Thursday, July 22, 2021
Structure. Joan Silber structures her novel titled, Secrets of Happiness, as linked stories and that was a perfect way to engage readers. Six narrators provide readers with deep perspectives as they reveal their part of the total story, and we continually improve our understanding of the “whole” story from these narrators. We never quite get a whole story, which is perfect. We get to observe different lives, some overlapping or connecting, and others oblivious to the world as experienced by other narrators. Happiness is different for these different narrators, and by the end of the novel, we are led to thinking about what happiness means for us. Silber’s prose draws us in, her insights intrigue us, and her ability to show us a wide range of people just like us allows us to connect whatever dots we choose in our own pursuit of happiness. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Secrets of Happiness from amazon.com.
Magnitude. There’s one big takeaway from this book titled, Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, by Daniel Kahneman, Oliver Sibony and Cass R. Sunstein: there’s a lot more variability in judgments than you think there is. The authors elaborate in multiple fields how much we are unaware of the extreme variability in those judgments that should be identical. They explain why we are susceptible to noise in making judgments, and what steps individuals and organizations can take to reduce that noise. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Noise from amazon.com.
Unnamed. Perhaps Jane Candas Dorsey chose to withhold the name of the narrator of her novel titled, The Adventures of Isabel, because the narrator would assume that we know who she is. I expect few lukewarm reactions to this novel: most readers will either find this protagonist and narrator exciting or too different to accept. Mystery fans will love the sharp prose, the snarky amateur detective, and the plot’s rapid pace. Having read this first in a planned Epitome Apartments series, I want to get to know this narrator a lot better, and I am prepared to savor the fine writing and laugh at the sharp wit. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Adventures of Isabel from amazon.com.
Infighting. If someone you loved died of covid-19, take a pass on reading a book by journalists Yasmeem Abutaleb and Damian Paletta titled, Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History. Your heart will be broken again when you read about chaos, incompetence and infighting as the Trump administration responded to the pandemic. For readers interested in public policy, reading almost five hundred pages on this subject will involve reliving a recent experience with the guidance of journalists. This is the story of a tragedy in how a crisis was mismanaged. Despite my focus on what failed as described in this book, it’s fair to say that the authors also call attention to good things that were done. The running count of deaths as time went on overshadowed what good steps were taken in response to the virus. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Nightmare Scenario from amazon.com.
Haydn. For the twenty-first installment of his series featuring Israeli spy Gabriel Allon, a novel titled, The Cellist, Daniel Silva adds music to the arts he includes after focusing on painting in all the earlier novels. Silva focuses on dirty Russian money and how it is being used to cause mischief in the West. There’s an entity called the Haydn group that has a plan to foment violence in the United States, and Allon works on stopping the plot with help from a talented musician whose expertise from working at a dirty bank that launders Russian money helps Allon defeat the enemy. Fans of this series and protagonist are those most likely to enjoy this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Cellist from amazon.com.
Wild. The baker’s dozen collection of short stories by Whitney Collins in a book titled, Big Bad, are funny, thoughtful, quirky and in each case, deep. Collins’ finely written prose can capture character in a few sentences and reveal with great creativity some aspect of the darkness inside each of us, that thing that gets the best of us from time to time. Collins places characters in ordinary places and reveals the extraordinary depths of human behavior. Each of these stories can be a well-savored treat for those readers who love short fiction and enjoy the breadth of ways to live one’s life. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Big Bad from amazon.com.
Tensions. In Odie Lindsay’s debut novel titled, Some Go Home, individual people and particular places stand in for the tension in many families and communities over the past sixty years. The fictional town of Pitchlynn, Mississipi could be any hometown. The tension of race and class can be focused at antebellum Wallis House, now with new owners in contemporary and gentrifying Pitchlynn, but with vivid echoes of a murder there in 1964. Lindsay gives us race, class, memory and a cold hard look at reality. The prose is finely written, the characters complex, and the narrative flows in irregular ways that seep us into a story that we can come to see from many perspectives and time periods. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Some Go Home from amazon.com.