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This installment: three novels-- a complex story exploring cyber-bullying, adoption trials, and a lost daughter; Asian-American college students politicized and confused two decades later; and the schadenfreude of a bad family holiday.

   So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore

Kathleen, a young widow, is an archivist whose daughter Bridget fled with no trace. Natalie is a lost 13 year old who seeks Kathleen's help tracing Bridget, whom she discovers from an old diary found in her attic. What starts as a school project morphs into a life crisis as Natalie becomes a victim of cyber-bullying. Natalie is tough, determined, but secretive. Her single mother is severely depressed. Meanwhile Kathleen's assistant Neil is trying to adopt an orphan from Haiti with his partner, Adam, and it's not going smoothly. Bridget's early 20th century story unfolds in pieces. All these strands come together satisfyingly. Set in and around Boston.

   The Collective by Don Lee

Three Asian Americans connect at Malacaster College. Eric tells the story, starting with Joshua's apparent suicide in Cambridge 20 years later. Joshua is challenging from the start: brilliant, infuriating, charismatic, talented, but oddly disconnected. The two men become writer and Jessica an artist. When the three become tangled roommates in Joshua's Cambridge house, a loose collective forms, unclear on its purpose but full of plans and endless discussions. Lee shares the layering and conflicts facing Asian Americans with lively rhetoric and lots of slang, such as "yellow cab" for an Asian chick who'll only date white guys. Lots of skewed relationships and heartbreak, career fumblings, and lost dreams. I appreciated this view into a complex subculture, as well as the colorful writing.

   The Red House by Mark Haddon

Oh the fecund stewpot of a dreadful family vacation. In this case the aged mother has just died and Angela, the daughter who provided much of her care, is a mess, as is her the rest of her family (3 kids. husband out of a job and embroiled in an affair). Brother Richard, the one with money, rents a rural farmhouse for a week and his family has its own tensions. The teenagers are especially volatile, deprived of the internet and simmering with hormones. We're privy what goes in the minds of all these tortured souls and get to see how it plays out. Truths emerge, and some detente, but there's no neat ending (which I appreciated). One fascinating aspect: Angela is haunted by her still-born, deformed first child and that preoccupation is finally laid to rest.

Back 4th week in January—Hasta Luego!


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Posted by: Neshama

Neshama works at the Fairfax Library.

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