The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld. This was a very good read that was also slightly unusual in concept. Naomi is a child-finder, a detective of sorts who specializes in finding missing children when no one else can. When the book begins, she has been hired by the parents of Madison Culver, a girl who went missing in a snowstorm in Oregon three years ago and has not been seen since. It has become a cold case and most presume she is dead, so Naomi is the parents’ last chance. Naomi is good at finding missing children partly because her past is similar: when she was 9 or so she escaped from some kind of captivity she has almost no memory of. Bits and pieces of her horrific past come back to her, but most of what happened is unknown. Naomi was raised by a beloved foster parent, who helped her heal by letting her run free. Anyway, chapters of Naomi’s search are interspersed with chapters of Madison herself, who has been saved yet held captive by a kind of hermit. She keeps herself sane by thinking of her plight like that of the Snow Girl in her favorite fairy tale. It was all slightly odd, yet very well-conceived and hard to put down. I will definitely read her next book.
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. I loved this book. Amy Liptrot is in her early thirties and when the book begins has just returned to Orkney, an island off the coast of Scotland on which she grew up. She spent the majority of her twenties becoming a partying alcoholic in London, and has just completed rehab and is embarking on a sober life. She writes about her wild downward spiral in London, but the majority of the book is about her learning to live without alcohol, and doing so on Orkney and its surrounding, even smaller islands, which are all wind and sea and migrating birds. She’s such a good writer: there are no lectures or typical flashbacks or sobriety-speak. Rather, she concentrates on the small things, and on really seeing and experiencing, and random and poignant lessons learned. Part of what is so fascinating about it is the nature of those islands – they sounded to me like another planet, and one I would like to experience. I will read again.
Before The Fall by Noah Hawley. This was a wonderful read: there was nothing extraneous in the writing, the story was exciting, and the characters well-created. There is a plane accident, and a painter from Martha’s Vineyard rescues someone and swims for eight hours to safety. Hawley examines one by one the experiences of all the passengers in the days leading up to the plane crash. Then he details the painter’s immediate post-crash life, as well as the investigation into what went wrong and whether it was an accident or a terrorist act. It also ends up being an astute examination of our current 24-hour news cycle, and how the potential story is more important than the facts. It was excellent!
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish. I kept reading people say that this is one of the parenting books that they return to again and again, so finally got curious enough to procure myself a copy. And it was interesting – although my problem with the parenting books I’ve read so far, is that you basically get all you need to know from the first chapter, and then are stuck reading and reading and reading all the examples and the reiterations. If I were less OCD I would just, you know, read ONE chapter; but I can’t do that. So I read the whole thing and learned some good techniques about how not to shut your child down when they speak, and how not to lecture, but rather to re-phrase what the child has just told you, so that s/he feels heard and understood.
The Martian by Andy Weir. I read and reviewed this book a couple of years ago, so won’t write much again. I started thinking about it a couple of weeks ago and decided it would be fun to read again. And it was! Just as good the second time around.
Force of Nature by Jane Harper. The tag line for this new mystery by Jane Harper (her second) is: “5 women go on a hike. Only 4 return.” Ha! ‘Tis true, and it is up to Aaron Falk – the main character of her first mystery, The Dry, to figure out what happened. Things are complicated by the fact that one of the women was helping them build a case against the employer that sent the women into the bush in the first place (it was a company character/trust-building mandatory trip). Harper switches back and forth from current day and Falk and his partner’s work on the case, to the four days of the camping trip. It was really well-done and a fun read. Harper gets people right, and she focuses in on all the cross-currents between the women. It was suspenseful.
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell. This was a really wonderful memoir, conceived when O’Farrell’s middle child is diagnosed as a baby with horrible allergies. They are always having to administer her shots and rush her to a hospital, and it got her thinking about her own “brushes with death” in her life, and how experiencing such moments in life really isn’t an unusual thing. So she writes chapters of all different lengths and about moments as diverse as running into the street as a toddler to getting caught in a riptide to being mugged. It’s a brilliant idea and her writing is excellent. Her first story is about hiking to the top of a mountain by herself and encountering a lone man whom she immediately knew meant her extreme harm. It was the most terrifying story I’ve ever read!! I couldn’t stop thinking about it. O’Farrell doesn’t shy away from, well, anything, and her writing is as brave as she. It’s a fascinating book and I now want to read her novels.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. I had heard a lot about this book before I purchased it and then had it around for a while before reading it. I was a little resistant to what she was doing when I first began – which is writing a book that is many genres wrapped into one, mainly memoir and theory – the theory part of my brain is rusty from lack of use and at first resisted being awakened. However, I ended up really loving it and finding most of it quite interesting and very well done. Nelson writes of becoming a mother for the first time at a late-ish age, and dives deep into family and gender, queer theory, and heteronormative restrictions. While she was pregnant, her partner was having trans surgery, and she writes of the peculiars of that situation. She brings in a lot of art theory and exhibits she visits that are about gender and family, and then also writes a lot about the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and perversions and marriage. It’s much more cohesive than I’m making it out to be, and is very smart and thought-provoking.