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A small neighborhood in Brooklyn, more like a village, where well-heeled, eccentric denizens play out their lives. Among them Roy, an author from England whose career has stalled; Peaches, a toothsome nurse at the local school; Stuart, once a rock star, now a family man—his wife Mandy has taken to her bed with (supposed) MS. Many have offspring. There are Intersections of all sorts and a wham-bam finale with a Guy Fawkes party more incendiary than intended. Sly humor—I read it as a bonbon book.
Subtitled Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking. (whew). I’m not even that interested in gastronomy but was intrigued enough to take a look and got completely hooked. He’s a wonderful writer: vivid, thorough, and direct. Such a challenge: three-year-old twins, no French to speak of, and ending up not in glamorous Paris but in a city that seemed tough and homely at first. And people who seem unfriendly, also at first. And the brutality of the trade with a rigor that seems insane to the uninitiated (me). But he’s determined, passionate, and ultimately delivers what he promised. The “secret” is in the book’s title and a strong case for truly organic soil cultivation. Lots of history too. A treasure!
Tabitha, awkward and eccentric, is in jail. The day a body was found in her shed is a blur but she knows intuitively she didn’t do it despite all evidence to the contrary. Her attorney pushes a guilty plea so she fires her and becomes her own counsel. She combs the documents, artifacts, and store camera findings obsessively. The setting: a quaint seaside village, where she grew up, with a dark history she’d hoped to overcome. Tabitha is such a fascinating character: prickly, sometimes explosive, but she has hidden smarts and intrinsic integrity. I finished the book in one breathless gulp, reading way into the night.
Korean-American Joon, 13, gets the lowdown from African American Knowledge (that’s her name) which she really needs when they bust out of the shelter. Oh those mean streets; you need drugs to do the demeaning things you need to do to stay alive. A dregs of a life it is, but Joon is a survivor. Why is this book not depressing? Because Joon’s spirit is so strong and she’s a brilliant narrator. I can’t imagine going through such degradation and it always amazes me when people come out the other end relatively intact, perhaps even stronger. Set in the Bronx.
Our unnamed narrator is visiting a friend, a fellow writer, battling cancer. While there she sits in on a lecture by her ex, also a writer, whose view of the future is about as bleak as it gets. Her friend (no character bears a name) asks her to see her through assisted suicide and thus starts a very peculiar journey that reminds me of Schrodigner’s Cat: what’s it like to know you’ll be leaving this earth imminently and when is the right time? A suspended state, for sure. The only person our narrator confides in about the plan is her ex, and this leads to fascinating discussions about the nature of life and death and what’s important. Many references to writers—lots of names here—and at first I thought I was reading nonfiction but then I checked the catalog. Nunez is sui generis and I find her very intriguing.
Back next week.