3 Novels I Enjoyed This Summer – Unwind, The Spear, Hero for the People

CatholicMom-booknotes-logoSummer’s a great time to read novels and this summer, between June and August, I got in a double-digit number of them. Here are three that I especially enjoyed and haven’t already told you about (aside from the snapshots I give each week in my Book Talk posts).

Unwind, by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster, 2009, fiction young adult)

My niece handed me this book with the exhortation, “Aunt Sarah, you HAVE to read this book!”

I found myself promptly sucked into the book for a variety of reasons. First, it was quite a story. Compelling, to say the least. Second, I dove into it knowing it had been required reading for my niece’s seventh-grade class.

Imagine that abortion was outlawed. The flip side, according to the storyline, is that between the ages of 13 and 18, parents and guardians can have teens “unwound,” which is a sort of deconstruction of their body.

So far, I haven’t spoiled anything, and I’ll keep myself from saying too much more. I can’t tell you how well-written this book was: I was so sucked in that I know I was just reading to find out what happened next, as opposed to reading it and evaluating it in the way I sometimes/often read other works.

What continues to intrigue me about this book is that it’s written for a YA audience. My niece tells me the sequel is good too, and I’ll be borrowing that from her soon. If you’ve read this (or if/when you do), let me know what you think.

And, parents: pay attention to what your kids are reading in school. I’m still a little…surprised…that this was required reading. It did lead to some very insightful conversations with my niece and I. My kids are younger, it’s true.

This book really examines issues with life. Period. On a lot of levels. I don’t know that I caught any conclusions being drawn in it that I disagree with. But this is a topic that we should be discussing. A lot. With our kids.

The Spear, by Louis de Wohl (fiction, Ignatius Press, 1998)

Thank you, oh friend who picked this for our fiction book club. It’s a hefty book, to be sure, and it’s a classic for a reason.

I’ve never read any Louis de Wohl, but I’ll be reading more after this introduction to him.

This book examines Jesus’s life and passion and death through the lens of real people. It’s truly almost a spiritual read…and, though I claim NOT to like historical fiction, I think this is definitely historical fiction and it’s WONDERFUL.

I caught myself, while reading it and since reading it, listening to the Gospel readings at Mass differently, actually hearing a voice and picturing people. This gave grit and dirt to things that I think I take so much for granted: the wonder of our faith and of the real-life events that happened during Jesus’s life.

Even though I knew the story, I didn’t. At all. Truly, a masterful work that should be required reading for…well, for all of us. GOOOOOOOD stuff.

A Hero for the People: Stories of the Brazilian Backlands, by Arthur Powers (fiction, Press 53, 2013)

This is a book I stumbled upon. I didn’t expect it to be good, much less at the “write to the author and ask for an interview” level. I didn’t expect much from it.

I found myself, about a third of the way through the book, checking to see if it was a memoir or a collection of stories. For me, this speaks to a few things.

First, it was so well-written that, as fiction, it seemed real. As in, “pinch me, I’m riding shotgun across Brazil” real.

Second, I’m not a big fan of most memoirs (but yes, I love a good story, so there’s that). The fact that I was LIKING this even though I thought it was a memoir (or I wasn’t sure) was a big thumbs up for the writing and storytelling.

I always forget how much I enjoy collections of stories. They’re like assorted hard candies…if you don’t like one, it’s not such a big deal because there’s a good one coming up soon. In this bag of stories, though, there weren’t any bad ones.

Each story in this is crafted and fine-tuned. They leave you satisfied and yet wanting more.

There’s an adventure and, within that, a deeper theme. You almost get the sense that you’re traveling along through Brazil’s backlands, and that the people there, while delightfully unique, aren’t so different from you. There’s a taste to this book that made me look up Powers’s other work.

Dare I say this is literature? Maybe. At the very least, it’s a book I really, really, REALLY enjoyed, with a wow on top.

About Sarah Reinhard

Looking for Sarah Reinhard? Chances are she's hiding from her kids with her nose in a book...which is just too bad for the housework and cooking. Her greatest delight of late is how her kids are becoming bigger bibliophiles than she is. (And she's really only a beginner and a hack at that.) She’s online at SnoringScholar.com, CatholicMom.com, and is the author of a number of books.


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