This installment: the great flood of ’27 (f); trailer life, not fun (nf); Quindlan’s latest (f); a large, smart, unhappy family in France (f).
The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Kennelly
An intense, action packed historical novel placed in ’27 when the Mississippi burst its banks and decimated much in its wake. In particular, a tiny town, Hobnob. The time of Prohibition and two revenuers, Ham and Ingersoll, are on the job. They come across a baby and Ingersoll, an orphan himself, finds it a home with, it turns out, the region’s prime moonshiner, Dixie. Married to slippery, ambitious Jesse, and suffering from the death of their baby, she has no other options, but the new baby is a great comfort. The flood sweeps all the characters into do or die circumstances and the denouement is what I hoped for. (Note: Kennelly wrote Heating and Cooling, which I recently reviewed, and I wanted more, which is what led me to this book.)
Nomadland by Jessica Bruder
Subtitled Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century. Ahh, the open road! Not so fast—these hard-luck folks are desperately scrambling to manage after they’ve lost their dwellings, their jobs, and sometimes their health. Bruder follows a handful in depth as they travel from job to job: campground hosting; sugar beet harvesting, and the worst, working in Amazon warehouses as part of their CamperForce.( Brutal conditions marketed in disgustingly upbeat terms.) She even joins them in a van herself and gets to experience the gamut from extreme discomfort to heart-lifting camaraderie. Eye-opening journalism at its best.
Alternate Side by Anna Quindlan
The bane of New Yorkers—parking hassles. That’s why this empty lot in a cul-de-sac seems like such a boon, if you can get one of the six spaces. Charlie is over the moon when their number comes up but his wife Nina could care less. (What’s wrong with the nearby garage?) Their marriage is strained anyway but when a neighbor, Jake, devastatingly attacks a handyman, Rickie, for blocking his car, interpersonal chaos erupts on the cozy, prosperous street. Quindlan always delivers and I raced through her latest offering, in heaven.
How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas
Dory has five very accomplished older siblings and despite his good behavior and good grades, always feels inadequate. Small-town France, very few friends, detached parents—not a happy life. But there’s nothing like the observations of a bright underdog to enlighten and enchant the reader, and that Dory does. He’s such a mix of compassion and resentment which makes for a nuanced, absorbing, unusual family drama.
Back next week.