This installment: a chilling psychological thriller, literally and figuratively (f); the Serpent in Paradise—a yoga teacher? (f); an utterly wacky graphic novel (f); she disappears; is she dead? (f); an obsession with cooking (f); and another wild graphic novel (f).
No Exit by Taylor Adams
A psychological thriller that at times seemed too much but was riveting despite. At a rest stop in mid-winter, Darby slowly realizes something sinister is taking place. The storm has trapped them there and with each new discovery, there’s mounting confusion and horror. Blood is spilled—lots—and up to the last minute it’s dubious if she’ll make it. The plot: an abducted child and a caper gone terribly wrong. Chilling-yes!
The Goddesses by Swan Huntley
Is Hawaii paradise? Perhaps, though Nancy’s lonely and still hurting from her husband’s infidelity—this move is an attempt to fix the marriage. She meets an enigmatic, fetching yoga teacher on the beach who becomes her friend. That relationship morphs into something obsessive and takes some very weird turns. Intriguing—the serpent in the garden and how easily we can be fooled…
MacDoodle St. by Mark Alan Stamaty
This is an absolutely brilliant graphic novel by a cartoonist who, as Jules Feiffer tells us in the foreword, is the son of cartoonists—what a legacy, and possible burden. Well he rises to tell the tale, or tales, as these strips which appeared in the Village Voice in the late ‘70s attest. There is a gripping, ridiculous plot but digressions take us all over the place and I’m happy to go there. The strip itself is a character which appears in many moods, and even gets into the action. The drawings are very wiggy, like the frieze of eyeglasses with 3 lenses so they are shared from face to face all the way around the border of the page. Each page is dense with surrealistic surprises and takes concentration, but worth it. Also amazing word-play. I’m in love with Stamaty!
Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown
All that was left of Billie was her hiking boots, found in in the mountains where she’d been on a solo trip. Her teenage daughter Olive is convinced she’s still alive and has even had some “visitations” but her exhausted father is ready to lay it to rest and get along with their lives. More is revealed as Olive keeps poking and there’s a coda that I kind of guessed. The tenor of the book: how well do we actually know the people we live with? Billie had a checkered past and it rears its head periodically throughout. Absorbing. Bay Area setting.
The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal
A slim book about a young Frenchman who was always drawn to cooking but pursues culinary arts on his own distinctive path. Detours in academia, apprenticeships in various restaurants—some rewarding, some brutal, and finally his own place which fulfills until it doesn’t—too exhausting and ultimately soul-destroying. An inside look at the trade from a writer who has an almost surgical style—very precise.
Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt
A no holds barred graphic novelist who spews out stuff that most of us only think about in the privacy of our own scuzzy minds. Like poop variation, or very peculiar foodstuffs. Her style is giddily colorful and decorative, with a hint of Maira Kalman. Anthropomorphic birds and animals dressed to a fare-thee-well. We can all use a dose of silly, and here it is on the page, untrammeled.
Back next week.