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We meet Cara through a series of interviews with a social worker who’s trying to help her get employment. The factory where she worked has closed and she’s pretty desperate but also has lots of conditions. Which we learn about fully since she spills everything in a delightful dizzying rush of Spanglish—she’s from the Dominican Republic. Life is tough. Her biggest sorrow: her gay son Fernando has pulled completely away from her. With great verve and generosity she helps relatives, friends, and neighbors in increasingly gentrifying Washington Heights, which is one of the reasons the job offers are untenable. I don’t speak Spanish but I loved hanging out with Cara so I just got most of the words in context. A refreshing delight!
Subtitled A Family’s Quest to Hear and Be Heard. Sophie was born deaf. Rosner was devastated. How would they communicate? So many decisions. Then their second daughter Juliet had even more severe hearing loss. They found a good school, moved from California to Massachusetts, and made good choices which wasn’t easy. For instance, Juliet got cochlear implants, quite controversial. Rosner plunged into murky family history and discovered many deaf relatives. She creates a narrative to convey what it must have been like for them back then in Galicia in the late 1800s. Rosner’s own mother was very hard of hearing but tried to cover it up by appearing “normal” but this made her emotionally unavailable. She was determined to change that pattern with her daughters and it seems to be working. Candid, thoughtful—a beautiful book.
Subtitled A Reckoning of Memory and Murder in the Mississippi Delta. When the author was 10 years old, a very bizarre killing happened in her hometown. Dutiful daughter Ruth appeared to have stabbed her mother many times over with garden shears. Ruth described the Black man who “did it,” but no evidence turned up and she was eventually incarcerated in the notorious local penitentiary known as Parchman Farm. However, as an upper-class white woman she got preferential treatment and was even pardoned down the line. This all happened in 1948 and Lowry uses it and her own experiences as a lens to focus on racism, “justice,” and folly in the deep south—then and now. Powerful!
Heather really wants to do better with new husband Tom’s fractious kids which is how they end up on said island off Victoria in Australia, on a family vacation where there’s a promise of viewing animals. It’s a tiny, strange place, already inimical, and when Tom runs over a woman on a bicycle, things get very scary indeed. I had to suspend disbelief periodically but got very caught up in the desperate action. Helps that Heather had training as a wilderness guide. Lots of suspense.