Sunday, April 14, 2013

Three Mini Book Reviews

Frances & Bernard by Carlene Bauer. Has a letter ever changed your life?  When Frances and Bernard meet at an artists’ colony, they are not quite certain what to make of each other, but one letter changes everything. Bernard’s first letter to Frances leads to a deep and intense friendship. Not-so-loosely based on Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, Frances and Bernard navigate the tricky waters of publishing, romance, religion, and mental illness in this hauntingly beautiful story. If you enjoy the works of Marilynne Robinson or 84 Charing Cross Road, or if you appreciate the bittersweet aspects of life, give this one a spin. 

The Mothers by Jennifer Gilmore. I had to remind myself several times while reading this book that it’s a novel and not a memoir—that’s how realistic and heartbreaking it feels. After years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, Jesse and Ramon desperately want to adopt a child, but they never could have imagined the difficulties lying in wait for them in the process, not least of which is determining how willing they’d be to adopt a child born with Down’s syndrome, fetal alcohol, blindness, deafness, spina bifida, or any combination thereof. This is an emotional and compelling read.

The Dinner by Herman Koch.  What starts off as a rather Bourgeois novel quickly takes a darker turn and descends into the realm of menace, both underhanded and overt.  Clearly there is more to our unnamed, mild-mannered narrator than first meets the eye, and as he learns more about his son’s new and disturbing hobby, the reader learns more about him.  The further this insidious father-son story unfolded, the faster I was compelled to turn the pages.  This book is a bestseller in Europe and recently translated for English-speaking audiences.