Archive | April, 2013

Each Unhappy Family…

25 Apr

At lunch this past fall, one of my best book friends told me she’d read and liked The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg. She said “For a book about an obese woman, it was surprisingly great.” It wasn’t quite enough of a recommendation for me to go out and BUY the book, but I put it on my library list. Number 107 on the waitlist.


Now, many months later, I’ve had it, read it, returned it. And really I liked it. I mean, I really liked it. Here’s the set-up: Incredibly overewight Edie is preparing for her third surgery (this time a bypass). She is married to Richard and mother to two adult children, Robin and Benny. Each chapter shifts its focus to a different person, resulting in a kaleidoscopic portrait of this messed up (in all the normal ways) family. Parts of it made me laugh, parts of it made me laugh in a ‘that’s funny but also so so sad’ way. People compare it to Jonathan Franzen, and thats probably accurate, but I found this to be easier to read, faster to read, and much shorter.

The second book I read this week doesn’t hit the shelves until June 4th…so this review is a little premature. BUT I think it may get a lot of buzz (and it has a pretty cover) so I thought I’d go ahead and get my thoughts written down.


Pretty, right? I can’t remember where I read about this first – I have a feeling it was in PW’s “Ten Debuts to Watch for in 2013” article. To be completely honest, Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls didn’t really thrill me. Set in the midst of the Depression, YRCFG is the story of Thea, a young wealthy Floridian and her (here’s the theme) dysfunctional family. It’s a little different though, because the reason Thea’s family is dysfunction directly corresponds to a mysterious incident. And the mysterious incident is why Thea finds herself at the Yonahlosse Riding camp (an equestrian camp for wealthy young ladies) deep in the Blue Ridge mountains. To say that this story is set at a leisurely pace would be kind. To say that Thea herself is interesting and dynamic would also be kind. I didn’t love her, I didn’t want to be her friend, I didn’t even really care to know what horrible thing she did to end up an outcast from her family at this prestigious horse camp/boarding school. And when she developed a crush on the (married, father of three) headmaster – ugh I sighed a big big sigh. I thought the twists were not that twisty – pretty much the twists you’d expect from a coming of age novel that calls itself a “lush, sexy, evocative novel.” But the cover? So pretty.

Tsunamis and Missing Persons.

11 Apr

I have two books to write about today – and I think I’m out of my reading funk. These are not the most upbeat books – but they were good!


Driving to work yesterday, I was listening to a reader podcast and one of the hosts mentioned this book, Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, as one that was hard to talk about, but important to be aware of. She said that she felt as though she was in a vice the entire time she was reading it. As I was listening, I remembered that the smartest book rep I know had sent me a copy of this book – and that it was teeny. Seriously. The package is small, much smaller and narrower than an average book, and I figured I could probably get it read between work and book club. Now I can totally agree – this is a tough book, but worthy of talking about. And it’s non-fiction, which is sort of a change-up for me.

Sonali, a Sri Lankan by birth and a Londoner for college and beyond, was vacationing with her parents, her husband, and her two small children in Sri Lanka for Christmas in 2004, as was their family tradition. They were staying in a hotel not too far from the water. The day after Christmas, she looked out the window and noticed that the water seemed a little closer than usual. She called for her husband to come look – and then. Sonali’s husband, parents and two boys were killed in the Tsunami that struck but somehow she survived. This is the opening chapter of Wave, and the rest of it is a spiny, sharp, dangerous exploration of her grief. Grief that was not graceful – that involved alcohol and drugs and self-injury. But gosh it was hard to put down.


Caroline Leavitt hit it big with her last one, Pictures of You, which was heavily endorsed/promoted by Jodi Picoult. I liked it well enough. But I liked this one MORE for some weird reason. Is This Tomorrow is the story of a single mother and her son, set in a very Mad-Men like small town where everyone smokes and drinks and lives in nice family units (divorces were shameful and uncomfortable for everyone). While this starts off appearing to be a story about a young boy’s struggle to make friends and survive while living with his divorced-pariah of a mother – it quickly becomes something more when one of his only two friends disappears. I would have kept reading even if it had only been about the boy and his mother – but thought that the added kick of the missing child gave the whole thing a dark sense of urgency. And I loved the way it ended up – in a very twisted manner.