After recognizing last month my seriously dark attraction to stories about girls and women being victimized by the awful, awful world, I decided to actively seek antidotes.
My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
A dear friend stealthily Amazon-gifted this book to me -- it came in the mail unannounced after we had dinner together. It's the first book of a four part series by Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, and it's that rare bird of a story that follows a female protagonist and focuses the narrative on her friendship with another female character. How many books can you name that do that? Anne of Green Gables? So this was a refreshing experience, story-wise. The writing itself is direct to the point of bluntness, almost completely unadorned. I'm sure in its native Italian there is more delight in the words, but in translation, I found the pragmatism of the language plodding. Even so, I tore through the book in a weekend, so the world and the characters were compelling enough to drive the novel. I'm not hungry to consume the next three books in the series, but my friend loves them so much I might commit to them.
Wild, Cheryl Strayed
I am a big fan of Cheryl Strayed, a subscriber to her advice podcast Dear Sugar, a follower on social media. I saw the movie first, and I loved it. So it was with an open heart that I finally read this memoir. There is a time not so long ago that I would have been made so uncomfortable by how dopey she was with her embarrassing backpack, irresponsible finances, fully on-display horniness, that I would have thrown this book. But I'm so down with Cheryl's wounded-healer agenda, and am attuned to the courage in her willingness to share her story in all its spectra of humiliation and triumph, humor and heartbreak. And damn can this lady write. She brings everything so brilliantly to the page, wrapping us fully in her interior life and projecting around us 360 degrees of sensory experience. It's intimate, and it's generous, and it fully lived up to my expectations.