Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dear Cyborgs

Dear cyborgs / Eugene Lim, 163 pages

Sometimes you read a book and enjoy the act of doing so, but you finish and aren't quite sure what you just read.  So many parts of this book seemed fun or cool or exactly like the type of thing I enjoy reading but the finish product leaves me perplexed.  Did  somehow lose focus while reading?  Did some part of this not settle in my brain?  I really don't know.  I can't summarize the book.  I'm not sure what it was about.  It does start with the friendship of two Asian kids who meet in elementary school and hang out a lot.  Attracted by their mutual loneliness and feeling ostracized by their white classmates, they lose touch as adults then find each other again.  The stuff that happens in between may be plots from comics they were writing together, dreams, or just tales from another world.  I'm not really sure.  Someone else please read this and explain it to me.

Radio Free Vermont

Radio Free Vermont / Bill McKibben, read by Danny Campbell, 224 pages.

The audio here is good but not great.  Danny Campbell does a great job with pacing, keeping the story going but most of the characters sound too much the same.  I still enjoyed the story, Vern Barclay kind of accidentally starts a movement encouraging Vermonters to debate succeeding from the US.  His point is that big is too much and smaller would be better.  He is on the run after teaming up with Perry, a teen computer whiz who floods a new Walmart with sewage.  Along the way they get support from a growing contingent, including Vern's mom who, along with her fellow nursing home residents, create a flag for the possible independent Vermont.  There is so much to like here, read or listen to this if you are looking at our current situation with any amount of concern.

Most Talkative

Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture by Andy Cohen, 273 pages

When reality TV producer Andy Cohen graduated from Clayton High School, his classmates dubbed him "Most Talkative." This celebrity-soaked memoir proves that, even though he graduated more than 30 years ago, he still OWNS that title, covering everything from his youthful obsession with soap operas (and really, all things TV-related) to his coming-out story to his early career as a CBS This Morning producer to his creation of The Real Housewives reality TV franchise. He covers everything with plenty of self-deprecating humor and 20/20 hindsight. While I'm not a fan of soap operas or CBS This Morning or The Real Housewives (never seen an episode, nor do I really care to), I am a closet fan of celebrity gossip, so I loved listening to this audiobook, which was read by Cohen himself — a decision that added a level of effervescent comedy that made all the difference.


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee  490 pp.

This novel was a finalist for the National Book Award. It is the saga of four generations of Koreans, most of whom never lived in Korea. Beginning during the occupation/colonization of Korea by Japan the story runs through World War II to the 1970s. The family faces illness, imprisonment, the horrors of war, poverty, and starvation while holding onto the importance of family, and their hard work ethic. Sunja, the daughter of a crippled fisherman and a boardinghouse owner, gets pregnant by a charming businessman who turns out to have a wife and children in Japan. A tubercular missionary at the boarding house marries her and takes her to Japan where he has a job in a church. Because Koreans are looked down upon by the Japanese they live in the Korean ghetto with his brother and sister-in-law. Life gets harder and harder but Sunja's former lover steps in to help, secretly at first. The story continues as her children grow, become adults, and have their own challenges to face living as a minority in a country that does not want them there. There aren't that many books in English that portray the struggle of Koreans in Japanese society and this one covers a many of the challenges Koreans faced there. And, like the game of Pachinko, success / winning is controlled in part by the machine settings but partly by chance.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pale Rider: the Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World

Pale Rider: the Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World / Laura Spinney, 332 p.

Spinney's central question is why, when the flu pandemic killed such an enormous number of people - at least 50 million - it has never captured the limelight like the century's world wars, whose total deaths numbered 18 million and 60 million.  So much is packed in a realtively brief text: a history of human pandemics, theories about what caused the Spanish flu to explode, scientists' attempts to contain it, and the tremendous impact a country's infrastructure, both from a political and a public health standpoint, had on the course of disease in that locale.  Impressive for the attention drawn to the flu's ravages in non-European areas, this is a terrific read, intelligent but pitched for the general reader.

Going into town

Going into town: a love letter to New York / Roz Chast, 169 pgs.

Charming and also helpful, Chast tells us the important stuff about New York.  After growing up in Brooklyn, Chast became a suburban commuter to the city.  Although in love with New York, she decided the larger space that she could afford in the 'burbs made sense.  Then ready to send her oldest off to college, she realized her kids had a totally different idea of the city than she has.  She started writing a little guide that grew into this book.  Here are the important facts, not tourist attractions. A tutorial on finding your way around, and appreciate the sights and "feel" of the city.  Chast's drawings are so marvelous, you don't have to be interested in NYC to appreciate this book but if you read it, you might become interested.

Life in code

Life in code: a personal history of technology / Ellen Ullman, 306 pgs.

Kind of a memoir, this series of essays by a woman who worked as a software engineer/programmer, is a thoughtful look at her experiences in the tech business, in life with meditations on society. Ullman has a way with words, I found myself re-reading many passages because of what I was learning and how well she was communicating.  Nothing here comes across as nerdy, in fact, the opposite seems more likely.  And, although she talks some about the dominance of white and Asian guys in tech, this isn't a mediation on inclusion or the struggles of a woman in a male dominated arena.  Ullman doesn't have time for small topics, here she seems to be explaining bigger things and doing it well.

Fire in the Hole

Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard, 240 pages

In this collection of nine short stories, Leonard offers up a handful of versions of classic Western tropes — the shootout, the sheriff, the cattle rustler, the cowboy — though not always in a Western setting. The sheriff's role is often played by U.S. marshals (Leonard's well-known characters Raylan Givens and Karen Sisco), there are plenty of tough women to be found, and every last story features whiskey and guns. My favorite is "When the Women Come Out to Dance," a story of Mrs. Mahmood and her maid, Lourdes, who have a peculiar relationship that takes an unexpected twist. I'd never read Leonard's work before, and this collection was a great introduction to his style and his characters.

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Likely Story

A Likely Story by Jenn McKinlay (2015), 292 pages

I've just completed four of the books in Jenn McKinlay's A Library Lover's Mystery series. They're set in fictional Briar Creek, Connecticut, a small coastal town with hundreds of tiny islands within close range. Lindsey Norris is the town's young new library director, whose curiosity gets her into the middle of mysteries that arise, all while handling a difficult circulation staffer, Ms. Cole (also known as "The Lemon" because of her sour disposition), as well as Beth, an enthusiastic children's librarian who is into extreme costuming for story time. Lindsey also heads a weekly book group of supportive, chatty women who gather at the library to eat, work on crafts, and discuss books. (Each of this series' books has a recipe at the back for something the book group ate at their meeting.) A boat captain, Michael "Sully" Sullivan, has captivated Lindsey's heart, yet they don't quite get together, keeping us wondering if it will ever work out.

In A Likely Story, Sully transports Lindsey to an island to deliver library books to some shut-ins. When they are not met at the dock as usual, they work their way into the huge old house, avoiding humongous piles of debris as well as booby traps, both inside and outside the house--the two old brothers who live at the house are extreme hoarders. Lindsey and Sully discover one of the old men is dead in his wheel chair, obviously having been shot. The other brother is missing. Is the missing brother a murderer or on the run for his life? Meanwhile, a rich woman has been buying up some of the islands, and some antique collectors who own a shop in Chicago show up, hoping to buy some of the old brothers' collectibles. Lindsey's research into the town's history helps provide clues to the current mystery, but also causes some dangerous consequences.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

All Grown Up

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg, 197 pages

Andrea is a New York woman, living the single life and avoiding the marriage-kids-divorce track that everyone else seems to be taking. Christa did a great job of describing this book here, so I won't add much to her description. But I will say that the structure of the book — which starts every chapter at a different period in Andrea's life, and focusing on a different person she knows — lends to the sense that Andrea is simply marking time as everyone around her evolves. It's only in the later chapters that Andrea's own evolution reveals itself. I'm not a huge fan of the book (I much prefer Attenberg's Saint Mazie), but I did enjoy it and the structure.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Sky is Yours

The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith, 457 pages

For 50 years, the once-thrivng metropolis of Empire Island has been at the mercy of two dragons that constantly circle the skies above the island, lighting fires throughout the city whenever the mood strikes them. These dragons — one yellow, one green — never land, never eat, never sleep, and never communicate in any way with the people who live below them. While the threat of dragon-fire has led many to flee the city, there are some who remain. Among those: spoiled billionaire playboy teenager Duncan Ripple V; his arranged-marriage fiancee Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg; and hard-hearted drug kingpin Eisenhower Sharkey. There's also Abby, a girl who was raised alone on a neighboring garbage dump island and taught to fear all technology. These four people live isolated from one another, and from the city at large, yet circumstances force their stories to intertwine.

Along with these fantastically-named and well-rounded characters, Smith has created a nuanced world that almost becomes a character of its own. The plot, too, was excellently created, shining just a bit of light on the path forward without giving up the coming twists and turns, but with plenty of wry humor that sneaks up on the reader. I loved it!

Claudius the God

Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina by Robert Graves  544 pp.

This is the continuation of the fictionalized history begun in I, Claudius which ended with the death of the Roman Emperor Caligula. This part begins with the battles in the Roman senate over whether or not the lame and "mentally deficient" Claudius should, in fact, become the emperor. The rest of the story covers his thirteen year reign including the political intrigues, treachery and backstabbing that was common in that era. After the horrific reign of Caligula with its violence and excesses, Claudius' time in power seems quite calm and reasonable. Messalina, the favorite of Claudius' four wives, embraces the power of being the emperor's wife. Behind his back, she carries out her own intrigues and affairs. His love for her led him to overlook what is happening when it came to her activities. While Claudius sincerely tried to improve things for his Roman subjects, including the ones in conquered lands, there was still plenty of violence, retaliatory murders, and execution but not close to the scale of Caligula's time. This book was a bit of a slog to get through. It gets bogged down in the military operations in Britain. Now I need to re-watch the PBS series from the 1970s.

The Night Gardener

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier  350 pp.

This was another one of my Treehouse Book Club books. The story is a creepy but intriguing tale about storytelling and greed. Irish orphans, Molly and Kip, have landed in England in search of work. Molly is a storyteller and uses her stories to comfort her younger brother's fears. Molly is hired to be a servant to the Windsor family but everyone they meet on the way cautions them not to go there because the manor house in the "sourwoods" is evil. The house is built with a large tree engulfing it inside and out. The tree is the source of the evil and the family is suffering the effects of the tree's magic. The appearance of the "Night Gardener" is just one facet of the strange goings-on. Auxier has produced a story that has potential to become a classic.  His masterful use of descriptive language makes this book something special. One of the book club kids declared it was one of the best books she ever read.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What happened

What happened / Hillary Rodham Clinton, 494 pages.

Talking to a friend, we decided that if Hillary would have won we now would be complaining about how she was disappointing us, how she wasn't getting enough done, how we wanted MORE. But we wouldn't be afraid of a nuclear war, horrified at degradation of American world influence and lack of leadership.  Here Clinton is brutally honest and open about mistakes she made, mistakes others made and how things ended up so poorly.  I don't know how else to say it, but there is a lot of pain and suffering yet Clinton is still gracious and appreciative of those who support her.  I'm not sure why I chose to read this book now, it seems too soon, but I'm glad I did and would recommend it to anyone interested in politics, women leaders or tragic endings.

All grown up

All grown up / Jami Attenberg, 197 pages.

Andrea really starts out grown up but then continues to grow.  She is an art school grad but ends up in the grind of advertising, easily doing well in a job she does not enjoy.  She spends her time partying, screwing guys she dates and avoiding the "expected" path. She has no desire to pair off or have kids.  She kind of ignores her family and the fact that she is in a rut.  Her friends are out there getting married, having kids, getting divorced and she is avoiding all of those things.  I can get behind that but in the end, she just seems bored.  This book has gotten some great reviews, maybe I just didn't get it.  I don't regret reading it but not sure who I would recommend it to.

Believe me

Believe me: a memoir of love, death and jazz chickens / Eddie Izzard, read by the author, 348 pgs.

Izzard's memoir is chatty and informative.  There is a lot of focus on his childhood and the trauma of his mother's death when Izzard was six years old.  After that, he and his brother went to boarding school so everything changed radically for him.  His dad was still around and a loving guy but boarding school reshaped his life.  The story picks up when he gets to performing in college.  I can appreciate hearing about learning to perform on the street, on the stage and then on TV and film.  Izzard realization that he is trans and how he dealt with it are also highlights. His charity runs are not featured enough, in my opinion.  In the end, this is probably best for people who are fans or interested in Izzard.  The audio book is well done and contains lots of extra features and comments.

Ants among elephants

Ants among elephants: an untouchable family and the making of modern India / Sujatha Gidla, 306 pages.

An interesting family history that reveals some about the modern India and the caste system.  This book focuses mostly on the lives of the author's mother and her uncles.  It starts with her collecting the family stories and adding to her own history.  She is trying to beat the clock, her elderly relatives are dying off.  One uncle was a revolutionary poet and communist.  He lead some resistance activities but never mastered caring for himself.  His followers, siblings, then wife had to shave him and help him put on his clothes. He devotes his life to the cause and influences his family to do so as well.  In between, daily life happens, people work, marry, fight and reconcile.  Kids are born and jobs are done. I found this to be a remarkable book and about a time and place that is foreign to me.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Modern Retro Home

Modern Retro Home by Mr. Jason Grant, photography by Lauren Bamford, 255 pages

Interior decorator Jason Grant (who includes the "Mr." on the cover, title page, and "about the author" page) presents a coffee-table book filled with rooms decorated with plenty of mid-century flair. Each page offers Grant's takeaways on the room presented, though after a while I found these one- to two-sentence opinions more annoying than enlightening. What shines in this book is Bamford's beautiful photography and the rooms, which Grant explains are the homes of his creative friends. (That said, I know some staging was going on, if only because there is no way someone would decorate a kid's room with a cactus and an antique horse toy instead of stuffed animals.) I found plenty of inspiration for my own mid-century home, though I hope you'll forgive me for my assumption that macrame = cat toy.

Monday, February 19, 2018

House Witness

House Witness by Mike Lawson, 353 pages.
In his twelfth Joe Demarco thriller, Lawson has regained his old form. All of the stories are good, but some of them are merely good. This one is fast-paced and lean. DeMarco, semi-attorney, sometimes investigator, occasional-bagman, and full-time fixer is sent off to Manhattan by his boss, Minority Leader of the House, John Mahoney, to make sure that the murderer of one Dominic DiNunzio is found guilty and sent to prison. Joe is only told that his boss is interested because the dead man's mother is an old friend of the Congressman. When the slam dunk murder case against alleged killer Toby Rosenthal starts falling apart, DeMarco has to figure out the why, and the who in a short period of time. DeMarco, the DA assigned to the case, and an unpaid intern race the clock trying to find a shadowy jury specialist who help the ultra-rich evade justice. Lawson, who always writes a good story, trims down the narrative and barely mentions many of his regular characters and that helps keep this tale taut and focused. The villains are drawn well and are interesting characters in their own right, especially Ella, who is not super evil, just competent and determined and maybe a bit of a sociopath. She has a life plan and needs to get on with things. Joe doesn't find any life affirming answers, doesn't find any clues about his past, and doesn't find a new love. He gets lucky and solves the case.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters: Book One, by Emil Ferris, 386 pages.

Karen, the young woman telling the story of this graphic novel, sees herself as a young werewolf. More than that, she sees herself as a werewolf private detective. Karen lives with her mother and her older brother Deeze in Chicago in the late 1960s. There is a lot of family drama going on, and though Deeze and mom do their best to keep Karen in the dark, she is determined to find out their secrets. There is a lot of drama in her downtown neighborhood, too. One of their neighbors goes missing (leaving behind his ventriloquist dummy), another is sent off to prison, and most mysteriously, the beautiful and secretive neighbor upstairs apparently shot herself in the living room of her locked apartment and then went to bed and tucked herself in before dying.
There are some horrifying scenes here, Karen is threatened with violence and finds out terrible and disturbing things about what has been done to her neighbors, and about what they have done. She's courageous, and relentless, even though she knows now that not everything is going to work out okay in the end. Great art and strong storytelling.

Once in a Blue Moon Lodge

Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik (2017), 317 pages

In this book, author Lorna Landvik picks up the story from one of her previous novels, Patty Jane's House of Curl (1995). If you haven't read Patty Jane (or like me, forgot some details over time), no fear; Landvik catches us up seamlessly. The primary focus is on Nora, a single attorney returned home to Minnesota from a stint in LA. Feeling uncertain what to do with her life, several events occur which set its course: She has a chance encounter with a French-speaking Canadian at a campsite, she gives a ride to a snarly old widow who owns a large lodge, and she accompanies her grandmother Ione to Norway. While in Norway, Nora learns that the old widow in Minnesota wants to sell her lodge to Nora at a great discount. Also in Norway, Nora meets a doctor, who is everything that she could want in a permanent relationship. However, Nora discovers she is pregnant as a result of the encounter with the Canadian, with triplets, no less! The story is loaded with other believable--and mostly lovable--protagonists (including Nora's mother, Patty Jane) and we experience their stories as well. If one could choose one's own family, this would be the one!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Downsizing the Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go

Downsizing the Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go by Marni Jameson, 237 pages (2015)

Marni Jameson writes from two sets of personal experiences: clearing out and selling her parents' home after they moved into an assisted living community, plus downsizing her own possessions after her divorce.  Jameson picks the brains of experts in the field, providing helpful information on handling what to keep, what to sell and how (auction versus estate and yard sales) and what to give away (and where).  Once the home is emptied, we also learn some tips on how to maximize profits by carefully choosing what to spend money on to prepare the house for the market.

This practical guide taught me that I should periodically weed through my own things, and probably try to get my older relatives to do so too.  Most importantly, Jameson's experts stress that our things (and the things of those we love) do not define us.

Three daughters of Eve, by Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak, born in Istanbul and currently living in London, is a popular Turkish author who writes in both her native Turkish and English.  Lacking any mention of a translator, I assume this recent book has been written in English or translated from the Turkish by Shafak.  It is fluent and vernacular.  Three young Muslim women meet as students at Oxford.  The main character, Peri, is from an Istanbul family.  Her father, an incipient alcoholic, is secular while her mother has become an increasingly  devout believer over the years.  Mona, Egyptian-American, is observant and wears a headscarf, but does not think that this defines her as a person.  Shirin, a bit older than the others, has escaped from Iran and has no use for religion of any kind.  She does, however, urge both the new girls to try to get accepted into a seminar lead by the charismatic and controversial young don, A. Z. Azur.  The course title?  “God.”  As the novel opens, it is about fifteen years after the young women met.  Peri, on her way to an opulent dinner party at a mansion owned by a successful, and possibly corrupt, businessman, has her purse stolen out of the backseat while her car is stuck in the typical Istanbul traffic.  Pursuing the robber on foot, she is able to retrieve the stolen purse, but as she does, an old polaroid photo of the three women and Azur falls out, reminding her of their time together and the events that lead to their falling out.  The rest of the book alternates between the events in the early 2000s at Oxford and present-day Turkey, with all its internal contradictions between the former secular democracy and increasingly strong-man theocracy it is becoming.  In many ways, Peri’s childhood experiences torn between her parents beliefs and disbeliefs is an echo of the current political situation there.  Despite many pages of lengthy religious debates, the novel moves at break-neck speed to a surprising ending.  367 pp. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance

The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell, 352 pages.
Rydell has written an illuminating and meticulously researched account of the concentrated and deliberate efforts by several groups of Nazi functionaries to acquire, steal, seize, and collect all the available literature by and about Jews, Freemasons, witches, socialists, and communists throughout the countries they controlled, invaded or occupied. Through these seizures the Nazis engaged in a systematic effort (or several competing systematic efforts) to rewrite history, deleting accounts of people they loathed and seeking to insert instead their own warped vision.
Groups like the RHSA (SS -Reichssicherheitshauptamt, a part of Heinrich Himmler's SS) and the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (the ERR, a free-standing Reich organization, controlled by Alfred Rosenberg) competed with each other to seize the biggest and most While tracing individual books and collections in the same manner  as The Monuments Men and other works that concentrated on the Nazi looting of art, Anders also delves deeply into the history of the actors within the Reich, the original owners of the collections and the men who secretly tried to save the histories of people, groups and cultures from the Nazis. A fascinating book, very well researched, and well written by Rydell, and capably translated from the Swedish by Henning Koch.

The Choice: Embrace the Possible

The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, 288 pages.

A compelling story that is a hybrid of sorts. Partly an account, a memoir of a holocaust survivor, and partly a self-help book,, an account from a successful therapist who shows her patients that they always have a choice, even if that choice is sometimes how they choose to deal with tragedy. Eger grew up in Kocise, Czechoslovakia (formerly, when her parents were younger, Kassa, Hungary), an ethnically Hungarian and Slovakian part of the world. Her father was a tailor, and her mother, while a good and kind woman, was haunted by the early death of her own mother. Eger's older sister Klara is a violin prodigy, and their oldest sister, Magda an extrovert. Eger felt that she lived in the shadow of her sisters when they were all young, before the war. Eger tells of how, when the Germans came, she and her parents and her sister Magda were sent to Auschwitz. Edith and her mother were separated by Mengele at the first selection when the infamous doctor asked if this was her mother or her sister. Fifteen year-old Edith answered without thinking that this was her mommy. Her mother is sent to the left, and Edith to the right. Edith is haunted by her answer for the rest of her life.
After the war, Eger heals slowly. Eventually, after reading Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, Eger changes course in her life, studies and earns a PhD in clinical psychology. In the second half of the book she talks about her family, how she and they found paths towards healing, this interspersed with accounts from her clinical practice, how she helped others on a path towards healing. An arresting and effective book.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Secondhand Souls

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore, 335 pages

Since saving San Francisco from the supernatural Morrigan a year earlier, the Death Merchants of the Bay Area have been taking it easy, recuperating and getting back to their non-death-related lives. Turns out that was a big mistake, since the Morrigan are creeping back into existence, aided by a mysterious man with a penchant for the color yellow. This book is a follow-up to Moore's 2006 novel, A Dirty Job, and it's pretty important to read that one before this one. I'd read A Dirty Job when it came out, but not since, and I'll admit that it took me quite a while to remember the whos and whats of the story. The plot of Secondhand Souls is a bit more scattered, and a few of the interactions between black characters came across as cringeworthy caricatures, so it's definitely not Moore's best work (in my mind, that will always be Lamb). But it's an OK urban fantasy sequel that fans of the Dresden Files might appreciate.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling, 309 pages

Orphan Harry Potter lives with his horrendous relatives until one day, he finds out that he's a wizard and.... Let's face it: if you don't know the basic premise of this book by now, you never will and you probably will never read this, no matter how many people tell you how freaking outstanding this series is. This was my gajillionth* time reading this, though the first time reading it out loud to my daughter. I loved sharing one of my favorite books with her, and seeing her reactions to Rowling's storytelling prowess. On to book 2!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Autumn, by Ali Smith

Billed as the first installment of her Seasonal Quartet, Smith’s novel is much like the lost collage, Pauline Body’s “Scandal 63,” that is at the center of the work.  For an American reader, it probably helps to have some knowledge of post-Brexit England and  British pop-art history – or to have watched the episode on PBS’s The Crown that dealt with the 1960s era scandal known as the Profumo Affair.  Daniel Gluck is 101 and on his deathbed as the book opens.  More than twenty years earlier, he and his very young next door neighbor, Elisabeth, then eight, develop a close and unlikely friendship.  Elisabeth, now 32, has not seen him in many years, but when her mother tells her that he has been taken to Maltings Care Providers, she rushes home for a last visit.  The book (although 260 pages long) is brief and episodic, with large type and a lot of white space.  It shifts back and forth between decades.  It lingers in the mind after the last page as only a really good book does.  I look forward to her newly released Winter.  260 pp. 

Fresh complaint, by Jeffrey Eugenides

Short stories by the author of Middlesex and The marriage plot.  An old woman, in the end, may lose herself in the snow; a young man, traveling in Southeast Asia and trying to starve the amoebas out of his gut, may drift out to sea. In other stories, the protagonists loses his clavichord, another his marriage, a third his cushy job.  There aren’t a lot of happy endings here but aside from the really bad “The oracular vulva,” there’s much to enjoy here.  285 pp.