Neshama’s Choices for July 17th

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Hang the Moon by Jeanette Walls   

In the deep South, Duke runs Clairborne County. He encourages his 10-year-old daughter Sallie to do daring things.  Until her little stepbrother, Eddie gets hurt when she sets him loose in her fast wagon, and she’s banished to a poor aunt’s care back in Hatfield. Then Duke’s second wife, Eddie’s mother, dies and Sally returns to see what she can do. A lot needs doing as another relative marries a preacher who’s determined to clean up alcohol now that Prohibition is the law. But this essentially wipes out the local economy and the family business, so gutsy Sallie becomes a rumrunner. A very convoluted family with secrets upsets, and surprises galore. Atmospheric, with lots of action.


Big Swiss by Jen Begin   

Greta is an odd duck with an odd job, transcribing notes for an unorthodox therapist. Bound by confidentiality, of course, but in this small bohemian enclave, she keeps running into those subjects. Case in point, this very intriguing, sexy Big Swiss. They end up having a torrid, complex affair, during which Greta manages to hide her real identity until it all comes tumbling down. Another fascinating wrinkle: Greta lives in a mess of an old farmhouse. Setting: Hudson NY where the author lives, and I wonder how locals feel about her satirical depiction of its denizens.   


Zig-zag Boy by Tanya Frank   

Subtitled A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood. Frank’s son, the Delightful and talented Zach, fell apart at 19 in the grip of rapid-onset mental illness. A number of diagnoses were put forth, drugs and treatments attempted--a nightmare all around.  Throughout, his mother Tanya grapples with a broken system and tries everything, including moving back to England with Zach, which took her away from her wife. Years later they’re back together (whew) and Zach is kind of managing, though it’s a constant struggle. Love and heartbreak, are so eloquently described. Note: I had a mentally ill son, so I could really relate.   


The Crane Wife by CJ Hauser   

Subtitled A Memoir in Essays. What a quixotic journey Hauser embarked on, trying to find her true path. She was about to get married but backed out when she realized it would lock her into what was expected of her. But what did she actually want? Explorations took her from a whooping crane reserve to robot trials to John Belushi’s grave site and more. She references seminal movies and books and shares her life story in mosaic form. By the end of the book, I was ready to sign up to be her best friend.  Her creative writing students are lucky indeed.