Things to Read - On the Bookshelf (December 2015)
Recent reads . . . as always, my favorites are starred.
1. The Mare - Mary Gaitskill's novel, Veronica is one of the most haunting books I've ever read. It's also amazing. So I expected some sort of tragic sadness from her newest book, The Mare. But instead, the novel starts off somewhat sappily sweet when a tween girl from an inner-city neighborhood goes to stay with a childless couple in the country for the summer (via a charity called the Fresh Air fund). The book alternates perspectives, mainly between the girl, Velvet, and Ginger, the "country" wife (for lack of a better adjective). Velvet eventually becomes a realistic character, full of teenage desires, as she tried to balance the two radically different worlds in which she's found herself. But throughout the novel Ginger remained somewhat of an empty shell, who never came to life for me.
***2. Some Luck - This is the first book in a trilogy involving 100 years in the life of a midwestern farm family. The beginning was a little cheesy as it is told through a young baby than toddler's perspective. But eventually Smiley finds her pace and I could not put this book down. I ended up falling in love with every character, from the selfish oldest son to the animal loving middle child. A great read.
3. Mislaid - I've written about Nell Zink before (click here) and I'm still not sure what to make of her. In this novel, a lesbian mom, while escaping her gay husband, kidnaps her daughter and lives in poverty for a series of years, while pretending to be black (because she stole a dead child's birth certificate). It's sort of funny, it's sort of uncomfortable. It's a farce, maybe. I don't know. But it's worth reading.
***4. Life After Life - Everyone told me I'd love this book and they were all right. The writing is crazy good. And the idea that the smallest changes in a day/week/month could effect your entire life is (as always) fascinating.
5. My Documents - These short stories by Chilean writer, Alejandro Zambra, occur during the Pinochet years. Some are better than others, but they all focus on people unsure of the present and scared to question the past. The best (if you ask me) is Memories of a Personal Computer, where the story of a relationship is told through how the couple uses (and disuses) technology.
***6. Americanah - I'm a little obsessed with Adichie after reading her book/pamphlet We Should All Be Feminists. And I LOVED this novel. We live in a neighborhood with a lot of families from different countries and I always want to ask, "What do you think? Are you happy here? Did America fulfill your expectations?" But I can never find a non-cheesy way to have this conversation. This novel was, for me, the conversation I've been wanting to have. The story involves a Nigerian woman's experiences in America, but it's so much more than that. It's a love story. And it's about race. And nationality. And travel. And being poor. And later, not being poor. After I finished it, I felt like my best friend had just left. I didn't want to let her go.