Friday, December 21, 2012

Best Reads of 2012 (13th in a series)

Bittersweet and Unforgettable

I’m a big fan of short stories but am rarely asked to recommend them specifically.  For busy readers or anyone interested in venturing into literary fiction, a book of short stories or one of the super short novels below offers major payoff with minor commitment.  (Fair warning: while not particularly graphic, they are written for adults and contain some adult language and themes.  Happy endings are not guaranteed.)
With that being said, it’s hard to imagine a story written entirely in dictionary form could be as evocative as The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan.  Non-named characters meet, fall in love, and face the consequences in this exceptionally well-crafted story, told in alphabetical entries along the lines of:

Disarray, n
At times, I feel like I’m living with a ninety-year old, finding a box of crackers
in the laundry hamper, or a pair of socks by the vodka.  Sometimes I tell you where I found things, and we joke about it.  Other times, I just put them back. 

Not all the definitions are so kind.  Entries in The Lover’s Dictionary also include:  beware, buffoonery, cajole, cavort, clandestine, corrode, covet, deadlock, dumbfounded, and a few you may find yourself looking up in order to appreciate.   

The subject of Stewart O’Nan’s The Odds is a vastly different sort of couple.  Easily read in a single setting, The Odds lets grim statistics highlight the challenges a husband faces as he tries to rekindle a marriage long grown distant.

Tensions run high on Art and Marion’s Valentine's Day weekend in Niagara Falls.  Thirty years after their honeymoon, they’re facing foreclosure, considering divorce, and gambling the last of their savings at the casinos in the hope of turning their luck around.  Unfortunately, the deck seems to be stacked against them.
Odds of a married couple reaching their 25th anniversary:  1 in 6 
Don’t let the title fool you!  Amanda Eyre Ward’s Love Stories in This Town is a realistic take on modern relationships with characters that spring to life.  Published in 2009, these twelve stories reveal lives derailed by 9-11, miscarriage, parental abandonment, and a slew of other complications. 

Wry advice from a Butte Montana bartender gives the collection its name.  “There are no love stories in this town,” the sage tells Lola Wilkerson in "Miss Montana’s Wedding Day." 
Lucky for Lola, she doesn’t remain in Butte but journeys to a Las Vegas wedding chapel, an Austin country club, the tiny former mining town of Ouray, Colorado, and even a high security compound in Saudi Arabia.  In each new setting, Lola discovers a little of the world and a lot of herself.  Lola’s chronicles are the last six stories in the collection and read like a very well-paced novel. 

Even if your time to read is limited, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy an unforgettable book!

Alicia Cavitt
Information Specialist