Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#6: Carthage (Joyce Carol Oates)

Let me yell it from the rooftop: I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! Carthage was the March selection of the Reading with Jacqs project that told the story of the Mayfield family. Living in a small New England town, the Mayfields have two daughters: Juliet (the pretty one) and Cressida (the homely smart one). Juliet is to marry Corporeal Brett Kinkaid, a local football star and war hero. Tragically, Kinkaid returns from Iraq with great physical and emotional trauma. Shortly after calling off the wedding, Kinkaid and Cressida are seen together at a local bar. When Cressida doesn’t return, the small town assumes the worst and Kinkaid is the prime suspect.

Carthage explores the issues of loss, grief and anger while also considering the plight of the outcast and victimized. Things are not always as they appear, and one moment’s justified anger may become repentance when truth is brought to light. One of my favorite passages of the novel comes from part two:

She’d fled. Like a kicked and terrified dog she’d fled. Like a dog she’d wished only to hide, and lick her wounds. Her shame that was a kind of wound. It did not occur to her, it had not once occurred to her, that others might have been injured as well. “But they didn’t love me. Did they?” (Oates, 330)

Oates so clearly conveys the confusion of the character as she comes to terms with her actions. Although the novel is markedly dark in tone, its text is thought-provoking and firmly places Oates among the important authors of our day. Carthage is definitely a worthwhile read.

What’s next on the list for Jacqs and me? We’re heading back to the classics and reading Great Expectations together in April.

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#5: The Crazyladies of Pearl Street (Trevanian)

As I continue reading my way through the THO-TRE shelf of the Poplar and White Station branch of the Memphis Public Library, I am happy to say that The Crazyladies of Pearl Street was a pleasure to read. I had never encountered Trevanian’s writing and can now include him among the list of modern writers that I greatly enjoy reading.

Crazyladies is narrated by Jean-Luc, a pre-teen boy living in an Albany, New York slum with his mother and sister. Set in the 1930s and 1940s, Luke learns about the world’s challenges with the innocence of youth through his interactions with the people of Pearl Street and the surrounding community. The narrator understands love (and lust) at the Catholic School. His understanding of the European crisis is shaped by conversations with the Jewish store owner on the corner and his family’s prized possession, a second-hand radio. Having been abandoned by his father throughout his early years, Luke finds himself dealing with the pressure to provide for his mother and sister while growing to resent the responsibility that he never asked for. When a young cowboy arrives in the slum, Jean-Luc hopes the man will be a new father figure that he can admire that will also provide for the struggling family. Despite hopes and promises, the young family finds themselves deserted again, struggling to make ends meet in a new location without a job.

Trevanian combines artfully developed characters with gentle humor and heart-warming drama in a wonderful tale of trial, war, and heartache and its impact on a growing boy. I look forward to exploring more of Trevanian’s novels in the future.

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