Anyone else have a tough reading month in January? Who knows whether it was because I had so much amazing backlist reading over the holidays or the fact that none of the new January books panned out for me. Either way, I’m not sorry to say goodbye to this first month of 2024. Let’s go February!
Tricia joins her husband in Saigon as the Vietnam War begins and has to navigate the social minefield of a tightknit community of government wives and its mores. The second part of Absolution is set decades later back in the United States, giving the novel a disconnected feel I couldn’t reconcile. I’ve never read McDermott before so it may be that this is much like her other novels. For me, it was a beautifully written story that left me wondering what it was supposed to be about. This could either be because I didn’t understand it or because the meaning never crystallized on the page.
Family Family by Laurie Frankel: Review to follow (or maybe not, this was a tough one)
Small Things Like These is set in the 1980s when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s policies created particularly dire effects in Ireland. Bill Furlong lives in a small town with his wife and daughters. He’s a coal merchant and so his family is relatively secure, but many of his customers are struggling to pay their bills. One of the driving forces in town is the Catholic Church. There is a large convent where the nuns take in unwed pregnant girls as well as those considered to be trouble. They also run a laundry service and the school where all the children go.
This book is only 128 pages and yet it slices beyond the heart of the matter to the soul of the person. In the days leading up to Christmas Bill makes a delivery at the convent that forces him into a deeply introspective space. He is a simple man who knows himself to have a good, happy life, but suddenly he’s overcome with questions about his past, his upbringing, and what being a good man means. It’s heart-wrenching, incandescent reading.
Mercury by Amy Jo Burns: Review to follow
I loved Tim Johnston’s debut Descent but am going to let go of him as an author as this is the second of his books I thought was only so-so. I appreciate a slow-burn mystery, but unless managed properly the tension is lost. In Distant Sons Sean Courtland finds himself in a small Wisconsin town getting his truck fixed and taking on a small construction project for a local. He hires a man he’s just met to help him and mysterious, problematic events unfold around the two. These are layered on top of the town’s legacy of three young boys who disappeared 30 years ago. This feels like deep sea fishing—throw as much chum in the water as possible and hope someone bites. Maybe someone will, but not me.
Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones: Review to follow
Finders Keepers is the second novel in the Bill Hodges trilogy. Good news: It reunites Hodges and his friends Holly, Jerome, and Barbara. The plot centers around a reclusive author and an obsessive fan (think Misery, but more complex). I liked it, but nowhere near as much as Mr. Mercedes. This has a shambling pace until the last 10% explodes with action. Does look at very interesting questions about the relationship between authors, their work, and readers. Namely, readers can’t get angry when a fictional character doesn’t do what we want them to do (I get this, but don’t always agree ).
Any great January reading I should try? What was your favorite book this month?