Neshama’s Choices for November 6th

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Wife With Knife by Molly Giles   

Subtitled Stories That Cut and indeed they demonstrate various forms of revenge with wicked wit. 34 stories, some very short, that take place all over the map geographically but mostly inhabit the territory of relationships gone awry. One is set at Agate Beach in my hometown, another in Arkansas, and a third in Mexico. In that one, a nasty couple with mother-in-law in tow, think they’ve finally gotten rid of her, but she definitely has the last laugh. I’ve gotten to know the author who has frequented our library—she’s a local treasure!  


Tom Lake by Ann Patchett  

I’m a big fan of this author and was drooling with anticipation when this Lucky Day book fell into my hands.  But have to admit it took me quite a while to get immersed in it. Great ingredients: the theater (Our Town and the Cherry Orchard), a movie star on the rise, and our protagonist Lara who stumbles into the role of Emily despite no training and gets to Hollywood as well but it’s not her actual destiny. However, when I caught onto the circuitous plot, I followed it with rapt attention.  There’s an incredible trick halfway through that had me flipping back and forth until I figured it out. Lots of opportunity for commentary on climate change as Lara, her husband Joe, and their offspring (yes, three sisters) struggle with the rigors of the orchard they tend. Two are dedicated to the land but the youngest, Nell, wants to be an actor. Jaw-dropping moments as the characters intersect and more secrets emerge.


None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell  

Podcaster Alix is getting a little bored with her stories of women who make it despite the odds.  At her party in a restaurant, she discovers she has a “birthday twin.” Josie, at an adjoining table, is the exact same age and was even born in the same hospital. Wouldn’t that make an intriguing new tack for her program? She soon discovers Josie, who looks drab and ordinary, is quite a piece of work; she becomes a burden and finally a terrifying threat. Josie has a much older husband Walter, two daughters with severe problems, and the story grows darker and darker. We know something grisly has occurred early on and get multiple, conflicting points of view.  One small problem: no characters I liked. But weird, scary, and compelling overcame that detraction. Jewell certainly knows how to craft psychological thrillers.  


Alchemy of A Blackbird by Claire McMillan  

I’d never heard of artist Remedios Varo, but through this beautifully crafted historical novel, I got to make her acquaintance in depth. She hung out with surrealists in Paris in the 30s and fled to Mexico when Hitler invaded. Her lover Benjamin Peret, a poet, essentially controlled her but she eventually broke free to claim her own destiny. Brilliantly framed by Tarot cards, each is linked to a character; through them, we meet Leonora Carrington, her best friend, as well as luminaries like Andre Breton, Frida Kahlo, Max Ernst, and many more. A deck of cards plus the author’s rich imagination and extensive research has given us a jewel of a book.