It took me a while to get into A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but by the end, I was really glad I read it. This classic by Betty Smith tells the story of Francie, as she grows up in a poor New York family. By the end, you really feel like you know the characters, for all their virtues and faults.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. The writing is supurb, the characters draw you in, and the story is easy to read. There is a little history (set during the 1960s with high racial tension), a lot about relationships (mother/daughter, racial, boy/girl), and a lot about maturing. I recommend this one. If you liked The Help, you will like this one.
Cheaper by the Dozen is another great read! This classic is hilarious while it also makes you think. The Gilbreth family has its share of eccentric characters, but yet everyone will relate to them in some way. Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth are fabulous storytellers as they share about their unique childhood in a family with 12 kids.
I first read Chasing the Dragon while I was visiting my cousin and his wife in Hong Kong. I had just finished college and was not the avid reader that I am now. I remember being "grabbed" by Jackie Pullinger's story of being a missionary in the walled city. I didn't remember the poor quality of the writing. While her theology is quite different from mine, God is clearly using Jackie to change the lives of hundreds of drug addicts, prostitutes, and gang members. Her testimony is amazing....just hard to follow at times.
What Pullinger's book lacks in writing quality, Gilead makes up for 10 fold. The prose in Marilynne Robinson's novel is just beautiful. However, I just couldn't get into the story and struggled to get through this one. The entire novel is a letter from an aging father with failing health to his 7 year old son. It is slow moving but eloquent.