Books by Melissa Bowersock

Friday, March 6, 2020

Best Books on the Planet

I know a lot of you out there read voraciously; I know that because we've connected through Voracious Readers Only. I'm afraid I don't have near enough time to try many new books or even keep up with the latest best-sellers--too busy with my own writing, my editing work and marketing. However, I do have some favorite books that I highly recommend, and if you're not familiar with them, you might check them out.They're not new, but I definitely think they'll be worth your time.

Speaking of time, two of my all-time favorites are time travel stories. I love time travel, as you may have noticed from my back list. Both my #4 and #3 favorites are time travel novels, done so superbly that I often re-read them and they inspire me in my own writing. Let's dive in.

#4 - The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

I first read this at a time when I had tried numerous books--too many to count--that failed to grab me or pull me into their stories, and I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with me. If I had become jaded, or immune to the stories that other people were touting. For some months, this really bothered me. But then I read The Rose Garden. Ha! Here was a book that grabbed me. Here was a story that compelled me to keep reading. Yippee! It wasn't me!

I think the most marvelous aspect to this book is the sense of time and place. Kearsley does an excellent job of setting the stage, describing the old English home so that you can feel it, almost smell the age. I was so deeply engrossed in the book that, after I'd read a while and returned to life around me, I almost felt like my daily life was the fiction, and the story of the book was the real thing. It's a wonderful story, very well done, and something I can read again and again.

#3 - The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser

The Mirror might be the first time-travel novel I read that made me fall in love with the genre. It's a story done in three parts, following three generations of a family that interlock in surprising ways. The time-travel mechanism in this case is an ugly magic mirror that swaps present-day Shay Garrett with her own grandmother, Brandy McCabe. While Shay must come to terms with living in a past that she's heard about but never experienced, Brandy must figure out where (and when) she is with absolutely no foreknowledge of how the future (to her) evolves. In the middle is the story of Rachel, Brandy's daughter and Shay's mother, and how she copes (or not) with the unbelievable stories of her mother and daughter. I'm sure I've read this book 20, 30, maybe 40 times, and I still read it occasionally.

#2 - Six of One by Rita Mae Brown

Rita Mae Brown broke into the reading public's attention with her infamous Rubyfruit Jungle, a groundbreaking novel that brought the subject of homosexuality to light. I'm guessing when Six of One was released, the shock value had worn off, and besides, this novel has an entire ensemble of quirky, memorable characters of various sexual persuasions. So while this book seemed to fly under the radar for most people, it's an absolute gem of a story. It's about a rather schizophrenic town of Runnymeade, which is perched directly on the Mason-Dixon Line between Maryland and Pennsylvania and so half of the town lies in one state, half in the other. As you might imagine, the North and South are still debating the Civil War, even as they move into modern times, often with hilarious results. The story concentrates primarily on Julia (Juts) and her sister Louise (Wheezie) as they grow up and find their place in the world, all the while fighting with each other like only sisters can. Their vicious efforts to get back at each other will leave you chortling with delight, while the times they unite for a common cause will bring a tear to your eye. This is a marvelous book: funny, heartbreaking and oh so human.

#1 - A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Most people know John Irving from The World According to Garp, but I believe A Prayer for Owen Meany is his absolute masterpiece. If you've seen the movie Simon Birch, you may know that it's based on this book, but it only tells part of the story. The full story is much richer, more complex, and absolutely stunning. It's difficult to describe this book. It might be easy to call it a coming-of-age story, but it's so much more than that. It's hilarious and heart-breaking, full of human foibles and divine intervention. It follows the lives of two boys, Johnny Wheelwright and Owen Meany, as they struggle to understand the vagaries and mysteries of life. It's at once a very earthbound story, full of the weaknesses that lead to human tragedy, but at the same time, it reaches for the absolute apex of the divine in all of us.

So have I whet your appetite for any of these great books? I hope so. These books continue to inspire me, even decades after my first reading. I think, because they are older, they are badly underestimated. I'd love to hear what you think of them.