This installment: Nazi hunting in the ‘50s (f); torn between Mexico and American (nf); online sleuthing (f); a British psychological thriller (f); Vapnyar’s latest—a triumph (f).
Editor’s Note: Since our print collection is currently unavailable, the titles and links below all direct you to our digital ebook collections, either in Overdrive or Hoopla*. You can learn more about using those services on our blog, and contact us if you need assistance.
*Restrictions to using Hoopla apply based on your home address.
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
What a blockbuster, often over the top but very compelling. The eponymous figure is a German woman who slew 6 children plus a young soldier, Seb, in cold blood during WWII. She’s now the prey of Nina, a savage woman from Siberia who was with Seb when he died and has sought revenge ever since. She was a fierce Red Army pilot in wartime but was thrown out when they discovered her father hated the regime. She connected with two Nazi hunters, (one Seb’s brother) and the chase is on. All the way to Boston where their target has assumed a new identity. Myths—the dread Rusalka, the Lorelei, and the Selkie—play in, Lots of German and Russian phrases and air combat lore add to the rich stew, and it’s researched in depth as well.
Also available as an eAudiobook on Hoopla.
The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
A magnificent memoir of being rn between two countries and two cultures. First Papi left for America when Reyna was 2, promising to return. Then Mami joined him. The three siblings stayed with their paternal grandparents but felt like orphans. Then Mami returns with a baby sister but it’s not a joyous reunion. (Papi took up with another woman.) Mami hooks up with a younger man and the kids are shunted to their maternal grandma’s shack. Much poorer there, but at least some love. Finally Papi returns to take them to El Otro Lado, a harrowing journey and of course huge challenges await them in this new place. They experience the strains of privation and divided loyalties despite the supposed advantages. A community college teacher saw Reyna’s gift, took her in, and today she’s an acclaimed writer. Very vivid. One quibble: lots of Spanish phrases but no translation.
Missing Person by Sara Lotz
A chat group of citizens forms to pursue such cases. An odd mix of folk in American who zero in on The Boy In the Dress, an old crime. We meet Shaun back in Ireland who wonders what happened to his older brother, also gay. He fled, is supposedly dead, but there are lots of questions.The family ousted him and stay mum to avoid scandal. Shaun and the amateur sleuths make contact and eventually much more is revealed. Much of the book appears as chat with some terms I didn’t quite get. The most interesting aspect: how easy it is to disguise oneself online. The entire group consists of damaged, needy individuals. Creepy and fascinating.
The Girlfriend by Sarah Noughton
Yet another psychological thriller from Britain, this one with positively dizzying twists and turns. It opens in a wash of blood, intensified by the stained glass windows of this deconsecrated church that has been repurposed into flats for vulnerable tenants. Abe has fallen—or was pushed—and his sweet girlfriend Jodie is utterly undone; the two were neighbors. Abe’s estranged sister Mags is summonsed as next of kin. She’s a tough lawyer now practicing in Las Vegas. She has to make the pull-the-plug decision. Mags doesn’t accept the police’s verdict: accident or suicide attempt. When she pokes around, very surprising backstories are revealed. I didn’t know who done what and why until the breathtaking denouement. Mags softens, Jodie improves, but they go through the wringer to get there, as it should be.
Divide Me By Zero by Lara Vapnyar
This is a beautifully constructed, intelligent novel with (to me) gnomic math questions as a frame. Katya’s mother has written out index cards in preparation for a book to teach math to adults. She gets derailed by cancer but “Katya” (whom I started to think of as Lara since it certainly feels autobiographical) promised it would be published and here it is in brief. Katya’s life is divided by three: her long-time husband—a good guy but the marriage lost its magic after the first year; her lover, B., who reconnects from long ago but struggles to leave his new wife; and Victor, an handsome oligarch who offers her financial security. Katya’s a writer who’s working with the themes of love and death (what else is new?), leavened by the absurdity of life, and the product (this book) fills the bill beautifully I especially love the concept of their “Escher” house in Staten Island—tall, narrow, and very oddly designed which reflects their domestic disorder within and without.