Monday, August 31, 2009
The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost. Troost is following in the footsteps of my favorite travel writer, Bill Bryson, providing readers with a narrative arc that is equal parts humor, philosophy, self-deprecation, and actual information. When his girlfriend, Sylvia, takes an NGO job, they move to Kiribati, a nation of tiny coral atolls lying forgotten in the South Pacific. What he imagined would be two years of ease in tropical splendor, writing the great American novel, turned out to be two years of arduous sweating in tropical squalor, where subsistence wealth isn’t an oxymoron so much as a way of life. You’ll never look at fish, dogs, or beer the same way after reading this book, and if you’re like me, you’ll be chomping at the bit for more.
ONE FOOT WRONG by Sofie Laguna. Hester Wakefield is without a doubt the most unfortunate and pitiable child I’ve ever encountered in the world of literature. Kept imprisoned by her unbalanced, zealously religious mother, she has only fleeting contact with the outside world, and the only life she knows is one of torture, pain, and abuse of every imaginable stripe. She meets her first and only friend when she is banished to an asylum and from there she makes halting steps towards recovery. This book is almost relentlessly dark and certainly not for the faint of heart, but readers who stick with it will discover an ending that practically defines poetic justice and a character whose haunting life will resonate long after the book is put down.