Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller 240 pages

In her fourth memoir about her family’s life in Africa, Fuller begins with a death and ends with another.  Ironically her father, Tim Fuller, the first of her family’s deaths, passed away in a Budapest hospital, although he spent almost his entire adult life in parts of Africa.  Through recollections of her parents lives, we learn that her father is a hard worker and a hard drinker with a ton of pithy rules to live by.  Her mother is a tough adventuress who loves animals more than humans.

I love Alexandra Fuller’s writing; it is sharp and clear.  In the final chapters of Travel Light, Move Fast her description of her grief after losing family members, threw me into her world of bottomless sorrow.  For me, her family was interesting, but her prose was sensational.

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Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller 240 pages

Inland by Tea Obreht 367 pages

The setting, for the most part, is Arizona in 1893.  Nora is the wife of Emmett who runs a newspaper that is going bust.  She also lives with two grown sons, her husband’s niece, and a young son who has suffered a head injury that has affected his vision and possibly his thinking process.  Nora’s husband and older sons have not returned home for several days, and her water supply is gone and there is very little to eat.  Lurie is on the lam for killing a young man.  He becomes part of a group of men riding The Arizona Territory on camels.  Inland alternates between Nora and Lurie’s life that year:  each dangerous and brutal.

Inland is not an easy read, but I felt it was worthwhile.  Sometimes it takes a few chapters to realize what is actually happening.  For instance, it took me at least 75 pages to realize that Lurie is narrating his tale to his camel named Burke.  For those who need to be drawn into a novel immediately,  don’t read Inland. For others who can wait it out and enjoy the language and originality of Obreht’s second novel, give it a try.

Inland by Tea Obreht 367 pages

Chances Are… by Richard Russo 301 pages

Lincoln, Teddy and Mickey became friends in the early 70’s when they attended college and had a meal job at the Theta House.  While working at the sorority, they all met and fell in love with Jacy.  After graduation, with the Viet Nam war making for an uncertain future, the four plan a last weekend of fun on Martha’s Vineyard.  On their final morning together, Jacy has disappeared and Mickey has taken off to Canada.  Forty years later, the three men meet again at the same home on the Vineyard.  Lincoln and Teddy spend much of the weekend trying to figure out what happened to Jacy and why Mickey went to Canada.

If you usually enjoy Richard Russo, you will not be disappointed in Chances Are . . .Lincoln, Teddy and Mickey are likeable characters, and just like them, the reader wants to discover what happened to Jacy.

Chances Are… by Richard Russo 301 pages

Wish You Were Here and Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan

I was so fond of Henry, Himself that I wanted to read O’Nan’s other two books about the Maxwell family.  Wish You Were Here describes the family’s visit to their house in Chautauqua the year after Henry’s death.  Emily, Henry’s wife, wants to sell the home which has been a summer haven for the Maxwell’s for three generations.  We see the same characters and learn what has happened to them several years after Henry, Himself.  Emily, Alone occurs about eight years after Wish You Were Here.  O’Nan presents us with the same family members, but Emily is the focal point of the plot..

I thoroughly enjoyed all three novels. Although I missed Henry in these last two books(he is a lovable, genuine, realistic character), it was a joy to read more about this family and discover how each member was getting on.

Wish You Were Here and Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead 210 pages

Nickel Academy is a reform school for boys in Florida.  It is segregated-white boys on the west side of the institution, black boys on the east side.  While Nickel calls itself an academy, it really is a house of torture.  The Nickel Boys focuses on the life of Elwood Curtis.  Elwood is a black youngster raised by his grandmother.  He is bright, motivated and takes the inspirational words of Martin Luther King, Jr. to heart.  Unfortunately, he is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was not enthralled with Whitehead’s, The Underground Railroad, although the rest of the world found it superb.  For me, The Nickel Boys is a much finer novel.  The characters, the plot, its presentation, and its historical significance make for an exceptional, thought-provoking work with a terrific ending.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead 210 pages

Say Say Say by Lila Savage 161 pages

Ella is a young woman living in Minneapolis who has delayed graduate school to become a caregiver.  Her most recent job involves helping  Jill, a woman in her 60’s who was in an accident that left her brain damaged.  Jill cannot take care of herself and although she can speak, what comes out of her mouth makes no sense.  Jill’s husband, Bryn, is wonderful-patient and loving, but he needs a break sometimes and that is why he hires Ella.  Say Say Say is Ella’s perception of her life with Jill and Bryn with many digressions into her own life and loves.

Say Say Say is the kind of book I will forgot I had read a year from now.  It’s not a bad novel, it just didn’t have enough depth or character development to grab me.

 

Say Say Say by Lila Savage 161 pages

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert 255 pages

Every summer I pick a classic to read, and this year it’s Madame Bovary.  Emma’s hand in marriage has been given to Charles Bovary, a doctor, a widower and a naive man who is madly in love with her.  For her, each year her marriage to Charles becomes more intolerable.  Two affairs and living way above her means doesn’t alleviate her unhappiness.

When Madame Bovary was published in France in 1857, it was scandalous and Emma Bovary was considered a fiend.  However, judging her today one might think about how awful it was for her to be forced into a marriage with a man she hardly knew.  Several times I have been disappointed in a well-known, much lauded classic.  Not this time-Madame Bovary is a good read with well defined characters and interesting topics to think about.

 

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert 255 pages