This installment: a powerful tale of disaster on CD (f); a witty domestic drama (f); a hilarious, heartbreaking book (f); two gay guys in Venice with felonious plans (f); the consequences of rape (f).
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.
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
I was blown away by this book when I read it back in 2011. Then needed something to listen to when I resumed my commute and picked up the CD set. What a journey it took me on! Esch, 13, has no mother, four brothers, and a hard pressed father who drinks. One brother, Skeetah, has a magnificent white pit bull, China, the pride and love of his life. The town’s name, Bois Sauvage, describes the hardscrabble intensity of the place: dog fights, early sex, desperate adventures. Esch gets pregnant. Trying to prepare for Katrina, her father is severely injured. Devastation strikes yet there’s a glimmer of hope at the very end. A warning: lots of brutal scenes. Beautifully narrated. Set in Mississippi.
Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman
Teddy’s growing up, husband Gary’s decamped to the “snoring room”—a ruse (they’d planned to separate but can’t afford different domiciles and also don’t want to upset Teddy), and Judy needs something to comfort her. She ends up tucking her dog Charlotte into an old baby sling and wearing it. (An odd echo of There’s a Bird on Your Head, the very successful children’s book she wrote long ago). Creativity dried up, and she’s currently working at a job she hates. But fate delivers actions that shake things up and help this benighted couple get down to the heart of their difficulties and begin to heal. Humor: a “creativity” workshop, a progressive school—ripe targets. Charming.
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David Macdonald
Zelda is obsessed with the subject, convinced she is a warrior, and has come up with a firm list of rules that guide her. In that her life is beset with very messy elements (her brother Gert who’s dealing drugs, her Fetal Alcohol Syndrome-beset brain) she needs all the help she can get. She’s brave and surprisingly sharp, all things considered. She’s 21, has a boyfriend, Maxty, who is handsome but significantly impaired, and their attempts at sex are hilarious and heartbreaking (which pretty much describes the book). She also gets a job in a library—yes! I fell in love with Zelda and rooted for her all the way through her obstacle-ridden path to claiming her adult self.
A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen
Nick has summarily left his lover Ari to meet Clay in Venice. They have a scheme to sell fraudulent silver objects to a greedy mark which will fund their new life together. Clay inherited these from Frankie, his prior relationship, a flamboyant older man who was dying from a variety of conditions. Everyone in their circle believes Clay murdered Frankie, which indeed he did—a mercy killing. What’s particularly fascinating about this book is that Nick and Clay are very sympathetic characters despite their felonious plans and even a couple of killings. Venice is a very entertaining milieu, and the plot kept me reading into the wee hours. A delightful read.
Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li
Vivienne, Asian-American, has always been an adventuresome traveler. But when she sets out on a trail in Belfast and encounters a strange young man who tries to engage her and then won’t go away, her life is shattered by the subsequent rape. He’s 15 years old and knows little but petty thievery and deprivation. We learn about them both in alternating chapters: his life among the Travelers, hers well-fixed but never settled. The post-rape protocols and the trial are painful in themselves and it takes Vivienne years to take hold and start to trust again. The author knows of where she speaks. Vivid, disturbing, eye-opening.
See you next week.