As usual, my to-be-read pile grows more quickly than I can keep up with it. Here are a few that recently made it to the top of the stack.
I read Winter Willow by Deborah-Anne Tunney (full disclosure: she’s a good friend of mine) in one or two sittings and it’s likely you’ll want to do the same. The story has elements of the gothic – a grieving young woman comes to live in a memory-ridden old house as the assistant to a once-renowned older man – but its meditative pace, gorgeous writing and literary underpinnings take it sideways from any expectations of gothic thriller. Told retrospectively, as Melanie contemplates “the season that everything changed”, the book is replete with insights about memory and art, and offers rich rewards to the reader.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is told in several voices: Roy, a young husband on the cusp of a successful career, wrongly convicted and jailed, his wife Celestial, an artist who must redraw and fill in the outlines of the lives they had planned together; and Andre, a friend of Celestial’s since childhood who becomes her support and more in Roy’s long absence. The stunning injustice in the way that an African-American man like Roy can be punished for a crime he did not commit is treated as a simple matter of fact, and is at the core of this story of real unfiltered emotion and loss, and their impact on these characters’ lives. The supporting characters, ranging from Roy’s parents, to his cell mate, to the lawyer who continues to advocate for his release are all compellingly drawn. For me, one of the major strengths of the book is that two key sections are told in letters, mostly between Celestial and Roy. I love epistolary stories when they’re done well, and this one certainly is.
I also love books with a setting between the two 20th century World Wars. Jocelyne Parr’s Uncertain Weights and Measures takes place in 1920s Moscow, and brings the history and the ideas of the time alive in the lives of the main protagonists. One is Tatiana, a young brain scientist wholly devoted to the way science can further revolutionary aims, the other is Sasha, artist and skeptic. The writing is clear and compelling. I’ve had to put the book aside since hardcover books, especially library copies, don’t work well with the no-checked-baggage trip I’m currently on.
In the meantime, my beach reading in ebook is The Kingdom of Gods, the third of N. K. Jemsin’s Inheritance trilogy that I began on my last vacation. Like her triple-Hugo Award winning fantasy / speculative fiction series, the Broken Earth trilogy, these books feature incredible world building with a wide and diverse set of characters. The cultural conflicts, dilemmas, consequences of decisions and emotions she draws are all too human – even when those experiencing them are gods (or godlings).
Frances Boyle is an Ottawa-based author of two poetry books, a novella and a forthcoming short story collection. Her writing has appeared throughout North America and in the U.K. Visit www.francesboyle.com