Over the past two weeks, I’ve had a slight hip injury (incurred while hiking the top three miles of Pikes Peak without enough warm clothes), and a cold that knocked me flat for a couple of days. Also a side effect of the big hike, probably, and someone said, “Why do you keep doing these things if you get hurt/sick?” And my answer is: because it’s exhilarating. Because you can get a sprained ankle stepping off a curb. Because the air is as sweet and crisp as apple juice up there. And because CR actually chatters above 10,000 feet.
Anyway, I’ve been reading like a glutton, devouring one book after another with sometimes barely a breath between. As always, a few were ordinary–fast and entertaining, but forgettable. One or two were boring, so I put them aside for now (it could just be me, at this very moment, and I won’t give them away until I have a chance to give them another try). Some were cookbook or research things that wouldn’t interest you out of context.
But I’ve also read three novels you must find. In reverse order of my passion:
#3 I SEE YOU EVERYWHERE, by Julia Glass. A literary tale of two sisters over a period of 25 years. As always, I love Glass’s voice, which is mature and elegant without a shred of self-consciousness. She is a compassionate writer with a clear eye she turns to the imperfect relationships within families, and as always, I loved her characterizations. The book is one I loved…with reservations. It’s hard to discuss without spoilers; suffice it to say there is a dark turn that I didn’t see coming. Perhaps I should have, but I think it’s meant to be a blindside, as life is sometimes. It left me feeling sad for several days, and for that reason, it won’t be to the taste of all my readers here.
Needing something a little more cheerful, I picked up
#2 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This one I can recommend without any reservations whatsoever—I can’t think of a single woman reader of my (vast) acquaintance who would not enjoy this book. It’s told entirely through letters between a thirty-something writer in London just after WWII, and a group of eccentrics and book lovers on Guernsey Island, which was occupied by the Germans. It’s an ode to reading and the power of the written word, but it’s also a beguiling tale of community and friendship and love. I loved it completely.
Which left me wanting even more, but what? What could follow something so charming and unique? Which led to something even more intriguing and my #1 book of the year so far:
#1 THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, by Garth Stein. If I tell you it is narrated by a dog, you might think itwon’t be something you’ll like…too precious, too self-conscious. But you would be wrong on both counts. Enzo the dog is one of the best characters I’ve ever met. He’s honorable and flawed, devoted and hungry for his own goals. His beloved master, Denny, is a race car driver who must face a terrible series of events (and there are some parts through the middle that make it hard to read). Throughout the novel, Enzo explains to us how racing works, who the masters are and how they make it work. I loved Enzo. I loved Denny. I love the graceful, wistful, beautiful message underlying the tale, but most of all, I loved the ending. Even thinking about it now, I feel myself getting choked up with gratitude all over again. No spoilers here, but let me just tell you that I spent the last ten or so pages alternately sobbing and laughing and stopping to savor the explosion of gratitude I felt toward Stein for getting it so perfectly, perfectly right.
The Art of Racing in the rain is compassionate and powerful, and dog lovers will love it with a particular passion, but so will women’s fiction readers of all sorts.
Things on my To Be Read list are:
The upcoming release of debut author Therese Walsh’s first book, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY; Jennie Shortridge’s new book, WHEN SHE FLEW ; Traveling With Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd (which I bought yesterday); and probably Eclipse for October sometime, just to get in the proper spirit of the season.
What are you reading? What’s next? Did you read any of my favorites, and if so, do you agree or disagree?