Everything’s Perfect When You’re a Liar by Kelly Oxford
It’s true, right? Everything is perfect when you lie. Or post to Facebook. Kelly Oxford and I are of the same vintage, both of us grew up in suburbia, and both of us now have little kids. She’s a tad inappropriate and her humor may be offensive to some and me, well, I kinda like that. Probably because that’s the not like me at all. I laughed at Kelly’s stories from childhood, and cringed at times when she gave TMI but what’s appealing is that she’s honest. She lays it out for everyone to dissect, criticize and judge and that takes a lot of chutzpah. More than I will ever have.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
This novel originally published in 1943 has cemented a spot on my “favourite books of all-time” list. It’s got everything that tickles my fancy: it’s set in the early 1900s in the tenements of New York City, the idea of the American Dream is alive and well, a story about coming of age, the characters are flawed but loveable, the family is both dysfunctional and relatable at the same time, and the writing is descriptive but not overly so – just enough to keep that “movie” playing in your head.
Committed: A Love Story by Elizabeth Gilbert
I didn’t actually read this book, I listened to it on my walks to and from the school when I drop –off and pick-up the boys. I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love and knowing that this was an entirely different “story”; I still went for it because even though some people find Elizabeth Gilbert’s introspection obnoxious and annoying, I like it. I wish that I had more of her courage (impulsivity?), her capacity to love (insecurity?) and her sense of adventure (immaturity?). Committed is about the long, and often arduous months leading up to her marriage to Felipe, a man she met while on a spiritual journey to Indonesia who is Brazilian-born but of Australian citizenship. Let’s just say that getting to the alter was much more difficult than settling on a dress and booking a DJ. And in true Elizabeth Gilbert form, she has to hyper-analyze every aspect of her impending marriage, her self and her destructive flaws.
So, so, sosososo good. I heard Ali Smith read from this book in a Guardian books podcast. I heard her read from the book, and I knew I had to have it, and I heard her reading it to me in my head and I was utterly smitten.
How to Be Both is a story in two parts: one contemporary, one set 400 years ago in Italy; one about grief and loss, and one about art; one about a girl and one about a boy. Except that these are not the tidy divisions we may think they are, and the two parts bleed into one another in so many intricate ways that I felt fireworks going off inside my head. Interestingly, the print run of this book was done in two versions: you might get the version that has the contemporary story first, or you might get the version that has the Renaissance story first. It’s a book that plays with how to be both.
It is my turn to host my book club this month, and the host chooses the book. I desperately wanted to pick this one, because it would be so fascinating to have a group discussion about what difference it makes what order you read the story.
I did not pick this for my book club, though, because I love it too much. I don’t want to know if anyone did not love it or like it or want to make Ali Smith queen of the world.
I have gone on to read three other books by her this month. Seriously. Queen of the world. (She’d probably like to have a more articulate #1 fan….)
Emily St. John Mandel
This is the book that I did end up choosing for my book club. The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world, in which most of the Earth’s population has died of a rogue flu. In this world, a troupe of actors and musicians travel from one settlement to another, performing music and Shakespeare, because, as a line from Star Trek has it, “survival is insufficient.” I love that. All the characters’ lives fit together like a puzzle being assembled. I was very happily borne along waiting to see how all of the pieces of the story would come together. Truly a page-turner to keep you up well past your bedtime.
I wish I could remember where I first heard about this series of police procedurals. They are brilliant. This one, the first one I read, is from the middle of the Peculiar Crimes Unit series, and I never begin a series in the middle, but this was the one I found, and I read it anyway and I fell head over heels. The detecting duo are old and cantankerous, and I am loving the characters as much as the plots. This volume, aside from being a very cleverly plotted mystery, was full of historical information about London’s pubs. On the strength of this one, I was hooked, and I bought the rest of the series from The Sleuth of Baker Street, a wonderful bookstore devoted to mysteries. Thank heavens for bookstores like The Sleuth that understand my madness and enable my bibliophilic habits by opening the store on a day it’s usually closed just so that I could pick up my order and did not have to wait a minute longer to feed my addiction. If you shop there, in person or on-line, and I hope you will, please tell them that Nathalie Foy sent you and is very happily immersed in her pile of Bryant and May goodness!