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.
Along with these complex characters, we go back and forth in time to when Marianne and Daniel first met, and hear first-hand interpretations from supporting characters. Narrators change and tension builds as the sisters’ conflict grows and relationships are reimagined and collide. We observe each characters’ aching obsession and method of self-destruction. None are without indictment nor worthy of disdain, yet the story is convincing. It’s disturbing, well-written, and worth the time.
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Vickie’s rating: 3.5 stars
Land of Lost Borders - Journey on the Silk Road, Memoir by Kate Harris
Author Kate Harris is young and bright, and helps us understand what it is to be an explorer. Inquisitive and intelligent, Harris studied at Oxford and MIT, and early on was determined to become one of the first astronauts to land on Mars. (This dream changed; however, when she did spend time at the Mars Simulation Station in Utah and had to keep her entire suit on even when going to the grocery store.Too confining.) She’d always been enchanted with the stories of Marco Polo, and she decided to embark become an explorer herself.
We’re all able to visit exotic lands sitting comfortably in front of our screens, learning the smallest details of a place. But we don’t really know it, until we see it first hand, breath in the air, hear the sounds, and feel the grittiness. Harris feels the need to explore, and adventure she does. She takes us along with her through her journey across the silk road - through Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, disputed territories of India and China, and Nepal. She and her best friend cycle through dirt, cold, renegade drivers, along with incredible scenery, hospitable strangers, and self discovery. Throughout the journey, we learn of her studies, relationships, worries, and dreams.
Though sometimes dry, I enjoyed the combination of her academic interests (Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) and escapade (sneaking across a checkpoint in the middle of the night because they didn’t have the proper visas). Harris poignantly notes, “The true risks of travel are disappointment and transformation: the fear you’ll be the same person when you go home, and the fear you won’t.”
Whether you’re a traveler or armchair adventurer, Land of Lost Borders is time well spent.
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Vickie’s rating: 3.5 stars
Look Alive Out There, Essays by Sloane Crosley
I laughed out loud. Crosley speaks to (and from) my soul with her audacity and humor. An unabashed New Yorker, she had me from the start with her opening essay, Wheels Up, about hailing a cab to get to the airport. Without revealing too much, she’s trying to be a nice person, yet is vilified in the end. It has happened to all of us, and it’s an example of how Crosley takes the banal and turns it into an entertaining and witty narrative.
Crosley often uses the unique quirkiness of New York as her subject’s backdrop, and she’s fortunate to have interesting family and travels to add to the mix. She shares stories of her mountain climbing adventure in Ecuador, connected with a pretty shady guide; her porn star uncle on the west coast; and her cocky, teenage neighbor with whom she has ever simmering scuffle. There are uncomfortable and comical misunderstanding with neighbors and the “wolf” that snatched her URL while she wasn’t paying attention.
Life is tough. Look Alive Out There makes is a lot more interesting. I’m looking forward to more from Sloane Crosley.
Publisher: MCD Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Vickie’s rating: 4.5 stars