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More picks for May, one an obscure novel by a popular writer, the other two on the frothy side, but deft.  (I read these when I was recovering from an accident and they fitted my “prescription” to a tee: bonbons, take out, lots of rest, and short, flat walks. Might not be such bad advice for whatever ails you.)

Taft by Ann Patchett

A second novel that I didn't realize existed until it fell into my hands in the library. The protagonist is a black ex alki, John Nickel, who runs a bar in Memphis. He used to be a drummer but gave it up to try and make a stable life with the mother of his child.  They've decamped but he's still stuck and misses the boy a lot.  Fay appears, a troubled white teenager, and he gives her a job.  Her bad news brother is a junkie.  There's much opportunity for temptation and close scrapes, but it works out in the end.  And who is Taft? Fay's absent, mysterious father, we discover, and a source of her family's warped dynamics. A good story with a thick Tennessee atmosphere.
After the Party by Lisa Jewell

I loved "Ralph's Party." Here's the sequel.  Much of the magic of Ralph and Jem's star crossed meeting has worn off. (Time will do that.)  She's primarily a mum; he paints lucrative but artistically uninspired flower paintings.  He goes off to visit a friend in California and comes back with a disturbing new perspective, involving spirituality and possibly its inspiration, Rosey. Jem entertains a single dad who turns into a sinister stalker.  Will they ever reconcile? It's touch and go till the very end.  Both need remaking. Witty and cozy. London setting.
Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy

I actually read this again even after realizing I'd already read it in 2010.  But I was in the mood for more UK coziness, and Binchy is a master of the genre.  In Dublin Noel, a young, rudderless sad sack, discovers he's a father.  The whole neighborhood pitches in to help him with his newborn daughter.  Lizzie, visiting from America, is an incredible catalyst, getting all sorts of schemes going. Two plot intensities: the unhappy social worker who doesn't think Noel is a fit parent, and Lisa, Noel's flat mate, who has a misguided relationship with a self involved restaurateur. Binchy actually refers to her "cast of characters" periodically and it's fun to watch the lively twists and turns she devises for them.

Be back in a couple of weeks with, well--The Shadow Knows…(I like to choose the titles closer to the moment.)


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Posted by: Neshama

Neshama works at the Fairfax Library.

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