Every once in awhile, you come across a book that you must share with neighbors and friends – one that stays with you or transports you to another place or time. Sometimes those books leave you a bit melancholy that your experience with it – with those characters – has come to an end.
Here are some books that made me feel that way. I’ve also taken the time to select some drink pairings. You will find a new book recommendation each quarter in our real estate magazine The Avenue, but the drink pairing is only offered here. Your recommendations, thoughts, and comments (on both books and drinks) are most welcome. Happy reading, relaxing, and tasting!
Homegoing is a parallel story of eight generations of descendants from two half-sisters in eighteenth-century Ghana – each chapter revealing the experience of an individual in a new place and time. Like a panorama, these stories are told as powerful snapshots of personal experiences and help to illustrate how the pain of captivity and slavery has passed down through generations and remains today. Yaa Gyasi has weaved a truly remarkable collection of life experiences into a revelation of understanding for all who read her book.
Drink Pairing: A true challenge it is to recommend a drink pairing for this complex book. We need something cool for the summer yet true to the “flavor” of the book. In Ghana, a popular drink is called Lamugin – a chilled ginger drink. Lamugin is made with chopped ginger, lemon, soaked cloves, and water that is strained into a container. Additional sugar or water can be added to taste. It’s best served chilled. Or you could always go for a ginger mojito…recipes are available on-line. Either way, kick back and relax as you read this well-crafted story spanning generations.
Next Year in Havana tells the story of Marisol, a young Cuban-American woman returning to her family’s native Cuba in 2017 to spread her grandmother’s ashes. Her visit changes her life. Her eyes are opened to her grandmother’s challenges and secrets as she fled Cuba during the Revolution of the 1950’s. Marisol’s visit forever alters her understanding of her family and her perspective on Cuba – both now and then. Author Chanel Cleeton was inspired to write this story by the life of her own Cuban grandmother. It’s a journey the reader will not soon forget.
Drink Pairing: While I am a wine lover, this time, I must digress and recommend a Cuban classic…the Cuba Libre. A simple but tasty refresher that is best served on a warm day with a good book (like this one!) in hand. Simple recipe: 1/2 lime juice in a highball, add ice, then add 2 oz. light rum, 4 ounces Coca-Cola, stir, and enjoy! Stay well!
Beneath a Scarlet Sky is set in Italy in World War II and based on true events in the life of a young man, Pino Lella, as he deals with the changing face of his country, witnesses the horrors of war, and meets his first love.
When his hometown of Milan is invaded by the Nazis, Pino Lella is sent away to safety. However, he finds himself compelled to help and is recruited into guiding many Jewish people through the Alps to escape capture. Circumstances then present him with an opportunity to work as a spy inside German High Command and Pino must decide whether to risk everything again – his life, his friendships, his family, and even his first love – to do it. His story is one of tremendous courage, deep loss, and love in the face of war.
Wine Pairing: Why of course, one must pair this book with a nice Italian red. I recommend a traditional Chianti like Cantina Zaccagnini from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Where the Crawdads Sing – Part whodunnit, part coming-of-age, part Jungle Book, Delia Owen’s first novel tells the story of a young girl, Kya Clark, who largely raises herself in the wilds of the North Carolina marsh. Set in the late 1960s-70s, Kya is isolated from society and both feared and ridiculed by the local townspeople. She is dubbed the ‘Marsh Girl’. So when a local young man, Chase Andrews, is found dead in the marsh, speculation abounds about who did it and many suspect the Marsh Girl. The mystery unravels as the story is told through her eyes.
While many have read this #1 New York Times best-selling novel, most do not know the true-life story that may have inspired the fiction. Delia Owens and her former husband Mark are suspected of murder in the wilds of Zambia and have been warned never to return to the country.
After decades of researching and protecting elephants from poachers, their passion for protecting the creatures may have gone too far. Learn more at Slate.com
Wine Pairing: Ok, so I admit that I’m on a Josh Cellars kick but the Rose is smooth, like the telling of this story, with some unexpected twists and the color of a North Carolina marsh sunset.
My Dear Hamilton takes the reader on a journey through the life of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, the influential wife of Alexander Hamilton. Much has been written and celebrated about Alexander. This book dares to offer a unique perspective on the founding of this Country through the eyes and ears of his wife, who was there with Alexander lock-step through it all.
Her strength, charisma, ingenuity, and determination was instrumental in the birth of this Nation. As they navigated through the darkest and most tumultuous times in their lives, and despite a betrayal of the worst kind, Eliza remained steadfast and never let go of what she believed in nor compromised her integrity.
Local Maryland authors, Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, knocked it out of the park when they teamed up to bring this woman’s fascinating and complicated story to life. You will never think of the birth of this Nation in quite the same way again!
Wine Pairing: Josh Cellars Pinot Noir – a revolutionary flavor – complicated but gentle.
Amy’s Long-Time Favorite Books:
Although these books are not on today’s best-sellers list, they stand the test of time and are always worth reading! Enjoy!