Review: Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

At 608 pages, this is not a short novel at all, but that didn’t stop me from absolutely devouring it in just 24 hours. It’s been a long time since a book grabbed me like that.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There–after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes–Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.

A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s fates–and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times–collide. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is a monumental work of art, and a tremendous leap forward for the prodigiously gifted Maggie Shipstead.

This book released on May 4, and epic is great word for it.

My thoughts

Great Circle is a sweeping saga, with interrelated stories taking place over more than a century and all around the globe. It’s primarily the story of the life of Marian Graves, a brave female aviator, and modern-day celebrity actress Hadley Baxter, who is cast to play Marian is a movie about her disappearance while trying to circumnavigate the planet. The book definitely seems to spend more time on Marian’s story, including additional stories about her twin brother, Jamie, and that’s just fine with me. It’s about dreams, love, passions, family, adventure, and so much more, and it took me places I hadn’t expected at all.

This was my first experience with Maggie Shipstead’s writing and I am well and truly impressed. The careful plotting, descriptively evocative writing, and fantastically developed characters hooked me from the start and kept me enthralled. I adore Marian, Jamie, and Caleb, and I even liked Hadley’s story. Parts of this book just about destroyed me, and the ending was completely unexpected and a little bit mind-blowing.

I highly recommend this gorgeous novel to those who enjoy really good historical fiction. I did an e-book/audiobook combo, since I couldn’t bear to put it down when I couldn’t sit to read, and I can also vouch for the very well-done audiobook. I’m definitely going looking for more by Shipstead.

Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing for my ARC copy in exchange for this honest review.


Review: One Two Three by Laurie Frankel

Ohmygosh it’s been almost three months since I blogged… but we are all settled in to the new home and I’m back on track with my reading goals, so here we go again.

I have a bunch of audio ARCs to review, and I’m looking forward to getting to all of them soon. First up, One Two Three.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

Everyone knows everyone in the tiny town of Bourne, but the Mitchell triplets are especially beloved. Mirabel is the smartest person anyone knows, and no one doubts it just because she can’t speak. Monday is the town’s purveyor of books now that the library’s closed―tell her the book you think you want, and she’ll pull the one you actually do from the microwave or her sock drawer. Mab’s job is hardest of all: get good grades, get into college, get out of Bourne.

For a few weeks seventeen years ago, Bourne was national news when its water turned green. The girls have come of age watching their mother’s endless fight for justice. But just when it seems life might go on the same forever, the first moving truck anyone’s seen in years pulls up and unloads new residents and old secrets. Soon, the Mitchell sisters are taking on a system stacked against them and uncovering mysteries buried longer than they’ve been alive. Because it’s hard to let go of the past when the past won’t let go of you.

Three unforgettable narrators join together here to tell a spellbinding story with wit, wonder, and deep affection. As she did in This Is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel has written a laugh-out-loud-on-one-page-grab-a-tissue-the-next novel, as only she can, about how expanding our notions of normal makes the world a better place for everyone and how when days are darkest, it’s our daughters who will save us all.

This book releases on June 8 in print and audio.

My thoughts

Triplets Mab (One), Monday (Two), and Maribel (Three) have grown up in the little town of Bourne, which was decimated nearly 20 years ago by a man-made chemical disaster. The family-owned company that caused the disaster and then high-tailed it out of town years ago are now back and hoping to reopen. While the events of the story are intriguing and kept me listening all day, the true strength of this novel are the characters.

The narrative of the story comes from each of the three sisters: Mab, the oldest and most ‘normal’ of the sisters, Monday, the middle sister who is Autistic, and Mirabel, the youngest, who is brilliant but unable to move or speak without assistance. The girls have been raised by their widowed mother in a town filled with people who have been affected in various ways by the chemical disaster. The chapters alternate between the sisters’ perspectives, and Frankel has written each girl’s voice so masterfully that they are all distinct and captivating characters.

It’s not easy to classify One Two Three—it’s sort of a mystery, sort of a coming-of-age, a little bit romance… While the main characters are teenage girls, this is not a YA novel, and that’s a great thing for me. There is a lot of humor and quirkiness, and a lot of heavier emotional impact.

The audiobook is very well done, with a different (excellent) narrator for each of the girls. I highly recommend checking this one out on audio.

Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for my audio ARC in exchange for this honest review.