SO MUCH PRETTY by Cara Hoffman

Imagine you are the “outsider” and reporter, Stacy Flynn. You came to this farm town in upstate New York via Cleveland to find the “big-picture” story on rural waste dumping here in off-the-grid Haeden. You’re twenty-four, alert as a cat, keen to pounce like a tiger, with Malcolm X glasses, a postmodern flair, and a Mencken regard. You’ve won an award in the big city, and now that the Rust Belt stories are waning, you seek the newly pelted. But after several years of living among wind-battered farmhouses, tall white flagpoles, crumbled colonials, and broken-down buses, you’re still waiting and suspicious of the omnipotent, industrialized local dairy farm while writing benign pieces about the latent, wall-eyed community….

April 11, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Class - Race - Gender, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Mystery/Suspense, NE & New York, Reading Guide

GALORE by Michael Crummey

Michael Crummey opens his new novel with Judah, sitting in a “makeshift asylum cell, shut away with the profligate stink of fish that clung to him all his days.” Only Mary Tryphena Devine comes near him these days, urging him to take a little food – or, if he doesn’t want to eat – to just die. Judah’s story is the primary, yet not the only otherworldly theme that glides through this multigenerational family saga, touching everybody in its wake. The novel is set in one of Newfoundland’s wild and rough eastern coastal regions, and, more specifically, in two remote fishing villages, Paradise Deep and The Gut.

April 8, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Allegory/Fable, Canada, Commonwealth Prize, Facing History, Speculative (Beyond Reality), World Lit, y Award Winning Author

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF SCONES by Alexander McCall Smith

We read for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons frequently cited is that books offer an “escape.” How true that is, and books, of course, offer a variety of escapes. There’s the thrill of adventure and romance, and the infinite worlds of science fiction. But there’s another escape too–an escape into a simpler, cozier world in which, if the truth is told, the lives of some fictional characters seem enviable. And this brings me to Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series.

April 1, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Humorous, Sleuths Series, United Kingdom

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

NUDE WALKER by Bathsheba Monk

THE NUDE WALKER in Bathsheba Monk’s entertaining read is Barbara Warren, a schizophrenic who tends to walk around downtown Warrenside in the buff when she’s off her meds. The Warrens were once the industrial scions in Warrenside, a fictional town in Pennsylvania. As the town, which used to be the center of the booming steel industry, gradually went into decline, so too rusted the fortunes of the Warrens. These days, Barbara isolates herself in the past, clinging on to memories of the glory days and worrying (because nobody else will, she says) that by 2012, European Americans would be the minority in town.

March 18, 2011 · Judi Clark · Comments Closed
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Reading Guide, US Mid-Atlantic

THE TARTARUS HOUSE ON CRAB by George Szanto

Jack Tartarus comes to his family house on Crab bent on destruction. What follows instead is a reconstruction of his life on this small island near Vancouver, a reuniting of family and neighbors, a closer understanding of those who have died, and the forging of new bonds.

March 16, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Canada, Contemporary, Drift-of-Life, Family Matters