(...and some kids.. and her husband....and some pails... and several boogie boards... and a lot of sunscreen... well, you know the drill.)
A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010 (winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the LA Times Book Award)
"Time is a goon."Oh deary, it is indeed. But time brings gifts, as well. The short stories in Jennifer Egan's (multiple) prize-winning collection rotate among a related cast of characters at various stages in their lives. Egan's characters are wounded, lost and struggling souls, and their stories are generally not happy ones. It took me a while to warm up to the characters and the non-chronological order of the stories, but by the end of the fourth story,"Safari," I was hooked. The stories were reflective and insightful; I especially liked Sasha, the first character we meet, and one whom we get to know both firsthand and through the eyes of other characters. Her story ends on a hopeful note, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed the much-cited "powerpoint" story, touchingly told from the point of view of Sasha's daughter. Goon Squad left me feeling rather sentimental about the passage of time, and I highly recommend it.
The Tiger's Wife, Tea Obreht, Random House, 2011
winner of the Orange Prize for fiction
The Tiger's Wife weaves together the stories of a young woman's devotion to her recently passed grandfather, the folktale-like memory of a tiger arriving in his childhood village, and his mysterious, supernatural encounters with a Deathless Man - all set against the backdrop of a country torn apart by war. I can't say I have read many stories set in a "Balkan country" (based, I assume, on Yugoslavia, where Obreht spent the first years of her life) - the cultural details and thorough character back-stories drew me in and I found myself absolutely transported. I loved the portrayals of the tiger - pacing in a zoo in an ancient citadel in the middle of a modern city, his stealthy presence in a superstitious, remote village - and the consideration of old village ways and their lingering presence in modern life. Really loved this one - found it quite beguiling.
What's in your beach bag (or tote bag or backpack) this summer? Have you read either of these, and what did you think?
Happy summer, and happy reading!