I have been in a slump of epic proportions for months now. I don’t even want to read. It’s weird and crazy. And then in walks A Place We Knew Well by Susan Carol McCarthy, and it changes everything. For the first time in weeks I stayed up past my bedtime to read. Continue reading
Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder by Amy Butcher
I finished Visiting Hours by Amy Butcher last night, and I still don’t know exactly how i feel about it. The real-life premise is stunning: in college one of Butcher’s best friends commits a horrific and grizzly murder. Seriously. Put yourself in her shoes. How do you move on from such an event? That is what Visiting Hours is about – Butcher trying to piece together her life in the immediate aftermath of the crime and in the years following it. Continue reading
Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda
What is it about Dutch-Scando-wegian literature that makes me so uncomfortable? Admittedly, I have not read much, but what I have read always takes me to an uncomfortable place. It takes rather black and white issues and blurs them all together into innumerable shades of gray. Continue reading
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob
When it comes to reading good books, I seem to be on a roll lately. I finished The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob in record time and stayed up far too late doing it. Initially it reminded me of Em and The Big Hoom (review) as both books are set in Indian families dealing with what can be broadly termed psychological complexities, but within a hundred pages Jacob’s book stood apart with its own set of well wrought characters. Continue reading
Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
June is Mental Health Awareness Month hosted by Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts and Ula @ Blog of Erised. Even though I found out about it a little late, I still wanted to support their efforts and this important cause. June is almost over, but I am pleased that I can include my review of Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto as part of this event.
Pinto has written one masterpiece of a book with Em and the Big Hoom. Set in Mumbai, story revolves around Em, the bipolar mother of our narrator. And I mean the story literally revolves around her. Pinto examines Em’s moods, depression and hospitalizations through each of the members of her family. It shows how mental illness is not a solitary affair, but effects everyone it comes into contact with. Continue reading
The Mad Sculptor by Harold Schechter
I will be completely honest with you and say that I chose The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, The Model and The Murder that Shook the Nation because I had it mixed up in my head with The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon. Both are New York based mysteries set in the 1930s and both use alliteration with the letter ‘M’ in their titles. Beyond that, there is little similarity.
The Mad Sculptor is about a murder that rocked New York City in 1937. Robert Irwin, a brilliant young sculptor, went to the apartment of his unrequited love interest and killed her mother and a boarder before finally killing Veronica. Following the murders, Irwin was the target of a manhunt that lasted several months. Continue reading
The Answer to the Riddle is Me by David Stuart MacLean
I first heard of The Answer to the Riddle is Me a couple of weeks ago when David Stuart MacLean did a segment on NPR’s This American Life. I was blown away. Basically, MacLean woke up one day on a train platform in India and did not know who he was, where he was or why he was there. He didn’t even have a passport. All of this he attributes to the anti-malarial drug known as Larium or mefloquine.
That is what truly peaked my interest. Larium. Mefloquine. When I went to India for the first time in 1996 I was prescribed Mefloquine. I was fine for the two months that I was in India, but within months of returning to Canada I became severely anxious and fell into a deep depression. I was already prone to depression, but this was different. I was scared.
The Isolation Door by Anish Majumdar
If you’ve been reading nothing but chunksters like The Goldfinch lately, and you want to go with something a little slimmer, may I suggest The Isolation Door by Anish Majumdar. Though less than 200 pages long, it wallops you and draws you in just like a chunkster, but without the time commitment. In fact, looking back, I’m shocked that it was less than 200 pages long.
At the core of The Isolation Door are issues of mental health. Neal’s mother, who believes she is a Bollywood actress, has been repeatedly institutionalized for schitozphrenia, Neal’s friends in the university drama program are also fighting with demons of their own. Neal himself can’t seem to open up to anyone around him. Most frightening were the scenes taking place at the mental hospital, where i found the treatment of the patients to be draconian.
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
I needed another book set in the 1920s for Jazz Age January hosted by Books Speak Volumes, so I went with Katie’s (Words for Worms) suggestion of The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. Instead of being your typical flapper age, gin soaked romp, The Other Typist is a psychological thriller soaked in champagne.
So what am I really saying? First, I loved The Other Typist. Rindell is a very good writer. She presents us with a rather unreliable narrator in Rose, a plain looking typist at a police station in Manhattan. Unreliable narrators are a bit of a soft spot with me, so I was thrilled. As the story progresses, Rose drops hints that she is now in a psyche hospital for unknown, but rather dark reasons. These reason have to do with Odalie, a true flapper through and through, who comes to work as the other typist at the precinct. Slowly the lives of Rose and Odalie become so intertwined that they cannot be separated.
I don’t want to give too much away about The Other Typist. I will say that it was full of surprises. It was kind of a Jazz Age combination of The Talented Mr. Ripley and the movie Single White Female. The end threw me for a complete loop and like Katie, I’m not completely sure if I understand what happened in the end.
Who would like this book? I would not put this book in the category of literary – it was definitely a psychological thriller. It was fairly fast paced, but was atmospheric enough to give a good sense of 1920s New York. There were speakeasies and bathtub gin, a little violence and on the fringes sat gangsters. For me the best part was Rose who saw the world around her from a unique perspective.
Why Are You So Sad? by Jason Porter
I can’t remember why I thought I wanted to read Why Are You So Sad? The title and concept make it sound a wee bit depressing, but it’s not. In fact, Jason Porter takes us on a rather fun filled journey into the the malaise that seems to pervade North American culture at times.
Raymond, our protagonist, is slipping. Not only is he falling into a depression, he is convinced that all of humanity is and it will lead to our extinction. To explore this theme further he comes up with the mad capped idea to write a survey and had it out to his fellow employees at an IKEA like furniture behemoth. Part of the fun of the novel is seeing how his co-workers react to and fill in the slightly odd survey.
My favorite part of Why Are You So Sad? is that Porter leaves us with two alternate endings. I was a firm fan of the first ending. Is that because I read it first? At any rate, it gave the book a Choose Your Own Adventure feel.
Who would like this book? This book is certainly not for everyone (mom, if you’ve read this far I mean you). Porter is a very contemporary American voice that has been compared to George Saunders and David Sedaris. I would also add Canadian Douglas Coupland to this list. The book is a quick read with some provocative ideas, but is unlikely to go down as a work of great literature. I enjoyed it and consumed it in almost one sitting. In a way it can be compared to Where’d You Go, Bernadette? but for a younger, pre-family generation. Both are funny and deal with mental health in contemporary American culture.
See what other bloggers have thought. And let me know if you’d like your review to be included here.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.