50. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee
In some dystopian future something has happened in China that has sent its people around the world where new settlements have been created along strict class lines. Baltimore has been taken over and is now known as B-Mor an urban work camp that is a completely safe, walled area but with no freedom surrounded by the wilds of the counties and the rich charter cities where the fruits of their labors are funneled. Against this backdrop one young girl leaves the safety and comfort of B-Mor to venture through the wider world in search of her missing boyfriend.
I hated this book. I am not big into dystopian futures to start with and this book didn’t give me much to latch onto in order to care about it. The only reason I finished reading it at all was because it was for one of my book clubs. Other people at my book club seemed to like it, so your mileage may vary. I give it a 4 out of 10.
49. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
After getting kicked out of Vassar, Vivian is sent to live with her Aunt Peg who runs a small, falling down theater in Manhattan. Vivian finds herself wrapped up in a crazy world of show girls and flamboyant actors until her carelessness brings her new world crashing down around her. The story is framed as Vivian who is now in her 90s looking back at her life in the 1940s in response to questions asked about her relationship to a man who recently died by his daughter. I hate pointless framing devices in books, and this certainly was one. There was no reason why this couldn’t have just been a straightforward story set in this time. Having it be the reminiscences of an old lady in a letter added nothing to it. Even the author seemed to forget about it from time to time going whole chapters without making any reference, but then at other times throwing in the name of the person the letter was being written to every other sentence practically. I did not find the story particularly interesting either. I give it a 5 out of 10.
48. Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Toby Fleishman is reveling in the new world of women he’s discovered since he split up from his from wife. He’s also a good father to his two kids who he feels he’s been raising without much help from his wife since they were born anyway. She’s been focused on advancing her career and climbing the social ladder and she’s never had much time or love leftover for her family. But now things have gone too far. She’s just up and disappeared after dropping the kids off at his apartment in the middle of the night. Now Toby is having to reassess their relationship yet again and figure out how to be an only parent to his kids. However, there are always two sides to every story and maybe the story Toby has built up for himself about his ex-wife isn’t the whole truth.
This is a really well written book. I think the relationship between the teenager daughter and Toby is pretty spot on. I also really liked the way it plays with perspective and the idea that everyone is living out their own story that may not actually correspond to how the people around them are living out the same events. I give it a 7 out of 10.
47. Chances Are… by Richard Russo
Three college friends now in their mid-60s reconnect at the Martha’s Vineyard house where they spent the Memorial Day weekend after their college graduation 44 years ago. Their return and the thoughts of one of them selling this old family home have raised many ghosts from the past, but particularly what happened to their friend Jacy who went missing that weekend. They had all been at least partly in love with her, but at the time no one really seemed to dig much into her disappearance which was attributed to her running away from the fiance she didn’t want to marry a few weeks before their wedding. Now the spectre of the past has given them the desire to find out what really happened to her all those years before. The story moves in time from the three boy’s childhood’s, their time at school, and their lives since, to where they are now on this island.
Despite me disavowing reading any more books about aging white men and especially about aging white men looking back at their college lives, I had to read this book because Richard Russo has long been one of my favorite authors. I’m not sorry I did. The reason I love his writing so much is that his characters always feel so real to me, and that was the case with this book as well. I did perhaps find what happened to Jacy a little ridiculous, and she was definitely a manic pixie dreamgirl of a character, but overall I really enjoyed living in this novel for a few days. I give it an 8 out of 10.
46. Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes
Comedy Sex God is part memoir, part spiritual quest written by stand-up comic Pete Holmes. He talks about his childhood growing up as a devoted evangelical Christian, which left him with a lot of emotional baggage and issues with sex. After a divorce from the woman he married when he was 22 essentially so they could have sex after she cheated on him, he lost his faith. Much of the rest of the book is about his examination of spirituality and his search to find the meaning in life he felt missing after he denounced Christianity. It’s definitely not your typical comedian/actor’s memoir. I appreciated his explorations and candidness about things that people, especially in his arena don’t particularly talk about. I give it an 8 out of 10.