OFF COURSE by Michelle Huneven

Cressida Hartley is suffering from a serious case of ennui. At 28, she is stagnating in ABD status, trying to finish her dissertation in economics, wholly disliking her field of expertise. It’s the eighties, and Reaganomics doesn’t suit her. But she found a way to integrate her affinity with art with her thesis–she’s writing about the value of art in the marketplace. So she moves to her parents vacation A-frame in the Sierras, intending to wrap herself in the mountain air, solitude, and writing.

April 21, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Contemporary


IN MARRYING OF CHANI KAUFMAN, Eve Harris discloses the secrets of a Chasidic community in Golders Green, London, focusing on the tribulations of three families: the Kaufmans, Levys, and Zilbermans. The Kaufmans have eight daughters, one of whom, nineteen-year-old Chani, is seeking an intelligent, animated, and good-natured husband. The Levys, a well-to-do couple, want only the best for their son, Baruch, and plan to settle for nothing less. The Zilbermans are online pokies facing a major crisis. Rabbi Zilberman’s wife, Rivka, is no longer a contented spouse, mother, and homemaker; she is restless, edgy, and depressed. Adding to the tension is the fact that one of her sons, Avromi, a university student, is acting strangely. He is secretive, stays out late, and avoids telling his family where he has been.

April 7, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, Man Booker Nominee, United Kingdom, World Lit


“Perhaps there is a line in everyone’s life that, once crossed, imparts a certain truth that one has not been able to see before, transforming solitude from a choice into the only possible line of existence.” For four friends, that line was crossed during their late teenage years, when one of them was poisoned, perhaps deliberately, perhaps accidentally, lingering in a physical limbo state until she finally dies years later. The young man, Boyang, remains in China; the two young women, Ruyu and Moran, move to the United States. Each ends up living in what the author describes as a “life-long quarantine against love and life.”

March 21, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: California, Character Driven, China, Contemporary, Literary, US Midwest, World Lit

YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel of domestic angst, You Should Have Known, is the story of Grace Reinhart Sachs. She is a therapist who, for fifteen years, has specialized in helping couples mend or sever their relationships as painlessly as possible. In addition, Grace’s publicist has arranged interviews and television appearances to stimulate interest in Grace’s forthcoming work of non-fiction. It cautions women to be on the lookout for warning signs that should give them pause before they invest time, energy, and emotional resources in a serious relationship. Her message is that when women fall in love, they are sometimes dazzled by what they perceive as instant chemistry. Consequently, they may not pay close attention to their partners’ flaws; only when it is too late do they realize that should have been more circumspect.

March 18, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, New York City


After looking up various images of the 1963 movie Cleopatra, the film that critically bombed but was lit up by the scandal of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, I saw a coastline of Italy that looked exactly like the cover of this book. It is a most felicitous cover that captures the mood and time that this novel begins, in 1962. A parochial innkeeper, Pasquali Tursi, lives in a rocky coastline village called Porto Vergogna (Port of Shame), a place the size of a thumb between two mountains, and referred to as “the whore’s crack.”

March 16, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, Contemporary, Facing History, italy, Literary, US Northwest, World Lit

LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson’s first novel, SCENES AT THE MUSEUM, began with two words: “I exist!” This one says, “I exist! I exist again! And again!” LIFE AFTER LIFE is a marvel. It’s one of the most inventive novels I’ve ever read, rich with details, beautifully crafted, and filled with metaphysical questions about the nature of time, reality, and the ability of one person to make a dramatic difference based on one small twist of fate. In short, it’s amazing.

January 8, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, 2013 Man Booker Shortlist, Alternate History, Costa Award (Whitbread), Facing History, Literary, Reading Guide, Unique Narrative, y Award Winning Author