Marie’s Reading: “The Heavenly Table” by Donald Ray Pollock

Heavenly TableThe Heavenly Table is set in 1917 in and around a small town in Ohio.  One storyline concerns the Jewett brothers, the other a farmer named Ellsworth Fiddler.  The Jewett boys live a poor, hardscrabble life with their crazy father, Pearl.  Ellsworth lost his family savings in a swindle, and his son Eddie has taken to drinking and disappearing.  As the book goes on, these storylines grow and then intersect.

Along the way there are several more subplots and characters whose stories converge with those of the Jewetts or Ellsworth (or both), adding to the layered and well-populated feel of the story.

The Heavenly Table is atmospheric and vivid.  Engrossing, gritty and dark, and completely absorbing.  There’s a certain raw quality to Pollock’s writing, one that can be gory and gruesome.  There’s a lot of violence in this book, of many different kinds. And yet there’s also pathos and humor, and maybe even a kernel of goodness.

It’s got the feel of a Western, with all the outlaws and whores and soldiers and poor farmers.  But it’s the more the modern, nuanced kind, without too many good guys or lone heroes.  Interestingly, I noticed that one of the subject headings for this book is “Noir fiction.”  So-called “rural noir,” with lots of bleakness and darkness, is pretty in right now.  Sort of a descendant of Southern Gothic.

For readers of Daniel Woodrell, particularly Winter’s Bone.  I’d also suggest Black River by S.M. Hulse if you want something with a similar Western tone but not quite as violent or bleak.  Kings of the Earth or Finn by Jon Clinch might also be good.  Also, do try Pollock’s other books, Knockemstiff and Devil All the Time.

–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by Jack Thorne ; based on an original story by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Reading a play is never the same as reading a novel, of course.  Plays are meant to be seen.  But I’ll still take it!  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Set nineteen years after the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the play picks up where the seventh book left off.  Then we jump a few years, to follow Harry’s son Albus and Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius at Hogwarts.  The two strike up a friendship as they try to define themselves outside of their famous (or infamous) parents.

The play explores the same themes as the books do: the power of love and sacrifice, the long shadow the past casts, and how the choices we make define who we are.  It’s also quite funny and quite touching, just like the books–really, Thorne does a great job of capturing Rowling’s style and humor and character voices.

It’s great to see the old gang back together, and to see how they’ve aged.  I particularly love Ron and Hermione in this story, and all they’re given to do and the way their relationship is explored.  The new characters are great as well, and I love the relationship between Albus and Scorpius.  There are twists and surprises all the way through, and some wonderful callbacks and references to the books.

I’m being cagey because I don’t want to give anything away.  If you want to risk a bit, click those links in the photos!  Suffice it to say that, while reading the script is no patch on seeing The Cursed Child in production (just look at those photos!) it’s a nice return to a world and characters that always reward repeat visits.

–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “Pond” by Claire-Louise Bennett

PondPond is a collection of first-person stories, told by a woman who lives in a tiny cottage on the outskirts of a village.  Every piece is full of her observations, thoughts, and the detail (sometimes microscopic) of everyday life.

Slowly, page by page, phrase by multi-layered phrase, the narrator’s character is revealed.  She has secrets, she has perhaps something more than just odd habits.  The sense of time is confused, as are the other people the narrator talks about.  There’s a lot left for the reader to piece together and figure out about her.  At the end you’re left with an impression, a feeling, more than anything else.

The narrative voice and the style are wonderfully off-key, just slightly out of tune–the feeling really is one of being trapped inside the head of someone who’s alone way too much.  Or maybe trapped in a small room with that same person, and they will not stop talking at you.

Bennett does such strange and beautiful things with words.  It’s like poetry, almost.  You have to pay attention to every word.  This isn’t one to skim.  Here’s a quote, to give you an example of the voice and style:

“Look here, it’s perfectly obvious by now to anyone that my head is turned by imagined elsewheres and hardly at all by present circumstances–even so no one can know what trip is going on and on in anyone else’s mind and so, for that reason solely perhaps, the way I go about my business, such as it is, can be very confusing, bewildering, unaccountable–even, actually, offensive sometimes.”

Detailed, poetic, at times uncomfortable, Pond is a great choice if you enjoy reveling in language.

I was reminded of The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry while I was reading Pond, mostly because of the first-person, perhaps slightly unhinged narration.  The Divry book is more humorous in tone, though.  I also thought of The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, for the loneliness and anger in the narrative voice, though that one is a linear story.

–Marie

Marie’s Favorite Books About Homes and Houses

Husband and I bought a house this morning.

Here’s a relevant reading list.

The Good House by Ann Leary

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Our Own Snug Fireside: Images of the New England Home, 1760-1860 by Jane C. Nylander

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

That’s all for today.  I gotta go shelve some books to build up my biceps for hefting boxes.

–Marie

 

Marie’s Reading: “Revival: A Rural Noir” by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

I was going to wait for Halloween to tell you about this one but I can’t because it’s too good and I want to talk about it now.

Revival

For one day in rural Wisconsin, the dead come back to life.  Now this small town has been quarantined by the government, the so-called “revivers” try to go back to some kind of “life,” and Officer Dana Cypress is put in charge of dealing with those who came back from the dead and the media attention that came with them.

Haunting, compelling, and gruesome where it needs to be, Revival works as a police procedural, as a horror story, and as the story of an isolated and struggling small town. It’s also a nice examination of life and death, and the complex relationship people have with both.

Full disclosure: I found out about Revival while eagerly gorging myself on the latest installment of Chew, which included a preview of the cross-over story that the creators of both comics put together.

chew-revival

From the crossover comic.  Gives you a sense of the spirit of the endeavor.

I can’t wait for the next installment of Revival.  You’ll be seeing this one again during Horror month.

–Marie

Adult Summer Reading 2016

Hi Adults!  We’re playing Bingo again for our summer reading program!

Marie's Picks

For example: here’s the Bingo card of my picks!

Here’s the deal:

You don’t need to register this year.  Just pick out a Bingo card, grab some Reader Review sheets, and get reading!  When you’ve completed a title, bring your card to the library and we’ll stamp the square for you.  Once you’ve completed a row, you get a little prize!  When you’ve completed two rows, you get Book Bucks, for use at our library book sales!  When you get a blackout, you get a bigger prize!

We post your review sheets on a bulletin board so that everyone can see what others are reading.  These sheets also become your raffle tickets for the drawing at the end of the program–the grand prize is a gift certificate to a local bookstore.

Happy Reading!

–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “All Things Cease to Appear” by Elizabeth Brundage

all-things-cease-to-appear-1Quick one for today, post-gorgeous holiday weekend.  It’s a blend of suspense, mystery, ghost story, and family story told with rich prose and a haunting tone–All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage.

At the beginning of the story, George Clare finds his wife murdered in their old farmhouse in upstate New York.  He’s the immediate suspect, but his parents manage to bail him out, and the police can’t get enough evidence to bring a case against him.

From there, the story goes back in time to show the backstory of the Clares and the story of their marriage, and how the murder is just the latest crime in a string of them.  We also learn the story of the Hales, who owned the farm before the Clares moved in.  Soon the story shifts to more of a “how-dunnit” than a “who-dunnit,” blending with the story of a poor small town and the people who try to survive there.  There’s also just a hint of the supernatural, but just enough to add another dimension to the story and characters.

The sense of place and the atmosphere is wonderfully evocative–the whole book feels cold, a little desperate, a little bleak.  The intense moments sneak up on you.  This is a very rich, well-crafted story, with strong characters and a good dose of atmosphere.  The pace is slow, but the characters and the mystery keep the story going.

If you enjoy the Dublin Murder Squad books by Tana French, or the slightly-otherworldly intricate suspense of Jennifer McMahon, give this one a try!

–Marie