Not surprisingly, Ashby's life didn't go quite as she had planned. I was immediately engrossed in the plotline, but it's the excerpts from her stories and other writing that are truly phenomenal. Part II liberally quotes from her interrelated stories about a character named Simon Tabor. I ratcheted up from my usual flag noting a passage I like to a large post-it on which I scribbled, "I desperately want to read this story collection." I wrote Wolas' editor to find out if a book of stories was forthcoming. (Sadly, unbelievably, it's not. Surely she wrote more than just those excerpts, given how incredibly vivid and compelling they are.)
I finished this the last--534th-- page of "The Resurrection of Joan Ashby" yesterday wanting more. I loved it.
"Mrs. Fletcher" by Tom Perrotta (out in August). I am a fan of Tom Perrotta, with the exception of his "The Leftovers" about the rapture. (I apparently was in the minority, since this book was adapted into a hit HBO series.) His latest features Eve Fletcher, a divorcee struggling with empty nest syndrome. Eve becomes obsessed with a seemingly errant text message she received that read, "U r my MILF!" (Like Eve, I have no idea what that means.) Simultaneously, her son is getting a bit off-track at college, as he struggles with an environment that challenges his white privilege background. Time magazine has called Perrotta "the Steinbeck of suburbia." I'm eager to plunge back into his world.
"The Twelve Mile Straight" by Eleanor Henderson (out in September). The premise of this book pulls me right in. In 1930 Cotton County, Georgia, a white sharecropper's daughter gives birth to twins -- one black and one white. A field hand is accused of rape and, inevitably, murdered. Henderson's narrative envisions the aftermath of these events. Interestingly, Henderson's own grandfather was a sharecropper in south Georgia during the Depression. As a result, she grew up hearing stories of her father's rural youth. "When I began to imagine the world of Cotton County," she said, "I wanted to capture the innocence of these country stories and also to fracture it." Count me in.
Random House characterizes Rushdie's latest novel as "equal parts The Great Gatsby and The Bonfire of the Vanities as it tackles contemporary politics and culture. The book begins, "On the day of the new president's inauguration, when we worried that he might be murdered as he walked hand in hand with his exceptional wife among the cheering crowds, and when so many of us were close to economic ruin in the aftermath of the bursting of the mortgage bubble, and when Isis was still an Egyptian mother-goddess, an uncrowned seventy-something king from a faraway country arrived in New York City with his three motherless sons to take possession of the palace of his exile." Whew! I can't wait to see where this story goes.
The first sentence of "Grist Mill Road" leaves no question about what kind of novel this is. "I remember the gunshots made a wet sort of sound, phssh, phssh, phssh, and each time he hit her she screamed." What did leave a question--for me at least--was the description of the book as a "Rashomon-style tale." A quick Google search revealed this means a story told from the perspective of several different characters in an unreconcilable way. (The term derives from a 1950 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa of the same name.) It sounds like a great book to read with a friend so you can sort out what's happened when you get to the end.
By the way, if you're interested in getting a better sense of what BookExpo is like, click here to read an article I wrote about this year's experience for Florida Weekly. Happy reading!