Be Still the Water is full of nuance, small moments that add dimension to the larger story. It’s the story of a family and how that family helped to build a community in a brand-new place. It’s the story of a young girl and how she was the anchor of her family in so many ways.
Dimitris Lyacos’ Z213: EXIT is a revelation. A masterpiece. Distinctly postmodern yet entirely unclassifiable, it is everything and nothing all at once. Despite the myriad references to literature, it is entirely new – I have never read anything like it, and this stunning translation is truly head-spinning.
Novels about girlhood friends reuniting as adults and reinventing their relationship are always popular. In The Book Shop at Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry, the “summer sisters” are Bonny and Lainey, now in their fifties, who have kept in touch since their three pre-teen summers at Watersend, South Carolina, in the 1970s. As the story opens, Bonny is about to leave her domineering husband and her job as an Emergency Room doctor in Charleston, SC for a better position in Atlanta, GA.
The book is wonderfully informed by multiple metaphorical depictions of our inner and outer struggles. Young Marcus loses his mother, his only parent, and goes to live with his eccentric and spiritually bruised great Aunt Charlotte on a small island in South Carolina at the beginning of the summer. Aunt Charlotte has past wounds that haunt her, rendering her a reclusive but renowned local painter.
Undoubtedly, it’s rather nice to think that others are toiling away while we read about them, and the similarities and differences with our own working lives emerge with unusual clarity: occupations do not have to be exotic or abstruse for us to find them fascinating. An Accidental Profession is all about work: its organization and administration, what it does to people, the power of the corporation, our ambivalent relationships with our co-workers.
Weather plays a profound role in the novel; it is almost a character. Fog, dark clouds and storms set a mood, suggesting that the Peregrines are subject to forces beyond their control. Young Peda, the family member most in tune with nature, has a strong need for friendship and a belief in magic that lead to a positive outcome for her family members.
Trains and boats and planes – modes of transport abound in Barry Stewart Hunter’s interestingly varied collection of short stories, although the people they convey are seldom up to speed with their own lives. Persons in transit and the mental dislocations they experience are a recurring motif; thematically, however, there is a great deal more going on, much of which is intriguingly elusive.
The language is silky and seductive and as a reader I was drawn in, drifting about like a leaf in a stream taking in sights, sounds and feelings. Lucy Durneen leaves the door open to her mind and as the pages pass I’m looking out of her eyes focusing and feeling the world as she describes and experiences it.
Goodwood doesn’t pursue the path of a traditional mystery novel and those looking for a heart–racing style whodunnit built around the two disappearances might be disappointed. The shock of those events is a catalyst here for deeper explorations of what lurks below the surface and how we create meaning in our lives in this tender, rich, and deeply enjoyable book.
Always there’s a sense that the world is not quite fixed and that what we’re experiencing is illusory (so much smoke), and charged by scars, memories, hunger, and all that we’ve lost. The stories that make up So Much Smoke are powerful, not so much because of what happens, but because of the way they hint at how much lurks below the surface