Reading Off The Radar

The Sunday

Take one warm sunshine filtered through leaves tinged with crimson and gold. Mix in a light breeze with just a nip of chill. Add in a glass of tart apple cider and a sweetly spiced cake donut. Relax and enjoy all ingredients together for a picturesque fall Sunday afternoon in Michigan.

Today so classically embodies all of the above, you might be tempted to call it a cliche.  But I prefer to call it perfect, and simply enjoy it to the max. In addition to having all this beautiful weather, I’m engrossed in a fascinating novel, the kind you can lose yourself in for hours.

Everything I read this week has been an unexpected pleasure. Two books came from directly from their authors, and the third I picked up on a whim at Bargain Books. All three of these new-to-me voices have provided interesting reads.

The first, Wherever You Go, by Joan Leegant, was the story of three Americans who each find themselves in the city of Jerusalem for very different reasons. Yona Stern, a 30 year old woman, has left her lackluster life in New York city and come to make amends with her idealistic sister, Dena. Mark Greenglass, a drug addict from New York who embraced Orthodoxy and became a Talumd teacher in Jerusalem, has mysteriously lost his passion for the religion that he credits with saving his life. Aaron Blinder is a hapless college dropout whose girlfriend convinces him to join her on a semester abroad program in Jerusalem, where he becomes involved in a group of fringe radicals dedicated to the violent far-right settlement cause.  At the start of the novel, these three are strangers, but after the events of one tragic night, they’re lives become bound together in unbelievable ways.  The author spends half of each year living in Jerusalem and teaching at Bar-Ilan University. She admits to a fascination with radical movements, stating that “those who cast their lot with causes fascinate me.” Her novel is an intriguing look at the hidden factors which can contrive to motivate people’s dedication to even reprehensible causes.

Deborah Reed’s Carry Yourself Back To Me is a much gentler look at human relationships, a classic love story played out between the 1970’s and the present. Annie Walsh, a singer-songwriter, has returned to her home in Central Florida after her long-time lover leaves her for a younger woman. When her younger brother is implicated in a brutal murder, Annie is forced to re-examine her loyalties and rethink the events of her past, leading her to uncover some painful family secrets. While the tone of the book is somewhat elegiac and melancholy, the characters are sympathetic and believable, and the reader is quickly engaged in the story and eager for a happy ending.

Today’s read (the Bargain Books selection) is A Fortunate Age, by Joanna Smith Rakoff, an immensely satisfying ensemble novel about a cadre of intelligent and ambitious young people pursuing their creative and artistic dreams in New York City following their graduation from Oberlin College. The novel opens with a wedding – Lil, an scholar wanna-be, to Tuck, a writer with more ego than energy.  At the ceremony we meet the rest of the gang who are all at varying stages of success. The time is the early 1990’s, when the dot-com boom was in full swing, and young people felt the world was their technological oyster.  As the book progresses through that decade and into the sobering post-September 11 world, it will be fascinating to see how their lives and fortunes evolve. Rakoff’s writing is dense and detail packed, and she captures the emotional and physical scenery with brilliant aplomb. This is the kind of novel I love to sink my teeth into – and I intend to do just that for the remainder of this beautiful afternoon.

I hope your Sunday is equally satisfying in all ways.

Now tell me, have you ever read books that were completely off the radar but really blew you away?


7 thoughts on “Reading Off The Radar

  1. How wonderful that you’ve been having such good reading experiences! Mine have been a mixed bag lately. I started Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy last night and just about tossed it across the room. I’ve seen tons of positive reviews for it, but so far it seems like pretentious drivel to me. I’m hoping it grows on me.

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