Sunday, November 1, 2015

Searching for a Transcendent Read

Come on friends. Share with me. It's November 1st and I still haven't read a novel this year that's truly knocked me out. I'm looking over my list of books read and trying to decide which one will go to the head of the class.

Product DetailsI had big hopes for "A Place We Knew Well," a new novel by Susan Carol McCarthy which takes place outside of Orlando and which I hoped I could review for the Florida Book Page.
It's set during the time of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and juxtaposes the breakdown of trust in our government with the breakdown of the Avery family.

The Averys are the quintessential American family, dad is retired Air Force, runs a Texaco station, is married to Sarah, a stay at home mom who's frustrated and fragile, and they dote on their only daughter Charlotte. It's a time of ostensible innocence but there are unspoken secrets that cause ripples of tension just beneath the surface.

McCarthy dabbles in important topics: prejudice against the young Cubans being relocated to our country by the Catholic Church, the Cold War gamesmanship being played out by Kennedy and Khrushchev and the extent to which average Americans were completely in the dark about how close we came to mutually assured destruction, and also the mentality of the medical profession toward "women's troubles," along with the over reliance on medication and surgery, but none of these topics are fully developed to the point where I could drum up any outrage.

I recently reviewed an outstanding classic, "Alas Babylon," about a similar subject. Pat Frank's book was written in the '50's but it stands the test of time and was visceral and terrifying in its account of a nuclear conflagration and its effects on small-town Florida. I decided to cut my losses. I read the last chapter of McCarthy's book and moved on to another novel about Florida, Russell Banks' "Continental Drift." The difference in the quality and depth of the writing was immediately apparent. You can expect to hear me reporting on it within the next few months.

For a break, I turned to an old standby I can always count on for a laugh, Nelson DeMille. "Radiant Angel" is the latest in the long-lived John Corey series, read for the audio by the inimitable Scott Brick who, by now, has made the character his own. If you are unfamiliar with Corey - oh, I hope not - he is a fast-talking, wise-cracking, hot shot former cop, FBI agent, and anti-terrorism task force member, who eschews authority, takes risks,  and has a weakness for women, wine, and song. There is absolutely nothing politically correct about him!
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In literature and in film (saw Bridge of Spies yesterday) the so-called Cold War seems to be the topic of the moment. Putin's star would appear to be rising and we are desperately trying to extricate ourselves from the messes we've created in the middle east. DeMille is always right on top of the political landscape and his plot lines are rarely as far fetched as they might seem at first glance.

In this case there's a suitcase nuke that's been planted by the Russians on the yacht of a respected Saudi prince. It's the anniversary of 9/11. Where do you expect the yacht is headed?

Only DeMille can write suspense novels that are laugh-out-loud funny while dealing with truly terrifying subject matter. Treat yourself to one or two as a diversion.

Meanwhile, I'm suffering through two terribly erudite but uninteresting books assigned by Library Journal. Help me out here. What have you read and enjoyed lately? All suggestions are welcome.


Gloria Drake said...

I found "Euphoria" by Lily King to be both very interesting and "discussable." Based largely on the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead. In case that sounds boring, think love triangle...GD

Sallyb said...

Oh Gloria, Thank you. I did read "Euphoria" and loved it. Not boring at all. In a similar vein, did you read the one by Ann Patchett? "State of Wonder?" Another friend has just recommended "In the Language of Miracles," by Rajia Hassib. I brought it home from the library today.

Gloria Drake said...

Led a book discussion on "Euphoria" last night and we had a very stimulating discussion. As for "State of Wonder" it is hands-down one of my all time favorite novels with its elements of adventure along with a riveting topic. Will explore the other title, too. Thanks for the tip.

Sallyb said...

All great minds........?