A literary brio and a thrilling trio
These new novels will take readers on a fantastic voyage, says CBC book columnist Richard King
Barbara Kingsolver's novels are always a treat for the reader and her current novel, Unsheltered, is no exception.
Kingsolver's recent novels are characterized by a combination of engrossing storytelling and her concern for ecology. Unsheltered is set in the planned town of Vineland, New Jersey. The novel tells the story of two families who live in the town.
The Knox family live in this century and face the modern problems all American families must deal with: not enough income and too many expenses, problems with health insurance and so on. In the 19th century when the town was founded, the Greenwood family lives in the same neighbourhood as the Knoxes. Thatcher Greenwood teaches science at the local high school. He is an adherent to the theories of Charles Darwin but the religious principal of the high school is hostile to his teaching them. Greenwood is the neighbour of Mary Treat (a real person) a brilliant naturalist who is also a believer in Darwin.
In alternating chapters we follow the struggles of the Knox family and the exploration of the natural world of Mary Treat and Thatcher Greenwood.
In The Teardown, David Homel tells the story of Phil Brenner, a middle-aged journalist who has to cope with the new world of his profession. Brenner made a name for himself writing think pieces but now finds himself in the precarious position of a freelance journalist.
He is the father of two daughters, one of whom is struggling with a psychological problem. Brenner is a member of a grief-counselling group about which he has ambiguous feelings. He is adrift in a world that changed faster than his ability to keep up with it. Brenner is given the opportunity to write about the refugee situation in the Balkans. In accepting the assignment is able to re-establish his self-worth as a journalist and as a human being.
Helen Oyeyemi takes the reader on a fantastic voyage in her new novel Gingerbread. The Nigerian-born writer sets the story in London, U.K., the city she now calls home.
Harriet Lee, the baker of gingerbread cookies, is the mother of a teenage daughter, Perdita, who is allergic to the cookies. One day Perdita is discovered near death from having eaten gingerbread cookies. She is hospitalized and recovers. While in the hospital she asks her mother to tell her the stories of the family's past in a poor village in Druhástrana which, we are told, many "do not believe exists."
Unlike gingerbread which is real, the stories that Harriet tells are fanciful that spring from the author's imagination and, I would wager, folktales from her native Nigeria.
The Dreamers by bestselling author Karen Thompson Walker is set in the university town of Santa Lora, California. First one, then another student falls asleep and does not wake up. Before long it becomes obvious that this is a highly communicable disease that soon spreads from the campus to the town.
As the hospital fills up with those afflicted panic sets in as a source of the disease is sought. The novel tells the story of some of the sufferers of the ailment, those who try to help and those who are able to avoid it. In all cases the sleeping patients appear to be in the grip of powerful dreams.
The underlying point to this thriller is that we are living in a toxic, potentially malevolent environment of our own making.
Margaret Cannon wrote in the Globe & Mail that Firefly by Henry Porter was one of the best thrillers of 2018. Paul Samson, the son of a Lebanese immigrant to England and former MI6 agent is called back into service to help find a young Syrian boy, 14-year-old Naji, who is trying to make his way to Germany.
Naji knows the details of a planned terrorist attack and it is critical that the British secret service find him, learn what he knows and stop the attack. Naji is also being chased by the terrorists he plans to betray. On his journey through the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Naji learns to trust no one, which makes Samson's job all the harder.
The thriller, Blindshot, by Denis Coupal is the author's first novel. The setting is the town of Beaufort in Quebec's Eastern Townships.
The novel opens with the shooting of financier of Paul Carignan. He is found by his teenage son and taken to the hospital. Although it is apparently unclear whether or not Paul was shot by accident or on purpose, the novel is filled with some very dark, very unpleasant characters and things are never what they appear to be. The town cop, Tom Doran, nicknamed Boomer, is charged with investigating the crime.
The reader is treated to a layered and complicated thriller in this novel.
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