This summer brings out some seriously good reading. This is not just light fare — there are books that will keep your brain cells on overdrive, thinking about the plots, the characters, and in some, the strangeness of the stories. Prepare to hear about some literature you should consider bringing on vacation this summer.
“Fourth of July Creek” by Smith Henderson is a gritty story about those who live life rough in Montana. The protagonist, Pete, is a social worker who gets involved with a family consisting of a nearly-feral eleven-year-old boy and his survivalist, hostile and disturbed father. But when Pete’s own family falls apart and the FBI comes looking for the paranoid survivalist, everything falls apart. This is NOT a light, funny read, but rather one that will cause readers to ponder such weighty issues as freedom, anarchy and community.
Similarly, “Ruby” by Cynthia Bond is a book that will make readers think. It’s not an easy book to read — it’s filled with ugly scenes and darkness, but it’s also filled with hope and love. The publisher writes, “Bond brings readers into the world of ‘Ruby’ where her power to affect knows no bounds. With an incredible elegance and grace, she lays before us the darkest sides of humanity, unflinchingly taking us down into the depths of evil so that we may see the transcendent power of hope and love. A devastating beauty and power radiate from Bond’s prose and in reading ‘Ruby’ it is clear that we are witnessing the arrival of an astonishing new voice.”
“The Bees” by Laline Paull surely has one of the most unusual protagonists ever to be found in a novel. Her main character is Flora 717, a sterile worker-bee in a hive. She is born, and immediately watches as another newly-born bee is killed because of a deformed wing. Flora, too, is slated for death because of her gross size, but she is saved just in time. Flora is unusually intelligent and rises from her birth place in the lowest class. The story is rich in detail and filled with intentional and effective Orwellian doublespeak. Death is called “the kindness,” and the rules of the hive are: accept, obey and serve. Flora, like any decent protagonist, does not accept those rules. This is an interesting and thoughtful book that should not be overlooked by summer readers.
“Bird Box” by John Malerman is another chilling debut novel. It takes place in an apocalyptic future where the sight of a certain creature, or creatures, causes insanity and death. The protagonist, Malorie, lives with others in a house where all the occupants must remain blindfolded to ensure their sanity. The story is grim, and like any horror story worth its salt, filled with suspense and anxiety. Malorie must save not only her own life, but the lives of her two young children — who must never open their eyes. This is a story that is much better read in open sunlight than on a dark and stormy night. And keep your eyes open. If you dare.
“The Rathbones” by Janice Clark has a simple and telling cover — a picture of a big blue whale perched on grey waves. From the publisher: “Mercy, fifteen years old, is the last of the Rathbone whaling clan. Her father has been lost at sea for nearly ten years — ever since the last sperm whale was seen off the coast of Connecticut. As Mercy’s memories of her father grow dimmer with each passing day, she spends more of her time in the attic hideaway of her reclusive cousin Mordecai. But when a strange and threatening visitor turns up one night, Mercy and Mordecai are forced to flee, and they set sail on a journey that will bring them deep into the haunted history of the Rathbone family. From the depths of the sea to the lonely heights of the widow’s walk; from the wisdom of the worn Rathbone wives to the mysterious origins of a sinking island, Mercy and Mordecai’s enchanting journey will bring them to places they never imagined possible.” Described as gothic, whimsical, playful and intricate, this is one whale of a story you won’t want to miss.
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