Everything I Read in November 2023
A few things to say! 1. How is already December 1st? (Truly, I don’t know where November went).
2. This was a lighter month of reading than usual. November is always my busiest month of work. I looked back at last November and saw I read less than usual that month as well so I don’t feel too bad. Let Us Descend was brilliant but very heavy, so it took me a bit to get through. And I just didn’t have as much free time as usual. But it’s okay!
3. Reading Lisa Jewell’s back catalog has been very fun. I love her books; she is probably my favorite thriller author. When I want to read purely for pleasure, I will pick up one of her books. Really dark and twisty thrillers with complex mysteries. So it’s fun to go back and see what she was writing before I became a fan.
Anyway, this month’s list is short but sweet. Tell me what you are reading in the comments section!
Let Us Descend, by Jesmyn Ward
Reading this book brought about a new feeling. The feeling of knowing you are reading a masterpiece (Jesmyn Ward’s writing is brilliant – no one writes like her) while also wanting desperately for the book to end. This is not an easy book to read; I actually felt like I was in physical pain for parts of it. Heartbreaking is not a big enough word; I found so much of it to be just plain devastating.
Our narrator is Annis, born into slavery (a product of her mother being raped by their enslaver). It opens with Annis’s mother teaching her to fight. Life on the plantation is hard: rape is a casual, normal everyday occurrence, the women are treated with violence. When Annis’s mother is sold, life gets harder. Annis connects with Safi, another enslaved woman, and they fall in love. Then they are sold and begin the journey (on foot) from the Carolinas to the New Orleans slave market. The journey is hard – through swamps, rivers, etc. all while the women are chained together. During this part, the book takes on a spiritual side as Annis is visited by a spirit who has accompanied her mother and grandmother.
Annis finds herself sold into a sugarcane plantation, with an equally ruthless enslaver. Ward does not spare us. The depictions are both casual and brutal. The atrocities Annis deals with are a part of her everyday life and so they are treated as such. I guess the best way to describe it is beautiful yet brutal. I was not a huge fan of the magical realism elements of the book but I see why they were there: a foil to the brutality; a light in the darkness. Overall Score: A- // Order at Bookshop.org or Amazon.com
The Third Wife, by Lisa Jewell
If you have been here for a little while, you know that I am a huge fan of Lisa Jewell’s books. She is my favorite: dark, twisty thrillers that you can’t put down! I thought it would be fun to read her back catalog. This one is from 2015 and reads much more like a Liane Moriarty (who I also love) book vs. typical Jewell. It was even a little bit heartwarming? I think I am going to enjoy reading her older books to see what her author journey has been like.
In this book, we meet Adrian Wolfe. He has everything: two ex wives, five children, a new wife… and: everyone seemingly getting along, one big happy family. One night, the new wife (Maya) goes out, getting uncharacteristically drunk. And then dying: walking in front of a bus. Adrian grieves his wife. When he stumbles across some shocking emails, he realizes he might not have had the full picture. What happened to Maya? And was his seemingly perfect, big happy family really all that perfect? Cracks emerge and he searches to figure out the truth about his wife and what really happened. I overall enjoyed it! Overall Score: B+ // Order at Bookshop.org or Amazon.com
Watching You, by Lisa Jewell
Continuing my journey of Lisa Jewell’s older books. I really loved this one. The book opens with a murder, and a red tassel sitting in a pool of blood. It is set in a neighborhood outside of London, where all of the neighbors are sort of watching each other for their own different reasons. Newlywed Joey has a crush on the teacher next store. Meanwhile, the teacher’s wife has hired Joey’s husband to decorate. The teacher’s son spies on Joey (and the neighborhood girls, one of whom also has a crush on the teacher). It’s twisty with tons of surprises, but also a little bit heartwarming (kind of similar to The Maid in that regard; though the two books couldn’t be more different). I really loved this and tore through it in under 24 hours. Overall Score: A // Order at Bookshop.org or Amazon.com
Amongst the Bros, by Max Marshall
Oh my goodness. This book (a fraternity crime story!) is a wild ride, truly. I was interested in reading it as it took place at College of Charleston. Some of the students’ residences are actual steps from where I live, which is crazy. This all happened before my time in Charleston (and I am considerably older than the boys involved), so I never knew about any of this… but wow. There are layers here.
First of all, the drug ring. It is wild what these kids were doing, even manufacturing their own counterfeit Xanax. But it goes beyond just their little ring. Max Marshall set out to uncover a small-time fraternity Xanax ring which turned into murder, millions of dollars, student deaths… I could go on. This book is juicy. It also gives a (wild!) look at fraternity life in the South.
I was in a sorority in college (I graduated in 2003) but things were definitely different. Our definition of a wild day/night was a day that started with “kegs and eggs.” This is on a whole other level of wealth, drug use, etc. It blew my mind at times. I read it very quickly and couldn’t put it down. I definitely recommend it, especially if you live in Charleston or were involved in Greek life during college. Overall Score: A- // Order at Bookshop.org or Amazon.com