Celeste Ng

The Sunday Salon: Righting My Relationship to Reading

It’s been one of those months, dear friends, a month of rather disappointing reading. Three books in a row failed to grab my deepest attention. I set one aside, but finished the other two, albeit without great enthusiasm. 

And then, as happens in books and in life, things began to look up. In my post the other day was a brand new hardcover, sent out of the blue from Simon & Schuster. (I’m still on their list from the days of having a dedicated book-review blog, and every so often get  a happy surprise in my mailbox.) This one was Eight Hundred Grapes, a new novel by Laura Dave. I admit - I’d never heard of the novel or the author, but it was billed as a book about family relationships and wine: two topics I’m always interested in. I poured myself a glass of Alexander Valley Cabernet, and settled in.

I’m so glad I did. This one pulled me right in, this story of a young woman on the verge of marriage who learns a very unsettling secret about her fiancé. In her despair and confusion, she rushes from her life in Los Angeles straight home to her family’s beloved vineyard in Sonoma County for some comfort. But things at home are uncomfortably unsettled too: her parents are selling the vineyard, her mother has a new love interest, her twin brothers are feuding. As in the best family sagas, things work out in the end, perhaps not as you would imagine, but satisfactorily (or so it seems). Laura Dave’s writing is breezy and bright, with just the right edge of humor and introspection.

Eight Hundred Grapes helped me get my reading mojo back in gear, so I’m relieved. I don’t know about you, but when my relationship with my reading isn’t going well, I feel unsettled and unhappy, almost like I do when I’m at odds with my husband about something. 

Since finishing Eight Hundred Grapes, I started reading Celeste Ng’s, Everything I Never Told You, (released in paperback this week). This is a masterful novel, and although the two novels share a similar theme (the effect of lack of communication and secrets within a family), Ng’s writing style is more refined and thoughtful. Every single sentence is carefully crafted to reveal great amounts of pertinent information and thought; yet the book reads easily and and smoothly. I find myself re-reading paragraphs, the first time to get the story line, and the second time to look for hidden meaning. Besides, I want to make this slender novel last as long as possible because I’m enjoying it so much. 

How about you? How’s your relationship with reading this month?