When Our Selection Process Gets Personal

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon | @MarybethWhalen @ArielLawhon

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One thing we look for as we decide on our seasonal selections are books that resonate on a personal and emotional level. We want those books that stick with you, that make you think, and that maybe even change the way you view the world after reading them. Some books are just fun. Some are just suspenseful. Some are uber romantic. And some are a combination of all of these. But some– the very special ones– feel a bit more… personal as you read them. Like perhaps the author has been reading your mail, peeking in your windows. At She Reads we believe that story is the shortest distance to the heart. But sometimes a novel finds an even faster route.

The best novels make us hope, make us feel, make us envision a future that, before we cracked the cover, we never dared dream of. These are the novels we endeavor to bring to you, dear readers. The novels that mattered to us first in hopes that they’ll matter to you as well.

Marybeth on the selection process:

That was the case for me as I read two of our spring books. THE DAUGHTER by Jane Shemilt is about a doctor whose teenage daughter has gone missing. This woman has been–some would say– successfully juggling work and family, but in the year since her daughter’s disappearance she’s begun to doubt just how successful she’s been. How well did she really know her daughter? How well can we really know anyone? What’s the right amount of parental involvement? Can there be a happy medium struck somewhere between hovering and abandonment? These are all questions the main character grapples with during the course of the novel. And they’re all questions that, as the mother of a couple of teens myself, I’ve grappled with.

With THE PRECIOUS ONE by Marisa De Los Santos, it got even more personal. In the novel, the main character gets summoned to her estranged father’s house to assist after he’s suffered a heart attack. Once there she comes into contact with not only her estranged father after many years of separation but also his child by his second marriage, the perfect daughter who is “the precious one” of the title. As Taisy struggles to get to know this sister she’s never really been around and come to terms with the breakdown in relationship with her father, I saw myself again and again. I too have a father I am estranged from. I too have a half sister I do not know. I too struggle with what exactly my connection is to these two separate but connected people. As I read the novel– not to give anything away– I found myself desiring some sort of happy ending, either the one that the Taisy got, or something close. Though I don’t see that happening as of yet, this novel gave me hope that it could. And that it isn’t wrong to think that it might.

Ariel on the selection process:

Every time I think of THE BOOKSELLER by Cynthia Swanson I think of these lines from Don Henley’s song, “For My Wedding,”

To want what I have

To take what I’m given with grace

Years and years ago when I got married I asked my husband to add this song to our reception playlist specifically because I loved those lyrics. And I still do–more so now that we’ve just celebrated our fourteenth anniversary. But life is hard. Marriage is hard. And when you add kids into the mix? Dang hard. THE BOOKSELLER explores these truths and these hardships in one of the more brilliant ways I’ve yet seen: a young woman, Kitty Miller, gets to live two alternate lives and is then forced to choose between them. In one of these lives she’s carefree and single and a bookseller in 1960’s Denver. But in her dream life she is Kathryn, a beloved wife and mother living in an idyllic world a mere three years later. As I read this book I knew that every woman, in her most honest, most lonely, most difficult moments has wondered about the other choice. The one she didn’t make. And she has weighed that decision against the reality of what her life has become. That’s powerful stuff, my friends. So as I read THE BOOKSELLER, I saw so much about the truth of singleness and married life. Motherhood. Dreams. Reality. And in the end this book made me want what I have and it made me desire to take what I’m given with grace. That’s why I insisted we include it as one of our spring books.

More than anything we hope you’ll consider reading each of these novels. We think you’ll find yourself on the pages. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll even find a new favorite book.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

3 Responses to When Our Selection Process Gets Personal

  1. Brooke April 30, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    Loved hearing how you selected these books! Great blog! I have read one of the books and plan on reading all 3. This would be a great post for all the seasonal book selections during the year! Thank you! ~Brooke

  2. Susan G April 11, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    Very interesting. Any way you pick these great books is good with me..

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  1. WSIRN Ep 15: the audacity of telling people what to read with Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon. – Modern Mrs. Darcy - April 9, 2016

    […] woman is at risk of an affair by Jane Green • The She Reads book club at SheReads.org • When our selection process gets personal by Marybeth […]

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