I wrapped up this goal last night with Alicia Erian’s Towelhead, which I managed to stay up past midnight, unable to put it down. It was strange
- when I started reading it yesterday, I was thinking that I didn’t much like the voice of the narrator - it was so detached. But the plot sucked me in and that was the end of that—I really enjoyed it.
So…on to my next book, but no more reporting here. This was fun, and only took me 22 weeks to complete.
Phillip Beard’s Dear Zoe was an awfully promising, fairly well-reviewed concept
- what if someone you love, and, in fact, who you’ve been entrusted to watch over - dies accidentally on September 11. How do you handle the dual grief of the loss and guilt associated with it and of the fact that everyone grieves on that day but not for the person you lost?
The epistle of a novel deals with that concept quite beautifully from time to time, and delves into the standard coming-of-age stuff that any 15-year-old main character should be expected to go through, but the book read unevenly to me. There were individual lines dropped in throughout the story that took my breath away. But for the most part, it was just a same-old, same-old work. Not all that memorable.
On to another coming-of-age novel to close out the goal…
I first discovered Wendy McClure and Poundy.com when I saw the ‘70s-era Weight Watchers recipe cards and commentary she’d posted. I loved her snarky sense of humor and her great perspective on weight loss and how it ties into life. Funny stuff.
Anyway, I’m Not the New Me was great—funny, but bittersweet and sad in places. None of this is easy, and McClure writes about stuff in a very readable, hilarious way that was a genuine pleasure.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Jennifer Weiner’s other novels, Good In Bed and In Her Shoes, but had read less-than-flattering reviews of her latest, Little Earthquakes. I knew it wove together the lives of four very different mothers in Philadelphia, and that reviewers thought the story simply didn’t hang together.
I just finished the book, and I seriously disagree with the reviews I read. The four primary characters were so different from each other that they couldn’t help but have their own voices, and I got completely involved with all of them. Reading the novel was like spending time with very good friends—I was pulling for them all to find happiness and success in their own ways, and was equally interested in all four of the specific storylines each character followed.
Unfortunately, I was right. Rosanne Cash’s short story collection, Bodies of Water, was pleasant enough, and had moments of poetry, but for the most part was thin and lacking in character development. Most of her endings trailed off, too, in a fairly unsatisfying way.
On to the next thing…
Bangkok 8 was a really fun read-
a little sassy and saucy with a good mystery underpinning it. It read quickly, but was packed with interesting details about the Thai sex trade and Buddhism and jade and all sorts of good stuff. Thoroughly enjoyed it - wonderful summer reading. I’m waiting on the hold list at my library for its sequel, Bangkok Tattoo, which just came out this summer. Can’t wait.
Then, moved on to Paradise, by A.L. Kennedy, which is a really well-written novel about an alcoholic and her relationship with her alcoholic lover. Tragic stuff, but Kennedy manages to find great humor at times, and also does an incredible job writing that odd drunk feeling. Even the hallucinations were well constructed. A fascinating book.
I’m afraid I’m due for a little disappointment next. I wanted to read Rosanne Cash’s short story collection, which I only recently learned about, and it is next on my list. But I flipped through it and I have a feeling that it’s going to be a little thin. Sigh. We’ll see how it goes—I love her music and lyrics, so maybe her fiction will surprise me.
Much of Hunger, a novella/short story collection by Lan Samantha Chang, is set in the United States, which, I think, contributed to my enjoying it much more than I did her novel, Inheritance. I like reading fiction set in other places, because they give me an opportunity to explore cities and towns that I may never get to see in person, but I think Chang’s work burns most brightly when she examines the clash of cultures faced by families of Chinese immigrants. The novella, in particular, was heartbreaking and wonderful—the story of a couple drawn together by yuanfeng, a sort of fated love, only to discover that there is a level of unhappiness in the husband that the family cannot overcome.
The only story in the collection that I did not like was the final one, which, interestingly enough, was set in China. It had the elements of a fable or folktale, but an awfully unsatisfying ending…more anecdote than story, I thought.
I started Bangkok 8 this morning—so far, it’s a fascinating read, heavy on the plot, with tremendous details about Bangkok’s seedier side. I think it’s going to go quickly and be an excellent summer read.
I think I might have liked Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn better, but it didn’t feel like as much of an accomplishment as this book did. The book is epic in scale, covering years of fictional territory and making a small part of Brooklyn seem huge. Lethem manages to get inside many characters’ heads and show us tragedy and comedy and pathos all over the place. Great writing about being a kid. Great shrinking of narrative distance as the kids grow up. I really enjoyed reading this one.
I’m working, simultaneously, on Hunger by Lan Samantha Chang…am hoping to have that done shortly.
I finished Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global a few days ago and forgot to check in here. The essay collection is an interesting one—it takes on the issue of kids who grow up abroad or in highly mobile families like the military and examines it from a variety of perspectives.
I’ve already moved on to The Fortress of Solitude.
Kashuo Ishiguro’s newest novel doesn’t disappoint—it’s a beautifully drawn, incredibly sad story of a group of adolescents/young adults in Britain with a particularly tragic situation…I won’t give anything away.
I just loved it.
Now…on to an essay collection…