Neshama’s Choices for October 11th

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Break in Case of Emergency

Jen gets a job at LIFt, a rich lady’s foundation supposedly devoted to raising up women. The founder, Leora Infinitas, an assumed name that obscures her seamy origins, is elusive yet tyrannical. No one seems to know which end is up, but high-flown mission statements and rhetoric abound. A very strange turn when a man is invited to be on the board—I’ll let you discover what came of that.  I enjoyed this book because it’s such clever satire. My inner bitch rejoiced.

Crying in H Mart

The eponymous market is where the author can find the ingredients her mother cooked with. She’s in deep, almost uncontrollable grief after said mother died much too early of cancer. Their relationship was strained but food was her mother’s primary expression of love and Zauner reproduces Korean delicacies and comfort foods as a form of connection and solace. The author also shares how awkward she felt growing up Asian-American, neither/nor. Candid, vivid, heart-wrenching.

Hour of the Witch

My blood still runs cold when I read about our country’s origins—those pilgrims full of rigid religion, all about sin. Mary’s husband often gets “drink-drunk” and abuses her horrendously. Boston, mid 1600’s, and when women show spirit, they often get branded as witches. Mary’s very bright, apparently barren, and after a vicious attack in which he skewers her hand with a fork (considered Satan’s utensil), she tries to divorce him but fails. Who planted those forks and left other sinister talismans around her house? The book is billed as an historical thriller, the language is appropriately archaic which sometimes annoyed me (all those “thee's” and “thou’s”) but I was really rooting for Mary and got so caught up in the tale that I took it in stride.

Our Little Racket

In the sheltered enclave of Greenwich, CT, cool and elegant Isabel gets intimations of trouble. Her husband, nicknamed “the Silverback,” is a very successful banker. He’s always prided himself on his team but that falls apart when scandal starts to brew. Her teenage daughter Madison is confused and undone.  Why is Daddy holed up in the city apartment? Reporters assail them, alliances fray, and there’s an incredible showdown in the ballroom of a “friend’s” house during an exclusive fund-raiser. White people’s problems, for sure, but I always bask in schadenfreude when entitled folks lose their traction.

The Very Nice Box

Ava designs furniture for an IKEA-like enterprise. She takes pride in the orderly precision of her work but when we first meet her, she’s obviously depressed.  With good reason, as her story emerges. Along comes Mac, a new hire, who injects lively energy into the workplace and somehow strikes up with Ava whose ex was female. Tension develop with neighborhood “vandals” protesting a huge new building that threatens to destroy the community garden. Ava’s good friend and coworker Jamie, who’s gay, tries to warn her about Mac but she’s besotted despite mounting evidence of weirdness, including his involvement with the Good Guys, a kind of human potential booster program. The authors have great fun with furniture names and corporate culture.  And there are also cute dogs. I also appreciated Ava’s identity: bisexual and perhaps a bit on the spectrum.

Back next week.