This installment: a lodge in rural Minnesota (f); sci-fi/fantasy with a Nigerian twist (f); a tornado wreaks all sorts of havoc in Oklahoma (f); a teen embarks on a cross-county run to outrun her traumas (f); things are a scary mess in Colombia (f); and a teen survives in the far north woods against incredible odds (f).
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
The title has a touch of irony because this town on a lake in far north Minnesota isn’t exactly thriving. Bloodthirsty mosquitoes plague the summers and fierce winds attack in winter. A peculiar lodge provides the focus for these linked stories and we get to know the denizens and guests throughout the decades. No glamour here, but surprising beauty which Meg, a pivotal character, taps in her paintings. Solid writing, thoughtful and atmospheric.
Nigerians in Space by Deji Bryce Olukotun
Sci Fi, odd and delightful. The action toggles between 1993 and “present day” (how far in the future unclear to me) America, South Africa, and beyond. Wale is recruited by the mysterious Bello to abscond with a NASA relic and join the brain gain. He wants to be that Nigerian in space but when Bello doesn’t show up en route, he ends up in Johannesburg. In the present, Thursday tends and guards pricey abalone. Another character, Melissa, has a rare skin condition that first she hides under all-enveloping garments but later as her skin starts to emit dazzling light, she becomes a supermodel. I can’t sum up the plot and periodically got a little lost but just wandered through the intriguing, original elements and had a fine adventure.
The Wildlands by Abby Geni
The Oklahoma town of Mercy, ill-named, is struck by a wicked tornado which rips apart the McCloud family. No mother—she’s dead, but then father, farm, and all the animals are decimated and 18-year- old Darlene tries to keep it together for Tucker and Cora. Tucker disappears, there are a string of terrorist eco-actions, and then returns to seize 9 year old Cora and go back on the lam with her. A wild, furtive life indeed with a staggering denouement in which Tucker frees the denizens of the St. Louis Zoo, with nightmarish results. Yes Tucker is cracked, but his passion and outrage against man’s hubris gave me a lot to think about. A workout!
A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti
Annabelle has had it. A terrifying event she hasn’t recovered from after a year sends her on a run from Seattle to DC. It’s either that or go crazy. Her grandpa provides road support in his RV, and her friends mount a campaign to fund the enterprise. Punishing and monotonous for stretches, heart-warming by degrees, Annabelle pushes through, driven by desperation. There’s humor here as well as deep material on the nature of loss, trauma, and healing. A teen book but don’t let that stop you.
I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall
Jess is in dire straits in the wilds of Canada. Already debilitated by the car crash that killed her mother, delivered to a sketchy father who left long ago and seems to be under threat, she has to learn survival skills fast. Then she’s on her own except for a huge dog, Bo, and a fierce will to get through. Suspense galore, atmospheric. A teen book and a riveting read.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
The eponymous tree grows in Chula’s yard in Bogotá. It’s dangerous, causing hallucinations and more. But that’s the atmosphere in general, what with Escobar on the loose along with acts of terror and rampant fears. Young Petrona becomes a servant; her family lives in the local shantytown after they were driven out of their poor but sweet life in the countryside. Chula’s father is kidnapped and eventually mother and sisters decamp to America, leaving Petrona to a murky fate. Atmospheric, intense.
Back on Thursday.