On the lighter side
March is Women’s History Month and early in the month I planned to blog about some amazing women writers. But then the poop hit the fan and really, who’s even thinking about anything other than COVID-19? My last post featured dystopian plague literature, and I really just can’t go there anymore. (Thank God, I can imagine you thinking!) Maybe that’s what 10 days self-isolating does.
I don’t know about you, but right now I need stories that lift me up, give me a bit of a chuckle and remind me that life is about laughter, joy and hope as much as anything. So here’s a look at some of the books I’ve read recently that will put a smile on your face and maybe, help bring the balance we all so badly need. Check them out if you need something on the lighter side.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Arthur Less is a semi-successful gay man in San Francisco. A novelist struggling to regain his writing mojo, his biggest claim to fame is his long-term relationship with a famous poet. When his most recent lover leaves him to marry another, he gratefully accepts invites to half-baked literary events. This takes him on a trip around the world: a good excuse not to attend the wedding. Oh, and if that weren’t bad enough, he’s about to turn 50. Travelling through Mexico, Italy, Germany, France, Morocco, India, Japan, and finally home again, Less ponders the meaning of himself, his loves, his work. Funny, satirical, and romantic, it’s a fun read about aging and the human heart.
The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Jury
A wonderfully funny novel full of off-beat characters in the charm of a small town on the west coast. Prudence, an aspiring New York writer, inherits a ramshackle dilapidated house with thirty acres of scrubland and dreams of turning it into a sustainable farm where she can live out her fantasy of organic farmer. Earl, an old banjo-playing foreman, neighbour Seth, a heavy-metal blogger with addiction issues and a high school scandal he can’t face, and Sara, an earnest young chicken hobbyist, are all deliciously quirky. Prudence, full of enthusiasm, confidence and humour, finds some unlikely friendships as she relentlessly pursues her dreams. You’ll wish you could pull up a kitchen chair and sit back with a cup of herbal tea with this hilarious bunch of misfits.
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
While not comedic, this novel is a heck of an entertaining ride: a riveting, engaging look at a fictional rock band in 1970s L.A. Loosely based on Fleetwood Mac, the story centres on a six-piece band featuring a charismatic ambitious lead guitarist with visions of mega success. Young Daisy is a passionate free-loving beauty who happens to have a voice that is unrefined, mesmerizing and soulful. What happens when the singer joins the band is chaos, passion, torment and love all rolled up in a giant swirl of music, sex and drugs. Entirely captivating, it’s an explosive down and dirty story about a time and place that can never come again.
Fun fact: Reese Witherspoon is producing an upcoming TV series through Amazon. Please God, that this doesn’t spoil the book.
We’re All in This Together by Amy Jones
A very funny story about the Parkers, a family in Thunder Bay (of all places). When matriarch Kate miraculously survives plummeting over a waterfall in a barrel, the video of course goes viral. The ensuing chaos is a barrel of laughs. Over the course of four days, the Parkers grapple with their foibles and problems as well as their love for each other. They are one hot mess as most families are, but this beautiful cast of characters are deeply connected and ultimately full of courage and forgiveness.
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
Suicide as a comic plot line? How terribly British! I know it sounds anything but funny, but in Hornby’s hands, anything can be turned into a laugh. Four strangers find themselves on a rooftop in London on New Years Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. They form an alliance, postpone their plans for a few weeks to try to find reasons to live. When they finally begin to get on with their lives, no matter how messy, it’s truly funny and satirical. If you like dark comedy, this one’s for you
French Exit by Patrick deWitt
Funny and very clever, this novel is a tragedy of manners like something out of Oscar Wilde. Frances, rich, recently widowed, departs to Paris with her cat, Small Frank, and her “toddler of a man” son, Malcolm in an effort to spend the last of her money. Filled with eccentric characters, it’s absurd, snappy and a little ridiculous, but always amusing.
More than anything, I hope you and your families stay safe and healthy. It’s a good time to find things to make us smile and maybe even chuckle a bit. No matter what you choose to read, perhaps you can escape from the darkness with a good, fun book. As you know, I’m an optimist and even in these hard times, things will be ok. This will pass and one day, hopefully, we will be stronger, wiser and more caring. Be kind to yourself and others. Wash your hands. Stay home as much as you can. Call a friend.
Until next time, happy reading!