Topic: Reading list

Reading List: The Turning

Reading List: The Turning

This may just be thematically linked, but we will see. But the preview caught me—I have a thing for lonely coastal stretches 🙂

Here’s the rest of the blurb from Goodreads:

Brothers cease speaking to each other, husbands abandon wives and children, grown men are haunted by childhood fears. People struggle against the weight of their own history and try to reconcile themselves to their place in the world. With extraordinary insight and tenderness, Winton explores the demons and frailties of ordinary people whose lives are not what they had hoped.

And here’s a bit from this interview with the author which also caught my attention:

[interviewer]: In this book of short stories, The Turning, in a couple of instances you refer to just the power that adolescence has over you for the rest of your life – you still very much are that person. Do you still feel strongly the emotions of those teenage years?

Tim: Yeah, I think that adolescents and people in middle age have an enormous amount in common. I think they’re both times when you feel a little bewildered, a little overcome, confused. You feel under kind of weird pressures that you can’t come to terms with. And the strange thing is that when you’re in middle age, the kinds of things that you’re dealing with are almost mutated versions of the same things you were dealing with when you were a teenager. In fact, you still in some sense are the teenager that you were. You’re just dealing with the consequences of the things that you did when you were 14, 15, 16, 17, the people you knew, the things that happened to you, the things that you were afraid of, the ways in which you tried to cope. And it sort of comes back to you in a scary way. I mean superficially, of course, people then – particularly baby boomers – try and relive their childhood. They try and edit it, you know – “I didn’t do these things, therefore I’m going to do this now.”

I really like what Winton is saying here. It’s a lot of the same thinking I have had about following my characters, especially Carrie and Jon up through life from teens to middle age and further on. And then kind of start over with their kids, with many of the same themes, just for a new time.

Also, it seems, Winton is a rather well-known Aussie novelist, so I suspect I will be in company with someone who can deliver a really good read. It says on Wiki that he has been named “Living Treasure” in Australia. Not bad 🙂 I hadn’t heard of him but I certainly look forward to get to know his stories better, and I will start with this one.


Reading List: Floating in the Neversink

Reading List: Floating in the Neversink

I just bought this one and I do look forward to reading it. Mood, setting, themes, everything. Looks like an intense read.

Here’s a review from the author’s – Andrea Simon’s – site:

Floating In The Neversink is a complex and tightly woven “novel in stories” told from the perspective of young Amanda (Mandy) Gerber. A pre-teen when the book opens in 1955, it follows Mandy through her adolescence and high school years, recounting her summers with her extended family in the Catskills and the other seasons back in Brooklyn. Simon’s remarkably detailed descriptions of these settings are an immersive treat for her readers, being gritty enough to overcome any over-enthusiastic nostalgia. And as the book includes subject matter related to the sexual assault of children, mental illness, racism, and suicide, readers should be prepared with trigger warnings.

Yet even as Simon’s writing exposes the sharper edges of the Catskills for Mandy and her family, it also celebrates the best of these memories. Her deep relationships with her grandmothers and seeing how Mandy, and her sister and cousins are shaped by their shared experiences, is a joyful tribute to family that shines out from the underlying dark conflicts. Over the course of the stories, Simon deftly unfolds the nuances of her characters, all of whom are humanly imperfect, yet all of whom remain somewhat shadowy around the edges. This is the essential challenge of the book as a collection of short stories. It succeeds because of the strong continuity and its detailed character development. It succeeds when understood as a series of memories, but readers will be left without the whole of Mandy’s story.

Will readers be satisfied with this sense of incompleteness? Floating In The Neversink demands that its protagonist accept that there are things that can’t or won’t be discussed. That there are secrets and things that are unknowable in every family. And Simon doesn’t give her readers any more insight than she allows to Mandy …

—Rabbi Deborah Miller, Books and Blintzes

I’m usually not a big fan of trigger warnings, but a lot depends on how the subject matter is handled. And since I write about suicide myself, well … don’t throw stones, right? I read the first chapter in the Amazon preview and liked the characters, and that’s usually a winner for me. Without characters to care about, the rest doesn’t really matter.

Check it out and check out where to get it at Goodreads.

Reading List: Garden for the Blind

Reading List: Garden for the Blind

Welcome to the first blog post in my reading list series, where I regularly search for novels-in-stories (linked short story collections, short story cycles) to read and maybe opinionate a little bit about.

I try to select short story cycles that I feel are close to what I want to write myself, but obviously, that’s not always going to be the case. Sometimes you can and should just read stuff because you feel it resonates with you. Anyway, this one looks promising. It even starts with a story with Great Gatsby references, which I kinda dig 🙂

In time, I’d like this blog series to become a pretty big index of all the linked short story collections that I love to read, and which I think my readers would love as well. So without further ado …  

From the blurb on Amazon:

In Garden for the Blind, trouble lurks just outside the door for Kelly Fordon’s diverse yet interdependent characters. As a young girl growing up in an affluent suburb bordering Detroit, Alice Townley witnesses a tragic accident at her parents’ lavish party. In the years that follow, Alice is left mostly in the care of the household staff, free to forge friendships with other pampered and damaged teens. When she and her friend Mike decide to pin a crime on another student at their exclusive high school, the consequences will reverberate for years to come.

Set between 1974 and 2012, Fordon’s intricately woven stories follow Alice and Mike through high school, college, and into middle age, but also skillfully incorporate stories of their friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers who are touched by the same themes of privilege, folly, neglect, and resilience. A WWII veteran sleepwalks out of his home at night, led by vivid flashbacks. A Buddhist monk is assaulted by a robber while seated in meditation. A teenaged girl is shot walking home from the corner store with a friend. A lifelong teacher of blind children is targeted by vandals at the school she founded.

Garden for the Blind visits suburban and working-class homes, hidden sanctuaries and dangerous neighborhoods, illustrating the connections between settings and relationships (whether close or distant) and the strange motivations that keep us moving forward. All readers of fiction will enjoy the nimble unfolding of Fordon’s narrative in this collection.

Check it out on Goodreads and buy it from your favorite outlet.