I won't be writing full reviews for a while as I'm busy with working on my novel, family things throughout the holiday, and moving to our new house in the next town over. That said, I'm too obsessive (or something) to let all these good books I read go without at least leaving a line or two of comment:
Thanksgiving Night by Richard Bausch. I would read a cookbook by this man--I first fell in love with his collected stories and as always, he makes writing look so much easier than it is. This follows a few zany people--some related, some not, around Thanksgiving. There are some unforgettable characters, outright hilarious, and frankly, an unforgivable character--unforgivably passive and weak. And it's the characters, the richness with which Bausch has drawn them, that make this book a great read.
Between Here and the Yellow Sea by Nic Pizzolatto. A wonderfully rich story collection. I enjoyed all the stories but one of my favorites was the first, "Ghost Birds." I loved the image of the main character BASE jumping off the St. Louis Arch and the connection he makes with a young woman who wants to learn how to do it herself. The other favorite was the title story which follows a young man and his high school coach as they travel to California to "rescue" the coach's daughter from being a porn star.
Last Seen Leaving by Kelly Braffet. Smart and edgy, I devoured this novel. A woman tries to find her grown daughter who's disappeared. Years before, the woman's pilot husband mysteriously disappeared as well, under suspicious circumstances. Back in the present, there's a serial killer on the loose and the reader wonders if the woman will find her daughter before the killer does.
Forgetfulness by Ward Just. An ex-pat lives in France with his wife and is host to old friends from the states when his wife goes out for a walk up the mountain behind their house and doesn't come home. This is a thoughtful, quiet thriller, but powerful in its subtlety. Just is an elegant storyteller.
Seek the Living by Ashley Warlick. This novel follows a young woman as she struggles to deal with the unsettling relationships of her past and present: her brother, a womanizer who is haunted by the mystery behind the bones he's been digging up in his back yard; her husband who's seldom home and is haunted himself by things unseen by her; her past lover who died a mysterious death in Mexico before he was to marry someone else. Brilliant, dazzling writing in an assured voice. Warlick chooses the unusual, and therefore the most precise, words in her sentences to make them sing.
Julius Winsome by Gerard Donovan. Perhaps my favorite of the bunch, Donovan manages to take an unforgivable act and make it seem almost forgivable. The characterization in this book is a master lesson for writers. Stunning in its brilliance. One of my favorite books of the year.
- Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, and Pank, among others, and forthcoming from Gargoyle #57 and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. For two years I worked as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. Currently, I serve as a mentor for Dzanc's Creative Writing Sessions. I'm working on two novels and a short story collection. In May, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.