RidgewayGirl Attempts to Embrace Chaos in 2024 - Chapter Two

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RidgewayGirl Attempts to Embrace Chaos in 2024 - Chapter Two

Fev 27, 1:33 pm

My year of reading randomly began with great hopes, but is foundering on the rocks of the Tournament of Books. While this year, I decided not to read all of them, I omitted only a few, and not the one I should have, but with only a few books left to read for that, including one I'm tempted to skip, I'll soon be reading based only on whim. Really, I mean it this time.

Editado: Abr 18, 9:01 pm

Currently Reading

Recently Read

Books Acquired

Editado: Mar 31, 12:55 pm

First Quarter Reading


1. Dayswork by Chris Bachelder and Jennifer Habel
2. The Final Curtain by Keigo Higashino, translated from the Japanese by Giles Murray
3. Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women by Mary Rechner
4. Blackouts by Justin Torres
5. Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto
6. Cold People by Tom Rob Smith
7. Go as a River by Shelley Read
8. Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll
9. Dearborn by Ghassan Zeineddine
10. Fruit of the Dead by Rachel Lyon
11. One of the Good Guys by Araminta Hall
12. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders
13. My Men by Victoria Kielland, translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls


1. The Lost Journals of Sacajewea by Debra Magpie Earling
2. The Shamshine Blind by Paz Pardo
3. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
4. Monstrilio by Gerardo Sámano Córdova
5. The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
6. The American Daughters by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
7. Absolution by Alice McDermott
8. All the Little Bird-Hearts by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow


1. Chain Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
2. Half an Inch of Water by Percival Everett
3. The Hunter by Tana French
4. American Mermaid by Julia Langbein
5. Wandering Stars by Tommy Orange
6. S. by Doug Dorst
7. So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan
8. From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata
9. In the Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist
10. The Wind Knows My Name by Isabelle Allende, translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle

Editado: Fev 27, 1:41 pm

Welcome to the shiny, new thread. Let's clutter it up with book talk.

Fev 27, 3:05 pm

Happy new thread, Kay. You have started the year with some great reading.

>7 RidgewayGirl: Love this!

Fev 27, 3:36 pm

>1 RidgewayGirl:


>2 RidgewayGirl:

Explosion in a paint factory! Most enticing covers.

>7 RidgewayGirl:

This I don't get, presumably because I haven't read the book. But is it actually a cartoon BY Atwood?

Fev 27, 3:47 pm

>7 RidgewayGirl: Love the cartoon - it seems just like something she would say.

Happy new thread and keep up the acquisitions!

Fev 27, 4:57 pm

>8 BLBera: It has been a great reading year so far. There are so many great books to read.

>9 LolaWalser: Yes, the cartoon is by Margaret Atwood. And The Robber Bride is my favorite of the novels of hers that I've read. Here's a quote from it:

Maybe that's what West found so irresistible about Zenia, Tony used to think: that she was raw, that she was raw sex, whereas Tony herself was only the cooked variety. Parboiled to get the dangerous wildness out, the strong fresh-blood flavors. Zenia was gin at midnight, Tony was eggs for breakfast, and in eggcups at that. It's not the category Tony would have preferred.

>10 SassyLassy: Ha, no fear -- books come into my hands like they were iron filings and I was a horseshoe magnet.

Fev 27, 5:23 pm

I was so excited last night that my book club decided to read Heaven and Earth Grocery Store for our May meeting.

Fev 27, 5:40 pm

>11 RidgewayGirl:

Oh that's hilarious how she draws herself! And I think I get the fun now. Thanks. :)

Editado: Fev 27, 5:52 pm

>11 RidgewayGirl: I read The Robber Bride 30 years ago, and immediately upon finishing it, started back at the beginning & read it all over again--never did that before or since. It's definitely due for a re-read; I consider it my favorite, too, although I have not read them all, especially more recent ones. The one I've enjoyed most from her recent works is Hag-Seed, which is a clever modern re-telling of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Fev 27, 8:44 pm

loved Hag Seed,really was a master class on how to present the play to a group of people who are unfamiliar with the play. Was really moved by several moments

Fev 27, 10:15 pm

>12 labfs39: Excellent. It's up for my book club in August.

>13 LolaWalser: You're welcome, and now I want to reread The Robber Bride.

>14 kac522: I can see doing that. It's such a great novel. I haven't read The Hag Seed yet.

>15 cindydavid4: I will definitely look for a copy.

Fev 28, 9:31 am

Nice new thread. And Atwood’s self portrait is really charming. I enjoyed your comments on The American Daughters.

Fev 28, 9:32 pm

I loved The Hag Seed. I haven't read The Robber Bride, so maybe that will be my next Atwood.

Fev 28, 9:57 pm

>18 BLBera: I tried The Hag Seed ages ago and couldn’t get into it. I’ll have to try again.

Fev 28, 10:27 pm

>17 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan. I do wonder if Atwood was illustrating something that actually happened.

>18 BLBera: Beth, it's wonderful. I'm due for a reread.

>19 dianeham: I'm interested in reading it now. I have a copy of The Penelopiad I'd like to read first, though.

Fev 28, 11:20 pm

>20 RidgewayGirl: I haven’t read that either.

Fev 29, 6:41 pm

I've successfully clogged Darryl's (Kidzdoc) thread with people's fantastic suggestions for dining in New Orleans, as well as their fond memories of that city. As I'm going to NOLA in mid-April, I thought I'd ask here for suggestions for the best books set in this city, novels that really make the city an important part of the book.

I have already read Maurice Carlos Ruffin's books, as well as Jamie Attenberg's All This Could be Yours. What do you suggest?

Editado: Fev 29, 10:00 pm

>22 RidgewayGirl:

Walker Percy's The Moviegoer and the New Orleans segment of John Rechy's City of Night. The Percy is one of my favourite novels ever. Which may seem somewhat strange, given that he was, in no particular order, a misogynistic white male Catholic. But he was a tortured soul, and I saw New Orleans, especially in the beginning, in the same nightmarish palette.

ETA: corrected touchstone

Fev 29, 9:00 pm

>22 RidgewayGirl: Although it's not a novel, I thought Five Days at Memorial was a powerful book about Hurricane Katrina and its impact on the city.

Fev 29, 9:03 pm

>22 RidgewayGirl: first one that comes to mind is in the midnight garden of good and evilIve never been to NOLA and this book was so desciptive that I could see it in my mind. Loved his love for the city, and the characters were marvelous. Someday maybe ill get there

Fev 29, 9:33 pm

>23 LolaWalser: I loved The Moviegoer when I read it, but that was probably twenty years ago. I still have my copy and I'll pull it out for a reread.

>24 labfs39: I read that and it was gripping, if hard to read.

>25 cindydavid4: Cindy, that one is about Savannah, probably the prettiest city in the US.

Fev 29, 9:58 pm

>26 RidgewayGirl: ack!!!!! Um I knew that....and I have been there and loved it. Ill just remove that suggestions, shall I?

Editado: Fev 29, 10:01 pm

The Great Deluge was very well done

Fev 29, 10:03 pm

>26 RidgewayGirl:

Oh cool--but this set me thinking, something from an African-American perspective would be a necessary counterweight. But as far as Louisiana-born people are concerned, somehow these voices are still... not apparent? Stifled?

Because that's a very different story to those playing out in the mansions on St. Charles avenue.

Editado: Mar 1, 7:43 am

Interview with a Vampire? Or the memoir The Yellow House (put on my wishlist by Darryl.)

Here are some more ideas:

ETA: there's more genre novels to shift through, but this might have even more ideas:

Mar 1, 10:25 am

>30 ELiz_M: My book club read The Yellow House last summer, but I missed that month.

Editado: Mar 1, 11:18 am

I haven't read these, but what about these two born and bred African American NOLA writers?

Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton now lives in California. Her novel A kind of freedom is set in New Orleans.

I'm also curious now about Pinkie Gordon Lane who was the first African American poet laureate, though she was born and raised in Philadelphia.

Editado: Mar 1, 11:50 am

>22 RidgewayGirl: Hi, Kay! It will come as no surprise that I have quite a few NOLA books I would recommend highly, thanks to a search of my LT library:

The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin: This is a murder mystery about the real life Axeman of New Orleans, who terrorized the city from 1918-1919. Murder mysteries aren't my thing, but I loved this book.
The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You: Stories by Maurice Carlos Ruffin: A recent collection of stories about the Black community of the city.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers: A fictionalized account of an Iraqi immigrant to NOLA who lived through Katrina; Zeitoun was later accused of attempted murder of his ex-wife but was found innocent, an episode that occurred well after this book was published)

The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby: This book describes the impact that the devastating yellow fever epidemic of 1878 had on the future growth and development of both Memphis and New Orleans. I would put it on the top of your list if you plan to visit any of the well known cemeteries of New Orleans, which are a major tourist attraction, as many of them have untold hundreds of tombstones of New Orleanians who died that year.
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? (essays written in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina)
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink: This is easily one of the most powerful and harrowing books I've ever read, in which doctors, including Dr. Fink, and patients were trapped and isolated in Memorial Medical Center by floodwaters from Katrina.
New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City by Andrei Codrescu: A very interesting and often humorous collection of essays from the famed Romanian author and NPR commentator, who lived in NOLA from 1985 to 2005 and wrote articles for Gambit, a weekly alternative city newspaper. If you want to learn about the characters that make New Orleans what it is this is one of the books I would recommend most highly.
Where We Know: New Orleans As Home by David Rutledge: An excellent collection of post-Katrina essays.
The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom: An outstanding description of New Orleans East, its development as an eastern suburb of the city and how its demographics changed with time, and what happened to it in the aftermath of Katrina. One of my aunts and her two sons moved from Midtown

Bellocq's Ophelia: Poems by Natasha Trethewey: These are fictionalized accounts about the Storyville prostitutes famously photographed by EJ Bellocq in the early 20th century.

Mar 1, 1:17 pm

Ha, I knew you guys would have suggestions!

>28 cindydavid4: Cindy, that looks interesting, but I'm not sure I want to arrive in NOLA, looking at it through the lens of its worst disaster.

>29 LolaWalser: Lola, I recently read The American Daughters, which is set before and during the Civil War and entirely set in the Black community. Maurice Carlos Ruffin loves the city and his books are all excellent, especially his short story collection. A start, at least.

>30 ELiz_M: Thanks! I'll take a close look at those lists.

>31 labfs39: I have a copy of The Yellow House and I plan on reading it before the trip -- it's a hardcover, so I don't want to bring it with me.

>32 markon: Ardene, I have a copy of A Kind of Freedom on my tbr, where it's been languishing for a few years now. I didn't know it was set in NOLA. Very satisfying to be able to just pull that one off of its shelf.

>33 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl! Funny about The Axeman's Jazz -- I have a copy of Nathaniel Rich's King Zeno, which is centered on that same criminal. I'm planning to bring it and The Moviegoer (Lola's suggestion) with me on the trip. And, of course, you're already familiar with Maurice Carlos Ruffin, an author I like quite a bit. And I may try to find the Codrescu book while I'm there.

Very disappointing to realize I have over a month to wait.

Mar 1, 2:17 pm

>32 markon:, >33 kidzdoc:, >34 RidgewayGirl:

Thanks for the Ruffin and Trethewey's Bellocq mentions!

I'll always feel guilty for not doing due diligence on these topics when I was living there, and letting shyness and whatnot inhibit me. I met Lolis Eric Elie, a friend's friend, when he was a journalist at Times-Picayune (he was scriptwriter on Treme). I ran into a Croatian girl getting a PhD in English lit at the University of New Orleans, who would later join the faculty there and marry an African-American colleague of hers--the obvious people whose brains to pick on so many topics, but I didn't.

Mar 1, 4:44 pm

In Alice McDermott's novel, Absolution, Tricia is a young wife who accompanied her husband to Saigon. It's 1963, and the expat life of garden parties, evening drinks and children attending the international school while living in lavish homes cared for by local help is still normal. Tricia, by nature a good girl who grew up working class Catholic in Yonkers, is ready to do her part to help her husband's career. She's naturally shy, but keenly observant and she falls in easily with Charlene, a woman with goals and plans and the forceful nature needed to carry them out. She's quickly co-opted into Charlene's work, at first bringing toys to hospitalized children (and cigarettes to their parents), then into a plan that involves trips out to a leper colony. But the war is becoming something that can't be ignored and Tricia is forced into looking at how the very best of intentions can do harm.

The novel takes the form of letters written between Tricia and Charlene's daughter, in which Tricia explains how people thought and acted in that time and place, through the lens of what we now know. It's a balancing act, to tell the story of a woman in 1963, through her eyes then and now and McDermott is able to make that work. Charlene's actions, and therefore many of Tricia's were what we would look at now with a critical eye, as does the present day Tricia, looking closely at how what they were doing was just feel-good work for a large part, but also work that sometimes did real good and sometimes real harm. McDermott's characters seem fairly simple on the surface, but there's a lot of complexity under the surface. I will be thinking about the characters and the choices they made for some time. I recommend going into this book knowing as little as possible about it ahead of time.

Editado: Mar 2, 1:53 pm

A Confederacy of Dunces, if you can stomach it. I got about halfway through. Very New Orleans.

Absolution sounds good. Great review

Mar 2, 2:26 pm

>37 dchaikin: I have a history with that book. Back in college, the worst housemate one could imagine gave me a copy of that for Christmas. It has colored my view of it.

Mar 2, 2:38 pm

>38 RidgewayGirl: How odd. I too was given a copy of a book by I person I was not fond of and have been unable to read it!

Mar 2, 5:45 pm

>37 dchaikin: Oh I wished I loved that.Ive tried many times and just dont get it. So many loved it tho

Mar 2, 10:15 pm

A Confederacy of Dunces

Oddly enough, I read it in Europe way before I knew I'd be moving to New Orleans (and the book itself didn't engender any such desire). But once I was in N.O., that was the first book I bought--more for the symbolism than out of sympathy for it. I think I'm due for a reread. Toole's New Orleans was already largely gone by 1992 but Ignatius, his attitude, seemed alive among a certain small segment of mostly young white men of intellectual bent, forever embittered that a place of such unique culture had no use for the scholar. (I shared this partly, being shackled to a bench in a windowless lab while outside whole NOVELS full of wonder were unrolling in the streets.)

But it's a very strange angle to grasp and certainly not what someone looking to celebrate the city would expect from a book commonly brought up when New Orleans gets mentioned.

The slogan that best captures New Orleans to a local is "It's not the heat, it's the stupidity". But hey, at least it's not Florida.

Mar 3, 12:26 am

I’d go for the music.

Mar 3, 9:34 am

I, too, really enjoyed Walker Percy's The Moviegoer. Not only was it set in New Orleans, but more specifically in Gentilly, the New Orleans working class neighborhood I was living in when I read the book. It's a long time ago that I read it, so I don't recall details about why I liked the book so much.

I love Confederacy of Dunces. Again, I read it while living in New Orleans. The backstory is that Toole committed suicide after writing the book. I think it's believed that he did that out of despair that he couldn't find a publisher for the book, but I'm not for sure about that. What I do know is that his mother took up the cause after his death and brought the book around to anyone who would see her. She was finally able to see the book in print after showing it to . . . you guessed it . . . Walker Percy, who convinced the LSU publishing house to publish the book even thought they were almost entirely a textbook house. At any rate, all that aside, Confederacy of Dunces was, in my view, a dead-on (though outrageous) and hilarious satire of white working class New Orleans culture. As Lola says, much of that cohort is gone, washed away by Katrina and pushed out by the subsequent gentrification. But I think that the consciousness of the influence that that group of New Orleanians had on the city and its self-image still resonates there, especially among the people who've been living in the city for more than, say 15 years. Parts of the book are objectionable and some of the book's charms require a certain sense of humor to truly appreciate. You could say the same for New Orleans, though.

Mar 3, 9:51 am

Sorry for the double-post, but I just wanted to add re: Confederacy of Dunces that you are unlikely to see the side of New Orleans that the book portrays, or what's left of it, during a relatively short first visit. Though I haven't read The Yellow House, everything I've read about it suggests to me that it provides a much better contemporary look at conditions in the city now. But again, those aren't the aspects you'll see as a tourist. It all depends on how much information you feel you want about the cultural/economic foundations that the fascinating parts of the city that you will see are sitting upon.

It occurs to me that a pretty good non-fiction book that also offers good insight into the city is In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu. . . . Well, never mind. I just looked at the book's review page and see you've not only read it but reviewed it!

Wynton Marsalis has described how important Pops Foster: the Autobiography of a New Orleans Jazzman is for an understanding of what life was like for the early New Orleans musicians. I own it but haven't read it yet.

Editado: Mar 3, 11:40 am

I loved A Confederacy of Dunces the first time I read it, which was probably in the early 1980s, shortly after it was published, and either when I was living there (I left in December 1981) or very shortly afterward. It was a local sensation in the year or two after it was published by LSU* Press — I did check, and Wikipedia confirmed my recollection on that — and the local print media, including the Times-Picayune and Gambit wrote numerous stories about Toole, his suicide, and his mother's dogged efforts to get someone to publish it. (Jerry, your recollection is either absolutely correct, or we're both completely wrong!).

I decided to read it a second time in 2010, and I didn't like it at all; I gave it 2 stars then, where it would have earned at least 4 stars 30 years earlier. I found the humor to be stable and over the top, and the difference may be best explained by my maturation as a reader than anything else. I wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading it, but it wouldn't be on my list of top literary recommendations, especially since I believe that generation of New Orleanians has dwindled significantly, which is somewhat unfortunate.

*Louisiana State University

>43 rocketjk: Were you living in New Orleans when the cover of the afternoon newspaper was lime green? I think it was the States-Item, but I'm not completely sure (my relatives would have said, in the classic NOLA dialect, "I'm not for true.")

Mar 3, 12:43 pm

Very much enjoying this book conversation. We should discuss books set outside of the usual places (NY, London, etc...) more often.

Darryl, we've also made a reservation at Cochon, as well as planning a late lunch of muffelatas at Napoleon House, to be followed by cocktails and, most likely, a nap. I am not good at day drinking.

Editado: Mar 3, 12:49 pm

>45 kidzdoc: "his mother's dogged efforts to get someone to publish it."

I forgot to mention that I actually met his mother during this period. This was during my time working for the New Orleans NPR affiliate, and I was working the engineer board when she came to the studio to be interviewed for one of our public affairs shows.

"I decided to read it a second time in 2010, and I didn't like it at all; I gave it 2 stars then, where it would have earned at least 4 stars 30 years earlier."

Right. I was going to say that I don't know how I'd respond to the book now if I were to read it again. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if my reaction was the same as yours, Darryl, tempered somewhat by a sense of nostalgia for the old days and my own 20s. It's certainly harder to connect with a satire when not only are you unfamiliar with the thing being satirized but, also, that thing is mostly gone.

"Were you living in New Orleans when the cover of the afternoon newspaper was lime green? I think it was the States-Item, but I'm not completely sure (my relatives would have said, in the classic NOLA dialect, "I'm not for true.")"

Yes, although since I am red/green colorblind, I had to take other people's word for the actual color. I only knew "for true" that there was some dark shading going on.

I love those old New Orleans expressions, although even when I was there they were beginning to fade away. A lot of them had to do, I think, with the city's French antecedents. For example, I've always guessed that the expression "to make groceries" (used in place of "going grocery shopping") came from the French verb "faire," which translates, more or less, to "to make or do." I don't know if anyone refers to sidewalks as "banquettes" anymore. I had some friends from old-time New Orleans families who would use the greeting, "Hey, there. Whatchu know good?" That might have Cajun roots. At any rate, while I love the expression, I've quit trying to use it outside of New Orleans, because people assume you're saying that something or other is "no good." Or when you invite somebody somewhere and they answer, "I'll pass." At first I thought the person was declining the invitation, until I released that among a certain group of New Orleanians it meant, "Sure, I'll pass by when I can."

Editado: Mar 4, 1:51 pm

People who perform on instinct do not keep vast libraries of information in their heads. They do not concentrate in company as if taking an important exam. They do not need to shut down frequently and turn off all the lights to find relief. And even then, find that peace does not come.

Sunday is living in a small town in the Lake District of England, divorced and with a 16 year old daughter she loves deeply, but is also somewhat in awe of. Sunday is easily overwhelmed, needs her foods to be white, or at least pale, and has trouble navigating relationships, despite frequently turning to a book of etiquette. It's the 1980s, so while in a later time she'd be labeled autistic, here she's mostly thought of as peculiar or difficult. Her refuge is her work, in the greenhouse of her ex-husband's farm. Then a new couple moves into the house next door and Vita sweeps Sunday into the heady whirlwind of her erratic life. It's not a friendship that should work, but Vita is so self-centered and her husband so eager to keep everyone having a good time that it all works and before long, both Sunday and her daughter are centering their lives around this couple. Which works so well until it doesn't.

All the Little Bird-Hearts by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow is gorgeously written book told from the point of view of a woman for whom the world is a frightening and hostile place, but who nevertheless keeps trying to find a way to belong. She is both keenly observant, as a survival tactic, and utterly unaware of much of what is going on around her. There's a sense of rising dread in this book, something the reader can see coming, but not clearly, because we're seeing the world through Sunday's eyes, and how the author managed to do that is astonishing from a debut novelist.

Mar 3, 6:35 pm

>48 RidgewayGirl: Great review, Kay.

Mar 3, 6:56 pm

>48 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for this review. I am interested now in reading this book that I had on hold for weeks, but eventually replaced with one that would fall due before the year was out. I’m now encouraged to try again now that the 2023 Booker is old news.

Mar 4, 1:53 pm

>49 labfs39: Thanks, Lisa. Dan (dchaikin) recommended this book in his thread and he's a reliable guide to which Booker long/shortlist books are worthwhile.

>50 kjuliff: I'm familiar with the dance of library holds. Hopefully, the line is shorter now.

Mar 4, 4:11 pm

>50 kjuliff: That he is. I wouldn't have considered this book without his and your reviews.

Mar 4, 9:23 pm

>48 RidgewayGirl: yay! Love your review and so glad you enjoyed this. I have such fond thoughts about it still. Poor Sunday

>51 RidgewayGirl: >52 labfs39: thanks both. Appreciate that. 2023 was a really good Booker year.

>45 kidzdoc: >43 rocketjk: so Wikipedia explains Toole’s suicide was maybe not about his book. Certainly he was crushed because he got so close to publishing it and the editor was pretty cruel about, demanding (awful) changes and calling it a book about nothing. But also he became seriously paranoid in weird ways for several years. Maybe stress. But likely he had more serious mental health issues independent of any depression or anything else he could normally control. Perhaps schizophrenia.

Mar 4, 11:25 pm

>48 RidgewayGirl: Great review, and this sounds like such an interesting book.

Mar 5, 7:18 am

>53 dchaikin: Not that depression is something one can control.

Editado: Mar 5, 1:54 pm

>53 dchaikin: Hoping you'll work your way through the 2024 list when it arrives, so I can rely on your reviews again. No pressure!

>54 rv1988: Rasdhar, it's written in an unique voice that really got to me.

>55 labfs39: I just keep thinking about his mom, doggedly pressuring people to publish her dead son's book.

In book news, my library hold of Tana French's newest book, The Hunter is up and I feel bad for the books I'm currently reading, as they will gather dust for the foreseeable future.

Mar 5, 1:58 pm

>56 RidgewayGirl: Unfortunately my library hold time for The Hunter is 14 weeks. So a long wait for me.

Editado: Mar 5, 2:22 pm

>56 RidgewayGirl: i hope to!

>53 dchaikin: yes, good point.

Mar 5, 2:47 pm

>57 JoeB1934: I managed to be first in line because I put a hold on it the minute I heard about it, far more than 14 weeks ago.

Mar 5, 6:45 pm

I thought of how the world can be anything and how sad it is that it's this.

Chain Gang All-Stars is not the kind of book I pick up. From being set in an alternative version of the world to the violence of the deathmatches that form the backbone of the novel, I'm not the intended reader here. But Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah wrote one of the most brilliant and inventive short story collections that I have read, one that if you haven't read, you should go right now and read it. So what do you do when an author you think is uniquely talented writes a novel you don't like the look of? If you're me, you end up reading it anyway, pushed by its inclusion in the Tournament of Books.

In this version of the world, which is very close to what actually exists, prison inmates can opt into fighting a series of deathmatches and if they survive for three years, they will be freed. While our real prisons are often shockingly terrible places, in this world there's the addition of a taser-like weapon known as an influencer, which causes indescribable pain, and prison labor is even harsher and more deadly. Here, we are introduced to Staxxx and Thurwar, two women who have managed to survive on the circuit, Thurwar just weeks from being the first woman to win her freedom. As we accompany the two women through their season, we also dip into the lives of fans, activists protesting the "sport," and other contestants.

I found this book both hard to read and difficult to set aside. Adjei-Brenyah's writing isn't showy or beautiful, but it forces the reader into being interested, into caring for people who have done bad things, but who nonetheless do not deserve what is inflicted on them. This is an obvious indictment of our current prison industry, complete with footnotes directly relating the novel to real events and facts. While the story he's telling is shocking, it's also far too believable.

Mar 5, 7:20 pm

>60 RidgewayGirl: Good review - so good I think I’ll give this one a miss…

Mar 5, 7:45 pm

>60 RidgewayGirl: Uff da. This might be one I skip despite how good you make it seem. Interesting that he made his protagonists women.

Mar 6, 5:50 pm

>61 kjuliff: I would normally also have put this book on the shelf of "very nice for people who aren't me," but I'm glad I did read it. I very much understand deciding not to!

>62 labfs39: I think it makes for characters who are easier for us to relate to, maybe? One of the characters is there because she killed the man raping her, which certainly makes the inhumanity of life sentences a lot starker.

Mar 6, 9:02 pm

>46 RidgewayGirl: We should discuss books set outside of the usual places (NY, London, etc...) more often.


I am not good at day drinking.

Clearly the same could be said of the keynote speaker of the Pediatric Hospital Medicine conference I attended in New Orleans several years ago. The hotel it was set in was on Canal Street, the main entryway into the French Quarter, and he admittedly had at least one too many Sazeracs, so much so that he was having a hard time standing upright! We were originally going to attend his talk, which promised to be more entertaining than usual, but our concierge came over to us and told us that he had scored a last-minute reservation to Restaurant R'evolution from a group that had cancelled shortly before then, so we hightailed it there instead.

>57 JoeB1934: I forgot to mention that I actually met his mother during this period.


It's certainly harder to connect with a satire when not only are you unfamiliar with the thing being satirized but, also, that thing is mostly gone.

You're right, Jerry. That New Orleans is gone, probably for good, and that is a tragedy.

I love those old New Orleans expressions, although even when I was there they were beginning to fade away. A lot of them had to do, I think, with the city's French antecedents.

I agree, and I would say the same for the influence of Caribbeans on New Orleans culture, especially Jamaican patwah; "for true" is the same as "fi true."

The influence of so many cultures is what makes New Orleans such a special place. It's easily the most unique city in the United States, especially if you're willing to get outside of the typical tourist culture and immerse yourself in the city's rich history. Tennessee Williams famously said, "America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland." I would say that this is an exaggeration, but only a modest one.

>48 RidgewayGirl: Great review of All the Little Bird-Hearts, Kay. That sounds right up my alley.

>60 RidgewayGirl: I also enjoyed your review of Chain-Gang All-Stars. I borrowed it from my local library system, but at a time that I wasn't reading much of anything, so I doubt that I got more than a few pages into it. If at first you don't succeed...

Mar 6, 10:26 pm

>64 kidzdoc: "the influence of Caribbeans on New Orleans culture, especially Jamaican patwah; "

Oh, absolutely. Also in New Orleans music, of course. Plus everything else you've said here about the influence of so many cultures on New Orleans is of course right on. Or, as they'd say in New Orleans, "Yeah, you right!"

Mar 6, 10:47 pm

>56 RidgewayGirl: I just got my notice to pick up The Hunter too. As you said, the other books I've got ready to go are gonna sit on the bench for a while.

Mar 7, 12:47 pm

>64 kidzdoc: Ha! Poor guy. After a few drinks, all I'm good for is a nap. I'm glad you're getting your reading groove back.

>66 Jim53: It starts very well!

Mar 7, 3:20 pm

I've read many of the NO recommended books and agree with most of them, especially The Yellow House and the Margaret Sexton Wilkerson. But one I'd really recommend, not mentioned above is Nine Lives by Dan Baum. To me it conveyed more than most other books what makes New Orleans unique. The author does this by portraying the lives of 9 New Orleanians. These range from a Mardis Gras Indian to a former Rex, King of carnival, from the coroner, to a streetcar repairman, from the trans owner of a bar to the bandmaster of one of NO's famous high school marching bands, as well as others. Again this book to me conveyed NO's unique character through its people.

Mar 7, 6:35 pm

>68 arubabookwoman: Thanks, I hadn't heard of that one. Adding it to my list now.

Mar 8, 6:56 am

>68 arubabookwoman: I'm glad that you liked Nine Lives, Deborah. I own a copy of it, but I haven't read it yet.

Editado: Mar 8, 10:05 am

I thought of one more not mentioned above--In the Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist. This is one of her earlier books, maybe even her first. It's a book of short stories focusing on "Uptown" New Orleanians. These are the elites from the old New Orleans families, those living in the mansions of the Garden District or Uptown New Orleans. At the time it was published (late 70's/early 80's?), there was a lot of speculation as to which of the fictional characters represented which NO society person. The book was rather good though.

ETA: And a good fairly current guide to NO restaurants/food is Eat Dat New Orleans by Michael Murphy, subtitled, "A Guide to the Unique Food Culture of the Crescent City."

Mar 8, 6:41 pm

>71 arubabookwoman: Deborah, I own that book! Will pull it out immediately!

Mar 8, 9:49 pm

>72 RidgewayGirl: Kay, after I recommended this book, I pulled it off my shelf, to read a few of the stories to see how they held up, since I had no recall of any of the stories. I read the first one and it was extremely dark, with a violent and disturbing ending. I'm not sure how you would feel about that, but I was a bit upset by it. Nothing like I thought I remembered. Just a friendly warning.

Mar 9, 1:40 pm

>60 RidgewayGirl: such a great review. Definitely has a sense of this book. The title is discouraging, but your review encouraging.

>68 arubabookwoman: >71 arubabookwoman: >73 arubabookwoman: noting all this

Mar 10, 12:02 pm

And another heads up about In the Land of Dreamy Dreams--only the first few stories are set in NO. Which goes to show I shouldn't recommend books I don't remember well (or at all). But...it did make a big ruckus in NO when it was first released (Gilcrist was living there at the time or shortly before). And the stories are very "Southern," and for the most part I liked this reread.

Mar 11, 5:04 pm

>73 arubabookwoman: Thanks for the information, Deborah. I'll see what I think after the first few stories.

>74 dchaikin: Yeah, the title and description made me think, "this is not for me." I was surprised to find myself pulled into the story nonetheless.

Mar 11, 5:04 pm

Gunther went downstairs and sat alone in the kitchen, watched the snow turn serious. The truth was that Gunther did feel windless. He felt unusually calm and he wasn't sure it felt good, though he was pleased with how he was handling the situation with his daughter. He held his hand out, like a gunfighter in a movie, to check his steadiness. His hand did not quiver. He checked his pulse. Fifty. It had never been fifty. He wanted to be anxious about his newfound serenity, but instead he grew even more relaxed. The irony was not lost on him and in fact played out as being strange and slightly amusing.

Percival Everett is one of my favorite novelists but one can never be sure if an author who writes novels well will have the same mastery of the short story. I've been disappointed before. But Everett excels at the form, in Half an Inch of Water giving brief looks at lives lived in rural Colorado and Wyoming. The main characters here are mostly men, mostly Black men, living alone, or with their families, all looking to do the right thing, keeping mostly to themselves. In the first story, a vet goes out on horseback to help search for a missing child and finds much more than he'd expected, in another, a horseman helps a woman with her riding, but is taken aback when she takes his practical advice as life lessons. In The Day Comes, the story I pulled the above quote from, the slightly bored sheriff of a quiet rural district deals with the usual small problems and then a much larger one. Each story is carefully crafted and manages to create a large impact in just a few pages.

Mar 12, 10:41 am

>60 RidgewayGirl: I am afraid I am the kind of people who reads this. On the shelf it goes...

>77 RidgewayGirl: Have so many Everett to get too but this will also be added to that growing list.

Mar 12, 10:53 am

>78 stretch: I think that you will get into the groove of what Adjei-Brenyah is doing here more quickly than I did.

>78 stretch: He is prolific! I have a few on my tbr, the new one coming to me when it's released and a long list of others I want to read. Now it's his other short story collections, too.

Mar 12, 3:04 pm

In this sequel to The Searcher, Tana French brings us back to the rural Irish community of Ardnakelty. The Hunter shows the community slowly accepting Cal Hooper, the American in-comer who has taken on the under-parented Trey and taught her woodworking skills while providing her the stability and guidance she needed. But that all changes when Trey's father returns with a get rich scheme that the local farmers, already strained by a long heat wave, are susceptible to. Tensions mount, not helped by the weather and a little deliberate incitement, until the stakes are raised by murder.

This is a solid crime novel and a good story, filled with characters and their relationships with each other developing over time in a way that feels very real. The Ardnakelty countryside may be beautiful, but this insular community has more than its fair share of secrets and long-held grievances. French knows how to write dialogue, writing in the cadences of the Irish accent, making this novel a pleasure to read as well as a great page turner. She took her time developing Cal's relationship to this community and now that slow build pays off here.

Mar 12, 3:06 pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: Great review. I’ve been looking for a TanaFrench “Irish” novel.

Mar 12, 3:29 pm

>81 kjuliff: Kate, this is a sequel and, unlike her Murder Squad books, you need to read the previous book, The Searcher first. But reading them back to back would be wonderful -- I sometimes wished I remembered all the details of the first book while reading the second.

Editado: Mar 12, 4:34 pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: Libby estimates it will be 11 weeks before I get Tana French's The Hunter in audiobook format. I've also got an audiobook of Yangsze Choo's The fox wife on request at 14 weeks.

Mar 12, 4:35 pm

>82 RidgewayGirl: Oh! Thanks for letting me know. I’ll try to read them back to back.

Mar 12, 4:50 pm

I think I am # 10 on the list for this one, Kay. Good to know that it is another good one. It's lucky that I do have other things to read.

Mar 12, 10:47 pm

>77 RidgewayGirl: Great review. I'm looking forward to his new book this year as well. I will add this to my TBR.

>79 RidgewayGirl: I'm glad to hear this lives up to the promise of The Searcher. Great review, again.

Mar 13, 9:46 am

>83 markon: The Fox Wife looks interesting and has a great cover. I look forward to finding out what you think about it. If I weren't making an effort to not load up my reading with library books, I would already be on the waitlist.

>84 kjuliff: I hope you get a narrator who can do both Chicago and west Ireland accents.

>85 BLBera: Beth, I put a hold on it when I first saw that it was going to be published and I was notified that my copy was ready on the release date. The advantages of a smaller library system, I think. I've also gotten emails telling me that the book I requested they buy was not yet published in the US, but that they would acquire one as soon as it was.

>86 rv1988: I'm excited about the new Everett, too. I appreciate his commitment to independent publishing, but I hope the switch to a big publisher for this book will get him the recognition he deserves.

Editado: Mar 13, 11:26 am

>87 RidgewayGirl: the narrator is Roger Clark, described in Wiki as

Roger Clark is an Irish-American actor and voice actor. He is best known for portraying Arthur Morgan through performance capture in the 2018 video game Red Dead Redemption 2, a role which garnered him critical acclaim and numerous accolades

From NJ - lived in Sligo Ireland and NYc - sounds Jersey to me, but I’m not American-born so I could be wrong.

Mar 14, 12:56 pm

hi Kay just noticed your review on wellness im reading it from a kindle sample and liking it alot, but its really huge time invest.Worth it?

Mar 14, 3:53 pm

>89 cindydavid4: I loved it. Hill goes off on tangents all over the place, and for some reason, it worked really well.

Editado: Mar 14, 11:14 pm

Hi. So i’m in New Orleans with my son. A last minute spring break trip. Two new recommendations, near the quarter: Domenica - a restaurant in the Roosevelt hotel. Boutique-y food, but really well done. Get a glass of the Barbi ciliegiolo Italian wine. And, for breakfast, Ruby Slippers (i was told to get their Fench Toast bites appetizer, but we didn’t. So I can’t directly vouch for those).

(Edited to fix a botched copy and paste)

Mar 14, 9:51 pm

>91 dchaikin: Thanks! I'll check those out.

Mar 14, 11:40 pm

>90 RidgewayGirl: cool, thanks

Mar 16, 3:45 am

If I was in NOLA on 4/14, this is where I would be.

Mar 16, 3:56 pm

>94 dianeham: Excellent idea! Thanks!

Mar 16, 4:05 pm

>95 RidgewayGirl: ooh, if you go take pictures, please. I love Cyril and the masking mardi gras indians.

Mar 16, 4:27 pm

>96 dianeham: I've wanted to add some music to our trip and this is perfect. I will take pictures.

Mar 18, 5:18 pm

Penelope teaches English in a high school and attempts to scrape by on a 37K salary. Then she writes a novel and, after it becomes a social media favorite, she quits her job to be a part of the team turning her novel into a movie script. As she dutifully attends party after party held in the homes of producers and screenwriters, she attempts to prevent her writing partners from turning her novel into a superhero movie, and begins to feel like her protagonist is reaching out to influence things. Penelope's experiences in Los Angeles are alternated with chapters from her book, an odd, feminist thriller about environmental peril and mermaids.

American Mermaid by Julia Langbein is a funny book about a young woman trying to find a place for herself in the world that demands she be money-oriented and willing to parlay her unexpected success into a high paying career. What Penelope really wants is the question she'll have to answer eventually, but meanwhile there are some fiercely self-possessed teenage girls, a co-worker who stockpiles pizza and a screenplay that seems to add to itself to figure out. The writing is witty and intelligent and humorous. I'm looking forward to whatever Langbein writes next.

Mar 19, 3:14 pm

Wandering Stars is Tommy Orange's sequel to his debut novel, There There, about Native Americans living in Oakland, California. Orange first takes the story back in time, into the lives of the grandparents, great-grandparents, and further back, all the way to the Sand Creek Massacre, and then forward through the years of incarceration, exile and loss, to the years of struggling to make new lives without the foundations of the old in Oklahoma and on to California. Then the novel moves forward, to after the events of There There, following Orvil, Opal, Jackie and others as they deal with what happens after.

Orange's second novel is more assured but no less pointed than his first. Providing the background makes what follows more understandable and harder to deal with. It also focuses on the aftermath of a shooting, the part that isn't newsworthy, the painful recovery into a new normal with the trauma of the event left for the survivors to come to terms with, or not, with the help of weekly therapy sessions, or not. And when a family is already struggling in other ways, someone who is quiet about their pain and the ways they find to address it can go a long time without being noticed. By tying this second novel so tightly to his first, Orange has written something that will be treasured by those who read There There, but inaccessible to those who didn't. Go read There There, then come back for this one. You will not be disappointed.

Mar 20, 6:55 pm

>99 RidgewayGirl: I was wondering if I should reread There There before reading Orange's new one. I guess I will.

>98 RidgewayGirl: I also enjoyed American Mermaid, which has some pretty pointed critique of popular culture, and, of course, an English teacher protagonist.

Mar 20, 10:24 pm

>100 BLBera: American Mermaid was really funny. Derek and all those pizza boxes. I would have liked to have reread There There before jumping into Wandering Stars.

Mar 21, 2:08 pm

"That's why people like Vévoda always have the advantage, you know," Corbeau says, rubbing her nose. "Over people like us. Because we're cursed with the belief that people matter. It's much, much easier to bend the world to your will if bending the world is what matters most to you."

S. is several different books at once. At the base, there's the physical book; a very satisfyingly weighty object with library binding and a library sticker on the spine called, rather obviously, Ship of Theseus. That volume holds the last work of famed author V.M. Straka, a mysterious person whose identity is the subject of debate. In this novel, a man washes ashore at a small industrial port city currently in the midst of a labor strike. He is quickly swept up in the chaos and ends up taking shelter with the ringleaders of the strike as things rapidly fall apart and they are forced to flee across the mountains. Eventually, the man ends up back on board the ship that had left him at the city, and no matter what he does, he ends up back on this ship, one that becomes more and more battered as damaged parts are replaces with ever flimsier substitutions.

The next part of this book are the footnotes written by his translator, a person who never met Straka, but who has spent their life working for him. Straka himself was seemingly disappeared, or chose to disappear, the pages of this novel left scattered in the alleyway behind the hotel where he was taken. There are clues and codes embedded in the footnotes and relate to Straka's history of being part of a band of artists fighting an evil corporate entity.

Then there's the story of an English major working part-time in the university library who finds a copy of Ship of Theseus "owned" (see library markings) by a graduate student expelled from the university who is desperately trying to find out who Straka really was, even as the professor he had studied under has taken his work and is trying to discredit him. As the two correspond through notes written in the margins, they begin to work together to find out who Straka was and what exactly happened to him, leaving information between the pages of the book. There's an added layer in this correspondence, as they go back and forth through the book with their messages, so that a single page can hold messages from different times in their storyline.

The result of all of this is a very tactile and interactive book, where there are maps scrawled on napkins and all sorts of comments on the text as the story progresses. Doug Dorst has created an intricate work where the various elements enhance each other. It's a slow reading process, and one that requires more from the reader than just turning pages, and I very much enjoyed my time with this book. There is an audio version of this book, which boggles my mind.

Editado: Mar 21, 6:24 pm

>102 RidgewayGirl: I loved the experience reading this book (and almost argued with the librarian when I went to pick up my hold for S. and was given Ship of Thesis by "mistake"). But I found the underlying work a bit dull.

Mar 21, 6:36 pm

>103 ELiz_M: I've seen reviews calling it gimmicky, and probably it is, but it was fun to read and while none of the storylines would hold up on their own, together they made for an entertaining book. I really liked the ephemera tucked between the pages.

Mar 22, 2:56 am

American Mermaid sounds like a fun one, I've put it on the list to suggest to my book club (everyone keeps picking dark/depressing books and then complaining there are too many dark/depressing books so as one of the nominal group leaders I feel I always have to find lighter books).

I didn't realize there was a sequel to There, There, definitely going on my list.

Mar 22, 3:44 am

>102 RidgewayGirl: “Gimmicky” is the first thing that came to my mind when I read your review. I am a very linear reader and I don’t think this book is for me. But it does sound like an interesting experience.

Mar 22, 1:12 pm

>105 mabith: It is fun, Meredith, and I appreciated that the main character was an English teacher.

>106 FlorenceArt: Yes, it's definitely not a book for everyone. But I was delighted by how imaginative it was.

Mar 24, 2:53 pm

Great reviews Kay. I’ve been curious about Orange’s Wandering Stars. As a sequel, it sounds tricky because the end of There There was more literary than realistic or reasonable. There was humor and symbolism and angst, etc that tied the rest of the book together. So an aftermath could easily feel overly sentimental. But sounds like he pulls off a good book. I’ll try to get to it, maybe on audio. (But i’ll avoid S. on audio 🙂)

Mar 24, 5:16 pm

>108 dchaikin: The aftermath portrayed in Wandering Stars was very much not sentimental at all. Orange has grown a lot as an author, but not lost his viewpoint.

Mar 25, 2:34 pm

Just checking in to say hi—I hate having to skim in order to even think of catching up, but I do see you've gotten good recs for NOLA books. And restaurants—Darryl's kudos for R'evolution and Cochon (and this from me as a non-meat-eater) are right on. As usual, we have similar tastes in reading (or proposed reading, in my case), so I'm looking forward to actually keeping up now...

Mar 25, 2:43 pm

>110 lisapeet: Lisa, I'm very excited about the NOLA trip and have made reservations at both those restaurants and have bought tickets to see The Wild Tchoupitoulas, thanks to Diane (dianeham). We're planning on some walking tours, a boat through the bayou, the art museum and just general looking around and bookstore browsing, too.

Mar 25, 3:32 pm

Claire Keegan's stories are in such demand that she can publish a tiny collection of just three stories, two of them from previous collections, and have people (namely, me) eagerly buy the slim hardcover. So Late in the Day begins with the new story, in which a man goes through his day thinking back on a relationship that ended tragically, given the reactions of his co-workers as he goes about his day. What happened and why is slowly revealed in ways that show just how masterful a writer Keegan is. The next story, The Long and Painful Death, follows a woman on a writing retreat, staying in a cottage Henrich Böll had used. Just as she begins to settle in, her peace is imposed upon by a man who wants to tour the cottage and her attempts to keep to her plans for her days there are impinged upon by the man's presence. The final story, Antarctica, follows a married woman who has decided to have a brief fling in the city.

Each story involves the relationships between men and women, and whether the relationships are glancing or intimate, involve men acting as though their own desires were the only ones that mattered. These stories are far less hopeful than her previous two longer short stories published in this format, but they are every bit as assured and resonant.

I like the physical form this book takes, treating just three short stories as though they were as important as a novel, and the way they are formatted on the page, with generous margins and a title page for each story.

Mar 25, 4:02 pm

>112 RidgewayGirl: I really enjoyed reading your review Kay. I like the way you tie the three stories together and how you describe the physical aspect of your hardcover edition.

I read Antarctica in another collection, where it is the title of the book. Antarctica - what a story! Not to be forgotten.

Yes Keegan is such a good story teller.

Mar 25, 9:50 pm

>113 kjuliff: Yes, Antarctica surprised me at the end. But Keegan set the story up for that to be what happened and I, like the protagonist, was simply not paying enough attention.

Mar 25, 10:11 pm

>112 RidgewayGirl: I loved this collection as well, Kay. "Antarctica" really surprised/shocked me. I loved the story about the writer; I got the feeling that Keegan was really having fun with it.

Editado: Mar 27, 8:55 pm

I have an intense fondness for the 1992 figure skating romcom, The Cutting Edge, and end up watching it whenever I run across it. So I was immediately drawn to From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata, since the synopsis sounded very similar to the movie. In this book, Jasmine is a pairs figure skater without a partner. She's prickly and quick to fight (so more Tonya Harding than Kate Moseley). She hates Ivan Lukov, who is wealthy and holds several skating titles and gold medals, so when he wants her to be his new skating partner, her initial impulse is to turn him down, but she needs a partner and Ivan is very good, but can the two of them stop fighting and work together? The obvious answer is yes, and there's nothing surprising in this story, but there are many references to The Cutting Edge and several scenes that were cribbed from the movie. Since the story was told entirely from Jasmine's point of view, many of Ivan's actions made little sense, but I'm not sure that matters much. No one said, "Toepick!" which was a minor disappointment, but the pamchenko was referenced.

Mar 28, 8:05 am

>116 RidgewayGirl: Your review made me smile. I have movies like this too.

Abr 1, 7:03 pm

Fourteen years went by and the Wilsons' luck held. Fourteen years is a long time to stay lucky even for rich people who don't cause trouble for anyone.

I went through it with In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, a short story collection written by Ellen Gilchrist and first published in 1981. I began the collection and was quickly enamored of the voice; it's like Flannery O'Connor and Dorothy Parker were collaborating to have the most terrible things happen to cruel and thoughtless people. And slowly, sometime around the fourth or fifth use of the n-word, I felt qualms. 'Maybe Gilchrist is just really committed to using the words her characters, white people living in the South in the 1970s, would have used?' I rationalized, and maybe? It shows up as a descriptive term used by the omniscient narrator as well, so I will say that perhaps some short stories age better than others and there's a reason she isn't much read nowadays. And about the fourth or fifth short story I started to get tired of bad things happening to bad and careless people.

Then, two-thirds through this book about mean people the author clearly disliked, something extraordinary happened. I reached Revenge, a longer short story in which a girl is sent to spend the summer of 1942 in the South with her grandparents and her cousins, all boys, who exclude her from their project of becoming Olympic athletes. She is enraged by their behavior.

I prayed they would get polio, would be consigned forever to iron lungs. I put myself to sleep at night imagining their labored breathing, their five little wheelchairs lined up by the store as I drove by in my father's Packard, my arm around the jacket of his blue uniform, on my way to Hollywood for my screen test.

Rhoda is not exactly a sympathetic character, but Gilchrist here takes the time to inhabit her life so that I understood her frustration with being stuck inside when she really needed to run around outside. It's a great story with a fantastic ending, one that fully respects who Rhoda is. A perfect story and one I don't think I will soon forget. And, in the stories that follow, Gilchrist continues to excel, each story centering a girl unable to conform to what's expected, while still fully inhabiting the prejudices and expectations of her time and place. It's superbly well done.

How to reconcile a book of stories that have aged badly, but that include some brilliant stories? I have no idea.

Abr 2, 10:28 am

>118 RidgewayGirl: I loved Ellen Gilchrist when I read her regularly, in the '80s and '90s... I didn't have a sense of why it might be an issue that she was a well-off white southern lady writing about well-off white southern folks, with people of color playing such small supporting roles, until much later. But when I was into her, I was into her, and can still remember some turns of phrase of hers that just enchanted me in my early fiction-reading stages.

After she died this year, I thought about writing up a Bloom post on her, since she didn't get published until well into her 40s... but then thought eh, I don't need the heartache of trying to explain away the sensibilities of a writer I once really enjoyed but might not so much now, so I didn't.

Abr 2, 1:15 pm

>119 lisapeet: That was my experience, as well. I had fond memories about the author without remembering anything about the stories. I've decided to keep a collected stories collection that picks a half dozen stories from each of her published books to read later, and donate the others that I liked enough to drag with me from place to place. She did win a National Book Award, which is interesting.

Abr 2, 11:15 pm

>118 RidgewayGirl: This is such an interesting review. I don't have any idea of how we reconcile ourselves to works that have aged badly. I think the only conclusion I've arrived at is to allow that recognizing they've aged badly is enough.

Abr 3, 10:50 am

>118 RidgewayGirl: How to reconcile a book of stories that have aged badly, but that include some brilliant stories?

The method I use is to read as if I am in the time when the book was written. It is sad though when it is an author or book you have good memories about.
I loved Lorna Doone as a child, but rereading it as an adult, I was horrified. That doesn't mean it was bad writing, just that the world has moved on.

Abr 3, 11:06 am

>122 SassyLassy: I think Dan says that he reads such books “in their moment”. But I find that sometimes this is impossible. Of course we can’t condemn all books that have archaic mindsets, but there’s a limit.

Perhaps I sometimes think, it comes down to the writer. Jane Austen for example has scenes where the male character would be quite obnoxious if he appeared in say a book by Annie Ernaux. Of course Lizzie gets the better of him, but Mr Darcy is a pathetic sort of bloke in many ways. Only Ms Austen can make him likeable.

Abr 3, 1:45 pm

>121 rv1988: Yes, that seems about right. Most books, after all, do not stand the test of time and are quietly forgotten.

>122 SassyLassy: Oh, it's dangerous to reread childhood favorites. I pulled out Black Beauty when my kids were young and they loved it, while I grew increasingly unhappy about a tedious sermon disguised as a novel. Even when you agree with most of the points raised, no one wants to read a sermon.

>123 kjuliff: It depends on the book, sure. Many books that are now kind of offensive are easy to discard, but it's important to recognize the problematic aspects of the ones we still love. I mean, Hemingway is an author whose short stories and novels I love, but there is no doubt he was a deeply problematic guy and those attitudes do permeate his work.

It's snowing here. It's not sticking, but this is not appropriate behavior from Spring.

Abr 3, 4:28 pm

This book was this month's book club choice. I liked it more after discussing it with the group, all of whom liked it more than I did.

The Wind Knows My Name by Isabelle Allende and translated from Spanish by Frances Riddle begins with the story of a six year old boy in Vienna in 1938, beginning with the terrible night when his father disappears and he and his mother take shelter in the upstairs apartment of a war veteran while their own apartment is vandalized. He is later placed on a train filled with other Jewish children and sent to live out the war safely in England.

Then, in 1981, another child it taken to the city by her father for healthcare. While she is there, the residents of her village in El Salvador, El Mozote, are all murdered by the military. She and her father flee north to the United States and attempt to put together a life in this new country.

And in 2019, another young girl and her mother arrive in Arizona after a dangerous journey from El Salvador. They are quickly separated and while Anita is terrified, she ends up with allies, an immigration advocate and the lawyer working pro bono. Their first task is to find her mother.

The stories of these three children intertwine over time, and that story is both harsh and lovely. Allende is making a point here, about how damaging being left alone can be for a child, but also how desperate a parent has to be to let a child go in the hopes that they will at least survive. She is interested in what happens in the new, strange place, when the people around that child are not necessarily nurturing or welcoming and the lasting damage done, but also the people who are willing to open their hearts to these children. Allende herself founded a non-profit helping children immigrating to the US and her knowledge of the situation is clear in her writing.

Abr 3, 5:18 pm

>124 RidgewayGirl: then there's Edith Wharton, who I have come to admire and picked up a few more of her books, who uses the N word. Not all the time, but still they stood out in an otherwise excellent read. We cant go back to that time and change things, we need to change them here. And to those who say nothing has changed , our voters put in a person of color for presidet Twice

Abr 6, 3:56 pm

In this final installment of the Indian Lake trilogy, The Angel of Indian Lake, Jade is no longer a teenager, no longer an inmate and, thanks to the influence of her best friend, Letha, she's making a stab at adulthood teaching history at Proofrock high school. Sure, she's still smoking a lot and maybe not sleeping much, but she's retired from the final girl stuff, getting therapy, and even wearing pantyhose and sensible heels to work. So when some local kids go missing, it's not her problem anymore. And when a head rolls through the middle of the school car line, her only involvement is in babysitting the new sheriff's toddler. But Jade can't just opt out of what's happening and soon enough she'd drawn across the lake once again.

In any trilogy, the final book has to pull everything together while also providing larger stakes and in this regard The Angel of Indian Lake delivers. This isn't a book that will make sense when read out of order, but if you've read the previous two books, you'll find this to be a satisfying ending, even if Stephen Graham Jones is far too eager to kill off favorite characters. Adult Jade is still prickly, but she's also oddly empathetic, understanding the trauma of the people around her and hoping to help them. There's more gore and jump scares than ever. Jones has a read love of slasher movies.

Abr 7, 10:35 am

>124 RidgewayGirl: this is not appropriate behavior from Spring

You've got that right!

>125 RidgewayGirl: What didn't you like about it?

Abr 7, 12:36 pm

>128 labfs39: Lisa, I had such high expectations, given how much I love The House of the Spirits. The Wind Knows My Name is the kind of book great for book groups, with lots to discuss, but there's none of the magic realism of her earlier book and the writing was far less interesting, being just straight-forward and uncomplicated. It feels like the two books were written by different authors.

Abr 7, 4:55 pm

>129 RidgewayGirl: Too bad it didn't work for you, the description sounds fairly interesting. Sometimes the disconnect between our expectations and the book work to our disadvantage.

Abr 7, 6:22 pm

>129 RidgewayGirl: I loved her first 3,4 books; but seems like when she moved to california she dropped everything that made her books worth reading for me any way

Abr 7, 11:03 pm

>127 RidgewayGirl: Very interesting. This trilogy has been on my list for a while, but I'm a big baby about authors killing favourite characters.

>125 RidgewayGirl: Lovely review.

Abr 9, 6:50 pm

When they get the phone call that their oldest son is in a coma in a hospital in the Norwegian city of Trondheim, Lil and Alba hurry there from their apartment in France, leaving their two other children, to be at their son's side. At the hospital, they are left waiting to see if he will regain consciousness and to find out what the damage to his brain is. Cormac James's novel follows the two women as they wait, stuck in a stressful situation, where the only thing they can do is wait. And, as they wait, as the medical staff work to pull him out of his coma, the fissures in their relationship are laid bare.

There's a lot of good stuff in this novel. James writes well and the character studies of the two women, especially Lil, are interesting. The Norwegian hospital and how the medical staff become involved in the lives of this small family is detailed and very different from how this same situation would be handled in the US. There are, however, two issues I have with this novel. The first is that I wonder why the author chose to make the characters two women, when their marriage is a stereo-typed caricature of a heterosexual relationship, with one character being uncommunicative, contemptuous of her wife, enjoying casual affairs and preferring to drink over showing any affection for the woman she married. The other woman is nurturing, has a body that shows the impact of three pregnancies, knits, needs affection, has religious beliefs and keeps her own anger hidden from everyone, including herself. My second issue is the lack of character development. Despite the great upheaval and shock of their son's medical emergency, neither woman changes at all during this book. I waited for a confrontation, a real conversation, a reconciliation, or a decision from one of them that being married to someone you hate is unhealthy and divorce is a reasonable solution, at the very least, and (spoiler alert) none of that happened. James does write well and I'm interested in seeing how he develops as a writer.

Abr 9, 7:01 pm

>133 RidgewayGirl: Interesting. I take it this is a young writer? I wonder why he set the novel in Norway? How was the hospital experience different than what you’d expect in America?

Editado: Abr 9, 9:58 pm

>130 labfs39: Definitely knowing the book was written by Allende did set up expectations in my mind.

>131 cindydavid4: I know what you mean. And probably dropping the magic realism and making her writing more straightforward does help her sell books.

>132 rv1988: The series is very much a love letter to slasher movies. I would have enjoyed the book more if I'd had more knowledge about them.

>134 kjuliff: Not that young, and many of the other reviews of this book are far more positive. I think that setting the novel in Trondheim, which is in the north of Norway, and setting it during the winter, did make for a world where everything is dark most of the time. And, in the story, everything is covered by the student's health insurance, including an apartment for the couple to stay and perks like access to the work-out rooms. The staff also had plenty of time, with a single nurse assigned to watch the son, and only him and the doctor spent much of her time on her hobbies and in just making sure the women were doing okay.

Editado: Abr 9, 10:11 pm

>135 RidgewayGirl: Thanks Kay. Coincidently I’m reading a book set (so far) in north Norway. I’m right at the bit when the MC is irretrievably lost in a valley where he’d been stuck for days. It’s We Die Alone, and is about a man escaping the Nazis.

Trondheim does sound interesting. And yes I have been in an American hospital. The Norwegian one sounds a lot better.

Abr 9, 10:28 pm

>136 kjuliff: Northern Norway seems a lot nicer without Nazis. And, regarding the medical care, my daughter required surgery in the US and Germany when we lived there and the differences were pretty stark.

Abr 9, 11:08 pm

Everywhere is better without Nazis.

I’ve only ever been in American hospitals when I’ll, and Ausssie ones when giving birth. Australia has universal health insurance paid for by taxpayers, but still has private hospitals. I am not a fan of the health system here.

Abr 11, 1:11 pm

There's something great about reading a novel by an author you trust, isn't there? Hard Girls is by J. Robert Lennon, so I started off thinking that I was going to enjoy a wild ride that would surprise me a few times, and it turned out I was right. Jane is a mother in her mid-thirties, married and working as administrative assistance at the same college her father teaches at, which lets her keep an eye on him. She's worked hard to build this ordinary existence, and then a single email from her twin sister throws it all into the air. It all has to do with her mother, who disappeared decades ago and had not really been around much when Jane was a child and she and her sister developed Harriet the Spy-level skills to try to figure out what was going on with her. Moving back and forth from her childhood to her teen years to Jane's present day, the story is both a thriller with a lot going on and a nuanced look at the relationships between mothers and daughters. It looks like this is the first of a planned series and I will be reading every single one of them.

Abr 11, 1:32 pm

>139 RidgewayGirl: Looks good and also just what I need right now. I just finished We all Die Alone which was gripping - recommended by Lisa. I have not read any books by J. Robert Lennonbut after reading your review I’ve started Hard Girls. I’d tried reading The Seven Moons of Maali but male gay sex during war time is not my cup of tea.

Abr 17, 1:20 am

>139 RidgewayGirl: Ooh yes please! Adding this to my wishlist.

Abr 17, 5:18 pm

Hard Girls sounds interesting, and maybe a good one for my book club. Definitely putting it on the list.

Abr 17, 6:37 pm

>140 kjuliff: I've read one other book by J. Robert Lennon, which I also loved, but it was so different from this one, they could have been written by different people. I like authors who keep switching styles and genres.

>141 rhian_of_oz: I look forward to find out what you think about it.

>142 mabith: Lots to discuss with this one, too.

Abr 17, 6:50 pm

Well, I am back from New Orleans, full of thanks for the excellent guidance I got from you all here. I'll post more, along with pictures, once I've unpacked and slept.

Abr 18, 3:47 pm

>144 RidgewayGirl: ooh. So, a good visit?

>118 RidgewayGirl: i own this Gilchrist collection. Never had any idea what’s inside. I’m now more curious and intrigued. The racism is an issue I’m trying to manage with Faulkner. Wharton occasionally uses the N word and it’s strange to see it and revealing. But she doesn’t really go into race so it’s overlookable to a degree. Faulkner, however, likes his black characters a lot. And that makes for a more complicated and inescapable racism.

Abr 18, 8:23 pm

>145 dchaikin: Dan, it was a great visit, largely because of all the excellent guidance I was given here. The one downside was that on the day we left, I woke up with the flu and am currently non-functional. As soon as I'm feeling better I'll post pictures and impressions.

As for the Gilchrist, the final section of the book is, in my opinion, brilliant. But the stories that come before Revenge have aged badly. The issue of how to approach white Southern writers is complex and fraught.

Abr 18, 9:07 pm

That’s no fun, Kay. Get liquids and rest and take care. (Hopefully you hit that point where you feel just good enough to read.)

Abr 19, 7:38 am

Feel better soon, Kay!