O’Connor portrays Emily sensitively and sympathetically. Writers will identify with her need for peace and solitude, co-existing with a yearning for understanding and closeness. Emily’s girlhood friend, Susan Gilbert, who married her brother, Austen, was her closest friend.
The author of Miss Emily talks about her new novel and how it came about, the research she did into Emily Dickinson’s life and work, some of the relationships in the book (and in Dickinson’s real life), her characters, the relationship between the novel’s style and Dickinson’s poetry, on being a multi-genre author, 3 questions for Emily, and more.
The theme of Makkai’s collection seems to be the surprising, unusual, surrealistic, and supernatural. It is probably no accident that she starts the collection with a fable, since fables are by definition about the unusual and supernatural. The pogrom/war/ethnic cleansing stories involve startling occurrences, and so do the stories set in contemporary America.
“Night Drive” by Rubem Fonseca of Brazil is a Stephen Kingish story that shows the Mr. Hyde side of a seemingly benign Dr. Jekyll. Another story that I admire, “The Snake” by Eric Rugara of Kenya, is, on the surface, a picture of family cooperation to band together promptly to rid their home of a snake. It may also be a metaphor for the power of united action against any creeping threat. With eighty-six stories to choose from it is easy for a reader to find something s/he likes in this collection.
Stull creates a character memorable and believable enough to draw the reader in as the complex web surrounding Matterosi’s backstory, narrated as a confessional tape, mingles with the unfolding events through the trial. The plot is super fast paced, with enough cliffhangers, a touch of romance, and plenty of excellent and very well informed science (think Atwood in Oryx and Crake) to keep the pages turning faster than you can say “overpopulation.”
Atkins builds Cray as a complex young man capable of intense loyalty, instinctive physical responses that surprise, and deep thought. Cray’s father plays an important role in the novel, as his presence offers the reason we don’t follow the usual path of prison life.
Despite all that, the author makes the story come together and the book is a light fun summer read, especially for those who like dabbling in reincarnation stories. Being a historical fantasy with a spiritual sub-plot the story also brings past social mores, politics, and people from far-flung places to life, as the reader and protagonists rush about from ancient Egypt, through Russia, to other parts unknown.
In Bowen’s Enchanted August, Lottie and Rose are New York mothers of young children, dissatisfied at the way their lives are working out. Lottie’s husband seems to have lost interest in her. Rose’s husband is writing thrillers under a pseudonym, but her poetic talent has been overshadowed by her maternal role. The two women meet at the bulletin board of their children’s preschool, both drawn to a notice about a Maine cottage for rent for August.
Though the book reads quickly, it’s denser than it feels. As a reader, I felt it was necessary to slow down my reading so I could notice all the descriptive detail and the power in each word in The Life of Houses, allowing the story to unfold at its own rhythm and get fully under the skin. This is an utterly beautiful and somewhat sad story that grows in power with re-reading as it strikes at the heart of human relationships, families, self-perception, and how we make meaning in our lives.
The Book of Strange New Things is like no other book I’ve read. It’s exquisite, sad, uplifting and doomed all at the same time. I wish that the ending was different, and know, somehow, that nothing else that would do. This is a book that will remain with me, working its way under my skin like the Oasan atmosphere.