This week I am sharing four of my favorite novels of the 21st century (so far!) with you ...
don't remember who recommended this book to me (I should keep a list of
these things - but, then I'd have to keep a list on my desktop of where
the list is being kept, and then - well ... anyway), however, I am so
glad they did! I also don't know how this book published twenty years
ago escaped my attention; obviously, I wasn't paying attention!
Some authors have the unique gift of writing in a way that makes poverty - especially Great Depression poverty - seem almost beautiful. Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, Toni Morrison were/are all able to create a private, secluded world of hard scrabble and destitution that existed in a bubble of familial love and compassion and comraderie. Joe R. Lansdale, the author of The Bottoms, is that kind of author. Though the characters in this novel are dirt poor and the plot line is squalid and grubby on the surface, the author has put a 'spit shine' on the whole thing and it has sparkle and romance to it that perhaps it doesn't deserve, but, nonetheless it's there and it's a joy to live through. As Tom says in the opening of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, "The stage magician gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion."
The book is a narration by a very elderly man in a nursing home, as he reminisces about his youth in a small town in East Texas. It's a coming of age tale that involves family history and discovery, awareness of Jim Crow racism, violence, rape and alcoholism, and finally a serial killer. Though the serial killer follows the story through the entire book, it is - in no way, shape, or form - a thriller. It's no more a serial killer book than To Kill a Mockingbird is about child abuse. It's a strategic part of the narrator's history - but it's not the focus of the author.
I'm not going to write more about it, because I'm afraid that I will spoil it for anybody who decides to take my prodding recommendation and reads it. This is one terrific book.
Locked down and isolated on a long cold dark winter's afternoon? Have I got a book for you! Tana French's The Searcher
was a welcome surprise as my first book of 2021 - and I'm taking it as
an omen of good literary things to come in the coming year!
When you get right down to it, the advertising blurb for the book is quite misleading. It reads like an ad for a conventional murder mystery thriller. And, perhaps it is that superficially, but it's so much more than that. There is a murder mystery on which the story is hung; however, the story is one of loneliness, self-redemption, survival and compassion. Cal and Trey and Mort are three loners - all making their way with various degrees of psychological success for different reasons. As the murder mystery unfolds (and, trust me, the thriller part is non existent), they find each other, circle and learn to either trust - or not - each other.
The book is what I believe is called a slow burner ... it definitely has a forward thrust and energy; but, it's not hurried or given to leaps over logic to get to the next chase scene (spoiler: no chase scenes). It kept me completely engaged, but not through the artifice of the murder mystery (which is quite believable in itself). Rather, I found myself wrapped up in the people involved and interested in how each of their personal stories would resolve (or not).
I don't believe this was a best seller or got a lot of press coverage in book reviews which is a shame. It should have more readers who are less partial to pulp genre novels and more prone to books about the human condition.
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan