I've just finished two books, both of which earn a spot on my favorite's list. After thinking back on it, I've realized they are both coming-of-age stories about young girls struggling to make sense of a rapidly changing world. But that's about where their similarities end.
The first is The Probable Future (13.95, ISBN 0345455916) by Alice Hoffman. Hoffman, whose book Practical Magic was made into a film of the same name, is a master of contemporary "magical realism," and has long been one of my favorite authors. This is the story of a girl who, just like all of the women of the Sparrow family, wakes up on her 13th birthday with an unusual "gift." How she comes to terms with this gift, and the unforeseen consequences of sharing it quickly form the story. Along the way we get to know the other powerful women of Stella's family, from the mysterious Rebecca Sparrow who was put to death in the 17th century; to her mother Jenny, who can see other people's dreams. This book is an uplifting look at relationships between mothers and daughters, and the magic that fills our lives.
I don't think I can use the word "uplifting" to talk about this next book. The God of Animals ($25.00, ISBN 1416533249 ) tells a story about the indelible grip of the past and the way it's patterns unfold moment to moment. Written in the voice of an 11-year old girl growing up on a horse ranch in Colorado, this debut novel is deeply moving from page one. The author, Colorado-born Aryn Kyle, has grounded her book in the harsh and sometimes cruel realities of life and nature, where death, madness, and love wrench your heart and take your breath away. I love this book, and that's how I feel after reading it -- breathless, kinda achey, and little bit raw. Alice Winston is an intelligent, courageous girl on the brink of becoming a young woman. She's forced, a bit early, to navigate the rocky terrain of adult relationships and broken dreams. This is a powerful and stunning book about love in all of its' manifestations.