Tag Archives: literary fiction

The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2012)

Like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Round House is narrated by a young person, 13-year-old Joe, of the Ojibwe tribe, whose mother has been brutally attacked and whose father, a tribal Judge, tries to find justice. As the story unfolds, Joe, with the help of his three friends, sees it as his responsibility to bring protection and vindication to his family.

The story is interwoven with colorful characters engaging Joe and his friends along their way. There is the ex-Marine priest who refuses to include target practice on gophers as part of Joe’s confirmation, the centenarian grandfather who tells stories of the tribe in his sleep and still enjoys worldly pleasures when he can get Sonia the ex-stripper to visit, and uncle Whitey, Sonia’s significant other who becomes jealous when she directs too much motherly attention to Joe. All of these play poignant and sometimes humorous scenes in the story.
The Round House is more than just a hunt for the attacker; it is the extended Native American family showing concern and helping one another, the tension and humor of dealing with the Anglo community, and young boys struggling to grow up. The story ends with hard happenings, but like Mockingbird, brings closure to the injustice.

Louise Erdrich’s novel also won the  2012 National Book Award.

Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham (2012)

I recommend the audio form of Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham to hear the Texas drawl and the expression of feeling in the readers voices. The story runs from preteen to late 30s of three orphans, two guys and the girl they both love, as they find their plans upset by some very bad acts and choices made in adolescence. The guys become star high school football players with offers of scholarships to a major university, while the girl, Cathy, abandons her dreams of medical school to stay in the home town and have the child she believes to be from her choice of the two guys, Tray.

Tray walks away and the other guy John, inexplicably to the community, abandons his football scholarship and enters Loyola in New Orleans in hope of becoming a Catholic priest. Twenty some years later Cathy is the owner of a successful restaurant, her son Will a graduate engineer with a good job and John a priest working closely with an older couple running an orphanage in the home county.

Tray, after a successful career in the NFL, finds he is dying and returns home to confess his wrongful teenage acts to the couple who have suffered greatly from those acts. Cathy and John are disturbed and unsure how to respond to Tray’s homecoming.

Reviews for this book have varied from 1 star (banal soap opera) to 5 stars (classic literature) depending on how the reader (listener) reacts particularly to the unexpected ending. These varied reactions may well show merit in this work

 

 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2012)

The author revisits Homer’s Iliad, and allows Patroclus to tell of his close friendship with Achilles before and during the Trojan War. Yes, she finds a love story in this ancient tale of heroes. Trouble comes from Achilles’ mother Thetis, who detests Patroclus and expends much effort in keeping Achilles from him and out of the war. She sends Achilles to Scyros disguised as a lady in waiting to the local princess; fate intervenes and Achilles becomes married to the princess and a father (of Pyrrhus) before he is joyfully found by Patroclus and unmasked by Greek generals looking for recruits.

At Troy, Achilles proves to be the best of the Greek warriors until he is killed by Paris and later joined in his grave by Patroclus’ ashes. Readers unfamiliar with Greek legends will be pleased to find a character glossary at the end of the novel. Some may be disappointed at so little told of the Trojan horse and the dipping of the baby Achilles in the river Styx.

Read more at the New York Times.

Check out a copy of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller today.

 

 

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008)

The White Tiger is a dark and funny novel which plunges the reader deep into the underbelly of modern India, a place where people are still very much prisoners to their own caste. The story unfolds as a series of letters to a Chinese official, and it is this device which brings the main character to life, revealing his wit, his flaws, and his deepest inner thoughts. We follow Balram through his daily life which is so oppressively frightening on the one hand but presented in such absurd scenarios that I actually laughed out loud.

Well written, and exploding with symbolism, the story is really about Balram’s struggle for freedom—freedom from “the Darkness” where most people live in subhuman conditions. It is a quick read, and after the first chapter, you won’t be able to put it down.

And since it’s such a quick read, those of you in your 20s and 30s should read it this weekend and join our GenLit Book Discussion Group on Monday, July 16 at 6:30 at Taste of India in Willowbrook. Get your copy of The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga today.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (2005)

It’s more depressing than what I usually read – and sadder than what I typically enjoy. And yet, I couldn’t put it down. As Library Journal said, “It’s hard to believe that such an inherently sad story could be so entertaining, but Foer’s writing lightens the load.”

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a rambling account from nine-year-old Oskar Schell, who is precocious, smart, and in a whole world of pain. His dad died on 9/11. When Oskar discovers a mysterious key in his dad’s closet, he embarks on a quest to solve one more riddle from his father.

Oskar is endearing and exasperating. The story is funny and sad, heartwarming and heartbreaking. The book has pages with an intimidating single block of text and pages with a single word. It is engrossing. And it made me want to hug my family.

Give this book a try – you won’t regret it.

Check the catalog for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and other books by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (2009)
I absolutely loved this book! I thought it was enlightening, thought-provoking, and truly engaging. It is beautifully written, with richly-drawn sympathetic characters, and a storyline that spans five decades and several continents. I enjoyed learning about Ethiopia through the author’s vivid descriptions of the people, the land, the history, and the political turmoil.

From the first page, I was drawn into the absorbing life story of Marion and Shiva Stone, twins born to a nun in Ethiopia in 1954. I was so captivated by the lives of all of the characters that I didn’t want this story to end. I anxiously await another novel by this author, and plan to read his first two non-fiction books: My Own Country and The Tennis Partner

Talk Talk by T. C. Boyle

Talk Talk by T. C. Boyle (2006)

This book about identity theft will make you stop and think. There are wonderful characters that portray how it feels to be a victim of identity theft. The plot has twists along the way which keeps the story moving along. I was surprised by the story and think it is a good one. The best quote I saw after reading Talk Talk is from the Portland Oregonian. “Yet the book as a whole still resonates beyond the end, having provided not just entertainment but also tangible new experiences for readers to absorb.”

Learn all about the author and check out the reading guide to this provocative novel.

Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch

Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch (2010)
Kings of the Earth
fictionalizes the Ward brothers of Munnsville, New York, whose story was told in the documentary Brother’s Keeper. In this novel, the four brothers become the three fictional Proctor brothers: Vernon, Audie and Creed; who in their senior years still live on the family’s old and inadequate dairy farm. When the eldest brother dies, apparently after being suffocated, the local authorities take a confession from the brother, Creed, to explain the death.

Ranging from the 1930s to 1990s and back again, we hear a rural chorus of voices telling the story of three brothers. Recalling William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, each chapter is headed with a character name and told from his point of view and each releases essential information. Some of the chapters are little more than a few sentences, but effectively present the story of conflict between old versus new – rural versus modern. Inspiring and poignant, this novel by Clinch addresses one of Faulkner’s favorite themes: our ability to endure.

Visit the author’s webiste and view his reading guide. Read the L.A. Times review.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010)
If you’re looking for a novel you can really “sink your teeth into,” you’ll like this story of a liberal Minneapolis family dealing with themselves, each other, and the political climate during the Bush years. Well drawn, multidimensional characters and the author’s smart, sometimes humorous and often irreverent writing, add to the book’s appeal.

Listen Jonathan Franzen discuss his book on All Things Considered and read the New York Times review.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (2009)
An immigrant tale set in the early 1950s, Brooklyn follows Eilis Lacey as she journeys from Ireland to New York City to escape economic hardship and begin a new life. This heartwarming coming of age story filled with grit and determination may move too slowly for some, but features interesting characters and lovely writing.

 Brooklyn was the Chicago Public Library’s selection for “One Book One Chicago” in spring 2010. Read more about the book and visit the author’s website.