This installment: language like soul food (f); a library fantasy (f); Koreans in Japan over decades (f); and a steamy, tragic Southern tale (f).
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Roy and Celestial seem well set up in Atlanta. He has an excellent job, she’s developing quite a reputation as a maker of artistic dolls. But a bizarre occurrence thrusts him in prison, falsely accused, and their two-year marriage unravels. She turns to her best friend from childhood, Dre, and they become a couple. Five years later Roy is sprung and now what? Where do loyalties lie? A knotty problem to say the least and deep emotional tangles. Rich language, almost like soul food.
The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman
Another in the Invisible Library series, and very entertaining. In this alternate multi-universe, librarians are charged with preserving precious volumes and have considerable powers. But they’re up against dragons and the Fae, equally powerful, with complex strictures on boundaries and behaviors. Irene finds herself in NYC during the jazz age, accompanied by her apprentice Kai, a dragon (lots of shape-shifting here) and the plot, thickens, twists, and ends up—well at least the universe is saved, again. A bit predictable but so much fun.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The title refers to rigged pinball and the lives of this Korean family, starting in 1910, take on the erratic trajectory of that ball as they move to Japan where they’re always “other.” Sunja, pregnant by her married lover, relocates with a clergyman who was her mother’s lodger. He accepts the boy, Noa, as his own, they have another, but he comes to grief under government brutality. The bad luck continues through the generations, but somehow the game provides a good living, even to Noa who abandons his studies when he discovers his origins and the source of tuition payments. Sweeping, intense, and a long look into the grim effects of cultural dislocation and the power of the human spirit to overcome them.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
In rural Mississippi young Jojo lives with his grandparents and little sister. Their mother, Leonie, is in and out as she takes off frequently to get high. Their father, Michael, is about to get sprung and a nightmarish journey to pick him up ensues. He’s white and his parents have never accepted that “black bitch.” Family ghosts are very active and interact with those who have the sight. Steamy, brutal, tragic.
Back next week.