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The Laughter by Sonora Jha
Oliver, a professor, is settled into his staid life until Ruhaba comes along. She teaches law, is from Pakistan, and he finds himself lusting after her. Her teenage nephew Adil now lives with her, sent from Paris after an event there put him in danger. Oliver is despicable—conservative, sexist, narcissistic—but I kept reading because I wanted to see him brought down. Campus protests upset the establishment but also bring about personal tragedy. Diversity, religious freedom, self-expression—all the watchwords of today’s concerns—get a lively workout here.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
Edi, a young mother, is dying. Her husband stays back in Brooklyn with their little son Dash for stability, so it’s up to Edi’s long-term friend Ash to see her through at a hospice in Massachusetts. In the month it takes for Edi to succumb, many aspects of their shared history come to light, as well as family and friends who stir things up. One fascinating thing: Ash is in a state of (let’s put it delicately) extreme horniness and pulls off trysts with her ex-husband, Edi’s brother, and even the hospice physician. Though death is the subject, this novel is brimming with life and humor. I loved it!
Homecoming by Kate Morton
A fat novel that moves back and forth from the late ’50s in Australia to 2018 in London as the complex story unfolds. Jess, a journalist in London, is drawn to a long-ago tragedy in Adelaide in which a mother and three children are found dead after a Christmas Eve picnic. Jess’s grandmother Nora, who raised her, is seriously ill so it’s time for Jess to go home, as it were. Jess pokes around, her findings get more and more convoluted, and eventually land shockingly close to home. At the end of 530 pages, I thought I knew the real story but still a niggle of doubt remains.
The End of Drum-time by Hanna Pylvainen
In the mid-1800s in a tiny Scandinavian village, a pastor manages to convert a drunken reindeer herder, Biettar, during an earthquake. That leaves his son Ivvar with the responsibility of the herd, but he’s distracted by amorous pursuits. Most of the villagers are in debt to the local store which sells alcohol under the counter. The old ways are in trouble and the migration routes are severely disrupted by settlers who carve out farms smack in the way. The author conveys the beauty and rigors of the landscape, a rich array of the characters’ needs and foibles, and the intricate aspects of herding magnificently.