I have not participated in Friday Finds in 2010, but since I found a few really interesting looking books this week I thought it would be a perfect time to jump back in and mention my finds.
- Bloodroot; Amy Greene - (amazon) - Bloodroot is that rare sort of family saga that feels intimate instead of epic. Set in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, it’s told largely in tandem voices that keep watchful eyes on Myra Lamb. She is a child of the mountain, tied to the land in ways that mystify and enchant those around her. There’s magic to Myra--perhaps because she has the remarkable blue eyes foretold by a nearly-forgotten family curse--but little fantasy to her life. Bloodroot is as much about the Lambs as it is about a place, one that becomes ever more vivid as generations form, break free, and knit back together. Its characters speak plainly but true, they are resilient and flawed and beautiful, and there's a near-instant empathy in reading their stories, which--even in their most visceral moments--are alluring and wonderful.
- The Information Officer; Mark Mills - Summer 1942: Malta, a small windswept island in the Mediterranean, has become the most bombed patch of earth on the planet, worse even than London during the Blitz. The Maltese, a fiercely independent people, withstand the relentless Axis air raids.
Max Chadwick is the British officer charged with manipulating the news on Malta to bolster the population's fragile esprit de corps. This is all, besides a few broken-down fighter planes, that stands in the face of Nazi occupation and perhaps even victory—for Malta is the stepping-stone the Germans need between Europe and North Africa.
When Max learns of the brutal murder of a young island woman—along with evidence that the crime was committed by a British officer—he knows that the Maltese loyalty to the war effort could be instantly shattered. As the clock ticks down toward all-out invasion, Max must investigate the murder—beyond the gaze of his superiors, friends, and even the woman he loves.
Filled with remarkably poignant and atmospheric details of life under siege, and indelible characters who live and breathe, The Information Officer is a taut, transporting thriller—an enthralling novel told with exceptional skill and style.
- Apparition and Late Fictions; Thomas Lynch - Heart-rending stories of life and death: a debut fiction collection by the award-winning author of The Undertaking. A Methodist minister gone astray, a grieving trout bum gone fishing with his father’s remains, an artist overwhelmed by incarnate beauty—these are just a few of the iconic yet utterly unique characters in Thomas Lynch’s spirited collection. Set in Michigan’s north woods, in Ohio’s interior, on islands, in casinos, and in distant cities, these stories are linked by the gone and not forgotten: former spouses, dead parents, and missing children. In pursuit of love and its redemptions, these are pilgrims haunted by memory, dogged by desire, made radiant by romance and its denouements.
With the elegant prose of Frederick Busch and the Irish sensibility of William Trevor, Lynch masterfully creates a world where mirage and apparition are commonplace, where people searching for connection and old comforts find them both near at hand and oddly out of reach.
- Settled in the Wild; Susan Shetterly - Starred Review. I live on land that has not surrendered the last of its wildness, Shetterly (The New Year's Owl: Encounters with Animals, People and the Land They Share) writes of her home in rural Maine. It keeps secrets, and those secrets prompt us to pay attention, to look for more. In her first essay collection in more than 20 years, she beautifully renders some of what she's learned in the decades since she and her then husband moved into an unfinished cabin—idealistic, dangerously unprepared, and, frankly, arrogant, she can see now. Most of these essays, however, focus on life after she's settled in, when she's learned to listen for the sounds of the coming spring through her open bedroom window or impulsively stands down a bobcat that's chased a baby rabbit into the middle of the road. Shetterly's eye for poetic detail is exquisite, especially in longer essays such as the story of how she nursed an injured raven back to health, after which it set up home on her roof and became best friends with her terrier. But she writes about her neighbors (even those she admits she never really knew) with equal grace and empathy. Let's hope it's not another quarter-century before her next collection arrives.