YOU ARE FREE: STORIES by Danzy Senna

What does it mean to be biracial and free in postmillennial America? The writer James Baldwin is quoted as saying, “Freedom is something that people take and people are as free as they want to be.”

By that definition, do the young interracial women that inhabit Danzy Senna’s first collection of short stories want to be free? Or do they want to belong to a collective… something, larger than themselves? The answer, as one might suspect, is complicated.

June 2, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Short Stories

DECEPTIONS by Rebecca Frayn

Julian Poulter, the first-person narrator of Rebecca Frayn’s DECEPTIONS, is a somewhat priggish individual who says things like, “I’ve always believed one must strive to put painful episodes behind one with the minimum of fuss and bother.” He is a master of denial who, in flashback, tells how he and Annie Wray, a teacher, tried to forge a permanent relationship when he moved in with her and her two children by her late husband. Annie is flightier and far more spontaneous than Julian; each provides a quality that the other lacks.

May 20, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Mystery/Suspense, Psychological Suspense, Reading Guide, United Kingdom

PLEASE LOOK AFTER MOM by Kyung-sook Shin

Those who have traveled in Southeast Asia – and Korea in particular — will know right away that the number 4 (pinyin sì) is considered unlucky because it sounds like “death” (pinyin s?). Why, then, did Korean author Kyung-sook Shin carefully craft a novel from four different viewpoints?

The answer is that the members of this family are unlucky, or at the very least, careless. Through years as a family, none of them ever really knew Mom or understood the sources of her strength. And now she has disappeared in a crowded Seoul subway station, where she and her husband of 50 years were about to board a train. Her disappearance devastates those who are left behind.

April 15, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Family Matters, Korea, Translated, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

STRANGERS AT THE FEAST by Jennifer Vanderbes

Let me say it straight out: STRANGERS AT THE FEAST is astoundingly GOOD. Page-turning, jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud, cry-into-your-sleeves, gasp-with-recognition GOOD. It takes on nothing less than the theme of what is wrong with America today and it does it very well.

The action takes place over one Thanksgiving day with lots of flashbacks. There hasn’t been a family like the Olsons since Zoe Heller’s The Believers – with a dollop of the movie Pieces of April blended in. This family DEFINES dysfunction.

November 24, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, NE & New York

TO THE END OF THE LAND by David Grossman

Ora is a fiftyish Israeli woman thinking about her younger son, Ofer, who has not merely left home, but done so in a way that fills her with fear. On the day of his discharge from military service, when he is already on leave at home, he volunteers to join the forces fighting some unspecified action in Southern Lebanon, signing up for a further month. Terrified that at any moment a notification team will turn up at her house to inform her of Ofer’s death, Ora flees to the Galilee mountains, beyond the reach of any news. As her husband Ilan has left her several months before, taking with him their eldest son, Ora is all alone. On impulse, she calls on Avram, a former lover who has fallen on hard times, seeking his company, his listening ear, and perhaps his restoration to mental and physical health, along with her own. The whole novel is essentially her “Month of Magical Thinking,” in which the past combines with the present, folding her personal history and that of her country into an almost mystical union.

September 21, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Israel, Middle East, Translated, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

ROOM by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue is not afraid of making bold choices. Her first is the narrative voice she adapts in ROOM: that of five-year-old Jack, a young boy who was born and has lived his entire life in an 11-foot by 11-foot room. One might think the voice would eventually become cloying or overly precious or manipulative or downright tiring. But it never does.

September 18, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Commonwealth Prize, Contemporary, Unique Narrative, y Award Winning Author