Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What I'm Reading Now

Laura Kasischke, In a Perfect World

In-a-Perfect-World-199x300This one is topical, though it was actually published a few years ago. A flight attendant, Jiselle, marries a pilot, who then strands her in the rural midwest, with his three children. (Later it becomes clear he married her mostly because he needed a babysitter.) Shortly after he leaves, a flu pandemic sweeps through the world. Jiselle finds herself bonding with the kids and dealing with surviving a plague.

Well-written, with good characters. If you like stories about pandemics, this one is worth reading.

Ann Napolitano, Dear Edward

A 12 year old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash that kills nearly 200 people.

Based on an actual event, this is an interesting read. About half the book focuses on the crash itself. The rest deals with the media storm and the trauma suffered by Edward and those who had to deal with the crash, as well as relatives of the dead.

Napolitano takes us aboard the plane before it crashes, lingering in the hours before the crash, letting us get to know the passengers who will die. That's a good tactic, but this is -- nonetheless -- pretty much just disaster porn.

Read if you like books about disasters.

Annette Hesse, The German House

Set in Berlin in the 1960s, this is the story of a woman -- an oblivious citizen of Germany -- who gets hired to translate at a war crimes trial.

The German HouseAmong other things, this is a good study of how willing "good citizens" are to turn a blind eye to the atrocities happening around them. Eva Bruhn, the translator, and her families and her neighbors all lived near Auschwitz. Eva drew pictures of the smoke rising from the crematoriums. But all of them have erased the events from their memories. And except for Eva, who is translating the experiences of Polish survivors of the camps, all of them refuse to admit anything happened. (Eva's sister claims the survivors are lying to get a big payout from the government.)

This is a book in which the guilty not only escape unpunished, but escape to prosper and live happily ever after. A fable for our time.

Sarah Pinsker, A Song for a New Day; Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea

Sarah Pinsker wrote one of my favorite short stories, "And Then There Were (N -1)," which is included in her short story collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea. She's also released -- in the same year, almost the same month! -- her first novel, A Song for a New Day.

The latter is another pandemic story, although this one deals with the aftermath and the irrational fears which have warped the country. Congregating in groups of more than a few people is now illegal and highly disapproved of by society in general, which is a problem for any musician who wants to play for an audience.

Pinsker's novel follows some of these musicians, as well as an agent for the giant corporations that profit from these irrational social fears. Good, solid speculative fiction, with good writing and well-drawn characters.

Kate Bolick, The March Sisters

A slender volume of critical essays about Little Women. If you like the book or the movies, you'll enjoy this. The critics include Jane Smiley and Carmen Maria Machado.

Suzanne Walker, Mooncakes

This is a graphic novel about two best friends who were separated in childhood but have now reconnected. Spoilers: One of them is a werewolf. The other is a witch. The witch has Lesbian grandmothers who are also witches, and who run a bookstore. Trouble is brewing in the community (supernatural trouble) and the community comes together to deal with it.

Fun and well-written.

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