Girls in Trouble by Caroline Leavitt

Girls in Trouble by Caroline Leavitt (2003)
Caroline, a pregnant teenager, makes the decision for an open adoption and ends up losing all contact with her baby. We “grow-up” with Caroline during her quest to be reunited with her now teenage daughter. Leavitt has written a touching, realistic story.

Visit the author's website for book discussion questions, interviews with the author, and essays about the novel.

Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain

Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain (2008)
This is an interesting novel that shows the complexities of human relationships. Laurel Lockwood is a mother who is trying to help and protect her special needs son after he is accused of arson. The author shifts from past to present so you really get to know the characters. Very enjoyable read!

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult (2008)
After his execution, a Death Row inmate wishes to donate his heart to the sister of the girl he is convicted of murdering. The story opens many issues for the reader to ponder: prisoner rights and religion, mother and daughter relationships, organ donations, vengeance, and faith and redemption are just some of the complex moral issues raised in this point of view story.

For June Nealon, the mother of the 12-year-old girl needing a new heart, the decision to accept the donation is tied in with forgiveness and acceptance of someone she hates, but the need to save someone she loves maybe be the overriding factor in her decision.

Check out the author's website for a synopsis, excerpt, discussion questions, and the story behind the book. Also read an interview with the author.

The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe

The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe (2007)
The story is told by Rosamund, who believes she will soon pass away. She is recording her family history on tape for the mysterious Imogene. We learn Imogene is blind and adopted out of her family at the age of three and that is why Rosamund feels the need to recount her family history for the girl.

Rosamund was evacuated from London to her aunt and uncle’s farm in Shropshire during the war. It was there she met her older cousin Beatrix. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent Aunt Ivy abuses Beatrix, mentally, emotionally and physically. The cycle begins and we learn that it has extended over three generations. Ivy toward Beatrix, then Beatrix toward her daughter Thea and finally Thea toward her daughter Imogene.

Rosamund’s narration touches on family love and tragedy. Chance happenings that have an influence on people’s lives and a family saga that is complex makes for a brilliant read.

For local reviews, check out the Daily Herald or TimeOut Chicago. Find an excerpt, reader's guide, and more about the book and the author at the publisher's website.

Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope

Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope (2008)

Trollope once again examines the complexities of contemporary lives by telling the story of a group of women that meet on Friday nights and what happens when a man upsets their balance. Each character’s individual story is told and woven together to form connections in this group.

Eleanor, the retiree, sees two harried single mothers, Paula and Lindsay, pass by her window everyday. She decides to invite them for a Friday night and the tradition begins. Soon Blaise, Eleanor’s new neighbor; Karen, Blaise’s coworker; and Jules, Lindsay’s younger sister, are included in the gathering. The friends find support and encouragement when they meet. But when Paula introduces her new beau, upsetting things begin to happen.

This is Trollope at her best: examining the way women deal with the issues in their lives and writing about normal people neither good nor evil, making mistakes but remaining optimistic about their future despite uncertainty over decisions. 

The author's website has a biographical sketch, excerpts from her books, and a reader's guide. Read an interview (from Australian radio) with the author about Friday Nights.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (2005)
This story had a very interesting plot and lots of good character development. A doctor delivers his own twins during a fierce snowstorm. He keeps his infant son, but secretly gives away his daughter who has Down syndrome.

Visit the official website for an excerpt, reviews, an interview with the author, and much more. Did you know that the novel was made into a Lifetime movie starring Dermot Mulroney, Gretchen Mol, and Emily Watson? It premiered on April 12. Check out Lifetime's website for more details.

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult (2000)

Very well-written story about Ellie, a defense attorney who is helping a young Amish girl accused of murder. I couldn’t put it down!

Visit the author's website for a synopsis, an excerpt, and discussion questions. Read a Lifetime interview where Picoult discusses her inspiration for the book and her experience living with the Amish. Compare the novel to the 2004 TV movie adaptation starring Mariska Hargitay.

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg (2008)
This collection of short stories deals with women taking chances at all stage of their lives. Some of the stories will have you howling with laughter; others will bring you to tears, but all feature characters and writing that will find a place in your heart.

Today's the day! Call the Downers Grove Public Library at 630-960-1200 to reserve your tickets for An Evening with Elizabeth Berg on Thursday, May 8. Listen to the author talk about her inspiration for Dream When You're Feeling Blue, the research, and the response. Berg will read an excerpt, answer questions, and sign books.

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg (2006)

This story is set in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1964. It is about three extraordinary women – Paige, a victim of polio, who is paralyzed from the neck down; Diana, her 13-year-old daughter; and Peacie, their black caregiver. The reader gets a real glimpse into each of their struggles, and also sees how hard it was for blacks to live in the rural South during this time period. As usual, Elizabeth Berg’s character development is so terrific, the reader will be sorry to see this story come to an end.

Don't forget -- starting April 16, call the Downers Grove Public Library at 630-960-1200 to get your tickets for An Evening with Elizabeth Berg on May 8.

Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2006)
By the author of Pay it Forward, this story takes place over the course of 25 years. Three characters take turns telling their side of the story:
  • Pearl, who, at the age of thirteen, has a son, Leonard;
  • Leonard, whose mother disappears when he is 5 years old;
  • Mitch, their 25-year-old neighbor, who takes on the responsibility of caring for Leonard after his mother disappears.
  • It explores the meaning of family, the power of love, and the difficulty some people have in expressing it. The characters just draw you in from start to finish.