I have really neglected this blog. The MFA program has kept me very busy, and I've been finishing up my novel. All of which has been exciting and wonderful and hasn't stopped me from reading, but has maybe slowed me down on the writing-about-reading end of things.
I just finished reading Lily King's Euphoria and it is really the best thing I've read in a long time. I'm a fast reader anyway, but I read this in a day. I nearly couldn't put it down! It reminded me of Ann Patchett's State of Wonder in that it had that exotic, tropical feel. It is a love story, an adventure, and a story about loss. I've been a fan of Lily's since her very first novel, and this seemed like a departure for her. But, oh, it's a good departure.
I've also recently read and loved Lois Lowry's The Giver. I don't know how I never read this in my youth, but I missed it. Now that I've been working a few hours here and there at my local library, I came across it and decided to give it a try. At the time, I hadn't heard the movie was coming out (I don't watch much TV). The book blew me away and now I can't wait to see the movie. This would be a great book to read with older kids. There's so much to talk about--morality, humanity, utopian societies...and yet, Lowry does it with a fairly gentle hand.
I personally loved Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. I thought it felt like a fairy tale for adults and I don't see why that's a bad thing. I liked protagonist Theo, and, even when he was doing the exact wrong thing, I couldn't stop watching him. It is perhaps a little longer than it needs to be, and Tartt perhaps drives home her point about the value of art a little more strongly that I think necessary, but overall I found this to be a sweeping, engaging, unforgettable read.
I worried about Colum McCann's Transatlantic because at first it seemed awfully slow. But then, like one of those folded-up notes we used to pass around in eighth grade, the novel reveals itself. This is one you'll want to stick with. It is so worth it.
For a presentation for a workshop, I read Iris Owens's After Claude. This is my kind of book. Searing, sarcastic, unapologetic, and, I thought, hysterically funny. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Or, if you're looking for someone to like and root for. But for all protagonist Harriett's huge flaws, there is something painful and earnest in her that made me want to hear her story. Plus, like I said, she's really, really funny.
The last one I'll mention for now is Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child. This book doesn't have one unlikable character in it and I still loved it. I loved the beauty of the landscape of this story, and the hope of the characters, and I found that their desire for a child was incredibly palpable without being heavy-handed. There is magic and mystery in this story, but it is grounded firmly in the reality of life in Alaska. This has become one of my favorite books.