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Review: Miss Benson’s Beetle

Miss Benson's Beetle

Miss Benson’s Beetle
By Rachel Joyce
Dial Press Trade Paperback, 9780812996708, November 2020, 368pp.

The Short of It:

What a treat. Fans of Joyce won’t be disappointed.

The Rest of It:

Margery Benson is a schoolteacher in 1950’s London, and not a very good one at that. She can barely get by,  is harassed by her own students and isn’t comfortable in her own skin. Pushed to her limit after a particularly bad day in the classroom, she takes off on an expedition to New Caledonia in search of a rare golden beetle that her father once told her about.

But first, she needs an assistant. The last person she had in mind for the job is the one who eventually shows up to take it. Enid Pretty, with her shock of yellow hair, her cotton candy pink suit and her pom pom sandals trots into Margery’s life and from day one is a major annoyance. But Margery is pressed for time as her ship is about to leave the port and she knows she can’t do it alone, so Enid is it.

What a charming story. Although the expedition is a little far-fetched, I found myself hanging on every word as these two take off on their adventure. Two, very headstrong, quirky women traveling to the other side of the world with little to no experience under their belts. This makes for a very entertaining read but it’s not all fun and games. Very early on you are tipped off that something larger is at play. This is one of those stories that you can’t put down because it’s so fun and quirky and yes, different but you know, you just know there is going to be a serious payout. That was definitely the case here.

Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine would do well by picking this book up. It has the same tone and feel and the way this friendship develops is quite sweet. Overall, it’s a feel-good book although there are two things that happen that made me a little sad. Those who have read it know what I mean. However, don’t let that stop you because I wish I still had more of the story to read. It’s that kind of story. I’ve read two other books by this author, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Music Shop and I loved them as well. Joyce knows how to write a good story.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Overstory

The Overstory

The Overstory
By Richard Powers
W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393356687, April 2019, 512pp.

The Short of It:

This work of fiction is bigger than the trees and people it’s about.

The Rest of It:

It is impossible for me to explain the magnitude of this work but I shall try. The Overstory is comprised of seemingly independent stories that eventually become entwined for a finale that I personally didn’t see coming.

Each story is in some way about nature and trees and the importance of their place in the world we live in. What they represent, how we can’t live without them, and in one story, how they speak to us. In the telling of this story, we meet a young woman who, after surviving an accident, begins to hear voices instructing her to leave everything behind and to just head out onto the road. Go where? She isn’t sure but while following these voices, she meets a person who is on his own quest for answers and together they head out on a journey that will change their lives.

In other stories, we meet a married couple who is unable to have children, a young man who is sentenced to a wheelchair but who finds fame in the video games he creates, a young woman who struggles to find purpose after her father commits suicide. There’s even more but it’s best if you go into the story blind. You must experience it for yourself. I found myself totally immersed in these stories and they had me yearning for fresh air and sunshine. I will never look at a tree in the same way again and if you shy away from short fiction do not shy away from this book because it is absolutely a novel, not just a collection of similar stories.

At 500+ pages The Overstory is a commitment but if you love the outdoors or if you’re like me and have found an appreciation for the outdoors since this pandemic hit, you will find yourself treasuring this novel. I read it in two days and when I turned that last page I sat there stroking its cover for a full five minutes. So much to think about.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.