Best reads of the summer
Summertime…and the readingis easy.
What did I read? A lot of forgettable fiction, many New Yorkers, parts of a book on scarcity and another on aging with aplomb.
I read most of a book about numerical illiteracy and three novels I absolutely devoured with delight: “Casebook” by Mona Simpson, “Between the Tides” by Susannah Marren, and “The Weight of Water” by Anita Shreve.
“Casebook” is the story of 9-year-old Miles Adler-Hart, who is dismayed to learn by mistake that his parents plan to divorce. Heartbroken and badly confused by the news, Miles sets out to understand how this could have happened to his family by spying and eavesdropping on his parents, aided by his best friend Hector.
Their earnest attempts to figure out adult relationships and love, using the imperfectly heard and understood fragments of conversations they glean are touching and often amusing. This is a lovely, sad, honest portrayal of a family breaking apart but trying to stay together, and trying to figure out what comes next.
If you read one novel this fall, make it “Between the Tides.” It’s a lyrical, sardonic tale of suburbs, art, motherhood, sacrifice and betrayal. And selfies! This swiftly-moving tale can be read as another well-written exploration of life in the suburbs versus the big city.But it can also be read as an exploration of self-expression and art and the balance, or lack thereof, the artist must pursue to be true to herself and care for her family.
I fell in love with the main character, Lainie Smith Morris, and I felt I understood her struggles as an artist and a mother—a real tribute to the writer as I know nothing about either role in real life. The ending is wrenching and unforgettable, and I have not been able to forget these characters weeks after I read this book. My only quibble is that the male characters are very thinly drawn, unsympathetic and nearly caricatures. But this is a must-read anyway.
Finally, “The Weight of Water” continued my water/ocean theme and proved to be a fast, tightly written, tragic tale of love and loss. The story is especially compelling, as the murder mystery at its core is based on fact. I did not expect to be as enthralled as I was by the old murder and the odd circumstances surrounding it. Shreve paints vivid pictures of the sea and the coast quite economically. With 246 pages, this is a rather slim novel but the images and relationships it conjures remain with the reader long afterwards.
The beach is far away, classes have begun, but it’s still summer and the library is open and welcoming. Read on.