Saturday, February 3, 2018

Catching Up to a New Year

Every December and January, while the myriad bloggers and columnists and academies and institutions are celebrating and awarding the best of the best of the year gone by, I seem to always be just starting to catch up on everything I didn't get to. The books become my Christmas wish list, and if I'm lucky and Santa shows mercy, my vacation becomes a delicious frenzy of holiday reading.

This year, I loved Attica Locke's Bluebird, Bluebird, absorbing crime fiction which also tells powerful truths about race, family, history and our justice system. Read back to back with Ernest Gaines' exquisite short story collection Bloodline, and with Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing recently etched so deeply in my heart, the experience of each book accented and amplified the others, together creating a moving trilogy of outstanding writing and examination of our nation's collective conscience.

I eagerly dove into two small press books, Jac Jemc's The Grip of It, and A Woman is a Woman Until She is a Mother by Anna Prushinskaya. Jemc proved herself once again to be the master of the unreliable narrator, or in this case, two: a husband and a wife each increasingly consumed by a supernatural force in their house. It was creepily delightful to be drawn deeper and deeper into the story and their growing mistrust of themselves and each other. The title alone of A Woman is a Woman hooked me, even long before the pub date. This brief but smart and engaging essay collection explores the profound personal transformation that is particular to becoming a mother, but also transformation more broadly. I devoured it in one sitting, and suspect it is a book I will go back to from time to time.

If you have ever had the experience of being gifted a book you have never heard of, and would never have stumbled upon on your own, and yet turns out to be an absolutely perfect fit, you already know that the gift is so much more than the book alone. Multiply by ten when the giver is your own teen daughter, and the book is I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar. Originally published in German, but set in Japan, this perfectly written, heartbreaking/heartwarming novel tells the story of the lifesaving connection forged between a sacked and disgraced salaryman and a reclusive young adult. While the two are extreme examples, this beautiful little book says so much about the fragile balance between our inner selves and belonging to the larger world.

January ended up a bit of a bust - a tiny coating of snow shut our southern city down for nearly a week, then work, then kid stuff, then, then... but February looks brighter with two promising ARC's and a chance to see Attica Locke speak at the upcoming Savannah Book Festival. This morning, the first herald of spring on a neighbor's hurricane damaged but just-holding-on plum (cherry?) tree.

And yet she persisted. To spring, and to surviving the storms to bloom anew.

What does the month hold in store for you?

Happy reading!


  1. Jac Jemc did a reading recently in my town, but I didn't go because I had never heard of her. Since then, I hear about her ALL. THE. TIME. Oh, well. There will be many more readings in the future. I'm by the University of Notre Dame, so they bring in readers all the time.

  2. So wonderful to be in a university town with so many authors coming through, always appreciate so much hearing writers read & talk about their work


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