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Fatty Fatty Boom Boom by Rabia Chaudry
Subtitled A Memoir of Food, Fat & Family. She was born in Pakistan, dark and scrawny. The former is an unfortunate deficit but the latter is remediable through a fat-rich diet. When the family moved to America, junk food added to her increasing bulk. Would anyone marry her? Her first husband was no prize. She fled with her daughter, made a successful career as a lawyer, and met a beefy guy who “tells her she’s beautiful every day.” (Yes!) Now an advocate, author, and podcaster, she tells her story in vivid detail, deeply candid without a trace of self-pity. Recipes too.
Fairy Tale by Stephen King
In original form, said tales are brutal. King plays on the darkness in them throughout this epic fantasy in which many familiar stories are interwoven. 17-year-old Charlie’s widowed father is an alcoholic on the skids. In desperation, Charlie makes a deal with God to do good for someone in need if the drinking stops. His grumpy, reclusive neighbor needs lots of help, and so does his very old dog Radar. In the shed on the property is a portal to other worlds in deep trouble. Boy and dog descend. Could Charlie be the prince who can save it all? 600+ pages later, well—kind of. A wondrous workout, with classic illustrations as well.
The Magic Kingdom by Russell Banks
Harley grew up in a Shaker community in Florida which seemed benevolent until he reached adolescence and fell in love with Sadie. Celibacy is a primary tenet of that religion but the two managed to connect surreptitiously until it all came tumbling down. The Shakers were doomed, to begin with as their base shrank, and in a grotesquely ironical twist, their property was bought up by Disney. We learn this decades-long history via Harley’s old tapes, discovered in his decaying house after his death and “faithfully transcribed” by Banks. Despite best intentions, utopias can never fulfill their vision—we’re all too imperfect.
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
Cushla’s life is divided between teaching and doing shifts in her brother’s bar. This is where she meets Michael, He’s older, married, and on the wrong side; this is Northern Ireland during the Troubles. A recipe for disaster indeed comes about. Some of the historical material went by me but I’m always fascinated by affairs of the heart and this one plays out intensely. Vulnerable Cushla remains so attached despite mounting evidence. She befriends a needy family, also on the wrong side, with more loss along the way. A thoughtful glimpse into how politics can wreak havoc with relationships.