Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is on enough “best of” lists that I’ve been curious about it for years. Violence is McCarthy’s preferred subject and he writes it with lyrical language that’s often described as biblical. His stories are stomach-churning and frequently depressing since they aim to capture the worst inevitabilities of human nature. It’s taken me a decade to get through The Road, No Country for Old Men, Outer Dark, and Blood Meridian. While Blood Meridian may be held as a high point in American lit; it’s the weakest McCarthy I’ve read. read more
Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island is a horrifying book that I’ve read three times now. It’s perfect for a sick day: it has large print, it reads quickly, and it’s absorbing enough to distract from flu-y aches and fever. I find something fresh each time through, and I’ve yet to read it in more than one sitting.
In the year 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate an unexplained disappearance. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this barren island, despite having been kept under constant surveillance in a locked, guarded cell. As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down on the island, hints of radical experimentation and covert government machinations add darker, more sinister shades to an already bizarre case. Because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is remotely what it seems.
Much of the praise I’ll heap on Slade House will sound as though it’s been lifted from my review of The Bone Clocks. The two books share a character, a general theme, and an impressive range of voices.
Down the road from a working-class pub, along a narrow brick alley, you just might find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find you can’t. Every nine years, the residents of Slade House extend an invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently-divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside? For those who find out, it’s already too late…
I should stop reading the backs of books. It’s disappointing when stories don’t live up to their own pitch. Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird isn’t terrible, but it’s a long way from what the back cover suggests. Here it is, so we’re all on the same page:
In this extraordinary new novel, Helen Oyeyemi’s, the prize-winning author of Mr. Fox, brilliantly recasts the “Snow White” fairy tale as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity.
In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries Arturo Whitman, a local widower, and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow.
A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Individually and together, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.