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Escape into These 6 Novels

By Pam Lamp February 22, 2024 Hobbies

A couple of weeks ago, I had some minor surgery. All is well, but I could not bend, stoop, lift, twist, or ride in a car while recuperating. The silver lining? These constraints gave me the perfect excuse to pull on my sweats, curl up on the couch, and read.

And I fell in love with these novels.

The Women by Kristin Hannah

Attention! Attention! I urge readers – especially those who grew up watching M*A*S*H – to pick up Kristin Hannah’s latest! One of my favorite novels of the past year, this book contains everything I love – history, an exotic locale I know little about, romance, friendships, unexpected developments – all wrapped up in a compelling story.

It’s 1966, and Frances (Frankie) McGrath longs to be among the photo collection in her father’s study – photos of heroes in the well-to-do Southern Californian family. With little to no training – like the wounded men she fights to save – Frankie blossoms into a top-notch surgical combat nurse in Vietnam. Returning home from war, Frankie faces a nation that doesn’t appreciate her service or sacrifice.

This novel gave me a greater understanding of the environment our courageous men and women (women were only nurses) encountered, the unspeakable hardships many endured, and the nation’s response.

Just announced – Warner Brothers will bring this novel to the big screen.

An American Beauty by Shana Abe

If we’re too timid to expand our boundaries, we’re little more than mice, aren’t we?

On trips to New York City, I’ve strolled down Park Avenue or Fifth Avenue or wandered the Upper East Side. I’ve ogled the ornate architecture and buildings, most now chopped into apartments, retail stores, or the occasional museum. I’d have loved to tour those mansions in their heyday. Back when ladies’ maids prepared the residents for tea or dinner, arranging their elaborate gowns and pinning up their hair. If those walls could talk…

I adore people stories, and this historical fiction novel chronicles Arabella Huntington and her lifelong love affair with the railroad tycoon that lifted her – and her family – out of abject poverty. Fans of HBO’s The Gilded Age – and interested history buffs alsowill adore a peek into 1800s society.

If travel takes you to the Los Angeles area, be sure to plan a visit to the magnificent Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. It’s on my someday list!

A Beautiful Rival by Gill Paul

Long before women wore makeup regularly and skin care was the monumental industry it is today, Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden introduced American women to luxurious lipsticks and creams.

But the cosmetic giants detested one another…

Elizabeth grew up poor and hungry and couldn’t shed the feeling that she “wasn’t good enough.” A Polish native, Helena learned to create herb-infused potions to make women look younger and brighter.

Both strived to be the most successful in their field and would stop at nothing to reach their goals. They poached employees, planted spies, spread rumors and gossip, and copied products. Another great people story!

The Surgeon by Leslie Wolfe

A good friend stumbled on this page-turner, raced through it, and passed it on to me. It was everything she promised it was.

A cardiac surgeon has a successful career, a wonderful husband, and a charming home. And she’s never lost a patient on the operating table.

Until the day a patient’s heart stops beating, and the surgeon pronounces him dead. Did he have to die? Or did she want him to die?

Loaded with twists, turns, and surprises, I couldn’t wait to eat dinner, clean up the kitchen, and snuggle in for the evening with this fast-moving, psychological thriller.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

We make plans, and God laughs.

Idyllic Avalon’s Division Street hosts a famous tree, a son who may not be what his parents dreamed of, a tragedy, and lots and lots of secrets. The story embraces relatable and thought-provoking touchpoints – Alzheimer’s, cancer, death, and protecting loved ones at all costs.

Flip-flopping back and forth in time, the book follows the residents and their lives over 50 years. Like me, readers may reflect on the connectedness and coincidences in our tiny world.

Lots of media buzz (warranted) surrounds this family novel and its gentle reminder that we cannot know what the impact of our decisions and actions – however small – may be.

The Senator’s Wife by Liv Constantine

After finishing this psychological fiction book, I pondered which actors I’d cast in the movie. Because this novel seems perfect for the big screen!

Writing under the name Liv Constantine, sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine weave another twisty, escapist read that I couldn’t put down.

Sloane and Whit are a Washington, D.C. power couple with an interesting backstory. Senator Montgomery, handsome and charismatic, is at the top of his political game. Sloane is a philanthropist, heading up the foundation she and her first husband created. Athena moves into their Georgetown mansion to help Sloane recover from hip surgery and manage her Lupus.

Can Sloane trust her husband? What is Athena up to? Will Sloane recover? I enjoyed learning about this erratic disease and peering into the glad-handing political arena.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you read any novels lately that have become movies or TV series? Do you recommend the book or the show? Do you have a favorite author whose books you automatically read?

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Rose Larson

Terrific selection of books. Hope your book recovery is going well.

Jan Cullinane

I’d recommend The Covenant of Water and/or Cutting for Stone, both by Abraham Verghese.

Stephanie Berman

Well, as I’ve always been a slow reader yet always enjoy a story, I’ve found these authors can offer a good listen in Audiobook form. (Many enjoy them in reading form too of course!) All available free through my local library (U.S.)–
Ann Cleeves
Elizabeth George
Rachel Hawkins
Robyn Harding
Claire Keegan
Dervka McTeirnan

DebraLynn WA

Saving these on my wish list. Just finished The Women. Bought the hardcover, then ended up listening to the audiobook version, Julia Whelan is a favorite narrator. Will gift the hardcover to a friend.

Pamela Malinzak

no, but your reviews have me passionate to do so….would be great reads for book clubs!! Thank you

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The Author

It’s never too late to learn something new. At Who I Met Today – a blog and podcast – Pam Lamp interviews people from all walks of life. Through conversations about health, hobbies, books, food, and travel, she invites you to join her, explore new territory, and expand your horizons.

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