Beartown surprised me– I loved it.
I expected Backman’s new book to be entirely focused on hockey. Turns out, the important parts of this book have nothing to do with hockey. Beartown is about the blessings and tragedies that occur in a tight knit community over the course of an athletic season. I hate to do a quote dump here, but Backman’s writing really tempts me (sorry).
“There are two things particularly good at reminding us how old we are: children and sports” (37).
“The only thing that sport gives us are moments. But what the hell is life apart from moments?” (109).
“People say she’s gone made, because that’s what people who know nothing at all about loneliness call it” (139).
“Sometimes, when it seriously hurt on the outside, it hurt a little bit less in other places” (276).
“The love a parent feels for a child is strange. There is a starting point to our love for everyone else, but not this person. This one we have always loved, we loved them even before they existed. No matter how well prepared they are, all moms and dads experience a moment of total shock. It’s incomprehensible because there’s nothing to compare it to. It’s like trying to describe sand between your toes or snowflakes on your tongue to someone who’s lived their whole life in a dark room. It sends the soul flying” (357).
“Another morning comes. It always does. Time always moves at the same rate. Only feelings have different speeds. Every day can mark a whole lifetime or a single heartbeat” (379).
“She won’t be under any illusions that love is simple; she will have made a lot of mistakes and felt a lot of pain, and she will know that her husband has too. But when he looks at her, he sees her, deep down inside of her, and even if he isn’t perfect, he is for her” (409).
A man mistakenly shoots and kills his neighbor’s son while he’s out hunting. In an attempt to atone for the tragic incident, the man gives his 8 year old son to his neighbors, the Ravich family. The rest of the novel follows the four parents (and siblings) as the families fight to regain some sense of normalcy. The Raviches mourn the loss of their son as they simultaneously attempt to incorporate a replacement boy into the grief-stricken family. Highly recommend!
Jennifer Egan returns with her first book since Pulitzer Prize winning, A Visit From the Goon Squad. A traditional and lengthy work of historical fiction, Manhattan Beach is composed of three separate story lines: a girl’s search for fulfillment in a profession created for men, a father’s ties to mob life in New York, and a mobster’s complicated loyalties. The intrigue lies primarily in anticipating how these stories and characters will collide. I found the book to be weighed down with unnecessary historical information. Writing for The Atlantic, Ruth Franklin describes how Egan’s prose gets lost in too much historical research:
"It is disappointing to find this wonderful language sometimes buried in that bugbear of the historical novel: a surfeit of research. We learn that boxed lunches for workers at the Navy Yard cost 40 cents, and we learn what they contain. We hear a bit too much period talk: “Say, this is delicious!,” Anna says of her glass of champagne, to which her companion replies, 'Isn’t it grand?'"
I found Manhattan Beach riddled with trivial historic details, making the book longer than necessary. This was perhaps the most significant disappointment of the book for me. If you love lengthy historical fiction, you may like this.
I am in complete shock.
My heart is racing. Louise Erdrich, Minnesotan author of The Round House (National Book Award) and The Plague of Doves (finalist, Pulitzer Prize), has written a horrifying thriller rooted in our own city. For reasons unclear to me (but likely related to global warming, pollution, and Scott Pruitt’s EPA agenda), evolution is running backward. Let me say that again: evolution is running backward. Babies are born with genetic traits characteristic of early human species (think homo neanderthalensis, homo habilis, and homo erectus). Because the women in Erdrich’s novel are pregnant with a different species, they have severe allergic reactions to the fetus (often resulting in death during childbirth). Future Home of the Living God reminds me of Handmaid’s Tale. The Washington Post titled their review of Erdrich’s novel, “Do We Need Another Handmaid’s Tale?” Perhaps it’s because I haven’t read Atwood in a long time, but I think Future Home of the Living God is a refreshing and terrifying take on state control of the female body. This is one of the best books I’ve read in 2017.