Speak: A Novel
By Louisa Hall
A reluctant young bride from the English countryside traverses the Atlantic with her new husband during the 1600s; Alan Turing, father of Artificial Intelligence, makes a penpal out of his lab mate’s mother; a long-married computer science professor and his Holocaust-survivor wife talk to their computers but not to each other; a little girl bonds with her BabyBot; a programmer reflects on his world-changing invention from the confines of a jail cell. What do all these people have in common?
Through these five interweaving story lines, each presented in its own format, i.e., diary entries, interview transcript, Speak explores the idea summed up so succinctly by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Also questioned: Is it the speaking, the listening, or the compulsion to communicate in the first place that makes us human, even if we’re communicating with machines? A page-turning, poetic, brilliant novel, don’t be intimidated by literary fiction readers.
July 21, 2015
Scent of the Missing
By Susannah Charleson
By Susannah Charleson
If you’re looking for some page-turning non-fiction to add to your beach tote look no further than Susannah Charleson’s Scent of the Missing, an account of life, love and work with a search and rescue dog. Charleson works with her partner, Puzzle, as a member of MARK-9, a volunteer group based in Dallas, Texas. Her memoir not only describes the ways that dogs help locate missing persons, it also illustrates the bond between humans and dogs and details the thrilling, dangerous work of search and rescue.
In addition to demystifying the workings of the canine nose, the book alternates between rescue missions and exploring the relationship between the author and her rookie search dog. Chapters that deal with individual search stories are thrilling. In the first episode, Charleson recounts the adrenaline-fueled search for a missing woman, “Today we were sent to clear more ‘hot spots’—places where bodies have been dumped before. Shrouded, ugly places…scarred from previous events, but not this girl, this time. All day the dogs have been telling us: Not here. Not here. Not here.” Charleson and Puzzle’s relationship evolves throughout the book. The author admits feeling doubtful of Puz’s loyalty and affection in the beginning but by the time the dog matures, they establish a trusting bond through the work. When Charleson is forced to train another handler to run Puzzle because of her own health issues, the reader feels her heartbreak over the decision.
Charleson’s writing reflects her life in search and rescue. It’s a mix of urgent suspense and tender affection for her partner. I couldn’t put this book down until I’d reached the last page. I hope you’ll pick it up soon at the library!