Book Review October 2011

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Happy autumn! Time to cozy up with a blanket, a hot beverage and a wonderful novel.

Appropriately for October, Chris Bohjalian’s newest novel, The Night Strangers, is a ghost story. When pilot Chip Linton makes an unsuccessful emergency landing in Lake Champlain, the body count is 39, his flying career is over, and he and his family move from Vermont to New Hampshire to try to make a new start. At first, all goes well. But soon, their new house starts to exert an unhealthy influence on Chip and he begins to see the ghosts of his dead passengers.  Emily and their twin daughters become enmeshed with a group of herbalists who seem to be feared around town. Totally apart from the Linton family’s tribulations, they discover their new house has a haunted past of its own. As usual, Bohjalian hits the perfect tone with his New England characters and his depiction of a family in trauma is on target. The reader moves from wondering if Chip is losing his mind to wondering if haunted houses really exist to wondering if, perhaps, Chris Bohjalian was channeling Shirley Jackson while writing this book. The Night Strangers is another winner for one of Vermont’s most popular authors.

Fathermucker is the new novel by New Paltz author Greg Olear. Ostensibly the story of one day in the life of a stay-at-home dad, he manages to encompass all of the pressures inherent in parenting today and make them hilarious to read about, to boot. The story takes place on day five of Josh Lansky’s wife’s business trip, when his stress level is high and his need for a break is urgent. Minute by minute, task by task, we follow Josh through his day with two preschoolers: waking up too early and still tired, getting his son (who has Asperger’s syndrome) and daughter fed and dressed, managing to get them out of the house to a play date, where he gossips with the other moms, heading to the pumpkin patch with his son’s preschool class and to a pizza place for dinner and a much-needed beer, then home to argue the kids into bed. Riffs on all sorts of topics grow organically through the narrative; why he and his wife moved to New Paltz, how he morphed from a fashion-conscious Manhattanite to a Target-special sporting dad who hasn’t bought new clothes in four years, and how, despite his love for his children, how mind-numbingly boring spending the day with toddlers can be. Song lyrics, quotes from children’s books, and witty wordplay make this novel a delight to read. Read and enjoy—especially if your kids are past the toddler stage so you can nod in commiseration rather than weep with exhausted sympathy!

Just a heads up about Albany’s most famous author: William Kennedy’s newest book, Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes just came out. Happy reading, everyone! 
    
Susan Taylor has been in the book business since 1982.
 

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