Finus Bates (reporter, radio host & obit writer) falls in love with Birdie Wells in 1917 when he sees her cartwheel naked in the woods outside Mercury, Mississippi. And he never stops loving her, over the next eighty years. Move over William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, this is southern story-telling at its best. Brad Watson has written a wonderful novel (sentences you will want to read aloud) about lifelong friendship, aging and remembrance, racism, unrequited love, and a mysterious death (murder?). Peopled with unforgettable characters like Vish (an old-time medicine woman), odd undertaker Parnell Grimes, and Eubie Scarborough (“the man who knew everything because he knew nothing”). A 2002 National Book Award nominee. I didn’t want this book to end.
The Dew Breaker is a spellbinding work of fiction that moves seamlessly between Haiti in the 1960s and New York today. The story revolves around a quiet man with a hidden past, a husband, a father of an artist, a hard-working barber and kindly landlord, who was once a "dew breaker," a torturer.
This is a hauntingly beautiful book about love, remorse, and redemption; told in spare, elegant prose, like a fine line drawing.
This extraordinary first novel set in California follows the Catholic Santerre family, beginning with Yvette and Teddy, through half a century, and concerns a lie that is passed down from generation to generation, and how it affects the family. At times funny, at times deeply moving, Liars and Saints showcases Maile Meloy's gifts as a writer (apparent in her ealier collection of short stories, Half in Love), and a deep understanding of the American family.
Unexpectedly Alun Weaver, television personality and man-of-letters, and his beguiling wife Rhiannon decide to leave England and return home to Wales. Once there they reunite with their old friends, a hard-drinking group of Welsh married couples, reawakening old friendships and romances.
Winner of the Booker Prize in 1986, The Old Devils is Kingsley Amis at his sardonic best, only this time he mixes in a lot of tenderness and compassion with witty dialogue and humor. Also enjoyable are his colorful and poignant descriptions of Wales.
One of my three favorite novels published in 2012, this is the story of scientist Bec (Rebecca) Shepherd and her aging, rock-n-roller brother Ritchie. Both carry secrets concerning their father, a British solider who was killed when they were kids. The story follows Bec as she travels back and forth from London to Africa searching for a malaria cure. Along the way she meets Alex another scientist, Dickensian and delightful.
James Meeks writes short, beautifully composed chapters in elegant prose. He also creates realistic interactions with his characters. His plot is intricate and satisfying with clever twists, surprises, and betrayals. There are also a lot of laughs, especially involving the wonderful Alex and his pursuit of Bec.
Short-listed for The Man Booker Prize, this engrossing novel concerns two working-class families, the Sellers and Glovers, neighbors in Sheffield, England in the 1970's. The author follows both families and their interaction over three decades, focusing in particular on Tim Glover and how two seemingly inconsequential acts of cruelty impact each family.
Expansive and deeply moving, "The Northern Clemency" is storytelling at its best, filled with Dickensian minor characters and subplots, the action moving seamlessly back and forth between Sheffield and London and eventually Sydney, Australia.
From the New York art world of De Kooning to the jazz cafes of New Orleans, to the breathtaking beaches of Mexico, and on to Ken Kesey's psychedelic California, award-winning novelist Robert Stone revisits the turbulent and fascinating 1960s.
This moving, adventurous memoir is not only an entertaining chronicle of American history, but an intimate look at a young writer's beginnings told by a master storyteller.
The year is 1848. It is a time of America's raucous coming of age. War with Mexico has just ended; gold has been discovered in California; revolutions sweep across Europe. Charles Darwin, Walt Whitman, Alexis De Tocqueville, and Matthew Brady are out and about.
Amid this excitement and commotion aristocratic Benjamin Knowles leaves the Old World to "find" himself in New York. There he befriends three restless Americans: Timothy Scaggs, a journalist and daguerreotypist; Duff Lucking, a fireman, and damaged veteran of the Mexican War; and Duff's freethinking and ravishing sister Polly, an aspiring actress. Together they set out on a transcontinental trip west, followed by a cold-blooded killer seeking revenge.
This is historical fiction at it's best, and also an affecting story of four people chasing their American dreams.
This is a haunting, poignant story about memory and loss. It concerns a middle-aged Irishman, Max Morden, who returns to a seaside town where he spent his summers as a child, and recalls the relationship he had with the Grace family, in particular the mysterious twins Chloe and Myles.
Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2005 The Sea is storytelling at it's best: unusual, well-developed characters; unexpected plot twists; lyrical, elegant prose. In some ways it is reminiscent of Michael Cunningham's "The Hours," especially how both novels address the past. A gem.
Howard Kapostash hasn't spoken in thirty years due to a severe head injury he suffered in Vietnam. His high school sweetheart, Sylvia, with problems of her own, asks Howard to look after her nine-year-old son, Ryan. The presence of this resourceful boy in Howard's life transforms him. Forced out of his isolation, he finds unexpected joy in work, in baseball, and in meals with his quirky roommates. He reconnects.
Part Quasimodo, part Boo Radley (to Ryan's Jem), part Holden Caulfield, Howard is an everyman, and a protagonist that stays with you. This is a graceful, funny, moving first novel about the cost of war and the human need to connect. If you enjoy Harper Lee and Richard Russo, give Dave King a try.
Here are ten gem-like, spellbinding stories told in elegant, spare prose. Once you start reading you won' be able to put this collection down. The pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle: intimate, passionate stories of men and women together and apart. And the title story, the last, is a masterpiece!
James Salter was a runner-up for the 2006 Pen-Faulkner Award.
Set mostly in Paris and Manhattan in the 1980's, Mary Gaitskill's new novel is about a former fashion model, Alison (the narrator) and her friend, the eccentric Veronica. With gritty ("a pulled-back noisy face") and musical ("traffic knotted jewelry") prose Gaitskill creates a modern-day fairy tale: a story of friendship, family, illness, and love.
If you haven't read Mary Gaitskill before, this is a good place to start. One of the NYTBR's eleven best books of the year in 2005. Also, a National Book Award and National Book Critics' Circle Award Finalist. Dazzling and unforgettable!