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This is a rollicking, ridiculous adventure story. Ramesh, who takes tests for others, lands his client Rudi in the absolute top tier of the most prestigious college entrance exam and catapults the young man to TV stardom on a quiz show. Rudi is a dim bulb but has considerable charm and things go along swimmingly until the son of an influential man gets humiliated on the show and revenge is in the works. This escalates to hair-raising heights (Ramesh loses a finger) and tables are turned continuously. Hindi words sprinkled about for extra flavor. I really had fun with this.
Keith finally fulfills his dream of becoming an astronaut. In space he learns his 16-year-old daughter Quinn has been killed in a car crash. Delays keep him from returning to earth for 3 months and when he arrives, everything seems to be over. His wife Barb has moved in with her mother in Atlanta. She tells him he was never there for her or Quinn; obsession with his job took top priority. Their suburban house has been gutted. NASA says take time off to grieve and heal, but work has been his only solace. Weird, sexually heated encounters with the woman across the street ensue. Another neighbor, Ukrainian Peter, provides surprising companionship. He’s miserable working at Target; back home, astronomy was his passion. Keith painfully discovers that there are no equations for solving despair, but at the very end there’s light (ahh). Melancholy, and thoughtful—a rich read.
I love psychological thrillers and Jewell is a master. Here we have Owen, a miserable misfit. He lives in one room of his dismissive aunt’s house and has just been dumped from his teaching job for inappropriate interactions. Neighbors are Cate, Roan, and their adolescent daughter Georgia, freaked out over an encounter with a threatening man in a hoodie. And then there’s mixed-race Saffyre whom Roan, a child psychologist, once treated. She’s the invisible girl who negotiates her fraught existence with desperate but effective strategies. Scary attacks on girls increase. Suspense mounts. Absolutely fascinating.
Subtitled A Life Amongst Clothes. Wilcox serves as Senior Curator of Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and indeed she loves all manner of garments and expresses that enthusiasm and knowledge here in detail. But clothes serve as a jumping off point for telling her personal story which she weaves throughout with great skill. I never realized how much information a worn-out garment can convey about who might have worn it and what kind of life they led. Exquisitely stitched, entertaining prose.
Subtitled The Story of a Face. Ruhl, a playwright, already has a 3- year -old daughter. Then along come the twins. And Bell’s palsy, which creates a considerable challenge: a distorted poker face is not what you want trying to communicate with tender, nonverbal beings. Usually that condition resolves in time, but Ruhl’s persists for 10 years though she tries all sorts of remedies. Eventually an underlying malady comes to light and now her smile is almost symmetrical. A wealth of lessons and reflections from her ordeal, both personal and societal, deftly done.
Back next week.