Family Secrets

Do you enjoy reading a novel that leads to laughing out loud and a main character who is a bit quirky?  One whose world is filled with good people, and loves good books?  Then I suggest you read The Bookish Life of Nina Hill (2019) by Abbi Waxman.

Nina’s background may help explain her quirkiness.  Her mother is a free-spirted, globe trotting photographer.  Her father is unknown to her.  She was raised by Louise, her loving nanny.  Over time Nina came to the conclusion, “…that her mother being away all the time had probably been a blessing.  Her nanny, had been a wonderful mother, and her mother had been a wonderful photographer.”

Now at 29, Nina loves working in Knight’s, an independent book store, in the Larchmont area of Los Angles.  Nina is very bright and witty.  She is also very set in her ways and does not like surprises.  She loves her cat named Phil.

Nina keeps a daily planner.  Work is what takes up much of her time.  But she does allow for some social activities.  The main one is being part of “Book ‘Em Danno”, her competitive trivia team with three close friends.  The team’s nemesis is a new team “You’re a Quizzard, Harry”.

For the most part Nina lives in a friendly world and that is what makes this a fun, pleasant read.  Once in a while someone crosses Nina’s path such as the lady who tries to return a book she had bought and read.  Her reason for returning it?  It was boring.  Nina handled that situation perfectly.

A then there is the gentleman who wearing a serious suit entered the store one day and wanted to speak with Nina. He came with the news one Mr. William Reynolds had died.  Nina’s father.  “I’m sorry, there must be a mistake, I don’t have a father.”  The attorney went on to explain the circumstances to Nina.  Actually, having a father was the least of Nina’s surprises.

Her quiet life has been interrupted by this news.  Not only does she learn she had a father, she also has brothers and sisters plus several extended family members!  Of course, he then notifies her of the reading of the will.

One more person enters Nina’s life she had not counted on.  Tom from the rival Quizzard trivia team.  They both seem drawn to each other.  But Tom knows sports!  Nina assumes he must be a nonreader if he knows sports!

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is a fast read.  Nina’s day planner shows up between chapters.  You will catch subtle changes as her life takes new turns from her usual predictable world.  Just a fun read.  Enjoy!

This next novel covers the lifetime of a once young woman from a different era and life for her is not as carefree as Nina’s. If you are fan of Downton Abbey, The Crown, or PBS documentaries about the lives of British royalty, then The Forgotten Seamstress (2014) by Liz Trenow is perfect for you.  This tale links together events from different decades.

April 1970 is when you first meet 99-year-old Maria Romano as she being interviewed for a project.  The interview is being recorded so Maria can tell her story.  And, it is quite a story that she has been telling for years, yet no one really has believed her.

Maria’s tale begins all the way back to 1910.  She and her best friend Nora had been selected to leave the orphanage to work in the sewing room of Buckingham Palace.  Both girls had learned and perfected the art of sewing while at the orphanage.  Of course, at the time, neither had a clue where they had been taken.

15-year-old Maria catches the eye of then also young Prince of Wales.  She was taken by his looks right away.  Nora tells her to be careful.  But Maria’s heart overruled what her head was trying to tell her.  The Prince leaves for school and Maria is pregnant, taken away from the palace to an asylum.

Skipping ahead to 2008 you will meet Caroline Meadows not faring so well with life.  She has lost her job at the bank, broke up with her boyfriend, hates her new job, and her mother has issues with dementia. Caroline is searching for a nursing home for her.  Sounds more like 2020 than 2008! It will all make sense, hang in there.

As Caroline and her mother are sorting though items that have been packed away in the attic, they come across an old quilt that Caroline’s trained eye for fabrics takes notice of the fine silks and intricate stitching.  She immediately thinks of a college friend who knows all about historical fabrics.  The excitement about the quilt and connecting with her friend set Caroline on the path back to her first passion, interior design.

Back to 1970 and the interview.  It is learned how Maria came to have the scraps of silk that led to her making a quilt for her unborn child.  Her baby was delivered when she lived in the asylum.  Maria was told her baby had died.  She was so convinced she had heard the baby cry.

2008 is when Carolina discovers her mother once had a friend by the name of Maria who may just be the one who sewed the quilt.  Caroline sets out to find any information she can about Maria.  The search proves fruitful in that it leads to the old cassette tapes and the interview.

The Forgotten Seamstress is so like the many pieces of a quilt.  We had just finished watching the Downton Abbey series when I came across this book.  I hope you enjoy it.

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