Regardless of how deeply Caro looks within for answers, what she never does is apologise. There’s absolutely no shame here—not of her mental health issues, her parenting, her outspokenness, her relationship choices, her political affiliations, her atheism, her engagement in public conversation or her career choices. By not apologising, even as she shares her worst mistakes, Caro encourages her readers to show compassion to themselves.
What we’re celebrating most of all in The Odd Woman and the City, is our mutual humanity: all those wonderful discordant notes, all of the flaws, and all of our failures. We love, we lose, and in these gaps, in these surprises, we make our art, our lives, our meaning.
Freese weaves a narrative rich in human frailty and humanity. His reflections regarding life, affection and the way we all change and become who we are now, may serve to motivate the reader toward exploring and perhaps setting down memories for themselves. Freese’s writing is distinctive and well-written with universal appeal. Tesserae is a work to be read and perhaps re-read, for the perceptions it offers into memory and the nature of the self.
Reading Kate Holden’s In My Skin and The Romantic together is a little unsettling. It almost feels as though a third part in the trilogy is missing: the story where the protagonist finds peace. The character arc from one book to another is quite powerful, taking Holden through a series of major changes – some terrifying and some quite wonderful Both books are confronting in very different ways.
It’s hard to read about how this happy and well-cared for boy could have gone so far off the rails, sliding repeatedly back into addiction and violence. Overall, however, That Fry Boy is an affirmative and powerful read, with a strong character arc that is transformative. Fry’s recovery through Twelve Step, and the way he turns his bad experiences into a toolkit for helping others, is inspirational, and will provide solace for anyone who thinks their own case is hopeless.
Life isn’t always a linear path though, and there is a strong though subtle meta-fictional aspect to this story that reminds us we are always working towards a broader meaning making than a single story might provide. It’s here that the themes re-emerge, along with questions about genetic inheritance, about how we make and remake ourselves, how meaning is created, and the role of language and love in all of its forms. The Last Thread is about all of those threads and more.
The writing is beautiful throughout, without ever over-shadowing the plot or narrative flow, which moves forward quickly. Starford remains non-judgmental, even towards those who caused her the greatest pain, including the many adults who clearly failed in their duty of care.
Smith would have us believe that is a book about nothing. She opens it with a phrase from a dream that haunts her: “It’s not so easy writing about nothing.” Those of us who recognise her intense grief, and the determination to capture these experiences in poetic prose, will disagree that this is a book about nothing. Perhaps it’s a book where “nothing” happens: it becomes something.
It’s the story of many things at once: a country torn apart by power factions and manipulation, a story of a man and what happened to his patriotism over time, a story about genetic and cultural inheritance, a story about migration, and above all, what it means to lose a home—something as relevant today as it was during the time of Alizadeh’s migration.
These are close and moving readings that provide depth and personal insight into the narrative framework, the themes that pivot around mental illness and hunger, and the characters that become Wright’s partners through her own recovery. It’s not a facile recovery though. The memory of hunger is almost as acute as the hunger itself.