Okay, I have to start off by saying it was way too much pressure to pick one book to call a favorite. I’m terrible at even the most trivial decisions, never mind one as loaded as this. So I went back over my reading list (yes, I keep a list because when you have a memory as terrible as mine, it’s a necessity) and picked an assortment of my favorites. And not all of them came out last year, so there, I cheated again. They were all books I read and loved last year, so that counts enough for me.
THE WAY THE CROW FLIES, Anne-Marie MacDonald: Perfectly written, epic story of a family on a Canadian military base during the early 60s. The book centers on Madeline, 8 years old when a little girl in her class is murdered, 32 years old when the crime is solved. Her father is caught up in a web of cold war secrets and lies. A book about the power of secrets. And what happens when the truth is finally brought to light. Suspenseful. Gut-wrenching. (There were scenes when I actually closed the book and couldn’t read anymore… ) And full of surprises, particularly when the murderer is finally revealed.
THE GIRL IN THE GLASS, Jeffrey Ford: Three con men hold séances for rich folks in 1932 Long Island. Narrated by a 17-year-old Mexican boy who poses as Odoo, the Indian Mystic. All is well in their world until during a séance, their leader sees the image of a girl in a pane of glass. The next day, he sees a photo of the same girl in the paper: she’s gone missing. The three set out to find her and get drawn into a very tangled web indeed. Throw in moths, the KKK, eugenics, trained pigeons, and a large assortment of freaks including a fat lady, spider boy and rubber woman, and you’ve got yourself a book that’s impossible to put down!
THE STOLEN CHILD, Keith Donohue: 7-year-old Henry Day runs away from home, hides in a hollow tree and is taken by changelings. He becomes Aniday and learns to live with the pack of goblins who took him, while the changeling who takes his place becomes Henry. The book follows both their stories, skillfully interwoven, over the years. A wonderful, heart-breaking, fairy tale of a book.
THE DEAD HOUR, Denise Mina: I love Mina’s character, Paddy Meehan – thumb ring, green leather coat, food addictions and all. She’s a Glasgow crime reporter who shows up at a domestic disturbance call. The door is answered by a handsome man, behind him, a woman with a bloodied face. The couple sends the police away, bribing Paddy to keep the story out of the paper. The next morning, the woman is dead. Paddy learns the cops who answered the call aren’t being honest about what happened, and realizes she’s stumbled onto a story that could just save her career, if she can manage to stay alive.
SHARP OBJECTS, Gillian Flynn: One girl has turned up murdered and another is missing in the small town of Wind Gap, Missouri. Camille Preaker, a journalist and recovering cutter (her body is covered is words she’s sliced into her skin) returns to her hometown to investigate. More than a murder mystery, this book is an exploration of the terrible things women and girls do to themselves and others. And some wonderfully twisted mother/daughter stuff. If I absolutely had to choose, this may have been my favorite read of the year.
FUN HOME: Alison Bechdel: You know how reviews are always saying “This is like nothing you’ve ever read”? This is really like nothing you’ve ever read – or nothing I have, anyway. A graphic (meaning illustrated, not explicit) memoir detailing Bechdel’s upbringing and relationship with her father, Bruce – a high school English teacher, funeral home director, historic renovator and closeted gay man who was having affairs with high school boys. The book explores Bruce’s death (accident or suicide?), and Alison’s coming to terms with her own sexuality. At the core of their relationship was a love of books. It’s funny, heartbreaking and brilliant book. The artwork is incredible – each panel is full of careful detail. I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of comic books or graphic novels, but this book swept me off my feet. And hey, Alison is a fellow Vermonter. A pretty famous Vermonter now, after the success of Fun Home, including Time Magazine naming it the best book of the year. Which goes to show I do know what I’m talking about, after all!