty & Me is a wonderful resource!

Pamela Lamp

It is a wonderful resource! I hope you enjoy the lovely spring days!

Linda Penner

I too stop fretting when people pop by…How they find my house is how they find my house. And if I don’t like a book, I bring it to the ‘take one, leave one’ library that we have scattered across our neighbourhoods in my city. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure; if someone want to rip a book apart to make junk journals, all power to them. Even a terrible book deserves a shot, because on my best day, I’d never get my worst manuscript published…so the fact that a book made it to a publishers says something, and if it’s not my taste, move it on out of my house. All these books sound great.

Pamela Lamp

I love the idea of Take One, Leave One. Sounds similar to Little Free Library. Thank you for reading this!

Toni Stritzke

I loved “the Gilded Age.” So I’ll reserve the Vanderbilt novel. I reserved four of the Elizabeth Strout novels just now.
Thank you for the recommendations.
In return, I recommend anything by Kate Atkinson.
I’ve heard her described as the finest novelist in the world today.
I believe I agree.
The UK is portrayed with pincer-like accuracy, wit, wry humour, exasperation….
I enjoyed characters you’ve just come to know on the fringes of one book, that reappear in new situations in another. All seamlessly woven together.

Pamela Lamp

Thanks for the recommendation – I will definitely look into Kate Atkinson. I’d love to hear what you think of Elizabeth Strout’s other books. A friend told me I must rush to the library for Olive Kitteridge. That’s on my list of things to do! I hope you like Social Graces. Thanks for reading this!

Carol

What a great list! I give a book 100 pages, before I decide. I prefer non-fiction over fiction, but I am getting better at appreciating fiction. I am glad I finished: Code Girls by Liza Mundy, ( non-fiction). West with Giraffes, by Lynda Rutledge. ( fiction)

Pamela Lamp

Those two books are on my list. Your comment is an incentive to get to them!

Lydia

This is the first time in a long time (70 y/o) I’ve felt someone gets me. No apologies for my dog mine field, or the dining table assorted paper collection. I had to laugh as this is the first year in my reading life that I have stopped reading a book that didn’t draw me in. Last count there were 8 books on my may try again later list. Thanks, Pam, for confirming it’s all ok. And yes I too occasionally have scrambled eggs and pancakes/waffles for dinner!

Pamela Lamp

Why did it take us so long to give ourselves permission to move on to another book?! I gave up on another one last night, but I’ve started a great one today! PS—I’ll have to try a pancake dinner soon!

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The Author

For over five years, Pam Lamp has explored one new thing—every single day. At Who I Met Today, she writes about these discoveries and the people she’s met along the way. The Who I Met Today podcast is now available on all podcast platforms. A book lover, Pam lives in Nashville.

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