- Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers
I was reminded of Fannie Flagg's writing while I read this novel (more Daisy Fay and The Miracle Man than her better-known Fried Green Tomatoes), a link that seems to have been made by others out there in the book community. This isn't a light story, there's a lot of sadness here and a lot of struggle, but it still flew by. It was easy to read but in a very pleasurable sense of that phrase -- you drop in and visit with some friends who are there when you pick it back up the next evening. It isn't earth-shattering but it is a very enjoyable read and great for a reader looking for a fictional escape. The residents of The Point are a type of family and I enjoyed sitting at their warm table. Throughout the book, there are references to cooking and especially to bread. At one point, a summertime cottage dweller remarks on how wonderful a basic loaf of fresh bread can be and I think that's a fitting analogy for the book -- no frills, but warmly welcoming. Again, it isn't a story of many joys but there's an undercurrent of love and community that makes it retain hope.
I suppose the ratings folks help me here since I'd be torn b/w 3.5 and 4 stars and the lack of half-stars resolves that dilemma. I think it is also more fair...the novel doesn't ever really pretend to be overly literary (it is fresh bread, not a fancy torte!), but it does its genre well. FYI -- The novel does appear to have come out previously in German with the US edition slated for early 2012 release.
- Plainsong by Kent Haruf
This was my second read of Plainsong. Set in a small town in Colorado, the novel introduces the reader to a number of residents who feel both very ordinary and also a bit extraordinary. There's a pregnant teen cast out by her mother, a pair of boys whose mother leaves them emotionally and then physically, a set of old farmer brothers who never married, and a teacher trying to do right in a complicated world. The chapters shift focus but the stories all overlap with some frequency, much as one might expect in a rural town. These are people trying to get by and do right. They are never fancy, nor is the language flowery, but there's a beauty in the simplicity that reigns even in the face of some complex challenges. I love character-centered books and this certainly qualifies, though it also has a strong sense of place. Things DO happen, but it is more about how the events shape the people (and how the people, in turn, shape each other).
Strong four stars. I didn't see the whole TV movie but it seemed worthwhile too...a good warm cup of hot cocoa and a blanket kind of movie (by the Lifetime folks).