Helen Moran learns of her adopted brother’s suicide and returns to her childhood home to investigate, learning about her family, her brother and herself. This is a strange book, funny, disturbing, uncomfortable. Helen is sensitive, oblivious, well-meaning, disastrous, cringeworthy and compelling.
Maria, Niall and Celia are brought up together, two step-siblings, one half-sister, with their famous, eccentric, and not very attentive parents. Nearing forty, and have just been called parasites, they look back on their lives. None of the three are very likeable; one has realised none of her potential, two have an obsessive, destructive sort of relationship, and have exceeded expectations in many ways, and now they must all account for themselves and look ahead. Not as compelling as I had hoped, The Parasites was still a fascinating look at creativity, fame, privilege, selfishness and the bonds that tie people together.
Sofie Laguna is very good at writing about children who are very badly let down by their families, schools and society. The Choke is the story of Justine; abandoned by her mother, she lives with her Pop, who has his own demons, and is occasionally visited by her criminal father. Justine quietly tries to make sense of a confusing, and hurtful world, finding solace in nature. The book starts slowly, but then captured my heart. It’s dark, disturbing and very sad, but not without beautiful moments of love, kindness, and hope.
Having loved Everything I Never Told You, I expected to enjoy this book, and I did. It’s about a family with four teenaged children, living more than comfortably in an upper-middle class, American suburb. Their lives are going along as planned, until Mia and Pearl, an artist and her daughter, arrive and set in motion events that cause everyone to question what they believe about themselves. It’s about privilege, prejudice, vocation, love, fear and power. You know what has happened from the beginning, and then go back to understand why.
I really love this book! In order to tell his story, Cal Stephanides needs to go back and start with his grandparents. What follows is the epic story of a Greek family, beginning with an escape from burning Smyrna to their settling in Detroit. It is full of real history thrillingly entwined with the imagined; the Nation of Islam, the riots in Detroit (David Bowie song!) and an experience of being intersex. It is heartwarming, funny, over the top and very real at the same time.
Idaho is a story about the ripples of consequences, hope, forgiveness, loss, the fragility of life and situation, the power of love and friendship. There is plenty of plot, but it isn’t linear, or symmetrical. It is set, largely, on a lonely mountain in Idaho, where a family lives until something unexpected and shocking happens. The writing is beautiful, full of dreamy detail, with a wonderful sense of place.
I read My Name is Lucy Barton last year and found it a beautiful story. Anything is Possible is a companion book, in which Lucy features. It is, essentially, connected short stories about people in the small town Lucy Barton grew up in. It’s about strength of character, loneliness, loss, hope and the endlessly bizarre turns life and people can take. It’s sad, sweet, puzzling, complex and hopeful; I enjoyed it very much.
Commonwealth is the story of a complicated family. A man and a woman meet at a party, leave their spouses and marry each other. They each bring children to this new marriage; children now with two families, divided loyalties. When one of the children grows up, she meets a famous author and shares the story of their childhood. It’s a thoughtful, insightful book about the long lasting consequences of our actions, family ties and the ownership of our stories.
Although most events were predictable I enjoyed reading about this family in rural Victoria. It brings to light the affect of family secrets, experiences, expectations, history, perceptions and dynamics. Fiona has a great writing style that flows well.
I chose the audiobook of ‘Into the Water’ by Paula Hawkins, not as one who had read ‘The Girl on the Train’, but seen (and loved) the movie. Being the first audiobook I’ve listened to with not one but four narrators, with so many characters telling the story from their point of view, I actually thought that was clever. As each spoke in their own unique manner and voice, it helped recognise who was then telling the story, something I’ve seen others find confusing when reading the book. It was not quite the thriller I had hoped it would be, but I throughly enjoyed getting to know all the diverse characters (and such a range of accents) and wondering about, to quote the synopsis, ‘the stories we tell about our pasts and their power to destroy the lives we live now’.