Beach Music, by Pat Conroy

ImageWhat can I say about a book that makes me fall in love with it more each time I go back to it? No one matches Conroy’s lyrical writing. Even if I didn’t already love the low country of South Carolina, he would make me love it sight unseen.

This is a long book, but not one word too long. There are many, many characters but with the exception of Jack’s brothers, they don’t get blurred from one to another. There are many storylines, but it never feels confused, and everything fits together without any awkwardness. There are perhaps one or two scenes that feel contrived, but those are infractions I’m willing to overlook.

You will cry many times, but it’s not a sad book. There are unspeakable horrors, but they are told through flashbacks that show how a character became who they are.

I love Jack and Leah, Mike and Ledare and Jordan, Lucy and Jude and John Hardin and so many others. (I don’t love Capers, but maybe I’m not forgiving enough.) I don’t identify with every situation, but I love it all more with each new visit to this beautiful book.

I read it this time because a dear friend was finally ready to read it and I wanted to read alongside and enjoy her impressions as she went through it. OK, that’s just an excuse because I would have easily remembered what she was talking about, but it had been nearly three years since I’d last read it and I was missing the people and places and it was time to go there again…

I give this an enthusiastic five stars, and easily count it in my top five books ever.

To buy your own copy, you can get it at


Monday the Rabbi Took Off, by Harry Kemelman

When I began this series it was because the main character has the same name as my father, brother and nephew. To my surprise, I found a charming character-driven series of standalone mysteries that may have pre-dated the term “cozy” but utterly defines it.

Rabbi David Small has a congregation in small-town Massachusetts and in this volume he has reached the point where he really needs a rest, both physical and mental. He and his family go to Israel for an indefinite period of time and settle into life there, not knowing what the future holds. I enjoyed the perspective on Israel at this point, not too long after independence and before the later wars, but hardly a time of complacency.

Perhaps I have lost my interest in the series or perhaps this was a step down for the author, but I didn’t find the mystery compelling or even interesting. As a study of people, this book was still worth it, and I will continue with the series. But as a mystery, I thought it missed the mark.

I will give it four stars, but it’s really rounding up from 3.5.

To purchase your own copy:

Or better yet, go for the first book in the series, Friday the Rabbi Slept Late: