I recently posted about the Summer Reading Challenge, a mini Tournament of Books. I discovered two great new reads via this challenge.
Marlena by Julie Buntin is a coming-of-age story with such a genuine narrative voice and such well-delineated characters that it takes on all the appearance of truth. After her parents’ divorce, Cat moves with her brother and mother to a small town in northern Michigan, where she immediately connects with her neighbor, Marlena. Marlena has problems: a dad who cooks meth, a younger neglected brother, an addiction to Oxy. And in less than a year, she’ll be dead, under suspicious circumstances. Cat will spend years trying to deal with the fact of her death.
The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge really hit all of my buttons. It’s about writers and writing and books, and so many American genre writers of the early twentieth century and their associates turn up as characters that it’s like being at the most fascinating cocktail party. (William S. Burroughs was my favorite of them.) When Marina’s husband Charles checks out of the mental hospital after having a breakdown and disappears with only his clothes left behind at the shore of a lake, she retraces his footsteps in the hopes he might still be alive. Charles had recently published a successful book about H. P. Lovecraft and Robert Barlow. There are stories nested within stories within stories, and no narrator can be trusted. In the end, fact and fiction become inextricably blurred, but this is largely the point.
Two great summer reads to enjoy!