Each week I read between 3-6 books. I don’t have time to write meaningful reviews of each, but I also don’t want to let that reading mojo go neglected. Who knows which recommendation of mine might save you a couple of dozen dollars, or encourage you to spend them? Hence this feature, “Buy, Borrow, Bypass,” in which I talk about my previous week’s reading and which books fit into which categories. They won’t always do so neatly, either!
And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman (William Morrow): I’ve been reading Lippman since her early series-driven mystery days, and it’s been pure pleasure to watch her writing develop and her novels grow deeper, richer, and darker. In this new novel, suburban madam Heloise Lewis faces danger when her child’s father (and her former pimp) is released from prison. While I particularly enjoy Lippman’s books about women’s relationships, her keen observations about women’s psyches make And When She Was Good a solid addition to Lippman’s oeuvre.
VERDICT: Buy or Borrow; this is one to pass around to friends
Up All Night by Carol Miller (Ecco Books): Carol Miller is a fascinating woman. Brought up in a New York City Yiddish enclave, she believes she’s still not fully assimilated into modern Western life. She’s highly educated (UPenn and law school), but decided not to pursue a profession and instead become a radio personality. She believes in marriage and family but still details a few trysts with celebs, including an on-again, off-again relationship with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. She is also a cancer survivor who was brought up not to talk about “the Big C”–and this is where the book unfortunately broke down for me. There wasn’t enough of any part of Miller’s life, and I need to at least have her open up more about her illness to make the story resound. Perhaps she’ll write another?
When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald (It Books): Please ignore the author’s name, lest it lead you to believe that “Molly Ringwald” equals pop-culture references. Ringwald has mighty writing chops, and the linked stories in this collection are lively, elegant, compassionate, and wise. Her characters range from toddlers to senior citizens, but each of them is accorded the dignity of his or her story, whether the arc is achingly familiar (adultery) or shockingly new (transgender-identified children). I hope there’s more fiction, of any length, coming from Ringwald’s pen.
VERDICT: Buy (you’ll want to re-read)
You Are the Love of My Life by Susan Shreve (W.W. Norton): Some novels are literary, some novels are commercial, and some novels manage to be both. Shreve’s new novel is the latter, combining the best kind of literary writing with the stuff of everyone’s lives: family, neighborhood, legacy, and dreams. Although it’s set in early 1970s Watergate Washington DC and its plot is highly invested in that burg’s political atmosphere, Love of My Life keeps one foot firmly planted in the realm of archetype: A worried mother, a mysterious family death, nosy friends. It’s the perfect Labor Day read.