Saturday, October 16, 2021

What I'm Reading Now

Rae Carson, Any Sign of Life

This is probably classified as YA, since the main characters are (were) seniors in HS, but I enjoyed it greatly -- stayed up late to finish it. 

It's the story of a pandemic with a near 100% mortality rate. Our main character, Paige, a high school basketball star, wakes up to find her entire family dead (and being eaten by crows), and slowly pieces together the truth: she has spent the past six days unconscious (her mother, a nurse, had hooked up up on IV fluids before herself succumbing to the disease) while a deadly flu killed everyone she knows and almost everyone worldwide. The cause of this disease turns out to be...unexpected.

Books about pandemics are my jam at the moment, for obvious reasons, and this one has both a great dog (don't worry, the dog lives) and a sweet romance (Paige is not the only survivor). It also has important things to say about strength, fear, and the imperfections of us all. Highly recommended.

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, The War That Saved My Life

This is a kid's book, if you believe the classification. I'd have liked it when I was a kid, but I don't think I'd give to anyone younger than fourteen or fifteen: it's got some really grim content. The bit where the main character, Ada, helps with the soldiers being brought across from Dunkirk is the best portrayal of that I've seen, but very rough going. 

Set in the opening year of WWII in England, the novel is told from the point of view of Ada, who is a disabled ten year old (she has an untreated club foot) who is evacuated to Kent, along with her younger brother Jaimie. Both Jaimie and Ada have been neglected and abused by their mother, and both are vastly ignorant of what life is like outside their London street. They are assigned to live with Susan Smith, a woman in the coastal village. Susan has suffered the loss of her partner, and is deeply depressed. Watching the three of them, Susan, Ada, and Jaimie, forming a family is one of the chief pleasures of the book. 

There's also some good horse content. And a sequel.

Chibundu Onuzo, Sankofa

A woman, Anna Bain, whose mother has recently died finds a box while cleaning out her mother's house. Instead, she finds some documents and a diary written by the (African) father she never knew -- who left England not even knowing the woman's mother (white) was even pregnant.

Intrigued by the diary, and at loose ends (the dead mother, a recent separation from her husband, a daughter who is busy with her own life), Anna begins investigating her missing father and the people in the diary. These leads her to discover that her father, who she saw being radicalized in his diary, has returned to his own (fictional) country, started a revolutionary movement to free the country from British rule, and then become a sometime lauded, sometime reviled Prime Minister. He's no longer Prime Minister, but he is still alive.

Anna decides to travel to Bamana, her father's country, to meet him. 

Lucid, interesting prose. Chibundu Onuzo was born in Nigeria, though she moved to England when she was 14. This may be why the African section of the book seems a little over the top; or I may just be woefully ignorant of Africa, which is probably more likely. I enjoyed reading this, though.

Maggie Shipstead, Great Circle

I've read several novels over the past few months put together this way -- a narrative thread in the past, another in the present, and then a third in either the future or the deeper past, all tying together. In this case, they tie together in a great circle, hence the title.

In SF novels one of the strands is in the past, and the others will be in the future/far future, or deeper past.

Anyway, this is a non-genre (which is a way of saying it's in the genre "literary") novel, about a young woman who grows up in the early 20th century wanting to be and then becoming a pilot, following in the footstep (or flight paths, heh) of Amelia Earhart and others like her; and of the young actress in the early 21st century who ends up playing the pilot in a biopic of her life.

That's the general plot; there's tons more going on. I liked both the threads in Montana during the pilot's childhood, and the thread in LA during the actresses young adulthood. There are also really short threads about the lives of other characters.

Very nicely done, and a compelling read.


Anonymous said...

Your description of The War that Saved My Life reminded me of a library book I read in 8th grade... Good Night Mr. Tom, I think it was called. It was the story of a profoundly abused London(?) boy who was sent to the country as part of the air raid evacuations, who ended up being placed with a grumpy old man. But the grumpy old man did the work to help him and ended up saving him. No idea what I would think of it now. My memory was that the abuse was extreme.

delagar said...

Michelle Magorian, Good Night Mr. Tom! I remember that one too. She also wrote a book about a girl who had been evacuated to Vermont in 1939 at age seven and returns to England in 1945, called Back Home.

Apparently Magorian's mother was a nurse during WWII and used to tell her stories about the evacuated children.