7 More Books We Loved in 2011
We read a ton
of great books this year. Here's a few more that were absolutely wonderful.
O, The Oprah Magazine |
November 18, 2011
Lessons number one, two, and three: You can't win 'em all.
It's the Reagan years, and the hypereducated students at Brown University in Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot (FSG) are hungry for revolutionary ideas to replace the "wholesome, patriotic" values of their parents' generation.
Most readers know Ann Packer from her best-selling debut novel, The Dive from Clausen's Pier. Her stunning linked-story collection,' ' Swim Back to Me' ' (Knopf), is even better, richer, more insightful. Packer can break your heart—and she can mend it, too. Easing readers in with recognizable characters facing familiar situations—an adolescent boy agonizes over an unrequited crush, a newlywed worries when her husband is late coming home—she then injects a detail that makes us see the situations in a whole new light. If Packer's characters' crises are ordinary, what's unusual is the poignant way they attempt to right themselves after crushing hits. The multilayered novella that anchors the book, "Walk for Mankind," centers on a middle-aged man looking back to when he was 13, remembering the girl who betrayed him—and his own petty, impotent act of retaliation. In the story "Dwell Time," a wife discovers her husband's shattering secret habit and wonders, "What if she could be blasé, indifferent?... Would that spoil it for him? Enough to keep him from doing it again?" The final story, "Things Said or Done," is narrated by the girl from the novella, now also middle-aged. Her recollection of their adolescent years differs wildly from the events described by the man she wounded so long ago, a fact that seems—like so much in this fine work—surprising and absolutely true.
One father, two mothers, two daughters: a love story.
Ann Patchett's new tragicomedy, State of Wonder (Harper), dares to send women into decidedly masculine territory—violence and corruption in the jungle—but with a 21st-century twist.
To most readers, Melissa Fay Greene is the prizewinning author of such journalistic gems as The Temple Bombing and Praying for Sheetrock. To her neighbors in midtown Atlanta, she's also known as the lady who, in 1999, the year before her oldest child left for college, decided to adopt more kids, at least partially to ward off empty-nest syndrome. At last count, she and her husband, Don Samuel, a defense attorney, have added five kids to their "bio" group of four: one from a Bulgarian orphanage and four from Ethiopia. Why they did it—and how they do it—is the subject of Greene's moving, enlightening, and surprisingly funny new memoir, No Biking in the House Without a Helmet (Sarah Crichton/FSG), which folds an adoption primer into a meditation on family.