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#TuesdayBookBlog LIBERATION DAY by George Saunders (@BloomsburyBooks) For readers looking for a true readerly experience #Bookreviews #shortstories

Hi all:

I bring you a collection of short stories by an author I’ve reviewed before, and I’m not surprised some call him “the best short story writer.”

Liberation Day by George Saunders

Liberation Day by George Saunders

“One of our most inventive purveyors of the form returns with pitch-perfect, genre-bending stories that stare into the abyss of our national character. . . . An exquisite work from a writer whose reach is galactic.”—Oprah Daily

Booker Prize winner George Saunders returns with his first collection of short stories since the New York Times bestseller Tenth of December.

The “best short-story writer in English” (Time) is back with a masterful collection that explores ideas of power, ethics, and justice and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with our fellow humans. With his trademark prose—wickedly funny, unsentimental, and exquisitely tuned—Saunders continues to challenge and surprise: Here is a collection of prismatic, resonant stories that encompass joy and despair, oppression and revolution, bizarre fantasy and brutal reality.

“Love Letter” is a tender missive from grandfather to grandson, in the midst of a dystopian political situation in the (not too distant, all too believable) future, that reminds us of our obligations to our ideals, ourselves, and one another. “Ghoul” is set in a Hell-themed section of an underground amusement park in Colorado and follows the exploits of a lonely, morally complex character named Brian, who comes to question everything he takes for granted about his reality. In “Mother’s Day,” two women who loved the same man come to an existential reckoning in the middle of a hailstorm. In “Elliott Spencer,” our eighty-nine-year-old protagonist finds himself brainwashed, his memory “scraped”—a victim of a scheme in which poor, vulnerable people are reprogrammed and deployed as political protesters. And “My House”—in a mere seven pages—comes to terms with the haunting nature of unfulfilled dreams and the inevitability of decay.

Together, these nine subversive, profound, and essential stories coalesce into a case for viewing the world with the same generosity and clear-eyed attention Saunders does, even in the most absurd of circumstances.

https://www.amazon.com/Liberation-Day-Stories-George-Saunders-ebook/dp/B09SKZ4BJ3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liberation-Day-collection-Prize-winning-Lincoln-ebook/dp/B09TR3DYKW/

https://www.amazon.es/Liberation-Day-Stories-George-Saunders-ebook/dp/B09SKZ4BJ3/

Author George Saunders
Author George Saunders

About the author:

George Saunders is the author of nine books, including Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the inaugural Folio Prize (for the best work of fiction in English) and the Story Prize (best short-story collection). He has received MacArthur and Guggen-heim fellowships and the PEN/Malamud Prize for excellence in the short story, and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.

https://www.georgesaundersbooks.com

 https://www.amazon.com/George-Saunders/e/B000APEZ74/

 My review:

I received an ARC copy of this collection of stories from NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing UK, and I freely decided to review it.

I read and reviewed Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, his first novel, of well-deserved fame, but I was aware that he was well-known for his short stories and tales, so I could not resist checking this collection. Habitual readers of this author might want to check the book’s contents, as some of them have been published before, but I found it a fascinating work, disquieting, disturbing, thought-provoking, but also beautiful and a masterclass in writing. Exploring a variety of subjects (memory, identity, manipulation, politics, lies, moral and ethical values, love, family relations, loyalty, creativity, and art…), with the multiple voices, points of view, stream-of-consciousness, epistles, varying lengths, and genres, and the many settings and characters, it is an extraordinary reading experience.

 Liberation Day. A novella-sized story, an allegory, and/or a dystopian story set in a not-too-distant future (or in a parallel universe), both breathtakingly beautiful and utterly terrifying. Enslavement, murder, memory, forgetting, history, performance, love, family, work, relationships, politics, social order… Brutal and shocking as a work of art should be.

The Mom of Bold Action: This one will make readers, and especially writers, smile, as the main character, Tina, stuck for an idea for a story, keeps trying to make up stories based on anything and everything that happens around her. Unfortunately, when something important (?) happens, her writing has unexpected consequences. Duty, guilt, justice, family, and motherhood all turn this seemingly comedic story into something not quite so benign.

Love Letter: A moving love letter between a grandfather and his grandson, but also a commentary on ageing, politics, the stories we tell ourselves and the excuses we make for our own actions,on how our everyday lives and actions have an impact on History, and a vivid reminder that, as Edmond Burke wrote: ‘All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’.

A Thing at Work: This is a story told from multiple points of view (I am not sure what readers who hate head-hopping will think, but it is clear whose head you’re in at all times) narrating an incident at an office. There are good intentions, pettiness, revenge, self-justification, anger, impotence… And although what happens is of little consequence (at least in the large scheme of life), it is a gem of observation and characterization.

Sparrow: Told in the first person plural and at times even the second person, it is an unusual romantic story, beautifully told and surprisingly optimistic.

Ghoul: The same as in Liberation Day, at first we are not sure what is going on and where we are. Is it a strange amusement park, full of actors playing a variety of roles in different set scenes (even though they are called work-houses)? Is this an underground place? Is it Hell? Are these human beings that at some point went underground and now live an alternative life, a pretend one, forever waiting for visitors from above? There are laws, rules, and the consequences for breaking them are horrific. But if you are aware that someone has broken the rules and you don’t denounce the guilty party, you might end up being punished yourself. There is always room for hope, though. A dystopian version of The Truman Show, an allegory of certain political regimes, or something else entirely?

Mother’s Day: A Mother’s Day that starts pretty ordinary, but a chance encounter makes Alma’s mind wander down memory lane, and the same happens to Debby, the woman she meets, who might not be a friend, but they share a connection. We discover lies, pettiness, self-justification, regrets, and, perhaps mother nature bringing on a day or reckoning.

Elliot Spencer: Another story that begins with readers being witness to something that can have different readings: some sort of therapy, perhaps, or rehabilitation, as the main character (89, later Greg, and possibly neither) is taught words, their ‘meanings’, and trained, but, what for? He discovers he is not the only one, and it seems he is a part of some sort of operation staging protests. But why is he there? Who is he? How did he get here? Does he even know what the cause is? And does it really matter? Is that what politics has become? Memory and what makes us what we are lies at the heart of this story, as it does many of the others. It brought to my mind the first part of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

My House: Two men, with similar dreams, with much in common, whose lives cross because of a house, end up at loggerheads due to a moment’s hesitation and miscommunication. A story that questions what is really important and what meaning we attach to the things that surround us. We cannot be objective about certain things, it seems, and the house stands for something beyond even its history.

I cannot think of any good reason not to read this book. These are not classical stories with a well-defined beginning, middle, and end, and a clear message. These are stories where readers have to work and bring in their own interpretations. After all, that is what reading is, or should be, about. So, accept the challenge, and enjoy these stories.

Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author, and thanks to all of you for visiting every week, reading, commenting, liking, and sharing with anybody who might be interested. Take care and keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE by Ruth Emmie Lang (@ruthemmielang) A great debut novel for those looking for a bit of magic and hope #Iamreading

Hi all:

I will be on my way to Barcelona today, so if I take time to reply to your comments, don’t worry. I wanted to post this today because I hope to catch up on more reading and I didn’t want to have to post too many reviews very close to Christmas (as I know we all have other things to do). And, I had to share this book. Although the novel is not Christmassy per se, its spirit is very appropriate to this time of the year. And I loved it. Well, here it is.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

“Exquisite and adventurous” —Bustle, “11 New Fiction Books You Need”

“Told with brains and heart” –Michelle Gable, New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment

“Bristles with charm and curiosity” –Winston Groom, New York Times bestselling author of Forrest Gump

“A wholly original and superbly crafted work of art, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a masterpiece of the imagination.” –Lori Nelson Spielman, New York Times bestselling author of The Life List and Sweet Forgiveness

“Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups who, like Weylyn Grey, have their own stories of being different, feared, brave, and loved.” –Mo Daviau, author of Every Anxious Wave

Finding magic in the ordinary.

In this warm debut novel, Ruth Emmie Lang teaches us about adventure and love in a beautifully written story full of nature and wonder.

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

That tornado was the first of many strange events that seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he doesn’t like to take credit. As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places. From freak storms to trees that appear to grow over night, Weylyn’s unique abilities are a curiosity at best and at worst, a danger to himself and the woman he loves. But Mary doesn’t care. Since Weylyn saved her from an angry wolf on her eleventh birthday, she’s known that a relationship with him isn’t without its risks, but as anyone who’s met Weylyn will tell you, once he wanders into your life, you’ll wish he’d never leave.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell. Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door.

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beasts-Extraordinary-Circumstance-Ruth-Emmie/dp/1250112044/

https://www.amazon.com/Beasts-Extraordinary-Circumstance-Ruth-Emmie/dp/1250112044/

Author Ruth Emmie Lang
Author Ruth Emmie Lang

About the author:

Ruth Emmie Lang was born in Glasgow, Scotland and has the red hair to prove it. When she was four years old, she immigrated to Ohio where she has lived for the last 27 years. She has since lost her Scottish accent, but still has the hair.

Ruth currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and dreams of someday owning a little house in the woods where she can write more books. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is her first novel.

https://www.amazon.com/Ruth-Emmie-Lang/e/B06VW16MRN/

My review

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is a joy. Readers need to be prepared to suspend disbelief more than usual, perhaps, but from the very beginning, you realise you are in for a ride where everything will be extraordinary. Weylyn, the protagonist, is born in circumstances that his doctor never forgets, and he grows up to be more than a bit special.

I will not repeat the description of the book, which summarises quite well the main aspects of the novel. Weylyn’s story is told, mostly, from the point of view of the characters he meets along the way, and who, somehow, are changed by his presence in their lives. The story is set in the present, with interludes where a boy who literally falls on Weylyn (who lives like a hermit in the forest, with a wolf as his only company) keeps pestering him to tell him his story, and then goes back to the past, and the story is told, always in the first person, by a number of characters. As all readers know, narrators have a way of revealing a lot about themselves when they tell somebody else’s story, and this is true here. None of the narrators are unreliable, but they tell us more of their own stories through their memories of Weylyn than they do about Weylyn himself. We get to know him by the effect he has on those around him (children, adults, some of the characters —those he is closest to— her revisits over the years) and he remains a bit of a cipher, perhaps because he does not know himself or can explain himself fully either. We hear from him towards the end of the book, also in the first person, but he is not a character who defines himself by his “powers” (if that is what they are), and he never gives his talents a name, although he allows people to think whatever they like (He even tries to hide his prowess behind a pig, Merlin, insisting that the horned pig is the one who controls the weather). Despite all these points of view, the book is easy to read as each point of view is clearly delineated and their stories and narrative styles are distinct and appropriate to the characters. The writing flows well and there is enough description to spur readers’ imagination without going overboard.

In a world where children and parents have difficulty communicating, where fitting in and appearances are more important than true generosity, where politicians are self-serving and corrupt, where people stay in relationships because they don’t know how to end them, and where the interest of big corporations always trumps the needs of the common man, Weylyn is like the energy and light he manages to harvest, a ray of hope and a breath of fresh air.

Weylyn is a great character, but so are most of the other characters in the book. Some are more memorable than others, but they are all likeable and changed for the better by their interaction with Weylyn.

Although there are magical and fantastic elements in the novel, in my opinion, it fits into the category of magic realism (as the world the characters live in is our world and that is precisely why people are touched and surprised by his skills, his “specialness”). It would also fall under literary fiction, although it is a much easier read than many books classed under that label (and I feel this is a book not exclusively for adults either. There is minimal violence, clean romance, and many young characters, all distinct and likeable in their own ways).

A story for readers who love great characters and like to let their imaginations fly, not always feeling the need to remain anchored to reality. This is one of those books that we feel sorry to reach the end of and are thankful because we know their memory will remain with us. A great debut novel.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher, and to the author, for this extraordinary book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

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