This installment: a fractured family (f); skullduggery in India (f-CD); a haunting film (DVD); hope for dark times (nf); and wild doings In Miami (f-CD).
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.
The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Kalina, 13, is supposed to be watching younger brother Prem. When she’s holed up in her room, desperate for a little privacy, he sneaks into the pool and drowns. There goes the shape of that family: Kalina wracked with guilt, father Keith soldiering on, mother Jaya totally withdrawn. Parents split, Jaya finds solace in her Indian spiritual beliefs, Keith drives himself fiercely in business, and miserable Kalina manages to succeed at school, releasing tension through cutting. College, meant to be a new start, is scuttled after her boyfriend decamps. Kalina is then seduced by a cult (the Sanctuary initially sounds to good to be true) and sure enough, that ends very messily.To save Kalina, Keith and Jaya finally come through as the parents she needs, and with therapy all around, they bond and support one another (whew). The ghost of Prem offers some commentary as well—he’s a wise soul. Very absorbing.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Balram has chutzpah, or whatever the Indian version of that is. We learn his incredible story through his own narration, supposedly to fill a Chinese leader in on the secrets of Indian entrepreneurship. Balram started in what he refers to as the “dark”—a small village where greedy landlords exploit the peasants. He manages to get a job as a driver for one of less awful of the bunch, and in Bangalore keeps an ear out and learns a lot about how things work. Corruption all around, primarily. How did he make the switch from servant to master? A shocking act, as we learn early on. The narrator of this CD has a rich accent that adds even more color to this picaresque tale.
The Souvenir (DVD)
While I was watching this odd film I sometimes lost patience with the seemingly unfocused dialogue and self-absorption of the characters. But it wove a surreptitious spell and when it was over I went straight to the director’s commentary which shed light on the hidden intensity that grabbed me. Anna is a film student who falls hard for an aristocratic heroin addict. We witness how love hurts, over and over, as he jerks her around and distracts her from her nascent art. Anna is played by Tilda Swinton’s daughter (who plays her mother in the movie) and has an extraordinary face—transparent, the essence of innocence. Her paramour, thickly handsome, has a subtle scar on his upper lip that served as a tip-off for me: a sneer waiting to emerge. The director revealed that the actors came up with their words on the spot which accounts for what I now realize is verisimilitude. (Ordinary discourse seldom sparkles.). The cinematography is often very beautiful. Quite a surprise to discover at the end how much I liked it.
The Opposite of Certainty by Janine Urbaniak Reid
This memoir is just what we need in this time of unparalleled uncertainty. Reid’s young son Mason was diagnosed with a brain tumor and all her illusions of “perfect parenting” were knocked into a cocked hat as she embarked on exploring how to treat his frightening condition—and even more importantly, how to keep herself from going under as each crisis loomed. These are very hard-won lessons, told with grace and (yes) humor. As she puts it, this is the book she wished she’d had to guide her through her fear. We’re all experiencing a variety of losses during Covid-19 and though they might not be as dire as Mason’s, Reid offers lots of light through whatever dark tunnel we might encounter. She’s also an excellent storyteller.
When Darkness Falls by James Grippando
Florida lawyer Jack Swytek ends up with the weirdest cases. Here self-named Falcon, homeless, crazy, and very dangerous, becomes his client. He’s holed up in a Miami motel with hostages, including Jack’s best friend, and is making insane demands. Turns out there’s a connection to Argentina’s “the disappeared,” and a political coverup close to home makes things even more dicey. Suspenseful and surprising.
See you next week.