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In Durnton, a dying town in Australia. Young Esther goes missing. Sarah, a detective, is brought in; she's hurting because her girlfriend Amina could no longer put up with Sarah's long hours and dedication to her job. The town closes ranks, except for Esther's best friend who's determined to discover what happened. Brutal fathers, homophobia, and small-town bitterness all weigh in. Powerful and atmospheric.
Cyril, gay, is a talented interpreter for the deaf. He's leery of working with deaf-blind Arlo but the money might help him finally get out of Poughkeepsie. Arlo turns out to be very smart but his uncle (and guardian), a Jehovah's Witness, keeps him under his thumb. In chapters narrated by Arlo we get punchy translations from ASL which are direct, vivid, and don't obey the rules of English grammar. Arlo has a devastating secret, but it's prized out in his college English class. A cascade of unfortunate but essential events leads him to independence. (Yay!) Utterly charming and absorbing.
On a stark rocky island, Prior Artt lands with two other monks, intending to create a sanctuary free from the sins of the world. He’s chosen young Trian and old Cormac and demands total obedience from them. The island is inundated with birdlife which proves a helpful resource as their meager goods diminish and Artt refuses to let them resupply on the mainland because “God will provide.” Here’s zealotry to the point of madness with enormous challenges and perils. I had the pleasure of listening to the book and the narrator’s Irish accent enhanced the magnificent text. Rich, strange, highly recommended.
There are many ways to predict the future. In this novel, the narrator, a writer researching the subject, frames each chapter with specific approaches from the ancient Greeks to contemporary techniques like Googlemancy: Prophesy by Strangers. Beset by the current plague, with her domestic situation in tatters, she gropes for answers. All that knowledge doesn’t help when the future seems so grim, but there is a kind of resolution at the end (whew). Witty, packed with fascinating background material, and touching, to boot. Set in London.