Neshama’s Choices for January 30th

The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken 

The title refers to the author’s mother, now dead, so it’s auto-fiction that McCracken uses to bring this eccentric, spirited woman back to life. Father huge, mother tiny, and very outspoken. She had ongoing problems with her legs and feet, but that couldn’t stop her. She was also very private but here we learn what shaped her. What a tribute, brimming with lively, detailed anecdotes and love.  We should all be so lucky to have such a fine writer for a child, but in retrospect, I wonder what her mother would have felt about this slim volume. McCracken assures us she didn’t tell everything—there are still secrets left.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

The world of fantasy gaming is brought to life through three indelible characters. Sadie and Sam were childhood friends.  They reconnect in Cambridge where they’re both in college and discover their mutual passion for virtual world-building. The game they create by the seat of their pants becomes a cult favorite and they go on to considerable success at a very young age.  Marx, Sam’s roommate, has a passion for the theater but his skill as an entrepreneur becomes essential to the enterprise.  Complicated relationships abound. Then tragedy blows their scene apart for many years. My grandson is a devotee of such games, and I appreciated the opportunity to learn how they’re created and what a spell they weave.

Foster by Claire Keegan 

Many children in a chaotic household where a new one is due—-it’s all too much.  That’s why the girl gets to spend the summer with the Kinsellas where she gets undivided attention and solicitude, just her and them.  She flourishes,  but there’s a shadow in the house, which she gradually discovers: their young son who drowned. Such a mix of love and grief, all under the surface. A small book, full of rich and subtle observations. Set in rural Ireland.

All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Matthews 

Sneha gets a hard-won job in Milwaukee as a consultant. Her boss is very demanding but she’s eager to be a success, however, the cost is considerable. Her position comes with a free apartment but the property manager who lives downstairs is horrid. Sneha is lesbian but long-term relationships have eluded her; she often seems cold and even cruel. She develops a small clutch of friends and lovers of varied races and ethnicities, and there are many ups and downs. Eventually we— and she— learn what has kept her from embracing life and rising to her authentic self. Lots of words in Hindi that add color and aren’t hard to figure out in context.