Neshama’s Choices for April 3rd

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Hokuloa Road by Elizabeth Hand   

Hard on the heels of the previous book, another novel about creepy doings in a tropical paradise. Grady’s at loose ends in Maine so he takes a job as a caretaker for a very rich, hermetic, environmental philanthropist who has extensive acreage out on a point in Hawaii. An aviary of supposedly extinct species, a tank full of deadly sea urchins, not many tasks, and suspicious stories about the place from locals put him increasingly on edge. Grady finally ventures out to forbidden territory, uncovers horrors, and… read it to find out what happens. Underlying the action and reflections on the ills of colonialism and what money can do in the hands of a deranged egomaniac who talks a good game.   

The World We Make by N. K. Jemison   

I tried to read a highly touted book of hers but never got traction with it.   (Sometimes happens in my reading life, disappointing but I shrug and move on.) However, her latest beckoned to me on the Lucky Day shelf and I decided to give it a whirl. And what a whirl it’s been!  The concept: a multiverse in which cities have avatars to protect them against an Evil Force.  In this case, each borough of NYC has one who also lives a very human life and reflects the distinct, quirky characteristics of their locale.  They band together to fight The Woman In White, colonialism personified. The only hold out: Staten Island. Snappy, vernacular dialogue, very witty and gutsy. Imagination unleashed, as in a summit of worldwide cities on—guess what—Atlantis. Huge fun.   

Acceptance by Emi Nietfeld   

I gobble up memoirs of coming through the worst and this one certainly fills this bill. Eli’s mother is a hoarder, “brilliant” like her daughter whom she schleps to endless medical appointments since Emi must be the problem in her dysfunctional life. No one believes Emi who ends up in foster care in Minnesota, then periodically homeless.  Her dad, who became trans, is estranged. So much double-speak from well-meaning advisors, especially in so-called therapeutic settings. Gave me the chills. Emi got to Harvard (!—she is brilliant) and has made a good marriage but it’s taken her years to work through the damage and fully accept what happened. Whew! 

Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen   

Here is another novel about the troubles in Northern Ireland from a woman’s point of view. In the mid-'90s what’s a girl to do while waiting to see if her exam results will spring her from this benighted factory town?  Get a job in it over the summer. The boss is a lecher, the workers are Catholic and Protestant (the latter cause Maeve considerable discomfort), and the work is punishing. Ultimately Maeve uncovers dirty doings and sparks an uprising—yes! There’s bitter humor here and colorful vernacular dialogue.