Anything is Possible starts in a small midwestern town where, apparently, everyone is kind and happy. But there is much darkness that lurks: children beaten by their stepdad, unhappy marriages, vengeful arson, rape, and sibling jealousy against the one who got away (Lucy Barton, who got her own story a while back). It’s breathtaking and wonderful — and will make you stay up way past your bedtime because you just have to know what’s coming next.
Tag Archives: families
Maude Julien grew up with a crazy father and a bizarrely submissive mother who kept her imprisoned, half-starved, and forced to submit to bizarre forced labor while depriving her of anything that could possibly provide kindness. The Only Girl in the World tells her story in a strangely detached mode, perhaps the only way to survive such a treatment. Her eventual escape is heart-warming, of course, but I kept wondering about her mother, whose cruelty seems to have grown from her own victimization, as she had been given, and perhaps sold, by her parents to her husband. How can neighbors and outsiders never questioned what was happening in that house?
Missing, Presumed stars a female detective who goes from one disastrous Internet date to another and who is assigned to the suspicious disappearance of the daughter of an upper-class couple. As the disappearance remains unsolved darker secrets come up and must be shared with the media, bringing the ire of the family and professional complications for the detective. I found the twisted end almost entirely unbelievable, but the juxtaposition of the detectives’ private lives and the investigation felt, for once, both entertaining and a wonderful reminder that detectives, like all of us, can have regular lives outside of work.
In Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home, Amy Dickinson steps away from her column and talks about her life, including how she moved far away from her small town in New York state but returned eventually to take care of her ailing mother, and, unexpectedly, find love (and the complications of stepdaughters). There’s a lot of adventure but all described with great kindness to all around her.
I have enjoyed Knausgaard rough memoirs, and Autumn is very different: a series of essays and letters to his unborn daughter. The sweetness is surprising at first, but there are plenty of darker corners as the author tackles buttons, lice, tin cans, children frightened by thunder, and the embarrassment of trying to get rid of a large wad of gum at his editor’s house. Nothing escapes his critical gaze.
Best read in small doses, and while some of the essays are just brilliant, others are less so.
The Windfall is the hilarious story of an Indian middle-aged couple who, after selling a successful website, move from a crowded apartment building into a luxuiours house, discovering a very different lifestyle. It could be a simple nouveau-riche satire, but it’s a lot more than that since the heroes are not blindly trying to imitate their rich neighbors and have a very balanced approach to wealth and the ridiculousness of spending extravagantly. There is a funny subplot of their son, who is consuming more drugs than studying at a second-rate American business school. Won’t change the literary world but the story is entertaining, and deeper than it seems at first.
Between Them is a sweet remembrance of the author’s parents, who had him late in their marriage, after many years of driving all over the South, visiting his father’s clients. They were regular folks, so this is not a name-dropping memoir, and they loved each other and him, so no drama, although sometimes their bond seems so strong as to exclude all others, even their son.
The book is written in two parts, one about his father and the other about his mother, so there are repeats that may have been avoided but the book is short enough that it’s not a serious annoyance. It’s refreshing to read about normal people.