The People We Keep by Allison Larkin

The People We Keep by Allison Larkin.

I read The People We Keep for my book club, which focuses on books with strong women characters and/or by women authors. 

Set in the mid-90s, this tale follows the story of April Sawicki, a 16-year-old girl from a small town who has been dealt a raw deal when it comes to family. After a fight with her father, April steals a car and flees their motor-free motorhome to find somewhere she can fit in and call home.

This is a character-driven story with a stream-of-consciousness writing style that really resonated with me. We travel with April as she spends nights in her car, finds various people to stay with, and lines up various jobs and musical gigs. She meets an interesting array of people along the way, and we are immersed in her thoughts as she makes mistakes –sometimes the same mistake more than once – and learns to trust herself and others. 

The book fits the theme of my book club really well. Larkin creates a flawed, endearing, memorable character in April. Throughout the course of the novel, I was concerned, frustrated, and sad for her. Mostly, I wanted her to grow and find happiness – and Larkin ultimately allows her to do both.

The People We Keep is a touching story about found family and reminds me of both the people who have come into my life for a reason and those who will always be there no matter what.

If you enjoy books like Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts, chances are you will be a fan of this one as well.

For more about The People We Keep and Allison Larkin, visit the author’s website.

Eighteen by Jenny Jaeckel

4 stars 

In this novel, 18-year-old Talia leaves her small town of Ukiah, California, and heads off to university in Washington state. The story starts off as shy and awkward as freshman year, and – like many college experiences – keeps getting better from there.

Eighteen

Told from Talia’s point of view, the reader follows this young woman as she makes friends, has her first sexual experience, and falls in love during the first few years of college. Set in the late 80s/early 90s, the story is sprinkled with a few references to HIV and what was known about sexual health at the time.

The book is a fast read – I was able to finish it in a few hours. I was invested in Talia’s dating life, particularly in what would happen with George.

I also really appreciated the book’s observations about the thin line between everything going well in a person’s life and complete disaster.

The part of this book that didn’t work as well for me is that Talia’s story felt a bit unfinished. While she was a relatable protagonist who demonstrated some growth, I would have liked for it to cover a longer time span of Talia’s life, or flesh out her back story as someone who spent part of her childhood living in a commune. By giving readers more than a 2-year glimpse into her college life, we would have had the chance to see her growth as a young woman more clearly.

Overall, it was an entertaining read that I would recommend, especially to those who enjoy stories about the joy, disappointment, desire, and heartbreak surrounding first loves.

My review would not be complete without mentioning the striking cover artwork which was created by Jaeckel. With is contrasting colors, graceful lines, and evocative expressions, this is one case where it is justified to judge the book by its cover.

Thank you to the author and Black Rose Writing for providing a free e-ARC of this book. Receiving a free review copy did not influence my opinion of this book.

Eighteen can be purchased through the publisher’s site.