The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

Um …. yeah. I desperately want a friend to read this book so I can debrief with them, but have a hard time telling anyone it’s a must-read. It’s not a bad book—one where you set it down and think to yourself, “Wow, that was a colossal waste of my time. How did they get that printed?” But it’s not a “Crikeys, everyone MUST.READ.THIS.” For a debut effort, I’m really impressed with Benjamin Hale, but I would suggest the book is beyond verbose. There are quite literally entire chapters you could blow off and still enjoy the the story of Bruno, chimp extraordinaire, and the love of his life, Lydia. I know there have been readers that struggle with the beastiality plot point. For me, I wasn’t so much offended by it from Bruno’s standpoint than I was visualizing Lydia reciprocating. But then again, we don’t get Lydia’s perspective. Was the loss of her husband and child too much, and she was driven insane? Was her medical condition to blame for her behavior? Who knows. Maybe if Bruno could have stopped yapping for a chapter or two and let someone else do the talking.

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore
Benjamin Hale

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A Visit from the Goon Squad

Finally. I’d had “Goon” on my “must read” list since late last year, and bought it for our summer vacation, only to pick up “Run” by Ann Patchett—and library books always come first since I don’t have that dreaded “dime a day” threat hanging over my head with something that I own.

“Goon” makes a for a great “in-between chores, work, soccer games, PTA meetings and other library books” kind of book because its setup is more like a series of character vignettes than a novel. That said, if you do take several months to read it, like I did, you may find yourself flipping back through earlier pages to re-acquaint yourself with characters that are thread throughout the book. Sasha, the red-headed klepto, Bennie, her one-time boss and record producer, Stephanie, Bennie’s ex, and her brother-the-rock-reporter Jules, Dolly, The General, Alex, Rob … too many to name but each so interesting.

If you like books that flow in chronological order and end with some sort of resolution, this isn’t the book for you. You will be annoyed. You probably won’t finish it.

If you like books that delve into character development by placing them in different physical locales and different predicaments (the African plains, a therapist’s office, the seedy side of Naples, in the basement of an all-girl band while snorting gold flakes) then you just may fall in love with this book. I am left with a certain sense of “Jigga wha?” — I want to know how Sasha’s story concludes—I want to know what happens to Bennie in his later years—but it also leaves me thinking about it, which ultimately, is any good author’s goal, right?

A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan

These Things Hidden

This was a great quick read — a poor man’s Jodi Picoult, I like Heather Gudenkauf because while the stories may be as contrived as Picoult, the endings are so much more realistic and there’s less of a chance I am going to throw the book across the room when I finish. In These Things Hidden, readers follow the story of Allison, whose recently been released from prison for a crime that technically, she really didn’t commit. She desperately tries to reach out to her sister, Brynn, and is unwittlingly drawn back into the same circle of people that played a role in the acts that led to her stint in prison. It was easy to become connected to the characters, and like any good story, I didn’t want to put the book down until I found out who did what and why. Maybe not as good as Weight of Silence, but still a great weekend/beach read.

These Things Hidden
Heather Gudenkauf

Leaving Van Gogh

Leaving Van Gogh—it’s the art lover’s “Loving Frank.” I was surprised at how riveted I was by this book, given it moves at a rather slow pace, and you already know the ending. How much is historically accurate is unknown to me at this point, as I went in not knowing who Dr. Gachet was, but even if none of it were true, it’s a poignant tale of friendship between two sad men. All I now is that now, I feel like I need to run to the Art Institute and soak in as much Van Gogh as possible. I’m haunted, too, at the scenario laid out at the end of the novel. Would you, as a friend, help someone take their own life? What if she or he were fatally ill, as Dr. Gachet’s wife was? Or just severely depressed, as Van Gogh appeared to be? Why was it Gachet could help one, but not the other? Very, very well-written and a love story on so many levels.

Leaving Van Gogh
Carol Wallace

An Object of Beauty (Steve Martin)

An Object of BeautyA nice read—didn’t take long to get through, so great for someone who doesn’t have a ton of spare time to invest thoughtfully in a serious brain-drain kind of story. If you’re feeling narcissistic, try Lacey Yeager on for size. It’s all about her. She’s beautiful, and we suppose she’s smart, but after reading, one might think she’s really just good at working a room, and that talent only takes you so far in life. what I was most curious about was what was never answered—just why is Lacey THAT way? What draws her to treat people as objects? Does she view then the same way she does art in her Sotheby’s/Talley/Yeager Arts existence? As something to collect and muse over in different light? And what becomes of Daniel? Does he find love? And how much of this tawdry tale of the NYC art scene is really true? Steve Martin has a way with a pen.

An Object of Beauty
Steve Martin