Archive for January, 2014

FALLEN LAND by Patrick Flanery

A perfect title for a stunning book. Its literal meaning is explained in the 1919 prologue, when a tree on which two men have been lynched falls deep into a sinkhole with the bodies still on it. The rest of the novel takes place in the present, or perhaps the not too distant future, when the land has been developed as an upscale subdivision for a rapidly growing city in the Midwest. But we are not quite there yet. In a second, slightly longer prologue, a woman goes to visit a convict on death row. It is a creepy, brilliant scene, although we know little of either of them, except that his name is Paul Krovik, and she regards him as a destroyer.

January 23, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, Contemporary, Theme driven, US Midwest

SILENCE ONCE BEGUN by Jesse Ball

I have never quite read anything like SILENCE ONCE BEGUN. It’s disturbing, lyrical, original, provocative, and experimental in the best of ways. Yet it stands on the shoulders of giants that came before it: Sartre comes to mind, as does Camus.

The premise is instantly (pardon the pun) arresting. A thread salesman named Oda Sotatsu signs a confession for a crime that has baffled the Japanese authorities – eight older individuals disappear without a trace in what becomes known as the Narito Disappearances. Yet once jailed, he utters barely a word….even though we, the readers, know he is not guilty from the first pages.

January 22, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Allegory/Fable, Literary, Reading Guide, Unique Narrative

THE FIRST TRUE LIE by Marina Mander

This novel is told in the first person, from the point of view of Luca, a young primary school student living in Italy. His mother is 37 years old and has been profoundly depressed for years, talking little, moving slowly and feeling like her life has ebbed slowly out of her. Often she cries and Luca does not know how to console her. “When Mama has nightmares, she says it’s not possible even to sleep in peace in this world, and that’s what I think too. Other times she says the pills have stolen her dreams, that sleep is just an inky-black nothingness, and she wakes up confused and doesn’t know which way is up. Sometimes she makes coffee without putting in the water or else the coffee.”

January 21, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Character Driven, Contemporary, Unique Narrative, World Lit

THE PAST AHEAD by Gilbert Gatore

Gilbert Gatore’s debut novel THE PAST AHEAD, (Le passé devant, 2008) has literally taken my breath away while reading and for quite some time afterwards. Without ever mentioning either the country by name or the concept of genocide, the author brings the reader intimately close to the emotional turmoil of his two protagonists as they, from their very dissimilar post-trauma reality struggle to re-adjust to life after theirs was forever changed. They stand, without doubt as representatives for many.

January 20, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Africa, Debut Novel, Translated, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd

Fourteen year-old Lily Melissa Owens has been a motherless child for ten years now. It fills her with anguish to think that she, at age four, had a hand in the accidental shooting death of Deborah Fontanel Owens, her own mother. Lily’s life has been shaped around this incident, and she has never ceased to yearn for her mother, (for a mother’s love), although her memories of the actual woman have been blurred by time. In fact, Lily has very little memory of that dark day’s events, and is totally dependent on her miserable, sadistic father, T. Ray Owens, for any and all accounts of her mom. The only person who shows her any affection is Rosaleen, a black peach-picker T. Ray brought in from the fields to care for his child.

January 20, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary, Theme driven, US South

RENATO THE PAINTER by Eugene Mirabelli

Renato the Painter by Eugene Mirabelli is a fictional memoir about a contemporary painter living in the Boston area. The novel starts when Renato is just days old, a foundling, and continues to the present time, when he is in his 70’s. Renato is a man with a fierce pride in his art, unrepentant sexual appetites and strong personal loyalties. He is very dissatisfied with his status in the art world, feeling that the art world has left him behind. He hasn’t had a gallery show in some time and is getting depressed about his prospects. His family life is complicated.

January 19, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: End-of-Life, IPPY, Literary, Theme driven, y Award Winning Author