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Deacon King Kong by James McBride

What a wonderful book–I love an author who can make me fall for an old drunk called Sportcoat. The book is set in 1969 in Brooklyn around projects called the Cause Houses when drugs had become a significant business. The story begins with Sportcoat shooting a young smart drug dealer that he had taught to play baseball and had cared for in church. And, oh yes, Sportcoat is a Deacon in the...

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

Dorothy mentioned this book and I am so glad she did–it’s been an exceptional book for me. I loved Saunders’ novel Lincoln in the Bardo, but have found some of his short stories to be too dark for me. This is something quite different; it is his careful reading of seven short stories by Russian writers, a 400-page recounting of a course he has taught for 20 years to MFA students...

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

This book was touted as a good choice for our stressful times and it worked for me — no bad surprises, characters are predictable and engaging. I was quite happy to have them as companions as I cooked and did other routine chores. It’s not that the characters didn’t have their difficulties and traumas. The book opens with Astrid, a widowed matron present at the gruesome death of...

Intimations by Zadie Smith

I have listened to this audiobook twice now and will again. While I’m sure the essays are brilliant in print, hearing her voice gives them a great new dimension. I loved both of the books of her fiction that I have read. In the forward written at the end of May 2020 Smith notes that many books will be written about the pandemic; hers is an accounting of some of the thoughts and feelings it...

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

It was a pleasure to listen to Barack Obama review his political life in his usual measured and literate style, although the specter of the four years following his time in office hung over the narrative. And the Republicans’ stated goal of making him a one-term, failed president rather than address the 2008 financial crisis added to that pain. I plan to remember some of the fun bits. He...

The Yield by Tara June Winch

The enthusiastic response that I have seen to this book is wholly warranted. Its structure is unique and impressive, the tale it tells is engaging, and it relies on clear factual foundations. The story unfolds through three voices. One is the story of August, a modern-day Wiradjuri woman who after 10 years in the UK, returned to New South Wales on the occasion of her grandfather’s death to...

The Power of Adrienne Rich by Hilary Holladay

I wanted to read the biography of the famous poet and feminist because I know so little about this person whose name is so familiar. I am left thinking I learned about her personal life, but do not have a grasp of her influence. Adrienne’s father was determined to make her a successful and well-educated person; she turned her attention to writing poetry and in her third year at Radcliffe...

Two Moons by Jennifer Jones

This has been the most enjoyable book I’ve read in a long time. This is my fourth Jennifer Johnston book, thanks to┬áReading Matters. The books are quite different from each other and I love them all. One piece of business they have in common is an interesting use of sound. In one book an echo across a lake came up several times, in another Christmas carols broke out from time to time. In...

Our Shadows by Gail Jones

Gail Jones has once again hit on many wonderful moments for me, as she did in three other books of hers that I’ve read. This one is set first in Kalgoorlie, a gold mining area in Western Australia and later in Sydney. It is a busy novel, beginning with the non-fictional Paddy Hannon’s childhood in Ireland, before he spent 30 years prospecting in Australia, culminating in the discovery...

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Because I loved the Neapolitan quartet by Ferrante, I didn’t hesitate to read this new book of hers. Along with intense and detailed consideration of the thoughts and actions of each party to any interaction between characters, her quartet placed those actions and thoughts in historical and moral context. I was disappointed that I didn’t see much of either framework in this one. But...

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