Nimbly translated from the Italian, this slim read features an unlikely heroine in Nives (pronounce KNEE-vus). Nives lives in a very, very small town in Tuscany and recently found her husband of 50 years dead in a pig trough. She doesn't cry when she finds him or at the funeral. Eventually, she does get a bit lonely and takes in one of her farm’s chickens into the house to keep her company. The chicken gets sick and she calls the local drunk veterinarian. The majority of the action takes place almost entirely in one tense phone call in the middle of the night. I've never read anything like it. The closest thing I can compare it to might be Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf except funny. In the course of this call she exposes all the dirty little secrets of the last 60 years in this small town. She rails about the unfairness of love, the limit of her gender, parenthood, aging, and lost opportunities and betrayals. Shocking and raw, melancholy and side-splittingly funny: Nives can be read in one sitting. Great for book clubs!
I knew almost nothing about Stanley Tucci going into reading this book. Actually, I listened to it on my Libro.fm. He reads it. This is so much more than a food memoir, although it is among the best ones of those I have ever read (and I read a lot of them). This is a beautiful, big-hearted, earthy celebration of life. Truly one of my favorite books of 2021. Treating myself to life through Tucci's eyes made me appreciate the gifts of my own. Funny, passionate, tragic, uplifting, unforgettable. This book is a true gift.
The latest from one of my favorite authors is a multi-generational saga that takes place in rural Kentucky. It goes back and forth between two characters’ timelines. Carol’s starts in 1933 when she is lost in a poker game by her alcoholic father. The other follows her grandson Samuel. Crossing both timelines is Carol’s developmentally disabled son Rusty, Samuel’s Uncle. Van Booy’s ability to show the depths of his characters in such spare and crystal clear prose never ceases to astonish me. He is one of the most gifted and empathetic writers I've ever read. This novel is alternately beautiful and tragic. It details the lives of the people of Appalachia in a way that neither fetishizes them or turns them into caricatures (a common offense even with writers who are originally from the region which the author is not). These characters are based on actual people the author has known for decades. He has served them well with this haunting novel.
This tiny gem is destined to be a Christmas classic. Think in terms O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi. Alice Munro and Raymond Carver also come to mind. Based on actual events in Irish history only recently brought to light, the story follows Bill Furlong, a coal merchant, husband, and father to five daughters, and his discovery of a coverup by the church. The town is largely controlled by the church in this 1985 setting, but he still risks his livelihood, reputation, and marriage to right a wrong. Readers who enjoy stories of characters confronting their pasts, embracing hope, and being quiet heroes will find much to love here. When I first read it I thought: "good story". But I have picked it up over and over again, read and reread it, marveling at its depth charge emotional impact.
I've been struggling with words to describe what a marvel No Gods, No Monster is as a story. It starts as what looks like a simple and all too common case of police brutality and then morphs into a wild and weird tale of monsters of legend living among us disturbed by something enough to reveal themselves. Protests across the globe, an increase in hate crimes and suicides. People are disappearing. It's intense, it's political. I've dog-eared and reread so many pages my copy is broken-spined and fat. There were moments of abject horror followed by passages of surprising tenderness and empathy. Worlds of emotions. Truly impressive. And the monsters! Not since China Miéville have a seen monsters this creative and terrifying.
Reading The Safety Trap has made me more aware of the dangers that surround me every day, but it has also given me actionable tools to prevent them. This is an incredibly clear and comprehensive guide to personal safety written in direct, no-nonsense prose that is not only informative, it is also empowering. Coursen not only made me take steps immediately to improve the safety of my person, my information, my loved ones, and property, he made an urgent, approachable task. His shared personal stories of his own close calls and those of the clients of his security firm and his former military and bodyguard days make learning about these scary topics approachable. Unpleasant truths make for hard reading, but facing them with this author as your constant ally makes it easier. Highly recommended for all adults.
It is just weeks after the legalization of gay marriage in the U.S. in the summer of 2015. We meet two men who grew up together in the D.C. suburbs and are at opposite ends of what it means to be a gay man at this time in American history. Both are involved in obsessive cross-generational friendships. Sebastian has a complicated relationship with one of his out and proud high school students. Oscar is spending time with a Stonewall generation novelist on the decline. Sebastian is anxious to settle down and assimilate. Oscar is infuriated by what he sees as the death of gay culture in favor of what he views as colorless banality. I loved everything about this book. It is beautifully written and full of profound insights on what happens when a formerly ostracized segment of society becomes incorporated into the general population and what that means, good and bad, for the individuals that are part of it. Stunning!
The story of Violette Toissant, a cemetery keeper in a small town in France is bittersweet and ultimately hopeful. Talk about drama! The daily triumphs and losses of Violette and her fellow characters range from the banal to the obscene and each is rendered with an accuracy that is borderline supernatural by the author. These people feel beyond real, they feel like my own friends (and enemies). When a police detective arrives and insists upon putting his mother’s ashes on the grave of a man with whom she had a long affair, Violette’s predictable life is turned upside down and she must reckon with her own painful past. So many stories in one book! A #1 bestseller in France, it deserves a wide readership in the U.S. as well!
I know Annalee Newitz from their excellent work in speculative fiction and have been a fan for ages. They now take to the page with this delightful work of nonfiction exploring the deaths of four historic civilizations. If you enjoy the works of the late Tony Horowitz, Eric Larson, and Karen Abbott, you will love this book! Traveling to the ruins of these lost urban mega-cities, Newitz explores how they were founded, how they developed and what caused their demise. From Pompeii to Cahokia, located near present-day Saint Louis, we see how every day people lived and died and what caused their civilizations to collapse. The tone of the book is light and anecdotal with a touch of whimsy without shying away from the darker aspects of ancient history. Ultimately hopeful, the author shows us what we can learn from the lessons of the past to avoid making the same mistakes as these doomed urban peoples without being preachy or sounding superior. Even if you don't read much history, I can highly recommend this book as just a fabulous read!