This weekend I started and finished Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shafer, “An Obama Biden Mystery.” I am kind of hoping that this subtitle means there will be more such books, because I really enjoyed this one.  I definitely recommend the book if you’re missing the Obama years, or if you just like mysteries and aren’t like a super right-wing Obama hater — it is actually a much more well written book than I had anticipated.

Hope Never Dies begins with Obama and Biden, now having left public service and with their friendship going through a tough time (Biden, like the rest of us, jealous of Obama’s amazing looking vacations…). An Amtrak employee Biden knows well (they don’t call him Amtrak Joe for nothing) dies under mysterious circumstances, and Biden and Obama reunite to investigate — SPOILERS ! ultimately solving the case 🙂

The novel is narrated entirely by Biden, and I actually think that Shafer must have spent a good chunk of time reading Biden’s books. I’ve read a bit of Biden’s work, and this was certainly a little off (the plot is a bit far fetched), but there was certainly similarity to the real Biden’s voice. The far fetched-ness is hilarious though:

Barack placed one of his oversized ears on the door. Political cartoonists loved to mock Barack’s elephant ears. If only they could see him now, using them for their God-intended purpose.

I’m not a huge mystery reader, I’ve considered giving Sue Grafton a try, and I did read some Val McDermid last year, I just find most of them to be a bit too straight-forward (everything is wrapped in a neat bow at the end) and almost too untaxing to read. But this was a great, funny summer read.

Once I finished Hope Never Dies, I decided to treat myself to another Meg Wolitzer. I hadn’t read anything by her until this year, and so far I’ve loved everything (Speaking of Sleep – The Ten Year Nap and Meg Wolitzer Strikes Again – The Female Persuasion), including this book, The Uncoupling.  The plot is pretty straight forward — there’s a bit of magical realism, but just a very little bit, as a suburban New Jersey high school is putting on the Greek comedy Lysistrata and suddenly a ‘spell’ is cast and all the women involved, the high school teachers and students, stop having sex with their husbands and boyfriends. Lysistrata, in case you don’t know, is a play about women in Greece refusing to have sex with men until they end the Peloponnisian war.

As with many Meg Wolitzer books, I just found the characters to be very compelling — perhaps because Wolitzer frequently writes about people who remind me of myself (middle class, well-educated, women). Much of the book centers around Dory and Robby Lang, high school English teachers, and their sophomore daughter Willa, although other women teachers at the high school get some time narrating as well.

This book said so much that I found interesting and relatable about sex, relationships, about men and about women. The teenage parts seemed pretty accurate, and pretty depressing to me:

Then he said, “Now we’re on the same page here right?” and she said yes. “Okay,” Ralph said. Then he nodded gravely and cast his eyes downward towards his fly, which he unzipped with a loud single syllable, revealing an anatomical part that was pretty much as Marissa expected . . . . Marissa was shocked by his action, but abstractly interested. . . . They sat unmoving, and then he nodded again, encouragingly, and dipped his head in suggestion.

It doesn’t really get better from here… Not a wonder some of the teen girls give up sex. Not a wonder.

There’s also quite a bit about parenting:

They lived in a time in which it was tremendously difficult, as parents, to let children endure any pain. If you sensed their despair, you took it on as if it were your own. You let it ruin you, imagining that they, somehow, would be spared. They would live and thrive, while you would die of their transferred misery.

Seems like a pretty accurate description of parenting in 2018 to me… And Dory struggles with how to advise her daughter:

There was no way to know, thought Dory. You bumped stupidly ahead through life, and you couldn’t know if starring in a play, or sleeping with someone, or marrying someone, or picking a particular college, or even taking a walk down the street, was going to lead to happiness or sorrow. How could you know? A mother couldn’t advise her daughter in such matters, except in the most nebulous and anemic way.

I was raised Presbyterian, so grew up with the sense that God had a plan for me, that the big things in my life were predestined. I don’t really feel that way anymore, but either way, it’s true that as many pro/con lists as you make, there’s just no way to know what the results of your actions will be – and that much more terrifying when you want to protect your loved ones from any bad decision and realize you have no way of knowing for sure whether any one decision is ‘bad.’

Currently reading: Why Time Flies, thinking about giving The Magicians a try — decided to keep August reads a bit light.