What Today Brings
“The world’s magic sneaks up to you in secret, settles next to you when you have your head turned.” – Bill Clegg from his debut novel, “Did you Ever Have a Family”
Many of us are bracing ourselves for winter. For my money, or lack thereof, the best way to spend this season is to find a few good books and travel to parts unknown without leaving home. Here are a few I think worth your time.
Bill Clegg’s “Did You Ever Have a Family” is a novel you can disappear into. Set in a small Connecticut village, June Reid, suffers an unthinkable tragedy when her house catches on fire wiping out everything and everyone she holds dear. This may seem a morose premise to delve into a culture, but the author simply, honestly and with enormous depth introduces us to Edith, the florist and Lydia, the town outcast, George and even the couple who own the seaside resort where June finds herself hiding. It makes for a fascinating look at how big small-town life is.
“The Godfinch” is another fabulous read. For weeks after putting this book down I missed Theo, the protagonist. He became as real to me as people I know. This is an epic novel, taking us from Manhattan to Las Vegas and back, with characters ranging from art dealers to deadbeat dads who are former actors and alcoholics, and Theo’s father, who drags alongside him a hard rode floozy who in an instant becomes family. There is a young Russian who plays Artful Dodger to Theo’s Oliver. It is all quite dramatic and to tell you the truth, I was relieved in the end to be out of Theo’s exhausting life. Still, the action became part of my own experience, because it was absolutely mesmerizing. Donna Tartt, writes New York with such gritty perfection and a modern Las Vegas so vivid it made me sad with sense memories of my own decades in that surreal, soul crushing place. Still, her story is deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it won because it tells the tale of a soul and gets to the heart of our hearts, unflinchingly showing us it’s not all good, because it’s not.
Another book I believe a masterpiece is “The Resurrection of Joan Ashby” by Cherise Wolas. I loved this from beginning to end. Joan Ashby is a novelist who at the tender age of thirteen was the toast of the New York literary scene. When she meets her handsome, doctor husband, he promises to provide a life where she can spend her time indulging her writerly ability. Things take a turn when she finds herself pregnant. We follow Joan and her charmed life as she struggles to be the best mother she possibly can, raising two sons, who grow up as individual as they are brilliant. The problem is her secret life as child writer with a cult following is forever forefront in her mind, as is her plan to return to that calling. Her early stories trickle out in the larger narrative sparking twists and turns as we are introduced to the mind of the real Joan Ashby.
One last recommendation is “Blue Territory”. I devoured this novel, pulled in by Robin Lippincott’s poetic and piercing sentences. He calls this work a meditation on artist Joan Mitchell and that it is ... an insightful, colorful, vivid painting of words that bring a life back to life.
With poignant moments of imagination, Robin recreates with precision Mitchell’s girlhood before the Abstract painter lived and worked alongside contemporaries Jackson Pollack and Willem De Kooning. Key scenes with Mitchell’s creative circle of literary and artistic giants culminate into a fascinating, educating and emotional novella.
I hope this gives you incentive to bundle up and read. We will all come out of this long, cold winter better off for it.