Will Not Attend – Adam Resnick
A first-class collection of short stories by the former writer for Letterman and producer of The Larry Sanders Show, among other entries on his résumé. They are all utterly ridiculous – some to the point where you wonder how far the truth has been stretched in them. But most, especially those that feature his father, are laugh-out-loud funny.
Remember Me Like This – Bret Anthony Johnston
A book that seems written to be turned into a big, summer movie at some point.
It tells the story of the Campbell family of Southport, Texas, whose oldest son, Justin, is kidnapped when he is 12. After four years as the captive of a man who delivers newspapers for a living, Justin is discovered and returns home. Not only must he adjust and go through therapy and deal with the legal ramifications of his detention, but his parents and brother have to learn how to live with him again.
I know a lot of people really liked this book, and it appeared on some Best Of lists. I thought it was just ok. It’s an interesting angle to take, how does a kidnap victim and his family find a way to move on and develop a new normal after the victim is freed. And I liked how Johnston left so many of the big questions about Justin’s detention (was he sexually abused, why wasn’t he able to escape, how could he have a girlfriend but no one else recognized him for four year) unanswered. But compared to other books I’ve read this year that come with a huge emotional impact, this one fell flat.
Alligator – Lisa Moore
I’ve been wanting to read another of Moore’s novels for some time. But the library hasn’t purchased it yet and I’ve always been in the mood for something else when I’m in book-buying mode. So I decided to give her debut novel, which the library does have, a shot. It was critically lauded and has glowing back-cover blurbs from some important current authors.
To me, though, the book was a little too artsy. It meandered through a series of lightly connected characters, but never really pushed a central plot through. And with one exception, each character seemed too damaged or unfamiliar for me to connect with them.
The Confession – Olen Steinhauer
After a those disappointments, I went back to Steinhauer’s Yalta Boulevard series. In this entry, we are placed in the middle of the 1950s, just after Stalin’s death and some temporary loosening of the Communist Party’s control of the various countries of Eastern Europe.
In our fictional land, Ferenc Kolyeszar is investigating a series of murders in the local art community, of which he is a part thanks to having published a moderately successful novel based on his service in World War II. Meanwhile, his marriage begins to fall apart and he slips into a disturbing affair as a result. He has to balance a politically-risky investigation, a looming crackdown by the government he is expected to be a part of, and a Soviet agent who keeps an eye on everything Ferenc does.
This book is told in the first person, and as a confession of Ferenc’s sins against the State, his family, his lover, and his job. Which works well since we know he is an author. And there’s an epilogue which could be seen as gimmicky, but which I liked.
This book moved much quicker than the first in the series, and I really enjoyed it. I think I’ll stick with the series a little longer.