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Chorus by Rebecca Kauffman
In Virginia, the benighted Shaw family struggles with trauma. There are seven siblings, and we learn about each in chapters that range over decades. At first, I wondered how I could sort it all out, especially since each character’s story is told in non-chronological jumps. Gradually the whys and wherefores develop like a photograph, showing how the mother’s severe mental illness affected each. The title refers to the chorus of harmonious community connection, and how each Shaw feels deep alienation from it. Thoughtful and melancholy—my kind of book.
The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green
That city is loaded with atmosphere and this book plays it for all its worth. From magnificent mansions to homeless encampments, from corrupt institutions to eccentric characters, readers are plunged into a tale of mystery, history, and murder. One of the “kingdoms” is a deserted island. Developers want it but a fabled chapter of Black history would be erased if they prevailed. A wild denouement in tunnels under the city brings the novel to its breathless close. Note: the city trades on its ghostly past with tours that tout it constantly.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Dickensian, literally. I don’t know how she pulled it off, but here’s that epic tale (David Copperfield) updated to a fare-thee-well. In Appalachia Demon is the ultimate benighted orphan. Almost every foster home is worse than the previous one. Coal and opioids have gutted the populace. But he’s articulate, resourceful, and takes us through dizzying ups and downs with clear-eyed reportage. (Yes, there are some lucky breaks amid the crashes.) I chose the audible version; the vernacular is so rich. A treat!
Unleashed by Cai Emmons
Mother Lu and college-bound daughter Pippa both feel disconnected from their lives. What grounds them both: connection with animals. Wildfires create more disquiet, and the specter of some women’s mysterious disappearances haunts them both. There’s an astonishing denouement that took me completely by surprise. Northern California setting. One fascinating note: the author has ALS and is currently quite functional, all things considered.