Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Books of 2010: Best Fiction

Continuing my 2010 book reviews, some fiction I'd recommend. This was surprisingly difficult, and I only feel passionate about Kavalier and Clay.

Michael Chabon, Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, 2001
Although I was due to read this book eventually as part of my project to read all of
the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction, I'd resisted it for a while. Its heft intimidated me. I have to be in a certain mood to commit to reading a 600+ page novel. Also, I was confused for a while and heard that it was a graphic novel. It's not, of course. It's a terrific novel that spans many years without sprawling. The graphic novel mistake derived from the fact that the plot centers around two cousins who become comic book artists just as the genre takes off before World War II. Following them as they age and experience more in their personal and professional lives, the plot impressively reinvigorates itself as developments unfold. The narrative tension feels artfully designed rather than tricky. This book could make you sad when it ends, not because of a sad ending per se but because you feel that you'll miss these characters.

Jonathan Tropper, This is Where I Leave You, 2009

A perfect beach read. Or maybe I just think that because I read it at the Outer Banks o
n our visit with my wife's parents and brother. My friend Heidi recommended it when I was needing a novel. The action of the novel takes place in a week while a family sits shiva for their mostly-secular father. Traumas sapped the life of the family long ago, and they don't stop appearing during the shiva week. Forced to spend the whole week together, each of the members of the family, who are very practiced at suppressing their emotions, has the chance to confront them. The story flashes back to when the kids were little and in high school in order to explain why all these people are as screwed up now as they are. Reading this made me appreciate my real family and life circumstances, especially my marriage. It's a little on the bleak side, with some raunchy mixed in. Just what you want at the beach with your in-laws.

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