Literary Fiction

01/12/2011 - 3:31am
The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

When Smithy Ide was a teenager, his beloved older sister Bethany was diagnosed with schizophrenia and began running away in Ron McLarty's The Memory of Running. Smithy would ride his bike all over town to find her and bring her home. He always found her, until one day, she stayed lost. 

 Now, at 40, Smithy is a loser. He’s fat. He has a crap job – quality control in a Rhode Island factory that makes cheap plastic action figures. He eats junk food and smokes too much and drinks himself into oblivion every night. 
12/31/2010 - 3:31am

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading  recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you.  Available for adults, teens, and kids.

Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout "follows a recent widower from grief through breakdown to recovery in 1959 smalltown Maine. The father of two young girls and the newly appointed minister of the fictional town of West Annett, Tyler Caskey is quietly devastated by wife Lauren's death following a prolonged illness. Tyler's older daughter Katherine is deeply antisocial at school and at home; his adorable younger daughter Jeannie has been sent to live upstate with Tyler's overbearing mother. Talk begins to spread of Katherine's increasing unsoundness and of Tyler's possible affair with his devoted-though-suspicious housekeeper, Connie Hatch. It's spearheaded by the gossipy Ladies' Aide Society, whose members bear down on Tyler like the dark clouds of a gathering storm. Meanwhile, Tyler's grief shades into an angry, cynical depression, leaving him unable to parent his troubled daughter or minister to his congregation, and putting his job and family at risk." (Publisher's Weekly)

 If you enjoyed the well-written characters of Elizabeth Strout's "Abide with Me", you may enjoy these titles:

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
"The idyllic lives of civic-minded environmentalists Patty and Walter Berglund come into question when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry, and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged."-catalog summary

 

 

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
"In 1956, as a minister approaches the end of his life, he writes a letter to his son chronicling three previous generations of his family, a story that stretches back to the Civil War and reveals uncomfortable family secrets."-catalog summary


 

12/30/2010 - 7:41am

The jacket notes of Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick promise readers that the novel they have picked up will "retrace the story of Henry James's The Ambassadors --- the work he considered his best --- but as a photographic negative, in which the plot is the same but the meaning is reversed."  A tip of the hat to James promises Americans in Europe, and sure enough Ozick's tale involves one Bea Nightingale and her efforts to track and retrieve a nephew gone astray in post-World War II Paris.

Bea's journey [beginning in the summer of 1952]  takes her inside the lives of her brother's family, forces her to retrace the path of her own life, and expands her world view as she comes into intimate contact with Europe's "ghosts," the waves of refugees displaced, wounded who have "washed up in Paris," the war "still in them."

11/24/2010 - 8:36am

 Jane Austen fans rejoice—the comedy of manners is still alive. In her debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson’s plot  is wry, witty, and charming, yet her gentle and sometimes hilarious satire catches human foibles perfectly.

11/17/2010 - 10:01am

Noreen Kelly worked at Balancing Act Shoes for 18 years as a senior manager, but she did not start walking in The Wildwater Walking Club until she takes a Voluntary Reduction in Force package—or maybe not so voluntary--as she finds out her so-called boyfriend, who has now fallen off the face of the earth, has engineered her buyout. She is unemployed—redundant—and hits rock bottom.

With the help of a quirky set of friends and family, Noreen starts taking steps to reclaim her life. In these days of double-digit unemployment, Claire Cook writes with humor and romance and the plot resonates with our time.

Noreen finds out she is not her resume. She reconnects with her mother, finds new friends in her neighbors Tess and Rosie, helps parent and child, improves her taste in men, gets involved in her community, and gets herself and her life back in shape.

And what about her career? She attends a career coaching group and does find a “Fresh Horizon.”

This book was a fun read, and I got off my couch and took a walk after finishing it!

11/16/2010 - 3:31am

Richard Paul Evans’ The Walk is a remarkable journey of the spirit. At 28, Alan Christoffersen had it all. He had married the love of his life, owned a wildly successful advertising company, and was settling into a beautiful and comfortable existence in the Seattle suburbs. A good man, a happy man, Alan could not know how soon his world would shatter. When a terrible accident cripples his family life, the faithful husband stands by his beloved McKale, trusting blindly that his business partner and purported best friend will manage his workaday affairs.

At the moment that he finds himself bereaved, betrayed, homeless, and flat-out broke, he does consider a dark and quick way out of the pain.  He manages to pull away from that moment and decides instead to take a far walk from Seattle to Key West, Florida. Now that he has no one and nothing save a tent, a backpack, and very few provisions, it seems as good a thing to do as any other. Some prefer to grieve and ponder alone, and Alan is one of those people.

10/12/2011 - 12:11pm

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a historical fiction novel set in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, where "there are lines that are not crossed. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women--black and white, mothers and daughters--view one another." (Book Description)

If you liked The Help by Kathryn Stockett, then you may like these books with similar themes:

Clover by Dori Sanders
After her father dies within hours of being married to a white woman, a ten-year-old black girl learns with her new mother to overcome grief and to adjust to a new place in their rural black South Carolina community.
(Catalog summary)

 

 

Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas
When University of Michigan sophomore Celeste Tyree travels to Mississippi to volunteer her efforts in Freedom Summer, she's assigned to help register voters in the small town of Pineyville, a place best known for a notorious lynching that occurred only a few years earlier.

As the long, hot summer unfolds, Celeste befriends several members of the community, but there are also those who are threatened by her and the change that her presence in the South represents. Finding inner strength as she helps lift the veil of oppression and learns valuable lessons about race, social change, and violence, Celeste prepares her adult students for their showdown with the county registrar. All the while, she struggles with loneliness, a worried father in Detroit, and her burgeoning feelings for Ed Jolivette, a young man also in Mississippi for the summer.  (Catalog summary)

11/03/2010 - 3:31am

Howard Norman's newest novel takes the reader back to a setting - Nova Scotia - familiar to  fans of his previous works,  and back in time to the 1940s when the Canadian Maritime provinces were vulnerable to German attack and even more remote than they remain today.  I am among the fans of this and two of Norman's earlier novels, The Bird Artist and The Museum Guard, where each offered a compelling mix of interesting characters and unique takes on love, death, and loneliness.

What Is Left the Daughter is structured as a series of letters from Wyatt Hillyer to his long absent daughter. The opening paragraph hints of the drama to be revealed if we read on:

"Marlais, today is March 26, 1967, your twenty-first birthday. I'm writing because I refuse any longer to have my life defined by what I haven't told you. I've waited until now to relate the terrible incident tht I took part in on October 16, 1942, when I was nineteen."

Even in those few words, something of the letter writer's gentle, thoughtful character reveals itself.

10/13/2010 - 10:32am

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading  recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you.  Available for adults, teens, and kids.

The first place to start is to read all of Jane Austen’s novels. She only had six novels published, but no writer has ever surpassed her in writing the novel of manners, revealing the human heart through the minutiae of social interaction.

Emma. by Jane Austen - As daughter of the richest, most important man in the small provincial village of Highbury, Emma Woodhouse is firmly convinced that it is her right--perhaps even her "duty"--to arrange the lives of others. Considered by most critics to be Austen's most technically brilliant achievement, "Emma" sparkles with ironic insights into self-deception, self-discovery, and the interplay of love and power.

Mansfield Park  by Jane Austen - Fanny is an impoverished young woman, snubbed by society, who earns the respect and love of her cousin in this classic set in 19th century England.



 
 

10/06/2010 - 9:56am

She killed his mother and kept him on a cheap allowance for decades, but James VI of Scotland learned to play the political game successfully and survived the Virgin Queen to become the supreme ruler of Britain and her fledgling colonies. Just the years-long strain of their relations would be enough in itself to create a satisfying novel for history fans. But George Garrett took it further in The Succession. He gives us the rulers’ views and often their exact correspondence, but he goes far deeper than most historical novelists in recreating the personalities of the age.

The Queen’s spying messenger riding hell-bent for leather; drunken and fearless border reivers; a condemned noble priest hiding in plain sight; an actor full of bluff and bravado; Elizabeth’s too-young, too-ambitious lover; and her brilliant, crookbacked secretary are all players on this stage of statecraft. This is no romance but rather a swirling journey back to a time when it meant something to be ruler of the realm. What’s at stake for these bit characters? Power, riches, adventure, sometimes freedom as well as their very lives. Some will perish by the Queen’s command on the rack or by the blade. The Succession is too intellectually and emotionally honest to pretend there are no losers when a crown’s at stake.

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