Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin
Nothing like the classic Russian novels but still very Russian, Laurus was full of spiritual anecdote, paradox, lyric moments, quirky reflections on the nature of time, on the nature of healing and medicine. This story of a love that survives both death and (more miraculously) the passage of years surprises by being very very funny, with a dark but gentle humor.
The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter
I’d never read any of her books before but now I want to read at least A Girl of the Limberlost. If you love books and honeybees, it’s hard to imagine that you wouldn’t find yourself smiling over these pages. It does not meet the current literary standards for adult fiction but it has moments utterly refreshing in their freedom from today’s hypocritical taboos. Its moralism though was unsatisfying. There is something wrong with any moral vision that puts cleanliness so close to godliness. And I missed any recognition that there can be real forgiveness and redemption for real and serious sins.
Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym
This is only the second Barbara Pym book I’ve read. Bought and read it on a whim and, this time, completely caught onto her zany, delightfully deprecating tone. A human laughs joyously at the ridiculous in being human. It is full of zest and compassion. Also, as a Catholic, I loved the way the female characters daydream and murmur about “going over to Rome.” Both this and Laurus were just *beautifully* funny.
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
It reminded me a lot of Mark Helprin, more than Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society books do. Stewart, like Helprin, puts the love between parents and children at, or close to, the heart of his fiction. Here, as in the MBS, we have a story about teamwork, which values personal independence while recognizing its limits. A real close-knit team of little people defeats a powerful, fear-controlled mafia. Read it aloud to my enthusiastic 4th grader over the course of a month.