This installment: multiple realities in NYC (f); a child disappears—goosebumps (f); Stephen King lifts us up! (f); a magical, profound kids’ book (f); Glasgow’s mean streets (f); and Donoghue’s second kids’ book—a sequel (f).
Miss Subways by David Duchovny
In some ways this book is too smart for its own good, evoking literature and mythology in current day NYC. Emer reads snippets of philosophy as posted on said subway and hearkens back to the early days in which the young women’s bios read like invitations to potential swains. Her boyfriend Con is charming but she learns he’ll be killed unless she makes a deal with the gods. We’re talking multiple realities here. She reluctantly agrees but when she comes across him in another strand of “reality” their attraction is too intense. Guess what: Emer is a god herself, we discover. Clever, playful, absurd.
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Nothing like a lovely child who disappears to galvanize a reader’s attention. Ellie, 15, does so and despite technology (CCTV footage and the internet) there’s no trace of her. The assumption: she’s run away though it’s highly uncharacteristic. Her mother Laurel shuts down in grief. There goes her marriage and her relationship with Ellie’s older sister. Eventually Ellie’s backpack and body are found, so there’s closure of sorts. Enter Floyd, seven years later, when Laurel might finally be ready to resume a life. He seems to know a lot about her, he looks uncannily like her ex, and he has a sweet young daughter Poppy who looks a lot like Ellie. (Goosebumps.) A nifty plot twist I kind of guessed and a healing of sorts at the end. Galvanizing!
Elevation by Stephen King
A slim book which delivers what it promises in the title. I.e. a spirit lifter, and very welcome. Scott develops a very mysterious condition. He looks solid as ever but seems to be losing weight steadily according to the scale. He consults with a retired doctor friend and decides, since he feels so good, to just let it happen. A wrinkle: when he loses enough poundage, he might just float away. He gets into a wrangle with new neighbors, a lesbian couple, over dog poop but then hates the closed-mindedness of his small New England town and goes to bat for them. There’s a race, a triumph, and a very happy if odd ending. A confection of a tale.
Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan
It’s supposed to be kids’ fiction but I was blown away by its wit and profundity so it’s for everyone. A peculiar celebration of animals of all sorts, with the shadow of what we do to muck with their habitat. Surrealism up the wazoo with an extraordinary invasion of butterflies, a disquisition on the nature of dogs and man, a link between bears and lawyers, rhinos on the freeway, and more. Extraordinary illustration, too. A book to savor, and a marvel of imagination, beauty, oddity, and regret in one rich package.
For Those Who Know the Ending by Malcolm Mackay
The mean streets of Glasgow, and mean people who inhabit them: thugs and dealers primarily. Martin from Poland is a hired gun who just wants to keep his head down and survive. He’s connected with a nice woman who has a petulant daughter, and I’d say he’s the most sympathetic character in the bunch. A series of double-crosses, a very suspenseful denouement, and a work out on the wild side. I was surprised to enjoy it so much—go figure.
The Lotterys More or Less by Emma Donoghue
A sequel to her first book about this very large, unusual to say the least, family and I was so pleased to hang out with them again. This time we’re approaching the holidays but two (a dad and the oldest son) are stranded in India, there’s an ice storm, the power goes out—Toronto, very chilly—and all the rituals they count on are banished or torqued. Also their couch surfer Luis from Brazil is down with a scary eye injury. But they struggle on in various configurations, manage some amazing celebrations, and learn a lot along the way. A kids’ book by an author who writes primarily for adults, and I just love this gang.
Back in three days.