The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is a masterfully crafted work of fiction. The use of flashbacks that practically read like stand alone short stories to join the past and the present was brilliant. And then there are the characters - a heroic antihero and his
fiercely independent daughter. Despite all the bad choices he makes and the criminal
things he does, Samuel Hawley never loses sight of his primary purpose in life: to protect
his child. Overall, this is a compelling and entertaining read with many layers to it.
The Nix is an homage to storytelling that features many story lines, social satire, humor, and an array of memorable characters. Essentially, it's the story of a boy, Samuel, who is abandoned by his mother, Faye. They are reunited 20 years later as a result of a bizarre series of events. The narration alternates between Samuel's present life as a writer and college professor, his childhood, and Faye's involvement in events surrounding the Democratic Convention in 1968, the year Richard NIXon was elected. This is a sprawling, ambitious debut novel whose length and occasional dense descriptions are challenging but well worth the effort. Not only will you learn what a nix is,you will be treated to a wonderful story of love in its many forms, healing, and redemption.
After 35 years, John Irving's The World According to Garp has been supplanted by David James Duncan's The Brothers K as my all-time favorite novel. Although baseball is a critical theme, this is anything but a baseball book. It is a family saga spanning the 50s, 60s, and 70s that focuses on four brothers and their perilous, though distinctive, journeys into adulthood.
The brothers, along with their parents and two sisters, are all memorable characters, exquisitely developed through their struggles with family dynamics, religion, the Vietnam War, and yes, baseball. The book is both funny and poignant, so be prepared to laugh and cry. It is also clearly a commitment given its length, but one that will reap great satisfaction. Take a chance with the Chance Family; I only regret that it took me so long to discover this gem.
Has there ever been a better book written for lovers of books? That was my immediate reaction after reading The Shadow of the Wind by Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafron. Written in 2001, the English translation finally appeared in the United States in 2005 after international acclaim.
In post WWII Barcelona, a young boy is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books by his bookseller father. He is allowed to choose one book to adopt and care for. His selection triggers a complex tale of mystery, romance, obsession, politics, and evil. This intricate story is beautifully written and somewhat magical in the way in which its many threads are woven together.
Memorable quotes are scattered throughout the book such as: "...that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we carry inside us..." This is a literary treasure to share with other book lovers in your life.