Monday, April 29, 2024

Three Books Suggestions for Three Different Kinds of Readers.

Nothing pleases me more than the chance to talk books with fellow bibliophiles. I realize, though, that when someone asks for reading suggestions, my answers are never one-size-fits-all. I read--and enjoy--such a variety of books, but what might suit one reader wouldn't suit another. That is part of the underlying message of Erica Bauermeister's novel No Two Persons.  The title refers to the saying, "No two persons read the same book." The book is called a novel, but could also be considered a series of interlocking short stories. 

The book opens with Alice Weir, the aspiring writing whose story finds her, in the character of Theo. Readers meet Lara, the young mother working through the slush pile, looking for the book that will establish her credibility--and it is Theo. Readers also meet the actor who turns to narrating audiobooks after a skin condition ends his career. The book publisher, a diver, an artist, and a high school student trying to keep her homelessness secret until she can graduate high school. Bauermeister creates a unified, satisfying whole. 

I was slow coming to Verghese's The Covenant of Water, even though I remember loving Cutting for Stone. I will admit that the length of the book led me to slide it down the stack--until I decided to take along the audiobook on a beach trip. This was. one of those books I wanted to recommend to other people before I even finished it. Spanning the first three quarters of the twentieth century, this story starts with the arranged married of a fourteen-year-old girl to a widower in his forties who needs a mother for his son.

While that scenario on its own could have gone so wrong, the marriage becomes a real one

The story is set in a village in India that is part of the community known as St. Thomas Christians, tracing their lineage to one of the twelve apostles believed to have made his way to the country. The narrative had me moving swiftly from laughing to weeping in short order. I also had to keep a pen and paper nearby to jot down some of the beautiful lines.

Verghese introduces interesting characters, including Digby Kilgour, a Scottish doctor who moves to India to practice medicine. The leper colony where he eventually lands is a rich part of the narrative. The title refers to a condition in the main family of the story. The young bride quickly recognizes her husband's unnatural avoidance of water, learning that "the condition" has been present in the family for generations. 

These characters face loss, betrayal, disease, accidents, and disappointments, but the story is one of redemption nonetheless. It was worth the more than thirty hours of listening.

 James Goodhand's novel The Day Tripper, set in London, uses a similar plot device to Margarita Montimore's Oona Out of Order, which I read a year or so ago. The protagonist in this story Alex Dean is about to beat the odds, with acceptance to Cambridge offering escape from his life of poverty, never able to live up to his father's expectations. He has met a girl--a medical student--who seems the perfect match, when an encounter with an antagonist from his past leads to a fight--and he wakes up not only in another place, but another time. 

The pattern continues, with him waking each day in a different time and location. Sometimes he is at rock bottom; sometimes he has glimpses of hope. Every day he has to learn quickly from context. Then he meets a man--a high school teacher--who has some inkling of his situation. 

What begins as a frustrating tale turns into story of the fragile balance between fate and free will. Alex finds that he not only can but must pull against the weight of history. The dramatic irony is both nerve-wracking and great fun. I dare say the book is about hope.