Searching for Caleb ~ Anne Tyler
Duncan Peck has a fascination for randomness and is always taking his family on the move. His wife, Justine, is a fortune teller who can't remember the past. Her grandfather, Daniel, longs to find the brother who walked out of his life in 1912, with nothing more than a fiddle in his hand. All three are taking journeys that lead back to the family's deepest roots...to a place where rebellion and acceptance have the haunting power to merge into one....
A Patchwork Planet ~ Anne Tyler
Barnaby Gaitlin is one of Anne Tyler's most promising unpromising characters. At 30, he has yet to graduate from college, is already divorced, and is used to defeat. His mother thrives on reminding him of his adolescent delinquency and debt to his family, and even his daughter is fed up with his fecklessness. Still, attuned as he is to "the normal quota for misfortune," Barney is one of the star employees of Baltimore's Rent-a-Back, Inc., which pays him an hourly wage to help old people (and one young agoraphobe) run errands and sort out their basements and attics. Anne Tyler makes you admire most of these mothball eccentrics (though they're far from idealized) and hope that they can stave off nursing homes and death. There is, for example, "the unstoppable little black grandma whose children phoned us on an emergency basis whenever she threatened to overdo." And then there's Barnaby's new girlfriend's aunt, who will eventually accuse him of theft--"Over her forearm she carried a Yorkshire terrier, neatly folded like a waiter's napkin. 'This is my doorbell,' she said, thrusting him toward me. 'I'd never have known you were out here if not for Tatters.'" These people are wonderful creations, but their lives are more brittle than cuddly, Barnaby knows better than to think of them as friends, because they'll only die on him. Yet his job offers at least glimpses of roots and affection. Helping an old lady set up her Christmas tree (on New Year's Eve!) gives him the chance to hang a singular ornament--a snowflake "pancake-sized, slightly crumpled, snipped from gift wrap so old that the Santas were smoking cigarettes." And Barnaby himself is sharp and impatient at painful--and painfully funny--family dinners, apparently unable to keep his finger off the auto-self-destruct button every time his life improves. As much as his superb creator, he is a poet of disappointment, resignation, and minute transformation
Here In the World: 13 Stories ~ Victoria Lancelotta
Lancelotta's fiction debut contains 13 dark, sensual stories with a dreamlike quality that feature women taking control of their own sexuality, though the results don't always leave them satisfied. "In Bars" tells of a woman's twisted relationship with the married couple that lives next door. In "Nice Girl," the childhood death of an older sister continues to haunt a woman and her mother. "The Gift" is a moving meditation on the secrets buried in family history. Lancelotta's characters always seem unhappy and detached, but her prose is lyrical and mesmerizing.
Crooked Little Heart ~ Anne Lamott (seems as if I was on an authors-named-Anne kick today)
At 13, Rosie plays a gangly, pigeon-toed second fiddle to her juicy, sexy friend Simone. The two are junior tennis champs who often cart home trophies. But driven by the gnawing fear that she's a loser, Rosie starts to cheat. Meantime, boy-crazy Simone dabbles in off-court disaster. Up in the bleachers a weird loner named Luther obsessively follows Rosie's games, while at home her mother wrestles her own demons. Anne Lamott (Operating Instructions) has turned in a fair depiction of the blood and bones of adolescence that's thankfully leavened by sharp humor and transcendent moments. The novel is uneven and heavy-handed at times, but often rewarding.
Handwritten on the first page of Crooked Little Heart in a Sharpie marker is this:
Jennifer and Tom -
Have a great honeymoon!
Best regards, John
Quite the amusing nuptial sentiment for a book titled Crooked Little Heart, if you ask me.
Have you read any of these? If so, let me know what you thought.