THE INVERTED FOREST by John Dalton

The dictionary defines “inverted” as reversed, upturned, and this aptly describes the goings on, again and again in John Dalton’s latest novel, The Inverted Forest, an impressive follow-up to his award winning debut, HEAVEN LAKE. That the two stories are quite diverse in setting and subject serves the reader well, as HEAVEN LAKE, set in Taiwan and China, was one of those wondrous, luminous novels difficult to surpass. THE INVERTED FOREST takes place in 1996 in a rural Missouri summer camp, a sun-dappled, bucolic environment that still manages to impart a sense of subliminal unease.

September 21, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Literary

ALL IS FORGOTTEN, NOTHING IS LOST by Lan Samantha Chang

This is a beautiful book. If you want to read something that has the same effect as gazing at a vast and perfect ink-wash painting, calming and yet utterly absorbing, reach for this. Like the tiniest haze of seeping ink will be skillful enough to convey a distant village nestling in the hills, or the flight of a crane; there is not a word misplaced in this small and lovely work. Its theme is poetry, and indeed the exquisite style does full justice to the subject.

September 12, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Literary

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

FUNERAL FOR A DOG by Thomas Pletzinger

Husbands and wives who work together either end up with their marriage in trouble or being the best of friends. In German author, Thomas Pletzinger’s novel, FUNERAL FOR A DOG, it’s the first scenario for journalist Daniel Mandelkern. Mandelkern is an ethnologist who is supposed to be writing “about anthropological concepts like matrilineality and male childbed,” but instead he’s been getting a series of shit assignments from his boss/wife Elisabeth. Mandelkern is beginning to wonder if there’s an underlying message to these assignments and then he’s told to interview the reclusive Dirk Svensson, the author of a wildly successful illustrated children’s book “The story of Leo and the Notmuch.” Mandelkern protests against the assignment, and with his marriage in crisis, he storms out of his apartment on the journey to interview Svensson.

May 4, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Germany, New York City, Unique Narrative, World Lit

AN ATLAS OF IMPOSSIBLE LONGING by Anuradha Roy

The title of this book alone drew me in; that and I’m partial to books about India. This is a fine book on many levels and I was not disappointed. It’s a multigenerational novel, a great love story, a cross-cultural learning experience, and a book about yearning, hope, loss, money and betrayal. It captures the big themes of life and does a great job of keeping the reader turning the pages.

The story starts out in 1907 when Amulya takes his family from Calcutta to Songarh, a small town on the edge of the jungle. He has a wife and two grown sons, along with one daughter-in law. He builds a house in the middle of nowhere. There are no other houses nearby except for one belonging to an English couple across the street. There is dirt, mud, the screech of monkies and not much else. Kananbala, Amulya’s wife, gradually loses her sanity from the loneliness and utters irrelevant profanities at the oddest times. Amulya confines Kananbala to her room so as to avoid embarrassment. There she languishes, for the most part alone and lonely. She takes to watching the comings and goings of the English couple across the street and is witness to a murder. Her interpretation of what she sees has a fascinating outcome.

April 21, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Family Matters, India-Pakistan, Reading Guide, World Lit

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