November 4, 2023
To take the sting out of the end of Daylight Saving Time, we’ve started compiling your cold weather reading lists, including: a spectacular alternative Korea; a novel of the American wives from the Vietnam War; a Métis family saga to help celebrate Native American Heritage Month; and two books laced with humor about the essential value of human bonds in today’s world. All emphasize the importance of connections—to history and to each other.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
Same Bed Different Dreams
By Ed Park
Published by Random House
Park (Personal Days) returns after 15 years with an ambitious novel that posits, among other ingenious plot lines, a very different resolution to the Korean War. What if the Korean Provisional Government was not dissolved after WWll? The novel is populated by inventive character names (Soon, a techie; Parker Jotter, who claims to see UFOs) and place names (upstate New York’s Dogskill). Within this radically playful novel is a found unpublished masterpiece which gives the book its title. Part thriller, part futuristic imagining, it is filled with every possible pop culture reference. You will often pause to reread a comic line.
By Alice Mcdermott
Published by FSG
It’s no surprise that McDermott can set a scene and characters that immediately pull you in. Her moving new novel begins in Saigon during the Vietnam War with two wives of husbands sent there. They are from different classes and see their roles differently: Tricia is determined to be a helpmeet to her husband; Charlene is an ambitious do-gooder for the people whose lives are being destroyed by the conflict. Six decades later Charlene’s daughter contacts Tricia, revisiting the past and the role the U.S. played in that tragic war. Pitch perfect, it is easily one of the author’s best..
A Grandmother Begins the Story
By Michelle Porter
Published by Algonquin Books
Canadian memoirist and poet, Porter is a member of the Manitoba Métis Federation. Like the ancestors who handed down their stories to her, she has crafted a novel about five generations of women with a fierce attachment to the land and in particular the bison who roam it. As in many Indigenous stories Porter’s novel features not only the living but the dead, with voices from these richly drawn women, the spirits, and even animals. Through hardships (alcoholism, rehab, divorce, cancer) A Grandmother Begins the Story becomes a vivid tapestry told in alternating points of view by a writer whose imagination and love of the musicality of language shines through.
By Sigrid Nunez
Published by Riverhead
Our narrator ponders: “…why [do] I feel as though I have been mourning all my life.” As in What Are You Going Through, Nunez’s latest asks many questions as she shares the ruminations of her female protagonist. At once fresh, funny, and contemplative she probes the enduring fallout from the isolation of the pandemic and how vulnerable we still feel. This novel reminds us of the importance of our connection to the human, natural (see peonies), and animal (see parrots) worlds. As she has said, “Sometimes you have to go through a bad patch before you can produce something worthy.” This lovely novel could be retitled, “Why I Write.”.
The Happy Couple
By Naoise Dolan
Published by Ecco
Dolan tackles modern love as she did in her wonderful 2020 story collection, Exciting Times, gathering five characters as a wedding day approaches. From the hilarious opening scene between Luke, a communications strategist, and Celine, a professional pianist, that leads to an engagement, through the year to the actual wedding, Dolan gets the conundrum of commitment just right. The two are temperamentally different in most ways but it is very clear they have a connection that they might be sorry about losing. There are no guarantees in love, but following this group of friends is as entertaining as watching a ’90s Hugh Grant movie.