By Paul Harding
For readers interested in nonlinear stories with beautiful and descriptive language, Tinkers should be on your to-read list. Tinkers is a 2010 Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Massachusetts author Paul Harding. Based on Harding’s own family history, the novel focuses on the lives and relationships of three generations of New England men whose stories are infused throughout the novel.
We first meet George, an antique clock repairer surrounded by family in his living room during his last days of life, as he streams in and out of reality, arousing past memories of his childhood in Northern Maine and his strained relationship with his father, Howard. Howard made his living as a tinker, traveling around with his donkey-drawn cart selling mops, tobacco and the like trying to provide for his family. We see glimpses into Howard’s childhood and his shortened relationship with his own father, a Methodist preacher. Their lives are plagued with poverty, mental illness, and epilepsy which affect their relationships with their families, causing rifts with lasting effects.
George’s life was spent tinkering with time mechanisms, surrounded by clocks in his repair shop, in the basement of his house. The familial memories we are shown through George’s final days are his attempts to mend and repair the relationship with his father through his last thoughts and memories. It is ironic that George was an antique clock repairer focused on fixing time while Harding offers George’s story to us at the end of his time without regard for chronology of the story, but rather like a clock whose hands are at one o’clock, then eleven o’clock, to seven o’clock and on and on.
This novel’s examination into loss, time, and memory offers the reader a heartbreaking and beautiful story full of amazing imagery such as this passage, in which Harding describes Howard’s thoughts on the winter survival methods of the local hermit he supplies once a year at the beginning of spring:
He liked to think of some fold in the woods, some seam that only the hermit could sense and slip into, where the frozen forest itself would accept him and he would no longer need fire or wool blankets, but instead flourish wreathed in snow, spun in frost,with limbs like cold wood and blood like frigid sap. (p. 37)
It is hard to believe Harding’s novel was initially overlooked and ignored by publishing companies. Lucky for us, Bellevue Literary Press scooped it up from the desk drawer to be read by those who appreciate a beautifully written and pensive novel.
Murder at Hatfield House
By Amanda Carmack
If you are looking for a new mystery series, how about a historical mystery that is suspenseful and intricately detailed with a strong sense of place and memorable characters? Look no further than Amanda Carmack’s Elizabethan Mysteries series.
In the series opener Murder at Hatfield House, we meet Kate Haywood and her father, musicians employed by and living in the home of Princess Elizabeth (you know, the daughter of dearly departed and beheaded Queen Anne Boleyn), when all of a sudden, someone discovers a dead body outside their home. Queen (Bloody) Mary rules the land and has her spies and minions everywhere, but somehow, amid a great deal of political scandal and intrigue, a murderer is lurking. Also, a strange ghostly woman has been creeping around Kate as she tries to figure out the identity of the killer and protect Princess Elizabeth from harm.
Although this series is not for the faint of heart (there are detailed descriptions of those who have been murdered and one scene in particular is a bit disturbing), it is very enjoyable and has all that one might expect in an atmospheric mystery series. Grab your mug of tea, get cozy, and delve into this fun new historical mystery series!
The rest of the series available at WPL or surrounding libraries :
Murder at Westminster Abbey - Book 2
Murder in the Queen’s Garden - Book 3
Murder at Whitehall - Book 4
Murder at Fontainebleau (coming out in June 2016) - Book 5
The Heart Goes Last
By Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Heart Goes Last, has a lot going on. Following a major economic collapse, Charmaine and Stan find themselves living in their car in constant fear from the threat of roving gangs. When Charmaine sees an ad for a new work program in a town called Consilience, the couple is seduced by the promise of white picket fences, friendly neighbors and guaranteed employment. In the bleak landscape of Atwood’s alternative America this promise is too good to be true. Once Stan and Charmaine have signed their names on the dotted line they’re oriented to their new lives at Consilience. They’ll be given a beautiful house and steady jobs. For six months of every year they will live idyllic lives. Every other month they will serve as prisoners at Positron Prison.
The arrangement goes well at first. But as Stan and Charmaine are each tempted to stray from their marriage vows, the truth about their perfect community is gradually revealed to them. The basic premise of this novel sounds a little run of the mill—but this is Margaret Atwood, so you know there is more to it. Elvis sex robots, brain surgery that transforms people into willing sex slaves, strange perversions involving blue knit teddy bears. This book can be bleak—but there were definitely some moments of hilarity as well. I particularly enjoyed the narration of Mark Deakins, who reads Stan’s chapters. His reactions to the more insane elements of this story can be described as a kind of casual outrage.
Though the characters are unlikeable, the story is engaging. Once you get going you won’t be able to stop until you find out how everything turns out. And along the way you’ll find yourself pondering uncomfortable assertions about the nature of love and what it can endure.
By Tom Yancey
Are we alone in this world or are there others out there? No, we are not alone and, yes, there are others out there. Next question: Are they friendly? what do they want? If they have not attacked us, then they must not want war, right? These are the thoughts running through Cassie’s mind as she is on her way to school.
The others, those beings in the sky hovering above the earth, have not done anything but sit in the sky, so why not go on acting like everything is right in this world? There are two options: continue to live your life like nothing is wrong and the sky is blue, or flee--but is fleeing really an option? Where can you go where they cannot see you, and is it really going to help save you if these creatures in the sky strike at us? What would you do if aliens where in the sky? Well, Cassie and her family do nothing, they just continue with their daily lives (as do several others) and that is when it all begins.
The first wave takes place while Cassie is at school. Everything electrical no longer works--no cell phone, no lights, no cars. If you were lucky enough to survive the first wave, then you had to deal with the second wave, the third, and then by the time the fourth wave hits, you no longer trust anyone. Everyone you see is your enemy and that is just what they want.
To keep on breathing is to be alone, but when Cassie's brother is taken, how will she keep her promise to find him? Who will she trust, who will help her, and how will she defeat an alien force that looks just like the people she grew up with?
You are alone, no one to confide in, no one to trust, no one to turn to; the fifth wave is upon you.