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RidgewayGirl Reads in 2018, Part Two

This is a continuation of the topic RidgewayGirl Reads in 2018.

This topic was continued by RidgewayGirl Reads in 2018, Part Three.

Club Read 2018

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Edited: Oct 2, 8:05pm Top

I like to open my thread with something visual and so I thought this year I'd post pictures of art I liked that I discovered wandering around museums.

In honor of my recent trip to Charleston, which included a visit to the Gibbes Museum of Art, here's a painting called Rain in Charleston by Thomas Fransioli.

Currently Reading

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Edited: Sep 29, 10:51am Top

Second Quarter Reading

My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
Watershed by Percival Everett
The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell
The World's Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key
Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah
Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
Heaven's Crooked Finger by Hank Early

Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren
The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
Straying by Molly McCloskey
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky
The Italian Party by Christina Lynch
Tangerine by Christine Mangan

You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Aviator by Evgenii Vodolazkin, translated from the Russian by Lisa C. Hayden
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
Tomb Song by Julián Herbert, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
Let's No One Get Hurt by Jon Pineda
Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
How To Be Safe by Tom McAllister
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Florida by Lauren Groff

Third Quarter Reading

Brass by Xhenet Aliu
Country Dark by Chris Offutt
Circe by Madeline Miller
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
The Outsider by Stephen King
Census by Jesse Ball
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten
Grace: A Novel by Natashia Deón
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Kudos by Rachel Cusk

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
The Last Child by John Hart
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez
The Hush by John Hart
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha, translated from the Portuguese by Eric M. B. Becker)

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
Varina by Charles Frazier
White Houses by Amy Bloom
The Unforgotten by Laura Powell
Some Trick: Thirteen Stories by Helen DeWitt
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes
The Midnight Line by Lee Child

Edited: Sep 29, 10:51am Top

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris
Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren
Dear Cyborgs by Eugene Lim
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Heaven's Crooked Finger by Hank Early
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
The Midnight Line by Lee Child
My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
Refuge by Dina Nayeri
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Smile by Roddy Doyle
So Much Blue by Percival Everett
Straying by Molly McCloskey
Trell by Dick Lehr
White Tears by Hari Kunzru

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Brass by Xhenet Aliu
Census by Jesse Ball
Circe by Madeline Miller
Country Dark by Chris Offutt
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Florida by Lauren Groff
The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
How To Be Safe by Tom McAllister
The Hush by John Hart
I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
The Italian Party by Christina Lynch
The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
Let's No One Get Hurt by Jon Pineda
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
The Outsider by Stephen King
Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
Promise by Minrose Gwin
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Some Trick: Thirteen Stories by Helen DeWitt
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Tangerine by Christine Mangan
The Unforgotten by Laura Powell
Varina by Charles Frazier
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
White Houses by Amy Bloom
You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

Edited: Sep 22, 1:39pm Top

Maria Alyokhina (Riot Days)
Evgenii Vodolazkin (The Aviator)

Helene Tursten (Detective Inspector Huss)

United States
Megan Abbott (Give Me Your Hand)
Xhenet Aliu (Brass)
Jesse Ball (Census)
Elif Batuman (The Idiot)
Amy Bloom (White Houses)
Natashia Deón (Grace: A Novel)
Marcy Dermansky (The Red Car)
Helen DeWitt (Some Trick: Thirteen Stories)
Hank Early (Heaven's Crooked Finger)
Percival Everett (So Much Blue, Watershed)
Kathleen A. Flynn (The Jane Austen Project)
Charles Frazier (Varina)
David Grann (Killers of the Flower Moon)
Lauren Groff (Florida)
Minrose Gwin (Promise)
John Hart (The Last Child, The Hush)
Jennifer Haupt (In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills)
Dorothy B. Hughes (In a Lonely Place)
Tayari Jones (An American Marriage)
Harrison Scott Key (The World's Largest Man)
Patrisse Khan-Cullors (When They Call You a Terrorist)
Stephen King (The Outsider)
Rachel Kushner (The Mars Room)
Christina Lauren (Dating You / Hating You)
Dick Lehr (Trell)
Eugene Lim (Dear Cyborgs)
Laura Lippman (Sunburn)
Christina Lynch (The Italian Party)
Betty MacDonald (The Egg and I)
Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties)
Christine Mangan (Tangerine)
Tom McAllister (How To Be Safe)
Molly McCloskey (Straying)
Michelle McNamara (I'll Be Gone in the Dark)
Claire Messud (The Burning Girl)
Madeline Miller (Circe)
Ottessa Moshfegh (My Year of Rest and Relaxation)
Dina Nayeri (Refuge) (country of residence)
Sigrid Nunez (The Friend: A Novel)
Alissa Nutting (Tampa: A Novel)
Flannery O'Connor (A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories)
Chris Offutt (Country Dark)
Ijeoma Oluo (So You Want to Talk About Race)
Jon Pineda (Let's No One Get Hurt)
George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo)
Shanthi Sekaran (Lucky Boy)
Curtis Sittenfeld (You Think It, I'll Say It)
Karin Slaughter (Pieces of Her)
Matthew Sullivan (Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore)
Nafkote Tamirat (The Parking Lot Attendant)
Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing)
Tara Westover (Educated: A Memoir)
Lidia Yuknavitch (The Book of Joan)
Leni Zumas (Red Clocks)

Apr 19, 11:30am Top

And my new thread is open.

Apr 19, 3:42pm Top

That’s a great painting at the top. He is an artist I don’t know.

Apr 19, 5:09pm Top

Colleen, German Expressionism is a lot less known than it should be, largely because so much was destroyed by the Nazis and many artists didn't survive the war.

Apr 19, 10:27pm Top

Wow, that opening painting is absolutely incredible.

Apr 20, 10:06am Top

Meredith, had the Nazis not enjoyed burning paintings so much, every museum would have at least a few paintings like the Grundig. Slightly Eerie Cityscapes Devoid of People was a common theme.

Apr 20, 3:25pm Top

Maggie O'Farrell is my go-to author when I want something full of drama, but also want the writing to be excellent. She's written several novels, but I Am, I Am, I Am is an intensely personal memoir that does exactly the same thing. Seventeen chapters recount seventeen dangerous situations O'Farrell has found herself in. They aren't arranged chronologically, but in an order that allows one chapter to allude to a later one, or to reflect back on an earlier event. The writing is very fine, and the focus on her own life brings a new depth to her writing. It's also interesting to see how her own life has informed her fiction.

Apr 21, 8:23pm Top

>1 RidgewayGirl: Oh, very interesting art piece. I had to look Grundig up, because the piece above immediately brought to mind Kathe Kollwitz, although I'm hard-pressed to tell you exactly why. Although looking at some of his work, I see that he, like Kollwitz, did a lot of work in black, gray & white. Kollwitz was somewhat his senior, and both suffered under the Nazis in different ways. I chose to do a research project on Kollwitz for my art history minor, but didn't explore too deeply other German artists (or enough to make many of them memorable), so thanks for your post.

Apr 23, 11:09am Top

Lois, Kollwitz is such an interesting artist! I saw far too little of her work while I was in Germany, since she's from much further north. Another decade in Germany would not be enough time to see all of what remains of German Expressionism, despite the Nazis' best efforts.

Apr 23, 11:09am Top

"You ever speak to old Lamar Bibbs?" Pop would say.

"Not since him and Gola Mae went down yonder after the thing up at the place," Monk would say.

The younger me would perk up, eager to hear some gothic fable drawn from the mists of Mississippi Hill Country lore. Perhaps a story about a mule trampling a baby, or the time when everyone got the yellow fever and died.

But all was quiet. Monk would be leaning over and staring at his folded hands, as though he had be bludgeoned with a skillet, while Pop would be studying his dentures, which he held in his palm like a small, wounded vole. Then he would put them back into his mouth, having divested them of any lingering corn.

In The World's Largest Man, Harrison Scott Key tells the story of his own boyhood, where he lived with his family in rural Mississippi. His father was a force of nature, a man who was going to mold his son into his own image; a sports-playing, animal-hunting man's man. This worked well enough with his older brother, but Harrison mainly wanted to read books and go grocery shopping with his mother. Even as he did his best to thwart his father's ambitions, he still lived under the shadow of his father.

I was always coy about my books, afraid Pop would find them effeminate. In our family, the only books men read were in the Bible and you weren't supposed to do it for fun. You did it because Jesus would hurt you if you didn't.

The World's Largest Man is a very funny book. It's fatal flaw is that it often reaches for humor when it should reach for something more honest and heart-felt. Key occasionally moves in that direction; a later chapter about his marriage approaches real depth, but for the most part, this remains just a funny book about being bad at hunting and about a boy trying to become a man, when the example of manhood in front of him is far from who he wants to be.

Pop didn't have friends, which he believed were things meant for women and children, as were holidays and happiness. A real man didn't need all that. All a man needed was a gun and a wood stove and maybe, if things got bad, a towel for the blood.

Apr 23, 4:37pm Top

I have long enjoyed Sophie Hannah's crime novels, which lean hard on the psychological suspense, are often narrated by unstable and unreliable narrators, and have outrageous plots that somehow hang together, right to the end. They're fun. Keep Her Safe follows her usual pattern, but otherwise was not good at all.

Cara is a wife and mother who abandons her family, leaving behind only a note to say she'll be back in a few weeks. She's also taken a chunk of the family savings and used them to fly from Hereford, England to Phoenix, Arizona, to stay in a five-star resort. She's upset with her husband and children, but the reason isn't revealed into late in the book. Which is for the best. It's the most petulant reason possible and it's best not to hate the main character before the end of the first chapter. They'll be plenty of time for that.

While she's there, she sees a girl and eventually believes that she's seen a famous murder victim from several years ago, now alive and enjoying the spa amenities. She also meets a mother and daughter, there on vacation, and they all have a great deal of fun speculating on where the girl might be now. And then Cara is kidnapped and has to figure out why and how to get away, even as her new friends join forces with the local police force, the FBI and a Nancy Grace-like TV host to find Cara and solve the mystery of the dead girl.

This book was such a giant pile of terrible, that I found myself reading just to find out what ridiculous thing would happen next. I know that the author is British, but the American edition was not edited by any Americans at all, leaving in glaring errors and misperceptions about the US. It's not just how all the American characters were either broad stereo-types of what a Brit might think we are like, or they reacted just like a foreign tourist to ordinary American things, but there were glaring errors in how the legal system works that should have been caught and corrected. Everyone one in this book is not very smart, including law enforcement, which, fine. Hannah's writing a mystery she'd like everyone reading to follow easily, but even the newest of police detectives has presumably been taught some basic procedures for how to investigate a kidnapping or possible crime scene. And yet, no. Instead the detectives were instructed to do basic things like look at credit card receipts by an interested bystander.

The task force assembled to find a missing British tourist was also unique. The police and FBI were involved, but they then invited the TV host, her production assistant, the hotel manager and even interested bystanders into their inner circle. Of course, the interested bystander, a florist from Kansas, leads the investigation. This probably happens a lot in the United States. What I know would not happen is that the hotel manager (this supposedly enormous resort is shockingly understaffed) appearing on the TV host's crime show and giving the full names of several of the resort guests along with his opinion of their trustworthiness. No hotel, let alone one that would cater to prominent wealthy people, would be eager to see their brand shown on national TV as a crime scene and loose with the details of the guests staying there. But ok, let's let that man's looming unemployment not deter him from his moment of excitement.

There's a receptionist who goes missing just before Cara is kidnapped, but she's a tertiary character, so no one bothers to care, including her friends and co-workers. They continue not to care even as she becomes one of the story's lynchpins. She's just gone and that's that until her name pops up as a way to move the plot forward. But then we can forget about her again, so yay?

This is a lot of negativity to dump on a novel, but this is a novel by an author who has written good crime novels, novels with a functional plot, with characters whose motivations went beyond doing random things to move the plot forward, with settings that felt like real places, and not just an excuse to go to a couple of resorts in Arizona for a few weeks. Sophie Hannah is capable of much better, has written better books. I hope this is a mis-step on her part and not a habit.

Apr 24, 4:02pm Top

I also enjoyed I Am, I Am, I Am, although the first story was quite harrowing. I'll have to look for more of her work.

I'll catch up on your old thread later today or tomorrow.

Apr 27, 7:47am Top

Darryl, I Am, I Am, I Am was fantastic, wasn't it? Her novels are intelligent, drama-filled fun, not quite literary fiction, but well-written escapist lit.

Apr 27, 9:02am Top

I haven’t read I Am, I Am, I Am yet, but I no doubt will (and would have done even without reading your comments, which have just made me want to read it more), because Maggie O’Farrell is my go-to author, too, when I need something light-ish. Too often light means badly written and sloppy, but O’Farrell consistently produces tight, well-written, gripping novels. I really rate her work.

Edited: Apr 28, 12:18pm Top

>19 RidgewayGirl: It was, Kay. I haven't read anything else by Maggie O'Farrell, but after I Am, I Am, I Am she is on my radar screen.

Apr 29, 5:06pm Top

There's little less satisfying than a short story that doesn't get it quite right. And it's a hard medium to master; every element that a novel allows chapters to communicate, must be evident in a handful of paragraphs. Fully rounded characters must spring from a half dozen lines and the theme and plot must be pared down until each sentence serves a specific purpose. But when a short story works, it's like a shot of whiskey or a kick in the head, everything is there, all at once.

Lucy Caldwell's book of short stories , Multitudes, is a rare case of a collection in which each of the eleven stories works. Centered on the city of Belfast, the collection tells of ordinary people, usually children or teenagers, figuring out life. Often the protagonists feel like outsiders, or are dissatisfied in ways that can't always be communicated to their friends or family. Belfast, its weather, houses, roads and schools, is evocatively described. This is a lovely collection of stories, each of which stands ably on its own. I'll be looking for more by this author.

Apr 29, 5:11pm Top

>22 RidgewayGirl: That wasn't on my radar at all, but I'll keep an eye out now—thanks!

Edited: Apr 30, 10:48am Top

Awesome thread! Your book covers and lists are great.

May 1, 3:06am Top

>22 RidgewayGirl: you've definitely persuaded me on Caldwell, even if I do usually shy away from books set in my home city.

May 8, 5:11pm Top

Lisa, if you like short stories about ordinary lives, you'll like this.

Hi, Cheryl! I do like my pedantic lists.

Alison, I'd be interested in finding out what you think of it.

May 8, 11:06pm Top

>26 RidgewayGirl: I do, very much—thanks for the pointer. I also have the Maggie O'Farrell on my pile.

May 11, 10:25am Top

Tom Rachman writes really well and has, so far, chosen to write about things that interest me. So my expectations were unnaturally high for The Italian Teacher (art! Italy!). I'm happy to say that Rachman exceeded what I had anticipated. The Italian Teacher hit all my sweet spots, while also being a very good book.

Pinch is born in 1950, the son of Natalie, a young Canadian woman who came to Rome to work on her art, and Bear Bavinsky, a larger than life prominent painter who dominates every room he enters. Bear eventually leaves his second family for a third, and Natalie and Pinch become a team. She encourages his painting and he helps his increasingly unstable mother negotiate life in Rome and then in London. The novel follows Pinch all through his life, one that is quiet and restrained, but also dominated by the spirit (and occasionally the presence) of his father.

This book, guys. It's a whole bunch of things. Just when it starts to approach a dead end or seems to be going somewhere expected, it shifts into something different. The coming of age novel in which Pinch and his mother negotiate a rag tag life in Rome becomes a college novel set in Canada, and then it all becomes somewhat Stoner-esque, as Pinch, a naturally modest person, lives quietly as a foreign language teacher, and then the whole book explodes with deception, intrigue, forgeries and lies. I liked it.

May 11, 3:41pm Top

28> The Italian Teacher sounds really interesting. I'll keep an eye out for it.

May 14, 8:21pm Top

Tara Westover has quite a story to tell. Born into a large family living on a mountainside in rural Idaho, she was raised by a colorful father who raged about socialist indoctrination in the public schools and spent his time preparing for the coming apocalypse. Instead of attending school, she worked sorting metal in her family's junkyard. Injuries, and there were many terrible ones, were not treated in a hospital, but by her mother, an herbalist. In Educated, she describes her childhood and how she managed to leave, eventually studying at Cambridge and Harvard.

This is a memoir of an extraordinary childhood and about living through the aftermath. Westover is nonjudgmental when discussing her family and it's clear that she still holds them in great affection. Nonetheless, the story is harrowing. It's like a first hand account of a pioneer family, with the same extreme dangers exacerbated by her father's possible mental illness and the risky nature of the family business.

Once Westover manages to escape to university, the story doesn't lose momentum. She's intelligent and resourceful, but ill-prepared and made uncertain by the foreignness of her new environment. All in all, this was a memoir that read like a novel.

May 15, 1:19am Top

>30 RidgewayGirl: This does sound fascinating. Thanks for the review!

May 15, 5:40am Top

>30 RidgewayGirl: I read that last month—really fascinating, and all the more so for being a memoir rather than a novel. I thought it was so interesting as a tale of reinvention—not just moving from outsider to mainstream, or unschooled to academic, but how she forcibly reoriented her own internal world map. As someone who's recreated myself in very comparatively small ways, but still thinks about all the tiny choices that went into something so momentous (to me), I found her story really affecting. I wonder if she'll write more popular work or settle into the academic life that seems to suit her so well.

May 15, 10:32am Top

Clémence, I'd be interested to find out how this reads to a non-American reader. It's such a weirdly American thing to be raised without any input from society as a whole, and that particular strain of libertarianism seems uniquely American.

Lisa, the academic stuff was fascinating, too. And I found myself increasingly tense every time she went back to the mountain for a visit.

May 15, 12:24pm Top

30> Sounds like a fascinating memoir.

May 15, 3:51pm Top

>33 RidgewayGirl: Very interesting thought, which makes me all the more curious about the book. I've wishlisted it.

May 16, 10:16am Top

Jane, I don't read many memoirs, especially by people who are young - Westover is in her thirties, but this one is worthwhile.

May 21, 1:47pm Top

I've tried to write a review for Ijeoma Oluo's excellent book, So You Want to Talk About Race, a few times now and failed, so I'm just going to write about what I, personally, got out of the book instead. If the title doesn't give the subject away, this is a book divided into chapters that address topics and issues surrounding race in America. Oluo writes clearly, both with an understanding of the difficulties involved in, and the necessity of, an on-going conversation about race that involves everyone. She points out that conversations about race are uncomfortable and that everyone tends to walk away from such conversations feeling worse than before the conversation started. But the need for the discussion remains.

I've been working to read more from authors of color and to follow the writings (from twitter, to articles, to books) of the voices explaining the experience and history of various minority groups, so some of what Oluo is saying are things I'd heard before. But there was a lot new in there, as well as Oluo's remarkable ability to explain concepts clearly. Among the things I took away from this book was that the conversations about race that need to be happening are between white people. We need to talk about the impact of racism among ourselves; it's not the job of any person of color to walk us through the basics of any of this, and that when we do have questions, google is an excellent source of information. Oluo also has an interesting chapter on the specific issues facing Asian Americans, and how the 'model minority' stereo-type can do real harm, just as our assumptions about the teachability of black boys does.

All in all, this was an excellent and well-organized primer on the basics every American needs to understand if we are going to move forward together.

May 21, 2:56pm Top

>37 RidgewayGirl: This seems like an important book. I'll keep an eye out for it (though I'm on a fence because I don't know how important it would be for me as I'm not American - but then my exposure to these topics is sparse, so any book on this topic would be interesting for me, I guess).

May 21, 6:54pm Top

Clémence, while Oluo's focus is on the US, I think the principles would apply well anywhere that has people from other ethnicities, immigrants or disabled residents. It's a hard look at the ways we support oppressive and/or oblivious systems without being aware of it.

May 22, 1:22am Top

OK thanks, I'm all the more convinced now.

May 23, 10:03am Top

This isn't a thriller. We know that The Perfect Nanny murders her small charges in the first chapter of French author Leila Slimani's novel. The question isn't who, but why, with the tension slowly rising as the parents fail to take seriously Louise's deterioration.

When it's time for the mother of two very young children to go back to work, she and her husband choose a nanny to care for their children. They are nervous, but Louise fulfills all of their needs and more, keeping the small apartment spotless and preparing wonderful dinners for them. They quickly grow dependent on her. At the same time, Louise is in crisis and as her situation worsens, the couple begin to have doubts about her, but they manage to set them aside because she has grown vital to the family's functioning.

There's a sense of remove to this story, with the characters remaining opaque. It is very much not a suspense novel, or even a crime novel. It's more a look at how people relate to one another, the expectations and disappointments that color how they see each other, and about loneliness.

May 24, 8:03pm Top

I was hit by that book bullet recently. It sounds quite creepy.

Edited: May 26, 11:09am Top

Molly McCloskey is an American who spent decades living in Ireland. In Straying, she tells the story of an American woman who travels to Ireland and ends up staying. Alice gets a temporary job tending bar in Sligo, a large town on the west coast, and ends up marrying a local and staying. The novel goes back and forth through Alice's adult life, from her experiences as a young woman exploring a new place, to her marriage and it's demise, and her life afterward working for an NGO and traveling to various places in distress. The story itself is introspective; Alice imploded her own marriage with an affair, an affair where she grew increasingly reckless, as though she wanted to get caught.

This is a lovely, small novel about a woman looking inward for the first time in middle age. This isn't a book primarily about her infidelity (the original, European title is When Light Is Like Water), but a look back at an entire life, of which the adultery formed a part and that Alice looked back on as a part of her life she struggles to understand. Far more interesting were the snippets about her work for the Irish NGO, which sent her to places like Sri Lanka and Kosovo and Kenya.

This is a slender novel that packs a lot into it. I'm torn between thinking it was too short and lacked amplifying detail and thinking that it was wise of the author to leave more out than she put it. McCloskey is a skilled writer, with an observant eye and I look forward to reading more from her.

May 28, 1:34pm Top

Nice reviews of three interesting books, Kay. So You Want to Talk About Race is high on my list of books to read this summer, so I'm glad that you found it useful. I do agree with Olou's point that conversations about race should be had primarily with members of one's own race, although now that there are so many people of mixed backgrounds that isn't always straightforward. On the other hand, it's also important to have multiple friends of various races, and not assume that one person's opinion is representative and applicable to the entire group. I've been fortunate to have a sizable number of close East and South Asian friends over the past three decades, including Taiwanese, mainland Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian and Pakistani, some of whom emigrated to the United States as children, and others who have lived here for multiple generations. Some of the experiences of those who moved to the US as school children and had to learn English while being taunted by their white classmates for their accents and difficulty in gaining fluency was heart breaking, particularly for two Taiwanese women, an engineer and a classmate from medical school, who were deeply scarred by their childhood experiences and both cried when they told me what they went through, on separate occasions (they don't know each other). Reading about the experiences of the Chinese in the United States in books by Iris Chang and Maxine Hong Kingston also helped me understand and appreciate the struggles they have faced since the 19th century; I had no idea that East Asians were lynched with alarming regularity in this country, such as the dozen or more Chinese immigrants who were hanged by a white mob in Los Angeles in 1871.

Ultimately I think that having close friends from different ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, and speaking with them openly and honestly, is far more important to eliminating one's own prejudices than anything else.

May 28, 3:59pm Top

I also think it is important to ask questions of our friends from other backgrounds, so as to clear up misconceptions. Sometimes we fear asking questions in the sense that we might embarrass or alienate others.

One of my fondest memories is about attending a Shabbat at a local temple, at the invitation of the rabbi. I am not Jewish, so this was quite new to me, and I was a little bit nervous. The people there were more than friendly, invited me to the Shabbat dinner, and helped me sing the Shabbat service in Hebrew. I was actually proud of myself for getting the hang of it, and the entire service seemed so joy-filled. I was thankful to be invited and to participate. I would never have gotten the feel for this religious service by reading about it in a book.

May 28, 5:21pm Top

i'm reading Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, about a young guy who was raised to be the up-and-coming leader of the White Nationalist movement and how he separated from that ideology and the support system he grew up with. And the key to that sea change was a bunch of people who reached out to him in college. He was something of a wunderkind, and had his own website and radio show in his teens, so he was "outed" on campus sometime after his first year, but he had also begun to make friends there from a variety of backgrounds because he was, at the same time that he had grown up in that milieu and bought into it 100%, very intelligent and interested in the world around him. Other kids on campus engaged him in conversation, and one Jewish guy who had a weekly Shabbat dinner with a rotating bunch of other students, invited him and they became friends. People were willing to engage him in conversation—and of course a major part of this is that he was willing to listen—and he eventually came to repudiate, and speak out against, the White Nationalist movement.

The book is a really interesting exploration of what can be accomplished by open conversation, and makes me increasingly happy to hear about programs like Chicago Public Library's On the Table discussions.

May 29, 10:56am Top

Daryl, I whole-heartedly agree. I think that Oluo's point in this is that we shouldn't expect people to answer simple questions for us, but that we can do the basic research ourselves. There are a lot of questions that can come across as judgmental, and we can avoid alienating someone by taking responsibility for learning on our own time. But respectful discussions among people who have a relationship are always useful.

And knowing people is the key to moving forward. I'm so grateful for my time in Germany - not only did I get a feel for what it's like to be in a place where my language wasn't the main means of communication, the classes I took meant I had the privilege of getting to know people from very different backgrounds to my own, including a Syrian refugee, Muslims from Turkey and Egypt and a lovely Turkish Kurd family. I think that we naturally tend to group ourselves in the most comfortable ways, but that we have to make a conscious effort to not do that.

Cheryl, you are right -- I think that most people are open to respectful questions from a person who is really trying to learn and understand.

Lisa, Rising Out of Hatred sounds worth reading. I'm planning to read When They Call You a Terrorist next.

May 30, 10:38am Top

After Rachel miscarries, she has trouble recovering from her loss. She decides to find her father, who left her and her mother when she was young, and that search sends her to Rwanda, to her father's second wife, in the hopes of luring him home.

I have conflicted feelings about In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills. There were many things that worked well. Author Jennifer Haupt keeps the focus on Americans in this novel, primarily on Rachel, but also on two African American aid workers who came to Rwanda before the violence, and remained to help rebuild and also because, after years in Rwanda, they had built important relationships. Haupt spent just a month there interviewing people about their experiences and looking at the connection between forgiveness and grief, and so choosing to write about the genocide from a viewpoint just slightly removed was probably wise.

But centering the novel on a self-involved white American whose own pain looked so small in the face of what the people around her had endured was less inspired. While keeping the focus on Rachel makes the book more immediately accessible, it pays for this by keeping the Rwandan characters and their experiences at an arm's length. They never felt like real people, just foils for Rachel to demonstrate her goodness and pain on. The contrived dramatic conflict at the end of the novel felt unnecessary and badly handled, once again making the interests of the American visitor more important than those of the people living there.

There are far too few novels about what happened in Rwanda published here, so any attempt is to be lauded, but I'm waiting for the book that puts the focus on the country and its citizens, rather than on the problems of a comfortable Westerner.

May 30, 11:00am Top

Nice review of In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, Kay. Thanks for taking one for the team.

May 31, 3:47pm Top

46> Is this about the young man who went to New College in Sarasota? There was a lot of local newspaper coverage about him awhile back.

May 31, 5:13pm Top

>50 janeajones: Yes, Derek Black. Really interesting story about what it's like to change an entire mind-set.

May 31, 5:15pm Top

>48 RidgewayGirl:, >49 kidzdoc: I highly recommend Small Country bu Gael Faye, if you need help cleansing your palate.

I think I can understand why the author and perhaps the editors thought it might make the book, as you say, more accessible to some readers—readers who might be less likely to read a novel with an all African cast? I suspect you are not the readers they were hoping to snare.

Jun 1, 9:50am Top

You're welcome, Daryl.

Lois, that was my feeling as I was reading - that the intent may have been to drawn in a more casual reader. There's a new memoir written by a woman from Rwanda who now lives in the US that I will try to read at some point called The Girl Who Smiled Beads.

Jun 1, 9:50am Top

Leah is living in a lackluster Queens apartment with her self-involved husband when she receives word that her friend and former boss has died. Going back to San Francisco, she encounters friends and co-workers from her past as well as meeting a few new people. She also inherits the car her boss died in, a speedy vehicle that frightens Leah, along with her boss's voice in her head.

What is lost in the summary is how very What a strange and perfect book The Red Car is. Marcy Dermansky manages to pack so much depth into this slim novel, and I was so sorry when I turned the final page and was finished with it. Leah's voice is so immediate that there was no way to avoid experiencing the book though her eyes, and over the course of the novel, I began to understand her reactions to events (which was very different than what my own reactions would have been).

Jun 1, 1:26pm Top

Woahhhhhh - far too many book bullets there!! You've just added a tonne of new titles to my wish list.

Edited: Jun 1, 7:38pm Top

>95 Good. You made me read Tampa.*

* Which I enjoyed, but fair is fair.

Jun 2, 2:48pm Top

Scottie and Michael meet, marry and arrive in Siena, Italy to start their lives together before they really know each other. It's 1956, and Michael has come to open a Ford tractor dealership in the small Tuscan city. Both think they've got the better part of the deal because both are concealing secrets from the other. Along with their own secrets, there are plenty of others, especially since Michael's real job is with the CIA, which considers Siena to be the dark center of communism in Italy.

The Italian Party, Christina Lynch's debut novel, ended up being a lot of fun. It was a rocky start, though, with a few problems that threatened to derail my enjoyment, the most glaring of which was a pregnant woman worried about how much she was starting to show in the first chapters, but by two months later was only three months along. Despite hiccups like that, both Lynch's ample research and understanding of her setting as well as the madcap pace of the novel were more than adequate to redeem this fun, summertime book.

Jun 5, 3:50pm Top

Tangerine is the wonderfully atmospheric noir by Christine Mangan set in the Moroccan city of Tangier in the 1950s.

Alice and Lucy were college roommates and inseparable until Alice dating a boy strained their friendship. After an incident they no longer spoke, but after Alice moves with her husband to Tangier, Lucy shows up and tensions quickly rise to a boiling point.

Tangerine is just a lot of fun. It's deliciously noir, with an ending that fit the novel perfectly, while also being unexpected. Tangier, hot, humid and confusing, is present in every moment set within it, the markets and Kasbah and the people. The chapters alternate between Alice and Lucy and while the book appears to be about figuring out which of the two narrators is the one telling the truth, something else, something more interesting is going on. This is Mangan's first novel, and not all of her risks pay off, but most do and the result is just a lot of fun.

Jun 5, 8:23pm Top

>58 RidgewayGirl: It sounds like you enjoyed Tangerine about the same as I did, Kay. And isn’t the cover just perfect?!?!

Jun 6, 10:40am Top

Colleen, the cover is gorgeous. And in May, I read three books about Americans living abroad (in Italy and Morocco) during the 1950s. I approve of this new trend.

Jun 6, 11:31am Top

Tangerine sounds like an excellent summer read. I've put it on hold at the library.

Jun 7, 12:49am Top

Oh no, another bullet just hit! The library has Tangerine on order at the minute, so it looks like I have some time to get through my current planned reads before my hold comes in.

Jun 9, 2:15pm Top

Jennifer and Vivienne, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It's a great vacation book.

Jun 9, 2:15pm Top

Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the rare novelists whose short stories are every bit as good as their novels. You Think It, I'll Say It is the rare collection where all the stories are equally strong. Centered on women reaching a moment of epiphany, sometimes small and fleeting, sometimes life-changing, each story takes place in a different American city. From a woman whose encounter with the airport shuttle driver leaves her feeling uneasy about her own behavior, to the busy mother who spends a disproportionate amount of her time obsessed about the hypocrisy of a Pioneer Woman-type celebrity, each story digs into the heart of who we are and how what we see is not always what's there.

Jun 11, 8:58pm Top

A man lies in a hospital bed. He's being cared for by a doctor and nurse, who have asked him to write down his memories as he regains them. Slowly, his life returns to him, but how is it that his memories are of events a century ago?

The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin tells the story of Innokenty Platonov, who spent his childhood in a comfortable Petersburg apartment and a summer dacha, until the Revolution took the life of his father and moved him, along with his mother, from their home into a room in the apartment of a professor and his daughter. As Innokenty's memories return, he also realizes that he is no longer in his time and the doctor explains that he was part of an early Soviet experiment in freezing living men and then thawing them. He survived frozen for eighty years. His recovery isn't just physical, but in learning how to live in a time not his own.

The Aviator is an odd mix of things; there's the look at the effects of being out of one's own time and the dislocation that results, there's the vivid descriptions of life in Russia before and during its most turbulent years, and finally there's the character study of Innokenty himself.

It took me a while to get into the rhythms of this book, but once I had, I enjoyed it very much.

Jun 15, 4:24pm Top

Romy is given two life sentences plus eight years for killing her stalker after he shows up at the apartment in a new city she'd just moved to with her young son to get away from him. Moving back and forth between her life in prison and her life beforehand, when Romy was a dancer at a strip club called The Mars Room, as well as her childhood, Rachel Kushner's novel is hard to put down. It's bleak, but Romy's voice is strong and likable. Romy is interested in the people around her and her story as well as the stories of the women around her are fascinating.

Kushner knows how to write and she writes with a light tone that keeps The Mars Room from being about misery, and is instead about the people that society has little use for. The women imprisoned in a bleak facility in Central California were destined to be there from childhoods spent in foster homes or roaming the streets. While there is a lot to say about the serious flaws in American society and failures of the justice system, this is much more of a character study of a resourceful and intelligent woman than a polemic.

Jun 15, 5:51pm Top

>66 RidgewayGirl: Nice review, thanks! This is up near the (vague, fog-shrouded) top of my TBR pile.

Jun 15, 7:52pm Top

Ha, Lisa, the number of books that enter my home with my intention being to read them right away, or at least within a week or two, well, before Fall in any case... is all of them.

Edited: Jun 18, 3:45pm Top

Tomb Song is the story of a man sitting in his mother's hospital room, waiting for her to die. She was a prostitute and his life involved a lot of temporary fathers and moving around. Sounds like a book seeped in misery, doesn't it? Despite the scaffolding, Julián Herbert has written a surprisingly upbeat and honest novel.

This isn't a book propelled forward by the plot; it digresses, it heads off onto tangents, it meanders, returning to earlier topics, while abandoning others. The narrator waits. He cares for his mother. He follows often conflicting instructions from the nurses and doctors. He walks the halls, and thinks about his past, from his childhood to the trips he took to Berlin with his wife. Parts of the story are fascinating, some were less enthralling.

The writing style of this novel reminded me of another Mexican novel, Valeria Luiselli's The Story of My Teeth, although that may also be influenced by having the same translator. If you like discursive novels, you'll want to take a look at Tomb Song.

Jun 19, 2:11pm Top

Pearl had an ordinary life with a father who taught at the university, a mother who was working on her doctorate, a nice house and a good dog. But now she, her father and her dog are living with two other squatters in an abandoned boathouse. Now fifteen, Pearl encounters a group of teenage boys, who live in the affluent town nearby and ride around on their golf carts, filming pranks for YouTube.

The feel of Let's No One Get Hurt is similar to some of Ron Rash's work, a bit like a less grim Daniel Woodrell. It's set in an unnamed part of the American South, although it felt like coastal Virginia to me. Author Jon Pineda is also a poet, so each word feels carefully chosen and his descriptions are vivid. This would be out of place in most stories about people living outside of society, but since Pearl is the child of two highly educated parents, it works. There's a strong narrative pull to this novel, but it's rendered largely in brief, snapshot-like vignettes. I'm looking forward to seeing what this author writes next.

Jun 23, 8:31pm Top

Mike loves Verity and Verity loves him. Their relationship is all-encompassing until an unfortunate misstep on Mike's part splits them up. But Mike knows the separation is only temporary. What he doesn't know, is what Verity needs him to do to get back in her good graces.

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall is a suspenseful novel that does not disappoint. There's an increasing feeling that something is very wrong, and a feeling that the narrator is either not reading the situation accurately, or is being manipulated, or manipulating things. I was reminded of the best novels of Barbara Vine, it's just a really effective and suspenseful novel and I enjoyed it immensely.

Jun 23, 8:49pm Top

>71 RidgewayGirl: Oh no...another for my wishlist!

Jun 23, 8:58pm Top

Colleen, I was dubious, because I've been disappointed by this kind of book a lot lately, but it was really good. The last line is a killer.

Jun 24, 3:29pm Top

>71 RidgewayGirl: This sounds very good. I have been looking for a good thriller!

Jun 25, 10:33am Top

Barbara, it's really good. There's a constantly rising tension to Our Kind of Cruelty that was very satisfying.

Jun 25, 11:35am Top

How To Be Safe by Tom McAllister is told from the point of view of a high school English teacher, a woman who was not at the school the day the shooting happened. With the murderer dead, there's a search for possible accomplices and Anna is briefly investigated by the FBI and hounded by the media.

As time moves on, Anna looks around at how the shooting has changed the town for good, and how easily these school shootings, and all the mass shootings, are quickly moved past, a few more guns are sold, a monument commissioned, a few more cameras installed to keep watch. But Anna is not moving on. She is consumed with how to be safe, when there are so many dangers out there.

On the highway, you can run into more dangers than you've ever imagined. Not just distracted drivers but stalkers, sex traffickers, teens throwing rocks through windshields from the overpass. If you pass enough cars, you will have passed at least one murderer; that's just statistics.

This novel is narrated by Anna, who spends a lot of her time thinking about what is dangerous. Now out of a job, she spends her day not interacting with her former friends, or spending time with her brother, although she finds that no matter how badly she wants to stay safe, people keep intruding into her life, and she can't stop herself from going outside and interacting with the other people living in the dangerous world.

"The world is not out to get you."

"I never said it was." Though I thought: What if it is?

"Your paranoia makes you not even human. It just makes you this jagged shard of fear that can't do anything."

I turned off the TV and stood. If he wanted to do things, then we would do things. I put on a jacket and some shoes and told him to follow me. If we got killed, it would be on him.

How To Be Safe is very much a commentary on how we have chosen to live in the US today, and how that affects our communities. But despite the subject matter, this book isn't bleak; Anna is too full of fight for that, and McAllister writes with a detached humor that suits this novel very well.

Jun 25, 5:02pm Top

What a lot of interesting reading! (And great reviews, btw)

Jun 25, 5:20pm Top

Thanks, Lois! I've been a happy member of Club Read for nine years now and each and every year, the quality of my reading has increased. Part of that has been the "read what you want to read" ethos of this place, and part of it has been due to following the threads of readers here.

Jul 2, 2:04pm Top

There's a lot of misinformation floating around about the Black Lives Matter movement, some of it clearly intended to discredit their push to hold law enforcement accountable and to draw attention to serious issues, but also some based on inadequate reporting and system bias. When They Call You a Terrorist is a memoir by one of the three women who founded Black Lives Matters and her account of her own life, as well as of the beginning months of Black Lives Matter is a good start to learning about what is really happening.

Patrisse Khan-Cullors grew up in Van Nuys, California, a part of greater Los Angeles inhabited by low income and middle class Hispanic and black people. The father who was around during her childhood had had a good job at an auto manufacturing plant, a job which gave him both a solid paycheck and a sense of pride. When the plant closed, the only work he could find was intermittent and badly paid, which put strain on his family and he eventually left. When They Call You a Terrorist is both starkly honest and clear in depicting how policies and events had direct impact on her family -- here showing how changes in manufacturing hurt not just white people, but also other members of the working class. Throughout the book, Khan-Cullors shows through incidents that shaped her own life, how mental illness is treated when the person suffering is a young black man of limited means, how the policing of young black boys is harmful, how housing policy hurts families, how hard it is to navigate life as both a black woman and as a queer woman and how a person raised in this environment can nonetheless rise into becoming a community activist and how important that role is.

I learned quite a bit from this book, but I also enjoyed reading about Khan-Cullors herself and how her life shaped who she is today.

Jul 3, 11:08am Top

Nice review of When They Call You a Terrorist, Kay. I'll buy and read it later this year.

Jul 3, 4:38pm Top

It's a surprisingly engaging read, Darryl. Khan-Cullors is just such an unapologetic force, but also very focused on engagement. The depth of my ignorance, though, only becomes clearer and clearer the more I read.

Jul 3, 5:03pm Top

>79 RidgewayGirl: Excellent review! I learned a lot from Khan-Cullors too and have been recommending her book to anyone who listens to me.

Jul 4, 9:06am Top

Vivienne, it really is a good book. I've been recommending So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo to people, but I'll add this to the list of recommended reading. There's so much good stuff being published right now. I'll probably read This Will Be My Undoing this month.

Jul 4, 10:41am Top

>83 RidgewayGirl: We just read This Will Be My Undoing for my book club last month (my suggestion, without having read it at that point). Interested to hear what you think.

Jul 4, 8:03pm Top

>83 RidgewayGirl: Thanks, Kay. I've added So you want to talk about race to my wishlist.

Jul 4, 9:48pm Top

Lisa, I'll let you know. It looks thought-provoking.

Vivienne, I hope you find it as useful as I have. I'm planning to go to the Decatur Book Festival and Ijeoma Oluo will be speaking. I'm eager to hear her.

Jul 5, 5:45pm Top

I've always liked Lauren Groff's novels, but not loved them, but I did love her collection of short stories, Florida. The stories here are bleak and largely unhappy, ironic for a collection largely set in the Sunshine State. In many of the stories, the protagonist is a white woman, with a few young children and a patient husband, and the action in the stories is largely quotidian; she takes walks, she feeds her children, she feels melancholic about the state of things. Really, these stories should be self-indulgent and boring. But in Groff's hands, and more specifically, in her words, the stories are so well told, the details so precisely laid out, that the stories ended up being just about perfect.

Jul 6, 5:33pm Top

>79 RidgewayGirl: I appreciate the thoughtful review and subsequent recommendations. These all sound like something I need to get to. I'm working on a project now that focuses on housing policy so sounds like it's also up that alley.

Jul 7, 10:51pm Top

Jane, Khan-Cullors's brother was mentally ill and and without access to adequate mental health care, this resulted in him being incarcerated. Then, when he was released without resources or mental health care, his mother had to decide whether to risk her housing by sheltering him. The book is worth reading.

Jul 7, 11:05pm Top

>87 RidgewayGirl: I liked but didn’t love Fates and Furies but now will definitely give Groff another chance. Thanks for the recommendation.

Jul 9, 1:48pm Top

Barbara, I hope you enjoy it.

Jul 9, 1:48pm Top

In the decaying factory town of Waterbury, Connecticut, a young Lithuanian American girl gets a job as a waitress at the Betsy Ross diner. Her mother's an alcoholic, her younger sister has the brains and grades to get out of Waterbury, and Elsie's just hoping for a better life. Instead, she meets Bashkim, newly emigrated from Albania, where he left his wife behind in the hopes of a better life in the US.

A generation later, Elsie's daughter, Luljeta, also hopes for a better life somewhere else, but a rejection letter from the university she'd pinned her hopes on have her scrambling to find a reason to believe that she can make a better life for herself than the low income grind she has with her mother. Lulu goes in search of the father her mother won't talk about.

Brass may be a debut novel, but it's self-assured and well-written. Xhenet Aliu has managed something even seasoned authors struggle with; her two narrators sound different, but subtly so. She also writes with a dry humor and keen eye for detail. The characters inhabit a vivid, if run-down world and there's a lot of detail as to the cultural and social structures of the immigrant communities Lulu and Elsie live in, as well as the realities of always having to scramble to make the rent payment. I was impressed by this novel, loved that it shed light on people and places not usually given attention.

The addition of your mother's boyfriend, the postanarchist Professor Robbie, brings the total number of guests gathered for Christmas dinner to five, one more than the quartet of you, your mother, Mamie, and Greta, which had gathered for Thanksgiving and all other previous holidays you've sat through your entire life. Even with the addition of a Y chromosome, your Noel looks mostly like a nativity scene staged by a militant women's separatist group.

Jul 9, 3:17pm Top

The cat is out enjoying the screen porch and I'm not sure he still has any bones.

Jul 9, 6:18pm Top

>93 RidgewayGirl: So funny! :)

Jul 9, 7:27pm Top

Hot floofy cats are the best.

Jul 10, 12:14pm Top

Book bullet for me on Brass, and a reminder to move When They Call You a Terrorist and So You Want to Talk About Race up some more notches in my to-read list.

Jul 12, 3:14pm Top

Colleen and Lisa, that cat is a professional relaxer and layabout.

Meredith, I had low expectations going into Brass and was very pleasantly surprised. And there are so many excellent books being published right now about race in America, but each one I've read has been an education for me.

I recently finished Circe and this poem was posted in a discussion about the book.

The Return of Odysseus by George Bilgere

When Odysseus finally does get home
he is understandably upset about the suitors,
who have been mooching off his wife for twenty years,
drinking his wine, eating his mutton, etc.

In a similar situation today he would seek legal counsel.
But those were different times. With the help
of his son Telemachus he slaughters roughly
one hundred and ten suitors
and quite a number of young ladies,
although in view of their behavior
I use the term loosely. Rivers of blood
course across the palace floor.

I too have come home in a bad mood.
Yesterday, for instance, after the department meeting,
when I ended up losing my choice parking spot
behind the library to the new provost.

I slammed the door. I threw down my book bag
in this particular way I have perfected over the years
that lets my wife understand
the contempt I have for my enemies,
which is prodigious. And then with great skill
she built a gin and tonic
that would have pleased the very gods,
and with epic patience she listened
as I told her of my wrath, and of what I intended to do
to so-and-so, and also to what’s-his-name.

And then there was another gin and tonic
and presently my wrath abated and was forgotten,
and peace came to reign once more
in the great halls and courtyards of my house.

Edited: Jul 12, 11:06pm Top

97> I have several world-class layabouts in my house as well. I am not one of them, unfortunately.

I also liked Brass a lot—particularly the subtle differences and similarities between the mother and daughter's voices, which I felt were very carefully mapped out. It wasn't a world-changer of a book, but I was very immersed while I was in it and thought she did a great job overall.

Also looking forward to Circe very much. That's a great poem... is that discussion group on LT?

Jul 13, 7:44am Top

Lisa, it was a discussion on The Morning News Tournament of Books Summer Reading Challenge. It's a lot of fun and I enjoy the way they discuss books, as well as the comments section where this poem was posted.


Jul 13, 8:27am Top

Oh, that's right—I've been meaning to catch up with the discussion there. Not enough time for all the reading about reading I want to do... Thanks for the reminder, though. I'll head over and poke my head in, at least.

Jul 13, 3:54pm Top

So the premise of Country Dark, Chris Offutt's Appalachian Noir, is promising. A young man, newly returned from military service in Korea, is walking home when he encounters a man attacking a young woman. Intervening, he ends up taking her and the man's car with him when he continues on his path home. As a married man, soon with children, in the hills of rural Kentucky in the middle of the last century, he finds the only work he can, running illicit alcohol and other goods across state lines. When his life and his family are threatened, what will he do to protect them?

Country Dark was pretty good. The setting and plot certainly fit right into the genre. But Tucker, the central character doesn't fit into the role; he's flawless. Taciturn, with enviable skills in everything from nature lore to street fighting, he's an Appalachian Jack Reacher. He also loves his family with a perfect and gentle love, able to generate remarkable violence one moment, and be a loving family man directly afterwards. He was too perfect and it lessened the tension of the exciting plot once it became clear that Tucker would always figure out the best way out of a jam, would never lose a fight and would always be a great husband and father.

But the setting and plot, as well as a few interesting secondary characters did redeem this novel somewhat. I look forward to Offutt's future novels, and seeing how his work develops. He's no Donald Ray Pollock or Daniel Woodrell, but there's certainly room for more authors writing about the darkest corners and deeds of rural Appalachia.

Jul 18, 12:41pm Top

I loved Circe by Madeline Miller far too much to write a reasoned review of it's merits and flaws. I'm not drawn to mythology in general and would not have read this book if I hadn't already read The Song of Achilles and had Circe not been part of The Morning News Rooster Summer Reading Challenge, but I fell for it at some moment during the opening pages and the spell held for the entire book.

Miller takes the mythological character of Circe, a witch who turns part of Odysseus's crew into wild animals and who has a relationship with him, as well as other appearances she makes in Greek mythology and creates a wonderfully complex character, who struggles to find a place she belongs in, while tying her into many traditional events. There's a lot that can be said about what Miller is doing and how she's subverting some traditions, while keeping utterly to the spirit of mythology, but basically I read the entire book in a state of uncritical joy.

Jul 18, 1:27pm Top

>102 RidgewayGirl: Yes! Me too. I hope she has already begun another book.

Jul 18, 5:23pm Top

>102 RidgewayGirl: This is already on my wishlist, but another glowing review pushes it further up the pile. :)

Jul 18, 6:16pm Top

Jennifer, I am not at all drawn to Greek mythology, but Miller is so good at what she does that I've already decided to pre-order her next book.

Colleen, it's really good.

Jul 18, 7:58pm Top

>102 RidgewayGirl: Oh gosh I need to bump that right up to the top of the pile. What a great testimonial.

Jul 19, 4:04am Top

I haven’t had much LT time recently, so I have a lot to catch up on. You’ve been reading some interesting books, as usual, and I’ve added several to my wishlist. Great reviews, too.

Jul 20, 9:44am Top

>101 RidgewayGirl: I have an Appalachian dystopia I will send to you when I am finished with it.

Jul 20, 11:56am Top

It's good, Lisa.

Thank you, Rachel. I'm having a very satisfactory reading year.

Lois, Yes! Thank you!

Jul 20, 5:11pm Top

So glad you were also swept away by Circe!

Jul 23, 12:42pm Top

Meredith, it was impossible not to be!

And speaking of being swept away, I'm on vacation, on our favorite SC sea island. Last night we got to see a nest of baby turtles hatch. It's a lengthy process, so only my husband and son stayed around until they had all safely gotten into the ocean, but I did see four tiny turtles, which was exciting. There are several more nests almost ready, and we're here for the next two weeks, so we may get to see more.

Jul 24, 12:47pm Top

There's a lot going on in Ahmed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad. There's Hadi, the old junk dealer whose friend is killed in one of the never-ending car bomb explosions. There's the elderly Christian woman, who ignores her daughters' pleas to come join them in Australia because she's still waiting for her son, who went missing in the Iran-Iraq war, to come home. There's a young journalist, working hard to write stories in a hostile environment and dragged along whenever his boss goes to network with important people. There's the head of a government department filled with magicians and fortune tellers, hoping to move on to bigger things. And there's the whatsitsname, cobbled together from the body parts left behind after various explosions, reanimated and looking to find out why he's alive.

Baghdad in the early days of American occupation is a dangerous and complex place and as each person negotiates the dangers, they are all affected by the presence of the unnamed monster in their midst.

I was surprised at how much I was drawn into Saadawi's story. It's complex, and I won't even pretend to understand the tensions between the different factions and groups. But running behind the complex plot involving a number of people, all with different goals and mindsets, is a deep compassion for each and every character in the novel. Saadawi writes with equal heart, whether his focus is on an elderly woman or a young man, and even his murderous monster. I'm glad Frankenstein in Baghdad was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize and I hope it reaches many readers as it deserves to be widely read.

Jul 24, 3:26pm Top

I just caught up with your thread and wanted to drop in a general thank you for all the interesting reviews!

Jul 25, 9:38pm Top

Exciting about the turtles! What a neat experience. Definitely a book bullet for me with Frankenstein in Baghdad.

Jul 25, 9:49pm Top

Thanks, Clémence. I've got some catching up to do, myself.

Meredith, it was so fun! And today we visited the turtle hospital. It's a part of the Charleston aquarium, so there were just a few turtles to be seen, but it was so interesting to find out how they rehabilitate injured turtles and release them back into the ocean.

Jul 25, 9:55pm Top

>115 RidgewayGirl: That's really cool. Would you say that's Turtle Tourism?

Jul 25, 10:05pm Top

Lisa, ha! More like Turtle Propaganda. I don't think people come here to see the turtles, but they are definitely making sure that people are aware of what a great thing it is that they build their nests on the beaches here.

Jul 26, 7:09am Top

>111 RidgewayGirl: How exciting to see the baby turtles making their way to the sea. I’ve seen documentaries showing it, and there are always predators ready to stop some of them. Did you see anything like that?

Jul 26, 11:50am Top

Colleen, no, there were far too many people watching for that. Once they were in the ocean they were on their own, though.

Jul 27, 6:31pm Top

Census tells the story of a man who, after the death of his wife, signs on as a census worker and heads out into a depopulated north with his son, who has Down Syndrome, listening to people's stories and remembering his wife, who had been a famous clown with an unconventional schooling.

My local library has this shelved in science fiction, but that's a categorization that will make no one happy. While the novel is set in a dystopic land that is both sparsely populated and yet has good infrastructure, author Jesse Ball isn't interested in explaining or amplifying the world he's created. What he is interested in doing is telling stories in brief vignettes and short segments. Some of the tales come from the people they meet along the way and others focus on his life and his wife's life.

I was not the right audience for this book, which came across to me as both underwritten and slightly pretentious. The heart of the book isn't evident on its own, but relies on both an introduction and on photos at the end to explain itself.

Jul 28, 3:47pm Top

The Outsider is Stephen King at his most Stephen King-like. Which is to say that if you generally like King's style, you'll be pleased with this book. If his quirks annoy you, this isn't the book for you.

The Outsider tells the story of the aftermath of the murder and mutilation of a young boy. The perpetrator, Terry Maitland, a well-known and well-liked coach, was seen by several people who knew him at the scene and there was plenty of forensic evidence, so the police move quickly to arrest him. And then things go badly wrong, leaving the lead detective, Ralph Anderson, a man not unlike King's other detective, Bill Hodges, deeply uneasy and looking for answers. Joined by Maitland's lawyer and his private investigator, as well as the county prosecutor, along with help from a character in earlier King novels, Holly Gibney, the search for answers in on. But will they believe the answers when they see them?

This is an interesting blend of horror and crime novel, and it works as wonderfully as it did in the final books of King's Bill Hodges trilogy. There were several moments when I was pulled out of the story by something so characteristic of King that I had to pause and recognize that. There's no forgetting the author, which is not necessarily a bad thing, when King is so reliably able to pull off a complex and satisfying conclusion.

Jul 29, 11:36am Top

The Jane Austen Project is a mash-up of different genres that shouldn't work together at all, but debut novelist Kathleen A. Flynn manages to make it all work. Rachel is a doctor working in the crisis zones of a world where things have gone badly wrong. There's been a "die-off" of species and each new environmental disaster brings new hardships. She's an avid reader of Jane Austen's novels, so when she hears about a project to time travel back and obtain a novel that Austen never published, she applies and is accepted to be part of the team traveling to Regency England. Rachel is an entirely modern woman, who has created an independent life for herself. It's an adjustment learning how a woman in the nineteenth conducts herself and it isn't helped by pairing her with a stand-offish British actor. They pose as a brother and sister newly arrived in London after selling their plantation in Jamaica, and intend to become friends with Jane Austen's favorite brother, as a way of being introduced to Jane and from there to steal her manuscript.

Somehow this mix of modern chick-lit, dystopian time travel speculative fiction, historical novel about the life of Jane Austen and gentle romance all work wonderfully together. Flynn has done her research, on what life was like in early nineteenth century England, on Jane Austen's life and in thoroughly thinking through the time travel aspect of the tale. This isn't a story that hand-waves away the logistics and consequences of time travel, but wrestles with all of that in a very satisfying way. Rachel is an engaging narrator, being entirely modern and out-spoken in her thoughts, but careful to behave appropriately. My only minor quibble is the reverence with which Jane Austen is treated. I'm not sure any human being could be as relentlessly perfect as this version of Austen.

Jul 30, 9:52am Top

>121 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for this review. I am having a hard time getting into this one so I needed some encouragement.

I normally enjoy Stephen King by the way..!

Jul 30, 10:30am Top

Barbara, once Holly Gibney shows up, the whole book switches into high gear.

Jul 30, 10:30am Top

Detective Inspector Huss is a police procedural. It begins with a crime and then the police show up and the slow, painstaking process of gathering information, canvassing neighborhoods, collecting evidence and, above all, sitting in long meetings begins. Helene Tursten walks the reader through each step, so that the book is slow paced and repetitive at the beginning, with long digressions as false leads are researched and names are ticked off the list of possible suspects. The story gains momentum as the investigation proceeds, ending with a burst of excitement, but the heart of the case remains with the paperwork and footwork required to reach that ending.

This was a refreshing change from the usual tropes of detective fiction. Irene Huss is happily married, with two children. She's just as involved in her family life as she is in the case she's working, which hinges not on a brilliant, rogue investigator, but on teamwork. Set in the Swedish city of Goteborg during the chilly winter months, this is a solid start to a series I'll continue to read.

Jul 30, 12:20pm Top

>124 RidgewayGirl: Yay, that’s good to know. I haven’t met her yet!

Jul 30, 1:19pm Top

>125 RidgewayGirl: Well, You’ve managed to add another series to my wishlist. :)

Jul 30, 4:38pm Top

>125 RidgewayGirl: There is a DVD series based on these books. Your library might have it!

Jul 30, 4:42pm Top

Colleen, I'd be interesting to find out what you think of it. I'm glad to have another in the series already on my tbr.

Hi, Mary! I'm going to have to see whether Netflix or Hulu carry it. They tend to have a lot of international crime series - Hulu is oddly good for Canadian series.

Jul 30, 5:20pm Top

I read one or two Irene Huss books quite some time ago but didn't stay with it. Not sure why.

Jul 30, 5:21pm Top

Just enjoyed catching up on your thread. Lots of great reviews! You've definitely got me interested in Frankenstein in Baghdad, and I'm glad to see yet another positive review of Circe. I'm curious about The Jane Austen Project too, since I love a good time travel stories, but I'm not sure if I'd need to be more of a Jane Austen fan to get anything out of it.

Jul 30, 9:32pm Top

Hi Kay, Irene Huss DVDs (2 seasons, 6 episodes per season) are available on an awesome subscribing streaming service
https://watch.mhzchoice.com. This U.S. service converts the European (mostly mysteries) for the North American market for streaming and for purchase. It has Montalbano too and many other wonderful ones. I pressured them enough and low and behold it was made available in Canada which thrilled me no end. (okay....maybe it wasn't just my pressure!)

Jul 31, 10:00pm Top

Grace: A Novel is the debut novel by Natashia Deón. It tells the stories of two black women, Naomi, in 1840s Georgia and her daughter, Josey, in the 1860s in Alabama. Naomi flees the murder of a slaveowner, finding a refuge of sorts in a rural brothel. There, she has a contentious relationship with the brothel owner, but her impulsivity and naivety lead her into danger. Later, her daughter, blonde and troubled, experiences the dangers of being legally free, but living in the South.

This was an interesting novel that didn't lack for drama, but had a lot more melodrama than I would have liked. While Naomi was flawed, but willing to act, her daughter spent her life needing to be cared for and her decisions made for her, first by her guardian and then by her husband, making her a not very interesting character to spend half of a novel reading about. I also have some questions about some of the behaviors of a few of the characters and of whether that would have been at all likely in the antebellum south, but the two stories didn't lack for momentum.

Aug 4, 6:26am Top

>125 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for reminding me about Tursten, whom I've been meaning to try for ages. I had enough train journeys over the last couple of days to read the first two in the series, and enjoyed both for similar reasons to you. Good to see that the Sjöwall/Wahlöö tradition survives being updated like that.

Edited: Aug 4, 3:01pm Top

>134 thorold: Yes, I was just thinking that the Tursten series reminded me of Roseanna in tone. And that I'd like to continue in that series, too.

Aug 11, 6:20am Top

Thanks for the great reviews, especially for putting The Outsider on my radar.

Aug 13, 9:36am Top

There's not much plot to Kudos, the final novel in Rachel Cusk's trilogy that begins with Outline. A middle-aged woman author attends a few writers's conferences in Europe and has conversations with people. But the plot is beside the point, here the protagonist is almost absent, instead, she's a witness, someone who listens as others reveal themselves to her. And each person's monologue addresses in some way how children are affected by the relationship between parents. The format allows Cusk to come at this from different angles, from people discussing different things.

This isn't a novel that makes writing about it easy, even as it looks at writers and publishing. I found the entire trilogy to be brilliant and to be doing something different within the confines of what we call fiction. While each book can be read separate from the others, what Cusk is doing here is best experienced by reading the entire trilogy. And having read Kudos, I'm ready to turn around and begin the process from the first book, to see what more is there.

Aug 14, 10:28am Top

After oil is discovered under the Osage reservation in Oklahoma, the Osage became wealthy leasing the drilling rights. But along with the wealth came people eager to exploit the Osage and government policies that prevented many Osage from controlling their own money. And then people began to be murdered. The local authorities were paid off. The Osage were living in fear. Into this came the newly expanded FBI, now under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover.

There's a lot going on in Killers of the Flower Moon and author David Grann writes the events like a thriller. There's no question as to why this has been such a popular book. Grann does a good job of untangling a complex set of issues as well as a complex criminal case. He also centers the story with the Osage people themselves, spending time showing who some of the affected Osage were as people, as well as drawing a shocking picture of how the American government and racism worked together to keep the Osage from controlling their own lives and allowing for them to be exploited. I would have liked more on that than on the adventures of the FBI agents who came in to save the day, but I suspect that many would have liked more adventure and less about the details of Osage life in the 1920s. Grann did a good job striking that balance, and in writing a fast-paced and exciting account about a facet of American history that few people today know about.

Aug 15, 1:01pm Top

The Last Child by John Hart is a thriller. There's lots of danger and it all builds to a dramatic conclusion. The last child is Johnny Merriman, a twelve year old boy whose twin sister disappeared a year earlier and whose family disintegrated as a result, with his father leaving and his mother retreating into alcohol and pills. He's lost his house and he's an outcast at school, his only friend being a police officer's son whose mangled arm makes him a pariah both at school and at home, where his older brother has just received a football scholarship. He spends his time avoiding his mother's abusive boyfriend and hunting for his sister's kidnapper. His sister's disappearance has also weighed down the lead detective on the investigation, whose wife divorced him and a son he's in the process of losing as he ignores him in favor of chasing down one more tenuous lead or checking up on the girl's family. And then another girl disappears.

This is a fast-paced thriller designed to entertain, and Hart does a good job keeping things moving. He also paints a vivid picture of a very specific part of North Carolina, both the landscape and history. This is also a book full of giant plot holes and convenient stereo-types, but not so much as to make the book hard to read. I was not enamored with a few aspects of the novel's treatment of women, who were either impediments and mockable, or delicate flowers incapable of strength or fortitude. But not a terrible book overall.

Aug 20, 12:49pm Top

Helen lives quietly in Prague. She rents a room from an unpleasant old woman and earns her keep translating appliance owner's manuals and medical brochures into English. She dresses plainly and stays out of the way. But despite that, she's dragged into life when she shares a table in a crowded cafeteria with a Czech man who is researching the story of Melmoth, the mythical woman condemned to walk the world on bloody feet, witnessing the cruelty of man towards his fellow man.

What follows is both Helen's story, but also earlier stories, from a woman burned at the stake in sixteenth century England, to a boy living in the Czech countryside, the novel moves back and forth though time. Sarah Perry has done a beautiful job with the pacing and plotting, everything is revealed at the right time, and the novel comes together beautifully at the end. Melmoth reminded me of Geraldine Brooks's People of the Book. Sarah Perry is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors. I'm eager to read whatever she writes next.

Aug 20, 4:25pm Top

>140 RidgewayGirl: I’ve just added this to my wishlist, Kay. Thank you. I loved The Essex Serpent, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy this one too.

Aug 22, 12:03pm Top

Colleen, it's very different from The Essex Serpent. I think you'll like it a lot, and there are similarities (in writing and theme), but don't expect anything like her last novel.

Aug 22, 9:44pm Top

In Sigrid Nunez's novel, The Friend, an unnamed creative writing teacher mourns the loss of her dear friend, an author and professor. She takes in the author's Great Dane, Apollo, despite living in a small Manhattan apartment where dogs are not allowed. As she and the dog mourn the loss of the author, she shares memories of him, as well as her observations and shares quotes about dogs, teaching, writing and life in New York City.

Told in a series of brief paragraphs and vignettes, The Friend never really got underway for me. Its a slender novel, and the brief segments each seemed unconnected with the ones on either side. There's a section where the novel reflects on its own construction that was interesting, but ultimately not enough to redeem the rest of it.

Aug 24, 5:18pm Top

The Hush is a sequel of sorts to John Hart's debut novel, The Last Child. Set in North Carolina, among swamps and rugged hills, The Hush picks up a decade after the events of the previous novel. Johnny inherited 6,000 acres of land when he turned seventeen, and he's been living there ever since, in a shack he built himself. He's become a recluse in his wilderness, sleeping in trees and shooting at hunters who trespass on his land. He's spent time in prison, for shooting up the hunting camp of a powerful billionaire. Meanwhile, his best friend, Jack, has graduated from law school and has just started work in the most prestigious law firm in town.

But all is not well for Johnny. A law suit he can't afford to fight is threatening his home. And Jack sees Johnny changing in ways that make him unhappy. And when a dead body is discovered on Johnny's land, things become worse.

This is a horror novel of sorts, or at least it seems to be edging toward that genre. There's a supernatural force controlling the property, one which allows some to live, but kills others in horrific ways. Writing horror successfully is a difficult balancing act. Too little and the reader isn't scared, too much and it can suddenly veer from frightening to just silly. Hart does not manage to stick the landing. But whether or not the evil force is compelling or not is less important than Hart's handling of both women and African American history.

The women in this novel come in two varieties. Mothers are helpless, often addicted, and cannot parent their children. And the other woman of note is a lawyer, beautiful, manipulative and bad. We know this woman is bad because she is described as being a user and a taker soon after she makes an appearance. There's also a part of the plot involving an evil African princess and her African powers that made me deeply uncomfortable. It felt like an element out of a pulp novel from a different age and not in a good way. I'm not sure how this element could have worked in even the hands of a sensitive author. Hart was not at all sensitive. There is a ton of stuff going on, with plot lines and themes followed for a few pages or chapters and then discarded.

On the other hand, Hart has a talent for writing stories that compel the reader to keep turning pages. In the end, this was not enough to redeem this novel for me.

Aug 28, 11:07am Top

Phew, I finally caught up. I have been following you for years, but for the last couple, I have not been on LT much. I'm slowly catching up with folks and wanted to be current with your reading before meeting you this weekend at the Decatur Book Festival. I'm glad you found Circe to be interesting. I loved Song of Achilles and am looking forward to listening to her speak on Saturday.

>79 RidgewayGirl: Although I have not read When They Call You a Terrorist, and thus do not know the context of the author's brother's treatment, I find mental health care in this country as a whole to be shockingly unavailable and horrible. One article I read says prisons are "mental health wearhouses." Huge numbers of prisoners have a diagnosed mental illness, but only a third get treatment. One friend, whose son is currently incarcerated (for self-medicating his mental illness with drugs), was told by the prison social worker that if an inmate does not have a drug problem when they arrive, they will by the time they leave. Another acquaintance, whose daughter is on the bipolar spectrum, is glad that her daughter is in jail, because at least they are currently making her take her medications, and local hospitals would not keep her as an inpatient due to overcrowding. Another mother frantically drives from town to town looking for her son who lives on the streets rather than be treated (he is diagnosed with paranoia). When asylums were closed in this country (for some good reasons), nothing filled the void. Did you know that there is one children's psychiatrist for every 1,807 children with mental illnesses in this country. How can that be? How can our society allow it?

Sorry to rant, but I find the whole situation appalling.

Aug 28, 11:21am Top

Ok, rant over.

I remembered I wanted to comment on Circe (post 102) and mythology. Did you read any of the Canongate Myth Series? I read Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić and always meant to get back to the series. Each book is written by a well-known author, and I thought of The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood when I read your review of Circe.

Aug 28, 12:10pm Top

Lisa, I agree whole-heartedly with your righteous anger about the state of mental health care in the US.

And I haven't encountered the Cannongate Myth Series, although I do have The Penelopiad on my tbr. I'm bringing my copies of The Song of Achilles and Circe to Decatur with me.

Aug 28, 7:10pm Top

>147 RidgewayGirl: Will there be author signings?

Aug 28, 8:34pm Top

According to what the festival website says, authors will sign books after their sessions. I'm hoping lines are short, though!

Aug 28, 9:55pm Top

>140 RidgewayGirl: Excellent review. The Essex Serpent didn't appeal to me at all (and I haven’t read it) but this one sounds super intriguing.

Aug 29, 8:56am Top

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor is not a crime novel. Yes, a girl disappears in the opening pages and a massive search of the countryside around a Yorkshire village is conducted, but that's simply the entry point to the life of this village as it slowly returns to a kind of normal, as the years pass. Each passing year is contained in a chapter, each month in a paragraph. The various people living in and around the village live their lives; babies are born, businesses go bankrupt, the sheep are sheared, the fox kits grow up and leave their dens.

The entire novel rests on the quality of McGregor's writing and on his ability to describe complex situations in a minimum of words and of writing vivid, breathing characters in just a few sentences here and there. It took me a few chapters to fall into the rhythm of the novel, but once I did, I enjoyed every minute spent with it. Reservoir 13 really is an extraordinary book.

Aug 29, 1:45pm Top

Now caught up with you completely. What a lot of diverse reading here to mull over.

Sep 3, 12:37pm Top

Reservoir 13 sounds really interesting and well done.

Sep 3, 3:40pm Top

SL, my reading this year has been very good so far.

Meredith, few authors write as well as Jon McGregor, and this is arguably his best novel so far.

I spent this weekend in Atlanta, at the Decatur Book Festival. It was a wonderful weekend, from the authors speaking on diverse and fascinating topics to some superlatively delicious meals. Darryl (Kidzdoc) has a knack for choosing excellent restaurants and the conversation flowed. We ended up dining together with one other person, Pattie, three nights running and the meals were all memorably good, but mostly memorable for the quality (and quantity) of the conversation. I also got to meet Lisa (Labfs39) who, it turns out, is interesting to talk to and likes books.

The book festival had an abundance of interesting sessions on a wide variety of topics, so that each session had to be chosen over other equally interesting sessions and there wasn't a dud in the bunch. There were eleven different venues across downtown Decatur, so there really was an abundance of choices.

Sep 6, 10:29am Top

The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao is a delightful novel by Brazilian author Martha Batalha that tells the story of Euridice, a fiercely intelligent and motivated girl growing up in the middle of the last century in Rio. She's an obedient girl and once she has been convinced that her only goal is to be a good housewife and mother, she falls into line, marrying well, having children, supervising her housekeeper. But there's something inside of Euridice that can't remain entirely passive.

Euridice is such a wonderful character and Batalha's writing (and Eric B. Becker's translation) made the reading of this novel so much fun. I'm looking forward to more from this talented new author.

Sep 7, 6:47am Top

Glad you had a great time at the book festival and got to hang out with other LTers. >155 RidgewayGirl: Sounds interesting...seems I just read a review of a book that had a similar theme, although I can't now remember where I read it.

Edited: Sep 11, 10:52am Top

Hey, stay safe! I know you aren’t on the coast but ...Will be thinking of you as the storm makes landfall in SC.

Sep 11, 2:00pm Top

Thanks, Lois. We are far enough inland and probably not in the direct path of Florence. Still worried about people and our favorite places in the low country.

Sep 11, 2:20pm Top

>154 RidgewayGirl: Someone posted about that meet up on Facebook. Great group in one place. Glad you all enjoyed. (Glad Lisa likes books. : ) )

Sep 11, 2:22pm Top

>155 RidgewayGirl: interesting. Could you tie the plot into the mythology? (I mean, does being a good housewife equate to dying?)

Sep 11, 6:08pm Top

>160 dchaikin: Oh, that's really interesting. I'm trying to think if the name was a deliberate call to mythology. Maybe? If Orpheus is here represented by Euridice's own agency, which constantly retrieves her from the sleep of compliance?

Sep 11, 7:11pm Top

Ok, that’s kind of funny. I might want to check this one out.

Sep 15, 1:14pm Top

In Karin Slaughter's new thriller, Pieces of Her, a single, pivotal event has Andy calling into question everything she knew about her own mother. Caught in a mall restaurant when a man appears and begins shooting, her mother's behavior is extraordinary. As the inevitable video hits the news and the FBI begins its investigation, Andy is forced to go on the run.

Pieces of Her is a frantically-paced race through increasingly implausible situations. Momentum and plot twists combine to create a reading experience in which the reader is never given the time to sit back and think about what is happening and it's pointless to speculate on what will happen given that the plot resembles a double-tracked roller coaster more than it does the more traditional rising action-falling action-denouement kind of pattern.

And somehow this all adds up to a lot of fun. It helps that Slaughter knows how to write and that she's clearly not phoning it in. Moving back and forth in time, between Georgia, Norway and San Francisco, and between the story of a confused woman trying to figure out things on the fly and a woman who became deeply involved with something she couldn't control, this all adds up to a fun few days of escapist reading.

Sep 16, 4:32pm Top

-- That line in the song, Old times there are not forgotten. I could argue that maybe they're not worth remembering.

-- I've never forgotten that girl, and I wouldn't want to. Remembering doesn't change anything--it will always have happened. But forgetting won't erase it either.

Varina was the second wife of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. She was raised in Mississippi according to her status, owned slaves and served as the first lady in Richmond. But she was also a woman who walked out of her husband's inaugural address halfway through, who, in the middle of the Civil War, took in a black child and raised him with her own children, who finished the work of her husband's memoirs after his death and then moved directly to New York City.

Charles Frazier tells the story of Varina's life as a series of reminiscences recounted by Varina to a young man who believes he might be Jimmy Limber, the boy Varina took in during the war. He is searching for his past and they meet each Sunday and she remembers her life before, during and after the war, the memories moving back and forth through time, as her train of thought brings other events to mind.

Many years later, now that choices matter less, V has finally learned that sitting calm within herself and waiting is often the best choice. And even when it's not, those around you become uncomfortable because they think you are wise.

Frazier writes beautifully, there's not a jarring sentence or an awkward word choice anywhere in this book. He also does the difficult job of threading the needle of being both faithful to the attitudes and behaviors of that time without alienating the modern reader. Varina is a sympathetic character, but Frazier never allows us to look away at the harm done by the system she lived in and tried to preserve.

Sep 16, 5:04pm Top

Never thought about the wife or family of Jefferson Davis. Interesting topic.

Sep 16, 5:12pm Top

Daniel, I got to hear Frazier talk about this novel at the Decatur Book Festival and he had a lot of interesting things to say about her. He was determined to never write another book about the Civil War after Cold Mountain, but her life was so intriguing to him. In her letters to Davis during their marriage, she begins one giving him advice on how to stay healthy, but ends it with the command that he not come near her. And he believes that drugs like patent medicines, laudanum and morphine were used to silence women, to keep them properly submissive.

Sep 16, 5:13pm Top

I leaned against the counter, watching the clouds. I have been lonely in my life but never when drinking strong coffee, wearing my fleecy slippers, and standing in my own kitchen.

Lorena Hickok was born into a dirt-poor South Dakotan family but managed to make a life for herself as a journalist. When she met Eleanor Roosevelt during the Great Depression, the two began a relationship that would last the rest of their lives in some form or another.

White Houses is Amy Bloom's novel about this relationship and about Lorena Hickok's life, which included working as a housemaid as a child and a stint employed by a traveling circus. There's a lot of detail about what life was like in the White House, during the Depression and Second World War, but mainly though, it's an account of two middle-aged women and their love for each other.

Sep 16, 9:44pm Top

>167 RidgewayGirl: I really enjoyed White Houses, Kay. Lois had recommended it.

By the way, did you know that the new Cormoran Strike book is available this week?

Sep 17, 7:41am Top

Colleen, Lois is the one who brought White Houses to my attention, too. I really liked the portrayal of middle-age love - it's not common in fiction.

And NO I DID NOT, but now I will have to decide whether to buy it today or add my name to the library waiting list, if they've even put it on order yet.

Sep 17, 3:41pm Top

My library which is terrible, has it in or on order, but I’m third on the list, so not bad.

Sep 18, 11:32am Top

Colleen, I'm 23rd on the holds list, but it does give me something to look forward to.

Edited: Sep 18, 11:57am Top

The Unforgotten is not a good book. It's not terrible, or offensive, and Laura Powell's writing, outside of some very odd choices of nouns, is fine. But the plot, which in able hands could have been a real page-turner, and in the hands of someone like Megan Abbott or Gillian Flynn could have been, well, unforgettable, here sinks under the weight of false suspense and overwrought and underdeveloped characters.

Betty is fifteen in 1956, where she helps her mother run a small guesthouse in a beach community. Her mother is a mentally unstable alcoholic, whose cycles of mania and depression are growing ever shorter. A group of reporters has taken over the guesthouse because there is a murderer in the area, the "Cornwall Cleaver," who targets young women. Betty longs for escape and so becomes infatuated with the odd and off-putting Mr. Gallagher, who is, it becomes quickly evident, is very bad at his job, and his only articles come from things Betty tells him.

There's a parallel story taking place in the present, with a mentally unstable older woman who becomes overwrought upon seeing a newspaper article about the man imprisoned for the murders decades ago. She flails and weeps herself around to finding Mr. Gallagher again, burdened by a terrible secret.

As the two stories converge, the answers were always the most predictable, and much of the suspense derived from characters not revealing identities or important information, even in their private thoughts. There are a series of salacious murders, but only two of the women are deemed important enough to name and the final reveal - the murderer's motivation - applied only to the final murder, leaving the reader to wonder who killed all those girls. There was a great deal of drama, weeping, running away in the night and general emotional turmoil for one book to hold and it soon became annoying. I do think that this book does provide a series of examples of what not to do, so it is not entirely a waste of time to read.

Sep 19, 7:57am Top

Some Trick: Thirteen Stories by Helen DeWitt is a collection of short stories all focusing on people who are very intelligent in one way or another. They struggle with money, compulsions or simply with everyday life. The academics value quick, erudite conversations, peppered with untranslated French, German and Latin. Each story, taken alone, comes across as clever and unusual, taken as a whole, the stories become variations on the same thing.

The first story, Brutto, is about a young struggling artist who comes to the attention of a prominent art dealer and then sees her vision over-whelmed by his, and she's faced with the decision of whether to stick to her ideas, and perhaps have to give up art entirely to support herself, or allow her art to be changed into something unrecognizable. And in Famous Last Words, a young woman makes the following observation:

There is a text which I could insert at this point which begins, 'I'm not in the mood,' but the reader who has had occasion to consult it will know that, though open to many variations, there is one form which is, as Voltaire would say, potius optandum quam probandum, and that is the one which runs 'I'm not in the mood,' 'Oh, OK.' My own experience has shown this to be a text particularly susceptible to discursive and recursive operations, one which circles back on itself through several iterations and recapitulations, one which ends pretty invariably in 'Oh, OK,' but only about half the time as the contribution of my co-scripteur. I think for a moment about giving the thing a whirl, but finally settle on the curtailed version which leaves out, 'I'm not in the mood' and goes directly to 'Oh, OK.' X and I go upstairs.

Sep 19, 10:13am Top

Interesting quote.

Too bad about Unforgotten. Thinking about your analysis in that first paragraph.

Edited: Sep 20, 10:39am Top

Ottessa Moshfegh's characters are unpleasant people. They're morally flexible, utterly self-involved, make terrible decisions and often live in environments that reflect their personalities. Allowing a Moshfegh character into your life will invariably end in disappointment and legal difficulties.

In My Year of Rest and Relaxation, the protagonist is a well-off, pretty young blonde woman with a nice apartment in Manhattan. She finds an utterly incompetent psychiatrist willing to write her an ever increasing number of prescriptions for various sedatives, anti-depressants and sleeping aids and sets out to enjoy a year of unconsciousness. It doesn't quite go the way she'd envisioned. Her only friend keeps showing up and she keeps needing new pharmaceuticals to stay asleep.

The character in this novel begin as shallow, unpleasant person and while she remains true to herself, Moshfegh forces her to develop and grow despite her intense desire to avoid everything. This is one of the best novels I've read this year.

Sep 25, 5:02pm Top

>175 RidgewayGirl: Great review. I read this book a few months ago but I keep thinking about it and appreciating it more every time. It’s definitely one of my favorites this year too.

Sep 29, 10:50am Top

Barbara, it is a book that sticks. I keep thinking about it, too.

I've posted a picture of a new painting at the top of my thread, in honor of my recent trip to Charleston.

Sep 29, 3:50pm Top

Megan Abbott writes a lot about the dark heart of female friendship. Not the trite idea of two women fighting over a man, like another issue of Archie Comics, but that intense friendship that arises, often between teenagers, where the real love and respect live side by side with competition and betrayal. In Give Me Your Hand, Abbott returns to the subject, but this time moves back and forth through time, recounting both the friendship between two teenage girls focused on the same goal, and their relationship a decade later.

Kit is raised by a financially struggling single mother in an industrial town in California. Senior year, Diane transfers to her high school and they are drawn to each other. Both are highly motivated, competitive and intelligent girls and under Diane's influence, Kit's world opens up to the possibility of going to university. They both are interested in chemistry, with their eyes on a scholarship that would allow Kit to afford to go to the state university. But Diane comes with a secret and it's when she finally confides in Kit that their friendship changes overnight.

Years later, Kit is a graduate student working in the chemistry lab of a noted female scientist. She's working hard, scraping to make ends meet and hoping to be chosen to take part in the glamorous new study that just received funding, when Diane walks back into her life, setting in motion a tragic series of events.

Give Me Your Hand is dark and noir and wonderful. Abbott drags the reader through every uncomfortable moment and emotion as she digs into the competitive world of academia and of female friendship.

Oct 2, 9:04pm Top

You can find my brave new thread here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/296996

This topic was continued by RidgewayGirl Reads in 2018, Part Three.

Group: Club Read 2018

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