With Enon, Paul Harding continues the history of the family at the center of his Pulitzer Prizewinner, Tinkers. Charlie Crosby, the grandson of George...moreWith Enon, Paul Harding continues the history of the family at the center of his Pulitzer Prizewinner, Tinkers. Charlie Crosby, the grandson of George Washington Crosby, receives the unendurable news of Kate's, his daughter's, death on a cellphone. Over the course of a year, this loss encompasses his entire world. Due to his role as a stay home Dad, Charlie and Kate were closer than usual in this fast paced world. Theirs was the real love affair in the family, and the fragile family structure is shattered with her death. Charlie faces his mourning and inconsolable grief alone, and spirals downward seemingly endlessly. Harding is a poetic writer, a fine observer of the human heart, and this record of a man's insufferable pain is not easy going. But the glorious prose and tremendous empathy make it worth a reader's while.(less)
Unlike most short story collections, this one shines from first to last. Often I've found the earlier in the book, the stronger the story, weakening a...moreUnlike most short story collections, this one shines from first to last. Often I've found the earlier in the book, the stronger the story, weakening as they progress. But each of these is a gem in and of itself, and are just the right length. Some could have been expanded into full length novels, but Banks is a fine craftsman who knows when enough is enough.(less)
The Free is a fine example of why we read fiction. When someone turns up their nose proclaiming they only read nonfiction, and that reading fiction is...moreThe Free is a fine example of why we read fiction. When someone turns up their nose proclaiming they only read nonfiction, and that reading fiction is a waste of time, I point to a book such as this with my own proclamation that such a work registers the deepest recesses of the human heart, and we need more of such material to regain our hope for humanity. Leroy, the character at the center of the book, was severely brain damaged while deployed in Iraq by a roadside bomb. Although his plight forms the nucleus around which much of the activity revolves, he lives entirely inside his mind, and the other worldly fantasies taking place there are real to him. On planet earth are his caretakers -- the night man at the group home where he had been living out his days (barely), and after a stunning event rendering him hospitalized, Pauline, a nurse on his floor. These two people spend most of their days performing sisyphean efforts just in order to get by. Reminiscent of the writing of Stewart Onan, Willy Vlautin creates characters of warmth and sympathy, unselfishly putting others first, without irony or ceremony, at time when they are trying to struggle themselves and haven't the resources to see to their own needs. I look forward to reading his other books.(less)
Clever Girl is an odd title for a book about a character who sees herself as merely ordinary, The arc of Stella's life is unremarkable on the outside....moreClever Girl is an odd title for a book about a character who sees herself as merely ordinary, The arc of Stella's life is unremarkable on the outside. But Hadley has a deft touch with detail, and as the heroine of Rumplestiltskin, spins beauty out of ordinary lives. As the reader follows Stella through the latter half of the twentieth century, there is much that is familiar in the material. We've been here before, particularly those of us who actually lived parallel lives during these same years. But to each person, each life is special. And that is what makes the book soar. The beauty of the everyday. The magnificence of surviving the usual hardships. It all comes together. (less)
Some feel that Southerners are the best storytellers. Like the Irish, they know the value of a tale that has an intriguing premise, a lot of history,...moreSome feel that Southerners are the best storytellers. Like the Irish, they know the value of a tale that has an intriguing premise, a lot of history, and a satisfying resolution. Fannie Flagg is such an artist. Her books have several threads of commonality, great story is only one element,. Her characters are strong, her humor, never far from the surface. There is a whiff of a mystery, and the resolution makes sense. As with her other stories, there is a female resolve of strength, and her ladies of a certain age usually find there is always something new to learn about life. I'm sorry that more of her books aren't made into films, and this one would be a doozie. (less)
This novel begins almost on a quiet note, with Ruth, an elderly widow, living alone in her beachside house that was formerly her holiday home, being t...moreThis novel begins almost on a quiet note, with Ruth, an elderly widow, living alone in her beachside house that was formerly her holiday home, being troubled by nightmares of a prowling tiger. Frieda, claiming to be a health carer sent by the government, appears at her backdoor, and Ruth, taking Frida at face value, finds herself with a companion who spends much time cleaning the house and taking care of her business. The story proceeds at a deliberate pace, told exclusively from Ruth's point of view. Ruth's sons live remotely, but seem concerned and affectionate about their mother, usual in this day of far flung families. One of the most poignant passages in the book is Ruth's remembering of her sons as children, and how she misses those people, not the adults they have grown into. "Children are so temporary." Surely one of the most haunting observations in literature, so distilled, so true. This is an emotionally charged first novel by an author worth watching.(less)
After his mother's death, Bartholomew Neil finds himself at a loss as to how to deal with the world. He has spent his 38 years being taken care of by...moreAfter his mother's death, Bartholomew Neil finds himself at a loss as to how to deal with the world. He has spent his 38 years being taken care of by his mother, and taking care of her when she is struck with cancer. Thus, he finds himself with an abnormally narrow worldview. He finds solace in writing to Richard Gere, his mother's favorite actor, such letters forming the structure of the book His mother was a perennially upbeat person, who always approached even the darkest sides of life positively. As his perceptions deepen and range of acquaintance broadens, Bartholomew becomes more his own person.
This book reminded me more of The Station Agent, a movie several years back in which several people stunted by circumstance and grief, find strength together. Matthew Quick has found a niche in writing about people off the grid of "normalcy," helping them to move ahead find their true place in the world.(less)
It is ironic that this week I saw an article about the citizens of Denmark being the happiest on earth. Never would have known from this book. Every c...moreIt is ironic that this week I saw an article about the citizens of Denmark being the happiest on earth. Never would have known from this book. Every character, no matter what part they are playing, has had miserable childhoods, horrible traumas, and is brimming with rage. Much violence ensues. Many tempers fraught with anger. And that doesn't even include the murder central to the story. This might be partly the fault of the translation I found myself sorry I couldn't instigate a drinking game in which every time the word scowl or sneer showed up, someone had to drown a shot.
There was much filler, page-long descriptions of rooms and settings even for the most cursory of scenes, and everyone, but everyone, has at least one wall "covered in books from floor to ceiling." With all that goes on in this book, I don't know when anyone has time to read. I chose this because it was described as "the winner of the prize for the best crime novel in a decade in Denmark." I found the Nina Borg series much more compelling and interesting, and not as repetitive. It is intriguing that the author finds a way in which to work in so much detail about diverse subjects as dinosaurs, birds, the goth scene in Copenhagen, but the plot moved slowly and I will be happy to read something with at least a little lightness next.(less)
When I saw David Mitchell years ago, he was still enjoying the flush of new fatherhood. It is tragic to discover that his son was later diagnosed with...moreWhen I saw David Mitchell years ago, he was still enjoying the flush of new fatherhood. It is tragic to discover that his son was later diagnosed with autism. He and his wife, who is from Japan, therefore feel an affinity for that country, and became aware of a motivational speaker only 16 years old who has become the spokesman for the condition. This book represents Mitchell's translation of Noaki's book previously published in Japan. He credits it for helping his family with the inner workings of a person so afflicted and opens for the rest of us an understanding of what it means to be autistic.(less)
I see Meg Hollander as a metaphor for any of us who becomes increasingly seduced by the technology age and its inherent dangers. As the circle tighten...moreI see Meg Hollander as a metaphor for any of us who becomes increasingly seduced by the technology age and its inherent dangers. As the circle tightens around her, she becomes more and more oblivious to what is actually happening to her and by projection, to all of humanity. Using the phrase "Going Clear" is not an accident, with its overtones of Scientology, but in this case, it denotes transparency, and the megalith she is hired by conveys this even to the construction of the various public spaces on its campus. Eggers has left his niche of telling a big story using a human face, as with Zeitoun and What is the What, and with his last 2 novels has taken on the task of satirizing today's world in dystopian stories. I liked this one better than Hologram for the King, but miss his other focus.(less)