This installment: a novel that ranges from cold to hot climes, Strayed’s advice on love and life, and a charming older book revisited on CD.
Inside by Alix Ohlin
Everyone's disconnected and burdened in this novel which moves from Canada to the Arctic to New York, L.A., and a brief chapter in Rwanda. We meet them in separate chapters at different times in their lives and eventually the connections are revealed. Grace, a therapist, literally stumbles into John, a potential suicide, on a ski slope. Her young patient Anne, a cutter, gets pregnant and disappears, to the fury of her conservative parents. Anne becomes a successful actress but takes in a homeless girl, Hilary, who turns out to be pregnant and then it's gone too far to send her away. Mitch, Grace's ex, flees from a complicated relationship back to Iqualiut (he's a doctor) but a local tragedy cuts short his stay there. Anne goes to Hollywood but discovers it's a horrid, superficial scene full of artifice and manipulation. Sounds like a downer all around but I found the stories and milieu intriguing and appreciated how each character made their peace with hard truths and most developed functional, fulfilling lives.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed, author of the wildly successful Wild, is also an online columnist, writing as Dear Sugar and providing "advice on love and life," as the subtitle proclaims. Of course I was curious how her generous, grounded, poetic spirit would translate in this particular incarnation. (I read Dear Abby and Dan Savage regularly.) Her specialty: sharing difficult aspects of her own life to illuminate how she arrives at her answers to life's persistent questions (thank you, Guy Noir--I couldn't resist). She talks a lot about boundaries and being true to yourself. It makes sense, it's often funny and stirring, and I enjoyed dipping in and out of the book. What made me a little crazy was the way she periodically addresses her correspondents as "sweet pea." A little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down, I know, but sometimes it felt cloying. But counterbalanced by her freshness, intelligence, courage and charm.
Bee Season by Myra Goldberg
Ah the joys of revisiting an old favorite via books on CD. The intense, tortured, meshuggenah Naumann family rode shotgun with me for a few weeks and l loved, yearned, and suffered along with them. Eliza is the 5th grade spelling champion, big surprise for an underachiever. Her 16 year old brother Aaron is searching for God and after lots of detours, and finds a home among the (god forbid) Hare Krishnas. Their father, Saul, a cantor, has Big Plans for Eliza, based on medieval mystical teachings. Their mother Miriam is a very odd duck--insomniac, a compulsive cleaner and, as we soon learn, a compulsive thief. Everyone pursues their obsessions at a fever pitch, until it blows apart spectacularly. Goldberg herself is the reader and does a fine job, despite her very young-sounding voice.
Back next Monday