Neshama’s Choices for January 9th

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The Displacements

Yet another dystopian story—whoo boy! A fearsome hurricane essentially wipes out much of the South and masses of folks need shelter. They are bussed far and wide, ending up in huge tent encampments. We get to know one in Oklahoma where well-heeled Daphne and family from Florida find themselves in dire straits, essentially penniless. There’s also an opportunistic insurance agent with a side game in drug dealing. Rain, FEMA’s administrator, is constantly up against incipient chaos but does her best to provide some sense of community. Very hard lessons, especially for Daphne, but when she returns to the outside world three months later, she’s transformed from self-centered and cosseted to tough, clear-headed and compassionate. Riveting.  

You're Leaving When?

Subtitled Adventures in Downward Mobility. When the author’s marriage is over, she must scramble for solvency which means roommates of all sorts, as well as the brave new world of dating. She also has a kid in and out of college (hence the title) who presents additional challenges. Gurwich is very funny. The subjects these essays cover are quite varied so you’re bound to find stuff to relate to—and chuckle over. Bay Area setting. 

Lucy by the Sea

I always feel in such good hands with this author.  She has a deceptively unvarnished, colloquial style that feels immediate and intimate. Here the arrival of COVID gives William, Lucy’s ex, the excuse to get her out of NYC to a house he’s rented in Maine.  Lucy thinks it’ll only be for a few weeks. They are awkward housemates at first.  Lucy hates the house and the feeling of isolation in the small, unfamiliar town.  But old familiarity and their new circumstances bring them together again—no surprise. Concern about their daughters creates tension. Also, William loves his new-found sister and her family (subject of Strout’s last book, “Oh, William”) who live close. Rueful, thoughtful, utterly satisfying. (I listened to this and love the matter-of-fact narrator, spot on.)  

What Happened to the Bennetts

It seemed like a random carjacking that results in the death of 16-year-old Alison. But the thugs who did it are part of a powerful crime family and the FBI whisks Jason, Lucinda, and their young son into WITSEC so they can testify to bring them down. However, it gets much more complicated and Jason, a court reporter, doesn’t know who to trust. Layer after layer is revealed and the family’s bonds are sorely strained. Suspenseful and intense.