Note: Happy New Year! I’ll be reviewing fewer books each week from now on because I actually caught up with my backlog (never thought it would happen) and though I still read a lot, I’m not finding that many I want to whole-heartedly recommend here.
This installment: a transformation from acerbic seclusion back to life (f); a chronicle of brain injury (nf), and a witty novel about social class (f).
Darke by Rick Gekoski
Why is this Englishman fortifying his house, preparing to sever connection with society? Like his surname, he starts out dark indeed however the light of his humanity gets in despite as we start to understand what he’s lost. His wife died a horrid death, and his teaching job seems meaningless. But very gradually this stubborn, acerbic, heart-broken fellow starts to thaw. Poetry, especially T. S. Elliot’s, is in evidence throughout. Let’s hear it for the power of life, no matter how grim things might seem.
Stitch of Time by Lauren Marks
Subtitled the year a brain injury changed my language and life. As a young theater person, she was felled by an aneurysm and had to relearn the communication skills we take for granted. During that fraught time she managed to keep a journal which she accesses to describe her journey towards health. With vivid articulation she speaks of the almost exquisite disconnected peace, the “silence” of her initially wordless state. But then of course came very challenging, often frustrating work and now she shares her insights with others grappling with aphasia. Personal testimony and scientific material interplay to deliver a fascinating read.
Class by Lucinda Rosenfeld
Karen tries to live a principled life. In her job, a nonprofit dedicated to feeding hungry children. With her daughter Ruby who goes to the neighborhood school as one of the few white kids. When Ruby has setbacks—bullying and mean girls—Karen uses subterfuge to get into a better school and her life becomes a tissue of lies and hypocrisy. Then she tries a crazy Robin Hood scheme to redress matters, puts herself at risk (including her already stressful marriage) and finally arrives at a place where she can live with herself again. Sometimes I found it a little broad, but funny and insightful as well.
Back next week.