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You wouldn’t think entitled Greenwich, CT society would support the marriage of Tiny and Caroline, but Tiny’s family is very rich which obviously has clout. Tiny’s mother Bitty orchestrates a lavish wedding in Bermuda but lots goes awry from the get-go. Pretty over-the-top satire but I sensed there would be a refreshing denouement and indeed Tiny comes into her own, upsetting the golden apple cart but claiming herself. (“My name is Georgia,” at last.)
At 25, Elsa is too tall and considered homely. No marriage prospects for her. She catches the eye of young Rafe, gets pregnant, and her parents force a union and in effect disown her. Not a good beginning and then comes the Dust Bowl. We track her desperate, stoic trajectory as Rafe disappears, crops fail, and she sets out for California with her two children. I had previously dismissed this very popular author but a friend recommended this book as a solid read and indeed it is.
Doc works at a remote station in Antarctica. It’s a perilous environment under ordinary circumstances, but then a very weird accident occurs. A young man perishes on a floating iceberg, and Doc suffers a stroke. Back in London his wife Anna who’s been content with his long absences—she’s a scientist and deep into her career—is now saddled with an aphasic, dependent spouse. Her grown children aren’t particularly helpful, and there’s a cloud over the incident but no way of finding out exactly what happened and who to blame. I especially appreciated descriptions of the class in which stroke victims learn different ways to communicate. Also, the surrealistic almost-poetry in what comes out of their mouths. Haunting and original.
Tookie, ex jailbird, now works at Birchbark Books (the name of the author’s real-life bookstore) and lives with the guy who arrested her, now no longer a tribal policeman. Her crime was bizarre in itself—the heist of a corpse requested by a woman she had a crush on. Now she’s haunted by what had been her most annoying customer. Flora, white and very involved with Indian affairs, is a persistent ghostly presence. Lots of history, lots of literature (including great book lists)—a feast.
Kate, a journalist, is following a story about two girls who disappear in Thailand. Her son Jake is supposedly taking a year off law school to work on a research project there but also hasn’t been in touch for quite a stretch. The girls have met a bad end, she discovers, and irony of ironies, Jake is involved. Barton has a clever set-up: chapters toggle between various characters, so we hear from the Reporter, the Mother, the Detective (now retired and friends with Kate), and one of the girls. Lots of suspense but also nuanced in terms of various issues of morality and parenting responsibilities. (I listened to this on CD and appreciated the varied voices.)
Back next week.