Fiction

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.

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. 

Fantastic and thrilling story of a young child abandoned by her family in a hidden marsh.

In 1984, I purchased a book with an intriguing soft cover with, lots of pictures, and outstanding prose.  I read Cry of the Kalahari in one sitting.  I was so struck, I immediately read it again.  When I noticed Delia Owens’s name on Where the Crawdads Sing, I instinctively knew it would be a masterpiece of fiction.  My thoughts proved to be correct. 

According to the dust jacket, Delia Owens is the author of several books of African species in Botswana.  Her first book was co-authored with her then husband, who sold all their possessions and moved to Botswana.  They faced agonizing red tape before they were able to enter the country.  Where the Crawdad Sings is her first novel.  I hope it will not be her last.

Students at a prestigious academy come under the influence of a charismatic professor

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

One of my earliest of my obsessions with an individual writer was Ann Beattie.  Two things about her drew me to her works.  The first was the fact she had published—simultaneously—a collection of short stories and a novel.  The novel was Chilly Scenes of Winter and the short story collection was Distortions.  She has now written twenty-one magnificent works, including her latest novel, A Wonderful Stroke of Luck.  Her collections of short stories will provide a reader with a treasure trove of American short fiction.

Eerie story of a woman searching for clues to her husband’s intentions.

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

An eerie coincidence led me to Mamta Chaudhry’s novel, Haunting Paris.  As I read, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned in a horrible conflagration.  I have traveled to Paris a number of times, and the cathedral on the river Seine was always an important stop.  Chaudhry’s fiction, poetry, and feature articles have been published widely.  Much of her professional career has taken her from Calcutta to Miami, to Dallas.  She currently lives with her husband in Coral Gables, Florida, and they spend part of each year in India and France.  Haunting Paris is her first novel.

Story of a couple in England who face the unravelling of their marriage.

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

I always look forward to reading the first novel of a new, young writer.  Hellen Cullen wrote her debut novel while in an English novel writing program.  She has an MA in theater studies from the University College Dublin.  She also has a journalism and broadcasting background.  Born in Ireland, she currently lives in London. (more)

Another amazing adventure with surprises, treachery, and suspense by Peter Heller

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

Peter Heller is a relatively new writer, and The River is his fourth novel.  Of the three I have read, I thoroughly enjoyed the suspense and the thrills.  Peter Heller has an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in poetry and fiction.  He lives in Denver Colorado.

Jack and Wynn are college buddies who decided to take a canoe trip through parts of Canada.  They are skilled at navigating white-water, and they have all the equipment they need.  Early in the trip, they smell smoke, but it does not seem close enough to pose a threat.  They encounter two men who are armed, and the boys warned them of the fire.  (more)

A tangled story of two families, intertwined by divorce and marriage

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

Numerous individuals have urged me to read something by Ann Patchett.  But I could not uncover some special character or an interesting idea to grab onto.  I decided to forgo my Rule of 50 as a test of the efficacy of that rule.  Commonwealth is Patchett’s tenth novel.  According to the dust jacket, Ann Patchett has authored nine novels and three works of non-fiction. She was the editor of The Best American Short Stories: 2006.  She has won numerous awards, notably the PEN/Faulkner and the Orange Prize for Fiction.  She has been translated into more than 30 languages.  She co-owns Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Sparky.

The story comprises three parts: the first is the intro duction to two families and a half dozen children.  Part Two mixes all these individuals.  Finally, the last is an extensive examination of these people as the family fragments and falls apart.  I had a difficult time keeping the family’s names and relations straight.  I began to understand the makeup of the family just as Part Three re-tangled them all together.  (more)

A story of Korean women who dive in dangerous waters to gather food

A few years ago, our book club read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.  That novel told a story of the horrific practice of “foot-binding.” Several others followed along similar lines. (more)

Mystical story of a young girl obsessed with finding out about her father


Novel by one of the great writers of the 20th century


Heartfelt novella of a man dealing with his conscience


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