So then there's THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE, by Lou Berney. If the title rings in your head like the story might be threatening to put a lump in your thSo then there's THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE, by Lou Berney. If the title rings in your head like the story might be threatening to put a lump in your throat, then good, you're paying attention.
But this is no sappy, manipulative piece of work. It's life on pages.
There's a set of mysteries at its core, crimes from the past that haven't stopped spreading ripples across the lives of the survivors. There is drama. There is comedy. There are puzzles and misdirections. There are clues that you don't know are clues until it's almost too late. There are characters, but I'll only call them that because I have to, because this is a work of fiction. But what Lou Berney has actually done is rendered fully drawn people who are completely compelling, not simply all-good or all-terrible, just like the whole world of people who don't live out their lives only on paper. Wyatt, Julianna, Genevieve, the employees of The Pheasant Run movie theater, Candace, Lyle, and a troupe of others will feel very familiar, because they're very real. You will believe them and they will make your heart ache.
But my two favorite achievements that Lou Berney has managed with THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE stand alone. The first is how he brought back 1986 in the "then" parts of the book in such an organic way that it doesn't feel like a joke. This is no straining caricature of back-in-the-day. It's just 1986, the way it was, and the "now" parts of the book are the inevitable result of how it was "then". You know, just the way real life works.
The best for last is something that I've never seen done better. THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE maps out the ways our lives cross other lives, how they brush against each other's margins in ways we'll never know. I hate the word "poignant". It looks awkward typed out and it almost always feels like a punt to me, but the painfully lovely intersections that the reader sees that the characters can't are just gorgeous. It killed me.
It's a wonderful book. Read the synopsis and check to see if Lou Berney will be signing THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE anywhere near you. This is one book you'll want to have on your "best reads" shelf....more
I was mostly being polite. No, that's too bitchy-sounding. I'm not bitchy. I was being friendly. I was being reciprocal.
Polite has never paid so good.I was mostly being polite. No, that's too bitchy-sounding. I'm not bitchy. I was being friendly. I was being reciprocal.
Polite has never paid so good.
I met Josh Stallings a few weeks ago and to say that he struck me as a singularly lovely person feels like damning him with faint praise. I spoke with him for maybe fifteen minutes over the conference weekend, but he left an impression, both of his own and of kindness towards other writers. He's cool. His personality edges out past his aura, maybe protecting that aura a little bit; a Russian nesting doll of warmth, enthusiasm, probably some hurt, and definitely some wisdom. You can tell that right away.
He said he liked my book. So I bought his most recent book.
I just finished it.
All the Wild Children might be the best memoir I've ever read.
I hope this recommendation gets somebody who reads this to go straightway to get the book, but let's get something out of the way, so that it doesn't come back on me later: In places, it's bawdy. In lots of places, really. Josh Stallings has very little trouble typing the sentences the way they come to him. There's cussing. There's sex. There's drug use. There's violence. But you won't catch me calling any of it profane, because it's beautiful and it's also beautifully honest. I loved this book.
Where you can identify with Stallings and all that he has done and all that he's seen (so far) and all that he's felt about those things, you will be either delighted or devastated. Where you can't identify, where adventure and heartbreak has taken him but not you, Josh Stallings' way with words and candor will make you think you almost can. It's not a wallow. It's everything but.
What I value very most in reading is a scratch to my greedy itch. I want more life. Josh Stallings gets that and makes a gift of his own experience. I'm a little bit wrecked this morning over it, but so, so grateful.
I am utterly lucky to have crossed his path with a little money in my pocket and room for one more book in the suitcase. This book is brilliant and I can't recommend it enough....more
I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Graeme Cameron's NORMAL a few months back. Here's what I had to say about it:
Terrible things happenI had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Graeme Cameron's NORMAL a few months back. Here's what I had to say about it:
Terrible things happen in Graeme Cameron's NORMAL. Terrible things.
But Cameron's agility with tone and nuance is so sure-handed, you'll have every confidence to peek between your fingers, then to drop your guard entirely and let this story lead you by the hand (and throat) to where it's going.
With a murderer bookended by two of the most riveting women I've read on a page in ages, NORMAL's braid of compulsion, happenstance, and transformation sets this book far apart from any expected treatment of a serial killer's story.
This is simply a brilliant book - utterly compelling and unforgettable. I loved it....more
I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at Kim Michele Richardson's upcoming debut and can only recommend it highly.
In a story that spans more than oneI was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at Kim Michele Richardson's upcoming debut and can only recommend it highly.
In a story that spans more than one hundred years between two hangings, Richardson tackles bigotry and a society in flux in this gripping coming-of-age mystery that feels relevant no matter what the year is. Mudas (Muddy) Summers' life is thrown into chaos in the summer of 1972 with the apparent suicide of her mother, and it seems she'll risk everything to find out why it's happened. But the small minds of the small town hold their secrets close, and they don't take kindly to any prying. Richardson pulls us back in time (and back into our youth, if you're of a certain age) with her vivid, lush prose, and puts her heroine through the wringer, just like all suspense writers should. With value for readers of all ages, Liar's Bench is a story that will stay with you long after the reading's done....more
Mark Pryor delivers again. This is getting to be a habit and it's a very fine thing to have a go-to mystery series that you can rest assured will deliMark Pryor delivers again. This is getting to be a habit and it's a very fine thing to have a go-to mystery series that you can rest assured will deliver a whole package, solid and not bashed in at the corners - not only a good story, but good words as both frame and platter for that story.
I don't often rehash plot in my occasional reviews, but I will say that 'The Button Man' is a prequel to the Hugo Marston adventures we've had to date. And it's good fun to see how he ended up where he did.
So the last time I talked about Tana French’s books, I was delighted by the Möbius strip impossibility of ranking my favorite among her first four novSo the last time I talked about Tana French’s books, I was delighted by the Möbius strip impossibility of ranking my favorite among her first four novels. I’m equally delighted to take a scissor to the strip. Every one of Tana French’s books is wonderful, but The Secret Place is just that little bit more so. Or rather, it’s an extra heaping dose – on every page – of the things she does best.
The Secret Place brings back detective Stephen Moran and also Holly Mackey from Faithful Place, which draws the inevitable cameo of her da, Frank, who readers will remember with varying degrees of antipathy from both The Likeness and Faithful Place. (I, for the record, enjoy the hell out of Frank Mackey.)
The murder of young Chris Harper on the grounds of a girls’ school is chilling – in at least two senses of the word. A beautiful, popular boy cut down in the moonlight freezes both the community and St. Kilda’s faculty and students, but the case itself has also gone cold. That is, until Holly Mackey brings a card, pried from the school’s confessional bulletin board, The Secret Place, to Stephen, the cop she chooses over her father to spark onto the year-old investigation. The card reads: I Know Who Killed Him.
The story takes place in a single day, with flashbacks into the tangles of teenage politics and crystalline glimpses of youth blooming into independence. Our narrator, Stephen, struggles on a tightrope, looking to wring every professional advantage from this gift of opportunity as its balanced against what’s at risk for everyone involved. The mystery is cracking. The resolution is wrenching.
And still it’s not the best part of the book.
That would be the writing. Tana French vaults everything she’s done yet with jeweled tone and sparkling description to put the reader everywhere they need to be. Sometimes it’s painful. I cried about seven times. But I full-on cheered once. Scared the hell out of my husband while he was driving.
Truly, The Secret Place is a wonderful book. It comes out September 2, 2014. Get it as soon as you can....more
A very worthy follow up (not to be confused with 'sequel') to his first novel, The Expats.
I particularly loved the extended cameo of Kate, from the fiA very worthy follow up (not to be confused with 'sequel') to his first novel, The Expats.
I particularly loved the extended cameo of Kate, from the first book, and getting more insight into the clockworks of her boss, Hayden.
This is one twisty plot, but the best trick Mr. Pavone pulls is that the threads don't tangle. It would have been a pity to have been confused at The End, but the resolution is a confident thump - just where it should be....more
I wish more books on the thriller shelves had this level of emotional intricacy. This is a spy thriller in every aspect, sacrificing nothing in actionI wish more books on the thriller shelves had this level of emotional intricacy. This is a spy thriller in every aspect, sacrificing nothing in action or intrigue, but it's also a brilliantly descriptive of account of one woman's internal life - the layers of contentment, discontent, cool-eyed assessment, and chafing-at-the-leash.
Clever (and sometimes downright beautiful) language puts The Expats as possibly my favorite spy novel ever. ...more
I’ve just closed the back cover on possibly the most important book I’ve ever read. I’m tempted to go buy a carton of copies to give out. It easily evI’ve just closed the back cover on possibly the most important book I’ve ever read. I’m tempted to go buy a carton of copies to give out. It easily evil menand immediately takes a place in my top five favorite books. Although, “favorite” doesn’t quite fit. It’s a hard book.
In the interest of full disclosure, James Dawes, the author of EVIL MEN, was the valedictorian of my high school class. But make no mistake; this isn’t a pal hawking a cohort’s book. Jim and I aren’t friends. Not to say that we’re enemies. We just don’t really know each other. I saw notice of the book on our school’s alumni Facebook page and, being curious, thought I’d have a look.
Jim Dawes and I didn’t have overlapping social circles in school. I do remember him, but I imagine that most of the class of 1987 remembers him. He was like that. Brilliant, kind, and athletic, he rather had all of his ducks in a row back then, which is remarkable for any kid that age. But there was more gravity to Jim than there was to other socially and academically successful teenagers. He was prominent in an unusual way, even if that way is still difficult to articulate all these years later. It left an impression that has lasted decades and definitely had something to do with being able to relate comfortably to a gaggle of peers while thinking quite a bit beyond us.
Apparently that has carried over into a life of valuable research and singular eloquence. And that’s probably all I’ll say about James Dawes, the person, because a) I still don’t know him personally and b) this isn’t really about James Dawes, it’s about the book, EVIL MEN, just out from Harvard University Press.
EVIL MEN is a dissection of atrocity and conceptual evil, inspired by a series of interviews with Japanese war criminals. These very old men recounted, through a translator, the horrors they had meted out in uniform during the Sino-Japanese wars. It broadens from there into a display of theory, ethics, scientific study, history, philosophy, and human rights advocacy, all tethered in a coherence that I would have to be incoherent to adequately express my admiration of. Let’s just say that you will be quite a bit smarter by ‘The End’ than you were on page one, but you’ll need to pay for the education in careful reading. This is by no means a one sit read. It demands (and rewards) deliberation.
There is no making sense of the things we do to each other, especially under the banner of military duty, but the value in this book is discovering that maybe there is a way to make sense of it not making sense. And if that sounds like a bit of intellectual tail-chasing, it isn’t. This is not an entertaining book. But having just written that, I have to say that, one step removed, it is vastly entertaining to unfold the map of our collective conscience and see the red dot proclaiming that YOU ARE HERE.
The most remarkable feat of EVIL MEN is in its balance. The moral paradoxes of relating these traumas are thoroughly addressed. Doing justice to the victims with mere words while evoking the necessary vividness to adequately represent the crimes is no easy task. Then avoiding catapulting the whole works into gratuitous carnival takes the utmost heartfelt precision, which he exhibits without faltering. James Dawes is exacting of himself as a researcher, as a writer, and as a moral human being. Following his lead through the nautilus of self-examination is effortless and, somehow, not terrifying. It’s not safe to go there, for certain, but it’s not safe not go there either, as he explains on the page.
Most importantly, for me, EVIL MEN left me with a notion. If the model of morality is in any way analogous to the model of physics, then this book inspires the hope that perhaps it all works in the same way quantum mechanics plays under the screen of our observable, Newtonian world. Maybe in the act of just examining our malleability and by measuring our own frailty, perhaps we change it.
Go get this challenging, wonderful book. Read it and discover what evil is (or isn’t) made of....more