I generally stick to reading one book at a time, but this week I’ve got a couple on the go.
One of them, Long Bright River by Liz Moore, is a 2020 novel exploring the ravages of addiction in a rough Philadelphia neighborhood, from the perspective of female police officer Michaela Fitzpatrick. Mickey, as she is usually called, is consumed with trying to find her younger sister Kacey, who has struggled with addiction since her early teen years and recently dropped out of sight entirely.
And for filling in the gaps during periods when I only have a short amount of time to read, I’ve been dipping into Wright Thompson’s The Cost of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business (2019). I was familiar with Thompson’s work from ESPN The Magazine, in particular an in-depth portrait of college and Olympic wrestling legend Dan Gable, who coached my alma mater to nine straight NCAA Championships in the 1980s and 15 overall. That profile is included in The Weight of These Dreams, as is his equally incisive look at Michael Jordan as he turned 50 a few years ago. But it’s the articles I hadn’t already read that have been hitting the hardest, including an examination of the ways football and segregation fed each other at the University of Mississippi in 1962, as the team was fighting for a national al championship and James Meredith was fighting to be allowed to enroll as the first African-American student at Ole Miss. Compelling stuff.
My current read is a book recommended by my friend Ana, which just happened to be available at the library when I checked their online catalog. It’s The Marrow Thieves by Canadian author Cherie Dimaline (2017). The library blurb is enticing: “In a future world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America’s indigenous population – and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow – and dreams – means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a 15-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones, and take refuge from the “recruiters” who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing ‘factories.”
The book has won a slew of awards in Canada, including the Kirkus Prize for Young People’s Fiction, the Governor General’s Literary Award (Young People’s Literature category), and the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature. As you can see from that list, the book is classified as Young Adult but I have to say the writing shows a level of maturity that makes it an engaging read even for an old lady like me. I’ll post a full review when I’ve finished it, but so far, so good.
How does a child recover from a tragedy that takes his entire family away from him? And how can the people around him help him navigate his grief and make a new life on his own? Those are the questions faced by the title character in Dear Edward (2020, Random House), the latest novel by Ann Napolitano. So far I’m finding it compulsively readable. Napolitano uses an unusual construction that despite my initial reservations is working beautifully to both ratchet up and relieve tension in carefully controlled doses.
Around this time every year, I try to read at least one baseball book — call it the reader’s version of spring training, a way to re-focus my spectator vision from the hectic action of college basketball to the more stately rhythms of my favorite sport. This year’s selection is a book I’ve had on my shelf for a few years, Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere (Vintage Books, 2014) by Lucas Mann. Mann’s focus is on the Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings, a minor-league baseball team at the Class A (lowest) level. The book seems more relevant than ever as the LumberKings are one of the teams that MLB has proposed eliminating in their radical restructuring of the current minor-league system.
My March reading month is starting out like a lion:
Lethal Passage by Erik Larson (1995, Vintage Books) From one of my favorite nonfiction authors, a short but powerful book tracing a handgun from its manufacture through its journey into the hands of a disturbed teenager who uses it in a school shooting. I wondered if a 25-year-old book would seem dated, but sadly the present state of gun control in the United States means the contents here are evergreen, at least as much as I’ve read so far.
The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty (originally published 2012; I’m reading a newer ebook edition). This is the first book in a new-to-me series, recommended by my friend Mamie. Sean Duffy is a Detective Sergeant with the Belfast Police in 1980s Northern Ireland. As a Catholic, he’s viewed with suspicion by both sides in the still-raging Troubles as he tries to solve a murder. Very atmospheric so far.
I start this post-holiday week with three books on the go:
Rat Race by Dick Francis (originally published 1971 but I’m reading a brand-new ebook edition just published by Canelo) is a re-read for me. We’ve got a little group read going on over at LibraryThing where we will read one Francis book every other month. It’s been a fun chance to introduce one of my most reliable “comfort read” authors to new readers, and to reminisce with others who like me have been reading his horse-related mysteries for years. Someday I should write a post here about all the reasons why I love Dick Francis.
Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope (originally published in 1860; I’m reading an public domain ebook from Project Gutenberg) is the fourth volume in Trollope’s Barsetshire Chronicles, a series of books set in the same fictional English county. I don’t think I’d have dared tackle these books without the help of another group read at LibraryThing back in 2012. Especially in the earlier books, there is a lot of arcana about church history and customs, and the political intrigues of the day, that this semi-modern American was completely unaware of. Thanks to the group leader Liz, I could actually make enough sense of the first book, The Warden, to realize how much I enjoyed Trollope’s sly social commentary.
Finally, I’m reading an ARC of Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things(Gallery Books, August 2019), a thriller that is entirely of the current moment. What are the ramifications when a video goes viral on social media? What completely unintended consequences can arise in the lives of those caught up in the moment? Those are the questions faced by a family whose lives unravel in a cascading series of events sparked by secrets that won’t stay in the past.