Bishop, Bernardine. Unexpected Lessons in Love. London: John Murray, 2013.
Cecilia Banks has a great deal on her plate. But when her son Ian turns up on her doorstep with the unexpected consequence of a brief fling, she feels she has no choice but to take the baby into her life. Cephas’s arrival is the latest of many challenges Cecilia has to face. There is the matter of her cancer, for a start, an illness shared with her novelist friend Helen. Then there is Helen herself, whose observations of Cecilia’s family life reveal a somewhat ambivalent attitude to motherhood. Meanwhile, Tim, Cecilia’s husband, is taking self-effacement to extremes, and Ian, unless he gets on with it, will throw away his best chance at happiness. Cecilia, however, does not have to manage alone. In a convent in Hastings sits Sister Diana Clegg who holds the ties that bind everyone not only to each other but to strangers as yet unmet.
Drabble, Margaret. The Dark Flood Rises. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.
Francesca Stubbs has an extremely full life. A highly regarded expert on housing for the elderly who is herself getting on in age, she drives “restlessly round England,” which is “her last love . . . She wants to see it all before she dies.” Amid the professional conferences that dominate her schedule, she fits in visits to old friends, brings home-cooked dinners to her ailing ex-husband, texts her son, who is grieving over the shocking death of his girlfriend, and drops in on her daughter, a quirky young woman who lives in a flood plain in the West Country. Fran cannot help but think of her mortality, but she is “not ready to settle yet, with a cat upon her knee.”
Ogawa, Yoko. The Housekeeper and the Professor. Picador, 2009.
He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem―ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young Housekeeper―with a ten-year-old son―who is hired to care for the Professor. And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son.
Stegner, Wallace. Crossing to Safety. 1987. Modern Library, 2002.
Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage.
Wood, Monica. The One-in-a-Million Boy. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.
The incandescent story of a 104-year-old woman and the sweet, strange young boy assigned to help her around the house — a friendship that touches each member of the boy’s unmoored family.