Edan and I once ran a book club together. Once a month we would guide our herd of readers through our most recent selection. Not all of them would read the book, but we didn’t mind. Our only rule was “no saddies allowed.”
East of Eden (or, as I like to call it, East of Edan) by John Steinbeck – Finally, finally, I read this wonderful book and I’m so thankful. Steinbeck’s sprawling novel is an intergenerational story about one family, with occasional asides about Steinbeck-the-narrator’s family. There’s much here about the nature of destiny, what is and isn’t inherited, and the problem of monsters. The story births other smaller, connected stories, and the shifting point of view is downright brave. It’s the kind of novel which gives permission for new, better novels to be written.
What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller – This British novel is narrated by an older, embittered high school teacher named Barbara Covett, who’s writing a tell-all about her coworker Sheba, who has had an affair with her high school student. Barbara is a terrific narrator: she’s got an unflinching gaze and she’s damn funny. This book is both smart and character-driven, as well as being a quick, entertaining read.
Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore – Okay. So I’m not going to hide it: I love Lorrie Moore; she’s one of my favorite living short story writers. This svelte novel moves back and forth between the narrator’s ailing marriage (and their trip to Paris), and an intense friendship the narrator had as a teenaged girl. The present story is characteristic Moore: comic, wry, with metaphors that will make you squeal with delight. The retrospective story is more lyrical and personal–a wonderful depiction of youth and all its confusion and devotion. This is a flawed book, but a beautiful one.