BY CAROLINE POWELL
As an avid reader in the summer, I always struggle to read for fun during the semester on top of all my classwork and extracurriculars. I look forward to the summer months, not just for the serendipity and break from any burnout I experience, but also for reading on the beach, in my backyard hammock and during breaks at work. As the season comes to an end, here are my honest reviews and recommendations for anyone looking for easy reads during these upcoming semesters.
The first book I took up, back in the middle of May, was a haunting start to the warmer weather by my home at the beach. “Death in Her Hands,” by Ottessa Moshfegh, touched on a humorously dark way in capturing the ultimate feeling of loneliness slipping into a twisted madness.
Moshfegh, who has grown in popularity throughout the years, especially after her novel “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” went viral on TikTok for its melancholy tone. She typically writes her characters as women enduring hardships: depressive episodes, an abusive family history and being a widow living alone with her dog.
After her novel “Eileen” won the PEN/Hemingway Award, Moshfegh became a household name. I became influenced by her books trending on TikTok and dove straight into her stories. I will say, I found “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” to be a bit more slogging in terms of the plot itself. However, as a reader, “Death in Her Hands” left me wanting to read more from Moshfegh.
The book follows Vesta Gul, a newly widowed elderly woman living in the woods, from the moment she finds a note during a walk with her dog, Charlie. The note reads, “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.”
The entire book perplexes the reader as they experience Gul slip more and more into insanity. It still is hard to tell what was accurate and what wasn’t considering it is intentionally written in the first person.
I loved the writing style tremendously in this book, especially compared to my first read of Moshfegh’s. At this point, I own most of her oeuvre. Despite the dark topics covered in her novels, Moshfegh’s writing style is enjoyable for reading and entertainment purposes.
With “Death in Her Hands,” I admire how the reader has a hard time knowing what’s happening, because the reader essentially becomes Vesta herself, slipping more and more, making reality difficult to understand. I highly suggest this book if you’re into murder mysteries, though this book leans more towards mystery than anything. I won’t spoil anything, but, justice for Charlie.
My next book recommendation is a more bittersweet, wholesome option, if troubled widowed women aren’t for you. Mitch Albom’s memoir “Tuesdays with Morrie; An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lessons” is one of those books that has you crying within the first few page flips.
Albom, a journalist, has become known for his central themes of faith and kindness in humanity, with “Tuesdays with Morrie” being the best introduction to this (in my personal opinion). This novel is considered to be one of the best selling memoirs. Selling over 14 million copies, “Tuesdays with Morrie” held New York Times’ bestseller list for 205 weeks.
This book will always be a classic favorite. From the start, readers learn that Morrie Schwartz, Albom’s previous sociology professor, is dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Albom reconnects with Schwartz and the book follows Albom, as he makes a series of visits to Morrie. At its core, the book is about some of the greatest life lessons.
I will forever have a soft spot for Schwartz and his wisdom, as well as gratitude, for Albom for sharing such an intimate relationship from his life. “Tuesdays with Morrie” reminds me to live intentionally, kindly and lovingly. Every chapter made me either laugh or cry. I loved the way Albom wrote the dialogue in a way that makes readers feel like they are Albom, sitting across from Schwartz, as he struggles to eat while also giving you priceless advice. Despite its simplicity in plot, it changes perspectives for any reader that comes across Albom and Schwartz’ message.
While I am both sad and excited that summer is coming to a close, I am satisfied with these opposite reads, and I highly recommend either of these books to readers out there. Whether you want to be highly confused or humbled, both of these books are extraordinary starts for those dipping their toes into the world of new age literature.