In The Writer's World

Alas, dear readers, one of my absolute favorite authors, Louise Penny, surprised but did not delight me this past year with her latest, “The Long Way Home“. The most recent Armand Gamache mystery finds the famous homicide detective retired and living with his wife in Three Pines. He is not at ease, and neither is his neighbor Clara, whose husband Peter has not returned at the agreed-upon date after their year of separation. So she, her friend  Myrna, Armand and his now son-in-law Jean Jacques Beauvoir go looking for him. The both the clues and the investigation are endless, silly, and boring. But most likely the thing that got my dander up was that Peter, wherever he’d gone to, was better off left there. I have low tolerance for men who insist on being miserable, all the while undermining and behaving badly toward their long-suffering wives.

Why did she want him back? Why was this book written? I get it that the author’s themes deal heavily in recovery, redemption, and forgiveness.  This book just didn’t resonate. There’s always 2015. I still love you, Armand!

Richard Russo’s tender and beautiful memoir of his mother, “Elsewhere“, captivated me from the start. The relationship was complicated. Russo became his mother’s caretaker at a very young age–long before he could understand the relationship’s dynamics. Though he learned much along the way, he only truly achieved clarity at the end of her life. It was a fascinating, though oft-repetitive journey. Through it all, Russo also documents the rise of his writing career and how his early days formed the themes and theses of his novels. A great read.

Another amazing non-fiction read that immersed me this past year was “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown. Even though we all know from the get-go that our boys from Washington won the 1936 Olympic Gold Medal in team rowing in Berlin, we still can’t believe it. The book portrays a gritty bunch of kids, most of whom suffer from the grim realities of The Great Depression. One’s story is more harrowing than most. Abandoned by his family and dirt poor, he makes up his mind that he will go to college. He stumbles into the rowing club, and because he doesn’t fit anywhere else, it becomes his life. The boys’ stories, and those of the coaches and, in particular, their British boat builder, are fascinating. But even more so is the heart-stopping drama of the competitions and the odds overcome. This could be one heck of a movie.

And finally, a complete surprise from out of left field: “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz. I received a review copy of this book in a publisher’s giveaway last spring. Otherwise I would never have known about it. What an enticing mystery about a smug, successful psycho-therapist who is so involved in the trappings of her life and her image and her family’s image that she can’t see the proverbial forest until she realizes her husband has disappeared and one of the school moms is found murdered. And then it gets really weird. I couldn’t put this one down; neither can my friends as it makes the rounds!

Happy reading in 2015! I’m setting a goal of 50 books for the new year. Let me know your reading plans.

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  • Betsy Holzgraf says:

    I always read your newsletters from “cover to cover” and am delighted when you recommend a new author to me. I agree about Peter. I’ve read several of the books and find him tiresome with few redeeming qualities. I wish Armand had moved somewhere else and introduced us to some new people :-).
    I’m putting “You should have known” on hold at the library, unless, of course, when I”m at a bookstore it pops out at me. My local is “Wallace Books.” I was born in Buffalo, NY but we moved to Portland when I was 10. My mother’s close knit family of cousins lived in upstate NY, near Vermont and smack in the middle of many of the settting for many of Russo’s books. I become engrossed in his characters and plots, just read Bridge of SIghs. I did get a little tired of “Lucy’s” provincialism and general doormat personality. Thanks for all the news you send.

  • Jennifer says:

    I always look forward to your take on good or not so good books. This was a wonderful wrap up for this past year. Thanks Judy!

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