Practice resurrection

by Jess

I’m alive. I survived my third pregnancy and so did the rest of my family–although just barely. And now Little No. 3 is six months old and sitting up and where the hell has the time gone?

But at least I’ve been reading in absentia.

First, the greatest disappointment of my recent reads: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. WHY have I been hearing about this book everywhere? I really disliked it. One review described the novel’s as a story that “movingly portrays an adolescent girl’s struggle to comprehend love in a time and a culture under strain as it comes to terms with a complicated disease.” The novel’s main strength is the voice of the narrator, who is a very convincing young teenaged girl, not a lot different from myself at that age, in fact. But the plot is just…weird. Nothing is resolved. Nothing comes of the wolves in the woods or in the painting. And, most disturbingly, nothing is made of the VERY weird and inappropriate relationships between the girl and her uncle and then later the girl and her deceased uncle’s boyfriend. There are so many layers of weird. Not a fan.

Secondly, the greatest treasure of a novel that I’ve read in a very, very long time: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. A Washington Post review calls it “a flash in the heavens that makes you look up and believe in miracles.” I agree. This is a deeply affecting novel, about the strange intersections of the lives of three people in war-torn Chechnya. The plot and the skillfully drawn characters are enough to pull you into the story, but the beautiful language that Marra uses to paint his landscape is something immeasurably rewarding. As the NPR reviewer says, “And what would make a reader want to go deeply into a world of hopelessness and seemingly perpetual war, a world of torture and intimidation and exploding land mines? There are many answers. One of the most obvious, of course, is the language. If it’s powerful enough, it can make you want to ‘go there.’ ” I loved this book. I’ve been recommending it to everyone. I wish I had time to write a more complete review here, and maybe I will come back to it, but for now, just take my word for it: read it.

Honorable mentions include: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome; All Over But the Shoutin by Rick Bragg.

And lastly, I have been thinking a lot about this, and then this made me weep for its beauty.

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