This week, a wild ride in the sci-fi genre, an incredible memoir and a character study of a complicated mother-daughter relationship. Enjoy!
This novel is so imaginative, clever and cool, it’s hard to believe this is a debut. Bear with me on the description, it may sound ‘out there’ but it’s totally worth it. Tom Barren, our protagonist, starts out by telling us that the Jetson’s world everyone imagined back in the ’60s actually came to fruition with the creation of the Goettreider engine, which created enough clean energy to power the world and save the environment “…oil was irrelevant, basic resources were plentiful and everyone had access to technological enhancements, major or minor.” Technology exploded and hover cars, teleportation, recyclable clothes and all kinds of neat stuff was born! But that doesn’t mean life still couldn’t, ya know, suck. Still with me? It was because of this invention that Tom’s father, a scientific genius, was able to create the first time machine, sorry, a Chrono-Spacial Transport Apparatus. Tom, a major disappointment in the eyes of his cold, dismissive father ends up using the machine and inadvertently changes history, returning it to our regular old 2016. I told you… so Tom returns to a much better family and life where he’s kind of amazing but completely befuddled by our technologly inept present. Tom’s story is clever and amusing, even if once in a while there’s a little too much technobabble, and utopian 2016 is pretty clever. So, I get half way through the story and it’s as if the narrator knows what I’m thinking….this should be wrapping up, happy ending and all, when Tom explains this is not just a time travel romp. That’s when things get dark and twisty, buy hey, no one ever said time travel would be easy. Rights have been purchased, this one will make a great movie!
What a memoir! It starts off with a serious bang when Levy drops on page two that in a short time she lost her partner, child and home. I don’t want to give the story away, but Levy, a talented journalist from The New Yorker, shares a brave and honest account of her life, beautifully told. Although she shares many personal, often painful memories, you can feel the writing as a healing element for her as she takes a hard look at the denials and mistakes she made along the way. At the end, I felt her story was a gift, covering so many facets of being a modern day woman: career, travel, independence, lesbianism, marriage, infidelity, monogamy, cancer, alcoholism, pregnancy, grief, self discovery. Just read it.
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Told in flashback from a much older perspective, Lucy, a young mother, is in the hospital with a mysterious illness. While her husband works and cares for their two children, Lucy is visited by her estranged mother. The two women have an easy rapport despite their estrangement and what was obviously a very poor, difficult upbringing. Lucy spent so much time in her classroom after school because there was no heat at home, so she studied, got a scholarship and became a writer in New York City, leaving behind her very troubled family, including a disturbed brother and resentful sister. The memories the women share are often funny and poignant but lead Lucy to other more painful memories, often of her father who clearly developed PTSD following the war, memories she is unable to share with her repressed, closed-off mother. We also get glimpses of Lucy’s overall life, her relationship with her own daughters and family in the aftermath of her illness. Through it all, Lucy proves herself a survivor who believed in love and hope no matter the past. Elizabeth Strout recently released Anything Is Possible, a sequel of sorts, featuring Lucy Barton, and I very much look forward to revisiting the character.