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5 Books That Focus on the Importance of Community

Cindy Burnett
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The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise

The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise is a wonderful example of the importance of relationships and connection. 

This week, I am sharing five books that center around one of my favorite themes – the importance of community and the positive impact interactions and relationships can have on individuals.

Foster by Claire Keegan – This brief book (it is only 92 pages) packs a big punch. Foster examines the importance of connection and community in a lonely child’s life. A young girl who is starved for affection spends the summer with her childless aunt and uncle and gains an understanding of what a caring household looks like compared to her regular existence with parents who don't provide any kind of stability and are not suited for parenting. Foster was published in the United Kingdom in 2010, but was just recently published in its entirety in the United States. Foster is both heartbreaking and uplifting, and is the perfect example of why the importance of community and close relationships is a theme that is really resonating with me.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano – With Little Women as a jumping off point, Napolitano writes an incredibly moving and engrossing family drama centered around the four Padavano sisters and William Waters, the lonely individual with a sad past, who becomes intertwined with them and inadvertently threatens to rupture their bond. Each sister has a distinct personality, some more likable than others, but it is William who truly steals the show. Growing up, his parents treated him poorly causing him to struggle with mental health issues but as the story progresses he finds the inner strength with the help of some loyal friends to find his path and to learn to accept honest and real love into his life. Hello Beautiful is storytelling at its finest, and it portrays life, loss, and love in all its different forms, the beauty and price of love, and the extraordinary power of human connection. 

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley -  Magazine columnist Iona Iverson rides the train to and from work every day, seeing the same people to whom she has privately given nicknames such as Mr. Too-Good-To-Be-True and Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader. None of the commuters ever speak to one another until the day when one of them chokes on food and is saved by another rider. This incident makes Iona realize that she wants to learn more about her fellow riders and she begins to develop relationships with them as she rides, inserting herself into their issues, helping solve their problems and even becoming friends with some of them. I loved the characters and the way they develop, interact, and come together, the stellar writing, the story line and the ending. Infused with heart and humor, this book demonstrates the importance of community and the ability of relationships to change people's lives while also serving as a reminder that people should not be judged by their appearance. 

The Last Beekeeper by Julie Carrick Dalton - This stellar addition to the fast-growing climate fiction genre is set in the future, approximately 10 years after society collapsed. While most of the world believes that honeybees are extinct, Sasha returns home to find the research her father, nicknamed The Last Beekeeper, swears exists, research proving that bees are still alive on Earth. With her father in prison, the family home was abandoned so Sasha finds squatters occupying her old home, individuals anxious to avoid the terrible state housing. As she settles in, the group becomes a refuge for her until she spots a lone honeybee, a sighting that can subject her to derision and potential harm. Toggling back and forth in time and slowly unraveling the mystery at the heart of the story, The Last Beekeeper is a powerful reflection on the importance of caring for our planet and how dependent humans are on the natural world. Interwoven with this disturbing glimpse at what the world could look like without bees is a beautiful story of hope, friendship, and the importance of relationships and community. 

The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise by Colleen Oakley – This not-to-be-missed gem stars 21-year-old college dropout Tanner Quimby and 84-year-old Louise Wilt who are thrown together when Louise’s family decides she needs a live-in caregiver and Tanner’s family decides she needs to quit feeling sorry for herself. The two purposefully ignore each other initially, but Tanner begins to realize that something is amiss. The news keeps airing updates to an old jewelry heist and the wanted suspect looks a lot like Louise, and Louise keeps her garden shed under heavy lock and key. Then one evening, Louise wakes Tanner up and insists that they leave immediately (in a car Tanner didn’t even know existed) and head across the country. Over the course of their adventure, the two women begin to develop a friendship. Interspersed with the regular narrative are hilarious text exchanges between Louise’s children, interviews with the FBI, and more which add a highly entertaining element to an already engaging story. This book is delightful from page one, and combined with the stellar ending makes this one of my favorite books that I have read this year. I wish I could take a road trip with Tanner and Louise. This book comes out next Tuesday.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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