22 Following
2020

2020

Canada - Richard Ford Well written character study with a slow but tense plot line. Both a study of place, the northern midwest, and the human missteps that cause surprising damage. Despite the bleak and haunting setting of small farm-town America, this book has a noir, almost urban, feel to it, with shady and ill-intentioned characters, "just trying to get ahead". A satisfying read. Recommended.
Hannah Coulter - Wendell Berry The memoir of an elderly Kentucky woman written by one of America's most overlooked authors is not something that would normally jump off the shelf at me. But what a gift this book is. Honest, beautifully written, and extremely moving in its depiction of love, jealously, war and the simple pains and pleasures of every day life.

"Sometimes I sit still in my chair late into the night, telling over this story to myself... I tell it with patience, going over it again and again in order to get it right... As I have told it over, the past visible again in the present, the dead living still in their absence, this dream of time seems to come to rest in eternity. My mind, I think, has started to become, it is close to being, the room of love where the absent are present, the dead are alive, time is eternal, and all the creatures are prosperous. The room of love is the love that holds us all, and it is not ours. It goes back before we were born. It goes all the way back. It is Heaven's. Or it is Heaven, and we are in it only by willingness..." Hannah Coulter
Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo I listened to Nobody's Fool while driving a rented moving van across country and regretted only that I was by myself and had no one else to laugh with, cry with, commiserate with, or just plain hug when it ended. I've read a few of Richard Russo's books and I don't understand why he doesn't have a statue on the Washington Mall. Must be only because he is still alive. Of all his books, Nobody's Fool is, by far, my favorite. And Sully, the main character, is, to my mind, an American hero. A beat up aging contractor, (with whom, in full disclosure, I can truly identify) who just can't bring himself to take shit from anybody. He's not violent (well, maybe a little), he's not vengeful (well, maybe a little), he's not mean (really), but he just has to do what he has to do. Problem is, he screws up a lot. In fact, he screws up most of the time. But we keep pulling for him because, despite being an asshole, he is lovable as hell.
I keep trying to find another character in literature to compare him with but, to Russo's credit, Sully is a dead-on original. He will be overlooked by academia and the literati because he is no Raskolnikov or Jean Valjean or Captain Ahab, but he is a true working class hero. Russo's empathy for Sully and his razor sharp and yet gentle wit bring Sully to life against the backdrop of a depressed, upper NY state town and the characters that only such an environment can produce. Sully manages to ride roughshod over most of them, including, or more precisely, especially, his own dysfunctional family, and maintain their friendship at the same time.
The plot is secondary and there is no point in rehashing it here. If you enjoy the foibles of humanity and the depth of characters who have eternal hope in the face of one failure after another, the citizens of North Bath, NY will entertain you through the laughter and tears of their long, slow slog through their gray, endless winter days.