I’m reading so much these days that I’ll be blogging twice a week now that it’s 2019!
This installment: a tender, elegiac novel (f); a small town and a rich man (f); dad did it but where is he? (f); a South Dakota mismatch (f); is that merman real? (f); and a cozy novel set in a library (f).
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Ellis works in a paint shop. His wife Annie has died, his mother Dora died when he was 14, and his childhood friend Michael has been gone from his life for years. An accident gets him off work for a spell and he ends up revisiting Southern France where he, Annie, and Michael had a delicious idyll long ago. Michael, gay, had died of AIDS. Lots of mortality, lots of reflection, and lots of coming to terms with the tender, fleeting love between Ellis and Michael way back then. Winman employs a subtle delicacy to describe deep feelings without drama. Elegiac and surprisingly sweet.
The Locals by Jonathan Dee
A small town in Massachusetts isn’t doing well and neither is our protagonist, Mark. He’s lost money trying to flip houses and is feeling increasingly desperate. A very rich man, Phil, brings his family here after 9/11 to the country estate Mark has been renovating and, frustrated with ineffective local government, becomes a Selectman and ends up bankrolling projects he thinks would improve things. But there’s a dark side to such apparent benevolence, a local swell of resistance, and eventually Phil gets bored and decamps, pulling out support and leaving the locals relieved on one hand and deep in the red on the other. A cautionary tale indeed.
A Double Life by Flynn Berry
Claire (a pseudonym) is haunted by grisly family history. When she was 12 her father may have slain their au pair and beaten their mother severely, then disappeared. Under a new name, in a new location, she’s a physician, always worried about her younger brother Robbie who has addiction issues. And doing everything she can to find out where her father ended up. Class plays a big part; mom was a waitress, dad was very upper crust, and they cover up for their own. She manages to track him down with very determined sleuthing and there’s one hell of an ending. Based loosely on an old, unsolved true crime. Suspense galore.
The Distance Home by Paula Saunders
South Dakota, stark, with its own wild beauty. Here’s a family sprung from a mismatch. Dad is a traveling cattle broker who favors his daughter Rene but holds her brother Leon in contempt. Both kids dance and their mother ends up running the local dance studio. Leon turns to alcohol and goes down the tubes. Rene rebels and eventually splits. How first love can go astray, and how to get through the pain of messed-up loyalties—or not. Moving and engrossing.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
This is one weird book, and it takes a lot for me to say that. But it got me in its spell so I’m sharing it here. Lucy, stalled on her graduate thesis on Sappho, taking a break from her long term, less than satisfying lover, accepts her sister’s invitation to house sit in Venice, CA and take care of their beloved diabetic dog and hopefully put her life together. She’s also supposed to attend group therapy for sex and love addiction. But Lucy is pretty self-destructive and ends up making a hash of everything. There’s someone she meets at the beach, however, who might be the lover of her dreams. Is he really a merman, or a figment of her dark imagination and suicidal yearnings? Steamy scenes, sharp satire about the dating game and California mores, and intriguing references to mythology. Dark dream material, for sure.
Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern
A cozy book featuring the kind of misfits I feel very at home with. Kit decamped to a small New Hampshire town, bought a big old house, and got a job at the library (founded by the Rober family but the local nickname stuck). Sunny, 15, is court-ordered to work there for the summer; she tried to steal a dictionary from a bookstore. Her parents are hippies with a dark history we gradually learn. A group of four old gents are library regulars, and a mysterious new guy comes to town and becomes a fixture there too. Stand-offish Kit gradually thaws, mysteries are revealed, and happy ending at last, as befits the genre.
Back next Monday.