Saturday, December 16, 2017

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Summary:

In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other—for no one but Saunders could conceive it.

My take: 5 looks

Everything about this book is a breath of fresh air. The story of a night where spirits welcome the young Willie Lincoln to the cemetery. It becomes apparent that many of them do not realize they are dead, and as they become increasingly aware, it is both traumatic and funny.

The genius here is the story being told using historical text and perceived ghostly musings in tandem. Every comment is attributed to its source. With the insight of the historical records and the reflections of the spirits, the story is beautifully full and packed with feeling.

For example, the ghosts are used to seeing mourners come to the burial, then perhaps return a few times, only to trickle to never visiting again after a time. When Willie's father comes to the burial site, looks at his son, and takes the little lifeless body into his arms, the ghosts are awash in love and respect for this father. One comments, " We were perhaps not so unlovable as we had come to believe."

The dawning on both Lincolns that Willie is not coming back, as well as the true situation dawning on the spirits, impact the story with a gentle but unwavering look at the reality of death, acceptance of it, and moving on from it.

This is a book that I will buy to read again and again. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Summary:

An obsessive young woman has been waiting half her life—since she was twelve years old—for this moment. She has planned. Researched. Trained. Imagined every scenario. Now she is almost certain the man who kidnapped and murdered her sister sits in the passenger seat beside her.

Carl Louis Feldman is a documentary photographer. The young woman claims to be his long-lost daughter. He doesn’t believe her. He claims no memory of murdering girls across Texas, in a string of places where he shot eerie pictures. She doesn’t believe him.
       
Determined to find the truth, she lures him out of a halfway house and proposes a dangerous idea: a ten-day road trip, just the two of them, to examine cold cases linked to his haunting photographs.

Is he a liar or a broken old man? Is he a pathological con artist? Or is she? Julia Heaberlin once again swerves the serial killer genre in a new direction. With taut, captivating prose, Heaberlin deftly explores the ghosts that live in our minds—and the ones that stare back from photographs. You won’t see the final, terrifying twist spinning your way until the very last mile.

My take: 2 looks

It took me a while to read this one because I would get so frustrated with the main character that I had to put it down. Because I am reviewing this advanced reader copy from NetGalley, I felt compelled to pick it back up again and again to finish it.

For a woman who had been planning 1/2 of her life to track down a serial killer, she was remarkably ill-prepared and na├»ve. When she checks him out of a facility for dementia patients to take him on a cross country trip, they leave with a list of his "conditions", to which he continues to add. What? Who is in charge here?

Her plan is to visit all of the places where she believes he killed, and see if there is any recognition in his eyes on where her sister may be. It is clear from the beginning that she has not thought this through, and that Carl is much smarter than she even on one of this bad days.

Frustrating, overly detailed, and anti-climatic, I can't recommend this one when it is released in May 2018.

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.