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Showing posts from September, 2019

Review: The Lost Man

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I enjoy Australian literature, which features a language and culture familiar enough to make it comfortable, but with enough difference to make it "other" and slightly exotic. 

To be fair, my exposure to Australian culture is rather limited to pop fiction (think Liane Moriarty, Geraldine Brooks, and Colleen McCollough) and, I am realizing, very white. If anyone has suggestions  for a more diverse Australian reading list, I'd be much obliged.

Now, on to The Lost Man and all of the bleached Australian whiteness as the Outback can provide.


First of all, Jane Harper offers for our consideration a Caucasian Australian culture that sports a very casual relationship with skin cancer. Everyone has it, or has some cut out, or is intimately inspected by a health care professional on a regular basis. I don't have an outdoor-enough lifestyle to have that kind of relationship with a dermatologist or oncologist, but I suspect I would be if I was an Aussie. The intensity of the Aussie…

Review: Behind the Scenes at the Museum

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Get a glimpse behind the façade when Ruby Lennox shows us what it takes to make and live in a family in Behind the Scenes at the Museum. The titular museum is York Castle Museum, which exhibits façades of local houses, much like the one occupied by the Lennox family. As Kate Atkinson weaves her tale, Ruby’s first day is spent in part at the Museum Gardens, with her mother and sister, Gillian.

I loved the structure of the book: beginning with her conception, Ruby is very much in the “now,” and everything feels immediate and new, with glimpses of foretelling the future. Coupled with these current events are  “appendices” interspersed non-sequentially, revealing family secrets that challenge the fictions perpetrated in the family history Ruby tells. She knows what she knows, so her tale is limited to her scope of knowledge, what she sees and believes.

Ruby is our narrator, but is she reliable? Clues pop up indicating that something is flickering just beyond her reach, a memory she ca…

Review: The Baltimore Book of the Dead

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Precious: that is how Marion Winik sees the people whose lives she remembers in The Baltimore Book of the Dead, a modest collection of vignettes about unforgettable people in her life who have passed away.

Some of her subjects are identified: mother, aunts, cousins — never by name, but always by characteristics and personality. She goes farther afield and remembers colleagues, childhood friends, casual acquaintances, and friends of friends who made impressions on her.

Other times she tells the truth but tells it slant: a well-known Southern author, for example, or a public figure from her crowd. I had to scour the clues in her tales to know who she knew, and on more than one occasion spend more time than I ought collecting words to include in my Internet search. (Yes, I was successful. Neither Winik nor the Internet failed me.)

But it's not the who that is most intriguing. We all have people in our lives precious enough to us to remember. It's the details, the truth, that mak…

Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

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This book was not at all what I expected, and that makes it all the better.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette  by Maria Semple has been sitting on my shelf for years. When it first came out in paperback, it had great buzz — but I wasn't sure I wanted to read about a teenager who runs away to Antarctica. The story seemed too light-hearted for the subject matter, so I let the novel linger on my shelf.

That is, until it became my book club's book, in no small part because of the the movie debut. Suddenly, I had two good reasons to find out about the girl who ran away to Antarctica: book club and a movie. 


I found this book enjoyable, surprising, remarkable, enlightening, embracing, and therapeutic. It was funny, often uproariously so, but never at the cost of the character or the story. More often than not, "funny" was revelatory, sometimes startling, occasionally embarrassing (okay, more than occasionally embarrassing, but in an honest way).
Not to over-sell it, but the stor…

Summer Reading: The End is in Sight

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Ragweed aside, September is one of my favorite months of the year. It's back-to-school and it harbors the possibility of cooler weather. You can still wear sandals, but sneakers are equally comfortable in the fluctuating weather.

However, with chillier mornings come the interruption of allegedly important things, like required reading and weatherizing.

It also means that the summer reading club members are stretching their legs and starting to brush the sand off the towels. Oh, we haven't closed the giant umbrella, and the ice is still chilling our drinks in the cooler... but we can't help but notice that every sunset comes a little earlier.

I don't review my start-of-summer list on Labor Day — no good will come of that — but I can't help but notice the nightstand is just a little more crowded than it was on Memorial Day.

Okay, let's be honest, it's differently crowded, and tipping toward insanity.

A few books not on the original list are peeking out from t…