Friday, June 2, 2017

May 2017 Reads

A good mystery set in Northern California. Matthew Lindstrom has been given a tip that his wife, missing for 14 years, is alive and well. He decides to confront her, only to find that she's gone missing again, and he's the logical suspect.
Can a classic car really be a portal to another dimension or planet? That seems to be what's at the center of this suspenseful novel. For decades the Pennsylvania State Police in a small town in Western Pennsylvania have monitored a Buick, conducting experiments and keeping it hidden away. What happens when someone decides it's gone on too long and decides to destroy it?
How have we allowed ourselves to get so busy that we don't have time to enjoy each day? We take on too much and can't say no. We allow our guilt and others' expectations to rule our lives and feel trapped in our overly-busy routines. This book explores this phenomenon and helps readers understand that there are other ways to live.
A short but compelling mystery set in a small town in Peru.

Them, by Nathan McCall

This 2007 novel is about tensions that arise when a traditionally African-American neighborhood in Atlanta succumbs to gentrification and young white couples begin to move in and change the character and culture of the neighborhood. Barlowe Reed is a 40-year old African-American man living in a rented home with his nephew Tyrone. Just as Barlowe begins to think about the possibility of purchasing the home he's renting, a young white couple buys the home next door. Sandy and Sean moved into the city neighborhood to live closer to their work in Atlanta, and they can't understand why they're not accepted or welcomed by the African-American residents of the "Old Fourth Ward."

Author Nathan McCall does a good job revealing the various viewpoints of each of the characters, although the only character with any real depth is Barlowe. It's easy to empathize with many of the characters; however, both sides of the issue demonstrate extremism is their positions. Some African-Americans want to keep all whites out of their neighborhood, and carry out vandalism against their property. Many of the new white residents exhibit a complete tone-deafness to their conversations and are intolerant of harmless neighborhood characters, such as Ricky, who picks through their trash, or the neighborhood drunks who take shortcuts through their yards. Both sides think of the other as "them." As I read this book, I kept thinking about how difficult it is for people to communicate. Fear keeps people from trying; when things go unsaid, they can be completely misinterpreted. At the very least we all need to try to talk to each other and really listen.

This is a well-written and engaging book; I couldn't put it down and read it in just about 24 hours (although I'm on vacation right now and that helped a bit). I would recommend this to anyone who likes contemporary fiction that takes on a challenging subject.

Nathan McCall. Them. New York: Atria Books, 2007. 339 pages. ISBN 9781416549154. Advance Reading Copy.