I have been sadly lost without my research assistant (the intervention of summer and a cross-country move has parted us for now, but when I take over the world, I expect to promote her to RA of Evil.) I’ve been a bit behind-hand for fiction features of late, but no longer! I remedy the omissions with today’s foray into summer reading: the light lasts longer this time of year. One must take advantage.
A fable described as moving, terrifying and elegiac – from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman:
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.
His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
Looking for a long narrative, a long flight and a sweeping story? Colum McCann delivers by tying together a series of narratives that span 150 years (and two continents):
In 1845 a black American slave lands in Ireland to champion ideas of democracy and freedom, only to find a famine unfurling at his feet. In 1919, two brave young airmen emerge from the carnage of World War One to pilot the very first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to the west of Ireland. And in 1998 an American senator criss-crosses the ocean in search of a lasting Irish peace. Bearing witness to these history-making moments of Frederick Douglass, John Alcock and “Teddy” Brown, and George Mitchell, and braiding the story together into one epic tale, are four generations of women from a matriarchal clan, beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan. In this story of dark and light, men and women, history and past, fiction and fact, National Book Award-winning novelist Colum McCann delivers a tour de force that is his most spectacular achievement to date.
I always feel summer is a good time for coming-of-age novels. In this story, Jeannette Walls has written a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world—a triumph of imagination and storytelling.It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who “found something wrong with every place she ever lived,” takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.
Last, I am happy to report that Stephanie A. Smith has a sequel out this summer, the follow-up to Warpaint (featured here with an author interview). “Baby Rocket” is the name of a child who, in 1966, was abandoned by her suicidal mother and later found by a policeman in the seat of a children’s rocket ride on Cape Canaveral. The novel is the story of this child’s (Clementine Dance) adulthood discovery of an abandonment she does not remember, and how she comes to terms with it and her past.
Upon her father’s sudden death in Santa Monica during the summer of 1998, Clementine “Lem” Dance finds a file about a “Baby Rocket” on his computer. The file suggests she is Baby Rocket but she’s never heard the name; and her late father, a former NASA employee, James Walter Dance, Jr., had been prone to romantic white lies – he claimed he once met Marilyn Monroe, for example. The file on “Baby Rocket” seems crazy and yet all too real: it contains Lem’s birth certificate, a document which shows that her father was not her biological but rather her adoptive father and emails that show he’d been in contact with her birth mother’s surviving family – as if he’d been on the verge of telling the truth.
These upheavals force Lem to retrace her parents’ lives and to re-examine her own; to get in touch with her mother’s family; and, above all, to try to remember Baby Rocket… Stay tuned, as I will be featuring this sequel and its author again soon!