A psychological/legal thriller, a wry romance underscored by grief , and a heart-breaking young adult book.
Defending Jacob by William Landay
Usually police procedural/courtroom books don't grab me unless there's some fascinating theme beneath the familiar surface. In this case, it's not the theme but the multi-layered execution and richly explored material. Jacob is a recognizable teen: muffled, geeky, brooding. His dad, Andy, is a DA in a small, "safe" town. His mom, Laurie, has a background in psychology. It's a good marriage. But Andy has a secret, and when a classmate of Jacob's is murdered, everything crumbles. There are intriguing hints interleaved early that come to fruition later--a great technique for suspense. Fine characterizations, too, like the assistant DA with the amazing name of Logiudice, once a protege of Andy's and now his nemesis. "His mouth was overstuffed with teeth; he had to force it shut, like a full suitcase, which left him with a sour, pucker-mouthed expression." A breathtaking ending, and along the way, lots of explorations of parenthood. Great read on many levels.
An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer
The downside of a wonderful marriage is that one spouse dies, the impact on the other can be devastating. This is the case for Ed, a 62-year-old science teacher. He shuffles through his days without pleasure. His grown stepchildren take out a personal ad in the TLS and his friends try to fix him up. The results are clumsy mismatch after mismatch, often very funny. Then Lauren, who left him at the altar many years ago, reappears, wanting to make amends. So it's like a chance to make things right again with some initially rapturous results. But of course there's a kink and when he finally ends up with the dark horse I was hoping for. I let out my breath with relief. Very charming and cozy, the way I often feel about Ann Tyler's books.
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
I found Green's previous books for teens haunting and thought provoking. So when this one came out with the subject of terminal cancer, I was all aquiver and it fulfilled its promise beautifully. 16 year old Hazel has loving parents and a pretty good attitude for someone on the brink. An experimental drug has prolonged her life so far. She meets Gus at a support group. He's very handsome, charming, and apparently now cancer-free but with a prosthetic leg. So a sweet, awkward, intense relationship emerges. Lots of philosophy and gallows humor seamlessly interwoven. Candid, unsentimental--a great read.
Back next week…