From Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, to Jonathan Franzen’s THE CORRECTIONS, and just recently, Jennifer Vanderbes’ STRANGERS AT THE FEAST, unhappy families have been a staple of literature all over the globe. What, or who, put the “y” in unhappy, in dysfunction? Canadian author Lee Kvern mines this question with a brutally honest sensitivity in her intimate family portrait of Lloyd and Jacqueline Burrows and their three children–“four, if you count Sylvie.”

September 5, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Canada, Contemporary, Family Matters, y Award Winning Author


One of Goodman’s favorite authors is Jane Austen and it shows in her subtle, wryly witty social comedies. This latest takes place on both coasts between 1999 and 2002 and centers on two California sisters: responsible, ambitious, principled Emily and flighty, vegan, philosophical Jess. The title character, though deceased, plays a beguiling role in the plot.

August 21, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, California


THREE SISTERS by Bi Feiyu is a tragicomic novel, a tongue-in-cheek parody, about three sisters in the Wang family living in Wang Family Village in rural China: “Many rural villages are populated mainly by families with the same surname.” The novel opens in 1971 and ends in 1982. It is structured like three novellas though it is described by the publisher as a novel. The book’s strength, and also its weakness, is that it is primarily comprised of character studies without a lot of plot. This can make it less accessible to some readers. Throughout the novel, the author utilizes Chinese proverbs, aphorisms and adages to make points. It comes out sounding something like a Greek chorus, adding a comic element to what is often heart-rending or calamitous.

August 9, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, China, Translated, World Lit

THE STORM by Margriet de Moor

It seemed such a harmless, even playful thing: in the Netherlands, two sisters, two years apart and nearly identical in appearance, would trade places one weekend. Armanda, would stay home. looking after a toddler niece and attending a party that evening with her brother-in-law. Lidy, would travel south by auto and ferry to Zierikzee to give a birthday gift to Armanda’s goddaughter. Perhaps no one would even notice the difference?

April 12, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Translated, World Lit, y Award Winning Author


Fifteen years ago, ER’s Dr. Greene tried in vain to save a pregnant woman whose preeclampsia he had originally misdiagnosed. She bled out to her eventual death. It was one of the most grueling, shocking hours of television ever. It was also one of the best; some consider it the top episode in the series.

LOSING CHARLOTTE does not concentrate on describing the blow-by-blow stark visuals of a the fatal hemorrhaging. That takes place in an operating room where her family (and we) don’t witness the final ebb of life. But this sensitive novel does revolve around the loss of a hopeful mother-to-be, similar to the ER story.

March 25, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Family Matters, NE & New York, New York City

HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY by Audrey Niffenegger

HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY, Audrey Niffenegger’s successor to her immensely popular THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, is a ghost story centered around a London cemetery and the people drawn, both voluntarily and not, to its intimacies. When Elsbeth Noblin dies of leukemia, she leaves her heirs with a strange legacy of demands and unfinished business. Her now-American and estranged twin Edie no longer has the chance to reconcile with her sister. Her lover Robert, who lived in the flat below her, is bequeathed her papers and diaries, although he is too grief-stricken to read them. And Elsbeth’s twenty year old, mirror twin, American nieces, Julia and Valentina, are left everything else, including Elsbeth’s Highgate flat, on the condition that they live in it together for a full year.

October 25, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, Reading Guide, Scifi, Speculative (Beyond Reality), United Kingdom