Though I meant to be here a little sooner, my extended absence has been a good thing - after many years of being mostly home with children, some part-time work, and a couple of relocations, I've returned to work full-time. The transition has been intense but exciting, and I'm energized in a way I haven't been in a long time.
Perhaps as an extension of my own journey, I'm finding myself ever more drawn to writers who capture the many facets and complexity of women's lives. I will confess right off that I have read a lot of Meg Wolitzer recently, eagerly devouring three more of her novels soon after finishing The Interestings (which in my humble opinion is the strongest of her books, and one of my favorite books of 2013). Dani Shapiro's Still Writing was another favorite - a loving and encouraging reflection on writing and self - there is wisdom in it for writers of all levels (and for human beings in general). As it is still - well, just barely, but still - Short Story Month, I must give a shout out to some terrific short story collections: Laura van den Berg's excellent The Isle of Youth (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013) and Jennifer Spiegel's The Freak Chronicles, insightful and introspective stories set in far-flung and exotic corners of the world (Dzanc, 2012).
Orion's Daughters, by Courtney Elizabeth Mauk (Engine Books, 2014) ever since reading her mesmerizing debut novel Spark nearly two years ago. Orion's Daughters is the story of a woman haunted by the fractured remnants of a magnetic but dangerous friendship from her youth. The novel unfolds with suspense and strong emotions - love, devotion, envy, jealousy, loyalty. The writing is lovely:
"She tells a story. Her voice is light, a shimmering thread on which the words are strung like so many jewels. Only I can't hold on to the end. The words slip into my ear and back out, falling, cracked, in heap."
...and with each sentence and chapter perfectly paced and phrased, it struck me as the rare second novel that gains a level of polish and sophistication without giving up the raw power of the first book. Just as with Spark, I was completely enchanted, devouring the book quickly.
I was also recently excited to learn that Ethel Rohan has a brief memoir, Out of Dublin, which explores her childhood and adult relationships with her parents; their deaths, one close upon the other; and the author's profound grief over their loss. Rohan's fiction is full of fierce beauty and emotional force, and these qualities drive Out of Dublin as well. It is a memoir written with immediacy rather than long-range perspective, and it isn't long, but her story is striking - I would have been glad to read more. Rohan was kind enough to answer some of my questions last summer upon the release of her short fiction collection Goodnight Nobody - you can read our conversation here.
Happy reading! What are the books that are currently inspiring, awing or challenging you?
I purchased my copies of Orion's Daughters, The Isle of Youth, and Out of Dublin; Still Writing and The Freak Chronicles were a holiday gifts (and lovely ones at that); my copies of all four Meg Wolitzer books came from my local public library.