Neshama’s Choices for March 29th

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The Adults

In the prologue we learn that someone’s been badly wounded by an arrow. Archery is just one of the many feverish “attractions” of this Happy Forest resort.  How could feckless Matt have invited his ex, Claire, their 7 year old daughter Scarlett, and her uptight boyfriend Patrick on holiday with Alex, his scientist girlfriend who barely knows them? For bonding, Matt thinks, but it goes grotesquely awry. Scarlett relies on the company of her imaginary full sized rabbit friend to get her through, until an unfortunate surreptitious viewing of Watership Down freaks her out. Delicious satire from England.

The Burning Island

Charlie has a gift: psychic visions come to her that solve crimes and rescue children.  As a journalist, that “gift” has garnered unwanted attention that detracts from her chosen profession. Her greedy agent pressures her to write a  book about these experiences but she wants none of it. For a magazine assignment she gets a weeklong “vacation” to the Big Island with her best friend Rae to write up a volcanologist who’s also a triathlete.  But this Victor is a hard subject, and she can’t understand why he’s not more upset over the disappearance of one of his teenage daughters.  Of course there’s a complex and sinister story underneath and sure enough, Charlie ends up detecting once more. Atmospheric, suspenseful—a good escape read.

Tropic of Violence

A small tropical island, a French protectorate, is besieged by immigrants. One, a desperate young mother, hands over her baby who has one green and one brown eye— the mark of a djinn—to a white nurse, Marie, who brings up Moise with privilege and education. But when Marie dies suddenly, the 13-year-old-boy is panicked and ends up on the mean streets. An aid worker befriends Moise but that relationship gets him into deeper trouble with the local gang and the unthinkable occurs: Moise shoots the leader. The cops are crooked, the politicians exploitative, the tourists naive, and we know it won’t end well. A slim book that packs a punch.

What We Carry

This memoir tells of Lang’s relationship with her psychiatrist mother, her postpartum depression, and tending her mother when Alzheimer’s struck. They were very close. She always thought of her mother as a wonderful support and listener.  But when she asked her to come and help after Zoe was born, her mother made excuses— the beginning of her illness, but who knew. Much of subsequent revelations and healing came through recognizing the stories we tell ourselves, the myths we create, and the need to sort out the disjunctions between them. Lang managed some sweet time with her mother in situ before caregiver fatigue and increasing dysfunction took over. Now it’s assisted living (not bad) and rueful, thoughtful reflections. Moving and beautifully written.

The Wolf Road

Speculative fiction, a bit hard to believe but it certainly grabbed me. The Damn Stupid (environmental and societal collapse) has occurred and in BeeCee (British Columbia), after 7-year old Elka’s grandmother dies she flees into the forest and is rescued by Trapper, a hermit. He’s strictly schooled her in the ways of the woods but later she learns he’s also a killer. She sets out looking for her parents who’d gone north to find gold. Trapper tracks her. She makes a bond with a wolf cub. Other surprising alliances, lots of suspense, and the deep confusion about how Trapper could have been so protective of her and so brutal to others. Quite a yarn!

Back next week.