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The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood
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The Book That Matters Most

by Ann Hood

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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
An engrossing read, unlikely by Ann Hood, which left me with mixed feelings about the characters.

Ava is going through a lot. Husband leaving, daughter waywarding, son absenting and saving animals in the middle of a jungle. Luckily she is able to join a close-knit book club, in which the theme for the upcoming year is, as the title states, The Book That Matters Most. I think that is a great concept for a book club.

I liked her writing style, and was a bit put off by the ending when everything wound itself up nicely, with Ava's father forgotten in his care home and expecting Ava to forgive her mother completely but overall it was a good read. Thinking about which book matters most and discussing that with family and friends has been really enjoyable.


( )
  Critterbee | Apr 16, 2018 |
Books about books are nirvana for readers. And this book is one of the next best things to heaven. I could barely put it down.
Ava thought her twenty-five-year marriage to Jim was strong. Then she sees a text on his phone from another woman, a woman Jim claims to be in love with, and her life begins to completely unravel.
For years, Ava has wanted to join the book club at her local library, but membership is held to ten members, and there is a waiting list. However, the librarian is one of Ava’s best friends. She knows that Ava needs the group, so she bumps her to the top of the list.
The book club picks books based on a theme for the year. Each member gets to pick a book based on that theme. The theme for the upcoming year is “The Book That Matters Most.” Each member is to pick the book that has changed his/her life, the book that has had a substantial impact on his/her life.
Hood’s story is broken into chapters, each with an epigraph from that month’s book and the theme for the chapter. The titles range from The Great Gatsby to Pride and Prejudice, from The Catcher in the Rye to Anna Karenina.
Ava’s life is complicated by her rebellious, just-out-of-rehab daughter, Maggie, who has gone to study in Florence. Along with Ava’s story, Maggie also has a section in each chapter that tells of her decent into addiction at the hands of a much older man whom she follows to France.
As Ava tried to come to terms with her new life, a retired detective shows up at her door, wanting desperately to put to the bed, at last, the tragic events of Ava’s childhood that have haunted her.
Ever since I first read this book’s title, I’ve been trying to determine which book matters the most to me in my life. Two of the strongest runners are Jonathan Hull’s Losing Julia or Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (the book version, not the movie version). But if I had to name just one, could I say, “All of them?”
I loved The Book That Matters Most. I give it 6 out of 5 stars. ( )
  juliecracchiolo | Mar 2, 2018 |
Highly readable but ultimately disappointing text. Ava is looking to rebuild her life after the end of her 25 year marriage and her two children grown and gone. Out of desperation for companionship she joins a book group, where each member must present what book matters the most to them. Then we also learn about her daughter Maggie, who is a troubled young woman who disappears in Paris.
 
At least, that is what the book is supposed to be about. I can't lie, I ended up being somewhat under the impression that this might be a cross between a book club book and 'Taken' the movie with Liam Neeson. (Maggie is the name of the actress who plays Neeson's daughter who ends up going missing in Paris). Instead, we see Ava as she tries to rebuild her life, Maggie as she looks for herself in Paris, plus other characters that tie to a dark secret in Ava's past. All of them eventually come together to out this dark part of Ava's history.
 
Initially I really enjoyed the book for the most part. I thought maybe it was a bit familiar with "woman rebuilds life after husband abandons her, young woman finds herself in a new city" territory. And it is that, but then the book steadily goes downhill when we delve into the mystery of Ava's mother and aunt, a police officer who investigates the death of Ava's sister Lily and how they all tie to Maggie in Paris. It's all too coincidental and it ties up too neatly in the end. I'm shocked that Maggie's *PARENTS* (Ava and Jim) seem to accept  Maggie's explanations so easily despite their daughter's prior history.
 
That said, the book was also quite readable. Even though there are multiple viewpoints (a device I normally really can't stand at all), I thought author Hood actually did a really great job. Each character is distinct and speaks with his or her own particular voice instead of jumbling together too easily. I'm still not sure if it was entirely necessary but it worked here and the text flowed quite well.
 
So ultimately it wasn't for me but if you're a book lover who enjoys reading about book clubs and need a book that ends with all the loose ends pretty much tied together, this could be a good pickup at the airport or from the library in anticipation of a storm. But if you would like to know there are depictions/discussions of drug use, adultery (not too many details), sexual assault (also not too graphic but it's there), violence against women, suicide, child abandonment, etc. It's not a heavy book but many of these topics are ongoing themes in the text/part of the character storylines and can't be avoided.
 
Borrowed from the library and that sounds about right. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
The Short of It:

Surprisingly enjoyable.

The Rest of It:

After Ava’s marriage falls apart, she finds herself desperate for companionship. So desperate, that at the suggestion of a close friend, she joins her book club. The club’s reading theme for the year is “the book that matters most”. The participants select books like The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird but Ava selects a book from her childhood that many are not familiar with.

As Ava navigates life and tries to figure out where to go next, her daughter Maggie spends her days in Paris as a kept woman and spirals downward into the dark sea of addiction.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when this book was selected for my book club. Honestly, I felt like it would be too fluffy and dare I say it, too romantic and sappy but it was none of those things. The Book That Matters Most deals with some pretty deep topics. I found myself eagerly flipping the pages and because it centers around a book club, there is plenty of bookish talk which I always enjoy.

This book has been around for a little while but I don’t recall ever seeing it before it was selected for my club. I’m glad I read it. I felt like the daughter’s story was more developed than Ava’s but overall it was an enjoyable, page-turning read.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Feb 1, 2018 |
Loved the concept of the book club, but found too much extraneous material to say this was a good book. Contains some nice quotes, but too many characters, too many subplots that fizzled out. If the author had stuck to the title idea it might have been better, but I really didn't like her nonfiction book that was all about the books that mattered most to her, so maybe not. However it was a change of pace to have a lead character whose husband left and money wasn't an issue. ( )
  MM_Jones | Nov 27, 2017 |
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Epigraph
It's a long, long way it grows further by the day It's a long way from Clare to here... --"From Clare to Here" by Ralph McTell
"I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine." ---Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
"You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me." ---The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow." ---Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
"Things have a life of their own," the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent.  "It's simply a matter of waking up their souls." ---One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Dedication
This is for you
First words
Ava saw it as soon as she turned the corner.
Quotations
No one who reads can ever be bored.
Our lives are our own to ruin or not, I think.  No one can do it for us.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393241653, Hardcover)

An enthralling novel about love, loss, secrets, friendship, and the healing power of literature, by the bestselling author of The Knitting Circle.

Ava’s twenty-five-year marriage has fallen apart, and her two grown children are pursuing their own lives outside of the country. Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group’s goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood―one that helped her through the traumas of the untimely deaths of her sister and mother. Alternating with Ava’s story is that of her troubled daughter Maggie, who, living in Paris, descends into a destructive relationship with an older man. Ava’s mission to find that book and its enigmatic author takes her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers her and Maggie the chance to remake their lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 19 Feb 2016 21:24:56 -0500)

"An enthralling novel about love, loss, secrets, friendship, and the healing power of literature, by the bestselling author of The Knitting Circle. Ava's twenty-five-year marriage has fallen apart, and her two grown children are pursuing their own lives outside of the country. Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group's goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood--one that helped her through the traumas of the untimely deaths of her sister and mother. Alternating with Ava's story is that of her troubled daughter Maggie, who, living in Paris, descends into a destructive relationship with an older man. Ava's mission to find that book and its enigmatic author takes her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers her and Maggie the chance to remake their lives"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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