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. Read More
Colum McCann is truly a master of his craft. This is my first read of McCann’s library of work, but his evocative nature begs further discovery. In the midst of writing Thirteen Ways of Looking, McCann himself was attacked while trying to help a woman who had been assaulted, after which he suffered a broken cheekbone and teeth. He writes in the book’s Author’s Note, “Sometimes it seems to me that we are writing our lives in advance, but at other times we can only look back. In the end, though, every word we write is autobiographical, perhaps most especially when we attempt to avoid the autobiographical”. When you read the book, you’ll understand how poignant this statement is.
Thirteen Ways of Looking includes a novella and three short stories. The title is based upon the poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, by Wallace Stevens, of which McCann includes a stanza of the poem at the beginning of each section of the novella. The stories are quite different from one another, but the unifying theme is a strong sense of yearning and loneliness, vividly told. Read More
I hear a lot of people say they don’t care for short stories. I never quite understood this. Short stories can be as beautifully written as a novel, with the added benefit of feeling accomplished - getting through a story in a short period of time. It’s perfect for those with short attention spans or who read multiple things at once. But that’s just me.
Young Skins is a collection of short stories and one novella. It’s the debut book from Irish writer Colin Barrett, and it’s completely absorbing. Barrett combines edgy and prosaic prose with lyrical descriptions of the stories’ backdrop, placing the reader in clear view. The title, Young Skins, refers to the 20- and 30-something year old lads as the protagonist of each tale. Most of these young men live in the small Irish town of Glanbeigh, rarely hold traditional jobs, and find themselves in and out of conflict - with the law, business dealings, friends, relationships and alcohol. They are gas station attendants, bouncers, fathers and criminals. There is a melancholy tone, and you can feel the gray clouds of Ireland hovering just overhead. Barrett ends each of his stories rather anticlimactically; and none with a fairly tale ending. Read More