Fiction

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

Julia Alvarez is an amazing writer.  Julia has an impressive collection of literary rewards.  In 2013, President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts in recognition of her extraordinary storytelling. 

 


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

According to the dust jacket, Crissy Van Meter grew up in Southern California.  She holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School.  Creatures is her first novel.  

 


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

The Redhead by the Side of the Road is the latest offering by Anne Tyler.  This story of Micah Mortimer is the life of a man living a well-ordered household.  He has a lady friend, but their interactions are on and off.  One day, she reveals she has been evicted from her apartment, but Micah shows no apparent interest in her problem.  Then, to make matters worse, a teenager shows up and claims he is Micah’s son.  Micah is not used to so much intrusion in his life. 


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

If you are a long-time listener to Likely Stories, you might know, Ian McEwan is one of my most favorite novelists.  Ian has a rapier wit when he needs it, and he is a writer of renown.  I have read almost all his novels, and I never—for even a moment—have lost the depth and expertise of his writing.  His latest novel, The Cockroach, is satire of the highest order.  If you are not familiar with McEwan, pick up a copy of any of his nineteen novels.

 

 

Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen is a most peculiar story.  It begins with a tragic accident.  Jon is the author of two novels before Harry’s.  He was the recipient of an NEA fellowship for creative writing, and he was a cowriter of a film directed by Steven Spielberg.

Jon begins, “Oriana had lost a book.  It’s very special, Olive Perkins, the ancient librarian at the Pratt Public Library had told her.  Somebody had made it by hand.  When Olive gave it to Oriana, she almost couldn’t let go of it.  There was a look in the old woman’s eyes Oriana had never seen before, a fleeting indescribable expression.  Then Olive suddenly did the opposite, pushed The Grum’s Ledger into the young girl’s hands and moved her briskly toward the oak doors [of the Library].  ‘But there’s no due date,’ Oriana said.  Olive still stamped her books the old fashion way, with a rubber stamp on the Date Due slip pasted on the last page.  She was a tiny, bird-boned woman, but the stamp hit a book like John Henry’s hammer.  ‘It’s due when you’re done with it, child,’ Olive said.  She dropped her voice to a whisper.  ‘And remember.  You are my favorite reader, and now you are my

M. L. Stedman’s first novel, The Light Between Oceans, is a novel I highly recommend.

Stedman begins this luscious and spell-binding novel with a sorrowful sound.  “On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.  A single fat cloud snailed across the late-April sky, which stretched above the island in a mirror of the ocean below.  Isabel sprinkled more water and patted down the soil around the rosemary bush she had just planted. For just a moment, her mind tricked her into hearing an infant’s cry.  She dismissed the illusion, her eye drawn instead by a pod of whales weaving their way up the coast to calve in the warmer waters, emerging now and again with a fluke of their tails like needles through tapestry.  She heard the cry again, louder this time on the early morning breeze.  Impossible” (3).

The story is then interrupted by a marvelous description of their island home.  Stedman writes, “From this side of the island, there was only vastness, all the way to Africa.  Here, the Indian Ocean washed into the great Southern Ocean and together they stretched like and endless carpet below the cliffs.  On days like this it seemed so solid she had the impression she could walk to Madagascar in a journey of

  Tense and absorbing story of a runaway balloon, and several men trying to help.

(Local productions are on hold during the social distance requirements due to Covid-19.  This segment originally aired July 12, 2018.)

 

Best-selling author, Ian McEwan has a knack for stories that slowly build for the reader right up until the precipice.  According to WikiPedia, McEwan is an English novelist and screenwriter.  In 2008, The London Times featured him on their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.  Enduring Love is among a few of his early works I have eagerly devoured. 

Joe and Clarissa have what seems to be an ideal marriage.  Clarissa is a therapist, who is dedicated to her profession.  Joe is a successful freelance writer.  Clarissa has been away for some time, and 

In the midst of a terrible war, a Cellist plays every day for each person killed in a bombing.

 

(Local productions are on hold during the social distance requirements due to Covid-19.  This segment originally aired June 7, 2018.)

I am fortunate to coordinate a Book Club made up of a number of erudite and voracious readers.  I come away from every meeting with some new insights, some new authors, and an all-around fun evening.  This past month I was introduced to Steven Galloway, a Canadian novelist and a former professor at the University of British Columbia.  He has won several awards for The Cellist of Sarajevo

This novel, a bit over 230 pages, is packed with an intensity I relish in a good read.  The novel is set at the height of the War in Sarajevo.  The city is in ruins, and mortar shells rain down and snipers 

 A small town with “hockey fever” hopes for a national championship.

(Local productions are on hold during the social distance requirements due to Covid-19.  This segment originally aired March 22, 2018.)

 

 I have read nearly all Fredrick Backman’s work, and his latest novel is Beartown.   And I am happy to add it to my collection. 

This is a peculiar story.  Normally, I dislike novels and sports, but ice hockey is a favorite pastime, so I slid into my hockey days.  This story tells of a small town with little to be proud of—except their hockey team—rated as the second best anywhere.  Backman writes, “Beartown isn’t close to anything I’.  Even on a map the place looks unnatural.  ‘As if a drunk giant tried to urinate

Some of the most interesting novels I have read over the years, are those I discovered through a small press publisher.  Edward J. Delaney’s gripping novel, Follow the Sun is a prime example of the many hidden treasures from a small press.  He has also written two other novels—Broken Irish and Warp and Weft.  I am sure I will soon haul in these two exciting novels.

Follow the Sun describes the difficult and dangerous job as lobster men in cold treacherous waters.  Quin Boyle is a lobsterman who is down on his luck.  He has the demons of drugs, alcohol, and with child support he is unable to pay.  One day, he sets sail with Freddy Santoro, with whom he is frequently at odds.  Quin recently was released from jail, and Santoro is also facing jail. 

Delaney writes, “In his recovery from heroin, Quin had been left with an unsettling rime, an infection of self-awareness he had never thought could be harbored by his DNA.  Regret.  Shame.  In his clear-mindedness, his memory had become sharp, and serrated, and unbidden.  He went back to moments that probably only he remembered, things that at age eighteen or twenty-five or thirty were just fleeting moments but had somehow gone dormant in himself, to flare up constantly and  

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

Aside from Margaret Attwood, I rarely encounter novels from Canada.  However, when Death and the Seaside by Alison Moore grabbed my attention, I was intrigued.  Then I began the novel, and my intrigue meter went off the charts.  Her first novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. And her short fiction has been included in Best Short Stories and Best British Horror anthologies and broadcast on BBC Radio.  My intrigue meter went up another notch.


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

On occasion, I like to dip into some unusual novels referred to as “Chick Lit.”  This popular genre seems to be everywhere I see readers.  Tracey Garvis Graves has written eight novels.  The Girl He Used to Know is her ninth.  Aside from an occasional romp in the bedroom of a pair of students, I found the story amusing with a truly gripping twist.


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

According to the Penguin notice, Stewart O’Nan is the author of eleven novels and two works of nonfiction.  I first read his work in, Last Night at the Lobster, which became a national bestseller.  He has won a number of awards, and Granta named him one of the twenty Best Young American Novelists.  He lives with his family in Connecticut.   Just finished Songs for the Missing.  This novel is intense.  The story carries the lives of a family through immense trauma, and the heartache rides with them to the end.

 


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

Kent Haruf died a few years ago, and I only learned of him when I came across his last novel, Our Souls at Night.  This tender dance between a widow and a widower who—in an effort to ward off loneliness--joined together struck me to the bone.  I immediately sought out the other five.  Where You Once Belonged leaves me with only one more.  And that makes me sad, because this collection of short novels is nothing more than magnificent.  All six of these stories deserve 10 stars as a group.

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

Dame Jean Iris Murdoch is—to my way of reading—one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century.  She passed away February 8, 1999.  She was a British novelist and philosopher.  She has written 26 spectacular novels, along with a short story, plays, philosophy, and poetry.  I have so many stories about her and her works, I could fill several episodes of Likely Stories.


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