Archives: Fiction

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My Sister The Serial Killer – by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister the Serial Killer may be the most literal title of any novel I have posted here. The novel is one sister’s story about her sister who kills her lovers, in what seems like rapid succession. Korede, the older less attractive sister, is a nurse at St. Peter’s in Lagos. Ayoola, her beautiful younger … Continue Reading

The Nickel Boys – by Colson Whitehead

Let me start by saying this is an excellent book. This is a very sad book but it is an excellent book. The Nickel Boys is the story of Elwood Curtis, an African American teenager with immense potential whose life and future take an unexpected turn. In 1962 Elwood’s grandmother gives him a copy of … Continue Reading

Varina – by Charles Frazier

“Varina” is the fictionalized story of Varina Davis, wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The novel starts in 1906, when James Blake tracks down Varina at The Retreat, in Saratoga Springs. James, a 46 year old biracial school teacher, had been raised by Varina and lived with her family until he was around 6 years … Continue Reading

Machines Like Me – by Ian McEwan

Those of you who follow my blog know that I rarely start a review with my opinion about a book. Well rarely, but not never. Machines Like Me is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The writing is amazing, the story is captivating and intriguing and the interplay between … Continue Reading

Unsheltered – by Barbara Kingsolver

Unsheltered is a none too subtle examination of the times we live in, and the blinders that prevent us, and likely have always prevented us, from being our true selves and securing a meaningful future. The story takes place today and in the 1870s in Vineland, New Jersey. Today’s story and the story of yesterday … Continue Reading

Milkman – by Anna Burns

“Milkman” is a novel that is difficult to describe. It is not clear exactly where it takes place (somewhere in Northern Ireland) and none of the characters have names (at least not what we think of as proper names). Some of the paragraphs go on for pages and the writing style can be described best … Continue Reading

Killing Commendatore – by Haruki Murakami

“Killing Commendatore” is prototypical Murakami—magic realism meets philosophical quandary meets spirituality meets self-awareness—enveloped in a highly unique story with a range of characters. The protagonist, whose name we are never told, is a talented artist who has been wasting his talents painting portraits. Although his talents might be wasted, his skill is apparent in his … Continue Reading

The Friend – by Sigrid Nunez

“The Friend” is a novel about writing, friendship, loss and man’s (in this case woman’s) relationship to animals, most particularly dogs. Although short (214 pages), The Friend packs a punch in the way it touches on life’s many wonders. The novel is in part a musing on writing. In this part of the novel, the … Continue Reading

There There – by Tommy Orange

There There is the story of urban Native Americans, whose lives come together at a massive Powwow at the Oakland Coliseum. There There is not a cheerful tale and involves a lot of characters. Tony Loneman is a physically disfigured 21 year old whose appearance and mental capacity were adversely affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. … Continue Reading

Ohio – by Stephen Markley

Ohio is a story about a fictional small town in Ohio, New Canaan, “cradled in the state’s northeast quadrant, equidistant from the cities of Cleveland and Columbus…”. Ohio tells the story of the town’s long term devastating impact on a group of young people who grew up there. The novel starts in October of 2007 … Continue Reading

Salvage the Bones – by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward’s National Book award winner “Salvage the Bones” is a  complex, often difficult story that simply pulls the reader into the lives of a poor Mississippi family that ultimately survives Hurricane Katrina. In a Question and Answer session regarding the book, Jesmyn Ward says “I often feel that if I can get the language … Continue Reading

Red White Blue – by Lea Carpenter

“Red White Blue” is a literary espionage novel, written in a very unique style. The story unfolds in a slow, deliberate and fascinating way, building on itself and bringing the reader directly into the fold. Anna is the character around whom the story revolves. Anna was effectively raised by her father, Noel, after her mother, … Continue Reading

Southernmost – by Silas House

“Southernmost” is a thoughtful contemplation of tolerance, acceptance and the role of religion in everyday life. Asher Sharp is a self-taught Pentecostal preacher in a small town outside Nashville, Tennessee. When we first meet him, the town is in the midst of a flood brought on by incessant rain and a rising river. Asher rescues … Continue Reading

Safe Houses – by Dan Fesperman

I decided it was time to take a break from my usual books focused on life’s hard questions, deep introspection and angst. I felt like it was time to lighten up, so I tackled Dan Fesperman’s 400 page “Safe Houses.” And I am glad I did! Safe Houses is a story of CIA intrigue, with … Continue Reading

The Melody – by Jim Crace

“The Melody” tells the story of an aging singer, who at a younger stage of his life was beloved and famous and is clinging to the melodies as he ages. Alfred Busi is living in a no name town, likely somewhere in Europe, in an age old villa on the sea. He had lived in … Continue Reading

The Dakota Winters – by Tom Barbash

“The Dakota Winters” is a story of historical fame and privilege, told through the eyes of Anton Winter. Anton is the son of Buddy Winter, a famous talk show host who is attempting a comeback after having a breakdown on his own show and simply walking out. The Winter family lives in the famous Dakota, … Continue Reading

Gone So Long – by Andre Dubus III

“Gone So Long” tells the story of a family, mainly Susan and her grandmother Lois, dealing with the lifelong impact of the murder of Susan’s mother/Lois’s daughter—Linda Dubie Ahearn. Linda was murdered by her own husband, Daniel Ahearn, in front of their then three year old daughter, Susan. Daniel served 15 years in prison for … Continue Reading

Transcription – by Kate Atkinson

“Transcription” is a very enjoyable novel about spies and counter spies in England during World War II. The story is full of surprises. The lead character, Juliet Armstrong, had wanted to join one of the women’s armed forces. But when war was declared she was summoned to an interview and found herself part of the … Continue Reading

The Mars Room – by Rachel Kushner

“A lot of worlds have existed that you can’t look up online or in any book, even as you think you have the freedom to find things out…And if someone did remember [certain people]…that person’s account would make them less real, because my memory of them would have to be corrected by facts, which are … Continue Reading

Home Fire – by Kamila Shamsie

“Home Fire” is a 21st century tragedy. The novel speaks to the unintended consequences of intolerance, isolation, extremism, radicalization and bigotry. Many months ago I reviewed the memoir “They Told Me to Come Alone.” Home Fire seems to me to be the fictional companion to Souad Mekhennet’s memoir. Home Fire focuses on the Muslim Pasha … Continue Reading

Clock Dance – by Anne Tyler

Clock Dance is the story of Willa and her clock dance through life. Willa first learns the concept of clock dance when she is 61 years old. But that part of the story comes later in this review. The novel is broken down into life stages. We first meet Willa in 1967 when she is … Continue Reading

Warlight – by Michael Ondaatje

“In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals.” Warlight is a story of intrigue during World War II. The narrator of the story (Nathaniel) is 14 years old when his parents announce that they are leaving for a year to go to Singapore for … Continue Reading

Asymmetry – by Lisa Halliday

“asymmetry a·sym·me·try (ā-sĭm’ĭ-trē) n.  Disproportion between two or more like parts; lack of symmetry.” Dictionary.com “Asymmetry” is three interlocking yet seemingly unrelated stories revolving around writing. Alice, a 25 year old editorial assistant, meets Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Ezra Blazer at a park where she is reading a manuscript. Ezra is 65 years old when they meet. Throughout the first story a relationship develops between … Continue Reading

An American Marriage – by Tayari Jones

“An American Marriage” is a story about resilience in the face of conflicting emotions and frustrated expectations. An American Marriage is about rising above racial inequity and social injustice. And finally, An American Marriage is about coincidence and how life’s twists and turns are sometimes beyond our control. The novel starts with an introduction to … Continue Reading
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