This installment: a novel about older women, short stories in exotic locations, and a courageous, funny memoir
Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray
I've been enjoying this writer ever since her first, Eat Cake, which I found cozy, charming, and put a great spin on getting older. Her latest is a bit of a puzzle, though, but I want to share it because it's such an interesting premise. The title quotes a classified ad that speaks to this increasing phenomenon: women's bodies are disappearing but those around them don't even notice. (Who looks closely at anything anymore these days?) The culprit, in addition to societal norms, seems to be a trio of much-prescribed drugs for depression, osteoporosis, and hormone replacement therapy, so women of a certain age are especially afflicted. Fun to read, if pretty far fetched. Also take a look at her other books. (A fascinating aside: she's Ann Patchett's mother.)
Aerogrammes by Tania James
Short stories in various geographical settings but often featuring people from India. In the title story a Mr. Panicker, temporarily in a rest home, deals with a deluded resident who's sending donations to an "orphan in Bombay." In "Ethnic Ken" a young girl finally gets the doll of her dreams, only to lose it to the school's toy drive. In another, a bastard child comes to London from Sierra Leone along with a baby chimp her absent father's wife picked up along the way. They're brought up as siblings until he gets too big and goes to the zoo where, grown up, she tries to reconnect. Intriguing set-ups, deftly drawn.
Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
A mostly true memoir, says the subtitle. The variations on growing up in a nutsy environment are legion and I believe I've read almost all of them. But this one made me laugh out loud and moved me as well with its warmth and decency, which shine through amid the dust from frequent f-bombs. So Jenny's father is a crazy taxidermist in rural Texas and a wild character to boot. She meets Vincent, whom she thought was gay because he owned three vests, and ends up still married to him 15 years later. Jenny has a bunch of health problems, both physical and mental, but manages them admirably with outrageous humor and perspective. She launched her writing career as The Blogess (award-winning) and can really tell a story. The book's amazingly immediate and intimate, with asides to her long-suffering editor and to her potentially bemused readers. Very refreshing!
Back next Monday