Engrossing…I admire this graceful and intimate writer for her literary sleight of hand: you don’t so much read about her characters as you inhabit them.
Hood’s novel is rich with pleasures, and will
no doubt launch a thousand book club discussions.
Hood examines the push and pull between mothers
and grown children and the transformative power of fiction.
Great novelists can envelop you in relatable plot lines that make you feel like you’re part of the story. That’s what Ann Hood, author of the much beloved The Knitting Circle, does in her latest.
The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood works on so many levels. First, it’s a delightful read. Second, it’s full of great book suggestions. And third, it’s inspiration for book groups.
The Book That Matters Most is an exhilarating celebration of all that books awaken within us: joy, love, wisdom, loss, solace. Ann Hood is a captivating storytellerI devoured this novel.
Ann Hood’s eye for the absurd, her masterful prose and vivid characters instantly draw you into this compelling story about mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and lovers. But it’s the delicate exploration of human fallibility – of love, loss, regret and redemption that make this one of those rare and wonderful books that truly matter.
Hood’s (The Obituary Writer) latest novel is a moving, intricate story about loss, healing, and the value of critical thinking. A year after being left by her husband, Ava is still reeling from the grief of separation, which brought back the pain of losing her sister and mother early in life. In order to branch out and meet new people, Ava joins a book club where each member must choose a book that matters most to them for the group to discuss. Although the new activity keeps her engaged, Ava, who lives in Providence, R.I., still feels alone, with her son abroad in Africa and her daughter studying in Florence. What Ava doesn’t know is that her daughter has recently quit school and is now living in Paris under increasingly dangerous circumstances. Ava doesn’t immediately enjoy the book group (she watches a movie adaptation instead of reading the first book), but bit by bit, book by book, she rediscovers her love of reading, makes new friends, and begins to heal. As the narrative focus moves among different characters and back and forth in time, suspense builds about what happened to Ava’s mother and sister and what might happen to her daughter. Meanwhile, the book club allows Ava to examine her grief and slowly learn how to move forward. This is a gripping, multifaceted novel about recovering from different kinds of loss and the healing that comes from a powerful story. (Aug.)
As with Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, this new book from Hood (The Obituary Writer) celebrates reading and the power of literature. The focus is a library book club and Ava, a French teacher, its most recent member. Separated from her husband and experiencing a bit of an empty-nest syndrome as her grown children explore the world, Ava seeks companionship in the group but is taken aback by the theme; to present a book that served an important role in her life. She searches for a lost novelist who wrote a memorable story that helped her through her childhood traumas. While some might become intrigued as more details of Ava's past are gradually revealed, they also deserve a more developed, sharpened plot than this far-fetched, somewhat preposterous novel provides. VERDICT Hood's effortlessly readable story is sure to divide readers—between those who are captivated and those who desire a more detailed story line. [See Prepub Alert, 2/21/16; library marketing.]—Andrea Tarr, Corona P.L., CA
A mother and a daughter seek balance in their broken lives while books provide them with comfort, clarity, and clues to a mystery.When Ava North joins her best friend's long-running book club in Providence, Rhode Island, it is not to find solace from the long-ago deaths of her little sister and mother. That wound is locked up tight. Instead, it's because her husband of 25 years has left her for another woman, and Ava is bitter and lonely. So much so that she's a refreshingly cranky, reticent participant in the club, whose theme for the year is "The Book That Matters Most" to each member. It's somewhat suspect, but forgivable, that all the members save Ava choose well-regarded classics, but Hood (An Italian Wife, 2014, etc.) handles it with a light touch. Meanwhile, Ava's problem child, Maggie, continues running with the wrong crowd when she abandons her study-abroad semester in Italy to haunt Paris, where she slips willingly into heroin addiction. There is momentum in the juxtaposition of Ava's and Maggie's circumstances, one improving incrementally, one devolving steadily, into which the spice of intrigue is added: what were the circumstances of Ava's sister's death? What of her mother's? Why is Maggie the way she is? And what does Ava's little-known book pick—the book that matters most to her—have to do with all of it? Hood occasionally adds a slurry of unnecessary exposition but is more often able to limn fundamental character truths via well-placed details. She has a knack for dramatic revelation that feels natural, possibly because she is so skilled at knowing what to leave out. Whether or not they think of themselves as bookish, readers of all stripes will enjoy cycling through these characters' lives and discovering their shared, mysterious past.