Three Mini Book Reviews of Authors Apekina, Harris, and Crosley

Here are reviews for three books published last year to catch up on before a busy 2019 year of reading.

The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, Novel by Katya Apekina

Author Katya Apekina has written an unusual book that spans years and complex characters. It centers on the relationship of two sisters, their mentally ill mother, and distant, self-absorbed father. 

After Edie finds her mother, Marianne, hanging from a rafter, Marianne is put in a hospital to rehabilitate. Edie and her sister, Mae are sent from their home outside New Orleans to live with their estranged father in New York. With differing feelings on the matter, Mae and Edie are quite close, yet the presence of Daniel, their father, opens the door to a history they were not prepared to face. Edie, reluctant and loyal to Marianne wants to return home to resume their old life. Mae, alarmingly similar to Marianne, wants to remain in New York and connect with Daniel. And things get a bit weird.

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The Cute and Quirky Love Story of "George and Lizzie", by Nancy Pearl - Book Review

Lizzie may go down as one of my all-time favorite book characters. Raised by two aloof psychologist professors, she’s like a wolf pup left to fend for herself most of the time. When her parents are actually paying attention to her, she’s being evaluated like a trained rat. Not surprisingly, she develops idiosyncrasies which author, Nancy Pearl, writes in thoughtful, humorous ways.

Lizzie is both obsessive and dedicated. After being left broken hearted by Jack, a college boy she dated for less than six months, Lizzie determines that he is the secret to her life’s happiness and lets it occupy much of her head space for years. In the midst of her Jack musings, enters George. Staid, honest, kind, and head over heels for Lizzie in as much a way as a straight-laced dentist can be head over heels. While George courts Lizzie and follows the standard steps for taking a relationship to its next logical level, Lizzie seems almost surprised to realize they are actually seriously involved. Lizzie seems to just acquiesce to George’s love and companionship although she does so, at times, begrudgingly.

Pearl is a librarian and that becomes apparent through her writing. She is a master of detail and her extended vocabulary doesn’t make her a show off; it just makes her pages more interesting. She’s clearly a big college football fan, which I reveled in, and she knows the game. She is also a grammarian who even has Lizzie correcting her own grammar in the book!

There are times when the cadence of the book drags a bit, but the need to find out what happens to Lizzie and George shines through all the way. And, surprisingly, Pearl wraps up seemingly insurmountable hurdles in a few short pages and delivers the ending like a beautifully wrapped gift. After the last line, I shut the book with tears in my eyes and muttered a quiet: Hurray!

Published: 2017
Publisher: Touchstone

Elizabeth's rating: 4 stars

Family Drama Well-Serialized in "The Antiques", by Kris D’Agostino - Book Review

“Nobody ever said, ‘Here’s your family. What do you think?’ You just got them. Or you didn’t get them.

Have truer words ever been spoken?

Author Kris D’Agostino spins a lovely tale in The Antiques about a modern-day family finding their way through the death, and its aftermath, of the family patriarch. Ana and George were married for a thousand years and the resentments between them were big and typical, but she finds herself lost with his passing.

The Antiques: A Novel
By Kris D'Agostino

Ana’s adult children converge on the family home in Hudson, New York, some more willingly than others. Armie just comes up from the basement, as that’s where he’s been living for the last six years. Josef, the financial prodigy AND prodigal son, drags himself away from his self-absorbed life in the city. And, Charlie, the only daughter, comes in from L.A. after throwing a tantrum of her own on her tantrum-driven movie star client. All the old family wounds are reopened and no one acts as they should, but this is real family life, albeit more drastic and eminently more humorous.

D’Agostino’s story telling seems like a literary trick. He somehow lays out his prose in a way that makes you feel as though you are the director of a film shooting each scene, watching each take, from behind the camera. He sets up vignettes that run for pages at a stretch in which each character’s role is made crucial not just through dialogue, but through location and timing as well. At the start, you can almost hear a call for ‘action,’ and at the end, one for ‘cut.’ It is a beautiful way to witness a story unfolding.

Are all the hurts erased at the end? Does everyone finally get their acts together? Probably not. But D’Agostino has that author’s knack of wrapping things up with a denouement of family camaraderie that leaves you feeling hopeful and appreciative of your own dysfunctional one.

Published: 2017
Publisher: Scribner

Elizabeth's rating: 4.5 stars