Neshama’s Choices for February 13th

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Not sure how I missed this when it came out in 1998 but many years later it still has legs, what with our current “democratic” mess. Small-scale—a suburban high school—but familiar passions, egos, and manipulations run high. Tracy is driven; the student body presidency should be hers! Fellow-student Paul is a good guy and a teacher, Jim, wants him to win. Somehow Paul’s nerdy younger sister ends up on the ballot too, which skews things even further. Great satire.  (I was shocked to come across Tracy in this earlier incarnation, because I first met her in Perrotta’s recent book, Tracy Flick Can’t Win.)   

Fly Girl

I think of flying as a pain, especially these days, and I certainly don’t envy flight attendants. But Hood was obsessed with the profession from childhood on and managed to get a job in 1978 with TWA. Very competitive, very grueling training, but she worked her way up to preferred schedules and destinations over more than a decade plus. Along the way those stewardesses fought sexist stereotypes and finally prevailed. Early days put the emphasis on glamour and luxury; we discover the behind the scenes scrambling to achieve that illusion. Inside dope and delicious stories. Even though times have changed radically, I’ll now appreciate those unflappable, amiable flight attendants with the fresh perspective Hood provides. 


Aliide finds a desperate girl on her property and reluctantly takes her in. Lots of paranoia, well-founded, in this Estonian village. What led Zara to this this bitter widow’s home? The back story, which comes out gradually, is shocking.  Sisters’ rivalry, culminating when favored Insel snags Hans who is part of the anti-Russian resistance. Aliide then marries Martin, a powerful communist party leader; he reeks of onions. All part of her strategy to get her hands on the object of her affection under the most challenging circumstances. A swath of tangled history from ’39 to ’92, and nightmarish conditions from a country under siege, as well as family pathology.  A rich, disturbing plunge into a region and its history I knew little about.  Powerful!  

The Instant

Amy, a “digital nomad,” moves to Berlin, ready for a yet another change, a chance to remake herself.  She’s lonely but curiosity connects her with strangers. Along comes a guy (all the characters are nameless) and it’s a magical romance. Until it isn’t. He ghosts her after they’ve plotted out a delicious future. Throughout the book, phases of the moon and observations of feral animals fill her consciousness.  A combination of emotional pain, clear-eyed reflection, and poetic descriptions make for an intriguing exploration of the human condition from one woman’s perspective.