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It’s been awhile since I’ve been in Wyoming with Joe Pickett, game warden, and his familiar cast of characters. Here Steve2, a social media mogul, wants an elk hunting experience and Joe is drafted to accompany him. The stakes: his department may be cut without the influx of cash Steve2 might bring to the state. (That name? A play on Steve Jobs.) It goes terribly awry as a vengeful father intends to bring Steve2 down; his daughter committed suicide from cyber-bullying. Lots of action, of course, sometimes improbable yet predictable. But for colorful escape reading, it worked for me.
When Edie’s father is stricken with early Alzheimer’s, she and husband Oren move to SF to be closer to family. His condition gets worse and worse. She smothers him. No one knows. Oren gets a job in Perth, a fresh start that might help Edie’s malaise. Everything’s upside down, down under, as it were, but she’s still terribly burdened by her secret. Only coming clean will work. This slim book treats a heavy subject with a surprisingly deft and inviting tone. Details of daily living—a cat, a possum, neighbors—and Edie’s confessional candor add up to reading pleasure.
Is it Rose, Fern’s twin, who deserves that accolade? She’s apparently the soul of functional life despite their apparently dreadful upbringing with a crazy mother. As for Fern, she’s clearly autistic but holds down a library job and kind of manages on her own though Rose is very protective. Into the library comes “Wally” wearing a Where’s Waldo knit hat. He’s not homeless as Fern first thought and they actually connect. Turns out he’s a van-dweller, charming but with a touch of the condition himself. Rose can’t get pregnant. Fern decides she could become a surrogate with Wally’s help. As Fern comes into her own, the plan takes on another dimension and there’s quite a denouement. The library seems very accepting of Fern’s quirks and needs—sweet, though I sometimes had to suspend disbelief. Set in Australia.
Short stories by a Laotian who lives in Canada. The title story grabbed me first thing when the child spreads newspaper on the floor of their small Toronto apartment. That’s where they sit down to eat a dinner of cabbage and chitterlings, the cheapest foods available. Many stories are about not fitting in, and the toxic, demeaning jobs for immigrants: the chicken plant, a nail polish factory, picking worms. Stripped down, powerful writing.
These essays range all over the map; for example, Iditarod, sumo wrestling, man-eating tigers, and Route 66's science fiction interstices. Phillips has enormous curiosity and a punchy style that makes for fascinating reading no matter what the subject. I didn’t grok every piece but got such a kick out of the ones I read that I wanted to share them here.
Back next week.