An almost-all-lady month, marred only by the inclusion of our book club book, Mr. Johnson’s tome on North Korea.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
I had mentioned earlier my problems with Gone Girl. Essentially, it was a gussied-up thriller (not bad!), that went completely off the rails for me at the end. I was buying the character study of two married people who are so very different from each other’s perceptions. Then it went full crazy town at the end and I just could not stay on board.
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
An incredibly light and somewhat hollow romance. Full of things I usually embrace when it comes to fast Twinkie reading—magic, epic games, duels, flights of fantasy—but nothing ever felt solid. The characters, the setting, even the plot points had the reading equivalent of a cardboard stage-set.
The Tiger’s Wife, Tea Obreht
On the other hand, Tiger’s Wifefelt VERY rounded and hearty. Part of me was jealous, when this first came out, that a 26-year-old girl was getting volumes of praise. Well, now I understand why. The characters, the story all feel very realized, and satisfyingly alive. It does read as a feminine novel—though NOT chick lit—but it doesn’t shy away from the ugly and the brutal.
Birds of America, Lorrie Moore
Collection of short stories, and shockingly the first Lorrie Moore I’d read. She has a strong, funny tone and draws excellent sketches of people and personalities in just a few lines.
Salvage the Bones, Jessamyn West
The story of a family outside New Orleans in the days just before and during Katrina, narrated by the daughter. Oh man, so much sadness in this book. Everything is disappointment for this family. And this is not noble or character-building adversity—nope, this is just the fact that being poor and stuck SUCKS, and what can you do but go along. Even when you have friends and family. It still bites. (Also, that small lives can be epic—especially when you throw in disasters of mythical proportions.)
The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson
A sort-of bildungsroman, sort-of Boys’ Own adventure story all as warped through the lens of the setting in the DPRK. It’s hard with an outsider trying to recreate a closed world to navigate what is real and what has taken a bit of creative license. In the end, the best way to approach it, I found, was to think of it less as a narrative of North Korea, and more one of how people express, control, and rewrite their lives in the constraints of the world. How do we reshape our personal stories, or not, around the obstacles our environment throws up?