All of the book love from Monday’s review of The Starless Sea really took it out of me so I’m giving myself (and you) a word break for the rest of the week. Today is mini-reviews—three very different books with fewer words about each.
In Adrienne Brodeur’s memoir, Wild Game fact once again proves to be infinitely stranger than fiction. Adrienne is 14 when her mother confides in her that her husband’s best friend has kissed her. And she liked it and wants Adrienne to help facilitate a full-blown affair. This all takes place at the families’ summer homes on Cape Cod. A beautiful home and lifestyle paid for by Adrienne’s wealthy older stepfather. A man her mother pursued hard despite a fifteen-year age difference, who has suffered strokes and is not as active as he once was. As Brodeur details in the memoir’s pages fidelity is not her mother’s strong suit.
This situation continues into Adrienne’s twenties with her lying to virtually everyone around her, including the other man’s wife and children. She buys into her mother’s rationalizations that keeping the affair secret is a kindness to their older, frail, spouses. At some point, she becomes an adult but is still not able to break away from her mother. Who, let’s be clear, falls somewhere on the spectrum between mega-narcissist and textbook sociopath. She is a wretched human being in a pretty package with no thought for anyone in the world but herself. Her emotional abuse of Adrienne goes far beyond just getting her to collude in her lies.
All of this left me torn between sympathy for Adrienne as a teen and judgment as an adult. I’m still not sure how I feel, especially as Adrienne grapples with her own fallout from her twisted relationship with her mother. Read Wild Game only if you’re in the mood for Mommie Dearest mothering and sordid human behavior.
I’m both embarrassed and happy to report that my faith in Sophie Kinsella has been restored. Embarrassed because she’s a successful author who could care less whether I believe in her and happy because in returning to Becky Bloomwood, the Shopaholic, she gave me the happy, cotton candy reading I needed.
Christmas Shopaholic is exactly what anyone who knows about this series would expect: Becky has committed to hosting Christmas for her extended family and has immediately gone into too-much, simply-too-much territory. Everything she sees and hears about is the ONE thing she must have to make her Christmas perfect. Of course, it all goes terribly wrong, but ends up just right. There are no surprises here, but I didn’t want any. I wanted Kinsella to keep Becky teetering on the edge of chaos with a supporting cast of characters I have come to know and love and that’s exactly what I got. Does Christmas Shopaholic get a bit silly? Yes. Did I care? No. It made me laugh throughout and that’s all I wanted and needed. Hurrah and thank you, Ms. Kinsella.
When Evered is 12 his father dies. His mother and new baby sister already died in that long winter. Now, he and his little sister Ada, 10, are alone in a secluded cove on the northern coast of Newfoundland. Their only contact with the outer world is a ship that arrives twice a year to trade their catch of dried salted cod for all the supplies they need for the next six months. The ship won’t arrive until spring so first they have to figure out how to live that long. In the same way that they are all they have in the world, Evered and Ada are all the reader has in Michael Crummey’s gripping novel, The Innocents.
You might think that a novel with only two characters in a hut eking out a subsistence living would be dull. Maybe in the wrong hands, but Evered and Ada come fully to life thanks to Crummey. I was immersed in this novel. First of all, they’re children! Even in the 18th century this is extreme. But it’s the only oversized factor in The Innocents as Crummey doesn’t feel the need to add wildly dramatic embellishments. The fight to survive in a desolate, brutal environment with virtually none of the tools common to the times is story enough. Instead, he uses his writing to go deep into the hearts and minds of these two children who grow up alone, largely uninfluenced by the outside world. The result is compelling reading.