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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At Last

at-last

Edward St Aubyn

First Sentence:     ‘Surprised to see me?’ said Nicholas Pratt, planting his walking stick on the crematorium carpet and fixing Patrick with a look of aimless defiance, a habit no longer useful but too late to change.

Back of the book:

THE FIFTH PATRICK MELROSE NOVEL

As friends, relatives and foes trickle in to pay their final respects to his mother Eleanor, Patrick Melrose finds himself questioning whether a life without parents will be the liberation he has so long imagined. Yet as the memorial service ends and the family gathers one last time, amidst the social niceties and the social horrors, the calms and the rapids, Patrick begins to sense a new current: the chance of some form of safety – at last.

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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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This Census-Taker

 censustaker

China Miéville

First Sentence:     A boy ran down a hill path screaming.

Back of the book:

In a remote house on a hilltop, a lonely boy witnesses a traumatic event. He tries – and fails – to flee. Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he dreams of safety, of joining the other children in the town below, of escape.

When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over.

But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? What is the purpose behind his questions? Is he friend? Enemy? Or something else altogether?

A novella filled with beauty, terror and strangeness, This Census-Taker by China Miéville is a poignant and riveting exploration of memory and identity.

Quotes from the book:

‘Below that there’s a mess of scrawled, rejected, reworked, written and rewritten, arranged-just-so and finally accepted lines.’

He didn’t know what if anything it was his mother got from his father’s company. They lived together and passed each other every day and spoke a little to each other when they had to without viciousness or rancour but, so far as the boy saw and so far as he ever remembered, without pleasure or interest. From his father there was always a distant desperation.

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Zero K

ZeroK

Don DeLillo

First Sentence:     Everybody wants to own the end of the world.

Back of the book:

Jeffrey Lockhart’s father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies are preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say “an uncertain farewell” to her as she surrenders her body.

“We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner? Isn’t it a human glory to refuse to accept a certain fate?”

These are the questions that haunt the novel and its memorable characters, and it is Ross Lockhart, most particularly, who feels a deep need to enter another dimension and awake to a new world. For his son, this is indefensible. Jeff, the book’s narrator, is committed to living, to experiencing “the mingled astonishments of our time, here, on earth.”

Quotes from the book:

Elsewhere now people wearing facemasks, hundreds moving at camera level, walking or being carried by others, and was this a disease, a virus, long ranks of slow-moving men and women, and is it something spread by insects or vermin and carried on airborne dust, dead-eyed individuals, in the thousands now, asking at a stricken pace that resembled forever.

‘Ordinary moments make the life.’

Suffer the loss, live and suffer and hope it gets easier—not easier but so deeply embedded, the loss, the absence, that I can carry it.

‘Human life is an accidental fusion of tiny particles of organic matter floating in the cosmic dust.’

The kids were lively and engaged, writing stories and drawing animals, those who were able to do these things, and I looked and listened, trying to absorb a sense of the lives that were in the act of happening in this breezy tumult of small mingled voices and large hovering bodies.

‘These are the soporifics of normalcy, my days in middling drift.’

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