What the world will look like when all the water leaves us by Laura van den Berg
Laura van den Berg explores issues of loss and grief through these stories of women adrift in their own lives. A failed actress takes a job as a Bigfoot impersonator while across the pages a botanist meets a pack of monster hunters in a bar. The prose is precise and affecting; there is something magical about these stories that has nothing to do with childlike wonderment. Instead, the kind of magic Laura creates is bewildering and haunting, leaving you just a little bit lost yourself.
Quote: What she really wants to know is what I’m still doing in California and what exactly is this acting role I mentioned in a postcard and how much longer before I come back to Washington. I try to think of a way to explain everything, but I can’t explain Bigfoot or Jimmy or why the reddish color of the water here makes me think of the fear that swallowed our childhood the way a snake swallows a mouse. All I know is that I’m in what I’m in and I don’t want to leave it, not yet.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
The short description of this story is that it is about a love triangle between three Ivy League students. The long description is that it is an amazingly funny, heartbreaking, and complex exploration of religion, of mental illness, of literature studies, of families, of college, and perhaps more than anything else, of relationships. There is so much going on in this story I wanted to reread it immediately after finishing it.
Quote: The worst part was that, as the years passed, these memories became, in the way you kept them in a secret box in your head, taking them out every so often to turn them over and over, something like dear possessions. They were the key to your unhappiness. They were the evidence that life wasn’t fair. If you weren’t a lucky child, you didn’t know you weren’t lucky until you got older. And then it was all you ever thought about.
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Gabrielle Hamilton is a writer and the chef/owner of acclaimed Prune restaurant in New York’s East Village. Her memoir follows her search for purpose and meaning, taking the reader through various kitchens, inside of Italian family homes, and deep within complex relationships. Again and again, Gabrielle finds this meaning in food and the culture that surrounds it. While her story and interpretations of family and love are fascinating, I found her a difficult character to sympathise with as at times she comes across as unforgiving and arrogant. Still, I completely loved the book and her descriptions of food are a delight to discover. She makes the most mundane of cooking tasks seem exhilarating or beautiful; I got so hungry reading this book!
Quote: I had no clue that my parents were unhappy with each other until I was sweeping up cornichons and hard salami and radishes off the kitchen floor.
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
This story is of adultery and its consequences, told to us by the ‘unrepentant female’, Gina. From the first few pages we already know how the story will end, and what draws the reader in to Gina’s world isn’t the narrative but rather her intricate and reflective description of each moment that has led to this point. For much of the novel this fragmented structure flows easily, revealing fresh insights that are often brutally honest and even devastating. Though the ending does fall flat, it’s a strong enough work to be forgiven. The writing is sharp, funny, and besides, I’m a sucker for bleak Irish prose.
Quote: In the autumn, Evie seemed to get rounder and rounder, fatter and fatter, after which came this amazing stretch and boi-oi-oinngg of this extra flesh into a waist and hips and breasts – though as I recall, breasts don’t really feel like fat, at that age, they feel like tenderised gristle. Bu they look, from what I saw in the bath, heartbreaking and simple
There is nothing worse than being nearly twelve.
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
You should probably know that Kate Beaton is one of the two people in the world I’ve ever sent fan mail to. So, for chrissake, buy this book! Her comics are all about ridiculous histories, ridiculous literature, ridiculous Canadian stereotypes, ridiculous hunks, and more. They are clever, unexpected, and absolutely hilarious. If you are a lover of literature it is a must. Heck. Heck. I can’t even write this review properly I loved it so much. Just buy the book, okay?
Quote: You can have a look at some of Kate’s comics on her website, www.harkavagrant.com, or just check out these