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The topic this week is most anticipated upcoming releases, but I'm going to rebel and write about novels that consist of interlinking short stories. This idea comes straight from Anne Bogel at The Modern Mrs. Darcy. Many of the books are from her list, because it caught my attention, I placed holds on a bunch at the library, and they all came in over the last few weeks, so I've been reading a lot of them. Books I first heard about from her list are marked with a *.
*Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Three generations of women; grandmother in India, mother who immigrates to the US, and US born daughter--making difficult decisions and facing unintended consequences.
“What is the nature of life?
Life is lines of dominoes falling.
One thing leads to another, and then another, just like you'd planned. But suddenly a Domino gets skewed, events change direction, people dig in their heels, and you're faced with a situation that you didn't see coming, you who thought you were so clever.”
*Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
This one covers two generations but casts a wider net sideways. Cooks and chefs abound, as you might guess from the title.
“When Lars first held [his daughter], his heart melted over her like butter on warm bread, and he would never get it back. When mother and baby were asleep in the hospital room, he went out to the parking lot, sat in his Dodge Omni, and cried like a man who had never wanted anything in his life until now.”
*Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
One of my favorites on this list. Two young girls are kidnapped on a remote peninsula in eastern Russia, and their story affects other locals in various ways, large and small.
“Everyone looked better at a distance. Everyone sounded sweetest when you did not have to hear them talk too long.”
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
I declined to rate this book because I kind of hated it, couldn't stop reading it, and understand why it won the Pulitzer. Olive is not very likable, but she's also very relatable.
“Olive's private view is that life depends on what she thinks of as "big bursts" and "little bursts." Big bursts are things like marriage or children, intimacies that keep you afloat, but these big bursts hold dangerous, unseen currents. Which is why you need the little bursts as well: a friendly clerk at Bradlee's, let's say, or the waitress at Dunkin' Donuts who knows how you like your coffee. Tricky business, really.”
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Authors like to handle family sagas with interconnecting short stories, I guess! Half siblings connect the stories in this book, which delves into international shipping, Ponzi schemes, the eponymous hotel (a luxury lodge on a Washington state island), prison, rehab, and grief. I'm including this quote just because ha ha ha, right? (The book came out March 24, 2020.)
“Do you find yourself sort of secretly hoping that civilization collapses, Melissa said, just so that something will happen?”
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
It starts in the future, and each story jumps backwards into the past. Two souls find each other again again, in various relationships and with varying degrees of success.
“He wonders if a few moments of utter and total joy can be worth a lifetime of struggle.
Maybe, he thinks. Maybe, if they're the right moments.”
The Circuit by Francisco Jiménez
This book is so over-taught in my school district that I forget it's not known in other circles. Jiménez shares stories of his childhood as a migrant worker in California, Powerful, deceptively simple, and the title story is a doozie.
"But when I spoke to Arthur in Spanish and Miss Scalapino heard me, she said “NO!” with body and soul. Her head turned left and right a hundred times a second and her index finger moved from side to side as fast as a windshield wiper on a rainy day. “English, English,” she repeated. Arthur avoided me whenever she was around."
Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
I liked this one better than the similar and more famous Girl with a Pearl Earring. Both books (published the same year, oddly enough) trace the history of a Vermeer painting. This book is about an imaginary painting and its owners, going backwards through time to its creation.
My introduction to this type of book came in Mrs. Boughton's class in sixth grade, when we read Dandelion Wine. I spent the rest of middle school and well into high school gobbling up all the Bradbury I could find, including The Martian Chronicles. Beautiful examples of stories grounded in specific places, enhanced by Bradbury's extraordinary gift for sci fi allegory and gripping plots. A recent re-read of MC found it somewhat dated, but still worth a read.
“Way out in the country tonight he could smell the pumpkins ripening toward the knife and the triangle eye and the singeing candle.”
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Alys Dayton
My other favorite on this list. This one is sci fi that reaches further into the future with each succeeding story. The focus is on genetic modification and what it means to be human. Note: I hate the cover and never would have picked it up had others not recommended it, so I'm passing that favor on to you.
“It's a popular myth that the most deadly animal in history is the human, because murder and war and genocide can be laid at the feet of our species. However, the deadliest animal is of course the mosquito. Fortunately, both species can now be significantly improved.”