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I Could Live Here Forever by Hanna Halperin
Charlie comes out of left field into Leah’s life. He’s incredibly charming, handsome, and spontaneous to the point of erratic—nothing like her previous respectable (boring) boyfriends. He admits he’s been addicted to heroin but swears he’s off the stuff. He’s still living at home, and she feels so comfortable with his warm, relaxed family, quite a contrast to her uptight, striving parents and siblings. This book is about addiction—his to the drug, hers to him. How mesmerizing, how compelling, and how destructive. Very well-drawn and heartbreaking.
Flat by Catherine Guthrie
Subtitled Reclaiming My Body from Breast Cancer. The author, a queer health writer in a long relationship with Mary, was “too young” to be afflicted by that malady but it struck twice. Also a yoga teacher, she decided to forgo reconstructions and get a double mastectomy so she wouldn’t compromise her muscular strength and flexibility. Despite all her careful preparation and her smarts, she had the misfortune of botched procedures that put her at further risk. It was a long slog that certainly challenged her career and her marriage. With candor, clarity, humor (yes), and rage she takes us on an epic, revealing journey.
The Prison Minyan by Jonathan Stone
A patron recommended this sleeper of a novel. The setting: a low-security facility full of clever Jewish white-collar inmates who have a sweet setup which includes a deli and blintzes. Their religious studies (which give them something to do) provoke moral explorations that reflect the slippery rationalizations that led them to lives of crime in the first place. The presence of a new notorious inmate who challenged our recent despotic president stirs things up and all those privileges vanish. The prisoners’ surprising secret weapon: an unassuming little woman who’s been teaching poetry at the prison and somehow flew under the radar of the vicious new warden. I needed to suspend disbelief as the action got increasingly outrageous but why not when I was having so much fun?
The New Earth by Jess Row
The upper middle class NYC Wilcox family was never happy but when mother Naomi tells the grown children that their actual grandfather was Black, it blows them to smithereens. Not that they’re racist but it was the shock of learning about it so late. Son Patrick (aka Trick) becomes a spiritual seeker in India. Younger sister Bering becomes a peace activist in Palestine and is killed there. Older sister Winter, an immigration lawyer, makes a family with Zeno from Mexico. Father Sandy retreats to Vermont. Naomi takes up with a lesbian. When Winter requests they all gather for her wedding to Zeno, these disparate, embattled, confused individuals finally come together to confront difficult truths. Row illustrates many profound present-day issues—racism, feminism, homophobia, immigration, spiritual hypocrisy, incest, and the mess in the Middle East—as played out within the Wilcox family with deft insight. One fascinating wrinkle: the novel itself is a character, and Row tells us, “It wants what it wants.”