In Lullaby Road, Ben Jones drives a truck back and forth on a high desert road in Utah, bringing supplies and provisions to the people along the road, many of whom have chosen to escape a difficult past to live there. And one day, with a snow storm looming, he is asked to look after a child who won’t say a word and a baby, propelling him into a series of murders, threats, and assorted domestic problems. It’s quite dark but the cast of characters is intriguing and the hero inspiring, along with the landscape.
Monthly Archives: November 2018
The heroine of Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is a forty-year old single woman who is finally learning to drive, although it’s not clear that she will ever earn a driver’s license. She sustains an unending inner monologue on whether she is good enough at anything, not just driving, and pines for her childhood in rural Denmark. All that leads nowhere besides well-observed ruminations, so not enough action for my taste but might work for other readers.
Part history, part society pages, The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy describes dozens of young American women whose family’s lack of pedigree marooned them from fashionable society in New York but whose wealth was eminently attractive to impoverished British aristocrats. After marrying, their titles opened them, and their parents, a place in the surprisingly closed New York high society, which their mothers knew very well, and had worked to achieve, sometimes at the expense of the daughters.
It was not all fun and games. They often discovered that the wonderful castles of their new husbands were unheated hovels when it came to modern conveniences, and staffed by servants that nursed contempt for their naivete, while their new husbands were very free with their marital vows.
The book sometimes veers into a gossip column (and after a few chapters some of the women start to blend together) but it draws an interesting portrait of two elites in need of each other.
Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen is a memoir and book-length argument in favor of immigration reform. The author was sent to the US at age 12 to live with his (documented) grandparents with the hope of a better future. Things worked out well for him: he attended a good high school and was able to take advantage of generous financial help to attend college, but proper paperwork proved elusive and a talented journalist finds himself with no legal avenue to regularize his situation — although, interestingly and despite (or perhaps because of) his fame, he has not been deported. I would have preferred more of a focus on his personal history and less political commentary, but it’s important to show how productive individuals are left in limbo because of decisions made long ago by their parents.
Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart stars large egos and lots of bodies as the development of artificial hearts has been difficult and full of dead ends. The author focuses on Houston, admittedly the world capital of heart care, and on a few heart surgeons and biomedical engineers, utterly devoted to their quests and occasionally interested by the welfare of their patients (success seems to be defined more by surviving surgery than by the alit of life, if any, following said surgery). The most intriguing part of the story may be that an artificial heart may not produce what we all think a heart creates: a a pulse!
The story in There, There takes place mostly in Oakland (it turns out that there is a there there) and features a group of disparate characters, Native Americans who will attend a Powwow at the Coliseum, some with non-peaceful designs. But the story is really about the rough lives of the participants, with violence, alcohol, drugs, racism, and that for several generations. The details of the plot at the powwow seem unnecessarily overdone compared to the life stories, and the life stories are so dark that it’s hard to persevere past the first 200 pages or so, but the start is very promising.
White River Burning stars a retired NY detective who is asked to investigate a fatal shooting of an African American man by a white police officer, and who stumbles on a very complicated case of police corruption. The story is twisted enough to keep the reader’s interest, but what I liked best was the nuanced descriptions of very complicated characters as well as the mix of mundane tasks and police investigation.