Thursday, September 29, 2016

September Book List

It was a very good month for fiction!  In fact, I only read one memoir, and the rest of the month I was wrapped in one invented world after another.


Russian Tattoo by Elena Gorokhova:  Gorokhova tells the story of how she moved from Russia to the U.S. in her twenties, leaving her mother and sister behind.  Her story explores the relationships between mothers and daughters and the unfamiliar sensation of being an immigrant, always living in two places at once.  She shares details about her life in Russia and tells what happened when her mother followed her to the states after her daughter was born.  It was a great read, and I may pick up what I guess would be considered the prequel (do memoirs have prequels?) A Mountain of Crumbs.


How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee:  The author introduces us to three characters, all who have at some point lived in North Korea (one only lived there in utero, I believe).  Their lives intersect and the true nature of living in North Korea, as well as the unsure fate of those who escape the country, is revealed in words that are both hard to read and hopeful.

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker: This was a mind trip if there ever was one.  A teenager is raped during a party, but she is given a new medication to make her forget the details of what occurred.  While she knows she was raped, not being able to connect the event with any viable memories leaves her disoriented and causes more problems than it solves.

Enter the narrator, a doctor who is trying to help her recover her memories so she can properly heal. His unveiling of the events reveals to the reader a fuller story than could have ever been imagined and will make the reader question the motives of every person they trust.  

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty:  I have loved Liane Moriarty's writing for a long time.  While What Alice Forgot will probably always be my favorite of hers, Truly Madly Guilty comes in a close second.  This story, told from many different perspectives, deals with marriage, parenting, friendship, and hoarding all at once.  Moriarty also does a beautiful job of showing us our prejudices, in this case how our expectations of mothers are so far beyond our expectations for fathers.

As usual, Moriarty has secrets up her sleeve until the final page, yet none of the storyline feels contrived.  In fact, that may be both the best and hardest part of reading her work:  it feels just like something that could happen to any of us.

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney : I almost felt guilty for caring so deeply about the four siblings in this book.  Their upper class New York lives filled with problems of their own greedy making should repel readers from the first page.  But they don't.  Sweeney does such a good job of offering rich characters that The Nest was addictive all the way through.

When eldest brother Leo has a car accident, the money in the nest that is supposed to be split between him and his siblings is nearly drained to cover up his drug-fueled drive with a teenage girl.  Since most of the siblings have spent beyond their means waiting for the money they were sure they'd eventually have, this event affects the dynamic of the family and causes serious reevaluations to take place for most everyone involved.

The Nutshell by Ian McEwan:  McEwan introduces an unexpected narrator in his latest novel:  an unborn child.  We learn from the child that his mother is planning on killing his father after taking up with a new lover.  The child's perspective and insight is both entertaining and heartbreaking as we wait to see how he will survive with such incompetent adults at the wheel.  Will he survive?

McEwan's prose is always poetry in its own way, so prepare to be immersed in the language as well as the story.

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