Book Reviews: The Invisible Kingdom, Dutch House and Caribbean Heiress in Paris

The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O’rourke

Goodreads Blurb: A silent epidemic of chronic illnesses afflicts tens of millions of Americans: these are diseases that are poorly understood, frequently marginalized, and can go undiagnosed and unrecognized altogether. Renowned writer Meghan O’Rourke delivers a revelatory investigation into this elusive category of “invisible” illness that encompasses autoimmune diseases, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, and now long COVID, synthesizing the personal and the universal to help all of us through this new frontier.
  Drawing on her own medical experiences as well as a decade of interviews with doctors, patients, researchers, and public health experts, O’Rourke traces the history of Western definitions of illness, and reveals how inherited ideas of cause, diagnosis, and treatment have led us to ignore a host of hard-to-understand medical conditions, ones that resist easy description or simple cures. And as America faces this health crisis of extraordinary proportions, the populations most likely to be neglected by our institutions include women, the working class, and people of color. Blending lyricism and erudition, candor and empathy, O’Rourke brings together her deep and disparate talents and roles as critic, journalist, poet, teacher, and patient, synthesizing the personal and universal into one monumental project arguing for a seismic shift in our approach to disease. The Invisible Kingdom offers hope for the sick, solace and insight for their loved ones, and a radical new understanding of our bodies and our health

My take: I don’t like to rate non fiction books, because I think its very personal but this being more a memoir I’d say 4 out of 5. The thing is for me is that this book is a 5 out of 5 for the beginning of the book and the concept it entails. At the end it drag and gets a bit repetitive so that’s why its not fully a 5, but I have to say if you know someone in your life with a chronic illness, and a silent chronic illness at that, please read this book (or at least the first part of this book). I felt seen reading this, and there were so many parts of it where I related so much to her quest to get answers, to be validated to be told it is not all in your head (it is not FYI). A must read, and the more people and noise is made about how the medical establishment is not truly advocating forall the better I say

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Goodreads blurb: At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves. The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures. Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

my take: 3 out of 5. I will preface this by saying I really like Ann Patchett and to this day Bel Canto remains one of my top favorite books of all time. So of course I was really looking forward to this book. I got an ARC copy of it but DNF’ed at 15%, I just did not get into it. Then I read he short story These Precious Days about her pandemic experiences, which I have spoken about here before, and absolutely loved it. In it however Tom Hanks makes an appearance and I Realized that he was reading the audiobook. So I figured I would give this book a second chance with Tom Hanks at the helm. I was still bored, but it is true I finished because Tom hanks could read the phonebook and I would be interested. It is a compelling book about family dynamics but personally I was just not invested in the characters.

A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera

Goodreads blurb: The Exposition Universelle is underway, drawing merchants from every corner of the globe. Luz Alana Heith-Benzan set sail from Santo Domingo armed with three hundred casks of rum, her two best friends and one simple rule: under no circumstances is she to fall in love. The City of Light is where Luz Alana will expand Caña Brava, the rum business her family built over three generations. It’s a mission that’s taken on new urgency after her father’s untimely death and the news that her trust fund won’t be released until she marries. But buyers and shippers alike are rude and dismissive; they can’t imagine doing business with a woman…never mind a woman of color.

From her first tempestuous meeting with James Evanston Sinclair, Earl of Darnick, Luz Alana is conflicted. Why is this man—this titled Scottish man—so determined to help her? And why, honestly, is he so infuriatingly charming? All Evan Sinclair ever wanted was to find a purpose away from his father’s dirty money and dirtier politics. Ignoring his title, he’s built a whiskey brand that’s his biggest—and only—passion. That is, until he’s confronted with a Spanish-speaking force of nature who turns his life upside down. Evan quickly suspects he’ll want Luz Alana with him forever. Every day with her makes the earl wish for more than her magnificent kisses or the marriage of convenience that might save them both. But Luz Alana sailed for Paris with her eyes on liquor, money and new beginnings. She wasn’t prepared for love to find her.

My take: 4 out of 5. This book is all about female empowerment and I love it. Kick as Latin women in the 19th century taking over Europe – I am all over this! This las Leonas series (i am very much looking forward to the other two books of this series when they come out) might be the new bridgerton with a feminist spin: Sexy Period romances in great locations with wonderful characters. FYI – It is way steamier than I expected. I read this book in audiobook and it was a bit disappointing that they could not get a narrator that spoke english and spanish. It is a butchery of spanish names throughout – i would go for hard copy over audiobook in this one.

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