This installment: Trevor Noah on CD (nf); magic spans decades and continents (f); and the immigrant problem in Bristol via a police procedural (f).
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
This book was so popular and was chosen as one of the “equity” reads for our staff retreat, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t connect with it on the page. However when I got it in CD form—wham! What a storyteller, and what a story he has to tell, growing up colored in South Africa and always the outsider. He identified as black and spent time hustling when he might have followed a cushier road to college, but it felt more authentic. His fierce, devout mother does her best but there were years of poverty and abuse. Noah is charming and very thoughtful and I learned a lot about race though his bright eyes. Also loved his accent and bits of other languages. A winner!
The Trick by Emanuel Bergmann
Magic. WWII. Contemporary LA. I’ve encountered these elements in a few novels recently and here they’re woven together deliciously. In the mid 1930s in Prague young Moshe runs away to join the circus and becomes The Great Zabbatini. In the mid ‘90s young Max in LA discovers a promotional record in the attic and hopes against hope that if he can find this amazing magician, the Enduring Love spell will bring his embattled parents together. Kind of far fetched, like magic itself, but what a great series of coincidences with a fabulous denouement. Juicy Jewish wit, too.
Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan
What initially seems like a police procedural turns out to be a nuanced exploration of the immigrant problem. In Bristol, DI Clemo rejoins the force after a breakdown. The case that seems relatively simple at first gets very murky fast. Did 15 year old Abdi actually push his best friend Noah into the water? The community’s already tense over a recent neo-Nazi march. Noah’s father is a photographer who specializes in documenting refugee camps, including the one in Somalia where Abdi’s family is from. And few know that Noah is terminally ill. An ambitious reporter (Clemo’s ex) creates even more of a mess. The book is a fine combination of thoughtful and suspenseful.
Back next week.