Richard Osman’s third book, “The Bullet That Missed,” came out in September. This led to more re-reading (or re-listening) for me, as I shared the audiobook versions of Osman’s “The Thursday Murder Club” and “The Man Who Died Twice” with my husband before beginning
“The Bullet.” These books follow four unlikely septuagenarian friends as they solve mysteries in and around their Cooper’s Chase Retirement Village. They are a hoot!
With colder weather, some of you may enjoy a book with a warmer setting. Try Lee Smith’s semi-autobiographical novella, “The Blue Marlin” set in 1959 Key West. Smith describes this book as “...dearest to me, capturing the essence of my own childhood.”
If Key West isn’t an exotic enough locale, maybe you will enjoy Amy Tan’s “Saving Fish From Drowning,” which follows a group of American tourists on an ill-fated trip to Burma. Amy Tan fans will note that this book is a departure from her other writings. Typically dealing with family and cultural issues, in this book Tan takes on a more political topic, highlighting the conditions in Burma (now Myanmar) under its military regime. She also presents American tourists in an unfavorable light. This book has garnered both praise and criticism for Tan. While some reviewers found it to be a nice change-of-pace, others felt that her characters were too coarse and too shallow. Some readers have found the trials of these hapless tourists to be amusing, while others have found little humor in the story. Tan has also been criticized for her approach to this story - presenting it as based on actual events, which is false. Some feel that Tan’s ability to perpetuate this “hoax” is proof of her skill as a writer. Personally, I land on the side of critics. I could not connect with any characters, did not find it humorous, and was disappointed to learn that the “events” which were the supposed inspiration for the story were fictitious (other than the political and human rights issues in Burma). To that latter point, I want to say that I listened to the audiobook instead of reading it. It is possible that the physical version of the book contained an annotation that revealed the completely fictional nature of the story. However, given the amount of online space devoted to this issue, I’m not so sure. Read it and decide for yourself.
Celeste Ng’s previous books, the extremely popular “Little Fires Everywhere” and, my favorite, “Everything I Never Told You,” have been followed by her latest novel, “Our Missing Hearts.” Like Tan, Ng departs from her typical subject matter of conflict in suburbia, to pursue a political theme. Although this book has a contemporary setting, much like “The School for Good Mothers” by Jessamine Chen, it has a dystopian feel. It also deals with the removal or “replacement” of children when parents were determined to be “unfit” due to their ethnicity, or political beliefs, or maybe just because their neighbors are “watching out” for them and find some issue to report. This is a great book.
I’ll say goodbye to 2022 with a book that I love. Picture yourself curled up before a fire, while Daniel Nayeri acts as a modern-day Sheherazade, spinning tales of his native Iran, and of growing up as a “refugee kid” in Edmond, Okla. This book “Everything Sad is Untrue” is magical.
Wishing you a magical December, as well.