Wow! Another week come and gone. Also, the first month of 2014 is over! Where is the time going, I ask you??
I read nine books in January. I’m pretty impressed with myself! Three of them were audiobooks: The Signature of All Things, The Marriage Plot, and Tiny Beautiful Things. Two of them were 2013 releases I intended to catch up on: We Need New Names and The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. Also, six of the nine books I read this month were written by women! In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a movement going this year called Read Women 2014. (It even has a hashtag #readwomen2014.) I heard about it pretty late in the month, but I’m very excited about it. While I don’t think I’ll limit myself to exclusively women authors this year, I’m definitely going to make a conscious effort to seek them out. So far I’m off to a good start! (Just FYI last year 24 of the 34 books I read were written by women, so I think I tend toward the female literarily speaking.)
Some developments from last week: Amy was not enjoying the experience of reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I get because so far it’s turned out to be nothing like I expected. I told her my philosophy is, “Life is too short to read books you don’t like,” and happily released her from our read-along. I intend to finish the book this week. I failed at Jazz Age January, I still haven’t finished The Beautiful and Damned and I don’t know if I want to at the moment. Following my own advice (re: life is too short) I’ve decided to move along for the time being.
That all being said, this is what on deck for this week!
The Last Days of California by Mary Miller
(AKA: My first 2014 release! Woo!)
Fifteen-year-old Jess is on a road trip to the end of the world. Her evangelical father has packed up the family and left their Montgomery, Alabama, home behind to drive west in anticipation of the rapture, hoping to save as many souls as possible before the imminent Second Coming. With her long-suffering mother and her rebellious sister Elise, Jess hands out tracts to nonbelievers at every rest stop, Waffle House, and gas station along the way. Through sticky diners and in crowded motel pools, beneath bleached bedspreads and in the backseat of the family car, Jess and Elise whisper and squabble their way across the country. But as doomsday approaches, Jess can’t seem to work up any real fear about the apocalypse when her sister’s secret pregnancy and their increasingly frayed parents loom so much larger.
In this fresh and razor-sharp debut novel, teenage angst and evangelical ardor make a pilgrimage across an endlessly interchangeable American landscape of highways, motels, and strip malls. Sporting a “King Jesus Returns!” t-shirt and well stocked with end-times pamphlets, Jess makes semi-earnest efforts to believe but is thwarted at every turn by a string of familiar and yet freshly rendered teenage obsessions. From “Will the world end?” to “Will I ever fall in love?” each tender worry, big and small, is brilliantly rendered with emotional weight. Mary Miller reinvents the classic American literary road-trip story, reviving its august traditions with the yearning and spiritual ennui of twenty-first-century adolescence. As the last day approaches, Jess’s teenage myopia gradually gives way to a growing awareness of the painful undercurrents of her fractured family.
With a deadpan humor and a savage charm that belie a deep sympathy for her characters, Miller captures the gnawing uneasiness, sexual rivalry, and escalating self-doubt of teenage life in America, where the end always seems nigh and our illusions are necessary protections against that which we can’t control.
Byron Easy by Jude Cook
By a daring new literary talent, High Fidelity meets London Fields in an exuberant debut novel following one man’s terminal train journey home.
It’s December 24th, 1999. Byron Easy, a poverty-stricken poet, half-drunk and suicidal, sits on a train at King’s Cross Station waiting to depart. In his lap is a backpack containing his remaining worldly goods—an empty wine bottle, a few books, a handful of crumpled banknotes. As the journey commences he conjures memories (both painful and euphoric) of the recent past, of his rollercoaster London life, and, most distressingly, of Mandy—his half-Spanish Amazonian wife—in an attempt to make sense of his terrible—and ordinary—predicament.
What has led him to this point? Where are his friends, his family, his wife? What has happened to his dreams? And what disturbing plan awaits him at the end of his journey?
Byron Easy is an epic, baroque, sprawling masterpiece of a novel—a unique portrait of love and marriage, of the flux of memory, and of England in the dying days of the twentieth century from a young British writer of exceptional promise.
Incidentally, these are not only both 2014 releases, they also both happen to be debut novels! I’m very excited about them both!
What are YOU reading this week?