Posts Tagged ‘Michael Morris’

Before I immerse myself in the 700 pages of Justin Cronin’s The Twelve, which pubs Tuesday, I thought I’d round up the rest of what I’ve been reading, going back aways.

I was surprised how much I liked Fiona Neill’s What the Nanny Saw (Riverhead/Penguin, digital galley via NetGalley), which I thought was going to be a chick-lit beach book. Instead, the story of university student Ali Sparrow’s stint as nanny to an obscenely rich London family is an incisive and entertaining drama of the fall of the house of  Skinner during the 2008 financial crisis. Memorable characters include a controlling mom, a lusty grandfather, two troubled teens, and young twins whose “secret” language turns out to be Filipino. Ali becomes the family’s linchpin with a 360-degree view of goings-on, but how much will she eventually reveal to outsiders?

In Man in the Blue Moon (Tyndale House, e-book pdf), Michael Morris spins an engaging tale from his own family’s history in North Florida during World War I. Ella Wallace decides to risk the mortgage money paying freight charges on a box from the Blue Moon Clock Company, hoping it’s a grandfather clock that her errant husband ordered before he disappeared. She should be able to sell it for enough money to save her and her three sons from the poorhouse. Instead, long-lost cousin Lanier appears as her unlikely ally in keeping her beloved land from foreclosure at the hands of a scheming banker and his evangelical cohort who proclaims Apalachicola as the  original Garden of Eden. It may sound like a Southern tall tale, but Morris grounds it with his quirky yet credible characters and details of the hardscrabble times.

Jonathan Evison puts his indelible stamp on the lovable loser/road trip novel in The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, advance readers’ copy). Narrator Ben has lost his family, his job, his home, his hopes. Then he enrolls in a caretaking class run by a church and is assigned to Trev, a surly, horny 19-year-old with advanced muscular dystrophy. A project to make a map of backroads and wayside attractions turns into an actual journey, ostensibly to see Trev’s runaway dad. Fellow pilgrims include a chain-smoking, potty-mouthed teenage hitchhiker and a pregnant woman named Peaches. Interspersed chapters chart Ben’s memories of his own kids, whose fate is eventually revealed. The picaresque, poignant tale could have veered into sentimentality, but Evison’s humor lightens the burdens carried by his appealing characters.

Galilee Garner is the thorny flower in Margaret Dilloway’s The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns (Penguin, digital galley via NetGalley). A 36-year-old high school biology teacher with chronic kidney disease, Gal leads an isolated, highly structured life. She has one good friend, art teacher Dara, who often drives her to her regular dialysis appointments, and she has drafted one of her students to help her in her greenhouse, where she breeds hybrid roses for competition. But change is thrust upon her when her 15-year-old niece Riley arrives for an extended stay while her free-spirited mom jets to Hong Kong on business. At the same time, a fellow dialysis patient makes friendly overtures. But just as Gal begins to awkwardly relate to people, she suffers a setback where her health is concerned and a professional betrayal. It’s not the most subtle of stories, and Gal not the most  sympathetic character, but the details of rose growing prove fascinating, and Gal grows on you, too.

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