I just finished two memorable books in two days. They are both titles I recommend wholeheartedly, and while they are quite different, they have one thing in common. In both books, there are parallel stories with different points of view that run along side one another, with the result that the reader wonders how everything can be reconciled at the end. And then, without the slightest feeling that things are contrived or forced, everything falls into place and one is left with a sensation of… WOW!
The first title was another book by Andrew Smith solidifying the fact that he is an unusually imaginative and creative storyteller. Many authors turn out stories that have a similar style if not theme. That is certainly not so for Smith! In the past couple of months I have read Winger, 100 Sideways Miles, Grasshopper Jungle, and The Alex Crow. In no way does one resemble another, and in these days of sequels, prequels, and spinoffs that is refreshing. If you have read Grasshopper Jungle and have not yet picked up The Alex Crow, you are in for quite a treat with another story that takes your imagination for a wild ride with a mix of humor, pathos, sci-fi and guy reader delight. My favorite theme to take away from the book is the inestimable value of stories. As the young protagonist Ariel says, we are all walking libraries, chock full of stories. Passing them on does not diminish them, but gives them continued life.
The second book is Call Me Home, by an amazing young writer whom I have been privileged to call friend for a number of years, Megan Kruse. Nobody ever said life is easy, and this book embodies that truism. It is a story of family violence, set mostly in Kruse’s home state of Washington, and the rain forest’s dark shadows make the setting as important as the characters. Happily for me the story ends in Texas, and in the part of the state that I call home. Megan spent several years in the San Marcos area and it is clear that she was soaking up the flavors of this region during that time. The different viewpoints in this book are those of a mother, Amy, and her two children, son Jackson and daughter Lydia. They all struggle to survive physically and emotionally in a home where family violence is a daily threat if not reality. As the children mature and the violence increases, tension mounts. Jackson, the son, must find his way in the face of his future as a gay male in rural Washington. Meanwhile his sister Lydia is approaching adolescence and their mother, Amy, is trying desperately to find a way to build a future for them all. As is often the case, making a break from the abusive father is a time of great danger and tension. Bringing all the tension to a satisfying conclusion is no small feat, and Kruse succeeds magnificently.
Both these writers have something in common as did the two books I just read. Their commonality is that you are going to want to be on the lookout for whatever comes down the pike from each of them in the future. I am just as confident you will not be disappointed as I am in highly recommending both The Alex Crow and Call Me Home.