The Great Library Rundown, Part 2: Beach Reads

 

BeachReads

I don’t know about you, but my stack of books to take to the beach generally weighs more than my four-year-old. I’ve recently read three library books with beach potential; June approaches, so let’s assess, shall we?

IMG_6537Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

Yes, I know I might be the last person on the continent to have read this tearjerker (soon to be a feature film), but then again, there was still a waitlist for it at my local library.

Synopsis: Louisa, a quirky young woman from a working-class family, gets a last-ditch job as a companion for Will, a young businessman and adventurer paralyzed in a car accident. When Louisa finds out Will’s plans for physician-assisted suicide, she determines to prove to him that life is still worth living, and in the process, she opens up her own horizons.

The good: I liked that Lou comes from a working-class family, and that the book doesn’t attempt to skate over the difficulties of job loss and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Lou and her sister Treena, a brilliant single mom, have an interesting relationship, combative and loving at the same time.

The not-so-good: I thought the pacing was off and the changes in perspective were annoying. I wish there’d been more balance in the depiction of life as a quadriplegic; Will is pretty damn miserable—despite his enormous financial advantages—but certainly not all quadriplegics feel the same way (there’s an attempt to show this through a fictitious message board, but why not introduce another character?).

Verdict: Depends entirely on your taste for tearjerkers.

Maestra, by L.S. HiltonIMG_6838

Judith Rashleigh is an assistant at a London auction house who becomes embroiled in intrigue after she’s unjustly fired from her job and ends up on the French Riviera, trying to pass as one of the rich and carefree. Sex and murder and art fraud shenanigans ensue.

[Sidebar here: Whoever did the marketing on this book is very good—from the cover to the deliberate comparisons to Fifty Shades of Grey and Gone Girl, they’ve tried very hard to make this a hit. Oh, and the book already has two planned sequels and a movie deal. Le sigh.]

The good: This book had so much potential—there’s one good twist, the bits about art and appraisal are fascinating (I wished the book had stayed more focused on the art world), and somewhere there’s some good material relating to young women’s righteous rage at being undervalued at work and treated like sex objects all the time.

The bad:  Well, let’s see: there’s fat-shaming (lots of it), gratuitous name-dropping of designer labels (this gets worse as the book goes on), unconvincing plot maneuvers, repetitive, humorless sex scenes that try too hard to shock readers . . . I could go on.

The verdict: Leave it at the library.

Eligible, by Curtis SittenfeldIMG_6864

Synopsis: In this modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, the Bennet sisters are natives of Cincinnati. Liz and Jane, both approaching 40, are home from New York to care for their dad after his heart attack when they meet Chip Bingley (former contestant on a Bachelor-type show) and his haughty neurosurgeon friend, Darcy. You can take it from there, folks.

The good: Part of the fun of reading this was, for me, guessing how Ms. Sittenfeld would update Austen’s plot points for twenty-first-century readers (CrossFit makes an appearance, for example). Liz and Jane are pitch-perfect, I loved the choice of Cincinnati as setting, and I think the Bennets’ socioeconmic status makes sense. And the last chapter is a-mazing.

The not-so-good: I think the attempts to highlight race and LGBTQ issues were a good idea, but not taken far enough. There’s quite a bit of silliness at the end, which I could have done without.

Also, I’m a transplanted Ohioan, and good lord did this make me miss Graeter’s and Skyline.

The verdict: Not destined to be a classic, and not Curtis Sittenfeld’s best (I think the consensus points to American Wife), but 100% beachworthy.

What’s on your beach reading list this summer?

YA Foray: Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King

IMG_6429About once a year*, I read a YA book to see what the youth are up to these days (or, what publishers think the youth want to read, I guess). I’m never disappointed, for while YA isn’t my go-to bookstore section, I think YA authors tend to be folks passionate about the lives of teenagers, and that passion shows in their work.

Enter Jeff Zenter’s debut novel The Serpent King. Set in rural Tennessee, the book follows three friends through their senior year of high school. Dill is a soulful and sad musician, haunted by family history and dogged by his father’s reputation (the former minister is in jail for possession of child pornography) and his mother’s refusal to acknowledge that he might want to leave Forrestville. Lydia is a savvy fashion blogger (and fan of Donna Tartt & Leonard Cohen, so I was contractually obligated to like her, despite her annoying tendency to brush off her privilege) who dreams of moving to New York, though she’ll miss her supportive, Trader Joe’s-loving, hybrid-driving parents. Travis has a rough time at home and at work in the lumberyard, but he copes by retreating into a Game of Thrones-like fandom, not caring what anybody (including Lydia) thinks of his all-black ensembles, dragon necklace, and staff.

The novel revolves mainly around Dill, who’s distressed not only at the prospect of losing Lydia (he’s got a crush), but also at his lack of prospects. His parents have made it clear that he’s responsible for helping to pay off the debts they incurred; his mother even thinks he ought to drop out of high school.

While the trajectory of the plot is somewhat predictable, I enjoyed reading this book because Mr. Zentner depicts a segment of the population that is often overlooked. Dill and his mother are flat-out poor, and Travis’s family is just scraping by. Despite her attitude towards Dill’s education, Mrs. Early is depicted as a person who’s making choices using the arithmetic she knows, one that’s bound up with job insecurity (even with multiple jobs), no health care, and mountains of debt. She’s not a sympathetic character, but she’s understandable, not a caricature, and I think that’s important. Mr. Zentner shows readers that circumstance is a powerful force in shaping character.

And so is friendship. Forrestville has its racists and bullies, but it’s also chock full of beauty and people of outstanding moral fiber if you know where to look, and the three heroes of the tale do. It’s a pleasure to hear the sounds of night insects with them, or visit a college campus through their eyes. This book is full of heart; Mr. Zentner clearly loves his subject, looking at rural Tennessee life with affection, and with eyes wide open to its flaws.

I’d recommend this book  to YA fans and to readers (like me) who dip into the genre just once in a while.

Have you read any YA books lately?

* 2013: Sara Farizan, If You Could Be Mine

2014: John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

2015: [I did say about once a year. It averages out, right?]

Recommended Reading: The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson**

IMG_5576Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I finished reading Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time,* a reimagining of Shakespeare’s late play The Winter’s Tale. (If you don’t know The Winter’s Tale, think Othello plus pregnancy, a lost and then found child, funny time business, more clowns, and a happy ending.)

Adaptations of Shakespeare, as of anything sui generis, are tricky. Shakespeare’s plots are derivative, pulled from history or earlier plays and tales; what makes Shakespeare Shakespeare is the poetry, the depth of characterization, the verbal pyrotechnics of the plays, and these, of course, cannot be adapted in the way that a story can be.

But it’s fun to watch talented people try, isn’t it?

In this case, Ms. Winterson pulls the plot of The Winter’s Tale four hundred years into the future and hundreds of miles west; Sicilia is now a large company in London headed by Leo, and Bohemia is now New Bohemia, a New Orleans-type city in North America, the occasionally home to Leo’s best friend, Xeno. Hermione is now the Parisian singer MiMi, married to Leo and expecting his second child. In a fit of cruel and unfounded jealously, Leo accuses Xeno of sleeping with MiMi (and fathering her child), attempts to kill him, and provokes MiMi’s early labor. When Perdita is born, Leo has her spirited away, which leads indirectly to his young son’s death and MiMi’s disappearance.

Fast forward sixteen years. Perdita has been raised by the kindly Shep and his son Clo, and through a series of improbabilities, comes to fall in love with Xeno’s son, Zel, and learn of her unusual parentage. Next stop: a very awkward family reunion.

Though she generally adheres to the five-act structure of the original play (including two “intervals”), and weights the first half with more psychosexual tension than a bevy of Freudians would know what to do with, Ms. Winterson makes one break that I found dramatically useful: she begins the tale with the scene of Perdita’s accidental abandonment and subsequent rescue by Shep, a grieving widower and musician. This change heightens the tension and gives readers something to look forward to as they read the sordid story of Leo and Xeno; here, as in the play, it’s not at all clear what MiMi saw in Leo in the first place.

The book participates in the oddness of its source material’s plot and characters while retaining its themes: loss, forgiveness, remorse, grief, the startling power of music and imagination. Ms. Winterson’s writing is studded with lovely metaphors (“Milo stood between them like a lighthouse between the rocks and the shipwreck”), images (“he could only look at her through the kaleidoscope cut-outs of the crowd”), and wry observations (“one thing you’ll notice about progress, kid, is that it doesn’t happen to everyone”), self-referential asides, and overt references to the play. Autolycus’s (here, perfectly, a used car dealer) jokes fall flat, but then, I never enjoyed them in the original, so maybe that’s intentional. Nevertheless, The Gap of Time is engaging, a fast read that Shakespeare stalwarts will find thought-provoking and fans of quirky, genre-bending fiction will appreciate.

This is the first in Hogarth’s planned series of Shakespeare adaptations that will roll out more frequently next year (to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death); authors tapped include Margaret Atwood (!), Gillian Flynn, and Jo Nesbo.

What’s your favorite Shakespeare adaptation, Dear Readers? And has anyone read Ms. Winterson’s other work? What should I be on the lookout for?

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration, which did not affect the content of my review.

** I want you all to know that I refrained from calling this post “The Bard Awakens.”

Reading Coincidences

I am a person who finds coincidences delightful. (I wonder, are you?)

Not too long ago, I read Kay’s review of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (which made me think of the opening sequence in Steel Magnolias, and yes, if you were wondering, I am basically a 30-something married version of Ouiser), and therefore ordered it, and then Laura of Reading in Bed put it on her list for Novellas in November, an event she’s doing with founder Rick at the Book-a-Week Project. It was meant to be.

So the novella arrived and I realized that the author is Julia Strachey, who was the niece of writer Lytton Strachey, who is one of the subjects of Christopher Hampton’s screenplay Carrington, which I read a little while ago, whose main subject is the artist Dora Carrington, who painted the author portrait of Julia Strachey on the back (not pictured) of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding.

Bam! IMG_5462

So. The novella first. It is not, it turns out, remotely like Steel Magnolias except for the fact that it begins on the morning of a wedding. In this case, it’s March and a gale is blowing through the Thatcham house and grounds as twenty-three-year-old Dolly prepares for her wedding. Mrs. Thatcham fusses over details, gives contradictory orders regarding luncheon, and fails to notice the general unhappiness of pretty much every person in the house: Kitty, the younger, slightly boorish sister of the bride, Robert and Thomas, young cousins who cannot get along because Tom is bullying the younger boy over his socks, and Joseph, a friend of Dolly’s who’s in quite the rush to see the bride. And then there’s Dolly herself, who’s bracing herself with the better part of a bottle of rum.

It sounds like the set up for a Kaufman and Hart play, but if you imagine Kaufman and Hart done by a combination of Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker, and E.M. Forster, you’ll be on the right track. It’s a deeply odd little book, but one that features some fine writing, a nice twist at the end, excellent characterization, and a very interesting motif of carefully depicted light: For example: “sunlight fell in dazzling oblongs” (12), “brassy yellow sunlight” (26) and “dazzling white light” (47) meet green twilight at one point and lilac heat haze (for which I can’t find page numbers). Recommended.

Now, Carrington: I thought this was a play when I picked it up at a used bookstore in Hyannis, but it’s the screenplay to the 1995 film starring Emma Thompson and Jonathan Pryce, which I missed when it premiered because (a) I was 11 and (b) I was repeat-watching Sense and Sensibility, another Emma Thompson flick (I love her). Of course, now I’m dying to see it because it’s about the 1920s Bloomsbury folk and their usually doomed attempts to find happiness within unconventional—-to put it mildly—-living arrangements, and I’m a sucker for 1920s English artistic angst. Also I read Lytton Strachey’s Elizabeth and Essex about seven or eight years ago and wondered mightily about the no-doubt fabulous person who wrote it; here’s part of the answer.

Essentially, Carrington is a story about the difficulty of being romantically interested in someone who can only be platonically (in the modern sense) interested in you. And it’s about gender and sexual nonconformity, art, and family. But mostly it’s about love. It’s gorgeously written and unfortunately impossible to quote out of context, but I highly recommend it. I’ll let you know if and when I find the movie on Netflix.

What about you, Dear Readers? Any bookish coincidences striking you lately?

Recommended Reading: The Beautiful Bureaucrat, by Helen Philips

IMG_4493Franz Kafka meets Charlotte Perkins Gilman meets George Orwell in Helen Phillips’s short novel The Beautiful Bureaucrat*, a psychological thriller and modern fable that I think would be tough to put down (I wouldn’t know, since I snapped it up in two hours one night).

Josephine and her husband, Joseph, have moved to the city after months of unemployment in a last-ditch effort to find jobs. Josephine is hired by a faceless person (I mean that pretty literally) to input endless numbers in a database called, descriptively, “the Database.” Her office is one of hundreds in a huge building where keyboards click constantly, colleagues are either odd, unhelpful, or invisible, and the vending machine hasn’t been used in decades. And then there are the walls in her office: pinkish, marked with the finger-smudges of previous occupants.

The unpleasantness of Josephine’s job is compounded by the dilapidated series of subterranean apartments she and Joseph find themselves subletting in their impecunious state. And then Joseph doesn’t come home one night, refusing to give an explanation the next day, and Josephine falls into a state of nearly unceasing dread, until she realizes that in order to save the man she loves, she must take matters into her own hands.

In just under 200 pages, Helen Philips crafts a tightly-woven story about love and necessity with perfect pacing, incongruously witty wordplay, and deft characterization. Recommended.


And, Dear Readers, here’s a new game I’m going to play occasionally:

Carolyn Tells People with the Film Rights to This Book What to Do :

Who should direct the film adaptation: Spike Jonze

Who should play Josephine: Michelle Williams (in the mode of Blue Valentine and Take This Waltz)

Who should do the music: David Arnold & Michael Price


 

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration, which did not affect the content of my review.

Summer Reading: Pairs Event

In which I pair three books read this summer with three books read before this summer that have similar themes but are in some way opposite. It’s a scientific process, people.


IMG_4256Summer Reading: The Gracekeepers,* by Kirsty Logan, takes place in a watery future world (I haven’t seen Waterworld, so I can’t tell you how it compares. Sorry about that). All land is inhabited by landlockers, who jealously guard their island holdings; some of them have returned to earth worship. Everyone else lives at sea. These damplings include scavengers, revivalists who live on converted cruise ships (no pun intended there), messengers, and the crew of the Excalibur, a tiny floating circus. North is the circus’s bear girl, who, like her parents before her, dances with a bear to entertain landlockers in the hope of earning dinner. One night a storm sends the circus crew into the path of Callanish, a gracekeeper—a person in charge of arranging damplings’ burials at sea. North and Callanish exchange secrets and part ways, but they can’t stop wondering about each other, and about the possibility that there’s a way to be of both the land and the sea.

The main characters aren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked, but The Gracekeepers is worth picking up for the atmosphere, the world-building, and the supporting characters.

photo (107)

Pair it with: Emmi Itäranta’s Memory of Water,* another novel set in the future after some kind of environmental disaster—though this time, one that causes a scarcity of water. Memory of Water also features a pair of young women trying to make the best of a dangerous existence while hiding secrets.

IMG_3428Summer Reading: Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country is a hilarious tour through Australia. He talks to almost invariably friendly Australians, gets quite drunk and draws naughty cartoons on a napkin, lists the continent’s unrelentingly deadly wildlife, and doesn’t see too many kangaroos, among other exploits. I can’t say the book makes me want to visit Australia—though Mr. Bryson enthusiastically hopes that you will—but it definitely made me want to visit with Bill Bryson. The book’s one drawback: Mr. Bryson’s failure to write significantly or at any length about Australia’s Aboriginal population; as far as I could tell, he did not speak with a single Aboriginal person.

Still, if you’re one of the people who’s just discovering Mr. Bryson thanks to the press surrounding the upcoming movie version of A Walk in the Woods (which I highly recommend), I recommend reading this one.

photo 3Pair it with: A very different take on Australia, by an Australian. Christos Tsiolkas’s Barracuda* is a book with teeth, and a lot more anger than laughs. As I wrote in my review, “Danny is an teenage Australian swimmer who dreams of making it to the Olympics; thankfully, there’s no swelling inspirational music in this tightly-plotted, intricately structured novel.”

FullSizeRenderSummer Reading: Mark Forsyth’s The Etymologicon is a circular perambulation through the odd origins of English words. You could pick up the book, flip to any page, and have yourself a laugh reading any entry, but each entry connects in some way to its predecessor and successor, so I think it’d be more entertaining to read it start to (sort of) finish. Mr. Forsyth is the man behind the popular blog The Inky Fool, and The Etymologicon draws heavily from the blog’s content. Though it’s erudite and full of arcane trivia (Starbucks gets its name from the Pequod‘s first mate, whose name was drawn from a prominent whaling family, but the name itself came from a Viking word for an English stream. Really.), but also surprisingly snarky and scatological. Highly entertaining. But what else would you expect from an author whose biography begins, “Mark Forysth is a writer, journalist, proofreader, ghostwriter, and pedant”?

photo (34)Pair it with:  Erin Moore’s That’s Not English,* which I called “a beach read for nerds” in my review. Like The Etymologicon, it’s a funny read about words, but it’s less about etymology than it is about culture.

What bookish pairings have you found this summer, Dear Readers?

*I received a copy of these books from the publishers for review consideration, which did not affect the content of my reviews.

Writer to Watch: Nuala O’Connor

IMG_4252Nuala O’Connor’s Miss Emily* is an upstairs/downstairs novel about Emily Dickinson and an imagined Irish maid-of-all-work. While it is Ms. O’Connor’s first novel published in the United States, she has published two novels, short stories, and poetry in the U.K. and Ireland, where she often writes under the name Nuala Ní Chonchúir.

Miss Emily takes place over the course of a year or so, when 18-year-old Ada Concannon leaves Ireland for America, where she finds work in Amherst with the odd but locally esteemed Dickinson family. Chapters alternate between Ada’s voice and that of Emily Dickinson, who in her mid-30s is headed toward the seclusion she’s well known for. Despite the gaps in age, class, education, and origins, Ada and Emily form a friendship, trading recipes and observations about goings-on in the natural world.

The novel’s strongest aspects include its descriptions, particularly Ada’s recollections of Dublin and her grandmother’s cottage, and Ms. O’Connor’s rendering of Emily’s facility with language and adept way with peculiar images. Readers fond of realistic renderings of everyday life in historical fiction will find much to please them here.

Miss Emily moves very fast, thanks to its short chapters that change perspective, but I would have preferred a longer version with more expansion on the Dickinson family’s relationships and those within Ada’s family. Readers conversant with Emily Dickinson’s biography will pick up on the family dynamics, but those who don’t know much about the poet may find themselves lost at times.

Without giving too much away, I’d also add that I found the novel’s ending disappointing, shifting agency away from the main characters we’ve spent so much time with in favor of male characters who aren’t as fully drawn. In the last quarter of the novel, Emily and Ada react to events, rather than choosing their own paths, which is unfortunate and not in keeping with the tone of the novel’s first half.

Despite these issues, I’d still recommend Miss Emily for a quick summer read, and I’d be happy to read more of Ms. O’Connor’s writing, particularly her poetry. And I suspect that after you read this book, you’ll be curious to see, as I am, the Homestead, the Dickinson family home. I’ve lived about two hours from it for years, and I’m sorry to say I haven’t been to see it—but I hope to get out to Amherst later this summer, Emily Dickinson’s own words in hand.

You can read more about Nuala O’Connor here. And if you’re interested in visiting the Emily Dickinson Museum, you can read more about it here. 

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration, which did not affect the content of my review.

 

Visiting the South: Gwendolyn Knapp’s After a While You Just Get Used to It: A Tale of Family Clutter

No offense intended toward its residents (the vast majority of those I’ve met have been delightful), but as a general rule*, but I visit the South (meaning here the deep South, east of Texas) only in books or recipes, leaving the living there to souls braver and sturdier than I. I dislike heat, humidity, large flying insects, large crawling insects, the prospect of encountering reptiles capable of swallowing me or my limbs whole, swamps, Confederate flags, and okra.

However, I do like tales of swamp adventurers, almost anything fried, stories about terrifying fauna and rare flora, regional idioms, and the idea of warm weather in the winter.

photo (51)This is why reading about the South is so enjoyable: all of the interest, none of the sweat. And I tend to read nonfiction about the region: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Orchid Thief (original, I know). And now After a While You Just Get Used to It: A Tale of Family Clutter** by Gwendolyn Knapp. Strictly speaking, this memoir isn’t about Florida, where Ms. Knapp grew up, or New Orleans, where she now lives and works, but her writing is so evocative of place that I could practically feel the boggy heat blowing through the window.

Ms. Knapp’s world is populated by colorful characters, many of them her own family members, including her mother, Margie, who can’t stop accumulating stuff; her Aunt Susie, an addict with a good-for-nothing boyfriend; and her sister Molly, who can’t wait to escape their house. There is all sorts of drama of the holiday, funeral, dating, and interstate-move variety, framed in Ms. Knapp’s observant and wry voice.

The book is a series of chronologically ordered vignettes, often jumping quite a few years in time, which makes for easily digestible, fast-paced reading, if an incomplete picture of the author’s life. After a While You Just Get Used to It, as its title suggests, tends toward the matter-of-fact acceptance of the way things are, even if the way things are is a pretty horrible state of affairs. It’s Southern Gothic as life-writing, essentially.

While mostly I cringed for Gwendolyn as she deals with her family, her own health problems, difficult jobs, and a series of unfortunate boyfriends, I also laughed. I’m glad Ms. Knapp is inviting readers to visit her world.

*I have made exceptions for one beach, several airports, and one wedding (worth it, J & P!)

** I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration, which did not affect the content of my review.

Fast Read (and Fast Review): That’s Not English, by Erin Moore

photo (34)Erin Moore’s delightful book, That’s Not English*, is what I’d call a beach read for book nerds. In it, she describes some of the many cultural differences between the British and Americans by deploying the lens of words we share in common that have very different meanings, including seemingly innocuous words like “quite” and “pull.”

The twenty-five-odd chapters here are easily digestible and full of interesting tidbits, but you won’t find lengthy digressions on etymology (for that you should turn to the OED for a start). That’s Not English is the perfect summer reading for the Anglophile in your life, and might find you reaching for your favorite Jane Austen novel. Or really wishing Sherlock‘s fourth season (series) would air.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes, which did not affect the content of my review.

Recommended Reading: Our Endless Numbered Days, by Claire Fuller

photo (20)I first learned of Claire Fuller’s debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days* from Naomi’s review on Consumed by Ink. Once I picked up the book, I couldn’t put it down.

In reading Our Endless Numbered Days, I stepped  outside of my comfort zone; my reading (and viewing, for that matter) bête noir is child endangerment, and Peggy Hillcoat is in danger for quite a lot of the novel.

In 1976, when Peggy is eight, her father, a survivalist, packs up supplies and Peggy and leads her deep into a German forest, to “die Hutte,” where the two will live for the next nine years. Peggy’s experiences in wild living are juxtaposed with chapters about her life after she rejoins her mother, Ute, a noted concert pianist, in London nine years later (and this was what allowed me to read the book: knowing that she would come home alive, if not unscathed).

Peggy’s father tells her that they are the only two people left in the world, and decides to stop keeping track of time:

“We’re not going to live by somebody else’s rules of hours and minutes any more,” he said. When to get up, when to go to church, when to go to work.”
I couldn’t remember my father ever going to church, or even to work.
“Dates only make us aware of how numbered our days are, how much closer to death we are for each one we cross off. From now on, Punzel, we’re going to live by the sun and the seasons.” He picked me up and spun me around, laughing. “Our days will be endless.”

So Peggy—or Punzel, as she takes to calling herself and being called—settles into a routine of hunting and gathering and playing one piece on a piano that doesn’t make a sound—until one day she sees a pair of boots in the woods and begins to understand that all is not as her father told her.

Given the lies that James and Ute tell themselves, their daughter, and each other, Peggy isn’t the most reliable narrator—except where matters of practical living are concerned. The details of Peggy and James’s survival strategies are fascinating, particularly considering just how much effort it takes to learn how to live primitively (I just read a NYT story on a woman who walked 10,000 miles in three years, so I guess I’m on a bit of a kick). Their struggles do not recommend the outdoor lifestyle (though maybe I’m biased, since my favorite magnet says “I love not camping.”)

Ms. Fuller’s writing is strong and assured, her words gliding gracefully; I finished the book in two sittings. She skillfully builds tension as the novel’s twin mysteries unravel: How (and why) did Peggy escape the wilderness? And why did her father leave with her in the first place?

Once you pick up Our Endless Numbered Days, these questions will draw you into Peggy’s world, and it’s difficult to leave.

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, which did not affect the content of my review.