This installment: fishing exigencies in Alaska (f); all about swimming (nf); WWII in Norway (f); East vs West, Egypt/America (f); creative anachronism in Wichita (f);
Editor’s Note: The titles and links below will direct you to print when available, with occasional notes made of digital eBook and eAudiobook availability.
The Alaskan Laundry by Brendan Jones
Traumatic events—her mother’s death and something else we don’t learn about until later—send Tara to a remote fishing village at 18. She leaves her boyfriend Connor and her Sicilian father back in Philadelphia. Tara’s a toughie (a boxer) and that’s very good thing because fishing is brutal and it’s definitely a man’s world. But she’s very motivated, especially when she falls in love with an old tug she wants to call home. The author knows the territory inside-out and describes it with lyrical power. This isn’t a “perfect” book (does such a thing exist?). But it definitely took me on a journey and that’s something I really yearn for in these shut-in times. Curious about the title? The experience tumbles you about and if you’re lucky, you might just get clean.
Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui
The author, a hardy SF Bay swimmer, does a bang-up job of describing what swimming means to her—utter joy—and to us, in many dimensions. Without it we’d drown (survival); it makes us feel good and has many health benefits (well-being); it brings us together (community); it sparks achievement (competition); and finally it connects us with expansive, spiritual energies (flow). She also brings in species from small to huge that swim, and cultures that consider swimming essential in their daily lives. That combination of enthusiasm, science, and well-researched reportage makes for a winning reading experience.
Also available as an eBook and eAudiobook on Hoopla.
Keep Saying Their Names by Simon Stranger
Just when I’d thought I’d had enough of WWII books, this one came along and caught me up again. Norway, where a horrid traitor, Henry Rinnen, spies on the resistance for the Germans and when they come to power, tortures and kills many Jews in a house he’s taken over. Five generations later a writer, descendant of one of his victims, brings forth the story which keeps his great-great-grandfather alive in memory. The most fascinating aspect of the book was what shaped Rinnnen’s character. He was very short, very resentful, very cocky and vicious—he’ll show them! Chilling.
A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib
Rose, from Egypt, is married to Mark, an American journalist who converted because of his love for her. She’s an Egyptologist working at the Met in NYC. Mark, who’s fascinated by Egyptian culture, does a story that includes young Saaber who lives in the slums. You would think this would improve Saaber’s life. Instead it drives him to a desperate act that kills both him and Rose’s sister Gamilla. Rose is stricken with guilt (Gamilla led Mark to Saaber at her suggestion) and this plays holy hell with her Muslim faith, her marriage, and her living in America. The myth of Osiris whose body parts were scattered and reassembled plays in as well. The novel explores the complexities of East vs West with subtle, thought-provoking skill.
The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood
Zee, aka Zhorzha, lives a hardscrabble life in Wichita. Her mother’s an obese hoarder. Her sister LaReigne, a prison volunteer, has been abducted in a jailbreak leaving 5-year-old Marcus behind. Enter Gentry, Zee’s “stalker,” who’s autistic and is convinced he’s to be “Lady Zhorzha’s” champion. Which turns out to be true when they set out on a desperate quest to rescue LaReigne. He was adopted by an enlightened Black family and has embraced anachronistic language and skills to a fare-thee-well. I know all of this sounds nuts, but it makes for a wonderful story and I suspended disbelief and read it with my heart in my throat up to the slam-bang yet nuanced finale. Very original!
Back next week.