Both of these books were winners! So very different, but excellent in their own ways.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller was on my TBR list for a long time. This book has great buzz and it absolutely lived up to the hype!! I will be recommending this to everyone I meet. I cried at the end. Right up to the last moment I thought it was going to end a certain way and it went in another direction. The writing is so beautiful and tugged at all of my emotions.
The book is about one of the greatest warriors in Greek mythology, Achilles. He is the son of a legendary king and a cruel goddess of the sea. The legend surrounding him is that there is no greater fighter on earth. Achilles’ father takes in boys who need guidance, those with troubled pasts. He’s a good king and teaches them to fight; he’s building an army with these young men. Patroclus, also a prince, is one of those boys. Having committed a horrible crime, his father sends him away for good. Patroclus is awkward, quiet, thoughtful, and despite what his crime suggests, he’s not violent. The boys become friends and eventually, Achilles asks his father if Patroclus can be his official companion and be moved into his room. His father had been trying to find a friend for Achilles for some time, and while he thinks Patroclus is an odd choice, he approves the request.
The story follows their friendship, from training in the mountains with Chiron (A centaur) on skills of war and medicine to Achilles eventually being called upon to lead the Greek army against Troy to rescue Helen of Sparta. They are the best of friends and eventually lovers. The war goes on for years and Miller does a great job weaving in other characters from mythology like Odysseus, Apollo, Agamemnon, Hector, and other kings. Achilles and Patroclus do their best to maintain some humanity in the midst of so much blood and loss. If you’re even a bit familiar with Greek mythology, you know how this ends. The journey to get there is full of sacrifice, way too much pride, deep deep love, courage, and friendship. It’s at times painful to read. There was one time when I was making dinner, listening to this book, and gasped so loud my family came to check on me. What happened in that chapter was so brutal and unexpected…I was stunned. I feel like my review just barely scratches the surface. I honestly can’t do this one justice! Read or listen to this book- it’s one of those that sticks with you and you’ll have zero regrets.
On the MUCH lighter side, Josh and Gemma Make a Baby by Sarah Ready really surprised me. I enjoyed it so much! When I first started listening to this one, I couldn’t relate to Gemma, the heroine. I stuck with it and was glad I did. This was a super cute, funny, feel good romance.
Gemma is divorced, in her early 30’s, and works for a self-help guru known for his pithy inspirational quotes. Those quotes got her through the pain of her divorce and the realization that she was likely infertile from severe endometriosis. That’s the one serious part of this book that could be a trigger- it does deal with infertility. Josh is her brother’s best friend, has been a fixture at family gatherings… and the first guy Gemma had sex with years ago. Despite that, they aren’t particularly close, not even friends. Josh was a player when they were teenagers and Gemma decided long ago he wasn’t boyfriend material.
Gemma makes her mind up that she wants to have a baby. She is going to do this on her own, go through IVF and just use a donor. Instead of going the anonymous route, she wants Josh’s sperm. Gemma trusts him, he’s healthy, good looking and has always been around her family. In her words, he’s like a houseplant.
Josh agrees to the arrangement and off they go to figure it out together.
I don’t know much about IVF, but I liked what appeared to be a pretty honest take on the process and challenges. I could feel Gemma’s hope swelling and Josh’s care with her dream of becoming a mom. Throughout it all, there were real laughs, fun side characters, a unique loving friend group who wouldn’t be friends if not for this thing in common. Gemma grows independent, confident and starts to see Josh in a new light. Josh is wonderful. He has a sunny, lovely, contagious attitude about life.
And the self-help guru? What a piece of work!! He’s hilariously inauthentic in every way. Like a TV evangelist down to his slick suits and sound bites.