Thursday, October 10, 2013

It's Fall! Reading Roundup: Part 2

It's a miracle I haven't created another back log of books to write about in the time since my last post, but my reading pace seems to be way down this year from years past. I guess you could chalk it up to being a busy year, but I also haven't had any reading projects or read anything super amazing lately. I actually just wasted about a week's worth of reading time on a book I eventually had to abandon. [A story about a flock of sheep solving their shepherd's murder sounds so amazing, right? Well, Three Bags Full did not live up to my expectations.]

Anyway, to start Part 2 of my quick reading roundup, we have The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell. The length is short, appealing to my distracted brain; the setting, historical; the perspective, varied. Rowell depicts the very ordinary lives of several different folks, from New York down to DC, as the Bobby Kennedy funeral train rolls through. The year, obviously, is 1968 as the country is embroiled in Vietnam and Civil Rights conflicts. But what Rowell tries to show is the relationship between these very big things and people's very small day-to-day lives. You see things happening on the news and read them in the paper, but then you turn the TV off and put down the paper and they become back matter, because you have bigger crises and conflicts in your own immediate life.

I liked this story, because it didn't try and link everything together to sum up with some big conclusion. It was a snapshot of individual lives and their interaction with the surrounding world. The characters weren't all connected in some sort of Love Actually type web; their situations were different but their experiences were all a product of their time. Simple and thoughtful.

Tish Cohen's The Truth About Delilah Blue, like Evenings at the Argentine Club, as been sitting on my shelf for about as long as I've had this blog. And in my quest to read what has thus far remained unread, I finally picked it up. It's actually unfortunate I let it sit there so long, because it was different than I expected...and I really liked it a lot. Lila is a young woman living in LA with her father, always believing her mother abandoned her at a young age. Lila's own life is sort of unsettled. Her interests lie in art, but her father won't pay for art school. So, she's taking to the osmosis theory of learning by working as a nude model and picking up what she can from the classes. Her father, who's been her protector and confidante as long as she can remember, is developing early onset Alzheimer's but remains mostly in denial about it. Lila's world really turns upside down when her mother comes back into her life, and everything she believed about her past is thrown into question.

That sounds like a very melodramatic plot, but it's not told in a melodramatic way. The reader is always privy to both sides of the story, and we're left, like Lila, trying to figure out what to feel and what to do about it all. The story is actually very moderately paced, lending to the tone of realistic, rather than contrived, drama. This is a good mix of a character-driven and plot-driven story that keeps your attention.

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