Monday, July 10, 2017

Summer Reading Update

I"ve had more time for reading that posting, it seems, this summer--with family weddings, graduations, bridal showers, and birthdays. I've managed to read several that appear on some of the Best-Seller lists, particularly when the authors make appearances in Nashville. David Sedaris' Theft by Finding is on my nightstand ready for me to pick it up. His appearance at Parnassus was so much fun--and it was my first time to see him live after tuning in to This American Life for years.

I had read Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief, but I hadn't heard about The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley  until my friend Emily told me she's read it--one of her First Editions Club selections. The narrative moves back and forth between the life of Loo Hawley and her father, who is raising her after her mother's "drowning death." The narrative structure is built around flashbacks in which readers learn the story of Hawley's twelve bullet scars.

Tinti skillfully keeps readers guessing, trying to recognize the fine line between truth, lies, and mind games. Although Hawley, Loo's father, gets title billing, in many ways, the story is Loo's. Named Louise at birth, she has moved from place to place with her dead, leaving each temporary home with short notice. They finally settle in her mother's hometown where Lou gains some protection from the principal, one of her mother's high school admirers, after suffering from bullying.

She also finds a boyfriend in the son of a local woman going door to door trying to stop the over-fishing of the cod in the local waters, making an enemy of all the locals who derive their living from fishing.

The telling keeps readers barely a step ahead of Loo in finding out the real back story of her father and her mother Lily. The author reveals the dark side of Hawley's criminal life and the difficulty of breaking free and living clean, even when solely responsible for a child.

Even though the book has characteristics of a page turner, I found myself stopping to mark passages I found especially insightful, and I kept thinking that even though Loo's life seems hard to believe, many young people live with the fallout of their parents' prior choices. I found Loo one of the most sympathetic engaging young characters I've met in awhile.

Another "best-seller" recommendation, Noah Hawley's Before the Fall also kept me whipping through pages to unlock the mystery inside. No spoiler alert here--all of this is revealed in the opening pages--the book opens with the crash of a small private plane, eighteen minutes into a flight from Martha's Vineyard.

Of the eleven people on board, including the crew, only two survive, through the heroics of an unsuccessful artist invited to join the flight when he encountered the owner's wife at the island's farmer's market. Because two of the passengers were high profile individuals, network news goes crazy, speculating on what really caused the plane to crash--and why this unknown artist was on board.

Hawley moves back and forth between the aftermath of the plane crash and flashbacks into the lives of everyone on board, exploring the possible answers to the mystery of the crash. Readers will sympathize with Scott, the painter, who just wants to maintain a low profile as his life is affected by the media circus following the crash. The focus is intensified since the plane's owner is a media mogul who owns one of the nation's more conservative TV news networks.

Just as sympathetic, though, is the surviving four-year-old boy whose life is turned upside down, leaving him as his wealthy parents sole heir, plunked down into the home of his aunt and her unlikeable, greedy husband. Hawley handles the narrative structure to keep readers guessing the truth up until the end of the story.

I'll be posting again soon, covering some recent nonfiction books and my re-reading of poetry collections by some of my favorite poets. Until then, I'd love to know what you're reading too.