Written By: sherridaley - • •


I always check out 4-5 books at a time, sometimes more. I stack them up on the windowsill next to my bed and when I decide that a book isn’t worth my time, I flip to the end to see if the guy dies or the wife walks out or the doctors give up but the baby lives. Then I toss the book on the floor and reach for the next book. This saves a lot of trips back & forth to the library.

However, this last stack of books provided me with three great books in a row, and I recomend you go out immediately and find them and read them all.

The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal does star a couple of teenagers, but it is absolutely not your average coming-of-age novel.  This is a story of a whole family: kids, stepkids, parents, grandparents, in-laws, lovers, exes, and a dog. There are so many different kinds of love here, so carefully arranged and presented, that I wouldn’t have been able to tell you which “relationship” I was actively following. The plots unravel slowly, with enough hints and foreshadowing to have me thinking, “Oh god, please don’t let THAT happen.” But it does, of course, except for the couple of things that didn’t, even though I was totally expecting them.

I hurt for everyone, reading this book. Even the love hurt a bit. They all tried so hard, analyzed decisions, not realizing that some things just happen without any human (or divine) intervention.  Polite.  This book treats awkwardness, passion, disappointment, anger, and loss politely, slipping hope in there to make me feel better.

The Floating World is a love story of a completely different nature. The author, C. Morgan Babst, evacuated New Orleans one day before Katrina made landfall, and after 11 years in New York, she went back to live in New Orleans with her husband and child. Although this is a sort of murder mystery involving a missing sister and dead woman, it’s really a love story between the city of New Orleans and the people who live there.

I fell in love myself – with the mud and the placid, standing water weeks after the storm, with the mold and the rot, and the broken trees and abandoned houses filled with sodden shoes and mattresses. The resilience of the survivors is stunning. I could never have been so stubborn, so strong. But I have never loved a city like these people love theirs.

When I finished the book, I could almost smell the heat, see the wind. It’s a book heavy with scent and scenery.  It’s almost palpable.

Standard Deviation. Well.  I didn’t have much hope for this book. Three good books in a row is really too much to ask of any library, but who can’t love a book with a sentence like this?

Elspeth had the deeply reflective air of someone who has just seen a particularly savage wildlife documentary, and Bentrup had taken on the seedy, shellacked look of a late-night convenience store shopper.

Every page had sentences like that. Every page!

Unlike The Awkward Age, Standard Deviation has only a few characters to follow, but it’s tough keeping up. Our hero’s second wife is mildly crazy, unpredictable, and so beautiful that our man can’t stop admiring her. His first wife is intelligent, accomplished, and very, very neat. The progeny from the second marriage is Matthew, an 11-year-old boy with Asperger’s and an obsession with origami. Living with, and trying to raise, Matthew is practically a fulltime job, skirting his many social issues, planning and cooking his complicated food issues, tolerating the very few friedships he’s managed to acquire, and driving him to and from whatever activities they’ve arranged.

Still our hero, Graham Cavanaugh, has time to vacillate between right and wrong, moral and amoral, acceptance and curiosity, lust and friendship. It’s not easy.

As houseguests came and went, I found myself getting tired. I wanted to force myself into a chapter or two just to clear people out of the apartment so Graham could THINK.

I was disappointed that the book ended, and as Graham and Audra (that’s the second wife’s name) tottered off into the night, I wished I could have followed them!

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