This installment: third in the series featuring functional folks with autism (f); an improbable heart-lifting trek (nf); dark yet tender British humor (f); a teenager caught between two towns—one pious, the other wild (f); Ireland’s Troubles (CD-f); and Patchett’s latest (CD-f).
The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion
This is the third in the Rosie series and it helps to have read the other two so you’d immediately understand what’s different about Don and his son Hudson. For instance when Don meets someone new, he calculates that person’s BMI automatically. He’s a geneticist, and his wife Rosie might just discover a cure for cancer if her misogynist boss “Judas” wouldn’t keep denigrating her domestic involvements. An embarrassing incident deemed as racist ousts Don and when a new position opens up in Australia, the family goes. Hudson, who doesn’t like change, isn’t happy. His new school wants to run diagnostic tests for autism. His parents resist. Ups and downs and finally a nice save and the recognition of autism’s gifts as well as difficulties. Simsion makes a serious subject fun—quite a feat.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
How I love books about people who are up against the wall, do something brave and foolish, and it works! Here Ray and her husband Moth have been booted off the farm they’ve restored and lived in for years, a source of income as well. A bad deal from a former friend, the rigidity of the courts—it’s Not Fair! Homeless, with Moth facing a rare, debilitating disease, they set off to trek 630 miles along the English coast. Very little money, woefully under-equipped, but they do remarkably well, all things considered. The extensive walking and weight-training of backpacking, contraindicated by the physician, even help Moth’s condition. Winn is a marvelous writer who tells it like it is and I was so happy to go along on their journey.
How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper
Andrew has a grim job in public health: when someone without obvious family dies, he looks for clues, on the spot, body in situ. He’s very recessive, lives alone with his model trains, and certainly doesn’t seem like someone who’d connect. But here comes red-headed Peggy who desperately needs the work and they are teamed up. Andrew’s a hard case and it’s especially confusing because everyone thinks he has a wife and kiddies at home (a “misunderstanding” during his intake interview and if he fesses up he might get fired). Dark humor, tenderness, a sweet read.
gods with a little g by Tupelo Hassman
I enjoyed her memoir, Girlchild, and was very curious how she’d do in fiction. Very interesting, to say the least. Adjoining Southern California towns are at odds: Rosary with its piety and Sky in which anything goes. Helen, 17, is stuck in the former though she hangs out with misfits on the edge of town. Her Aunt Bev came back when her mother died; she’s a psychic of sorts which also doesn’t fit into Rosary’s belief-system. There’s also a pit bull among the rich cast of characters. Profane yet on another level full of spirit and belief despite. Eccentric and charming.
Milkman by Anna Burns
At first I tried this on the page and couldn’t get into it. But then it came along in CD form and I gave it a whirl. And whirl I did, into the tangled, paranoid world of The Troubles. The female narrator, with a very thick Irish accent, has a “maybe boyfriend” (not done) and likes to read while she walks (dangerous, say her many relatives). There are actually two “milkmen,” one in a van who tracks her—he’s smoothly sinister, and the other a real dairy deliverer who supposedly hates people, according to village craic. She’s accused of being a loose woman, with both of them. So much fierce judgement and bloody business between factions. I didn’t track all of it but found it very fascinating.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Danny and Maeve, siblings, have a very tangled relationship with this eponymous building. Their father bought it for their mother and she never felt at home there (so large, so loaded with history) and for that matter left them to “do good work” in India. A stepmother and her two daughters took over and that relationship was inimical, especially after their father died unexpectedly. Danny trained as a doctor though his heart was always in real estate (his father’s profession) and brilliant Maeve ended up working for a local frozen food business because she had to take care of Danny and never wanted to go further. So lots of misfiring on life’s path, lots of long-term resentments until five decades later, they come to peace. I heard this on CD, Tom Hanks reading, and was sorry when it ended.
Back next week.