Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

In a series of short stories we discover one man's effect on popular music in the past, the present, and the near future. Also, we see the world around him and it's interconnectedness.

Bennie was a punk kid in a rotten band who couldn't get a date. Bennie is a record company owner navigating a new world of tech. His long-time assistant takes care of everything - and pockets quite a lot, too. Her best friend in college met a terrible end. Her son is interested in pauses during songs.

This book won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and I have no idea why I have not read it until now. It's all the things I love: music, fandom, quality writing, interconnected short stories.

Friday, May 19, 2017

All Grown Up by Jami Attengerg

What is adulthood, really, if you don't get married or have a family? No mortgage, a steady but boring job, no serious responsibilities ... things are less complicated for Andrea Bern than for many other 40 year olds. So why isn't she happy?

In vignette stories we get an idea of Andrea's life: a friend's wedding, getting to know a neighbor, conversations with her therapist, on a date, on the phone with her mother, watching a coworker give her first big presentation. Andrea's featherweight life is a contrast with her brother's huge and heavy responsibility to his own tiny family.

It's funny and a little sad, but very well written and quick to consume. The story is complex in the way life really is, and I understood this character because I have been her, at times. Loved it!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Love, Alice by Barbara Davis

In the 1960s, a young English woman is sent away in shame. In the now, a young widow wonders where things went so wrong. The two stories meet and intermingle under the guard of a sad South Carolina cemetery angel.

The most famous marker in the cemetery sits not far from Dovie's fiance's headstone, where she visits every day to eat her lunch and wonder why he committed suicide. But one day her attention is drawn over to the Tate angel when an elderly woman leaves a letter (and her glasses) there.

Dovie's beating herself up about something she had no control over, and she's falling apart at the seams. Suddenly, it's much more interesting to get involved in somebody else's drama, even though she can clearly see this meddling is going to be bad for her career and future.

I'm not sure why I picked this book up, and I'm even less sure why I kept reading - it's way too saccharine for my taste, but I persisted. It's not a bad book - if you like romance novels and fated love stories you'll enjoy it. There are twists and minor surprises along the way. It resolves well. (Blech.)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Something happened in the backyard, with six adults and three children in attendance, and everybody has the feels about it.

But you'll have to wait more than 200 pages to find out what happened, because the author keeps you in suspense through half the book as chapters flip back and forth between "we still haven't recovered from the barbecue" and "the day of the barbecue."

If I hadn't been reading this for book discussion, I probably would have quit at about page 25: too glossy and suburban for my taste. But I can't actually say I disliked the book overall - I'm gonna give it more of a meh, with bonus points for the quality of discussion that can (and did) spin out of it. Friendship, marriage, responsibility, guilt, sex, mental health - it's all in there.