With the quiet precision of Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres and the technical clarity of Mary Roach’s Stiff, this is a novel about a young woman who comes most alive while working in her father’s mortuary in a small, forgotten Western town.
« The dead come to me vulnerable, sharing their stories and secrets . . . «
Mary Crampton has spent all of her thirty years in Petroleum, a small Western town once supported by a powerful grain company. Living at home, she works as the embalmer in her father’s mortuary: an unlikely job that has long marked her as an outsider. Yet, to Mary there is a satisfying art to positioning and styling each body to capture the essence of a subject’s life.
Though some townsfolk pretend that the community is thriving, the truth is that Petroleum is crumbling away—a process that began twenty years ago when an accident in the grain elevator killed a beloved high school athlete. The mill closed for good, the train no longer stopped in town, and Robert Golden, the victim’s younger brother, was widely blamed for the tragedy and shipped off to live elsewhere. Now, out of the blue, Robert has returned to care for his terminally ill mother. After Mary—reserved, introspective, and deeply lonely—strikes up an unlikely friendship with him, shocking the locals, she finally begins to consider what might happen if she dared to leave Petroleum.
Set in America’s heartland, The Flicker of Old Dreams explores themes of resilience, redemption, and loyalty in prose as lyrical as it is powerful.
Set over the course of one rainy day in a London suburb, Arlington Park is a viciously funny portrait of a group of young mothers, each bound to their families, each straining for some kind of independence. As the hours pass, Rachel Cusk’s graceful, incisive prose passes through the experience of each mother, following them all from the early-morning scrambling, through car trips and visits to the mall, and finally to a dinner party in the evening, when the husbands return and all the conflicts come to the surface.
Rachel Cusk is a brilliant writer. Her tone is often ascerbic, even astringent, but the truth of her observations is spot on.
This book follows the lives of Nadia, Aubrey and Luke, three young people in a small community in California, who have to all deal with a loss, secrets and betrayal. Within the novel is the chorus of the mothers, elder women who witnessed the events or promted, through gossip, the unfolding of the dramatic events to follow.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.
When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways. This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood, between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new.
Adam, a 16 year old Malaysian, lives with his adopted father Karl, who is white and Dutch. Adam is troubled because he would like to find his brother Johan who he was separated from while at the orphanage. Malaysia is in unrest and on the brink of a civil war. Karl is kidnapped and Adam doesn’t know where to find him so he enlists the help of Margaret, who hasn’t seen Karl for years but who comes to realize, through her search for him, that she really cares for Karl. Adam will also realize that his real family is Karl. In the meantime, Johan is careening out of control in his very privileged adopted family because of his guilt concerning his betrayal of his brother.
Malaysia’s recent history and colonial past are explored as well as the themes of family, love, and betrayal.
Matilda is 14 years old. She lives on an island in the South Pacific with her mother. There is only one white man in her village, Mr. Watts, and they call him Pop Eye. The island has been blockaded and a war has broken out between the rebels and the red skins. In the midst of this turmoil Mr Watts starts teaching the children and reads Great Expectations by Charles Dickens to them, one chapter a day. Matilda and the other children will immerse themselves in the story and will forget for a while their terrible reality. They will see parallels between their lives and that of Pip and the other cast of characters. Matilda and Mr. Watts will form a special bond which will cause a rift between Matilda and her mother. A struggle will ensue concerning the beliefs of Matilda’s mother and that of Mr. Watts. A terrible event will allow them to gain respect for each other.
This powerful, unforgettable novel explores faith, the power of literature and story telling, and the devastating effects of war and hatred.