The Books of April

Cutting for Stone — Abraham Verghese (2009)

The book is very long. I start­ed it in March and it took me most of April to fin­ish it.
The twins (Marion and Shiva Stone) at the cen­ter of Cutting for Stone come into the world in a messy and pecu­liar way. Their moth­er, a shy Indian nun, dies giv­ing birth to them and their father, and American doc­tor, runs off in a pan­ic. So the boys are left to be raised by the doc­tors and matron of the Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. The two boys act and think as if they were a sin­gle enti­ty for much of their child­hoods. It is as if they were born (con­joined at the head) and then agreed to split up the world and their reac­tions to the world. Marion tak­ing on the out­go­ing, pleas­ant, social per­son­al­i­ty and Shiva tak­ing on all of the dark, moody, and anti-social bits.
I’m a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ed with how it ends, I mean it had to go some­where — I get that. and… it seemed inevitable that the twins were not going to have a hap­py res­o­lu­tion. That some­how there hav­ing been two of them, sep­a­rat­ed but still act­ing as one — that in the end there could­n’t be two of them in the world. And is that their indi­vid­ual faults or the fault of being born twins? I liked the book, but I’m not sure that I am encour­aged to read oth­ers by the same author. It’s a kind of fun­ny thing when it comes to read­ing such “oth­er” expe­ri­ences — I rarely want to expe­ri­ence them a sec­ond or third time from the same point of view. I, mag­pie like, want to go on to col­lect anoth­er point of view. That is in cas­es where the writ­ing does­n’t make me swoon. And here the writ­ing does not make me swoon. It is com­pe­tent and in places quite pleas­ant but its noth­ing special.

Rules of Civility — Amor Towles (2011)

Not as nifty as The Gentleman of Moscow. But the his­toric back­ground does­n’t play near­ly as big a part. Here we have a young woman in NYC on New Year’s Eve 1937 sit­ting with her pal in a second-rate club wait­ing for some­thing to hap­pen. That some­thing is Tinker Grey. Katey Kontent (hate the last name it tripped me up every sin­gle time I read it) is an okay nar­ra­tor. She’s a bit bland around the edges but I think that’s part of the point, she’s Every Girl mak­ing her way in the big city. The peo­ple who sur­round her for the year of the sto­ry are the inter­est­ing points and in fact the writer via Katey as much as admits that it’s the case that some­times we find our­selves sur­round­ed by peo­ple and events that will catch us up in their swirl with­out actu­al­ly hav­ing much effect on our­selves. They whirl around us and then leave us to go on in anoth­er direc­tion with oth­er peo­ple. (It’s some­thing that I’ve thought about a bunch myself — how we seem to be so inti­mate­ly con­nect­ed with peo­ple as we are in a par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion but so eas­i­ly lose them when the cir­cum­stances change and we are no longer thrown togeth­er by some­thing larg­er than our­selves.) The whole thing is a bit like Fitzgerald — who I don’t actu­al­ly like. I find him dry and his char­ac­ters off-puttingly shal­low. This book comes close to being that shallow.
The title is tak­en from the young George Washington’s list of Rules for him­self. And the rules are includ­ed at the end of the book. Young GW was a pris­sy lit­tle shit.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk — Kathleen Rooney (2017)

Lillian Boxfish is 85, it’s New Year’s Eve and she’s decid­ed to take a walk across Manhattan. First to Delmonico’s and then to a par­ty host­ed by a young pho­tog­ra­ph­er that she met in the park. It’s a long walk and we are treat­ed to not only Lillian’s ver­sion of Manhattan in 1985 but along the way to her life sto­ry. And it’s a pret­ty crack­er jack sto­ry. Running from her first days in Manhattan to her reign as the high­est paid adver­tis­ing woman in America (writ­ing copy for Macy’s in its glo­ry days) through a mar­riage a birth, a break­down, a divorce, a free­lance career, and now as a woman of a cer­tain age liv­ing on her own in a city that she dear­ly loves but that has changed in unpleas­ant ways. Lillian and the book are both wit­ty, wise, and a bit wicked.


Everybody’s Fool — Richard Russo (2016)

Sully is back and with a mild bit of good for­tune in his wake and a not so hot report from the car­di­ol­o­gist at the VA mar­ring his future he’s not sure how the world is sup­posed to work this week. And then there’s Police Chief Raymer whose grief at the loss of his wife is tem­pered by the sus­pi­cion that she was intend­ing to leave him the day she fell down the stairs and the stray garage door remote that he found in her car. The rest of the crowd is here too. There are some snakes (both the hiss­ing kind and the human kind) and whole lot of peo­ple try­ing to make sense of their lives and cir­cum­stances. Russo writes with humor and deep insight into the ways in which we all flit­ter and flus­ter our ways through life. (Read Nobody’s Fool first.)

One reply on “The Books of April”

  1. I recent­ly fin­ished the audio­book ver­sion of Everybody’s Fool. Not all fic­tion works in audio form on the work com­mute, but that one did. Two thumbs up!

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