This installment: Tyler’s latest (f); the toll of passing (f); teacher seduces student (f); a quiet Japanese apocalypse (f); and portals to other worlds (f).
Editor’s Note: Much of our print collection is now available for holds again. The titles and links below will direct you to print when available, with special notes made of digital ebook and eAudiobook availability.
Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler
Michah seems to have all his ducks in a row, and he strives to keep them neatly arranged. He leads a modest life like most of Tyler’s protagonists: he’s the super of the building where he lives; as Tech Hermit, he fixes all manner of computer glitches for whoever calls; and his girlfriend is generous and undemanding. But then she learns she may lose her housing and when he doesn’t exactly leap up to take her in, she gets understandably miffed. Doesn’t help that the 18-year -old son of an old lover shows up in distress and Micah puts him up overnight. When the inevitable breakup occurs, it takes quite a while for Micah to recognize how his rigidities are squeezing the joy out of his life. I love Tyler and was so pleased there was a new book out but be forewarned—it’s very short.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Twins Desiree and Stella flee their little Louisiana town at 16. In New Orleans Desiree finds a job fast but Stella has little luck. At a department store where she applies, they assume she’s white (both girls are very fair). She gets hired and down the line, snags her boss. Thus starts a life of passing and we get to witness the terrible but invisible toll it takes. Desiree marries a charming but abusive guy, then returns home with her daughter, Jade, who’s very dark-skinned. The sisters have been out of touch for decades but when Jude sees a woman who looks just like her mother, the secret finally emerges. And when Stella’s daughter learns the truth, she’s devastated by the lies that have shaped her mother’s life. An eye-opening take on race, and a riveting story as well.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Oh those terrible relationships that form between teenage girls and their teachers. I’ve read a handful of novels on this theme. This one is outstanding for getting into Vanessa’s mind and heart, and what conflicted places these are. She still thinks she started it even after allegations come out against Mr. Strane, and the weight of loyalty and shame she bears deform her subsequent life until therapy, at last, starts to free her. The book spoke loudly to me because I had a similar experience and certainly recognize how Vanessa thinks she knows it all and how the actual sexual acts are far from the romantic fantasies she’s envisioned. Strane uses literature as seduction and as you can imagine, Lolita plays a starring role. Creepy and compelling.
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
On this small island in Japan, many things and the words that go with them start to disappear. The eponymous force makes sure of this; they’re blank-faced, methodical, and sometimes brutal. The protagonist is working on a novel about a woman whose voice is stolen. Her beloved editor is threatened and she ends up hiding him in a secret room. Another friend, an old man, joins her in quiet subversion. Books go, of course—what a conflagration. And finally body parts. An earthquake and tsunami intensify the losses. What fascinated me about this book: the restrained almost matter-of-fact tone that describes this apocalyptic scenario. A haunting perspective for us during this fraught time.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Yes, there are portals to many other worlds. When January stumbles through one and briefly meets a young man, she’s determined to keep exploring. She’s also searching for her father, a treasure-hunter who disappeared. She’s been a ward of her father’s boss, Mr. Locke, who’s determined to tame January’s wild spirit. Turn out his “archeological society” is a cabal formed to destroy these portals which represent instability and dread change. We gradually learn her origins though a manuscript from her father. All the worlds are richly drawn and there’s a rip-roaring story as well. Juicy!
See you next week.