This is a series of reviews of my favorite books published between 2010 and 2019. These are shorter reviews of good reads published in 2013.
Rivers by Michael Farris Smith (2013)
In the near future, climate change and perpetual storms have forced the US government to abandon the Gulf Coast, and those who remain live without laws or services. This was a beautifully written book. Michael Farris Smith’s style reminds me of Cormac McCarthy, yet even though this is definitely apocalyptic fiction, it doesn’t seem as bleak or as cynical as McCarthy’s work. Cohen stayed on the wrong side of the Line, as it’s called, after losing his wife and unborn daughter. Now he lives in isolation except for a dog and a horse in the unrelenting rain on the Mississippi coast. But everything changes when he is carjacked by a couple of teenagers, who then rob his house. This plot does not go the way you might expect. It’s really a story about reconnecting and discovering the importance of connections even when everything seems lost. There also some twists and turns, a couple of surprises, an exciting climax, and a quietly moving ending. I loved this book and was so glad I discovered it quite by chance.
Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense edited by Sarah Weinman (2013)
This is an excellent collection of short stories by women writing dark suspense fiction toward the middle of the twentieth century. Including fourteen stories, this collection–well curated by editor Sarah Weinman–is neither too short nor too long. While all of the stories aptly fit the theme and have an appropriately noirish mood, each one stands out as a unique and compelling work. I savored these stories like a box of fine chocolates. Some of the authors, such as Patricia Highsmith and Shirley Jackson, will already be familiar to many readers, but this collection presents a terrific opportunity for discovering new writers. While Weinman laments in the introduction that many of these writers, popular and lauded in their day, have been forgotten over time, a perusal of Amazon reveals that many of their longer works have been revived in electronic form for the Kindle–at reasonable prices, too. I foresee many hours of happy reading time ahead, inspired by the authors included in this terrific collection.
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara (2013)
On an expedition to a remote island in the South Pacific, a scientist discovers that the native people have significantly increased their lifespan by eating a rare turtle, but their immortality comes at the price of severe mental degeneration. This is a book that one admires rather than enjoys. Yanagihara has meticulously crafted this novel in the form of memoir (complete with footnotes), and she has created a terrific sense of place with her remote island setting. Very few people in the book like the narrator, Dr. Norton Perina, and certainly the reader does not like him either, but we are compelled to keep reading. It’s like watching a car accident take place in slow motion. Perina’s editor (and author of the footnotes) proves himself no more of a reliable narrator than Perina, excising key bits from the memoir, one of which he chooses to show at the very end. It’s not a twist in that the astute reader will certainly see it coming. Rather, we keep saying to Yanagihara, “Don’t go there; don’t go there,” but she of course does go there.