Category Archives: New Authors 2010

Waiting For Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk

Waiting For Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk

Doubleday, New York, 2009

Borrowed from the library.

Consuela is a nurse working at the Sevilla Institute for the Mentally Ill.  Her days are long, her nights somewhat lonely.  One day a man is brought to the Institute.  He was found in the straits of Gibraltar, battered and bruised and clearly delusional.  He believes he is Christopher Columbus. Consuela and those working with her must help this man discover who he really is.

The passage from freedom to incarceration is never an easy one. The passage from an unacknowleged, untested sanity to a diagnosed insanity is equally problematic.  The first time Nurse Consuela Emma Lopez entered his world, it was with nervousness-with the trepidation of a sparrow pecking the ground a few meters in front of a perfectly motionless cat.  He was immobile on a bed in the admitting area, restrained and drugged.  He’d arrived at the institute kicking and screaming. From page 1.

I was hooked from the first paragraph.  Trofimuk has created a character so well drawn that it is easy to forget he is not Christopher Columbus.  Those around him struggle to find the truth, yet fear the truth may cause him to disappear into madness forever.

This novel is about the stories we tell ourselves and each other, sometimes out of a sense of fun or drama, sometimes from necessity.  It is even more about how we listen.

One the morning of the liturigal feast of Saint Pammachius, Columbus is in a lawn chair, overlooking the garden.  He is wearing his standard institute-issue maroon robe and gray socks.  He looks like any number of other patients wandering around the courtyards and gardens surrounding the institute.  He’s speaking to Consuela over his left shoulder.  “I have to tell you, poeple used to roll up on the beach on a regular basis-well, chewed-up bodies anyway.  When I lived in Palos we’d find them all the time-stinking and rotten.  Even the foulest of birds or animals wouldn’t touch them.”

“I’m sorry?” She really was not in the mood for a story.  She was unfocused-half watching the ducks in the pond, half keeping an eye on him.  She’d rather be curled up in bed reading.

“Dead people.  On the beach.  The result of shipwrecks.” From page 55.

It’s hard to tell you more without giving too much away.  There is a deep knowledge of history in the stories Columbus tells but that history is combined with the present day.  The stories are wonderful, but the interweaving of past and present is strangely disconcerting.   Trofimuk uses this device to give the sense of someone running away into the past to avoid the trauma of the present.  How one’s inner world can seem much, much safer then the outer one.  It is a wonderful way to tell the story of Columbus’s madness and  of his recovery.

I want to thank Jill at Fizzy Thoughts for introducing me to Waiting For Columbus.

Other reviews:

Book Addiction

Fizzy Thoughts

ReviewsByLola’s Blog

S. Krishna’s Books

The Book Lady’s Blog

16 Comments

Filed under CanadianBookChallenge4, Fiction, New Authors 2010, Review

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Translated from Japanese by Megan Backus

Grove Press, New York, 1993

Borrowed from the library.  This is my second book for the Japanese Literature Challenge 4.  Thanks to Bellezza for organizing this wonderful event.

Oh, what a book!  Kitchen is a combination of a novella and a short story.  Simply and beautifully written, they present emotions in a way that is direct and clear, never simpering or overly sweet.   Both tell of loss, love and family and I moved through then easily.  Sometimes the words felt like a  warm breeze, sometimes like a sudden shower.   Yoshimoto’s storytelling is magic, reading this book I did not expect the depth I found there.  So subtle, so simple, it all snuck up on me.

Kitchen is the story of Mikage, a young women who has lost most of her family.  She lives with her Grandmother, but is always aware of the possibility of loss.

The space that cannot be filled, no matter how cheerfully a child and an old person are living together – the deathly silence that, panting in the corner of the room, pushes its way in like a shutter.  I felt it very early, although no one told me about it. From page 21.

When her Grandmother dies she is invited by a friend to join him and his mother in their home.  These kind people help Mikage open herself to memories and emotions.

In the uncertain ebb and flow of time and emotions much of one’s life history is etched in the senses.  And things of no particular importance, or irreplaceable things, can suddenly resurface in a cafe one winter night.  From page 75.

Part of this novella are strangely chilling.  Maybe it is the shadows of Mikage’s past, like ghosts, that create this effect.

The second part of this little book is a short story, Moonlight Shadow, also about love and loss.  It reads like  a fairy tale.

In retrospect I realize that fate was a ladder on which, at the time, I could not afford to miss a single rung.  To skip out on even one scene would have meant never making it to the top, although it would have been by far the easier choice. What motivated me was probably that little light still left in my half-dead heart, glittering in the darkness.  Yet,without it, perhaps, I might have slept better. From page 127.

While reading this book I kept thinking of  the fall of cherry blossoms in Kurosawa’s Dreams. Kitchen is that beautiful.

Other reviews:

A Striped Armchair

Adventures in Reading

An Adventure In Reading

Regular Rumination

The Reading Life

14 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Japanese Literature Challenge 4, New Authors 2010, Review

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

Translated from the Japanese by Edward G. Seidensticker

Vintage International, New York, 1995

Borrowed from the library.

This novel, set in Osaka during the years leading up to World War II, tells the story of the four Makioka sisters, members of a wealthy merchant family now in decline. In gentle prose Tanizaki gives us a picture of each sister and of the struggle between traditional, aristocratic Japanese culture and the  modern influences filtering in from Europe and America.

A main theme that weaves through this novel is the strict and appropriate behavior for young women in  Japanese.  Each of the sisters is different but all are expected to follow the same path, learning the arts of women, marriage and children.  The family is trying to find a husband for Yakiko, the third sister.  They have been trying for years.  Each candidate has had his faults and, as the years go by, the offers of marriage become few and far between. The men become less and less “acceptable”.

The youngest sister, Taeko, known as Koi-San, is rebellious and struggles for independence.  In the end she suffers great loss.  Possibly Tanizaki’s idea of what women will suffer as punishment for turning away from traditional culture.  Then again, the staid and honor-bound behavior of the family as not brought about the best outcome either.

I found the best parts of the book to be the quiet times, bits of daily life gently painted like sumi-e, with soft strokes.  Tanizaki was wonderful at creating a sense of place and of ritual events.

The house was built in the old Osaka fashion.  Inside the high garden walls, one came upon the latticed front of the house.  An earthen passage led from the entrance to the rear.  In the rooms, lighted even at noon by but a dim light from the courtyard, hemlock pillars, rubbed to a fine polish, gave off a soft glow. Sachiko did not know how old the house was – possibly a generation or two.  At first it must have been used as a villa to which elderly Makiokas might retire, or in which the junior branches of the family might live.  Not long before his death Sachiko’s father had moved his family there from Semba; it had become the fashion for merchant families to have residences away from their shops.  The younger sisters had therefore not lived in the house long.  They had often visited relatives there even when they were young, however, and it was there that their father died.  They were deeply attached to the old place.  Sachiko sensed that much of her sister’s love for Osaka was in fact love for the house, and, for all her amusement at these old fashioned ways, she felt a twinge of pain herself – she would no longer be able to go back to the old family house.  She often enough joined Yukiko and Taeko in complaining about it – surely there was no darker and unhygienic house in the world, and they could not understand what made their sister live there, and  they felt thoroughly depressed after no more than three days there, and so on-yet a deep undefinable sorrow came over Sachiko at the news.  To lose the Osaka house would be to lose her very roots. From page 99.

**********

They turned off the flash lights and approached in silence.  Fireflies dislike noise and light.  But even at the edge of the river there were no fireflies.  “Maybe they are not out tonight,” someone whisperd.  “No, there are plenty of them.  Come over here.”  Down into the grasses on the bank, and there, in the delicate moment before the last light goes, were fireflies, gliding out over the water, in low arcs like the sweep of grasses.  On down the river, on and on, were fireflies, lines of them wavering out from this bank and the other and back again, sketching their uncertain tracks of light down close to the surface of the water, hidden from outside by the grasses.  In the last moment of light, with darkness creeping p from the water and the moving plumes of grass still faintly outlined, there, far as the river stretched- and infinite number of little lines in two long rows on either side, quiet, unearthly… From page 342.

The book is dense and slow in places.  At times I found myself bogging down and wanting to skim.  That may have to do with the translation, or it may be Tanizaki’s way of portraying the distinctions between the traditional way of Japanese life and the struggle with modernity.  This is my first book for the Japanese Literature Challenge.  I enjoyed it and am excited to discover other Japanese authors.

10 Comments

Filed under Fiction, InTranslation, Japanese Literature Challenge 4, New Authors 2010

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Vintage Canada, 2010

I own this one.

I have been on a book buying ban for over a year now.  That doesn’t mean I don’t fall off the wagon,  particularly with books published outside the US.  My public library is great, ordering many titles before they are published, but they only purchase books published in this country.  So when I read about great books from Canada or elsewhere I struggle with book lust, and occasionally the book wins.  This book is an example, I just had to have it.

Annabel Lyon has written an extraordinary first novel, taking a crucial time in the history of western civilization and bringing it to life through the voice and thoughts of one of the founders of western philosophy.

Aristotle, along with his wife Pythias and their entourage, travel to the city of Pella. After a separation of many years Aristotle meets up with his old friend Philip,  now the King of Macedonia.

“You refined piece of shit,” the king says. “You’ve spent too much time in the East.  Look at yourself, man.”

We embrace.  As boys we played together, when Philip’s father was king and my father the king’s physician.  I was taller but Philip was tougher: so it remains.  I’m conscious of the fine, light clothing I’ve  changed into for this meeting, of the fashionable short clip of my hair, of my fingers gently splayed with rings.  Philip’s beard is rough, his fingernails are dirty, he wears homespun.  He looks like what he is: a soldier, bored by this great marble throne room.  From page 13.

Philip asks him to tutor his son, Alexander.  Aristotle is torn between the demands of his friend and his own desire to succeed his teacher, Plato, and lead the Academy in Athens.  He ponders his past and his future.  He helps Arrhidaeus, Philip’s elder son,  changed after a severe illness at the age of five.  He teaches Alexander, and his companions.

I gather my father’s scalpels from the boys and wipe them slowly, meticulously, as I was taught.  “I had a master, when I was not much older than you.  He was very interested in what things were.  In what was real, if you like, and what” – I gestured at the remains of the chameleon – “was perishable, what would pass away and be lost.  He believed there were two worlds.  In the world we see and hear and touch, in the world we live in, things are temporary and imperfect.  There are many, many chameleons in the world, for instance, but this one has a lame foot, and this one’s colour is uneven, and so on.  Yet we know they are all chameleons;  there is something they share that makes them all alike.  We might say they have the same form; though they differ in details, they all share the same form,  the form of a chameleon.  It is this form, rather than the chameleon itself, that is ideal, perfect and unchanging.  We might say the same of a dog or a cat, or a horse, or a man.  Or a chair, or a number.  Each of these exists in the world of forms, perfectly, unchangingly.” From pages 91/92.

There are many fine characters in this book and Aristotle has ideas about all of them, from soldier to slave.  Combining daily life, philosophy, politics, sexuality and warfare,  told by a historic  figure at once brilliant and unsure,  The Golden Mean is a novel that is intelligent,  funny and surprisingly relevant to our own daily lives.

It reminds me of a book I read last summer, Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin.  Both take a period in the history of western civilization and daringly write literary portraits of daily life.  Both novels feel historically accurate to me, but I am not a classical scholar.  Le Guin uses figures from classical literature, Lyon uses figures from history.  I loved both of these books.  I am in awe of Lyon’s creativity, depth of research,  and willingness to take risks with the western canon.  I have added several books from her bibliography to my to-be-read list, and hope I will actually get around to reading some of them.

Have you read and reviewed this book?  Please leave a comment so I can link to your review.

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Filed under CanadianBookChallenge3, Historical Fiction, New Authors 2010, Notable Books

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Harper, New York, 2010

Nominated for the 2010 Orange Prize, the 2010 Edgar Award and the NAACP Image Award.

Borrowed from the library,

I love a good mystery but don’t usually review them because there are so many great mystery/thriller review blogs out there.  I am making an exception for this book.

Attica Locke has written a big-town, dirty-politics thriller that combines literary skill with great story-telling, flavored with some of the history of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.  Her protagonist, Jay Porter, a young and struggling lawyer, played a part within that movement and Locke tells his story brilliantly.  Some readers have trouble with books that combine fiction with politics.  I don’t.  I appreciate it and enjoy it.

Jay used to have break-ins all the time.  His dorm room, the duplex on Scott Street where he stayed sometimes, even his first apartment after his trial, a one room rattrap in the Bottoms in the Third Ward.  The feds and local law enforcement often came and went as they pleased, going through his things, bugging the phones.  But they never left more than a faint trace: a lamp out of place, a phone book moved a few inches to the left of where it had been, or his papers rearranged in a slightly different order than before.  Everything else was exactly the way he had left it, down to the cigarette butts in the ashtrays and the dirty dishes in the sink.  The only firm clues that someone had been in his place were the tiny recording devices he used to pull out of his phone receivers.

He’s already checked the kitchen phone tonight. From page 144.

Jay, and his pregnant wife, Bernie, are celebrating her birthday on Buffalo Bayou when they hear screams and gunshots.  They pull a young woman from the water, starting a rush of events that leads to the highest levels of political and corporate power in the Houston area. I find the way that Locke intertwines the past and the present  very clear, never jarring or confusing.  Her story paints telling portraits, of Huston in the 1980’s, of a young man’s struggle to understand his past and to live in the present.

He can’t help feeling this whole thing is a setup, the money nothing but bait.  But why, he thinks, would anyone want to trap him?  His whole life he’s made no enemies he can think of…save for the U.S. government, of course.
The thought is like a hand grenade tossed under his bathroom door.
He watches it roll across the floor, taking up position at his feet.
The blow, when it comes, takes his breath away.
He has a sudden sharp memory of Charlie Wade Robinson, a Panther out of Detroit, Michigan. Back in ’69, the feds tried to nail him on a charge of conspiracy to commit mayhem and engage in unlawful assembly, which one progressive judge promptly through out of his court.  When the feds couldn’t get Charlie Wade on that, they tried to put him away on an illegal weapons charge.  But he dodged that bullet too.  Two years ago, the way Jay heard it, Charlie Wade Robinson was coming out of a McDonald’s restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, his six-year-old daughter in tow, when federal officers arrested him on felony tax evasion, right there in the parking lot.  Long out of the politics game by then, Charlie Wade had started an arcade business with an investor he’d met at a party, and the IRS claimed they’d played fast and loose with the accounting.  The feds had finally found a charge that would stick.  He’d been locked up ever since.  From pages 174/175.

Many people where surprised at the fact that this book was included on the short list for the 2010 Orange Prize.  I am not going to get into that discussion.  Black Water Rising is the second book I have read this year that deals with the political and social turmoil surrounding the evolution of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the history of the Black Panther Party.  Both novels were written by young black women, authors brave enough to begin tackling  this thorny history.  Attica Locke, a former fellow at the Sundance Institute and a Los Angeles screenwriter, has written a great first novel.  I look forward to her second.

Other reviews:

Book Gazing

Farm Lane Books

Reading the Leaves

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Filed under Mystery, New Authors 2010

Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz

Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz

Theater Communications Group, New York, 2003

Winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Borrowed from the library.

Oh, how I would love to see this on stage.  Cruz has written a lush, steamy play that brings to life a time and place in history and is brimming with human need and desire.

Set in Tampa in 1929, the story takes place in a Cuban-American  factory where cigars are still rolled by hand and “lectors” read novels and stories aloud to the workers.  A new “lector” arrives from Cuba and chooses  to read “Anna Karenina.”  His audience approves of this choice but the longer he reads the more the novel becomes entwined in the workers lives.  Tolstoy and the tropics prove to be an unsettling combination.

The words of this play are as rich as the music of Cuba.  Bright, rhythmic, sensual.   I could hear soulful guitar and staccato percussion as I read.  It is fascinating, reading a talented playwright, the words create the scenes, sounds and atmosphere in my head.  Nilo Cruz is a master and I plan on reading more of his work.  And, if at all possible, seeing his work on stage.

I have been considering reading the new translation of Anna Karenina over the summer.  Reading Anna in the Tropics has added weight to this idea.

2 Comments

Filed under New Authors 2010, Plays, Review, Theater

Chef by Jaspreet Singh

Chef by Jaspreet Singh

Bloombury, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

A trip taken at the request of an old commander. A slow train back to a place of struggle and yearning.  A diagnosis of cancer.  All these things  allow the narrator of this timely novel to remember his past.  Most of the story takes place in Kashmir, below the highest battlefield in the world.  India and Pakistan are in a struggle for territory. There is fighting, there are terrorist acts.  Many have died, mostly due to the severe weather conditions.

Kirpal Singh, known as Kip, is not yet twenty when he arrives at the an Indian army camp below the Siachen Glacier.  Kip is apprenticed to the camp chef, Kishen, who lectures him on cooking, politics and women.  He learns to cook  local dishes and, at Kischen’s insistence, unusual foods from around the world.  As a Sikh, Kip could hold himself apart from this struggle for land and power but he is loyal to India.  His father, a military hero who died on the glacier, is a constant presence.  It is not until General Kumar orders Kip to interrogate a prisoner that he begins to question his place and the logic of the ongoing struggle.

The officers, in proper uniforms and black boots, looked at me in relief as if I had just saved them.  The captive lay on the bed.  He was a she.   The first enemy I ever saw was a she, and already I had apologized to her moments ago on two counts.  The first thing I noticed was the unconscious movement of her head.  Rapid breathing.  Terror in the eyes. Peasant feet.  The toe ring gleamed in fluorescent light.  There was a cut on her left foot.

The colonel asked me to occupy the chair next to the enemy’s bed.  I took a deep breath, then the interrogation began.  It was my first time as an interpreter.  I asked the questions slowly, she stammered her responses.  I do not recall the many unintelligible things she brought to her lips.  But the essence has stayed with me. From page 127.

After 14 years Kip is asked to prepare the wedding feast for the commander’s daughter, Rubiya, now a poet and journalist engaged to marry a Pakistani. Upon his return Kip learns the fate of his enemy, the woman he could never forget.

A book at once harsh and lyrical, I found Chef wonderful and frustrating at the same time.   There are parts that are deep and evocative, bringing to life the political struggle taking place in this land of intense cold, between these people, Hindu and Muslim, Indian and Pakistani.  And then there are parts that feel shallow and incomplete.  Perhaps this is simply Kip’s memory, and his illness made manifest.

I enjoyed Chef, I learned about I place I hadn’t known about, and plan on reading Jaspreet Singh’s book of short stories, Seventeen Tomatoes.

Siachen Glacier

3 Comments

Filed under 2010 Global Reading Challenge, CanadianBookChallenge3, Fiction, New Authors 2010, Review

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Penguin Classics, New York, 1996

Borrowed from the library for the 1930s Mini Challenge.

The title of this novel has been floating around in my head for a while but I’m not sure where I first heard of it.  Just one of those English novels I should get around to reading.  I am very glad I did.

Flora Poste, orphaned at twenty, well-educated and left with little inheritance, decides to move in with unknown relatives.  These relatives, the Starkadders, live at Cold Comfort Farm, the name itself calling up images of somewhere dark and dreary.  The Starkadders suffer all sorts of upsets, grief, depression, over active imaginations and budding sexuality.  Flora, ever the modern woman, decides to bring order into this chaos.

If she intended to tidy up life at Cold Comfort Farm, she would find herself opposed at every turn by the influence of Aunt Ada.  Flora was sure this would be so.  Persons of Aunt Ada’s temperament where not fond of a tidy life.  Storms were what they liked: plenty of rows, and doors being slammed, and jaws sticking out, and faces white with fury, and faces brooding in corners, faces making unnecessary fuss at breakfast, and plenty of opportunities for gorgeous emotional wallowings, and parting for ever, and misunderstandings, and interferings, and spyings, and above all, managing and intriguing.  Oh, they did enjoy themselves!  They were the sort that went tramping all over your pet stamp collection, or what ever it was, and then spent the rest of their lives atoning for it.  But you would rather have your stamp collection.  From page 57.

Flora, bright, smart and very direct, observes the Starkadders and manages, seemingly effortlessly, through gentle manipulation, to get them all pointed in the direction of futures filled with happiness and light.  She also find herself dealing with an unwanted suitor.

It can not be said that Flora really enjoyed taking walks with Mr. Mybug.  To begin with he was not really interested in anything but sex.  This was understandable, if deplorable.  After all, many of our best minds have had the same weakness.  The trouble about Mr Mybug was that ordinary subjects, which were not usually associated with sex even by our best minds, did suggest sex to Mr Mybug, and he pointed them out, and made comparisons and asked Flora what she thought about it all,  Flora found it difficult to reply because she was not interested.  She was therefore obliged  merely to be polite, and Mr Mybug mistook her lack of enthusiasm and though it was due to inhibitions.  He remarked how curious it was that most Englishwomen (most young Englishwomen, that was, Englishwomen of about nineteen to twenty-four) were inhibited.  Cold, that was what young Englishwomen from nineteen to twenty-four were.

Gibbons is poking fun at a long line of British literary dramas from Wuthering Heights to the works of Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence.  Her introduction takes great pains to explain her concern with Literature and she even marks what she considers her “finer passages with one, two or three stars”.  Filled with dramatic and over-wrought language,  all perfectly tongue in cheek, Cold Comfort Farm great fun to read.

This is the only book by Gibbons that my library carries, so I am on a search for more of her novels and short stories.

10 Comments

Filed under 1930s Mini Challenge, Classic, New Authors 2010, Review

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

Algonguin Books of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, 1987

Borrowed from the library.  Thanks to Wendy at Caribousmom for introducing me to this book.

I have never read Kaye Gibbons before but after reading this little novel, I will have to remedy that.

Ellen Foster is an 11-year-old orphan with an sharp tongue and a feisty personality.  Her struggle to protect herself from abusive relatives and find a home where she is welcomed and excepted is written with humor and acerbic wit.

All the arrangements are made they said so why bring me in here and do this in front of everybody like Julia who wants to scream she says.  What do you do when the judge talks about the family society’s cornerstone but you know yours was never a Roman pillar but is and always has been crumbly old brick?  I was in my seat frustrated like when my teacher makes a mistake on the chalkboard and it will not do any good to tell her because so quick she can erase it all and on to the next problem.
He had us all mixed up with a different group of folks.  From page 66.

At the mercy of an uncaring system she manages to find a place where she feels she belongs, learns about her own misguided judgments and finds out what is truly important in her life.

Have you ever felt like you could cry because you know you just heard the most important thing anybody in the world could have spoke at that second?  I do not care if the president had just declared war although that is something to think about.  I do not care if a thousand doctors had just said congratulations sir you are the father of a bouncing baby something.  All that mattered in my world at that second was my new mama and the sound of yes in my ears oh yes Starletta is welcome here.  From page 115.

Ellen’s voice seen true to me, even though her situation seems overwhelming for a child her age.  She is full of piss and vinegar, a joy to get to know.

Other reviews:

Caribousmom

The Betty and Boo Chronicles

6 Comments

Filed under Fiction, New Authors 2010, Review

Far North by Marcel Theroux

Far North by Marcel Theroux

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2009

Borrowed from the library.

Marcel Theroux is a novelist, TV broadcaster and the oldest son of travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux.  This is his fourth novel.

Far North is a dystopian novel set in the not-to-distant future.   The narrator, Makepeace, is the last surviving member of a community of Quakers who originally came from the United States and settled in the Siberian taiga.

My parents never spoke of the past, and me, I never took much interest in it.  The past had nothing to teach me.  The beginning of the world and my birth seemed like the same event.  For me the world began with water dripping off wet sheets in the sunlight.  I was the creator, blinking my eyes to make night and day.  And I was Noah, arranging my chipped hardwood animals in the dust of the arctic summer.  I taught my family language, and I was the first human to set foot in the wilderness at the bottom of our vegetable patch.  From page 105.

Makepeace finds evidence that other communities  may exist, and even thrive, out beyond the city’s ruins.  A refugee emerges from the forest, inspiring Makepeace to open up to human connection  and  to travel from the city to search for others in  the Far North.  It is a empty and eerie place.

I lay down to sleep thinking that as much as I missed what was gone, maybe this was the best thing: for the world to lie fallow for a couple hundred years or more, for the rain to was her clean.  We’d become another layer of her history, a little higher in the soil  than the Romans, and the people that built the pyramids.  Yes Makepeace, I thought, one day your mandible will show up under glass in a museum…
In the long run, the waters recede, the sun rises, and the plants grow.  I’ve never doubted that something will survive of us.  Of course, I won’t make it.  And all those books I’ve saved will end up mulch and bird’s nest, I suppose.  From pages 198/199.

This beautiful, spare novel is filled with surprises.  The story twists and turns like a braided river, and  Makepeace travels on with humor and rugged strength to find a kind of redemption.  The world is wild and desolate and yet filled with quiet beauty.  Theroux is a master storyteller.  I plan on reading his other novels.

Other reviews:

Book Club Classics

A Bookworm’s World

Follow The Thread

Novels Now

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Filed under New Authors 2010, Notable Books, SpeculativeFiction