This installment: a hippie country novel, delicious chick-lit, and cultural challenges
Make It Stay by Joan Frank
Mira Flores, a mythical Northern California wine country town, started funky and got gentrified. Long time denizens include Rae and Neil. She's a writer and the book's narrator. He’s Scottish with a best friend, Mike, who’s very handsome and charming and runs Finny Business (a tropical fish store) with a passion. Mike’s wife, Tilda, is a wild card but their grown daughter, Addie, seems perfect. This seemingly genial if imperfect hippie amalgam runs into serious trouble and ends up with mayhem and tragedy. Mike, now almost helpless from a stroke, says the title words, but we all know that doesn't happen in real life, or in this case trenchant fiction. Very well written.
Friends Like Us by Lauren Fox
Chick-lit, but witty and touching so I didn't feel so guilty reading it. (And who says it's always supposed to be Great Literature All the Time.) Roommates and best friends Willa and Jane look alike and have a good time together. Here comes Ben, Willa's then dorky best friend from school but now he’s become a charmer. He and Jane connect significantly and get so far as wedding plans. Willa wants to be supportive to both but often feels left out and besides, there's unfinished business between her and Ben that lurches into uh-oh. Meanwhile Willa's brother Seth is on a downward slide. Lots of opportunities for humor which Fox leaps on to great effect and the result is what I call a “movie between covers," a lovely diversion.
The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger
Amina, from Bangladesh, goes to Rochester to marry George, an engineer. Her plan: as soon as she gets her green card, her parents will join them. George isn't comfortable with this, and their relationship is further strained when she doesn't get pregnant. Amina works at Starbucks and studies, but feels quite isolated. At last it's time to bring the parents over and Amina faces a raft of complications. George has lost his job, there are unpleasant rumbles from the extended family back home, and ultimately a shocking act takes place with serious consequences. In addition Amina learns why George's cousin Kim was so distant at first. By a series of small miracles, things work out but all along with way we see all the possible disconnects, cultural and personal, that accompany such a long-distance romance. Clear-eyed, thoughtful.
Back next Monday