NEVER LET ME GO
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Paperback; 288 pages
Growing up at an English residential school called Hailsham, Kathy and her classmates are told that they’re special, that they will have an important role to play later in life. However, dark rumors and half-understood offhand remarks lurk beneath the surface of their idyllic childhood. As Kathy, her friends Ruth and Tommy, and the rest of the ubiquitous cliques grow up in their sheltered environment, the prospect of the “donations” they will someday face is always faintly present in the background of their lessons.
Now an adult, reunited with Tommy and Ruth many years after leaving school, Kathy reflects on their time at Hailsham. She remembers the odd incidents, complex childhood politics, friendships and rivalries, and questions about their future and the importance of the art the students constantly create. Knowing, now, the truth about what awaits the students after they leave the school, she questions the way they were brought up: the withholding of information and the subtle allusions. Continue reading
THE REASON I JUMP
by Naoki Higashida
Translated by David Mitchell and K.A. Yoshida
Random House; Aug. 2013
Hardcover: 176 pages
Written by a thirteen-year-old boy with Autism, The Reason I Jump takes readers into the minds of people who live with this often misunderstood disorder. I bought a copy of this book after hearing a bookseller at Fountain Bookstore rave about it, and I thought it was a fascinating little book.
Naok is unable to speak his ideas clearly, so he uses an alphabet grid (a method of nonvocal communication) to convey his thoughts, which his helper transcribes. Using this method of writing, he answers the questions many people have about what is like to be autistic. He uses a question-and-answer format to address such questions as:
- Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?
- Why do you ask the same questions over and over?
- Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?
- Why do you clap your fingers and hands in front of your face?
- Why do you repeat certain acts again and again? Continue reading
THE ROUND HOUSE
by Louise Erdrich
Harper Perennial; Sept. 24, 2013 (Original pub. Oct. 2012)
Paperback; 368 pages
Source: TLC Book Tours
Joe is a thirteen-year-old boy growing up on a reservation in North Dakota. Like many boys his age, his main concerns are hanging out with his friends, sneaking beers, and lusting after girls. However, everything changes when his mother, Geraldine, is brutally raped and just barely escapes a gruesome death.
Joe finds his mother deeply changed after the attack. She withdraws to her room and ceases to be the woman Joe knew as his mother. Despite repeated prodding, Geraldine can’t or won’t reveal anything about her attack; she doesn’t know where it happened or who assaulted her. Continue reading
by Jason Mott
Harlequin MIRA; Aug. 27, 2013
Hardcover; 352 pages
Source: TLC Book Tours
In the decades since their 8-year-old son’s tragic drowning, Harold and Lucille Hargrave have learned to cope with their pain. Although the death of their only child created an unfillable hole in their marriage, they have moved on and settled into a mostly comfortable life. However, old wounds are reopened when Jacob, their son, turns up on their doorstep looking exactly as he did on the day he died.
Such occurrences have been happening all over the world. People who had died are returning to life, popping up in unexpected places. It’s clear that they are not zombies, but no one can agree what exactly they are or what should be done with them. This phenomenon becomes so common that an organization called The International Bureau of the Returned is formed to handle the formerly dead. Continue reading
THIS IS PARADISE
by Kristiana Kahakauwila
Fiction: Short Stories
Hogarth, July 9, 2013
Paperback, 240 pages
Source: Publisher, via TLC Book Tours
Kristiana Kahakauwila’s fiction debut is a gorgeous collection of stories about Hawaii. Most of us think of Hawaii as a tourist paradise of leis, luaus, and surfing lessons, but the islands Kahakauwila brings to life have a different flavor. Her Hawaii is a little bit gritty, a little bit dirty. It’s home. Continue reading
SALVAGE THE BONES
by Jesmyn Ward
Bloomsbury, Aug. 2011
Paperback, 258 pages
In Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, the radio warns of an impending hurricane, but the Batiste children aren’t worried. Only their hard-drinking, widowed father is concerned that this hurricane will be worse than all of the others his family has experienced.
As Daddy prepares for the hurricane, Esch, our fifteen-year-old narrator, struggles with her discovery that she is pregnant; Skeeter takes care of his prized pit bull, China, and her newborn puppies; Randall practices for an important basketball game; and Junior, the youngest, is just gets into everyone else’s business. Continue reading
by Haruki Murakami
Vintage, September 2000
(first published 1987)
Paperback, 293 pages
As middle-aged Toru Watanabe’s flight lands at the gloomy Hamburg airport and the plane begins taxying to the terminal, an orchestral version of The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” begins playing through the ceiling speakers. Hearing this song takes him back to his youth in the autumn of 1969.
At the age of 18, Toru moves from his home in Kobe to a university in Tokyo. One day in this new city, he runs into an old friend, Naoko, with whom he shares an obsessive grief over the suicide of Toru’s best friend and Naoko’s boyfriend, Kizuki, when they were 17. Although the two were never close before, they begin taking weekly walks together, exploring every corner of Tokyo as they become more intimate. Continue reading
READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN
by Azar Nafisi
Random House, 2003
Paperback, 326 pages
Azar Nafisi is an Iranian writer and academic who taught at the University of Tehran during the years following the Iranian Revolution of 1979. However, by 1995, she felt the restrictions placed upon her impinged upon her ability to teach properly, and she left the university. Instead of teaching large classes at the tumultuous university, she selected seven of her brightest, most committed students to teach in the privacy of her home. For the next two years, this group met weekly to discuss forbidden Western classics including Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Henry James, and Jane Austen. Continue reading