Monday, October 3, 2011

October Update

September flew by, but I managed to get some books read in spite of that. I did finish Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, the National Book Award Winner. The Hartford Courant called it right on Sunday when they wrote, "Train Dreams" is a nuanced portrait of a day laborer in an earlier America and the quiet stoicisim that becomes his code." Don't look for a lot of plot or action, but the language is beautiful and the portrait of a man trying to cope with life in a changing world is poignant. It reminded me of the Pulitzer Prize winner of a year ago, Tinkers, by Paul Harding. That was also a small book (191 pages) that looked back on the life of a dying man. Both were meditations on life, love, and loss.
I also read Charles Fraziers' new book, Nightwoods: A Novel. Frazier is the author of the prizewinning novel, Cold Mountain. He revisits a rural, gritty setting in his new book though it is set in the 20th century. His characters are beautifully drawn and his book is suspenseful. However, I often got lost in all of his description. For example, in one sentence on page 99 he writes, "Daylight blared gritty through the opened door and cast a vampire-killing trapezoid onto the nineteenth-century wood floor, the splintery puncheons hip-wide and wrist-thick, cut from trees nearly two hunded years ago and made to last." I can recommend this book, but if you are not a fan of a lot of description you might find yourself skimming over entire paragraphs.
The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan is an interesting read. It is set in New England and traces the life of a woman from her early teenage years to her death in old age. She was the victim of sexual abuse and married an abusive husband. As a result of these experiences, she becomes a recluse, dependent on a caring priest for her contact with the outside world. It is a story of early wounds that never heal. Another interesting read is Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Both of these books won the Kingsolver Award for books that have a significant political and/or social message. Mudbound is the story of race and vengeance and love and hate. Barbara Kingsolver herself wrote, "Hillary Jordan writes with the force of a Delta storm. Her characters walked straight out of 1940s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are with me still."
My husband is currently reading and enjoying The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, just in time for the playoffs. It is a new baseball novel set at a small midwestern college. Critics think it is destined to become a new baseball classic. Stay tuned for the movie.
For now, I am reading A Room with a View, by E.M. Forster, for our October Morning Book Group and I plan to read Joan Didion's new book, Blue Nights. Didion's book is a follow-up to her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, and it details her reactions to the death of her daughter as well as the reality of growing older.
What are you reading out there? Let us hear from you.........Leisurely summer reading is over, but long nights for reading are ahead. Recommend a few new titles for everyone.