Books Read in May

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“Find Me” a novel by Laura Van den Berg

First sentence: On our third month in the Hospital, the pilgrims begin to appear.

I loved both of Van den berg’s story collections and her first novel does not disappoint.

It is a literary post-apocalyptic novel that centers on a disease that sweeps across the country beginning with memory loss and ending in death. Joy is immune and is swept into a research hospital in rural Kansas where she undergoes peculiar treatments designed to keep her immune system functioning.

The patients are kept on a schedule and are fairly secluded from outside influences. When the social order within the hospital begins to break down, Joy finds her chance to break free. She is on a mission to find the woman she believes to be her birth mother living in Florida, the mother who abandoned her at birth. Joy sets out on a trek through a scarred country, strange cities and odd traveling companions.

It’s a lovely yet stark story of family, memory and hope against a setting of a possible future America where hope seems to be lost.

A sentence I love: All language is trapped in my throat.

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“Single, Carefree, Mellow” stories by Katherine Heiny

First sentence: So picture Sasha innocently sitting alone in her apartment on a hot summer afternoon and the phone rings.

These stories made me laugh at loud while sometimes breaking my heart. They are filled with yearning and apathy, betrayal and devotion, loss and wonder.

Infidelity in many forms weaves its way through this collection. I sometimes wanted to shake the book and yell, “What are you doing?! Why are you making this crappy. crappy decision?!” But crappy decisions make good stories, right?

From a woman in love with her roommate to a teenager who loses her virginity to her history teacher, these stories kept me turning the pages.

A sentence I love: This was how Sadie’s life ticked along, not like a finely tuned engine, but like some other thing that ticks: noisy pipes, or a bomb.

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“Bright Shards of Someplace Else” stories by Monica McFawn

First 2 sentences: He was nine years old. He had eczema.

First, I love the title. Second, I love the cover. Third, she is a Michigan writer. Fourth, it is a great collection.

The first story introduces a young boy that alternately fascinated and freaked me out. After reducing his nanny’s phone bill with a call, she is convinced that this nine-year-old boy can fix all the problems in her very troubled life.

A poetry professor finds himself entangled in the murder of a student. A man trying to find his own words to reconnect with his songwriting career is troubled by the appearance of his addict son.

These stories are filled with all kinds of characters from poets to scientists to mathematicians. Each story felt like a new exquisite gift to unwrap, slowly savoring their language, insight and startling yet inevitable conclusions.

A sentence I love: I treated Dee with the same delicacy, only touching him lightly, if at all, and when I hugged him I did not even press away the air under his baggy shirt.

A sentence that cracked me up: He always told me I had the worst problem—no taste—worse than even bad taste, since bad taste required at least a point of view.

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