At the heart of the journey, and the novel itself, is Truman Stroud, the quick-witted, cantankerous owner of the crumbling Sabbath Creek Motor Court, where Lewis and his mother are stranded by car trouble. His budding friendship with the ninety-three-year-old black man is his only reprieve from the mysteries that haunt him. Despite his prickly personality and the considerable burden of his own personal tragedies, Stroud becomes the boy’s best hope for a father figure as he teaches Lewis the secrets of baseball and the secrets of life.
Sabbath Creek is more than a coming-of-age novel. And while Mitcham provides a nuanced look at the relationship between a white adolescent boy and a black old-timer, his second novel transcends the tired theme of race relations in the South. This compassionate, smart, powerful work of fiction touches the pulse of the human spirit. It travels from the ruined landscape of south Georgia and takes us all the way through the ruined landscape of a broken heart.
On a weather-beaten island off the coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother, Nora, take refuge in the large, mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories. Nora, at first, recounts nothing that Effie really wants to hear--like who her real father was. Effie tells various versions of her life at college, where in fact she lives in a lethargic relationship with Bob, a student who never goes to lectures, seldom gets out of bed, and to whom Klingons are as real as Spaniards and Germans.
But as mother and daughter spin their tales, strange things are happening around them. Is Effie being followed? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?
In a brilliant comic narrative which explores the nonsensical power of language and meaning, Kate Atkinson has created another magical masterpiece.
Greg Goodman is a very ordinary guy—a not-very-ambitious school teacher and football coach who takes his attractive wife, Patty, their twin adolescent daughters, and the comfortable ease of their suburban routine for granted. Until lightening strikes—both literally and figuratively—as Greg runs a pattern with his junior varsity team during a muggy August practice and fifteen-year-old Timothy Phelps is directly struck. This crisis threatens to unravel all the strands anchoring Greg to his normal habits of being. When Timothy's mother, a stripper and addict who abandoned Timothy as a child, enters the mix, Greg discovers his own complicated and misguided longings.
As in her debut novel, Suzanne Matson employs "crisp, clean writing…[and] compassionately drawn characters" (New York Times Book Review) to create a gripping story about the nature of love, trust, family, and marriage. Set in a seemingly safe world of split-levels and carefully tended lawns, A Trick of Nature powerfully captures the characters' emerging self-awareness as they are forced to test the assumptions they hold about themselves and the connections that bind them.
Nadine Gordimer is one of our most telling contemporary writers. With each new work, she attacks—with a clear-eyed fierceness, a lack of sentimentality, and a deep understanding of the darkest depths of the human soul—her eternal themes: the inextricable link between personal and communal history; the inescapable moral ambiguities of daily life; the political and racial tensions that persist in her homeland, South Africa. And in each new work is fresh evidence of her literary genius: in the sharpness of her psychological insights, the stark beauty of her language, the complexity of her characters, and the difficult choices with which they are faced.
In No Time Like the Present, Gordimer trains her keen eye on Steve and Jabulile, an interracial couple living in a newly, tentatively, free South Africa. They have a daughter, Sindiswa; they move to the suburbs; Steve becomes a lecturer at a university; Jabulile trains to become a lawyer; there is another child, a boy this time. There is nothing so extraordinary about their lives, and yet, in telling their story and the stories of their friends and families, Gordimer manages to capture the tortured, fragmented essence of a nation struggling to define itself post-apartheid.
The subject is contemporary, but Gordimer's treatment is, as ever, timeless. In No Time Like the Present, she shows herself once again a master novelist, at the height of her prodigious powers.
It's the spring of 1994 in Cooperstown, New York, and Joanie Cole, the beloved matriarch of the Obermeyer family, has unexpectedly died in her sleep. Now, for the first time, three generations are living together under one roof and are quickly encroaching on one another's fragile orbits. Eighty-six-year-old Bob Cole is adrift in his daughter's house without his wife. Anne Obermeyer is increasingly suspicious of her husband, Hugh's, late nights and missed dinners, and Hugh, principal of the town's preschool, is terrified that a scandal at school will erupt and devastate his life. Fifteen-year-old tennis-team hopeful Julia is caught in a love triangle with Sam and Carl, her would-be teammates and two best friends, while her brother, Teddy, the star pitcher of Cooperstown High, will soon catch sight of something that will change his family forever.
At the heart of the Obermeyers' present-day tremors is the scandal of The Sex Cure, a thinly veiled roman à clef from the 1960s, which shook the small village of Cooperstown to the core. When Anne discovers a battered copy underneath her parents' old mattress, the Obermeyers cannot escape the family secrets that come rushing to the surface. With its heartbreaking insight into the messy imperfections of family, love, and growing up, Callie Wright's Love All is an irresistible comic story of coming-of-age—at any age.
Thomas Bunting, the charming, chaotic, and deeply untruthful narrator of James Wood's wonderful first novel, is in despair. His marriage is disintegrating and his academic career is in ruins: instead of completing his philosophy Ph.D. (still unfinished after seven years), he is secretly writing what he hopes will be his masterwork, a vast atheistic project he has privately entitled "The Book Against God."
But when his father suddenly falls ill, Thomas returns to the tiny village in the north of England where he grew up and where his father still works as a parish priest. There, Thomas hopes, he may finally be able to communicate honestly with his father, a brilliant and formidable Christian example, and sort out his own wayward life. But Thomas is a chronic liar as well as an atheist, and he finds, instead, that once at home he soon reverts to the evasive patterns of his childhood years—with disastrous results.
The story of a husband and wife, a father and son, faith and disbelief, and a hero who couldn't tell the truth if his life depended on it, The Book Against God is at once hilarious and poignant; it introduces an original comic voice—edgy, elegiac, lyrical, and indignant—and, in the irrepressible Thomas Bunting, one of the strangest philosophers in contemporary fiction.
Set over the course of a single rainy day, the novel moves from one household to another, and through the passing hours conducts a deep examination of its characters' lives: of Juliet, enraged at the victory of men over women in family life; of Amanda, warding off thoughts of death with obsessive housework; of Solly, who confronts her own buried femininity in the person of her Italian lodger; of Maisie, despairing at the inevitability with which beauty is destroyed; and of Christine, whose troubled, hilarious spirit presides over Arlington Park and the way of life it represents.
Darkly comic, deeply affecting, and wise, Arlington Park is a page-turning imagining of the extraordinary inner nature of ordinary life, by one of Britain's most exciting young novelists.
Charming Billy is the winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Fiction.
Greer Pentland is having a challenging year. Her teenaged son, Sam, is on trial for the murder of two senior citizens, a crime allegedly committed while he was sleepwalking. Greer is also battling breast cancer, a disease that has left her with a litany of physical side effects and deep anger toward the incompetence of the medical profession.
Yet, in the face of all these obstacles, GreerÍs story is full of hope and delicious dark humour. Her indelible strength is fuelled by her unconditional love for her son and the moral support she receives from her 88-year-old aunt, a chain-smoking, vodka-swilling, vitamin-popping senior whose continual commentary on the morbid news of the day is wickedly funny and provocative. This novel about one courageous womanÍs fight to survive in a post-millennium culture gone mad is heroic, heart stopping, and affecting.
The Barking Dog, the fifth novel from Cordelia Strube, CanadaÍs pre-eminent writer of urban fiction, is an unforgettable portrait of modern life in these media-saturated, apocalyptic times.