Here’s a sampling of books I read on vacation (I’m not listing some because they were either rereads or books I couldn’t finish):
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
Hot damn, what a fantastic book this is! Again, what was I waiting for?? Allen and I both read this one (same goes for several on this list) and boy did we enjoy the hell out of it. In fact, it was impossible to get the person who was reading it at the time to engage in conversation, so engrossed were we in Calliope/Cal’s life. I’m not going to bother saying what this book is “about” because you’ve no doubt all read it already (so late to the party am I), but if you’ve not read it, please promise me you will. You will be so glad you did.
Ninemile Wolves – Rick Bass
Nonfiction account of several wolf packs in the early 1990s, set in Montana and the surrounding areas. On the surface this is a book about the ability and willingness (or lack thereof) of humans to coexist with the remaining large predators in North America. Ultimately, though, it is about a search for the soul—ours, the wolves.
Sightseeing – Rattawut Lapcharoensap
I had read one story from this collection (“At the Café Lovely”) at few years ago in Zoetrope and was smitten, but I will say it was not my favorite of these stories—which are the perfect mixture of funny and sad, bleak and hopeful. Favorite is reserved for the title story, “Sightseeing,” about a mother going blind who helps her son learn how to really see. A gorgeous heartbreaker of a story.
Thank You for the Music – Jane McCafferty
My god what a fantastic short story collection filled with so many fucked-up, heartbreaking characters that it’s hard to say which one I love the most. I can say this, however, these stories will creep into your core and keep you up at night thinking about them.
Man Camp – Adrienne Brodeur
Light-hearted novel about the battle of the sexes—the battle part is not what is expected, though. The women in the novel are fighting to have the men in their lives act more like men of yore, until they realize that even manly men have their issues.
The Optimists – Andrew Miller
A taut, Graham Greene-esque novel about a photojournalist who has been witness to many atrocities, but the last one (a genocidal massacre in an unnamed African country) is the one which brings him to his knees. It is only when he returns to a childhood cottage where he tends to his mentally disturbed sister that he (and she) begins to heal and where he learns that some questions can never be answered. It was a quick (albeit bleak) read.
Yellow – Janni Visman
Suspenseful novel with an unreliable agoraphobic narrator—part Rear Window, part Single White Female, part several other movies I’m too dense to pick up on (it should come as no surprise that the author studied film). I enjoyed this quick read.
The History of Children’s Camps on Chateaugay Lake – written by Mary Ellen Putnam
Well, I spent much of my life on this lake and though I knew about the three existing children’s camps (Camp Jeanne d’Arc, started in 1922; Tanager Lodge, started in 1923; and Camp Chateaugay, started in 1945), I had no idea about all those that had come before and after and now ceased to exist (11 in all including those already mentioned).
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
Started reading and loving this book but put it down until after vacation because it requires a lot of attention and focus and sometimes I just want to stare out at the lake and listen to the loons instead of having heavy thoughts.