Before Women Had Wings by Connie May Fowler is one of those books that I appreciated for its good writing, but wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone because of its gloomy subject matter. Therefore, this review is going to be short. The story centers around a young girl, Bird, and her effort to survive in a home of violence. The husband beats the wife. The wife beats the kids. The voltures kill the kittens. (Sounds like a really bad round of The Farmer in the Dell.) The one shining character in the book is Miss Zora, the loving grandmotherly figure who befriends Bird. I kept hoping something good would happen to Bird to make up for all the awful things in her life. While the ending was hopeful, I was left unsatisfied.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen, on the other hand, is very enjoyable. I picked this book up right after I finished Before Women Had Wings, and I'm glad I did. This book just made me smile. I've read Allen's other two novels, Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen. Out of the three, Garden Spells is still the best.
Allen uses magical realism in her novels: apple trees with attitudes, books that follow people around, and in this latest novel ever changing wallpaper. This technique makes the books whimsical and charming.
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was the first time I encountered magical realism, and I loved it. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez is considered the masterpiece of magical realism and is an amazing family saga if you can keep all the Jose Arcadio's and Aureliano's straight. Of course Allen's books are much easier to read and lighter than Marquez. If you enjoy his novels, you might consider Sarah Addison Allen.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon opens with Emily, an orphaned teenager who goes to live with the grandfather she's never met in Mullaby, NC. This grandfather happens to be an eight foot giant. As her mother has never spoken of her childhood, Emily doesn't know that the people of Mullaby are not happy with her arrival, especially the Coffey's. Reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, Emily falls for Win Coffey. Together they try to heal what has happened in the past. This is a ridiculously simple synopsis of the story, but I'm scared of giving too much of the mystery away.
The only issue I have with this book is that there is a scene that reminded me of Twilight.
Second Nature by Alice Hoffman was another gloomy read though I did find it very interesting. Robin, who is separated from her no good cheating husband, goes to visit her brother at a mental hospital where he is a doctor. In the waiting room, she sees the infamous Wolf Man, a wild man who was raised by wolves. Handcuffed and awaiting transportation to a permanent institution, the Wolf Man asks Robin to help him. She ends up creating a story to get his handcuffs taken off and then smuggles him home where she and her teenage son work to socialize him. Most of the middle of the story is a trio of love stories between Robin and Stephen, the Wolf Man, and Conner, the teenage son, and Lydia, his girlfriend, and Stuart, Robin's brother, and his ex-wife, Kay. When first animals and then a person are murdered in the town, Stephen becomes the prime suspect.
Overall, I liked this book. The parts where Stephen struggles with identifying himself as a wolf or as a human are really interesting. The ending was a let down. I've not read too many books by Alice Hoffman, and I've yet to find one that I just love though I think there might be one out there. If anyone has any Alice Hoffman book recommendations, please let me know.