Recently, a friend asked to borrow a couple of books that would be good for summer reading. I selected books based on what I knew of her taste, but it made me think of what I would recommend for a good summer read. I know the lists out there are copious under this topic, but it’s what has been rolling around in my mind (and getting the eggs cracking to write a blog post after a 6-month hiatus) so I’m adding my two cents to the mix!
AMI MCKAY. Read AMI MCKAY. She is the author that broke my book lull back in March and restored my hope in reading. She has three books and they are all wonderful: “The Birth House” (4.5/5 bacon strips), “The Virgin Cure” (5/5 bacon strips), and “The Witches of New York” (5/5 bacon strips). Here is my recommended approach to her repertoire:
First, read “The Witches of New York”. This is her most recent novel. It is packed with a fascinating mixture of burgeoning modernity, the everyday survival of women in late 1800s New York, fairy tales, kidnapping, and love. What’s not to love about that! I definitely enjoy historical fiction set in this era, and McKay masterfully mixes magic and reality in this novel. This book is fast-paced and keeps you guessing as to what will happen next (or what really just happened in that moment: was it a ghost? is she really talking to the dead? how much is magic and how much is intuition?).
Next, read “The Virgin Cure”. This novel features one of the main women from “The Witches of New York”, Adelaide Thom, and tells her story when she was known as Moth. This novel centres on the young girl as she struggles to find a way to provide and protect herself in New York. In a CBC interview, McKay says that the character of Moth came back to her as she was writing “The Witches of New York” and so she felt compelled to continue to write of the journey of Moth as she transformed into Adelaide Thom. So don’t expect all of your questions about Moth/Adelaide to be answered as this is not an origins prequel. However, I did find it enhanced to read “The Virgin Cure” in light of who I know this little girl to grow up to be, which is why I’m recommending these books be read in reverse of their publishing order. I was more in tune to Moth’s little habits and predisposition to magical allurement that I might have otherwise missed.
And if after both of these novels, you still some days of summer left, then bury your nose into “The Birth House”, Ami McKay’s first novel. This is an interesting look into how the birthing experience was for women in isolated communities during the early 1900s, and exhibits a strong, independent female character (in a time where that was rare) and how she cares for the women around her. This book follows more of the familiar themes and landscape of many Atlantic Canadian authors. Although quieter than McKay’s next two novels, it is in no way boring.
What I love about all of Ami McKay’s novels is the power that is evidenced by being woman. There is so much power is in their knowledge gained in their experience of being female: knowledge of human anatomy, knowledge of sexuality, knowledge of survival, knowledge in the spiritual, and knowledge in the power of community. These women expand the pages with their voices not because their message is loud or obnoxious, but because of the power that springs from their beauty, wit, and magic. And that is why these books are a must-read for this summer! or fall…or winter….or spring 😉