Friday, April 29, 2011

Reading on Vacation

          Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle)        Among the Missing (Ballantine Reader's Circle)        Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home

What a good vacation for reading!

I started with P.S. I LOVE YOU, warnings about excessive crying notwithstanding. Set in Ireland, Holly's husband dies. She is grief stricken, but with the help of her family and friends, and letters her husband wrote to her which she found after he died, she is able to work through her grief. Touching and sweet. I didn't cry too much!

Louise Erdrich's SHADOW TAG was next. Irene keeps two diaries. One, the Red Diary, is the one her abusive, artistic husband Gil reads. The Blue Diary she keeps in a safety deposit box, in which she writes how she really feels. She uses the Red Diary to manipulate Gil. A train wreck of a relationship, well done.

Dan Chaon, one of Therapist's favorite authors, wrote AMONG THE MISSING, a book of short stories. This lesser known book came out before his novels, AWAIT YOUR REPLY, and YOU REMIND ME OF ME: A NOVEL. I haven't finished all of the stories (yet). Dark with characters that are a The story that is sticking with me is "I Demand to Know Where You're Taking Me", told from Cheryl's point of view about her husband's brothers, one of whom is in prison for rape and murder. A parrot features prominently.

MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND was the book I enjoyed the most. Retired and oh-so-proper Major Ernest Pettigrew lives in a village in England. His brother dies and he has a few things to sort out. He covets a gun his brother had and which his son, sister-in-law and niece desperately want to sell. He finds himself attracted to Mrs. Ali, an Englishwoman by birth if not by ancestry. His village may be changing due to development by an American firm. How does one remain true to who one is, and who one wants to be when (mostly) well-meaning villagers and family members don't like what one is doing?

THE POISONER'S HANDBOOK was fascinating. Each chapter covers a particular poison. Blum uses actual medical and criminal cases from the 1920's in New York City to show the hard won beginnings and development of forensic science. Intriguing.

Alas, I could not get into CHARLES JESSOLD, CONSIDERED A MURDERER. I tried. Even when I tried and had not had a margarita or two, I couldn't get into it. That was disappointing. Because of this, I needed another book for the flight home. MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS by Rhoda Janzen has been one I'd been eying for a while at the bookstore. Janzen's husband leaves her and in the very same week she is in a fairly serious car accident. She decides to spend some time with her parents, back in the Mennonite household of her childhood. She is an academic, and comes back to her strict religious upbringing with new, and often humorous eyes.

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