Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Read Anything Good Lately?

And I have - also some that I didn't care for so much. Here are a couple that I enjoyed as part of my book group. I discovered this one from the website of Nancy Perl, the NPR famed librarian from Seattle Public Library. She is a prodigious reader and it would be a huge challenge to read a fraction of what she reads and recommens. Mountain City by Gregory Martin caught my attention because it’s a biography of a Nevada town. To date this is the only book that everyone in the group loved.

Mountain city, a small boom-and-bust mining town in northern Nevada, a ghostly speck on the map, is the quickened heart of the universe of Gregory Martin. The center of the story, and of the town, is Tremewan’s, the general store run by Martin’s extended family, which serves the 30-odd residents of Mountain City and others from the outlying areas. A keen and witty observer, Martin captures the local characters with humor and nuance, never averting his eyes from the small flaws that make this community real. People bicker, the town widows form a tight-knit clique and his Basque uncle Mel, hits the Black Velvet one hour before close every night, which sometimes turns him downright mean. Throughout, Martin shows how frailty is woven into the fabric of relations; he maintains an immediacy that highlights the humanity of his subjects and frames the steady press of time that is forcing an era of the American West deep into memory.

The group was split in half on The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elizabeth Robinson: Olivia Hunt is unemployed, living alone, and working on the fourth draft of her suicide note when she gets a phone call that lets her know what real trouble is. Madeleine Hunt is her younger sister, the annoyingly happy one who married the hometown guy while Olivia set out to conquer Hollywood, ha, ha. And Maddie is in trouble. Pulled home for the first time in years, Olivia gets a painful dose of real life as she tries to help her sister, keep her parents from running off the rails, and reconnect with the boyfriend who left without a word but might still be the love of her life. And, of course, the movie she’s been trying to put in front of cameras for years heats up just as leaves town. Racing between Hollywood, hospital rooms, and film sets in Spain, Olivia has to do the impossible at work and at home—and learns that love will let her do no less. By turns charming, heartrending, and hilarious, this is a novel for anyone who has ever loved a sister (or a great story).

The story is told through letters that Olivia has written to different people in her personal and professional life. I wasn’t sure I liked that style of story telling, and those who didn’t like the book said that was the reason they couldn’t stick with it. I didn’t have that option. I facilitate the book group – its part of my job. The question is, would have I continued reading if I didn’t have to, and the answer is I don’t know the answer to that question, because I did. The further I got in the book, the more engrossed I became. I found myself actually liking Olivia. I thought it was a stroke of author genius that the movie Olivia was producing was Don Quixote, a story seemingly paralleled in her own life—her quest, the impossible dream. I laughed, I cried, I loved it.


margene said...

Both sounds like great reads! I'm adding them to my list of books. Thanks!

Valerie said...

I will take book recommendations from anyone whose favorite book is Angle of Repose (or anything by Wally Stegner, for that matter!).

Thank you for the tips.