By Frederic Colier

HappyPeople_HC_cover

“Happy People Read and Drink Coffee” by Agnès Martin-Lugand. Trans. Sandra Smith (Weinstein Books, p 242, $22.90)

Originally self-published in French, this book became a sensation in France before an international bestsellers, and deservedly. Though written in the current fashionable trend of story of awakening or recovery in the face of brutal personal drama, think Under the Tuscan Sun, Wild, and Eat Prey Love, tragedy, this book reads like a charm, in a clear and fast-pace prose. Diane is a young woman, who has lost both her husband and daughter (I’ll spare you how). Despairing, she moves to Ireland to escape the crushing memories surrounding her. There, of course, life slowly creeps back in, and she develops a friendship with Edward, a local photographer. Ghosts however are powerful, especially when Diane and Edward’s relationship evolves. They stand in her way. I love how the book looks at compromises, not between the alive and the dead but in the narrow scope of the grey, which is the daily dance of compromise we face to deal with pain, sorrow and laughter.

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Regrets Only_COVER

“Regrets Only,” by M.J. Pullen (Thomas Dunne Books, p 322, $24.99)

Following her success with The Marriage Pact (2015) MJ delivers the second installment of her engaging new series about a group of thirty-something in Atlanta. This time, the event takes place several years later. This coming of age story centers on Suzanne Hamilton, a young professional woman who has it all: the great career as an event planner, a rich social life, a trendy condo in the best neighborhood, and men forming a line outside her front door stretching to the street corner. But the story is no caricature. Even though it starts on a high note, things quickly turn sour. After a freak accident, she loses pretty much all of it. This is when the novel kicks into high gear and finds its voice. Because the early thirty is really a time of readjustment. When coveted dreams end up in tattered, the nature of the dreams must be realigned to fresh perspectives. Often things we moan about or leave behind in grief are just step towards way better things.

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Dont let my baby do rodeo

“Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo” by Boris Fishman (Harper/Harper Collins, p 336, $26.99)

A sophomore release from Boris Fishman, an author who appeared on “books du Jour, the TV series when he released his first book, “A Replacement Life.”  If you forgive me the cliché, the fruit never falls too far from the tree, and you could say that it is true about Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo. From Russian-Belarus descent, Boris writes characters as wide as legendary Russian rivers, with the same verve and punchy style. Here we have a couple riding together the deceiving roads of life. The dislocation erupts when they adopt, Max, an eight-year-old boy from Montana, who little by little regresses to a feral state. Not what the couple had bargained for. It is precisely the dislocation that their son brings up that highlight the parent’s own sense of inner dilemma. Who are those Slavic transplants straddling a dual culture and languages, constantly playing a tug of war between belonging here and having the heart at times somewhere else? Perhaps it is this dislocation that will allow the family to survive and for the members to fine-tune how they see life in the future. But first they may have to visit part of themselves, which may not be too be comfortable, just to see who they are inside . . .

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A House for Happy Mothers

“A House For Happy Mothers” by Amulya Malladi (Lake Union Publishing, p 329, $14.95)

Here is another book dealing with a woman, who appears to have it all, except for one thing. In this case it is not a love partner but a child who is missing to complete self- fulfillment. Delivered with mastery by Indian bestseller author, Amulya Malladi, and with engaging characters, A House For Happy Mothers deals with the tough decisions and consequences to have recourse to surrogacy. Priya, one of the main protagonists, a tech guru in Silicon Valley, has been unable to conceive. She joins the “Happy Mothers” in India, where she meets Asha, whose poverty prevents her to send her gifted child to school. Resigned Asha accept to rent her only asset, her womb, to carry Priya’s child. But the story is not a sentimental celebration about rearing a child or an exposé on the conflict arising when foreign worlds collide with each other in order to help each other. It is also a commentary on the best and the worst of the rising Indian surrogacy industry.

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“The Other Daughter” by Lauren Willig (St Martin’s Press, p 310, $15.99)

Set in 1920’s Europe, the story follows a modest young woman, Rachel, who discovers that her long dead father is very much alive and kicking. Working in France, and forced to return to England after her mother’s death, Rachel must now clear the house she grew up in. This is when she comes across a society magazine with a picture of her prominent father and his new family. Grief-stricken, exacerbated now by a deep sense of betrayal, she sets up to locate him and bring down his lovely charming world. But you may have heard the saying: “if you want to make God laugh have a plan,” and Rachel is not immune to the rule. Things do not go at all according to plan. First she likes her stepsister and then develops a rather strong liking for her fiancé. The clear prose and story clarity make this great page-turner for the fans of deceitful, passionate and revengeful stories a must-read.

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