Friday, November 27, 2009

Try a Graphic Novel

Stitches by David Small

If you haven't read many graphic novels, this is a good place to start. Actually a memoir, Stitches reads like a novel. It is the story of a little boy who loves to draw growing up in an abusive, loveless household. He wishes he could escape down the rabbit hole with Alice. As a young teen he has an operation that results in his losing half his vocal cords and consequently his voice. The rest of the story is about his survival and recovery. Stitches is an intense and rewarding reading experience.

Small is a children's book illustrator, and his drawings add so much to the story. Small conveys an amazing amount of feeling and intelligence in a few simple lines. Note the drawing of his mother at the bottom of page 113 and compare it with the photo of Small on the inside back cover. You won't believe the resemblance.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge

This book was a very pleasant surprise. Having never read Goudge before, I did what I usually do with new authors – give the first 50 pages a go – apprehensively. Right from the start, though, I was hooked. Goudge has an excellent knack for building characters from the ground up…and using those characters to be the basis for her strong storytelling. This story starts, told mostly in the present but also during WWII, with the story of Alice, a mother who just lost her older son and cannot deal with the not guilty verdict the jury just turned in on her son's drunk driving killer. Alice's story flash-forwards nine years later...and is then interwoven with the story of another wandering soul...Colin, who is in AA and recently widowed. Both of these main characters, as well as the sub-characters, are engaging and full of intensity...and passion. We want to get to know them better...we want them to get their troubles resolved. We want them to be happy. I would read Goudge again in a heartbeat!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I love dogs. I own a dog. Often, I like him more than about 90% of the people I know. I also enjoy books about the relationships between men and their dogs. Especially when the gruff guy shows a kinder, gentler side to his personality as a result of the actions of his dog.

One of the best "guy/dog" books I have read is "Merle's Door" by Ted Kerasote. It is a wonderful true story that is sensitive without being sappy.

Although I love the "guy/dog" books, I know that they will never end well. The dog always dies.
About two-thirds of the way into the book, the guy finds "a lump" on the dog's leg, or the dog develops this phlegmy cough. You know you are pages away from uncontrollable sobbing.... by both you and the guy.

So, it was with delight that I picked up the latest book by Dean Koontz noted for his suspenseful raw thrillers. Koontz and his wife, following years of consideration, adopt a three-year-old golden retriever from Canine Companions, an organization that provides service dogs to those in need. The dog was on "early retirement" as a result of an elbow surgery. The book, a memoir of his 9-years with the dog, is about as far away from his usual shocking tales as one can get. I knew Koontz had an affinity for "goldens" as they are characters in many of his books, and his book jackets show a picture of him with a "golden".
Koontz delights in the mundane, day-to-day activities of "Trixie" to the point of some degree of boredom from this reader. It is also could be a little uncomfortable for the reader when he refers to Trixie as "my little girl" or tells her "your mom and I are so proud of you". But maybe that's because you do not expect that form of emotion from someone whose stories are otherwise so dark and chilling. Koontz also takes anthropomorphism to an extreme, but as a dog owner and lover I found it acceptable.
This book definitely shows another side of Koontz, and in the end.....I sobbed uncontrollably.