Vacation reading

So we were on vacation last week, and rainy weather plus a sick kid meant I had plenty of time on my hands for reading. Glorious reading! I got through three books, each very different and each very rewarding…

Galore by Michael Crummey is the best book I’ve read in a looooooong time. This amazing novel is the definition — the PLATONIC IDEAL — of rollicking yarns and prose poetry. It is EXACTLY the type of book I most love. It has all my favorite elements. Big sweeping epic third person omniscient narration. Vivid setting & history (Newfoundland) that is an important part of the plot. Multiple generations, multiple perspectives. Myth & folklore. Doctors & priests. A bit of magical realism. Strong female characters. Biblical imagery. Luscious language. Bittersweet humor. And it is strikingly original. And totally engrossing.

Galore reminded me quite a bit of Midnight’s Children. Michael Crummey just might be Canada’s answer to Salman Rushdie. This book was nothing short of awesome. I hope it wins a zillion awards.

I chose Ursula Hegi’s Sacred Time from the library at random, having never heard of the book or the author. It was quite a change after the wild romp that was Galore, and I’m not sure I would have checked it out if I had known more about it. In a nutshell: Sacred Time belongs to the “Ripple Effects Of A Child’s Death” genre. If that’s not your cup of tea you might want to skip this one.

That said… this book is very well executed. Yes it is about the death of a child, and the reverberations of that death through the family and through the years, but it completely avoids the three Ms of melodrama, maudlinity (maudlin-ness?) and manipulation. The characters are complex, three-dimensional and (for the most part) likable. The book is set mostly in the Bronx, with the three sections of the book taking place in three decades, the 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s. There is lots of period detail and cultural references which gave the book some fun moments, despite the grim subject matter.

Zombie, Ohio. Yes, it is a zombie story. If you are into zombies I highly recommend this one. I’m not a huge fan of zombies — for one thing, there are too many internal inconsistencies, like do they digest their food and if not, how can they keep eating all those brains — but I do like post-apocalyptic fiction and therefore I read the occasional zombie story.

This one is unusual in that it is told from the zombie’s perspective, and furthermore the zombie, in life, was a philosophy professor at a small liberal arts college, tee hee. Like all zombie stories, it is really gross, but it is also funny. E.g. the scene where the newly-minted zombie has to figure out how to actually open a skull so that he can get at the brain, giggle giggle.