This installment: two by the same author! (f); and a teen book grappling with pregnancy and adoption (f). [note: I read the first two on vacation after I’d finished all the books I’d schlepped or downloaded and had to plunder the eclectic “library” made up of books which previous guests had left. Someone really must have liked Shriver and I became totally hooked as well]
The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
In London, Irina, a children’s’ book illustrator, is married to a nice, smart man, Lawrence. His good friend Aston is a professional snooker player, once married to a writer with whom Irina collaborated. Now Aston’s on his own for the traditional birthday party. Irina finds herself overcome with attraction, there’s a galvanizing, clandestine kiss, and now what? In the next chapter she resists further temptation. In the one following, she succumbs. And back and forth these parallel stories play out. No happy endings in either scenario but lots of regret and rueful self-knowledge. At first the structure seemed extreme and manipulated but then I fell into the spooling out of each trajectory and was riveted throughout all 500 pages.
Game Control by Lionel Shriver
This author really goes for knotty subjects. In this case, population control, specifically in Africa but a problem world-wide. The solution, at least according to Calvin: create a virus that reduces the population radically for future sustainability. AIDS is too slow and its targets are too specific. Eleanor, who runs family planning clinics in Nairobi, falls under his peculiar spell though it’s hard to reconcile her empathetic nature with his draconian plans. He was once an elephant exterminator when it was obvious that elephants and people couldn’t coexist in the same reduced territory. His scheme never manifests (lucky for us…) and the denouement is surprising. Brilliant, disturbing, and even witty amidst the darkness.
Far From The Tree by Robin Benway
A YA book that tackles issues of teen pregnancy and adoption head on. Grace gives up the baby but in her anguish determines to find her biological mother and perhaps learn why she was given away. She discovers two bio siblings, each with their issues. Maya looks completely different from her family. Joaquin was shunted to foster homes; now at 17 he’s landed in a good one. They propose adoption but he’s too scarred and scared to accept their love and support. All three learn hard truths about their origins and come to peace with how they’ve landed. Moving.
Back next week.