This installment: abducted girls in Africa, on MP3 (f); fictional take on Lovecraft (f); another delectable food-centered memoir (nf);a J book about tattoos (E); and an iconoclastic churchperson (nf).
Thirty Girls by Susan Minot
In Uganda the Lord’s Resistance Army abducted many children to increase their leader’s “family.” The boarding school nuns managed to get all but 30 back and here is their story. Jane, a journalist from New York, hopes to convey their experiences and finds herself in the company of expats who come along on the expedition. Among them is the driver, Harry. He’s much younger, charming, attractive, and of course they connect. So there’s Jane’s journey and Esther’s, one of the abducted girls—very different voices and perspectives. What will come of the relationship? Will guarded Esther eventually open up to Jane? Powerful, sometimes shocking, and very absorbing. I got this in MP3 form and was amazed at the narrator’s skill in shifting between American and Ugandan accent.
The Night Ocean by Paul Lafarge
Oh that H.P Lovecraft, the author of weird fantasy novels around which cults formed. A man of mystery and horrid prejudices. Marina is a psychotherapist. Her husband Charlie, on the trail of Lovecraft lore, goes mad and apparently commits suicide. She embarks on a journey to learn more about his discoveries and uncovers murky identities, an astonishing shell game, and a series of tragedies connected with the homophobia of the time. Various historical literary figures come into play. Haunting.
Treyf: My Life as An Unorthodox Outlaw by Elissa Altman
I love her Poor Man’s Feast and wanted more. Here it is, a sequel to that food-centered memoir. Kosher rules are strict but Altman’s family ate all sorts of forbidden foodstuffs. However they couldn’t apply this latitude to their daughter’s resistance to the conventions of upper middle-class New York culture. She battled with paradoxical, confusing edicts and the underlying rage that quietly suffused home life. Vivid, candid, brave—so glad we get to taste the next course.
Tell me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee
Sometimes when I’m checking in books randomly, one will fall into my hand that I want to celebrate. This is an E book for young children, beautifully illustrated. The bearded dad shows his son his various tattoos and tells how each came about: a favorite book from his childhood; the exhortation Be Kind; a Ferris wheel and fireworks (where he first met his wife to be in Paris) etc. Touching, cozy, and a great spin on an art form that’s coming into its own these days, freed from its dark history.
Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Subtitled the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, which characterizes this iconoclastic cleric in a nutshell. I first encountered her telling a story on the Moth Radio Hour and wanted more.) After a wild youth she was mysteriously drawn to the church and ended up starting one that reflected her essence: the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, CO. Bare bones at first, then boosted by big holding its appearance, and now holding its own. Lots of juicy anecdotes, and lots of initial failure (which I always find endearing). I’ve been hanging out with another “cranky Christian,” Anne Lamott, for decades, so it was an easy slide into this refreshing take on spirit through the back door, as it were.
Back next week.