Category Archives: Fiction

The Last Thing He Told Me: A Forgettable Title, for a Memorable Book

It is an extremely good feeling when a person you love loves a book that you love. Orders of magnitude better feeling when a person you love who does not normally (ever) read books (1) reads a book and (2) loves a book and (3) that book turns out to be one you don’t mind/enjoy (I want so much to go so far as to say love, but… #integrity).

I get that this is what it means to share passions and that this is so much of what does underpin close relationships – I do. But so many of my recent friend additions have been ones where the first point of connection is being Adults With Small Dependents And Too Many Responsibilities, and not The! Joy! Of! Reading! (though to the credit of K. and K. this *is one of our shared connections, and I’m grateful for it).

Enter Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me. Our ill-named book club (famous for never picking, never-mind reading a book) decided we’d had enough mockery, and so we’d read a book. Problem: C. who refuses to read (anything? that can’t be true. But made up things where you might feel something). So we gave her the power to choose the book, and she did. And she loved it! (though, she – like me – couldn’t remember the name of it two weeks after reading it, so maybe something to take back to the focus group: get a better title).

I won’t tell you it’s the best book you’ve ever read, but it is a romp. The sort of thing you can immediately see being turned into a miniseries (oh wait, it has been already?) starring someone and someone and extra tall wine glasses. It follows Hannah and her step-daughter Bailey in the days after Hannah’s husband/Bailey’s father, Owen, goes missing – oh he leaves behind some notes, some cash, and is wanted in connection with a collapsing ponzi scheme (though maybe all ponzi schemes are collapsing? anyway).

While tripping along the thriller-suspense-can’t-put-it-down-just-one-more-chapter-I-swear lane, the book stumbles into some interesting thematic questions about what it means to be a parent – like literally in the sense of the limits of biology, but of course more in the sense of what responsibilities, what sacrifices, what ways of thinking-being are required. It makes a reasonably good case that ‘parent’ is to be – the verb, I mean – and has almost nothing to do with the noun.

And if you’re not into books with parenting themes there’s still lots of quasi-car chase scenes to keep you entertained, and modestly interesting other threads about identity and starting over. Perfect book for a beach or airplane.

But mostly? It’s a lot of fun. And so much more fun when your not-a-book-club people read it with you. Thanks, C.


Leave a comment

Filed under Book Club, Book I'll Forget I Read, Fiction, Mystery

It Ends With Us: So… Colleen Hoover

My teenage niece suggested I read Colleen Hoover. I hadn’t heard of her, and read so much less than I want to, and thought “I will stay relevant! I will read Colleen Hoover to stay connected with the teens!” Apparently I will also stay connected to millions on millions of other people who do not live under a rock and have heard of Colleen Hoover. An article from Slate promised me that her books sold better than the Bible in 2022, a fact which I didn’t find that impressive because I thought most Bibles were free.

Onwards: I didn’t really like It Ends With Us, but I did read it in three days.

I am so glad so many people are reading. Might I suggest your next book be… something else.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bestseller, Book I'll Forget I Read, Fiction

David Copperfield and Demon Copperfield: Truly Genius


I know generative AI is all like ‘I can write a thing in the style of so-and-so’ but with due respect to the robots, you cannot write like THIS. Jesus but Barbara Kingslover Hit It Out Of The Park with Demon Copperfield.

I’d heard it was good – well reviewed and on all the lists from last year, plus some personal recommendations – but felt held back by having not read David Copperfield. Some told me you didn’t have to have read David to appreciate Demon, but I thought I’d better check out the original just in case. And well. Guys. Did you know Dickens was a pretty good writer? Like I know you ‘know’ but maybe you’re like me and you haven’t actually read anything by him (or if you did it was a 100 years ago and a blur of high school English) and so you don’t really know. I mean don’t go out and drop what you’re doing, but I’m here to report: Charles Dickens was no slouch. But then, I cheated. I listened to it on audiobook (double speed and it still took 40 hours) and so maybe I’m a fan because of the British accent reading it to me and the aid of different voices. But probably it’s just a good one.

Anyway. So David Copperfield if you missed it: not an orphan from the outset, but an orphan, spends some time hungry, doing child labour, exploited, left for lost by institutions that should have – could have – protected him. Demon Copperfield? Same plot a few centuries later and this time it’s opioids and underfunded schools and exploitative companies and willful neglect that take center stage for judgement. [As an aside, if you don’t to read David Copperfield, then please, please, read Empire of Pain before you read this one – as it contextualizes (and layers the outrage) in incredibly helpful ways.]

Even while both books brilliantly attack institutions for the unmitigated failure (and not just passive failure, but active harm) of the young and the poor, they simultaneously argue for the profound – life changing – impact of individuals on one another. What harm, what hope might be possible in how we show up (or don’t) for one another.

So sure, all the institutions you can think of are (probably) failing, but they’ve been failing for centuries! Optimistic spin! AND as it always was and is also now true – we aren’t helpless in the face of it. While Demon and David both narrate exceptions – characters who are themselves exceptional and find themselves surrounded by others who – despite the structural failures that crumble – are kind. Kindness and caring are very small in the face of it all, and what we really need is revolution. And still. This reader clings to that tiny thing. Being kind, showing up, despite it all, holding hope.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bestseller, Book Club, Erin's Favourite Books, Fiction, New York Times Notable, Prize Winner

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow: high school math and Mum and I disagree

I have this memory of being in Mr. Lowe’s OAC (yes, OAC) Calculus class. I got back another test where I had managed a 70 something after a thousand hours of studying and fretting and worrying and fretting. And feeling like #why. At the time the why was this vision that if I didn’t take OAC Calculus I wouldn’t be able to take Psychology courses at University and become a therapist*. Then I discovered a University that would let me in to their Psych program without Calculus. I digress. I’m sitting in this class and I get the 70 and I’m just Done With Calculus (despite Mr. Lowe spending hours of his own time helping me, and my friends J. and J. spending hours of their time helping me). So I go to the office to call my mum (or maybe it was a pay phone) and ask her – crying in this memory – can I please drop Calculus, I don’t think I’ll need it to be a therapist and it’s making me miserable. I don’t know if my mum remembers the call, or knows how I’d spun out the different versions of my life that hinge(d) on her Yes or No to Calculus. But she supported me and said, of course, do what you want to do. And so I dropped Calculus. Like right after I hung up I walked over to the counselling office and dropped it. Probably for Latin. Very useful. (actually) (as useful as Calculus?) (what do you want from me)*


Well, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, in addition to being (or maybe mostly being) a book about friendship and its boundaries, and a book that intentionally or not tries to capture the mood of A Little Life (credit to mum for pointing out this parallel which is Spot On), is also a book about women in math.

Our protagonists, Sam and Sadie, spend the book falling into their friendship and then creating wildly successful video games together. Their lives are peppered with the accidents of circumstance and the mistakes of choice that make for any life, and their friendship is one of the accumulation of small moments layered on a true connection. The book is mostly about this friendship – how they come to be friends, how they betray one another (or think they’ve betrayed one another), how other people interrupt and intersect with their friendship, and what the boundaries of love in a friendship fall. It is a beautiful story on this thread – even if, again credit to mum, Sadie’s grudge against Sam midway through the book stretches the boundaries of plausibility.

And it is also a book about what Sadie has to experience and respond to because she is a woman who is very good at math, and one who loves video games, and one who wants to make those games in an industry and institutions full of men. I’d forgotten I read this book, truthfully, but then remembered when reading a list today of top books of last year, and was like oh right, that one. And then found myself tonight listening to a podcast about how boys are struggling in school and how this is impacting men’s outcomes in a bunch of domains. And truly – I’m a mother of a self-described boy and am not dismissing the (surprising to me) information about the widening gap in gendered achievement in schools. But was also like Come On. I suppose I can accept two things at the same time: women are doing better at school/university across a wide range of metrics AND the programs that men dominate are still the ones preferentially valued. The glut of women in universities is hardly yielded Power to the extremely well educated, and extremely underpaid teachers at my daughter’s daycare.

So maybe that’s the thing I liked best about Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow: its careful exploration of how Sadie navigates computer science programs, video game making/marketing and Silicon Valley. The way she finds herself used, abused and manipulated by men with power and then ‘lucky’ to find the good ones. The way efforts at ‘wokeness’ risk violence, and the tension between what we know about our friends as individuals and the way we let their individual identities influence our perception of their actions (like: did he do that because he’s my friend, or did he do that because he’s a man?).

And there’s more someone else would read into this book about race and class and orphan-hood and disability. There’s a heap to think through and plenty to enjoy. It reads quickly, is absorbing, and in the end – I think – satisfying.

But for me? I couldn’t stop thinking about Mr. Lowe. And what we tell ourselves about math.

*I did not become a therapist. But Latin probably got me the degree.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bestseller, Fiction, New York Times Notable, Prize Winner