Tag Archives: beach reads

The Best Kind of People: Great premise + adequate execution = Beach read

9781770899421The Best Kind of People is the sort of book you take on holiday and read quickly and find yourself enjoying (despite of or because of) its content and then you finish it and move on to playing volleyball and eating BBQ and you forget about it. Even though the subject matter is such that it should probably linger: rich, white man is a high-school teacher and community leader; he is accused of several counts of sexual assault; the reader follows the impact of the legal proceedings on his family: his teenage daughter who goes to the same school where he taught and where the young women who were assaulted attend, his wife – a nurse and community leader, his grown son – now living in New York who came into his gay identity in the same homophobic small town.

One of the things to admire about the novel is that it tells this story without narrating the perspective of George Woodbury – the father and abuser. Nor does it narrate the abuse itself. Focusing instead on the ripples of the crime on the family of the criminal, the novel offers a vision of guilty by association, or monster by proxy. It considers the way individuals are framed in relation to crime and the criminal: what should have been known, who should have known it and when. It raises all sorts of interesting questions about trust and belief and forgiveness. And in its shifting narrative point of view, asks the reader to take on different perspectives of those around George in order to imagine a sort of empathy for those in the orbit of crime who are neither victims nor perpetrators.

I’m not sure then why I find it forgettable. I enjoyed reading it (as much as you can enjoy being asked to enter a world of emotional distress and disruption and empathize and discover): the pacing was neat (with a structure of examining the week after in detail, and then the week before the trial – giving a sort of telescoping of time while still allowing for character development and change) and the moral questions and actions for the characters complex. I suppose I didn’t find any of the three key characters: daughter, son and wife, all that compelling. Their reactions made logical sense, their decisions and their choices in the aftermath were scripted such that they felt like the ‘right’ set of responses one might be expected to experience. Yet they lacked a certain something that made me want to really feel alongside them and so was left in a sort of observational capacity when the book was clearly calling me to empathy.

All that said I do think it would make for a compelling summer read or a great book club discussion. Again – not for anything stylistic so much as the questions it raises and then fully explores.

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Filed under Bestseller, Book Club, Book I'll Forget I Read, Canadian Literature, Fiction, Giller prize, Prize Winner

The Last Town on Earth: A Lengthy Post Worth Reading Because Trump Isn’t Mentioned

the_last_town_on_earth_by_uselessjack

Thomas Mullen’s The Last Town on Earth opens 1918 in Washington state as the Spanish flu outbreak begins. Historical fiction, the novel imagines the lives of the citizens in the fictious Commonwealth after the town votes to ‘reverse’ quarantine: as no one in the town is yet sick, they vote to forbid entry or exit from the town and post guards to ensure the quarantine is followed. It closely follows the Worthy family, the patriarch of whom, Charles, is the mill owner and unelected leader of the town; the (adopted) son, Philip, is our protagonist. Continue reading

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Filed under American literature, Book Club, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Prize Winner

The Pale Blue Eye: Murder Mystery Mash-up

download (2)I don’t have much to say about Louis Bayard’s The Pale Blue Eye. I enjoyed reading it? It was captivating (if entirely forgettable)? The novel is set in the 19th century (hooray), is a murder mystery (fun) and includes a fictionalized Edgar Allen Poe (what fun). We follow our protagonist retired police detective as he sets about trying to solve the murder and dismemberment of an army cadet. Poe is recruited to help him in his efforts. Layers of mystery and some romance.

My little description makes it sound like the book is trashy or easy. It’s not! It has a remarkable ending, sets up a complex and compelling relationship between the detective and Poe. I just don’t have much more to say than that.

I’d take it to the beach and read it. Maybe. No, what I think it’s best for is a book-on-tape long car ride. Captivating for plot, tone and setting. Take that to your audio-book source of choice and enjoy!

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