The hero of Mr. Loverman is a West Indies gay man who moves to London with his young wife to be close to his lover — and who pursues his double life for decades. He is a very lovable character, even as he deceives his wife and makes promises to his lover that he cannot keep. His relationship with his grandsons and with his daughters are delightfully nuanced and add greatly to the main themes of the story. An endearing character, flaws and all.
The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World is a biography of the writer Stefan Zweig, whom I have not read — and perhaps I would have found more interest in it if I were familiar with his writing. A wealthy man, Zweig traveled widely before he had to leave Vienna permanently to avoid the Nazis and his early travels display the usual, mundane chaos of travelers. Later, after divorcing his wife and marrying his much younger assistant, he seems just sad. And that poor ex-assistant, who killed herself or was killed with him, certainly workers herself to the bone to sustain his genius…
In Dry Bones in the Valley, a small town police officer tries to solve a couple of murders that quickly lead him to more complicated problems: how fracking is dividing neighbor against neighbor, how meth labs and drug dealers are infiltrating the county, and how old family feuds can color everyday rivalries. There will be several more bodies before it’s all over, and one very tired small-town cop. I liked the way the author was able to tell the personal story of the hero, and of many other people in the town. The murders, as is often the case, were a little over-convoluted — but it’s a good story, well worth reading for a good mix of suspense and personal stories.
A young boy has disappeared and, years later, his family is suffering, dad, mom, his little brother, his grandfather, each in a different way. And then, the boy is found. Remember Me Like This takes each character’s perspective to deliver an evocative story of sadness, revenge, and complex family ties. I loved how the author captured the relationship between the two brothers, with all its complexities that are often glossed over in other stories. The mother’s frantic refusal to accept her son’s disappearance seemed a little cliched in contrast.
There’s much to love in A Replacement Life, in which a young New York writer, grandchild of Holocaust survivors, undertakes to write fake letters to the Holocaust restitution commission on behalf of this grandfather, at first, and then more and more seniors in his circle. The letters he writes are a novel within the novel. They sound like the truth because they are the truth, for someone else. But they don’t sound at all like real letters, since, for one thing, they are written in way too fluent English — and that will create trouble for the author. The letters, and the complicated relationship with his grandfather, are what attracted me to the novel. For the rest, the author’s boring job in a magazine and his complicated, yet dull relationship with his girlfriend never seem to come together in a coherent second narrative.
Can a good novel come out of a real-life police mystery? I’m not sure, and it did not work for me with A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain, a dark tale in which First Nations young women regularly disappear off a highway in British Columbia, meth dealers control the police, and young children are starved and abused. Fun! The main story is interspersed with folk tales told by a dying uncle (more fun) and I wanted nothing more than bolt out of there, like most of the teenagers who are the heroes of the story, I bet…
Continuing the summer series of European thrillers (here and here), The Good Suicides features a series of mysterious suicides by employees of the same company, intertwined with the investigation by a bored detective on maternity leave (great character!) of the disappearance of her colleague’s wife. The latter story is more straightforward, more believable, and almost perfect. The former does not quite hold together in the end, but provides bountiful twists and a rare, sweet father-son relationship.