Keeping our great libraries in business this summer with another set of books read, and thoughts on them to share before launching into more books waiting on the shelf.
This go round, I tried unsuccessfully to keep it short—
Book: The Senator’s Wife
Author: Sue Miller
A novel by Sue Miller is sure to please no matter the season. She has a true ability for deep plots and dramatic conflict, often involving the past and present lives of the characters. Such is true in The Senator’s Wife. Its title character, Dehlia Naughton, led a troubled life for many years while married to her very unfaithful politician husband, Tom. Meri, her newly married neighbor, is at a crossroads in her life with a baby on the way, a new home, and a husband she feels increasingly distant from. She’s instantly drawn to Dehlia, who seems so resilient and wise despite her tragic circumstances, which also spark Meri’s curiosities. The two women’s lives sort of parallel the other in that each experiences their own version of an imperfect marriage, complicated spousal love, motherhood, aging. Miller shows too how so much can change over time and space, including the desires of the heart.
Book: Haunted, A Novel
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Brace yourself Palahniuk fans. Five words to describe my favorite writer’s stomach-churning mess of stories from Nightmare Land: Beyond gruesome, at its worst. OK, I’ll try to explain being I’m such a loyal fan of Mr. P’s work. Choke, LOVED it. Lullaby, very interesting. Invisible Monsters and Diary, so-so. Haunted, HELL NO.
Reading Palahniuk, I’ve come to love and expect big shock value, executioner-style. The basis of Haunted seems more appropriate to a B-grade horror film: a bunch of aimless people going on a writers retreat are held hostage by a twisted octogenarian who makes it a contest who can stay alive the longest. You learn each wannabe writer’s story one by one, with the group’s present story as the lead-in. interestingly enough, the intrigue stops there. The characters really have nothing in common other than having led pathetic lives, and a rather sinister desire to stay in lock-down for however long it takes to kill each other off in hopes of getting instant fame. It all comes off as simply disturbing. Maybe the author wanted to illustrate the spirit of desperation in survival situations, but no redemption is in store for this misfit bunch as they all turn out to be just as twisted as their captor in the end. I was never happier to see a story end, all apologies to the author.
Book: Mozart and the Whale
Authors: Jerry and Mary Newport, w/ Johnny Dodd
Readers may have watched the film adaptation of the lives this autobiography is based on (filmed where else but in my hometown Lilac City). This is the story straight from the sources, and it is simply inspirational to say the least. From the start of their lives, Jerry Newport and his wife, Mary, knew they were oddball kids with superior intelligence. In the 1950s and 60s, however, the science for Asperberg’s syndrome and autism in general was hardly developed. For the Newports, this meant an endless cycle of struggle and challenge growing up. Readers get to hear both of the couple’s stories from childhood to adolescence, to their present adulthood. The ultimate joy they experienced in finding one another was nothing short of a miracle, but in doing so they faced a whole new set of challenges when they attempted to merge their lives and personalities together. How these two incredibly resilient individuals manage to overcome both their individual life obstacles and manage to find some semblance of happiness together is truly a wonder. Mozart and the Whale is not your typical love story, but that’s what makes it remarkable.
Book: Love Child
Author: Sheila Kohler
Absorbing settings with exquisitely rendered prose; Kohler’s Love Child is a classic story of forbidden love and past lives told in retrospect. The life of Bill, a young South African woman from a working class family, is one of sacrifice and inherited privilege. When faced with the task of creating a last will to secure a large inheritance from her marriage, Bill’s memory is kicked into overdrive, revealing secrets from her past she’s kept hidden between herself and a faithful African maid—a teenage love affair, family betrayal, and infidelities with a wealthy employer---all of which will ultimately determine what may be the most important last decision of her life. Readers in search of a summer page-turner suffused with passion and intrigue, Love Child is a story that will take you there, and back.
The reviews keep coming—next up, Ann Pachett’s State of Wonder (now burning up the Times’s bestseller list), Joyce Maynard’s The Good Daughters, and Candice Bushnell’s much awaited follow-up to last year’s Carrie Diaries, Summer and the City.