Archive | May, 2015

Character Drama for Days.

25 May

As I write this post, I am just back from “spring break” in Ft Lauderdale (I’m writing this in March, posting it in May and the books both come out in June). In years past, I would have described a vacation as any stretch of time in which many (maybe 5 or 6) books get read. In years past, I would spend lots of time debating which books made the suitcase and which didn’t, followed by an equal amount of time in airport bookstores adding to the stack. Oh how things have changed. This year, I spent lots of time debating other, less thrilling things, like how many diapers a child would need for a 5 day stretch. I only packed two books. On the bright side, I read both!

household spiritThis one surprised me. I’d never read Tod Wodicka before and I think the combination of his odd-tod sounding name and the odd title of his last novel (All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Matter of Things Shall Be Well) led me to believe that this guy was odd. And although there are a handful of odd things in The Household Spirit, I really enjoyed it on the whole. The story centers around two houses clear out on Route 29, each the other’s only neighbor for miles. But the residents are not friends – heck they’re not even friendly. Instead they exist side by side with no interaction whatsoever. Until, that is, unforeseen circumstances draw them together. One house is home to Howie, a 50 yr old county employee with a face that could crack a mirror. I love when he smiles and the people around him are said to recoil, that his face with a smile on it is something that takes a bit of getting used to. The neighboring home harbors Emily, a young woman back to take care of her dying grandfather and his estate. Howie is the very definition of a recluse, an ugly old hermit, getting his job done with minimal interaction and estranged from his ex-wife and daughter. Emily is equally as dysfunctional with her night terrors and sleep deprivation. Of course the two find solace in each other – eventually. I loved that this was a story that centers around the father/daughter, grandfather/granddaughter bond. Both the father figures are PERFECTly drawn and maybe two of my favorite old curmudgeons ever. The mothers in the story definitely don’t fall in a flattering light. 4 stars.

I saw a manOMG, friends. This one does something that I’ve never seen before. And I can’t tell you what it is because that would be SUCH a spoiler. I want to say it is similar to those novels with an untrustworthy narrator, though that is not exactly what I mean. I’ll just say that the ending of this novel made me question every single thing about this novel. Here is the premise: A man, grieving the death of his wife, takes up residence in a home apartment in London. He befriends the family next door, a couple (Josh and Samantha) and their two daughters. We get the story of Michael’s marriage, the sudden death of his wife, his literary career (he’s a writer). We get the story of the family next door, how they met, what they do, who they are. When tragedy strikes (as of course it always does in these character novels), Michael finds himself keeper of a secret that could devastate everyone around him. This one is worth reading just for the innovative “WHOA” moment at the end. (If you know me, you’ll know I love these ‘big bang’ endings). 4.5 stars.

 

WWII strikes again!

4 May

It seems like there are new WWII novels in abundance every year. Last year, my favorite was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. And if I don’t read any more WWII novels this year, my favorite may be The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard.

aron This was a fairly quick moving, suitably intense heartbreaker told from a young boy’s point of view. Aron, that young boy, finds himself orphaned in the middle of the ghetto. I think that it lost a little bit of dramatic umph due to the first person narrative – the boy Aron glosses over some pretty tough moments, almost making light of them. If it had been told in the third person, I think I would have connected on a deeper emotional level. 3.5 stars.