Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On Friends and Books

I LOVE being a librarian! My friends are bookies and so am I. It's always eye-opening to see what they'll recommend and I find it interesting to discover how well another reader knows me when they make just the right choice for me. Maryellen did that recently. I may have mentioned that most of the books I read are pretty depressing and there are seldom happy endings. I was so afraid that this would be the case with Leah Stewart's The Myth of You and Me.

If I'd had the time I probably could have read this book at one sitting. A little bit mystery, a tiny bit "chick-lit," and definitely literary fiction, Stewart's novel begins in the present with the death of renowned recluse and scholar, Oliver Doucet. Cameron, his live-in research assistant, is bereft, homeless, jobless and generally at loose ends. However, Oliver has given her one last assignment and it's a doozie! He leaves Cameron a package, charging her with tracking down and delivering it to her best friend Sonia, from whom she has been estranged for several years.

The mystery of what came between the two previously inseparable buddies propels the story forward while, in typical fashion, my imagination conjured up some truly awful scenarios. Flashbacks fill in the blanks, little by little, until the reader gets a clear picture of just how important these two women were to eachother from an early age. One act of betrayal changed all that.

It never ceases to amaze me how people can hold onto hurts and betrayals for years, allowing them to eat away at the soul. This book examines how misunderstandings can fester, walls can be erected, and a life of self imposed exile can lead to unnecessary loneliness. There were times I wanted to shake Cameron and slap her - kind of like when Cher told Nicholas Cage to "snap out of it" in Moonstruck. To feel that strongly about a character certainly says something about the author's abilities. I'm looking for other books by Leah Stewart right now.

For an absolute laugh and a half, I highly recommend to my librarian friends (yes, you probably have to be a library worker to appreciate this one) Free for All; Oddballs, Geeks and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert. Damn, I wish I'd written this! The thing is, I could have. In the evening I usually regale Don with tales of an "average" day at my library and it never ceases to amaze him what goes on in an 8-9 hour day. Most of our patrons, and probably our families, think that we have such peaceful jobs, sitting around reading or looking at books all day. Don Borchert will disabuse them of that thought!

Borchert works in a suburban L.A. library setting so you might think that his stories about the homeless folk, the drug pushers using the bathroom as a drop off/pick up spot, or the teens on a rampage are exaggerated. Not so. When I used to work in Fort Myers, I often shared my seat and my sandwich with a homeless man at the picnic table. One morning our branch manager went outside to raise the flag and stepped right over a dead body, assuming the poor fellow was just sleeping! It's worth browsing this book just for the section on hiring a library page. Free for All is free to library patrons; the humor inside? Priceless!


Infobabe said...

I'm glad you admit that your books tend to be downers. In my book discussions we talk about how different locations read different types of books. My book last month, Pretty Little Mistakes, was a choose your own adventure novel for adults but many of the endings were negative. For us, that was unusual. Most of ours tend to be historical fiction or thrillers or the like. We said SC reads books in which the blind autistic widow suffers depression because her store is torched by neo-Nazis and she loses her only source of income...but that's not the sad part :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you like the book! Now I can't wait to read Free for All.