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Posts tagged 'New York'

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

WoodsonAnother Brooklyn is Woodson’s first novel in 20 years. Best known as an author of children’s and young adult books, she has been the recipient of the Newbery Honor Medal (four times), The Coretta Scott King Award, The National Book Award, and The Caldecott Medal.

Set in the 1970s, Another Brooklyn tells of growing up black in a neighborhood characterized by crime, drug addiction, and white flight. The main character, August, is now 30 and looking back on her childhood. Like the author herself, she has relocated, with her father and brother, to Brooklyn. Her mother did not move with them and this loss resonates throughout the novel.

The writing is highly evocative and the story is told through the eyes of its young narrator. “I watched my brother watch the world,” she writes, “his sharp, too-serious brow furrowing down in both angst and wonder. Everywhere we looked, we saw people trying to dream themselves out. As though there was someplace other than this place. As though there was another Brooklyn” (p. 77).

The time frame of the 1970s looms large. There was great social unrest and racial disparity in the country. The specter of Viet Nam hovered ominously. Heroin-addicted vets filled every street corner. August’s uncle, and indirectly, her mother, died as a result of that war. Even her father returned from the war minus two fingers. The whole nation, from the late 60s through the 70s, was irreparably changed.

Sara Picks  Realistic Fiction  New York  Historical Fiction  Coming of Age

09/21/16
 

Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo

RussoRusso is a master at depicting small-town America--in particular, the economically depleted town of North Bath in upstate New York. Once a thriving mill town, its factory has long been shut down.  Its denizens subsist on odd jobs and assorted blue collar employment.

We were first introduced to this fictional place in Nobody’s Fool, published in 1993. That book focused on Sully—one of the great anti-heroes in contemporary American fiction.  The character was modelled on Russo’s ne’er-do -well father. Both a womanizer and a gambler, Sully is a WWII vet who returns from the war forever changed. His story continues in Everybody’s Fool, published in May of this year. The sequel resumes ten years after Nobody’s Fool ends. Sully is now in his 70s and ignoring a correctable heart condition. His son Peter is divorced and the young grandson we met in the previous book is starting college.  Rub Squeers, the mentally challenged man who dotes on Sully, now has a namesake—a dog Sully has rescued and renamed “Rub” to cause confusion. We again meet Ruth, Sully’s married lover, her obese husband who collects junk for a living, and her daughter, who waits tables at her mother’s diner and pulls extra shifts at the bar. Her ex-husband, Roy Purdy, has just gotten out of prison after serving time for assault and is bent on revenge.

Yet Sully, who loomed larger than life in the first novel, is not the focus of attention in the sequel. That role is left to police chief, Doug Raymer—an insecure and depressed man who obsesses over his wife’s infidelity and untimely death. It is through him that the book drives its title; Raymer believes everyone in town knew of the affair—everyone but him.

Everybody’s Fool is more than a continuation of the richly drawn characters introduced in Nobody’s Fool. The latest novel gives the reader a deeper look into their hardscrabble lives and sympathetically paints the bad luck and poor choices of the protagonists.  Moreover, it explores the nature of evil in a way that the first book did not.  Once again, Richard Russo has proven himself to be a masterful writer who depicts the price of human foibles with sensitivity, compassion, and above all, humor.

Sara's Picks  New York  Modern Literature  Humor  Contemporary  American Literature

06/08/16
 

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