I’m doing a terrible job of keeping the blog updated on books I’ve read. That stops here and now!
Lately I’ve finished 3 books I’ve enjoyed a lot… and one audio book I didn’t make it though.
After finally (finally!) finishing 11/22/63 by Stephen King, I jumped into a short book by Kent Haruf called Our Souls at Night. I’ve never read any of his other books, though I do happen to have Plainsong sitting on my bookshelf somewhere, and definitely plan on reading sooner rather than later.
Our Souls at Night really took me by surprise in the best kind of way. I tend to enjoy books who focus on more mature (i.e. old) characters. Life certainly doesn’t end just because a person grows older. I think that is why I like novels that feature characters in their golden years. This book introduces us to Addie and Louis. Each of their respective spouses have passed on. Though they’ve been neighbors for years, they’ve not exchanged more than hello’s here and there over time. So, when Addie singles Louis out as someone she’d like to spend more time with…and who she’d like to invite to spend the night with her and keep her company, Louis is understandably shocked. Addie isn’t looking for a tawdry romance or passionate love affair. She simply wants someone to sleep next to her and to talk with her at night. She longs for a companion. After giving it some thought, Louis agrees. As their relationship grows and deepens, so do the complications. Addie’s young grandson comes to stay with her as her son navigates a possible separation from his wife. Both Addie and Louis’s children voice opposition to their burgeoning relationship. Townspeople gossip. The reader watches how the couple navigates these complications. It’s a truly sweet book–one that I began reading one night before bed and finished up the next day. I really loved it.
After that, I read another new-to-me author who has been on my list for a long time: Haruki Murakami. I didn’t know which of his books to start with, so I picked one my local library branch had on the shelf: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I also really loved this book. The reader gets to know Tsukuru and learns of his youth with a tight knit group of friends in high school who abruptly cut off all ties to him early in college. Tsukuru is left devastated and, though he goes on to finish college and have a successful job, never truly recovers. He doens’t understand what he did wrong, and was too stunned to ever find out. Finally, in his early 30s, he begins dating a woman, Sara, who he has a strong attraction to. This attraction takes him by surprise and he ends up, for the first time ever, telling Sara all about these friends and what happened years ago. She strongly encourages him to get back in touch with these friends and find closure: understand once and for all what happened. And that is exactly what he does. This is a story of self discovery that straddles the line of reality and fantasy, which I think is why I liked it so much.
Last, I just finished one of the stranger books I’ve ever read: Mr. Splitfood by Samantha Hunt. This book leaves you questioning what is real and what is other-wordly. Ruth and Nat live in a group home run by an alcoholic religious nut job. In the group home they begin communicating with the other resident’s dead parents. Their talent is discovered by a strange con man, Mr. Bell, who has his own bizarre religious background himself. Together the three of them begin to talk to people’s dead loved ones for a living, sort of becoming the Three Musketeers. Then, more than a decade later, Ruth’s niece Cora is down on her luck. She finds herself pregnant and the father is less-than-thrilled. After years of no communication, Ruth reappears in Cora’s life. However, things become complicated as Ruth no longer speaks. Despite not communicating, Cora figures out Ruth wants her to go on a journey with her. Figuring she has nothing to lose, she goes off on foot with her aunt, who she idolized as a child. But where are they going? Are they running away from something? Are they running to something? Why is Ruth silent now? This book explores the living and the dead and how the two intertwine. The reader is left questioning what is real, what is imagined, and what is not of this world. This book took me just a little while to really sink into, but one I did I couldn’t put it down. Hunt’s sentences sometimes read like poems… very strange poems. This is a fiction book that borders on magical realism that borders on ghost story that borders on horror. I recommend!
And, I’ll be brief on the audio book I didn’t finish: Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein. I wanted to like it. I really like her. But the audio book fell a little flat to me for some reason. I’m definitely in the minority on this, as the books has been very highly reviewed, and I’ve even read several very positive reviews about the audio book. Go figure!