Books read in August

I’m writing this in November, so memories of August are a bit hazy. I’ve pieced together the following from my notes. I remember not reading much in August, which is strange because I had two weeks off. I think I had a backlog of magazines to catch up with. So three books isn’t fabulous, but any book read is a happy thing.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Michael Chabon
I love how Chabon creates entire alternate universes. His settings really come alive. What struck me as I was reading this book, is how much the story line mirrored all of the Patrick Kenzie/Angine Gennaro novels by Dennis LeHane. And I’m not just saying that because I was obsessed with them this summer. Summary: Rouge central figure disregards establishment practices and sets out on his own to get to the bottom of things and find The Truth. Central figure is also hopelessly in love with female character and is a better man with her then without her. The difference between this book and the LeHane series (aside from plot line details) is the setting–Boston vs. Alternative Universe Jewish Alaska–and the fact that knowing a bit of Yiddish probably helps with the Chabon book.

Song Yet Sung. James McBride
Follows the lives of residents of the Maryland shore during the time of slavery. Will our main characters make it to freedom? I’ll let you find out for yourself. My favorite part was McBrides’ description of “the code”, the network of messages slaves passed along through laundry, the blacksmith and others. It was fascinating.
(This review is very Reading Rainbow-eqsue)

Prayers for Rain. Dennis LeHane
And I finish the series for the second time this summer.

Started but didn’t finish
Firefly Lane. Kristin Hannah
This books suffers from what I call the “Mork and Mindy Syndrome.” This syndrome, named by me, came about in fifth grade when I was reading a novel and the main characters discussed watching Mork and Mindy the night before. The 1985 me was confused as to how they could be watching that show at night as it was not currently on the prime-time schedule. The 1985 me eventually figured out that when the book was written, Mork and Mindy was at the height of its fame and it would make sense for the characters to discuss it. The end result was by mentioning one detail that would become dated with time, the author pulled me out of the universal setting where I related best to the characters and instead set the book, for no good reason, in the late 1970s when I was very young. I see this happen a lot in novels set in the present day. In my view, the good ones manage to describe the activities of the characters so the book could be happening over a large period of time. The bad ones mention a fleeting pop-culture reference (i.e. The Aniston Haircut) that ties the story unnecessarily to a particular year.

With that explained, I can say that I lost several hours of my life on this book and I regret that I can’t go back and choose not to read it. The very long story, about two friends, one who becomes a famous TV journalist and the other who becomes a housewife, spans several decades and the author seems to think the best way to show the passage of time is to mention both sweeping events and hair and makeup styles. Also, when I quit 3/4 of the way through I could tell exactly where the plot was going. Usually I will read to the end to see if I am right, but the Mork and Mindy effect was so large in the book I couldn’t stand it any longer.

On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm. Michael Ableman
I read most of this book which was a great illustration of suburbia encroaching on rural land. It has lovely pictures.

Attack of the Theater People. Mark Acito
This book picks up with the same characters we met in How I Paid for College. Alas, it had been too long and the writing was so full of life–Acito practically vibrates with energy when you see him in person–it was a bit much for my slothful vacation self. I put it aside for now.

Didn’t even start.
There wasn’t a thing I brought home this month that I didn’t at least begin.

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