All That’s Left To Tell

ATLTT

Daniel  Lowe

First Sentence:     Now the sunrise.

Back of the book:

Every night, Marc Laurent, an American taken hostage in Pakistan, is bound and blindfolded. And every night, a woman he knows only as Josephine comes to visit him. At first, her questions are mercenary: who will pay for his release? But when Marc can offer no name, she asks him an even more difficult question: why didn’t he go home for his daughter’s funeral?

So begins a strange and yet comforting nightly ritual. Josephine tells Marc stories about what might have happened had Claire not been murdered. In turn, Marc begins to tell his own, in which his daughter is still alive. Soon, neither Marc nor Josephine are sure which stories are true and which are imagined, or even if it matters. And as they unfold — on a journey across America, into the past, and into a future that may never come — father and daughter start to find their way toward understanding each other once again.

Lyrical, seductive and utterly compelling, All That’s Left To Tell is a novel about second chances and the stories we tell to make sense of ourselves.

Quotes from the book:

“The blindfold left him increasingly vulnerable to memory because he couldn’t use his vision to distract himself with objects in the room.”

You know, you have those days in your life, and mostly it’s when you’re looking back, But every now and then, even at the time you’re living it, living in that minute, you say to yourself, ‘Well, I’ll just stay right here.’

“So when my father died, what happened is like you have Interstate 80 stretched out over a lifetime. But all those hours, all those weeks and months where nothing was happening, where you were living your life without even thinking about him, those spaces fall away, and the memories you do have slam into each other, one after another, and they’re moving too fast to stop.”

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Lincoln In The Bardo

litb

George Saunders

First Sentence:    On our wedding day I was forty-six, she was eighteen.

Back of the book:

The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm – called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo – and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders’ inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices – living and dead, historical and fictional – Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?

Thoughts:

Rarely have I seen a book that has been praised as enthusiastically as this one. It seems that every time I hear it mentioned people are commenting on how it is a masterpiece/already their book of the year/ the perfect novel etc. I have read some of Saunders’ short stories in the past and was blown away by his skills as a writer. Not surprisingly I was genuinely excited about the prospect of this book; pre-publication buzz was off the scale and it looks and sounds incredible. I have to say though I was massively disappointed. I just genuinely do not understand what all the fuss is about, and am at a loss to find anything remotely enjoyable in this reading experience. Not one I’ll be going back to any time soon.

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4 3 2 1

4-3-2-1

Paul Auster

First Sentence:     According to family legend, Ferguson’s Grandfather departed on foot from his native city of Minsk with one hundred rubles sewn into the lining of his jacket, traveled west to Hamburg through Warsaw and Berlin, and then booked passage on a ship called the Empress of China, which crossed the Atlantic in rough winter storms and sailed into New York Harbor on the first day of the twentieth century.

Back of the book:

On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Chapter by chapter, the rotating narratives evolve into an elaborate dance of inner worlds enfolded within the outer forces of history as, one by one, the intimate plot of each Ferguson’s story rushes on across the tumultuous and fractured terrain of mid twentieth-century America. A boy grows up-again and again and again.

Quotes from the book:

“[…] dear, dirty, devouring New York, the capital of human faces, the horizontal Babel of human tongues.”

He felt the impact, felt the wood crack down on him as if someone had clubbed him from behind, and then he felt nothing, nothing at all or ever again, and as his inert body lay on the water-soaked ground, the rain continued to pour down on him and the thunder continued to crack, and from one end of the earth to the other, the gods were silent.

“Everything solid for a time, and then the sun comes up one morning and the world begins to melt.”

Memories are not continuous. They jump around from place to place and vault over large swaths of time with many gaps in between. […] do not form a continuous narrative. Rather, they tend to unfold as dreams do—which is to say, with a logic that is not always readily apparent.

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Miss Jane

miss-jane

Brad Watson

First Sentence:     You would not think someone so afflicted would or could be cheerful, not prone to melancholy or the miseries.

Back of the book:

Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson’s work has been as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America. Inspired by the true story of his own great-aunt, he explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central “uses” for a woman in that time and place – namely, sex and marriage.

From the country doctor who adopts Jane to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the sensual and erotic world of nature around her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, the world of Miss Jane Chisolm is anything but barren. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.

Quote from the book:

He stood there until his eyes stopped leaking and dried themselves, stiffening trails down his cheeks he could feel tightening the skin. Such a mortal feeling, this small thing.

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All The Birds In The Sky

all-the-birds

Charlie Jane Anders

First Sentence:     When Patricia was six years old, she found a wounded bird.

Back of the book:

Patricia is a witch who can communicate with animals. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird, but their lives take different paths… When they meet again as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world and live up to his reputation in near-future San Francisco. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, working hard to prove herself to her fellow magicians and secretly repair the earth’s ever growing ailments. As they attempt to save our future, Laurence and Patricia’s shared past pulls them back together. And though they come from different worlds, when they collide, the witch and the scientist will discover that maybe they understand each other better than anyone.

Thoughts:

One of those books where the jacket and the quotes all over it (3 more on the back, in addition to the ludicrous Michael Chabon one on the cover, AND two more full pages inside) tricked me into reading it. This is in no way a good book—massively disappointing.

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