Someone Must Die is suspenseful and fast-paced. The mystery of what went wrong with the Lynd marriage intrigues us throughout the novel, and relates to the kidnapping. Plot twists are what keep us on the edges of our chairs, but the characters and the human story stick in our minds. Award-winning author Sharon Potts, who is prominent in the Mystery Writers of America organization, has created rounded characters whom we will remember after we close the book.
The author of We.Are.Family talks about his new novel, about his need to write, about some of the key themes in his book (among other things, ghosts, angels and UFOs), on writing difficult scenes, his characters, the unusual structure of the book, on moving between genres, the two best pieces of writing advice he’s ever received, some of his favourite books, on living the writing life, and lots more.
The novel will interest other writers because of its narrative features. Ms. Gold avoids murky stream-of-consciousness passages by presenting the story in the third person. Flashbacks are signalled by a shift from present tense to past. A writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and a prize-winning author, Ms. Gold knows her craft.
I would categorize this book as historical fiction first and foremost, though it is touted as magical realism. I had this in the back of my mind as I read, but other than Beulah’s mysterious arrival in town and her omnipresence for most of the rest of the book, the “magical realism” elements weren’t obvious—until the end. This is where Graham’s gift of storytelling shines through
Obviously Robin Gregory is a well-read writer. Not only does she mimic Homer’s “wine dark sea” with the novel’s opening of “dories…and spider crabs flood[ing] the beach like a ghostly pink tide,” but also refers back to great YA series like A Series of Unfortunate Events through her grim imaginativeness. Gritty magical realism is in vogue, if we account for the non-YA St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves by Karen Russell and Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi beside which The Improbable Wonders holds its own.
Every story told in the book is written as a past memory and Lucy intertwines her own reflections as she tells her story. The story is told through the narrator’s point of view in the same fashion one would write a memoir about his or her own life. What Elizabeth Strout has done so brilliantly is convinced readers that Lucy’s life is real and we are a part of it.
The A to Z of Normal, by British author Helen Barbour, is a “relationship novel,” but has more to say than a romance, or a “chick lit” book. Readers like to learn while being entertained, and in this novel, Ms. Barbour gently educates us about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and deserves praise for recognizing the dramatic potential in a subject seldom-explored in fiction.
Solange’s journey is one that takes her into her own heart of darkness, where she finds her limitations, her humiliations and restrictions, and the cultural, political, gendered and racial stereotypes through which she has defined herself. Throughout the novel she begins to unravel these, unwinding herself slowly until she is temporarily removed altogether as subject.
It takes strength of character to pursue, and create, human wretchedness in all its shapes for 360 pages. Like many unreliable narrators before him, Norman K ranges from obnoxious to villainous in his pretension, and The Diary of Norman K shows how uniquely we puts on airs, down to a style of speech best described by his “friend” Russell as “an Elizabethan aristocrat who had just woken up from a two-hundred-year coma.
Beneath the fun, fast, and well-plotted story, is a deep poetic exploration of yearning, creativity, and the constrictions of poverty. The characters live between pulses of transcendence that take place as they struggle to create meaning from their hand-to-mouth lives.