A Beach Read…

…if you like beaches with gray sand, lots of rocks, broken bottles, used condoms, hurricane-whipped waves, and rain.

I prefer picture postcard beaches  myself, but since I’m far from a beach, and this spring (summer is not until Monday, right?) has been what I’m calling “the grayest, coldest, wettest spring since I’ve lived in this town” (now 15 years), this book has been the perfect read for sitting on the sofa under a blanket,  wearing winter lounge wear (sweats), and cursing the weather while drinking lots of spiked tea.

Give it a chance: it’s one of those novels that has to gel, and when it does, wow. Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon.

But warning: this is NOT a light and uplifting read (not that I consider this  a bad thing).  It’s a novel about depressed people. Serious depressed. It’s a novel about identity theft that goes way beyond someone digging through your garbage for your credit card number. It’s a novel about obsession (not love obsession, naturally, because these characters are too messed up to ever fall in love).  It’s a novel that someone (like M. Night Shyamalan, or the Coen brothers, or recent Scorsese)  will want to make into a movie–for the ending alone.

The NYTimes compared the paranoid moments in the novel to those of the masterpiece of paranoia,  DeLillo’s White Noise. But unlike in DeLillo’s work, there are few humorous interludes.  Stephen King could have written it, but there are no clowns or dead children (ok, there are dead children but only off stage).

It’s a thriller, with some gore, but not that much. There are three pairs of characters who ultimately converge and it’s in that convergence where the gelling happens:

There is a high school history teacher and his student. A father and son. And twins. You gotta have twins in a thriller.

It’s not a beach read, but read it anyway.

I’m also still reading The Lonely Polygamist by Brian Udall.   The opening was so promising: father of 28, husband of 4 wives, comes home from a long drive and really, really has to pee. But, naturally, all the bathrooms in his big house are being used. Eventually, he finds his way into a storage closet with a bucket. Fun stuff. But now, it’s getting sluggish.  One of his sons has befriended what could only be an odd duck, though polite,  with a fondness for bombs.

Last summer, I read a slew of novels about middle aging males making it the summer of Andropause or Aging Lotharios.  This summer is turning out to be closer to the Summer of the Almost Apocalyptic Novel. Not quite, apocalyptic, since the end of the world characters are in the background rather than the foreground. But they are there.

Obviously, unless I wake up Monday and summer weather is finally here, I need some light and uplifting novel recommendations: any suggestions?

5 responses to “A Beach Read…

  1. OK, Await Your Reply just made my reading list. Light and uplifting? Uhm, besides the most recent TIAA CREF report, I’ll suggest the “Emperors of Chocolate”- nonfiction, all about the business of chocolate and the Mars and Hershey families…fascinating and hunger inducing.

  2. Yes, Dr. No, I think you’d like “Await Your Reply” (titled after those Nigerian emails). And “Emperors of Chocolate” sounds very fun: I kept my chocolate smelling frisbee from Hershey Park for years after the smell went away (and if you haven’t been to Hershey Park in PA, I highly recommend it;-)

  3. Thanks, SM! And in today’s paper I read about a new historical fiction writer (well, new to me), Stefanie Pintoff’s latest “A Curtain Falls”.

    As my “light” reading list grows, I start to dream about a Kindle or an Ipad;-)

  4. BTW, I really like my Kindle. My mom loves her new iPad for reading (she’s had cataract surgery and the backlight helps her see the text). But for me, I find the backlight painful and difficult–like reading a computer screen. I like the e-Ink on my Kindle. It’s not at all like reading a computer screen. Plus, when you read “light” reading on the Kindle, no one knows it! For all they know, you could be reading “War and Peace”!

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