Tag Archives: families

*** Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

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.

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Filed under Mystery

*** Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things by Amy Dickinson

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.

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Filed under True story

** Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard

 

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.

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Filed under New fiction

*** The Windfall by Diksha Basu

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.

 

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** Between Them by Richard Ford

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.

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Filed under True story

*** Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

So this is the good book of the week: Priestdaddy, the unlikely memoir of the daughter of a Catholic priest (yes, it is possible to be a Catholic priest and be married and have children; read the book to discover the loophole). Be warned that it starts a little slowly, with the author and her husband reluctantly but gratefully moving back into the rectory where her parents live, after a ruinous health scare. And because it’s the rectory, there’s also an awkward seminarian living there, whom she likes to terrorize (it does not take much!) The story picks up speed — and old memories — and pretty soon we find ourselves swimming in stilted dinners with the bishop (helped along with some Mountain Vodka Dew), picketing abortion clinics as a young child, and perusing liturgical-supplies catalogs. It’s David Sedaris meets Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, sweet and hilarious and complicated like large families can be.

 

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Filed under True story

*** Before the War by Fay Weldon

Before the War is a delightful comedy featuring a wonderfully self-centered and monstrous mother, a distracted father, an oddball daughter and her new husband, who must be wed and accepts so he can share in the wealth. What follows are lots of secrets about babies with doubtful pedigrees, which baffle most of the main characters to the very end. Well done, in a come-in-my-parlor style that manages to be cosy and cynical at the same time.

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Filed under New fiction