Just Giblets

2014, the Year in Books: #’s 4 & 5

18th January 2015
by Michael

2014, the Year in Books: #’s 4 & 5

Top five time… and the authors of the two books represented at #4 and #5 have both appeared on my top lists of the year before. This is Thrity Umrigar’s second visit to the Top 5, with her sublime novel The World We Found coming in at #4 in 2011. Marilynee Robinson came in at #2 in 2008 with Home, the second of the Gilead trilogy, for which this year’s #4 book of the year is the conclusion.

The Story Hour#5 – The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

Forgiveness is a topic too often left unexplored. In Thrity Umrigar’s beautifully drawn domestic drama, an Indian immigrant, who harbors a life-altering secret rashly attempts suicide and finds herself in the care of an African-American therapist who is harboring a secret of her own. As the two women become unlikely friends their lives become entangled, but when these secrets are revealed/discovered, the limits of their friendship and their capacity for forgiveness will be tested.

Thrity’s work at spinning domestic, cross-cultural drama is elegant and powerful. Characters shift across reader sympathies, and with the exception of one character who is decidedly one-dimensional, they all reveal hidden depths that make them seem all too real.

Chalk up another strong novel from best-selling author Thrity Umrigar!

Lila#6 - Lila by Marilynne Robinson

Lila is the third in Marilynne Robinson’s exquisite Gilead trillogy that began with Gilead and Home. Lila revisits the Reverend John Ames, late in his life, but is centered around Lila, a wandering woman, taken as a child by the mysteriously scarred woman known only as Doll. For as long as she can remember, Lila’s life has been a hard one, although she wouldn’t describe it as such, being the only life she has had. After her life with Doll is ended, she reaches her lowest point before finding herself living in an abandoned shack in the outskirts of Gilead. It is there that she makes the acquaintance of Reverend John Ames.

It is there that Lila’s life makes a turn. While she struggles with her thoughts, and her beliefs as she reads the bible, she also slowly learns the trust Reverend Ames, who grows to love her.The two eventually marry and start a family, but it is Lila’s journey from harrowing pragmatism to joy and hope that makes LILA beautiful. Marilynne Robinson is a master storyteller, and her words carry with them a spirituality that transcends the religious.

posted in 2014, Books, Year-end lists | at 11:06 am | 0 Comments
15th January 2015
by Michael

2014, The Year in Books, #’s 6 & 7

Other than being written by women, there’s not a whole lot in common with the sixth and seventh books on my list. One is from a well-known author that I’d never read, but she so charmed me at a Random House author breakfast, that I thought I’d give her work a try. The other was from an author whose previous novel was #5 on my list of best reads in 2012!  Interesting side note: my #6 novel could be considered similar to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life which I found tedious and couldn’t even finish. Obviously, I would disagree.

lucky

Lucky Us

#7 – Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

Lucky Us is a new coming-of-age novel set in the 40s and 50s by best-selling novelist Amy Bloom. Eva is a young woman left by her mother at the home of her estranged husband, Edgar, on the day of his new wife’s funeral. There Eva meets her new big sister, Iris, with whom she runs away with as Iris seeks stardom in Hollywood. There they befriend Franciso, a gay hair and make-up man who helps Iris on her way up and subsequently down the Hollywood ladder before a surprise reunion with Edgar leads all three of them to Brooklyn where Eva settles into her life.

For the first half of the book, Eva is mainly a spectator in her the life of her family. Too young to work, unable to attend school, Eva helps her sister try to achieve her goals while carefully observing the vagaries of life. A series of sudden tragedies push Eva into a more active role in her own life, as she finds herself without a support system and people who are dependent upon her.

Through it all, Bloom keeps things light, even when dealing with difficult situations. She’s a great writer, using language that is clear yet beautifully composed, and creating voices that are unique and sympathetic. I had the privilege of seeing Ms. Bloom talk about her at the time forthcoming novel at Book Expo America last May and found to be utterly charming, strong-willed, and hilarious.


myreal

#6 – My Real Children by Jo Walton

Patricia is feeling confused today. At least that’s what the note by her bed tells her. In fact, at her advanced age, in the nursing home where she lives, she often feels confused and forgetful, but what’s she remembers distinctly are the two lives that crowd her memory. One where she married Mark and raised four children in a world that is at peace and has a colony on the moon; and another where she spent her life with her beloved Bee and their three children, on a beleaguered planet suffering from nuclear detonations and fatal fallout.

Jo Walton, whose last novel, Among Others is my afore-mentioned #5 read of 2012, spins a straight-forward, subtle tale of a woman’s life, or rather, two lives, and how a single decision can propel that life into two very different paths. And could that one person’s quiet, unassuming life also have major repercussions across the globe? Just like the theory that the flap of a butterfly’s wing can cause a hurricane halfway around the world, Walton wonders if a single decision could make the difference between peace and violence. Which life would you choose if given the choice?

posted in 2014, Books, Year-end lists | at 7:24 am | 0 Comments
11th January 2015
by Michael

2014, the Year in Books, #’s 9 & 8

A local author creates a complex, character study masquerading as a thriller, and a inventive fantasy riff on a classic tale come in this year at #’s 9 & 8. These two books couldn’t be more different (except for their dark tone and intense female protagonists… okay, maybe there are more similarities than I first thought) and they appear on this list for different reasons. Elo’s book features strong, complex writing, and a deep exploration into character, while Paige’s book features an adventurous, inventive plot, filled with rich, vividly drawn characters. Just a peak into the variances of what makes a strong read for me.

North of Boston#9 – North of Boston by Elisabeth Elo

Boston-area author Elisabeth Brink has reinvented herself as Elisabeth Elo after an initial debut that focused on the interior life of a quirky heroine named Gillian Cormier-Brandenberg, in order to launch a dramatic series of suspense novels following the life of another woman with a somewhat complex name, Pirio Kasparov. That’s really where the similarities end. North of Boston certainly delivers on the suspense, but it is so much more than that weaving alcoholism, questionable parenting, the fishing industry, perfumery, complicated family relations, the questionable line between hunting and slaughter, and even the exploitation of indigenous cultures. It may seem like an everything but the kitchen sink approach, but in the skillful hands of Elo, it is in fact, a powerful, coherent story that resonates long after the final page is read.

I’m not a huge fan of the genre, but as I mentioned, this intricate story transcends simple characterization. What holds it together most effortlessly, is the character and voice of a bold new heroine. Pirio can be a little impulsive, and experience has taught her to withhold emotion, but she’s smart, tough and likable, and more than capable of carrying a novel, and as time will surely tell, a series.

Dorothy Must Die#8 – Dorothy Must Die by D. M. Paige

First in a series, Dorothy Must Die tells the story of Amy Gumm, another Kansas resident who finds herself dropped in Oz because of a tornado. Sadly, the Oz Amy finds herself in is a horrific reflection of the one we all grew to know through the wonder of the movies. This is Oz is ruled by a despotic hand, one that thinks nothing of torturing and killing anyone who displeases her. It is the hand of Dorothy, and the Order of the Wicked has decreed that she must die and that Amy must be the instrument that does it.

Expanding yet again on the universe of L. Frank Baum, Dorothy Must Die is imaginative, compelling, and yes, horrific. Billed as a young adult novel, I was surprised at the brutality faced by the characters in this book. Still it makes for a really strong read, and fans of fantasy, or the Oz books should give it a try.

posted in 2014, Books, Boston, Fantasy, Year-end lists | at 7:00 am | 0 Comments
10th January 2015
by Michael

2014, the Year in Books: #’s 11 & 10

Here’s a pair of books that really have very little in common other than the fact that their titles both begin with the letter “S” and they’re both excellent books that are among the best books I read in 2014! Neither are my usual fare either. #11 is a non-fiction science ebook, and #10 is Chick-Lit. Of course, the former is a book about bumblebees, one of my favorite animals, and the latter is written by a beloved soap opera, returning to writing, and showing off some top notch improvement.

A Sting in the Tale#11 – A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees by Dave Goulson

Bumblebees are among my favorite creatures, and Dave Goulson’s book is simply delightful. Packed with fascinating scientific and historical facts about bumblebees, Goulson also fills the book with charming anecdotes, and droll humor. As a British scholar, the focus of Goulson’s research is understandably centered around that country, and the once-ubiquitous English gardens that allowed the bumblebee to thrive for so many years. Goulson does follow the research far and wide, from South America to Tasmania. He also peppers the book with related informational tidbits on honeybees, butterflies, badgers, martins, echidnas, wasps. and all sorts of other creatures.

Goulson wraps up his popular scientific narrative by talking about the BBCT, or Bumblebee Conservation Trust, a charity devoted to the Bumblebee, that he started several years ago. He adroitly makes the larger connection of the importance of the bumblebee, and all the pollinators of the world, and our planet’s success.

scared

#10 – Scared Scriptless by Alison Sweeney

Scared Scriptless is Alison Sweeney’s second novel set in Holllywood featuring a female protagonist who is involved in the entertainment business. You could label it chick lit, romance, or beach reading, and you would be correct, but its easy, comfortable and warm style really transcends genres and puts a smile on your face while you’re reading. When I’m reading Sweeney’s novels, I feel like I’m listening to her tell a story. I’m on the set of a busy television show shoot; I’m pitching a reality show to hard-nosed executives, and on a date with an impossibly handsome, incredibly popular television/movie star and dealing with all that entails. The details that Sweeney infuses into her novel, which can only come from her first person experience, translates to beautifully and seamlessly into the story that I really feel like I’m spending time with the author herself.

The plot is engaging enough without the Hollywood touches. Maddy Carson is the script supervisor (have you ever read anything about a script supervisor?) on a hit TV show — but is not comfortable with the Hollywood entertainment business life. She’s a down home gal, with deep roots in her family’s hometown in the mountains. When an opportunity presents itself to help her family and home community by pitching a reality show about her town, she’s tentative, but throws herself into the project, alongside her boss, Craig, who she is secretly dating. Then there’s this gorgeous actor who has just joined the show how is not so subtly pursuing her despite her “no actors” policy. Can the uber-organized Maddy reconcile her discomfort with Hollywood to become a real force to be reckoned with in the business? And will she figure out her love life despite her protestations against grand romantic gestures? And how many movie quotes will I catch as Maddy and her colleagues toss them about throughout the novel?

If you’re not looking for something serious and full of literary allusions, and you’re curious, even a little, about the mechanics of creating a TV show, give Scared Scriptless a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

posted in 2014, Books, Year-end lists | at 10:41 am | 0 Comments
8th January 2015
by Michael

2014, the Year in Books: #’s 13 & 12

The next two books on my top list are both new authors to me, and are the first two of several high-end speculative fiction titles on my list. It was a good year for me with science fiction. It was also a really good year for women authors, with 10 in the top 15 (and 13 in the top 19.)


duplex#13 – Duplex by Kathryn Davis

This is one unusual book. Kathryn Davis merges the tropes of science fiction (robots, sorcerers) with 50′s domestic drama. Mary’s neighborhood is populated by boys who play sports, and girls who trade cards. The robots who live next door are curious, but most of the time they retain their human shape. When the sorcerer drives down the street one day, Mary’s life, and the life of her neighbors, is changed forever. Then there’s that house by the ocean, where all sorts of confounding events occur. And just what happened to her school crush anyway?

I’m not sure I quite understand what Davis was getting at with Duplex, but I loved the tone and the structure of the book. The concepts are grand yet personal. It’s not the type of book where I necessarily needed to know exactly what was going on, but it was fascinating to read, and so entertaining, that I just let that all go. If you’re willing to trust you’ll have an interesting ride, you will want to give Duplex a try.

memory#14 – Memory of Water by Emmi Ita?ranta

A dark future, where potable water is scarce, and seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio struggles to learn the secrets of the past to determine how the world came to be the way it is. While learning to become a tea master and eventually take over for her father, Noria learns of the dangerous secret that puts her at risk with the government. She also discovers old technology that reveals even more secrets that she finally must act upon in the hopes that knowledge will help to change the world.

Emmi Ita?ranta is a talented writer, weaving together sentences that create stunning visuals. Memory of Water weaves and falls like flowing water ultimately seeking it’s destination. This is a somber tale, filled with foreboding, but ultimately there is a hopefulness infused into the resolution. Noria is a wonderful character, both reflective and proactive, and the future Emmi paints is intricate and fascinating.

posted in 2014, Books, Year-end lists | at 6:00 am | 0 Comments
7th January 2015
by Michael

2014, the Year in Books: #’s 14 & 15

snowThe Snow Queen#15 – The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham is a talented writer, and his prose is always a joy to read, but in his latest novel, The Snow Queen, I felt the story wasn’t quite fully realized. There are some intriguing ideas — around life, death, love, siblings, success, songwriting, caring — but it’s unclear what it all amounts to. In fact, re-reading some reviews of The Snow Queen I find it difficult to recall the book being described; it just didn’t stick with me.

Still, despite a slow start, Cunningham’s latest novel builds nicely and the threads do start to come together nicely in the last quarter of the book. Sadly, a Michael Cunningham novel only comes along once every few years, so it’s disappointing when they don’t all reach the heights that his previous work does. Definitely worth a read.

this#14This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

This Dark Road to Mercy is a good book. I enjoyed reading it. It moves along nicely and tells a good story about two young girls in North Carolina, Easter and Ruby, whose mother has died years after their father has abandoned them. They end up in a foster home awaiting word from grandparents they have never met living in Alaska, when their father, Wade, a former, promising baseball player, shows up with an idea to get them back. Trouble is, someone is after Wade, and his intentions are not good. Wiley Case does a nice job building some suspense, Easter’s voice is particularly strong. But I am not really sure what he was trying to say about fatherhood, and the parent/child relationship, and the ending left me vaguely unsatisfied. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it was a little shy of being a great read.

posted in 2014, Books, Year-end lists | at 6:00 am | 0 Comments
6th January 2015
by Michael

2014, the Year in Books: A Few Honorable Mentions

There’s nothing arbitrary about the number of books I chose to spotlight for my year-end review. I stop there I feel there is a natural cut-off. This year that break does come in at #15, but even there, of the 38 books I read this year, there were a few more that I felt deserved a mention on the blog. Maybe they didn’t rise to the very top, they were still notable for one reason or another and great reads all the same. Here they are, in alphabetical order by author: the-books-that-didn’t-make-the-top-but-were-still-notable!

secret

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore – As a big comic big fan, a bigger fan of superheroines, and a long-time fan of WonderWoman, you know I wasn’t about to pass up a book that explores that character’s secret history. Add to that an author with a pedigree in feminism and history, and I was bound to find this a fascinating read. Then, I found myself sitting next to Ms. Lepore at a Random House breakfast at BookExpo America where she introduced this book to a bunch of librarians, and we bonded over my Wonder Woman cellphone cover. All that and I haven’t even mentioned what a great book this was. Lepore talks about how the Wonder Woman comic book came to be, and how it led the feminist charge through most of the previous century, but she also explores Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Martson and the two women in his life, Elizabeth Holloway Marston and Olive Byrne, who served as inspiration and even co-creators of the Amazon Princess.  Marston and his unconventional family make for fascinating subjects, and they were, but call me superheroine-centric, I just wanted a little more Wonder Woman.

liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockwood – This smash, young adult novel follows the lives of four teens as they spend summers on a private island off Martha’s Vineyard a la another famous, political family from real life. Seventeen-year-old Cady is our narrator as she looks back on the previous few summers on the island after a bizarre head injury robbed her of a season’s worth of memories. No one wants to tell her what happened, not her closest friends and cousins, not the little ones, not her mother, or aunts, and not even the boy who she thought was her boyfriend. All she knows is after the accident that robbed her of her memories, she stopped hearing from her fellow ‘liars,’ no matter how many e-mails she sent. We Were Liars is a engrossing read, with a nifty twist toward the end, but there’s only so much privilege I can read about before starting to roll my eyes. Fortunately, Lockwood is aware of this and rolls her authorial eyes in that direction as well.

arsonist

The Arsonist by Sue Miller – I’d never read Sue Miller, but she was going to be a guest at an author panel I put together, and I always try to read the book of an author I will be hosting. Plus, the premise of The Arsonist appealed to me: a series of fires plague a resort town in New Hampshire, but the houses going up in flames only seem to belong to the summer residents; the year-round residents abodes seem safe. This is the backdrop of a family story where a woman returns from years working in Africa to find her aging parents having some difficulties. What starts as a family drama, a story about aging, and a backdrop of crime, evolves a little too much into a love story for me during the second half, but Miller’s a strong writer and I’m glad I gave this one a shot.

 

love

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff – We lost one of our true talents in 2012, but he left us with a gift; his first novel. One that retained his sharp tongue, his sardonic wit, his discerning eye and his sympathetic heart. And the kicker? It’s entirely in verse! This is truly anoriginal and refreshing series of interconnected stories chronicling life, love and relationships throughout the 20th century. In addition to David’s poignant, acerbic, and witty storytelling skills, he has written the entire novel in verse, and included some beautiful illustrations by Seth. It’s a gorgeous design for a sweetly powerful novel by a talented writer who left us far too early.

posted in 2014, Books, Year-end lists | at 6:00 am | 0 Comments
5th January 2015
by Michael

2014, The Year in Reading: Graphic Novels

SagaIn preparation for my list of the best books I read in 2014, I wanted to call out a particular category that deserves mention, but didn’t feel right to include on the list proper, and that is the graphic novel, or more specifically, the collected editions of monthly comics. I’m a big comic book reader, and most of the reading I do in this genre is of individual issues on a monthly basis. Occasionally there is a title I’ve missed that I later catch up with when they are collected and published in bound editions. If I included these collected editions as part of this list, then Saga, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 would have made the Top 5.

The latest ongoing work by notable comic writer Brian K. Vaughan, with dynamic assistance from illustrator Fiona Staples, is a science fiction space opera cum Romeo & Juliet. A soldier and a rebel from opposite sides of two warring planets, fall in love and flee with their infant daughter with the governments of both factions, and a particularly a couple of wild bounty hunters on their tails. Saga is just that: a prose narrative of achievements and events in the history of a personage, family, etc. Sagas are all about heroism, and while there is something inherently heroic about Alana and Marko’s forbidden love and their refusal to follow the prejudiced and hateful viewpoints of their respective worlds, their heroism is shown on a much smaller scale, and that is they desire to raise their daughter despite the odds against them.

sagav1Vaughan, whose work in such comic titles as Y: The Last ManEx Machina,  Runaways and the stand-alone graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad, is known for this thoughtful explorations into the human condition, while telling a compelling adventure story, whether in the context of a dystopian society, a world of super-heroes, or against the backdrop of war.  His partner and co-owner of Saga is talented illustrator Fiona Staples, whose imaginative designs of alien races and starships lends both a whimsical fantasy and hard science fiction element to her work. Her gorgeous, hand-painted covers, and hand-worked lettering are also widely-praised by critics and fans alike.

If you’re a fan of high adventure, fantasy or science fiction, but not a comic reader, I would recommend you give Saga a try. If you’re a comic fan, but not so hot on the science fiction/fantasy elements, i would also suggest you pick up Saga, Volume 1. This is top notch work, and worthy of a place in my list of Top Reads of 2014. I only gave it a category all its own to make room for more books to spotlight.

posted in 2014, Books, Comics, Year-end lists | at 8:52 am | 0 Comments
8th January 2014
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2013 – #’s 1 & 2

My top books read in 2013 is topped by an old favorite and a new debut.  Helen Wacker’s debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni is a powerfully gorgeous fantasy novel disguised as historical fiction.  Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is gorgeous, Gaiman-fantasy at its best.  A couple of really great books.

The Golem and the Jinni#2 - The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wacker

I find it interesting how wrapping a fantasy in historical fiction allows a novel to transcend genre and suddenly appeal to a wider audience. It’s a neat trick that worked for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and if there’s any justice it will work for Helene Wecker’s lovely and highly original The Golem and the Jinni.

The setting is the oh-so appealing turn-of-the (20th) century New York City, and the protagonists are, surprisingly enough, a golem called Chava, and a Jinni called Ahmad. Both find themselves in a difficult situation with no one who truly understands their respective plights. Chava was created to serve as a wife for a Polish peasant. Despite admonitions to the contrary, the peasant awakens Chava on the journey from Europe to America, then promptly dies of a massive heart attack. The golem is suddenly alive, but without a master, and while she possesses nearly limitless strength and endurance in her body made of clay, her strange ability to sense the desires of those around her threatens to drive her mad.

In traditional jinni style, Ahmad finds himself in Arbeely’s shop after the young man begins work on a copper flask. Ahmad has been trapped in said flask for centuries, but his release only adds to his torment, for on his wrist is an iron cuff that traps him in human form, and prevents him from accessing the full range of his fiery powers. His memories of how he found himself trapped thus have been wiped clean.

Eventually, the woman of earth and the man of fire meet and form a grudging friendship. Wecker develops their relationship beautifully, and it is the interplay between Chava and Ahmad that scores the highest points with me. In fact, Chava is a fascinating character, and while archetypal, she is also refreshing and delightful to root for as the novel’s main heroine. Wecker also uses the Jewish and Syrian communities to strong effect, adding a rich cultural element to the fantastic story.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane#1 - The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is just the master of telling archetypal stories involving childhood, magic, evil, myth, and the world. In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home in rural England and stumbles across a farmhouse at the end of the lane that sparks certain memories that he didn’t know he had. These memories spin back forty years to a terrifying time when something dark and menacing was almost turned loose on the world thanks to his fears.

Gaiman has such a talent for straddling the line between that type of fantasy the instills wonder and delight and a dark horror that works on all ages.  He taps into the terrifying things that scare both adults and children.  The monstrous caretaker in this novel taps into many of the fears we have both as isolated children and as worried parents.  Gaiman’s creativity and imagination is vivid and powerful, tapping into something we all feel from our youth, and he imbues real menace into his stories that somehow still manage to work for both kids and adults.

posted in 2013, Books, Fantasy, Year-end lists | at 7:21 am | 0 Comments
7th January 2014
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2013 – #’s 3 & 4

Interestingly enough, the next two books on my list both employ humor to tell their stories.  I admittedly have a somewhat tough sense of humor.  I find a lot of humor to be forced and that always puts me off.  These two authors use humor so deftly, often intertwined beautifully with sadness or real heart.  Here are a couple of really great reads.

The Good Luck of Right Now#4 – The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

Characters in novels are often flawed: they drink too much, they’re short-tempered; they flirt a little two much, but the characters in Matthew Quick’s (Q’s) novels suffer from slightly more serious cognitive challenges. What potential mental disorder Batholomew suffers from is never explicitly stated, but it certainly seems like slightly more than a socially-awkward 40-year-old who has never held a job and has lived with his mother all his life. In fact there’s a very angry man in Bartholomew’s belly who rages in frustration and belittles his host with such taunts as “retard,” when Bartholomew is faced with challenges.  As his mother succumbs to brain cancer, Bartholomew begins to channel her favorite actor, Richard Gere, in order to make her happy in her last days. After she dies, he decides to start up a correspondence with the actor, inspired by his mother’s stories about Gere’s kindess and need to help free Tibet.

The Good Luck of Right Now is a remarkable novel; each chapter structured as a letter written to Richard Gere. It’s the story of a damaged man who suddenly finds himself without the person who was his world, struggling to makes sense of what is supposed to happen next. His only help include a self-defrocked Catholic priest, a grad student therapist assigned to help Bartholomew even when she can’t help herself, a similarly troubled man named Max who can’t get over the death of his beloved Alice, and the Girlbrarian, who Bartholomew has watched shelve books at the library for months. Quick’s characters are funny and sad at the same time. They deal with challenges from within and without, and somehow seem truer and more authentic than 95% of the rest of the characters in fiction today. He writes moving prose without seems sentimental, and knows how to keep the pace quick and satisfying. I highly recommend this novel.

The View from Penthouse B#3 - The View From Penthouse B  by Elinor Lipman

Is there a better contemporary novelist than Elinor Lipman when it comes to delivering a charming, witty, modern-day novel about adults? If so, I need to be reading their books. Elinor’s The View from Penthouse B chronicles the lives of two sisters stuck in a bit of social limbo; one widowed suddenly over a year ago, the other a divorcee and victim of a Ponzi scheme. The two sisters become roommates, and take in a boarder in the form of a young gay man, also unemployed, and in his own state of limbo. While the story eventually gets around to the two sisters trying to move forward in their lives, Elinor’s observations and writing are so delightfully witty and honest that it almost doesn’t matter whether or not Gwen and Margot regain their social lives. The journey is so entertaining, so much fun to read that it’s almost enough by itself. Then add a beautifully realized plot that sees a lovely ending that actually moved me enough that I got choked up, and you realize that with deceptive simplicity, Elinor has delivered a masterpiece of contemporary fiction. I adore Elinor’s novels, and look forward to each new one with giddy anticipation.

posted in 2013, Authors, Books, Year-end lists | at 6:56 am | 0 Comments
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