A Separation

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate.  For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them.  When he goes missing in a remote region of rugged southern Greece, she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their estrangement to herself.  As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love.

A searing, suspenseful story of intimacy and infidelity, A Separation lays bare the gulf that divides us from the inner lives of others.  With exquisitely cool precision, Katie Kitamura propels us into the experience of a woman on the edge, with a fiercely mesmerizing story to tell.

Morgan’s thoughts:

I simply did not click with this book.  It is marketed incorrectly, billed as a mystery fraught with suspense and intrigue.  This novel is not that – it is much more about the writing than it is about the plot.  There is essentially no plot at all in this novel.

The lack of plot is not necessarily a deal breaker for me; I can appreciate stories simply for their writing, if it measures up.  Katie Kitamura is a good writer, though her style certainly avoids punctuation whenever possible.  Her main character (whose name we never learn) is intelligent and well-spoken.  However, that does not entirely work to Kitamura’s advantage – the main character comes off as distant and cold.  Everything she tells us feels too calculated. We are inside her head, the closest to her thoughts anyone is ever going to get, but it feels like she never truly lets us in.

There’s maybe something interesting in the way Kitamura muses on marriage and separation, the gray area between wife and ex-wife, but nothing I felt was extremely unique or new.  There are some great novels that explore the deterioration of a marriage and this is simply not one of them.

I will not rule out new Kitamura novels out in the future, but I will not be rereading A Separation any time soon.

Interested in this book?  Click here to buy it on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore!

White Fur

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implode, and neither of their lives will ever be the same.  Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different words.  Elise grew up in public hosing without a father and didn’t graduate from high school; Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations.  Nevertheless, the attraction is instant, and what starts out as a sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore.

The couple moves to Manhattan in search of a new life, and White Fur follows them as they wander through Newport mansions and East Village dives, WASP-establishment yacht clubs, and the grimy blocks below Canal Street, fighting the forces determined to keep them apart.  White Fur combines the electricity of Less Than Zero with the timeless intensity of Romeo and Juliet in this searing, gorgeously written novel that perfectly captures the ferocity of young love.

Morgan’s thoughts:

White Fur was grimy, gritty, and hard to put down.  Everything about it seems a little bit wrong and that makes it all the more intriguing.  I was always a little bit (or sometimes extremely) concerned but also thrilled by each thing that happened.

The two main characters are not likable and do not strive to be.  Jamey is completely oblivious of the full extent of what he’s been given.  Elise is entirely unpredictable. Sometimes I hated his emptiness and sometimes she made me want to pull my hair out, but I also wanted them to succeed.  Even when I couldn’t understand why they were drawn to one another, I despised anyone who tried to pull them apart.

The magic of this story is in its setting.  The contrast of their two worlds comes alive in the spaces they inhabit – the juxtaposition of the fine dining restaurant in New Haven with Elise’s rundown apartment. Of the Trump Tower penthouse with their East Village hovel.  The sterility of a hospital room.  The comfort of a rundown New York City corner deli.  I truly felt transported back to the Manhattan of the 1980s.  

In some ways, the Romeo and Juliet-esque nature of this story is completely predictable and I found that comforting.  I went into this novel looking for that theme and was guided by it.  It did not make it any less suspenseful.  

Also, I loved the ending.

Libaire is an exceptional writer – her prose is entrancing.  Small observations capture feelings I’ve had but have never verbalized.  The characters thoughts and dialogue come racing at you at the same pace they’re experiencing them.  I cannot wait to see what she creates next.

Interested in this book?  Click here to buy it on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore!

Fates and Furies

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

They meet in the final months of college, and by graduation, they have married.  It’s 1991.  At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness.  There are lean, romantic years that follow: potluck parties in a Manhattan basement apartment; a wilting acting career that doesn’t pay the bills; a household that seems to run on good luck and good sex.  A decade or so later, though, Lotto and Mathilde are on their way.  He is a world-famous playwright, she is integral to his success.  Their life and marriage are the envy of friends, the very definition of a successful partnership.

It is with an electric thrill, then, that the reader realizes things are even more remarkable than they have seemed.  In an emotionally complicated twist, the perspective shifts, and what began as a story about one extraordinary union becomes so much more.  With stunning revelations and multiple threads, in prose vibrant and original, Fates and Furies is a profoundly moving, surprising, and provocative novel about the yoke joining love, art, and power, and about the influence of perception.  Exquisitely imagined, it is a book that defies expectation, stirring both the mind and the heart.

Morgan’s thoughts:

I loved this book from the first chapter.  I finished it a few weeks ago and postponed writing about it because I was so wrapped up in the experience of reading it and so unsure I’d be able to put into words what I loved about it.  And I’m still not sure I can, but here goes nothing.

One of my favorite things about reading is that there are so many books out there – there is truly something for everyone. As my closest friends know, I’m hesitant to recommend books I love to people if I’m not sure they will like them because I pride myself on giving thoughtful recommendations based on previous preferences and because I don’t want a negative response to ruin my relationship with a book.  I do not think Fates and Furies is the right novel for everyone.  But for me, it was perfect.

Groff writes incredibly convincingly in two distinct styles of prose, each suited to the character who has control of the narrative at the time.  Her overly extravagant prose employed in the first half of this book is how Lotto experiences the world. The less effusive style of the second half is true to Mathilde.  Groff buries herself into how her characters think and allows it to influence not just the content of the writing but also the form.  I didn’t love either half more than the other because they both felt so honest to me.

I love a story where the woman is smarter than anyone ever gave her credit for, even (or especially) her husband.  The chance to go into Mathilde’s point of view is the chance to see just how much of their world is the way it is because she made it so.

I respect a book that shows you a marriage that looks perfect to all those who interact with it peripherally but then takes you inside to show you not just the cracks but the cement that’s been poured to fill them. And I love stories set in New York and that invoke theater as an art form.  

This book will remain on my favorites shelf for years to come.

Interested in this book?  Click here to buy it on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore!

The Princess Diarist

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she had kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved – plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naivete, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized.  Today her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1976, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time – and what developed behind the scenes.  And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity as well as the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty whose lofty status has ultimately been surpassed by her own outer-space royalty.  Laugh-out loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

Morgan’s thoughts:

This was my first adventure into Carrie Fisher’s writing and, my god, I enjoyed it.  I love Star Wars – my parents introduced me and my younger brother to this series at a young age and we quickly took of on our own with the obsession.  When we’d go on vacation, we’d bring our box set with us and watch 2 of the movies a day every day, starting again at the beginning each time we reached the end.  So it was my love of Star Wars that brought me to this piece.

But I left it with a love of the writer herself.  Carrie Fisher’s voice is captivating.  She details from her perspective in 2016 the experience of booking and creating this role with the perfect amount of snark and reverence.  She knows how much Princess Leia means to so many people out there but does not shy away from any of the realities of the set of the first Star Wars.  She does not shy away from detailing the trials her mother, Debbie Reynolds, faced after her initial stardom faded.  She does not shy away from telling her experience of her affair with Harrison Ford.  She describes her naive, 19 year old self with such confidence, it seems impossible that she could ever have been so shy or insecure – which is why the diary entries are the perfect complement to the memories.

These diary entries are easily some of the best writing I’ve ever experienced.  I’ve reread that section three times since finishing the book last week.  They are a blend of verse and prose – the poetry slipping seamlessly into the journal entries which start to sound like poetry themselves.  They are honest in both content and style.  I’ve never experienced writing that so perfectly encapsulated vulnerability.

Neither section of this book could exist so successfully without the other.  I would highly recommend this for anyone looking for a laugh, a walk down memory lane (if you’re a Star Wars fan), or an experience of a 19 year old girl in a new world where she knows no one.

Interested in this book?  Click here to buy it on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore!