September Tomato Book Picks
Our Tomato book readers have three novels to recommend this month. Wednesdays At One is a page turning mystery. The Covenant of Water is a family mystery that winds through the decades. And The Art of Racing in the Rain was originally published in 2008 and was also a movie starring Kevin Costner.
“I Was Hooked from Page One”
Doctor Gregory Weber is a well-known clinical psychologist. He is living in an upscale neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife, Liv, and their two children. From the outside Gregory appears to have the perfect life, family, and career. He feels very disconnected from his family and has become withdrawn from them. He feels as though they all are living their own separate lives under one roof.
Wednesdays At One by Sandra A. Miller explores the idea of how a traumatic event can come back to haunt a person many years later in unexpected ways. She writes this story from a male perspective and does it beautifully. As Gregory is planning to leave his office on Wednesday for lunch at 1:00 PM, he sees a patient in the waiting room. He first thinks he has just forgotten an appointment, which is not like him because he is detailed in his scheduling of his patients.
The woman introduces herself as Mira. When Gregory asks her if she has a scheduled appointment with him, Mira answers “you asked me to come see you.” He does not recognize her and is certain he has never seen this woman before. She takes a seat in his chair, forcing him to sit in another chair in the room. Mira also ignores his request for her to complete necessary medical forms for a patient. She insists on knowing about him and his life before she reveals anything about herself.
Who is this mysterious Mira? Why does Gregory continue to see Mira even though she wants to question him, have him explain his issues rather than talking about her own. As we learn more about Gregory through their meetings, we will discover the trauma that he has gone through in his life.
Sandra A. Miller did a fantastic job weaving together a great mystery that little tidbits along the way until the end to keep you guessing. I would call this story a slow build in the best possible way, keeping those pages turning. I was hooked on this book from page one. I loved it and highly recommend this book. Five stars from me. GET THE BOOK.
~Francene Katzen, Richmond, Virginia, advocate for parents who have children with drug addictions.
A Family Mystery that Captures Your Imagination
In his latest book, The Covenant of Water, Abraham Verghese writes, “Faith is to know the pattern is there, even though none is visible.” It sums up how a reader may feel pressing through this sprawling epic that involves three generations, two continents, and several geographic locations which weave together seamlessly in the conclusion.
Set in Kerala, South India the story spans decades from 1900-1977, and begins with the marriage of a 12-year-old girl to a 40-year-old widower. This young girl, physically small in stature, grows into her nickname Big Ammachi, as she evolves into a loving wife and matriarch of the family. Guided by strong faith, Big Ammachi experiences the joy and triumph of motherhood, as well as hardship and loss. She manages the household of the estate called Parambil with competence and common sense as the family grows through the generations.
The search for the answers to a family mystery winds its way through decades of love, faith, and medicine. This strange condition of drowning in water while being born to avoid it affects one person in every generation of the family. In a setting which is surrounded by water, one must learn to negotiate it, and yet death by water can – and does – happen in strange ways. Can there be a medical reason for it?
The family mystery, however, is not the only secret. There are several others kept by the adults to protect their loved ones that are eventually revealed in the carefully crafted narrative. Early in the book, Varghese teases the reader with a glimpse into the future when he writes: “But in their revealing, as in their keeping, secrets can tear a family apart.”
This is a book rich in descriptive prose, dialogue, and historical reference evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of India. The personas and story lines are compelling. The characters are intricately formed and connected as the relationships between them emerge through the chapters. Woven into the story line are narratives of social class, politics, medicine, culture, art, love, death, and disease. Be prepared to have it capture your imagination! GET THE DETAILS.
~Joan Pagano, NYC, Joan Pagano Fitness
Compassion Isn’t Only for Humans
The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, was given to me recently by an animal-loving friend (knowing I am one too), who had read it for her book club, and enjoyed it. The novel was published in 2008 and NY Times bestseller for 156 weeks. In 2019, it was adapted into a film with Kevin Costner as the voice of the dog Enzo.
The story is told through the perspective of a dog named Enzo, a very charming and witty narrator. The setting is Seattle. Through his strong bond with his owner, aspiring Formula One race car driver Denny, golden retriever Enzo learns that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to successfully navigate the journey of life.
Throughout the novel, the mantra, “The car goes where the eyes go” occurs as a positive way of reminding Denny and Enzo that to achieve what you want, you have to keep your eyes on the prize. Love, devotion, death, betrayal, redemption: they’re all here.
Enzo is always there to look after his human family, Denny, Zoë and Eve through good times and bad, subordinating his own needs, his own pains for the sake of his family. What makes this story so inspirational is the trust and connection of the characters and how they keep each other moving forward, never giving up. The skilled author creates characters that the reader can absolutely hate; others that the reader can absolutely love. Be prepared to laugh, get angry, and cry. Keep tissues handy.
This is a book for anyone who knows that some of our best friends are those who walk on four legs, that compassion isn’t only for humans, and that relationships between two souls who are meant for each other never really come to an end.
After reading this story, I guarantee you will wonder what your own dog is thinking. GET THE BOOK.
~Ellen Seymour, Hershey, Pennsylvania, retired caterer, avid gardener and cook