This novel is rather a masterpiece I think. Ruth lives on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest and discovers Nao’s barnacle-encrusted diary in a plastic bag, fresh out of the surf–special delivery from Japan. The diary winds the two together inextricably, as if tangled in seaweed, along with the reader. What is the meaning of Nao? And how are we all “time beings”?
The finest novel I’ve read so far this year! Pete Snow is an alcoholic social worker doing the best he can in the almost-Canadian NW corner of Montana. Try as he might to alter the plummeting trajectories in the lives of unwilling, mistrustful and addicted clients, his success/failure ratio is low . . . and his own family struggles are likewise depleting him. Pete faces a most difficult situation in his effort to rescue the young son of a survivalist who is also being pursued by the FBI.
This is a glimpse into a world I never want to see any closer than on a page, but one that’s compelling nonetheless. I’ll be looking for more from Smith Henderson.
I enjoyed doing a ride-along as The Son breaks out of prison and seeks revenge on those whose crimes he has confessed to, in exchange for heroin. He relinquished his soul, you see, when his policeman father committed suicide, rather than be exposed as a mole. This is an engaging thrill-ride of a mystery in which you may find yourself rooting for the “bad guy”.
This is the immigrant experience as told by 8 yr old Ajay Mishra whose family has moved from Delhi to America, the Promised Land. It’s a concise and poignant chronology dominated by a tragic injury to Ajay’s older brother Birju. Seasoned with humor . . . for example Ajay praying to a God he conceives of as similar to Superman . . . this novel packed a lot of powerful images of love and sacrifice into it’s few pages. What a struggle this family has in it’s effort to touch the rainbow.
So who IS this man I fell in love with and married 20 years ago? These are the thoughts of psychotherapist Grace Sachs who can’t imagine her pediatric oncologist husband, Jonathan, could possibly have done what is being said! And the timing of the crisis is ironic, on the eve of the publication of her first book titled, You Should Have Known! Nothing is more fascinating/frightening than discovering secrets about those we think we really know well . . . I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.
Sue B. – Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville
This novel was a delightful comedy/tragedy comprised of situations that might strain credibility in less capable hands. I grew so fond of heroine Eva, unceremoniously abandoned by her mother on her father’s doorstep, where his other family lived. In these circumstances Eva meets her half-sister Iris, a new sun around whom she orbits, and she doesn’t realize initially that her mother isn’t coming back.
I didn’t want to turn the last pages on Eva’s patched-together (and partially kidnapped) families that coalesced, dissolved and reorganized themselves with Eva at center.
Here’s a quick sample of the comedy/tragedy combination so deftly balanced: “The pain in my chest, which I had had since the day I was left on the front porch, eased up. It wasn’t grief. It was being broke and badly dressed, and now I wasn’t.”
This certainly sparks fire to the kindling “we women” gather in keeping our families warm! Joan has married Joe Castleman, the English professor with whom she had an affair as a freshman at Smith. The two strike a devil’s bargain–one that stands to preserve their union. Forty-five years later they’re traveling to Finland where he’s to receive the Helsinki prize for his latest novel. As they cross the Atlantic Joan tells us she is ready to call it quits and fills in the blanks for us readers.
This is exceptional writing and provides many themes for discussion, particularly gender roles/rules. Very thought-provoking.