THE UPRIGHT PIANO PLAYER by David Abbott

David Abbott starts his mesmerizing and haunting debut book, THE UPRIGHT PIANO PLAYER, with a quote from Nietzsche: “The consequences of our actions take hold of us, quite indifferent to our claims that meanwhile we have improved.”

It’s an apt quote because indeed, actions have consequences in the case of his protagonist, Henry Cage. Henry is, indeed, a caged man – uptight, disconnected, and alienated. Throughout his life, he has amassed the trappings of success: a sterling career, a spirited and beautiful wife, a sensitive son, an elegant London townhome. Yet he has squandered his gifts, eventually losing his marriage, destroying his relationship with his son, and ending his partnership in his firm – not of his own accord.

June 9, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Psychological Suspense

SAY HER NAME by Francisco Goldman

rief is, by and large, a private and intimate thing. We utter a few platitudes and then turn away in discomfort from who are laid bare by their grief. And emotionally, we begin to withdraw.

Francisco Goldman shatters those boundaries in his devastating book Say Her Name, forcing the reader to pay witness to the exquisite and blinding pain of a nearly unbearable loss. He positions the reader as a voyeur in a most intimate sadness, revealing the most basic nuances and details and the most complex ramifications of the loss of someone dear. And in the process, he captures our attention, rather like Samuel Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, until the reader is literally as fascinated and transfixed with Aura Estrada – Francisco Goldman’s young and doomed wife – as he himself is. It is a masterful achievement, hard to read, hard to pull oneself away from.

April 7, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Mexico, Non-fiction, y Award Winning Author

WIDOW: STORIES by Michelle Latiolais

There is a legend of the thorn bird; as it impales itself and dies, it rises above its own agony to outsing the nightingale and the whole world stills to listen. As humans face death – our own or our most beloved – the best writers have the ability to rise up and eloquently sing. I speak, of course, of Joan Didion in THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, of Francisco Goldman in SAY HER NAME, of David Vann in LEGEND OF A SUICIDE. And now, Michelle Latiolais takes her place in that very top tier of talented writers.

Ms. Latiolais masterly interweaves stories of life after her husband Paul’s death with other tales: the complex eroticism experienced by a woman visiting a male strip club with her lover, the trials of traveling to Africa with an anthropologist husband who is researching the unusual eating habits of aboriginals, young children who entice an ancient aunt to craft shapes out of moistened bread crumbs. In a few sparse words, she is able to capture a deep and complex emotion.

April 7, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Short Stories

SING THEM HOME by Stephanie Kallos

This is a saga, a sweeping family story that lodges in your marrow, the kind of story that makes you smile, laugh, weep, snort, chortle, sing, spread your arms wide and lay your heart wide open.

With flavors tender, ribald, ironical, farcical, tragic, magical, and wondrous, Sing Them Home narrates an epic story of a family emotionally disrupted by the disappearance of their mother (and wife), Hope, in a Nebraska tornado of 1978. Hope was swept up, along with her Singer sewing machine and a Steinway piano, but she never came down. Due to the absence of her remains, all that stands in the graveyard is her cenotaph.

March 27, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Family Matters, Literary, Reading Guide, US Midwest

A WIDOW’S STORY by Joyce Carol Oates

This is perhaps the bravest book I’ve ever read. It is searingly personal, raw and and stark. It portrays its creator, the author, in a relief, almost without exception, that is equally painful and tragic. There is no turning away, no place the writer hides–and consequently little relief afforded the reader. There she is, the new widow, Joyce Carol Smith–the persona behind the writer Joyce Carol Oates–struggling to stay alive amidst blinding grief, as revealed in a journey the destination of which is unsure.

February 15, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Non-fiction, y Award Winning Author

THE MEMORY OF LOVE by Aminatta Forna

Incalculable grief cleaves to profound love in this elaborate, helical tapestry of a besieged people in postwar Freetown, Sierra Leone. Interlacing two primary periods of violent upheaval, author Aminatta Forna renders a scarred nation of people with astonishing grace and poise–an unforgettable portrait of open wounds and closed mouths, of broken hearts and fractured spirits, woven into a stunning evocation of recurrence and redemption, loss and tender reconciliation. Forna mines a filament of hope from resigned fatalism, from the devastation of a civil war that claimed 50,000 lives and displaced 2.5 million people. Those that survived felt hollowed out, living with an uneasy peace.

February 14, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Africa, Commonwealth Prize, World Lit, y Award Winning Author