I am a Twin Peaks superfan, so please understand that this was always destined to be an automatic five star. To that, I will add that this book is beautifully designed, extremely fun, and just satisfying enough that I felt I found some answers to what happened after Twin Peaks: The Return, but enough mystery was preserved that it’s still deliciously perplexing. (Also, the Margaret Coulson file made me cry!)
This book is phenomenally drawn, researched and told. Reading Seek You is a deeply personal act. As Kristen Radtke explores what it means to feel alone, her pages hold a mirror up to our own secret longings and darkest hours. The book asks important questions. It gives intensely challenging reasons to rethink and reimagine the ways we choose to carry our own cycles of loneliness. Radtke delivers a fascinating look at American culture and the human heart.
This book is a fascinating, deeply disturbing study on how childhood trauma impacted two lives: one who went on to commit horrific violence, and another who went on to become a loving parent with a happy life. The latter of these is Liza Rodman, who recounts her childhood in Provincetown, Massachusetts in the heart of the 1960’s. The former was her sometime babysitter, Tony Costa-a man who became nothing less than a demon, plagued by violent impulses and devoid of remorse. The way these two real-life narratives intertwine (Rodman’s in first person, Tony’s in a meticulously researched third person from journalist Jennifer Jordan) is engrossing and horrifying. It reminds us that evil sits side by side with the benign, and that we should always trust our instincts when we feel that something… or someone… is off.
I decided to read Wuthering Heights for the first time, with the determination to see it through no matter what. It is a punishing read, and really a horrible experience emotionally. But my goal in reading it was to understand why it’s a classic, and that did come to me by the end. It’s a book about evil, and a family bound together by cruel intimacies and domestic violence infecting multiple generations of the Earnshaw/Linton houses. The haunting that occurs is the echoing legacy of that harm. Love, in this novel’s context, is an obsessive, all-encompassing passion that easily trips over to rage–for these characters, they are one and the same. Tenderness and hurt occur in the same spaces, haunting the Heights with trauma.
Once There Were Wolves is a masterclass in narrative tension. Charlotte McConaghy weaves mysteries together like poetry, and pulls those threads tight. This book simply smolders. The characters are compelling, each dealing with legacies of violence in their own way. There are plenty of wolves to be seen, and they are described in a transfixing, soul-stopping way. The wolf has been seen throughout history as the beautiful horror that lurks in the woods, and the book lets that concept out to play. How do we reconcile these twin capacities: the one to awe and the one to kill? That question is for wolves, for love, for human progress, and it’s all here to consider.
I loved and hated how this book refuses to be what we want it to be. Alderman’s world where women have exclusive natural rights to physical power starts as a kind of redemptive joyride that quickly devolves into a predatory, merciless freefall. This book examines how gender divisions channel the destructive nature of power, and how the darkness in all of human nature might be closer to the surface than we imagine when we romanticize it. Most of all, I loved the damning critique of how media handles atrocities in the “weather on the ones” interludes. Alderman’s writing is, as the kids say these days, savage.
In his first novel Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, Franz Nicolay comes at his story with a lyricist’s love of beauty and a seasoned performer’s world-weariness. The resulting tension creates a story with a sticky floor and a hazy smell, where moral ambiguity abounds. You could tell a young, starry-eyed scenester “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be”, or you could just hand them this novel. Both rough-edged-honest and blithely cynical, Someone Should Pay for Your Pain is an ode to all the acts who never made it big, fell in love too hard with the life to let it go, and are scheduled to play a weeknight basement show somewhere in Ohio, wondering what it all means now.
Appleseed by Matt Bell is a staggering feat of storytelling woven from threads of the possible, the forgotten, the fierce, and the free. I love the exuberance and wondrous vision of Bell’s writing; he can make a colonial apple-planting faun make sense in the same book where a semi-bionic human remnant pilots something called a photovoltaic bubble across a far-future icescape.
Does that sound insane? That’s because it is. It is absolutely insane.
But the most insane thing about this book is its ability to sing all at once to every past, present, and future moment of the human relationship with our planet, this story we are all part of. Human beings have always and will always continue to worship, disrupt, invent, sabotage, and mythologize the earth that they call home. Bell explores these tendencies as a unified and recurring cycle of stories that reveals the best and worst of what we are, and what we could be.
For those of us who automatically punch “buy” on any fiction related to astronauts, In the Quick is a delight. It’s especially wonderful seeing a female hero in a realistic hard science fiction title that is also written by a woman. (Has this ever happened?) The structure of this novel is a double-tiered one, where we get to see both an origin story and a mission. It’s really nuanced how elements of these two pieces of the book echo one another. Kate Hope Day gives us some extraordinarily beautiful scenes in the novel, and above all creates an ode to the combined power of gut instinct and dogged intellect.
Benjamin Percy’s The Ninth Metal is something that every reader secretly and desperately craves: fast-paced. Percy’s mastery of plot is on display in this intricately cast sci-fi thrill ride. The high concept is overlaid by a rocketfuel stortyline that is, among other things, an unabashed homage to comicbook superheroes and supervillains. You’ll find plenty of both in the fictionalized Northern Minnesota of The Ninth Metal. (A region which, by the way, Percy culturally nails down to every detail.)