by Kevin Sessums. A frank (very graphic! Don't go rolling up to Giant Eagle with your windows down and frighten the citizens!) memoir about a young boy who does not follow in his athletic father's footsteps in terms of overt "masculinity." His father is killed in an accident, his mother dies soon after of cancer and he and his siblings are raised by grandparents. I was touched by his struggles, amused by his desire to be addressed as Arlene Francis, fascinated by his friendship with Eudora Welty and horrified by some of his experiences. He was molested by a predatory minister and the first to discover the body of a dear friend who had been brutally murdered. An "outsider biography" that helps to open a window on what life was like for a young gay man growing up in the South... School Days
by Robert B. Parker. Spencer gets hired, Spencer investigates, Spencer interviews a lot of people, Spencer roughs a few of them up and shoots a bad guy. All that and he still has time to take care of the dog Pearl while his lady love, Susan Silverman, is out of town. He also temporarily rescues a broken teenager, a noble effort that ends tragically. In this audio version, Spencer is investigating a school shooting and uncovers a whole nest of nastiness. I like this series and like Joe Montegna as the narrator, but I don't understand why he says "said" so much. "I said, he said, she said..." I don't think that works so well with books so full of dialogue. Then We Came to the End
by Joshua Ferris. This is one of the "hot" new books, detailing the decline of an advertising agency and the lives of the soon-to-be-furloughed employees. There are comparisons to The Office
television show certainly.... whenever someone leaves, quits, gets fired, dies, other workers switch and take their office chair, presumed to be a better, more comfortable seat. This amuses me because I am currently sitting in a chair that has been handed down among three employees at the library. And yes, it is very comfortable. There is inter-office romance and general insanity. There is a heavy air of self-obsession, you know how we all analyze and discuss work-related events and characters. So, this is a funny book... but situated in the middle of this humorous account is a very sad short story about breast cancer and fear, very moving really. And while I was congratulating myself on my critical perceptions, it turned out that the author was aware of this story set in the center of the book too (imagine!) and that one of the characters uses that story and gets a novel published five years later. An enjoyable read, short listed for the National Book Award. What happened to Joe though? Out
by Natsuo Kirino. A plot summary sounds very grisly for this mystery/crime novel but I enjoyed this book immensely and am looking forward to another by the same author, perhaps aptly titled Grotesque
. Four women work the night shift in a boxed lunch factory in Tokyo. Their lives are grim by varying degrees. One, abused by her husband, murders him... and the other three dispose of the body by cutting it up and leaving it in parks and rubbish bins around the city. (I told you it was grisly.) One of the women is foolish and needy, deeply in debt... that's right, she can't keep her mouth shut and things unravel in strange and unexpected ways. The characters were excellent, the descriptions just vibrated with gritty realism, I was intrigued. Winner of the Grand Prix, Japan's top mystery award.