*The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrott “explores the complex spiritual and sexual lives of ordinary people…(and) is characterized by (a) distinctive mix of satire and compassion.” Sexuality teacher, Ruth Ramsey believes that "pleasure is good, shame is bad, and knowledge is power” but an evangelical Christian church doesn't approve of Ruth's style of teaching. She challenges the intrusiveness a group prayer of her daughter’s soccer coach, a born-again, former rocker and druggie, but finds herself attracted to him but appalled by his beliefs. Thankfully, the book doesn’t end with her conversion to his thinking, but lacks a sense of denouement.
*Huck Out West by Robert Coover, a veteran remixer of America's tall tales, fables, and myths, “is both a tribute and a fitting postscript to Mark Twain's canonical work.” Told in the vernacular and dialect of Twain’s character, the novel reintroduces readers to Huck a few years after their move to the “territories” and their adventuring as scouts for both sides in the Civil War, surviving (barely) the Gold Rush and various other mythical ordeals. Cleverly told, and moderately engaging.
The Festival of Insignificance by Nobel Laurate Milan Kundera was either too sophisticated for me or not Kundera’s best work. Described as “an ode o friendship set in present-day Paris follows the long-running discourse among four companions on sex, desire, history, art and the meaning of human existence.” My Philistine response was thankfulness that it was a short book…my bad.
**A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny is her 12th novel about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of Sûreté du Québec Québec. After ‘failing’ retirement, Gamache is back to salvage the notoriously corrupt Sûreté Academy. Rooting out the corruption is an underlying theme as Gamache mentors the brightest students who seem to be on the wrong path until a sadistic administrator is murdered and suspicion falls on the students and even Garache. I found the mystery engaging, but the lyrical description of life in "3 Pines" is straight out of a Currier & Ives lithograph is the best part of the book. I need to read more of Penny’s writings but worry that they all might sound similar—the curse of most series.
I Am No One by Patrick Flanery is "A mesmerizing novel about memory, privacy, fear, and what happens when our past catches up with us.” Jeremy is a history professor, recently returned from teaching at Oxford. Despite this good life, he continues to feel the pangs of loneliness when a series of strange events makes him wonder if he is losing his memory, his sanity or is the victim of a conspiracy. The book's style makes the unraveling of Jeremy's world more Kafkaesque and frightening, but led me to conclude that the plot and development were a bit contrived.
Ellie’s Story: A Dog’s Purpose Novel by W. Bruce Cameron is a NYTimes formulaic bestseller, apparently written for young readers and ‘over the top’ dog lovers. Okay, I’m not a young reader, but the formula is nice and the narrative sloppy. Ellie a search-and-rescue dog who can track and find people who are lost, but her owners, widower Jakob and lonely Maya, challenge her to find a way to save people who are lost in other ways.