Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Never List by Koethi Zan

I got my hands on this book late yesterday morning and finished it by 10:00 PM. It was immediately gripping and I barely put it down. The Never List centers on Sarah, one of three women who survived years of unimaginable torment in the cellar of a sadistic criminal. When the date of her torturer’s parole creeps up on her, she is driven out of her cocoon to look for one last bit of closure.

The book moves along so smoothly you barely realize you’re reading, although parts of it are stomach-turning and heartbreaking, especially considering how similar the fictional events are to the recent crimes in Cleveland. Sometimes, we brush up against the scary complexity of the psychology of both sociopaths and their victims, but never quite dig into anything truly and memorably insightful. Nevertheless, I was definitely entertained and I think this would be a great book to bring on a weekend vacation or a long airplane trip. If you happen to have one of those coming up, comment on this blog before the week is over over with your email and you might win a free copy. Let's be honest, your odds are pretty good.

Here is a Spotify playlist provided by the author, in case you really want to get yourself in the mood while reading this book. 

The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice

Because I only come to town once or twice a week, my book reviews are stacking up so you get three in one day! Here's the second.

The Lemon Orchard:

Julia and Roberto, two people from vastly different lives, are able to connect through the pain of losing their children. As they find comfort in each other’s company, Julia becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of what happened to Roberto’s daughter.  

The star of this story is the landscape. The seaside lemon orchard in California gets a glowing tribute, especially during the a wildfire and the dusty Santa Ana winds. Maybe it’s just because I’m in the middle of a Louisiana forest in June but I’ve never wanted to be in the ocean more than I do when I’m reading about Julia and her daughter Jenny on the beach.

But there are two relationships that should be the backbone of this book: Julia and Roberto, and Julia and Jenny, but I found both of them lacking in sincerity and authenticity. Their interactions are too blatantly tailored to a predetermined arc rather than true to the way people naturally communicate and get to know each other. A particularly jarring example was during Roberto and Julia’s first meeting, when he presses her to tell him who Jenny is, despite her obvious discomfort and the fact that she’s basically his boss. It seems to me like something that might happen if a story was meticulously planned before characters were fleshed out to act in it. Julia and Roberto’s relationship continued to lag in believability and development until it turned into a chore to read about them. At the same time, the story of Rosa unfolds into a far more interesting plotline and I was tempted to skip the ‘romantic’ parts to find out what happened to her. I was often baffled by a character’s thought process and didn’t really follow a lot of the motivations. In the end, the resolution of Rosa’s disappearance was satisfying, but Julia and Roberto continued to confuse me until the very last page.  

If you would like to find out for yourself, you can! Comment on this entry with your email and on Monday I will pick a poster at random and get in touch with them to send a free copy of The Lemon Orchard.

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Glow starts as the story of one woman and her daughter, caught in the danger of organizing a civil rights protest. It spirals outward to connect characters over hundreds of miles and several generations, using multiple narrators from the present and past to span the gap. Willie is the brightest part of the story and by far my favorite narrator, despite her introduction as a minor character. Her chapters are electric, encompassing some of the most heartbreaking and earnestly happy scenes in the book. All the other narrators expertly tell their own stories in engaging voices, except for one, who was so verbose I would often get lost, but only one chapter is from his point of view. Glow deals with the complex spectrum of early American racism, showcasing characters who are slaves, Native Americans, people of mixed parentage, or children of immigrants. It’s a painful and wistfully beautiful book with a heavy dash of the supernatural.