Another month another stack…
As usual, several established authors have published new novels. Ruth Rendell has yet another psychological suspense novel, The St. Zita Society. She is the indisputable queen in this area, in my opinion. Debra Dean, the author of The Madonnas of Leningrad, returns to St. Petersburg in her second novel The Mirrored World. This novel is set in the Royal court of the 18th century. Louise Penny returns to her mystery series staring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache in The Beautiful Mystery and Benjamin Black returns to his series with Detective Inspector Hackett and his sometime partner Dr. Quirke with Vengeance. Finally Martin Amis has a new book, Lionel Asbo: State of England and Jonathon Tropper (author of This is Where I leave You) has a new novel, One Last Thing Before I Go.
Some interesting non-fiction books were published this month. If you are interested in politics, Arun Chaudhary has written The First Cameraman which covers President Obama from the campaign through the first 2 1/2 years of the presidency. D.T. Max has written a biography of Youngest’s favorite author: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace. The Forgetting River: A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity, and the Inquisition follows New York Times journalist Doreen Carvajal as she looks into her family history and religious roots. Author Reyna Grande writes of her life as an undocumented immigrant at the age of nine and her subsequent life in America in her memoir The Distance Between Us. And George Myerson has written an interesting sounding book called A Private History of Happiness: Ninety-nine Moments of Joy from Around the World. He uses ninety-nine passages from a wide variety of people- Marcus Aurelius to Louisa May Alcott and explores the passage with a brief commentary.
Three books have gotten quite a bit of buzz in the reading world. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin is set close to the hinterland in the orchard country of Washington at the turn of the century. A reclusive orchardist encounters two teenage girls later followed by men with guns. In The Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner is the story of a young girl trying to survive during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. I expect both of these novels to be read in lots of book groups. One other novel got rave reviews from English bloggers and has been finally published in the United States. Diving Belles: And Other Stories by Lucy Wood is a collection of tales that mine the legends and stories of Cornwall. The Guardian writes, “Wood’s finely wrought collection has touches of a benign Angela Carter and recalls the playful yet political transmogrifications of Atwood and Byatt … Dreamily nuanced.”
Two Books in Depth:
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison: In an essay at Amazon.com, Evison writes of the pain of losing his sixteen-year old sister in a freak accident and how it exploded his family apart. He writes:
There are holes in our lives that can never be filled–not really, not ever. And yet, we have no choice but to try to fill them. We must drive on in the face of debilitating loss, crippling guilt, overwhelming hopelessness. Because to give up is to be dead. I’ve lived with this idea since I was five years old.
It is this feeling that propels his novel. Benjamin Benjamin is a man who has lost almost everything. After taking a night course he becomes the caretaker of nineteen year old wheelchair-bound Trev who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The two eventually take a road trip from Washington to Salt Lake City picking up various people along the way. I love road trip novels and I like the premiss of trying to fill a hole in one’s heart. I highly recommend reading the essay – it alone was enough to make me want to read the book. Diane from a Bibliophile by the Sea writes:
This novel is worth reading, in my opinion. Sometimes I find reading about emotionally damaged characters to be extremely difficult, but when humor is infused which was the case with this novel, the experience can be ultimately uplifting.
We Sinners by Hanna Pylväinen: In this contemporary novel, the Rovaniemis and their nine children live in the mid-west and belong to an extremely conservative church. The story is told in alternating chapters by the parents and the children. The novel explores the more traditional ground of a family novel, birth order, sibling rivalry, parental expectations, etc, while looking in depth at the role of faith for each member of the family and with their relationships with each other. While I did not grow up in a restrictive church, my extended family comes from a very faith-oriented background and I have seen first hand what individuals go through struggling to stay on the church’s terms, their own terms, or to leave all-together. The Boston Globe calls it “(a) spare, quietly devastating debut novel” and Megan of Leafing Through Life has a wonderful in-depth review:
We Sinners is a quiet but powerful book that explores the vagaries of a commanding faith from inside and out. Pylvainen’s prose is stark but illuminating, shining a light on a topic that rarely gets so much balanced attention. While Pylvainen briefly explores each of the family’s members to great effect, the focus always remains on the fundamentalism that both unites and divides and how the choice to stay or to go always leaves someone standing on the other side of the glass wondering if they failed to choose the better way.
We Sinners sounds like an impressive book and one worthy of more notice than it has received so far.