Likely Stories

Thursday 7:45am and 4:45pm. Saturday 8:35am. Sunday 9:35am

So many books, so little time!  Jim McKeown hosts this weekly review of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and biographies.  Jim is a lifelong voracious reader who learned to read by the “rule of 50.”  If he’s not engaged in the characters, the prose, or the plot by page 50, he puts in a book mark and returns it to the shelf.   Likely Stories  is a three and a half minute module that we think you’ll give “FIVE STARS!” 

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Ages ago, I got a copy of The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.  What followed was a storm of varied and interesting stories—mostly about women and how they are swept aside in deference to men.  A Single Thread, Tracy’s latest novel, is no exception.

 


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Alix Nathan has recently finished an exciting, troubling, and ghastly novel.  The title is The Warlow Experiment. 

 


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

I always enjoy reading a new, young writer, especially when she can spin a decent tale.  Amy Meyerson has done this with her debut novel, The Bookshop of Yesterdays.  Of course, some of my loyal listeners might recognize this story as one revolving around a bookshop.  My taste for this genre received a boost with the recent opening of The Fabled Bookshop and Café in Waco.  


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

In amongst all the exciting and suspenseful novels I have reviewed, I came upon a funny, interesting little book Ex Libris” Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman.  This slim volume of a mere 162 pages is full of humor and wisdom.  According to the cover, “Ex Libris recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language.”  Anne is the editor of The American Scholar.  She has won a National Book Critics Circle Award and has written for numerous magazines.  She now resides with her family in western Massachusetts.

 


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

My encounter with Kristin Hannah’s work came from her exciting and suspense-filled novel, The Great Alone.  It tells the story of Ernt Albright, his wife Cora, and their 13-year-old-daughter, Leni.  Ernt was a captured POW in Vietnam.  When he finally returned home, he was thoroughly broken.  He suffered from a severe case of PTSD.  He has lost another job and verges on the edge of complete collapse.  When he receives a letter from the father of his best friend—who died in Vietnam--he learns his friend had requested Ernt take over the property, so he can find some peace.  The family was welcome by the local residents, and they offered much in the way of labor, supplies, and food in preparation for the coming winter.  Ernt refuses all such help.

 


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

According to the dust jacket, “Brock Clarke is an award-winning author of seven previous works of fiction, including the bestselling An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England.  He lives in Maine and he teaches at Bowdoin College.”  His latest novel, Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? is one peculiar book.  

 


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Richard Russo is a talented and widely admired writer.  His latest novel Chances Are… is the story of “Three old friends [who] arrived on Cape Cod in reverse order, from farthest to nearest: Lincoln, a commercial real estate broker, traveled practically cross-country from Las Vegas, Teddy. A small press publisher, from Syracuse; Mickey, a musician and sound engineer.  All were sixty-six years old and had attended the same small liberal arts college in Connecticut where they’d slung hash at a campus sorority” (3).  The group is rounded out with “Jacy,” (6).  I am about the same age, and I attended a small liberal arts college in Philadelphia, I could not help missing a healthy measure of intrigue.

 


Likely Stories: The Book of Dreams by Nina George

Sep 26, 2019

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

I discovered the writer Nina George when I impulsively bought her first novel, The Little Paris Bookshop.  Her next story, The Little Paris Bistro appeared next.  Both were delightful tales of life in Paris, France.  I had to wait a bit for her next novel, The Book of Dreams.  This was quite a departure from the French novels, but Nina has created a magnificent and tragic novel, which is filled with hope and desire.

Nina George is the author of the best-selling books I just mentioned.  Her books are an international phenomenon.  She has published a number of novels in Germany published around Europe.  She lives with her husband in Berlin and Brittany, France.  I was lucky enough to meet her while on a tour of the US.  I can’t wait for her next novel.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Toni Morrison is one of the great writers of her generation.  Few writers have the emotional and literary power of Morrison.  Add to that her development of many stories of the African American experience.  She deftly spins tales of great passion, empathy, and love.  Morrison gives readers a particularly intense focus of the tragedy of slavery as well as the aftermath leading up to the present day.  Her numerous novels include The Bluest EyeBeloved, and God Help the Child.  My particular favorite is Sula.  In honor of her recent passing, I am dedicating this review to Toni Morrison.

Adventures of a voracious reader who works in an independent bookstore

As my readers are aware, I have a craving for novels about books, bookshelves, bookstores, and libraries.  The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman is her third novel

Abbi writes, “Larchmont Boulevard is the linear heart of Larchmont Village, populated by cafés, restaurants, boutiques, artisanal stores of many kinds, and one of the few remaining independent bookstores in Los Angeles.  That’s where Nina Hill works, spinster of the parish and heroine of both her own life and the book you’re holding in your lovely hand” (4).  I feel as though I am nearly in the presence of Jane Austen.

Excellent collection of poetry by the greatest Greek poet.


Collection of wonderful stories by the noted actor, Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks has a solid record as an actor.  He was born July 9, 1956.  He is well known for his comedic and dramatic roles in such films as Sleepless in Seattle, Forest Gump, Apollo 13, Cast Away, and Saving Private Ryan, to name a few.  He is widely regarded as an American cultural icon.  Uncommon Types: Some Stories is his first book.

The first story, “Three Exhausting Weeks” reveals much of the details of their relationship.  Anna is a whirlwind of ideas.  Hanks wrote, “Anna was still very pretty.  She never lost her lean, rope-taut body of a triathlete, which, in fact, she had been.  For a day, I showed her some available spaces, none of which she wanted for reasons that made little sense to me.  I could tell she was just as driven, focused, and tightly wound as she had been in [college].  She had too keen an eye for the smallest of details and left no stones unturned, uninspected, unrecorded, or unreplaced if they needed replacing.  Adult Anna was no more my type than Teen Anna had been” (5-6).  They became a couple.

Story of a young man who was abandoned by his wife but finds love at last.

Robert Hillman’s first novel—The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted—turned out to be a lovely story marvelously written with a backdrop of a frightening past set in Australia.  Tom Hope has been abandoned by his wife.  He struggles to understand why his wife left him.  Trudy returns after a long period and announces she is pregnant.   She stays for a while, but then she disappears again, leaving the boy with Tom.  Then she shows up to claim her son.  Tom is devastated after raising the boy alone for a few years. 

Heart-breaking story of a man desperate to reunite with his deceased wife.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Over the course of my reading life, I have been fortunate enough to gather a small number of books which deeply affected me and drove me to tears.  For example, A Little Life by Yonagihara, The Goldfinch by Donna Tart, and Iris Murdoch: A Life by Peter Conradi to name a few.  I now have a fourth to add to my list: Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin. 

Hysterically funny French satire of life in a small village in France.

Many of my graduate school studies were firmly grounded in the 19th century.  Clochemerle by Gabriel Chevallier—suggested by a good friend—recently came my way, and it proved to be a very funny story.

According to Wikipedia, Clochemerle is a French satirical novel, which was first published in 1934.  The book is set in a fictional French town called "Clochemerle", situated in the Beaujolais region.  The book is a comic work, satirizing the conflicts between Catholics and Republicans in the French Third Republic by telling the story of the installation of a fixture in Clochemerle's town square. 

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