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A novel about teenage angst, a nonfiction peek into a secret, seamy world, and a thriller with a domestic angle

 

   Hand Me Down by Melanie Thorne

This novel of adolescent agonies reads like a memoir. Liz's father's a scary drunk. Her mother, Linda, takes up with Terrance, encouraged by her church. He's supposedly in rehab but as a sex offender, Liz and her sister Jamie can't be in the same house with him. Linda, pregnant, makes her choice and the girls find tenuous housing with various relatives. Liz grieves the loss of what was once a warm relationship and seethes with fury. An aunt, Tammy, in Salt Lake City, offers true respite. There Liz gets a sense of possibility, but Sam, the judgmental boyfriend, doesn't welcome her and Liz constantly worries about Jamie's fate. Back in California Liz tries to mesh withAunt Deborah's household but the conformity, churchiness, and safe full of guns make her crazy. Hard choices, hard realizations, and Liz eventually ends up where she needs to be, but it's a rough journey. An emotional workout of a read and very well written.

  Beautiful Thing by Sonia Faleiro

Subtitled Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars. Dangerous, marginal lives with dim futures. We follow Leela via reporter Faleiro; they've become friends of sorts. Yes, there's glitz, excitement, and pleasure as well as long stretches of boredom but it doesn't take much to bring the wobbly infrastructure down. Then desperation and grim options. Leela lives for the moment; her room is squalid but when she's doing well there are lots of goods around. Having a large passive mother in residence doesn't help. Faleiro sprinkles Hindi words and Indian English phrases throughout which add lots of color. Sometimes I felt as if  I was watching a Bollywood-gone-bad flick. And what was I left with? A odd mix of sadness while marveling at the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of loaded odds. (An interesting companion piece to "Behind the Beautiful Forevers.")

   The Expats by Chris Pavone

I don't read thrillers but this came highly recommended and I found out why. It mixes tough stuff like spying and the occasional assassination with "normal life," and guess what? It's not a good fit. Kate's husband Dexter gets a mysterious, lucrative job working with bank security systems abroad. They have two kids. He thought she had some kind of government job, but never knew it was with the CIA. From the field to the desk duty as the kids came along, but she's ready to quit and perhaps even relax. However one brutal incident from the past shadows her, and gradually she finds herself looking over her shoulder again, suspicious of new friends, and employing her previous skills. In addition,  housewifely life even in glamorous settings can get very tedious. Then comes the shock. Does her husband have a double life too? Lots of suspense, some nifty triple-crosses, and a breathtaking denouement.
This would make a good movie.

 

I'm off to Canada for two weeks so back to you at the end of August
 

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Posted by: Neshama

Neshama works at the Fairfax Library.

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