Monday, September 9, 2013

Surveillance and Flanery's Fallen Land

Mea culpas to my readers as I've been offline for over a week. Facebook aficionados will know my whole life story even though I didn't post a word! My sister was here in Maryland for a visit and we then proceeded to drive to Erie, Pa. for my nephew's wedding. The entire family had a fantastic Labor Day weekend and things went off without a hitch. How lovely to see the little ones, growing faster than is even comprehensible. Are the twins actually walking already?

On we went to my hometown of Great Barrington, in the Berkshire hills, recently named "best little small town in America" by Smithsonian magazine. What a laugh. This precious town is currently nothing more than an unaffordable bedroom community for New Yorkers. Our old "homestead," barely standing it's so run down, cost my folks around $12,000 when they purchased it back in the '60's. It was considered pretty upscale. It last sold for close to $300.000 to a man who leases it out to students at the local branch of Bard College. Thank goodness my dad can't see his once gorgeous yard now.

So what was I reading while on the road you might wonder. A very disappointing John Le Carre, A Delicate Truth, failed to live up to its hype and, in deference to my Civil War manic sister, I'm struggling through Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. I'm confident that it will become more interesting once we get to Washington but life in the early days of Seward and Bates, contenders for the seat that Lincoln eventually won, is not exactly heart-stopping reading.

What did knock me out is the one that I couldn't talk about until the review had been published in Library Journal, which it was, in the 9/1 edition that was waiting for me when I got home to Maryland Saturday night. Yes! Keep you eyes out for this one by Patrick Flanery.

 Throughout my reading of this novel, Fallen Land, I could think of nothing else but Edward Snowden. Whether you believe he's a villain or a hero, and of course I would tend to the latter, his revelations about the depth of the spying taking place by the NSA should have come as no surprise to thinking people everywhere. Hoover started it all during the so-called "red scare" of the '50's and it's been insidiously growing since then.

Some little part of me said it was no big deal. You know, if you've got nothing to hide....but the librarian side of me thought, whoa, think of the damage that false or misinformation can do. What if something one writes or says is misinterpreted? Remember when you were a kid and played Telephone? How easily a phrase or sentence can be changed simply by inflection or with deliberate intent.

Here's a copy of my review. Please add this to the top of your "to read" list!

Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
In compelling prose, Flanery (Absolution) unveils the insidious growth of defense contractor EKK Corporation into a global big brother intent on managing all aspects of people's lives. At the crux of this intense narrative are Paul Krovik, a failed building contractor whose paranoid delusions have alienated his family and left him holed up and armed in a bunker under the house that he considered his masterpiece, and EKK executive Nathaniel, the usurper who now lives with his wife, Julia, and son, Copley, in Paul's former home. Confusing Copley with his own son, Carson, Krovik steals into the house at night in a misguided effort to watch over the lonely boy. But when Copley warns his parents of this strange presence, they fear for his emotional health. Julia turns to former schoolteacher Louise, the granddaughter of sharecroppers, who inherited the land on which Krovik's planned community was built. Burdened with medical bills after her husband's death, and with her home in foreclosure, Louise needs a place to live, and Copley needs an advocate. VERDICT In alternating chapters, Flanery gives every character a nuanced inner voice, allowing the reader to empathize with, if not fully understand, the actions of each. This is a tense, gut-wrenching take on the American dream gone horribly awry.—

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