I devoured this sharp, peculiar memoir in a single evening. Gornick, in a voice unlike anyone else’s—funny, incisive, disappointed—describes walks through New York City, conversations with friends and lovers, and “odd women” of literature and history whose lives have not conformed to the conventional patterns of marriage and motherhood. Gornick is as keen a critic as she is a trenchant observer of the daily drama of the city sidewalk, but this book isn’t just smart: it’s dazzlingly alive and deeply moving.
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A mysterious young actress with a fatal diagnosis, a hopeful young Italian pensione keeper, a reprobate Hollywood producer and his frustrated assistant, Richard Burton at the beginning of his relationship with Elizabeth Taylor, a post-WWII American soldier trying to write his depression away, a no-longer young musician trying to make a comeback at The Fringe…This richly imagined novel uses shifts in time and place to traverse the fates of its several struggling characters. Reading it may make you wonder if you have been “pitched” a movie about the Donner party, but a backwater theater stages such a beautiful pivot in the plot…
Kevin Brockmeier is a marvelous writer of fiction, whose work ranges from realism to fantasy. His most recent book is a tender, funny memoir of his year in seventh grade, by all odds the most horrifying time in a child’s life. Your body changes, your social world changes, what is expected of you changes, and notions of who you might become begin to suggest themselves to you. Brockmeier understands this but he also understands that 7th graders are children, sometime adorable in the manner of children. Kevin doesn’t understand that he is gay, although he suspects something is different in his personality. He manages to remember more about this scary time of life than I have suppressed. I am thankful to him for sharing humorously, and wisely this horrifying but important time in his life. It’s the best kid memoir I know.
Which of us has not noticed the same people every day of our lives and, not knowing anything of their real circumstances, created an imaginary narrative around them to satisfy our own fantasies? This is certainly the case of Rachel, our protagonist, who sees a couple on their terrace every morning on her commute to work, and builds her own biography of their lives. When the woman goes missing and is the subject of endless media reports, Rachel feels she knows this woman and tries to help the police with their investigation. This intriguing premise is the springboard of Ms. Hawkins' fascinating suburban thriller -- a tale told by three women: Rachel, an alcoholic; Megan, the missing woman; and Anna, who remarried Rachel's husband, Tom, after their divorce. All three narrators are unreliable, wearing the blinders of their addictions, dissatisfactions, and jealousies. Full of red herrings, flashes of revelations, and plenty of twists and turns, this is a splendid mystery populated with fascinating characters. Enjoy!