Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books we've read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.
Sean Tuohy: Joshua Mohr is a writer with a unique voice. He stands out against a sea crowded with similar story lines and bland characters. All This Life, due out July 14, is the author's fifth novel and is about the digital age and the effects one event can have on many people.
All This Life opens with a mass suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge and then doesn’t let up. Featuring a cast of interesting and damaged characters, All This Life showcases a writer with a true talent.
Daniel Ford: Author Anne Leigh Parrish has contributed to Writer’s Bone (including a short story, an essay, and an interview), so I was certain I’d like her latest novel What is Found, What is Lost despite the fact I’m not exactly the target demographic.
In this novel, Parrish explores the themes of motherhood, identity, and religion through the eyes of main character Freddie, as well her mother, grandmother, and daughter. Freddie is one of the most delightful female characters I’ve read in some time, despite the fact she is surrounded by some pretty terrible people (including her late husband Ken, though he earns major points with his one liners from beyond). You’ll find there is no circle of hell low enough for her mother Lorraine. She reminded me of an uber-religious version of Catherine in East of Eden. And then you have Anna, Freddie’s grandmother, who makes 1920s Chicago come alive in a fresh way with the help of her partner Olaf (who is also a shady character, but one with redeemable characteristics).
All of these characters are what make Parrish’s novel really sing. There’s snappy, heartfelt (and occasionally nasty) dialogue that will make you feel as if you’ve known these people your whole life. There’s a genuine lived in quality that weds seamlessly to the prose and plot. I don’t want to give too much away, but the book ends with certain things revealed and resolved, but leaves so much more simmering beneath the surface. It’s an excellent reflection on how real life is messy with no easy answers or solutions. If you’re looking for something meatier than a beach read, put What is Found, What is Lost on your reading docket.
DF: Michael Connelly calls Ace Atkins “one of the best crime writers at work today,” and after reading his most recent novel The Redeemers, I can see why. Atkins’ hero, Quinn Colson, finds himself out of a job as sheriff of Tibbehah County, Miss., and surrounded by a villainous crime lord, a sister crippled by drugs, and a lover that further stains his reputation. On top of all that, he’s drawn into investigating a crime perpetrated by three idiots armed with a bulldozer. The plot moves along at a brisk pace and the criminals are as entertaining as any you’ll find in an Elmore Leonard novel, but Atkins is at his best exploring characters on both sides of the law. I haven’t read any of the other Quinn Colson novels, but he strides into this novel more fully formed than must of the serial heroes I’ve come across recently. His military past, his volatile love life, and temperamental family are all explored deeply and honestly.
DF: Stephanie Schaefer grabbed this book out of my hands as soon as she saw the cover. The neon woman arching her back didn’t do me any favors. I told her at some point a guy needs to read some Bukowski. And then I did.
Bukowski can write the hell out of a broken character. He shows flashes of how this guy might change, and then another women slithers into the picture. I think my favorite Henry Chinaski reaction throughout the book was, "All right." Summed it all up in two words.
If you read nothing else, read this paragraph:
“I was sentimental about many things: a woman’s shoes under the bed; one hairpin left behind on the dresser; the way they said, 'I’m going to pee.' hair ribbons; walking down the boulevard with them at 1:30 in the afternoon, just two people walking together; the long nights of drinking and smoking; talking; the arguments; thinking of suicide; eating together and feeling good; the jokes; the laughter out of nowhere; feeling miracles in the air; being in a parked car together; comparing past loves at 3am; being told you snore; hearing her snore; mothers, daughters, sons, cats, dogs; sometimes death and sometimes divorce; but always carrying on, always seeing it through; reading a newspaper alone in a sandwich joint and feeling nausea because she’s now married to a dentist with an I.Q. of 95; racetracks, parks, park picnics; even jails; her dull friends; your dull friends; your drinking, her dancing; your flirting, her flirting; her pills, your fucking on the side and her doing the same; sleeping together.”
DF: This debut short story collection just landed in Writer’s Bone mailbox and it shot to the top of my reading list based on the opening line of the first story:
“John ran through the high desert, away from his grave.”
Yup, that’ll do. Harper has had a variety of writing jobs, including a writer-producer for “Gotham,” but I have a feeling before his career is over he’s going to be best known as a short story artist. This collection comes out July 7 (look for an interview with the author next month!).