Another busy month. Four books, three of them good, two very good. I’ve been saying this for years, but I really should write down my thoughts on each one when I finish them, rather than waiting until the end of the month. My apologies for the disjointed thoughts and fuzzy memories on a couple of these.
The Facades – Eric Lundgren
This was the one book I did not enjoy, which was a bummer. I had been looking forward to reading this for about a year based on a review I read somewhere. Sadly, it did not match up to the image I had in my head based on that review.
I just went back and read a couple reviews, and a lot of folks loved it. To me, it meandered and was often confusing. I kept wanting to care about a character, but never did. The protagonist, Sven, is searching for his opera singer wife who disappeared without a trace after a performance. He’s not a suspect, but neither is he a sympathetic character. If you can’t invest in the main character, it’s tough to invest in the book.
Everything Changes – Jonathan Tropper
This was my quick, light read of the month. It is one of those books that feels like it was written with an eventual screenplay in mind. Here, Zachary King, is a 30-something guy living the good life in New York. He has a crappy job, but one that pays the bills. He lives, rent free, with his millionaire buddy. And he is engaged to a woman that is more than a few notches out of his league.
Ahhh, but everything changes. (Of course.) A doctor visit reveals a strange growth on his bladder. The times he spends with the widow of his best friend, who died in a car accident with Zach sitting next to him, are getting more intense. And his estranged father, who he has barely seen in his adult life, suddenly shows up again.
Things go out of control, then settle down exactly the way you think they will. An entertaining read, but not a “Best Of” candidate.
The Last Policeman – Ben H. Winters
Here was the surprise of the month. In combines elements of noir, mystery, sci-fi, and apocalyptic genres wonderfully.
It follows Hank Palace, a young detective in Concord, New Hampshire as he investigates what appears to be a simple suicide but, to him at least, shows inconsistencies that lead him to believe it was murder.
No one else really cares, though. That is because an asteroid, which was discovered just over a year ago, has emerged from behind the sun and is hurtling directly toward the Earth. Once scientists determined the asteroid was certain to impact Earth, day-to-day life changed dramatically. People stopped doing their jobs. The government cracked down on civil liberties to avoid wide-scale riots. Food and gas are severely rationed. Rumors swirl about safe havens on the moon. And, most disturbingly, many people, when they can’t take the stress of waiting for doom any longer, are killing themselves.
Palace charges forward, though, and unravels a beauty of a crime, one with numerous delightful twists and turns.
It’s a first-rate mystery, but Winters does well to slowly lay out the discovery of the asteroid and how the world reacts. For a child of the Cold War era, that slow, eerie terror is fun to read. And I really enjoyed the dilemma that faces everyone in this fictional world: do you continue to follow laws of state and morality in the face of possible extinction, or do you act on your every impulse?
Oh, and this is the first part of a trilogy! I can’t wait to get to book two.
May We Be Forgiven – A.M. Homes
I started this sometime last summer. But when I saw it began on Thanksgiving Day, I decided to shelve it until November. Which is kind of funny, because most of the nearly 500 pages take place in the year between two Thanksgivings, rather than on the actual holiday. Oh well.
I’m honestly not sure what to make of this book. The main character, Harold, goes to emotionally support his sister-in-law after his brother kills a family in a car accident. Then he sleeps with her. Then his brother, who snuck out of the hospital, catches them and kills his wife. When Harold’s wife learns of the murder while on business in China, he finds himself looking for a divorce attorney. And that’s the first 50 or so pages. It continues to get crazier and crazier.
So it seems like a big farce, a novel intent to make some statement about modern society or some such nonsense. Only the book turns and becomes positively sweet and tender over its final 100 pages or so.
I think I agree with a couple reviews I read after I finished the book. It’s terrifically written. It’s a lot of fun. Some parts of it are absolutely dazzling. But I was also left with questions about large portions of the book, too. And I’m not really sure how to sum it up. I think Homes wanted it to stand for something, but I’m not really sure what. I definitely recommend it, but feel like it just misses being a modern classic.