So, last week was one of the worst weeks of my life — my grandma died and there were two separate ER trips with my Dad. Of course, I looked to books to get me through.

When things were only lightly terrible I tried reading Marrying Up by Wendy Holden, which is, if you like this sort of thing, a perfectly fine escape book. I liked it significantly less than The Royal We or Eligible, but beggars can’t be choosers and I was looking specifically to shut my brain down a big. As you may or may not recall, I’m working on a goal of 100 books this year, I did not count this one, reading it was a totally different thing.

I also read Whiskey and Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith, The Parking Lot Attendant  by Nafkote Tamirat, and The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. Both Whiskey and Ribbons and The Parking Lot Attendant came from the list of 46 books by women of color in 2018.

And honestly, Whiskey and Ribbons is the second one from this list that I haven’t liked much. Although, considering how many amazing books I’ve read from this list, I still highly recommend the list if you’re looking for something to read. This is the story of Evie, whose husband Eamon is a police officer killed in the line of duty shortly before she gives birth to their son. I don’t think the author of this book could have been influenced by An American Marriage (both books came out in 2018), but the format of the book is very similar, which I think actually made me like Whiskey and Ribbons less because it just doesn’t match up well in the comparison. Like An American Marriage, Whiskey and Ribbons is told from the perspective of a husband, a wife, and another man who is a love interest of the wife.  The different perspectives intersect, with Eamon’s sections taking place from before he met Evie to his death while the other sections are in the future where he’s already died. Evie’s sections mostly take place over the course of one weekend during a snowstorm, although she’s also looking back, and this gives the whole book sort of this small, locked in, snowstorm feel. There’s nothing but this one story for a little bit.

The Parking Lot attendant is a super odd book, but I liked it, I think I should have read it more slowly. This is the story of an unnamed narrator and her unnamed father and it’s a frame novel — the story opens with the two of them living on an island in a strange sort of utopian/cult community, and then flashes back to tell the story of how they came to the island, coming back to the island at the end. The narrator is an American, but her parents were both Ethiopian immigrants and she is very connected to the Ethiopian community in Boston (where the middle of the story takes place). The father/daughter relationship and the narrator reminded me a little bit of Call Me Zebra, although thank goodness it wasn’t quite so meandering and nonsensical. The narrator does a fair amount of musing:

I marvel at people who have made a living out of seamlessly appearing to be someone other than themselves. I haven’t done a particularly bang-up job of being me, and if I can’t manage that, it seems unlikely that I’ll ever do better by taking on someone else. I suspect that on the whole, I am untalented at the art of existence.

I’m not sure what I can tell you of the plot without spoiling it, because the mystery is really most of the book’s allure. I guess, I enjoy how the author sort of messes with your expectations, nothing much happens for so much of the book, then you realize there’s a lot you don’t understand at all, the book turns into a thriller, but leaves you without everything neatly tied up in a bow. Also, I think this was less than 300 pages, so not a long read.

Finally, I read The Fifth Season, which was my favorite of everything this week. It’s a sci-fi book which won the Hugo (I don’t read a ton of sci-fi, but if I hear it won the Hugo, I’m willing to give it a shot), as did EACH of the two sequels in the trilogy. I am pretty excited to read the next two. This was a great escape book, but it also didn’t feel like I was wasting my time reading garbage. The book is set on Earth, but on a super continent called The Stillness, which is anything but still due to lots of geothermic and seismic activity. All this activity creates the fifth season, death — which is what they call it when something happens, like a volcano spews ash into the air so there’s nothing but darkness and cold for years or decades.

The world is somewhat sparsely populated and everyone lives in “comms” or communities and they are sorted into different common use categories based on their skills – so  people who are “resistant” are good at surviving and useful during that fifth season. The story is told from three women’s perspectives, although primarily you have Essun, who on the day the earth splits open for what may be the worst fifth season ever, also finds that her husband has murdered their son and stolen their daughter. I could just summarize the whole book for you, but it’s so good, so fun, so dark, but so interesting, that you should really just go read it. And then let me know what you think. Maybe it will get you through some bad days too.

Currently reading: Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me, and getting the next book in The Broken Earth series ASAP…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marrying Up – wendy holden