Now that the holidays are over and we’re facing the bleak, colder months, many of us like to curl up with a great book. Perhaps one of your New Year’s resolutions is to unplug and read more? I know that is one of mine. Below are some new books for winter 2019 reading. [Disclosure: I received some of these books on a complimentary basis in order to complete this blog post.]
French Exit by Patrick deWitt
This dark comedy by Giller Prize finalist Patrick deWitt traces the relationship of New York City socialite Frances, who has recently learned that she is bankrupt, and her son, Malcolm. Frances decides to move to Paris to escape the gaze of her hypocritical upper class society. Both she and Malcolm are convinced that Frances’s late husband, Frank, has been reincarnated as the family cat, whom they smuggle on board the ship. Frances is unconventional and unapologetically herself, which allows her to get away with saying the most outrageous things à la Oscar Wilde or Noel Coward. Meanwhile, Malcolm has had difficulty maintaining normal relationships with women due to his unusually close relationship with Frances. If you’re expecting something along the lines of The Sisters Brothers, think again as this novel has a darker theme, which is thankfully lightened by Frances’s skewering of the hypocrisy and morals of upper class society and the intrusion of quirky characters that Frances and son meet when they arrive in Paris. Despite intuiting the ending several chapters into the book, I did enjoy the absurd dialogue and inevitable trajectory of the novel.
Danielle Walker’s eat what you love
New York Times best-selling author Danielle Walker has created a cookbook of comfort foods minus the common food allergens grains and dairy. Recipes include slow cooker, sheet-pan and one pot so you know these are easy to prepare for busy weeknight dinners. Most recipes are accompanied by colourful and visually appealing photos, which I love since it gives you an idea of what the dish should look like. As you flip through the pages, you’ll see favourites such as Shrimp Fried Rice and wonder how the author prepares this without grains? The Shrimp Fried Rice is made with cauliflower rice…genius! Likewise Spaghetti and Meatballs is made with zucchini noodles. Other recipes which do require flour call for coconut flour instead of wheat flour. I noticed that many of the recipes call for more than 12 ingredients, which is usually a red flag for me that a recipe will be a bit difficult, but this is offset by the fact that cooking preparation is easy usually requiring just one pot or one pan.
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Fonny and Tish are a young black couple living in New York City during the early 70s. Deeply devoted to each other, Tish and Fonny learn that she is pregnant so they take steps to prepare for the new baby just as Fonny is wrongfully imprisoned for the rape of a Puerto Rican woman. Tish’s family rallies to raise the resources to adequately fight his case in court despite incredible odds, including blatant and blinding racism on the part of the New York Police Department. The genuine love between Tish and Fonny is tender, carnal and binding and it’s apparent their love must be strong enough to combat the intolerable inequities doled out by a hateful society. Baldwin’s writing is exquisite, angry, poetic and incisive and vividly presents the justifiable frustration of marginalized African-Americans, while hinting at a lingering hope for change.
Sodom Road Exit by Amber Dawn
Sodom Road Exit is a paranormal thriller about Starla, a young queer woman who, having dropped out of U of T with mountainous debt, returns home to Crystal Beach, Ontario to live with her domineering mother. From the 50s to the 80s, Crystal Beach was the site of a famous amusement park – a park that was the springboard of the town’s economic activity. While Starla and members of her community are collecting remnants from the park to sell online, they discover that one of the ride decorations is haunted by a woman (Etta) who died on the roller coaster. Starla becomes haunted by Etta as she struggles with the effects of her abusive childhood. The book’s themes are sexual abuse, indigenous culture, decline of small towns, the paranormal and LGBTQ relationships. Nevermind if these are not the genres you normally read…you’ll have trouble putting this gripping book down.