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This installment: a family’s dissolution, a multi-layered psychological mystery; and rural girls go bad.

   Gone by Cathi Hanauer

Eve is a nutritionist, offering a sensible hands-on program for those whose attempts at traditional dieting have failed. Her husband Eric is a sculptor, now facing a long creative block. Their 14 year old daughter is in the throes of resistant adolescence and the younger boy, now ok, had mysterious early childhood illnesses. Then Eric disappears overnight, with the babysitter. The resounding silence that follows convinces Eve she's been abandoned. However Eric's fled to his mother's house in Arizona and he's in touch with their daughter via texting. Eva's too hurt and stubborn to answer his phone calls. We follow the groping path of each spouse as they try to reconstitute their lives apart, which means facing some home truths. And indeed the separation was just what they needed. (The babysitter was a red herring.) I especially liked learning about Eve's clients and the challenges of trying to help people change deeply embedded habits and needs. Moving.

   Broken Harbor by Tania French

What an amazing multi-layered psychological mystery."Scorch" is a tough, smart detective with his own sorrows--a broken marriage, a crazy mother's suicide, a younger sister also mentally ill. He remembers the eponymous place as a brief happy time in his childhood but now it's renamed Briantown, a new housing development substandard from the start, and the site of horrendous, mysterious multiple slaying. Scorch is working with a young partner, Richie, and has high hopes for bringing him along. The murder could be pinned on the family’s father, now dead, but Scorch pokes further and comes up with contradictory evidence. We learn a lot about the nature of detection, techniques for interrogation, and the psychological, societal pressures that warp behavior. So much creepy business, including holes in the wall of the family's deteriorating dream house and odd traces of a prowler. Full of British-isms like "old son." A few pages in the book left me scratching my head, but didn't interfere with the breathless sweep and plunge of the material and a sense of moral struggle and coming to terms with hard truths.

   Shelter by Frances Greenslade

At first this looked like many other books I've read recently: young girls growing up rural and things go bad. But soon I sensed a deeper dimension and by the end felt I had discovered a fresh gem. British Columbia setting. Lots of love and sweetness despite the domestic tensions. Maggie and Jenny's father takes them hiking and teaches them how to build shelters with whatever's handy. But a logging accident kills him, their vibrant, erratic mother can't cope, and she soon abandons them. Bea and Ted, the couple who take the girls in, are respectable on the surface but it's an almost Dickensian nightmare behind closed doors. Bea is fiercely controlling, yet volatile. Her crippled husband Ted is a heavy drinker. There are a few spots of light--Vern, a classmate, part Native, and his uncle Louis. Sure enough Jenny gets pregnant, but it turns out the baby is a healing force. Beautifully written, very immediate, with a thoughtfulness that lingers.


Back next Monday.

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Posted by: Neshama

Neshama works at the Fairfax Library.

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