This installment: art and adoption vs.uptight suburbia (CD); a graphic version of the Camino (f); a social experiment that fails—what else is new? (f); and delightful, absurd Asian excesses (f).
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
The Richardsons appear to have it all in tony, progressive Shaker Heights. Then along comes renter Mia, an innovative, eccentric photographer and her teenage daughter Pearl who starts to interact with the four Richardson offspring in ways that seem very positive for everyone. But there are complicating factors that deconstruct lives in stunning, surprising turns. The most dramatic: a foundling adopted by loving parents who turns out to have a mother who now desperately wants her daughter back. Also Mia’s past contains a secret that Joan Richardson, with her reporter’s skills, ferrets out. Moral ambiguities abound. I got this first in CD form and it was so compelling I had to pry myself out of the car. Stunning!
On the Camino by Jason
I’ve read a number of books by seekers who take that pilgrimage route in Spain for a variety of reasons, primarily spiritual. This Norwegian cartoonist was turning 50 and takes us along on his singular journey. What I loved: so down to earth—all the stuff of our lives that might seem trivial but really defines our experiences. Like sore feet, getting lost, feeling left out, snoring roommates, et al. His characters are anthropomorphic animals—he’s a dog—and I was delighted at the chance to trek along with Jason on the page.
Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
What a concept: an experiment in raising children collectively so the kids are equally showered with love and attention from every parent there. A benevolent rich woman funds it and Dr. Grind, the psychologist who conceived it, has high hopes. The only single parent among the 10 couples, Izzy, is a focusing agent. Turns out we really aren’t capable of such detachment and of course there are sexual tensions—the ultimate bomb that calls things off 5 years into the projected 10 year span. A bit predictable but fascinating despite.
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
I’ve read ‘em all (two previous) and fell on his latest like a sumptuous, ridiculous feast. Too much but so tasty. Primarily Chinese, a number of these extremely wealthy Singapore denizens are always scrambling for more: real estate, fashion, social acceptance. Brand names abound, as do juicy Chinese phrases, footnoted, along with other charming and obscure factoids. Here the matriarch is on her death bed, greedy cousin Eddy tries his best to bar good guy Nick, and it’s a crazy scene of one-upsmanship gone awry. A soap opera of sorts, and so much fun.
Back next week.