Archives for posts with tag: Fiction

I moved into this book for the duration of my honeymoon:

May_Forgive

AM Homes has a dark and somewhat frantic sensibility, one that may not seem conducive for a relaxing beach-read, but I beg to differ. This novel is at once a page turner and a character study, as one might argue her other novels have been (please see This Book Will Save Your Life and for reference).

I like this style. As a reader I’m kept just enough off balance to be forced to pay attention. I can settle in with the characters but I know the calm won’t last. Reading a Homes book is like walking a tight rope, walking it and never quite falling off. I have just enough balance to keep my grounding. I understand the character’s problem, I am familiar with the world in which they live, but occasionally that rope swings. I’m snapped awake. There is a fight or an unstable child or a tiger on the loose. It’s goddamn brilliant.

Whew, that got a little more theoretical than I intended. Sorry about that.

Let’s make this simple: it’s a good book and you should read it.

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I ate this book in a week.

AM Homes-Music

What is it about? It’s not about music. (There may not be a single reference to music in the whole novel, not one I can recall at least.) It’s not as much about torching as you might think after the first thirty pages. It’s about suburbia and infidelity and love and fear and marriage and remodeling and asthma and, and, and….

The book covers one week. And it really covers that week. Our dear characters wake up, they eat breakfast, they go to work, many things happen through the day, then they come home and eat dinner. I didn’t realize exactly how linear it was while I was reading it. Maybe that’s a good sign. I wanted to know what happened next. Those little details were beautiful not routine.

If you’ve never read A.M. Homes before you’re missing out. I read This Book Will Save Your Life a few years ago and I’m not sure why I waited so long to read another. I know she’s written a new one. Fine, I’ll jump down the author hole.

One extra joy of being married to a fiction writer is you inherit their bookshelf. That’s how I came upon this gem:

that night

The novel, as the title suggests, is grounded in one summer night . One fight between teenage boys and middle-aged fathers. It’s the story of a neighborhood, of young love and youth, of childhood, of summer. It’s really beautiful, as simple as that. From the sentences to the larger structure, I swooned.

As I sit back and think about this, I’m struggling with how to describe this book without the use of hand gestures. I want to tell you how the narrative wraps around this center, swooping from days before the event to years later but always remaining grounded. You don’t often see a novel’s structure so artfully crafted. Such large swings made with such a deft hand. It’s really a joy to encounter.

Let’s try this – bear with me now. The narrative reminds me of the Army’s tents in Kuwait:

tent2

See how the tie-down straps leave circles and arches on the canvas? When a sandstorm rolls in the ties flail in the wind and beat themselves against the canvas. That isn’t just a line in the dust. Those arcs are forever etched into canvas. The ties have left their mark. That’s exactly how I felt the narrative worked. Give it a read and you’ll see what I mean.

Olive Kitteridge is one of those books that has been on my radar since it was published in 2008 (and subsequently won the Pulitzer in 2009) but I never read it. I’m glad I waited.

The book is fucking delightful.

Olive-kitteridge_l

Olive Kitteridge sits as my central character and the small town of Crosby, Maine bustles around her. Olive is essentially unlikeable, yet compelling enough for it to be a joy when she returns to the page. Others might disagree but that’s why I feel grateful that I’ve waited so long to read this book. I like talking about books. Hell I’ll read any pulp novel on the shelf if there is the possibility I’ll get to discuss it with someone I like. On the other hand, sometimes, it’s nice to have a book (and a character) all to myself. That is Olive Kitteridge.

A friend has been telling me to read this for months.

sisters-brothers

I trusted his recommendations until he told me to watch this:

strangbrew

Unless you’re 14, don’t bother.

But I thought I’d give him a chance to redeem himself. After all, The Sisters Brothers did seem up my alley. A little murder. A little history. A chance for redemption. Sure, sign me up.

Dewitt creates a fantastic world for the brothers to wander about in as our dear narrator, Eli Sisters, questions his purpose in life. More importantly he questions his profession as a roving bounty hunter-murderer. The characters are interesting. The setting is beautiful. The chapters are short. It was shortlisted for the Booker. What more can one ask? If you’ve got the time, and the space on your to do list, give it a read.

(When you get to section two, come back and talk to me, I’ve got some things to say about that but I don’t want to give anything away.)

The Talented Mr. Ripley, set in the 1950s, gives us a glimpse into the life of wealthy young Americans traveling abroad in Europe. Long afternoons on the beach or in street side cafes. A pursuit of art and love. The simple privilege of being an American in post- war Europe.

talented-mr-ripley

Don’t be turned off by the age of the book. Highsmith masterfully sets the scene.  I was at once soothed into  sitting alongside the characters’ luxury and anxious to know what happens next. That’s a fine line to dance but Highsmith has found a way.

Now I’ve never seen the movie, so I can’t say whether or not you should read this if you have, but the book was wonderful. I miss it already. I will probably rent the movie this weekend. But wait – a word of advice –  if you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t. Read the book first.

The book should always be read first.

Last weekend, I finally finished a book. And a damn beautiful one at that. After falling in love with Collum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin I knew I had to read more of his work.

Dancer follows Rudolf Nureyev from his childhood in an impoverished rural Russian village to his glitzy adult life on stages across the world. Each section is at once beautiful and heartbreaking. Rudolf charms everyone who passes through his life and we get to see the world from both his POV and that of his family, friends, teachers, and admirers.

My only hang up came with these constant POV shifts. The variety is nice, don’t get me wrong. A little of the female perspective. A little from the mother. A little from the gay admirer. A little from the child. Lovely. Yet many of the perspectives are in the first person. That glaring I pops out then pages and pages pass before a character claims the I. You’ll get used to it but prepare yourself for some unsettled reading time.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for almost a year:

Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, in case you haven’t heard, is mostly narrated by the nine year old son of a man who died on 9/11 in the Twin Towers. Yeah, it’s heavy. A variety of forms – pictures, single lines of text, letters – offset the subject matter a bit. But just a bit. You can’t run from the grief of a child.

Or grief in general.

Safran Foer handles grief in a way that might bother some folks. Described but not discussed. A background more than a subject. Then again, maybe I only notice the grief because I have been thinking about it.

I bought this book to give to my uncle while my aunt went back in the hospital with breast cancer. She slept a great deal. He needed a book. Or, I thought he needed a book. I bought this novel because I saw it around; it seemed like a title he would have heard about. Christmas came and went. My aunt moved to hospice.

How could I give him a book about grief now? I couldn’t, I can’t.

If you’ve been reading my ramblings all summer, you’ll recall my love for Julie Otsuka’s second novel, The Buddha in the Attic. If not, have a look, it’s brilliant.

I finally got around to reading her first and equally lovely little novel When the Emperor was Divine. The novel follows a Japanese American family as they are shipped to an internment camp in the 1940s. The topic of American internment camp still shocks and intrigues me. We did this? This happened in our country? Inside of our country? Oy, America, just when I want to believe you have the potential to be good.

Much like her second book, Otsuka focuses on personal struggle. History holds on to the edges. Coca-cola and nickel movies. Sugar rations and war bonds. But this is about the family. Beautiful sentences about a tragic time. It’s short too. The kind of book you can tuck in your bag and not feel the weight of it, the guilt of needing to finish a lengthy tome. No, you only feel the joy when your hand finds it buried at the bottom. A light little novel the flew by too quickly.

I waited for this novel to come out in paperback because I’m stubborn but I wasn’t disappointed. Not by the book and not by the new cover art.

Some books without much in the way of plot of end up being wonderful reads and some simply suck. The Marriage Plot fell into the first category. While Eugenides’ other books (The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex) delivered complex plotlines with tragedy and joy and death and love, The Marriage Plot ran a more level course. Yet I loved them all.

Though I didn’t particularly care for two of the three main characters, my only significant sticking point throughout the novel was its setting in the 1980s. I don’t feel like this was justified or sufficiently researched. (Did people really say hipster in the 80s?) Eugenides seems to have taken the easy narrative road by avoiding the age of cellphones and the internet. Then again, maybe that’s the hidden reason I loved this book. Times were a bit simpler but love was not.

Yeah, I’d read about any book with that tag line.

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