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Bite-sized book review: A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano

20 Sep

A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano is the exquisitely written, emotionally taut, and compelling story of four people doing their best to navigate their lives in a small Southern town. That one of these people is a fascinating and fictionalized version of Flannery O’Connor only adds to the complicated tapestry Napolitano weaves here, braiding the sins humans can commit out of boredom with the pain of a physical disease and the events of a tragic afternoon.

Napolitano’s gift is getting inside the heart of her characters, so that readers are rooting for every one of them, so that it’s possible – even when they have done terrible, selfish things – to forgive them their frailty. Her believable, research-based portrait of Flannery, channeled through the menagerie of peacocks that roam the O’Connor estate, screaming in the night and eating each flower as it blooms, heightens the sense that there is redemption to be found, to be sure, but only after we realize we all a little flawed, and a little doomed.

(If, like me, this book sends you on a mad quest for nonfiction about FC, I urge you to consider Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor by Brad Gooch.)

Bite-sized book review: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

11 Aug

These days, it seems all I require from my books is that I am able to lose myself inside of them. So, despite my high hopes that The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown would be positively packed with Shakespeare, and instead it was, for me, not-quite-packed-enough, I still read this novel happily in one sitting.

I suppose for anyone who has a less obsessed relationship with literature, there would have been plenty of Bill and more. But this is ultimately the story of three sisters, each searching in their own way: the oldest for freedom and the bravery to find it, the middle for salvation from her considerable sins, and the baby for roots that will hold her steady.

The reward, here, is not the well-chosen quotes from plays and sonnets woven into the text nor even Brown’s deft handling of the multi-faceted plot, but the fates that unfold after a push through the first 50 somewhat awkward pages: what happens to the Weird Sisters while they struggle to accept who they really are, rather than the stories they have told themselves about who they should be.

 

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