A character in The Blue Hour by Douglas Kennedy defines the blue hour as “the hour at daybreak or dusk when nothing is as it seems: when we are caught between the perceived and the imagined.” Indeed, the story starts with Robin and her husband Paul traveling to Morocco for a month of drawing for Paul, French lessons for Robin, and exploring and relaxing for both. Deeply in love and approaching the end of her childbearing years, Robin is also hoping this is the place where she will conceive a child. But from the very start, something seems off when Paul is inexplicably nervous going through customs. Things only get more mysterious as plans change and truths are discovered, until Robin discovers the ultimate betrayal by her husband. Things go further downhill as Paul goes missing, Robin is suspected of murder, and there are horrifying experiences in the remote Sahara. The sights, sounds and smells of Morocco are vividly described in this atmospheric, unsettling page-turner.
Readers who enjoyed The Help may also enjoy Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain. Both stories deal with young women determined to fight for social justice during the 1960s. Necessary Lies, set in North Carolina, follows the efforts of newlywed and young social worker Jane Forrester as she’s introduced to the residents of rural Grace County. She meets 15-year old Ivy Hart, a poor and orphaned tobacco farm laborer and student, who then becomes pregnant. While attempting to assist Ivy, Jane learns of the sterilization program in effect, and crosses the Department of Health lines in regards to interfering in her clients’ lives by becoming too involved personally. This was an especially enjoyable listen as the narrator did a wonderful job voicing several characters of various ages and dialects.
A fascinating memoir that is part personal journey through grief, part love story and part travelogue is La Americana by Melanie Bowden Simón. Traveling with a friend to Cuba (through the back door, as this was 2001), the author is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s devastating death in her early 50s and hopes being in a totally foreign atmosphere can help. Her first day there she meets Luis, her taxi driver, with whom she falls in love. Over a period of years and with various trips back to Cuba we experience with her the tropical heat, Cuban cuisine, lively music, dense fumes, ancient cars, overgrown weeds, Santería ceremonies and more, all under the veil of communism. And of course, we experience her growing love and all the couple must overcome to ultimately be together.