Sunday, March 27, 2011

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

I fell in love with Joyce Maynard in reading "The Good Daughters" and couldn't help but return to her work right away.  Historically, when I fall in love with an author and read another book too quickly, it is a mistake and I quickly realize that I should space them out and not o.d. on them.  Not so with Joyce Maynard.  I can't get enough of her and this book just added to my craving.

On Labor Day weekend,13 year old Henry manages to coax his mother, who rarely goes out, into a trip to PriceMart, where they run into Frank, who intimidates them into giving him a ride. Frank, it turns out, is an escaped convict looking for a place to hide. He holds Adele and Henry hostage in their home, an experience that changes all of them forever, whether it's Frank tying Adele to the kitchen chair with her silk scarves and lovingly feeding her or teaching the awkward, un-athletic Henry how to throw a baseball. The bizarre situation encompasses Henry's budding adolescence, the awakening of his sexuality and his fear of being abandoned by his mother and Frank, who are falling in love and planning to run away together. Maynard's prose is beautiful and her characters winningly complicated, with no neat tie-ups in the end. A sometimes painful tale, but captivating and surprisingly moving.  I cried at many points of this novel.

I continue to be amazed how Maynard can make her novels light, easy to read with a "beach read" feel and yet, when you read the final page, you realize how many complex layers have been captured and that it is a much deeper novel than it felt like the whole time you were reading it.  Exquisitely wonderful.

Rating: 4.9  Fabulous!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Good Dog Stay by Anna Quindlen

This extremely short non-fiction recounts the life and death of her beloved Labrador retriever, Beau. Of the dog that once possessed a catcher’s mitt of a mouth, Quindlen reminisces, “there came a time when a scrap thrown in his direction usually bounced unseen off his head. Yet put a pork roast in the oven, and the guy still breathed as audibly as an obscene caller. The eyes and ears may have gone, but the nose was eternal. And the tail. The tail still wagged, albeit at half-staff. When it stops, I thought more than once, then we’ll know.”

Good Dog. Stay.

Heartening and bittersweet, Good Dog. Stay. honors the life of a cherished and loyal friend and offers us a valuable lesson on our four-legged family members: Sometimes an old dog can teach us new tricks.  This book is 96 pages, minus dozens of pictures of various dogs so it takes between 30 minutes and 1 hour to read.  Glad I got my Nook version out of the library as I couldn't imagine purchasing this short read on Kindle for $9.99.

Rating: 4.3 Good

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

Two families, the Planks and the Dickersons, are mysteriously entwined in this exquisite novel that centers on decades of life at a New Hampshire farm. Youngest daughters Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson, born on the same day in the same hospital, take turns narrating the struggles they face as children. Ruth feels a coldness from her mother; Dana is unsettled by her kooky parents constantly uprooting her and her brother Ray. Regardless, the Planks pay a yearly visit to the Dickersons no matter where they've ended up living.

Each daughter narrates a different chapter and, between the two, you get the complete picture of their lives.  This feels light but, ends up being a much deeper book on many levels.  Thoroughly enjoyable.

Rating: 4.7 Recommend

Friday, March 11, 2011

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked LetterI don't normally enjoy Crime-Drama but this was an enjoyable read.  Silas Jones and Larry Ott have known each other since their late 1970s childhood when Silas lived with his mother in a cabin on land owned by Larry's father. At school they could barely acknowledge one another, Silas being black and Larry white, but they secretly formed a bond hunting, fishing, and just being boys in the woods. When a girl goes missing after going on a date with Larry, he is permanently marked as dangerous, despite the lack of evidence linking him to her disappearance, and the two boys go their separate ways. Twenty-five years later, Silas is the local constable, and when another girl disappears, Larry, an auto mechanic with few customers and fewer friends, is once again a person of interest. The Southern atmosphere is rich, and I love the languid shifting from present to past.  I don't typically enjoy crime-dramas but, this one has my attention.  It is an easy read that has drawn me in from the beginning pages unfolding Larry's quiet simple life on the farm and how he made a portable pen so he could move all his chickens to a different patch of the farm every day to eat bugs.  I love how it captures the South and the character development.

Rating: 4.3 Recommend

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

Family MattersMistry masterfully portrays a family being torn apart by lies, love, and its unresolved demons of the past. Nariman Vakeel is an aging patriarch whose advancing Parkinson's disease and its related complications threaten to destroy his large Parsi family. When Nariman breaks his ankle and becomes bedridden, his two stepchildren turn his care over to their half-sister, Roxanne, who lives in a two-room flat with her husband and two sons. What follows is each character's reaction to this situation, from Roxanne's husband's struggle to provide for his family without neglecting his conscience to their sons' coming of age in an era of uncertainty. Interspersed between these dilemmas are Nariman's tortured remembrances of a forbidden love and its inescapable consequences

This is a well told story of the Vakeel family but, it didn't feel on par to A Fine Balance.

Rating: 3.5 OK