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Clueless George buys an old house near the college where he got a teaching job. He knows nothing of the farm’s grim history. The book opens with a dreadful scene: his wife bludgeoned by an axe, his little daughter still asleep. The two young men who grew up in that house before their tragedy occurred have gotten involved with the family, doing chores and more. Malevolence oozes—a ghost? —but there’s also a sweet if confusing connection between the wife and one brother. Suspicion falls on George but he has an alibi. We discover he’s been up to no good but apparently gets away with it until…Creepy and fascinating.
Subtitled Caregiving and Burnout in America. The author knows all about it firsthand. When her husband is stricken with a terrible cancer, their life becomes a pressure-cooker of emergencies and then what seems like an endless, impossible juggle of everyone’s needs. Despite their financial stability and health insurance, it’s still awful. Washington shares her own story with candor and clarity, weaves in reflections from literature, and offers practical advice and resources. I admit I read it mostly for the first-person narrative and skimmed the other material, but want to share it because it’s an important book, especially if you find yourself in this role.
In the Midwest, school competition is rampant. Meredith helicopters daughter Sophie but can’t save her from a rash act that goes viral. Alice is very concerned with appearances—she works as a designer. When her son Teddy acts out, she panics. And how could her daughter’s grades have dropped so precipitously? Then her mother Evelyn, a retired therapist, unloads her secret (a daughter given away long ago) and all illusion of control crashes. Parental alliances crumble, misery all around, but finally some insight arrives via therapy and an earth-centered charter school. A bit predictable but I enjoyed it anyway. So much fun to read about the troubles of entitled folks.
A romance with a dark edge. Love at first glimpse but then the two don’t reconnect until Laurie meets her best friend Sarah’s new lover, the very same guy. She and Sarah started as roommates and are extremely close, so she doesn’t acknowledge his identity and hides her feelings with considerable discipline at great cost. He takes unspoken cues from her so everything might appear copacetic but tensions are always under the surface. Of course (no surprise—that’s the essential nature of romances) they eventually end up together but there are lots of missteps and lessons in the intervening decade. British and witty.
From a brief historical note about the death of Shakespeare’s son, Farrell has spun an amazing tale. Will’s very unpleasant father has no use for this apparent wastrel of son. But when Will courts the controversial Agnes (she’s older and has witchy ways), monetary advantages seal their bond. It’s obvious Will needs to get away from Stratford—he’s wasting his talents— so off he goes to London, intending to send for his family. There he finds his destiny but leaves Agnes, who can foretell the future, to cope back home. The plague claims his son in an amazing plot twist where Death takes the unexpected twin. O’Farrell fleshes out so much—the characters, the milieu—which brings the story to vibrant life and held me rapt.
Back next week.