As we have been celebrating women this month, the Willoughby reading lists have been full of strong and well written woman, along with the families you are born into and the ones you make along the way.
The books below are all about love, identity and trying to find where you belong in world that is full of many ups and downs.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Michelle Zauner is perhaps best known under her musical alias Japanese Breakfast, but diverts her creative energies towards this beautiful, raw and food-filled memoir, focusing on her relationship with her mother, who died from cancer when Zauner was twenty-five years old. It is an unflinching portrait of a complicated, messy but ultimately loving bond between the two. Zauner explores her upbringing as the daughter of a Korean mother and a white American father. Love, cultural heritage, and grief are expressed largely through the meals of her mother’s home country.
Told with humour, warmth, sadness and honesty, it is a book about identity, belonging, about our ties to one another, and how language can expand and limit our relationships. Her love for her mother and her mother’s love for her, are indelible features of this wonderful book and if you’re a fan of family-based memoirs, this would be perfect for you.
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
This book is about Ariadne, who we all know as the girl who gave Theseus the string to navigate Daedalus’ Labyrinth and kill the minotaur. This book goes through Ariadne’s journey of betraying her family, getting abandoned on a deserted island and finding her footing, whilst trying not to gain any attention from the Gods.
This book is very much about the way women are used as tools in the mythical stories of men and then are left forgotten. Or face the consequences of actions that are caused by the men that have used them and examples of Pasiphae and Medusa’ stories are used to caution instil fear into Ariadne.
Reimagined myths are always a must read and if you loved Madeline Miller’s books, you’ll love this debut novel from Jennifer Saint.
Half a World Away by Mike Gayle
This is the first book by Mike Gayle that I have read and I picked it up thinking it sounded an interesting, yet easy read. I guess I was right in that it was an easy read, but only in the sense that I flew through it because I was so drawn in by the characters stories.
Told in alternate chapters from the perspectives of Kerry and Noah, half-siblings who were separated by adoption, this is the tale of identity, family, love and grief. I won’t give away any spoilers, but just be prepared to have some tissues handy! Right, I’m off to find some more Mike Gayle books to read!
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
It has taken me a little while to get around to reading this book but it was definitely worth the wait and the hype.
While its simplistic in plot arc and set up, Linus Baker (40-year-old caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth) is sent by Extreme Upper Management to observe and evaluate a rather unusual orphanage, this book is anything but simple. The characters are rich in depth and given so much personality that you care for them from the very beginning. The world building really draws you in and is appealing for those who don’t like typical fantasy books.
The book is all about finding true purpose and belonging in a messed-up world, where the dark and terrible parts of humanity are not talked about hidden away - along with its victims. It about finding family when everyone has already turned their backs on you. It’s a warm and caring book and I thoroughly enjoyed every page.
I’m also particularly fond of books where I can say my favourite characters is Lucifer, the six year old son of the devil who prefers to go by Lucy.
Did Ye Hear Mammy Died by Séamus O’Reilly
This is a gorgeous and heartfelt memoir that will have you both laughing and crying.
Séamus O’Reilly’s mother died of cancer when he was just five, leaving his father to care for eleven children alone in a Derry bungalow awash with sibling rivalry, dogs and priest visits.
This is a love letter to a heroic father shepherding his flock of grieving children through a 1990’s childhood, and an extremely tender and warm-hearted picture of grief and loss.