Pick out a shady place and a comfortable cushion. Pick out an apple or a peach and finally pick up a good summer read. Here are a few choices from Boomer Highway.
Ann Beattie: The State We’re In: Maine Stories
Anne Beattie’s latest work seems to be echoing the oeuvre of Elizabeth Strout whose Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge was a series of stories, most focusing on Olive and her life, others tangential to the town of Crosby, Main—Olive’s town “at the edge of the continent.” Beattie does something similar in her new collection of stories entitled The State We’re In, setting many of the stories in Maine and focusing on the character of Jocelyn, a teen who is attending summer school while living with her aunt and uncle. But Jocelyn has been chosen not to speak particularly about geography, but about the state we’re in, our modern life, the condition of things now. Margaret Atwood writes that Beattie’s work is: “like a fresh bulletin from the front: we snatch it up, eager to know what’s happening out there on the edge of that shifting and dubious no-man’s-land known as interpersonal relations.”
Marilynne Robinson: Lila
Marilynne Robinson has to be one of the greatest craftsman writing today. Her novels starting with Gilead in 2004, Home in 2008 and now Lila, tell the story of two preachers and their families in the small town of Gilead, Iowa—a place so real and fresh that you want to go there, though it exists only in Robinson’s mind. In fact, after dedicating her older books to family and friends, the dedication in Lila reads simply To IOWA. Having lived in the state for sixteen years and having attended the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Workshops, the state and Robinson (who is currently teaching at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop) mean a great deal to me. Lila tells the story of a woman whose early hardscrabble existence she finds difficult to put aside when she wanders into Gilead, later to become the second wife of the preacher, John Ames. When they first speak she tells him: “I don’t trust nobody,” and he replies, “No wonder you’re tired.” Robinson reveals the strength and power of a life that will go on—as Lila finds her way in a world often unkind to her, but one she has taken to her heart, discovering its healing power. “She liked to do her wash. Sometimes fish rose for the bubbles. The smell of the soap was a little sharp, like the smell of the river. In that water you could rinse things clean. It might be a little brown after a good rain, soil from the fields, but the silt washed away or settled out.” For more about Lila go here.
Anne Tyler: A Spool of Blue Thread
Always one of my favorite authors, Anne Tyler muses that A Spool of Blue Thread might be her last book. I hope not. I remember reading an early interview of Tyler’s, that fascinated me as a beginning writer–because she related that she sat on a couch in a room at the top of her house in Baltimore, writing her novels on sheets of paper with a cheap black ink pen. And she did this Monday through Thursday, saying that Fridays were for grocery shopping and having such things done as tire rotation. Tyler is the closest to an ordinary woman and an extraordinary writer than anyone could be. And thus her latest novel is again about a complicated family whose major goal is the American dream–that if you work hard and don’t break the rules, you’ll find some gold in the corners of your life. But instead the Whitshanks find difficult marriages, early death and the inability to accept a son who likes to wander. So it’s not gold they find but a spool of blue thread, necessary for a repair to a piece of clothing, but symbolic of the ability to repair and move on, which is often the legacy of family.
Kathryn Craft: The Far End of Happy
I met Kathryn Craft through Women’s Fiction Writers Association and she has become a friend and mentor. Her first published novel The Art Of Falling, pulled from her life as a dancer and one familiar with Philadelphia’s dance world. But this, her second novel, is writing that cuts to the bone of life, her own personal life. Here is a book blurb from her blog: Ronnie’s husband is supposed to move out today. But when Jeff pulls into the driveway drunk, with a shotgun in the front seat, she realizes nothing about the day will go as planned. The next few hours spiral down in a flash, unlike the slow disintegration of their marriage—and whatever part of that painful unraveling is Ronnie’s fault, not much else matters now but these moments. Her family’s lives depend on the choices she will make—but is what’s best for her best for everyone? Based on a real event from the author’s life, The Far End of Happy is a chilling story of one troubled man, the family that loves him, and the suicide standoff that will change all of them forever.
In its review, the Library Journal emphasizes Craft’s personal strength and amazing skill. “Craft’s second novel is based on the author’s experience with a standoff involving her husband, which adds real, raw, emotion to the plot. Framing the novel within a 12-hour period keeps the pages turning.”
Anthony Doerr: All The Light We Cannot See
Many of you have heard of this New York Times best selling book and might have read it. Author Doerr’s website reads: Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks. When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris in June of 1940, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives. But the trajectory of this story takes off when Marie-Laure crosses the path of Werner, a German orphan boy whose specialty during the war is tracking members of the Resistance.
So enjoy the rest of summer and find some time to pick a book that will seal all of summer’s delights. Reading something intriguing, something you love?? Please share.
And if you haven’t read it, I offer my book of stories, A Mother’s Time Capsule–stories about all aspects of motherhood. elizabethahavery.com