A Year of Books: 2012

reading in bedMost of the books I read tend to disappear from my memory within days of finishing – one of the reasons I started writing reviews was to keep a reference log as a reminder.  Some books this year stayed with me, and I can recall a magic 7 that would be worth recommending again:

Bring Up the Bodies: Hilary Mantel’s second historical fiction featuring Thomas Cromwell has me yearning for the last and third book yet to be published.

A Discovery of Witches and the sequel were fast adventures with a brilliant academic who also happens to be a witch who can time travel. Author Deborah Harkness promises a third in the series next year.

Son – Lois Lowry’s long awaited sequel to her award winning The Giver.

The Prisoner of Heaven –  Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Gothic tales are always an adventure.

The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau – Jon Agee’s picture book with pictures that come to life is one to keep on the shelf.

Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore must be read on real pages to appreciate the blue.

Train Dreams – Denis Johnson’s fictional history of the American West was short but intense.

What favorites from 2012 do you recommend?

Son by Lois Lowry

Although dystopian future worlds seem to have become popular recently, Lois Lowry has been writing about them for years. If you are a fan of The Giver, you may remember Jonas and his flight to Elsewhere, with a baby boy designated to be destroyed. If you have not read Lowry’s book (or can’t remember its plot), you can still enjoy the drama of the boy’s mother, in her quest to find her boy in Son.

Claire’s world is that amazing futuristic utopia with controlled climates, no insects or rodents, designated jobs (including Claire’s as Birthmother) – emotionless, disciplined, and well-ordered. No anomalies are allowed. Expecting to continue with her new duties in the fish hatchery, after failing to deliver her baby naturally, Claire is surprised that she has feelings for her new-born (someone forgot to give her the pills for impassivity). When she finds her baby in the care facility, he is not conforming well – seems he doesn’t like naps and wants to be held.

On the eve of her son’s fate, he disappears with Jonas, and Claire mysteriously manages to board a freighter ship, fall overboard, and is rescued. Finding herself suddenly in a new world, Claire at first becomes a mystifying heroine, becoming an apprentice to the old woman healer and midwife. Her memory returns when she is assisting in a birth, and her focus becomes finding her son.

The book switches to Claire’s quest – her preparation and training to climb the dangerous mountain that will lead her out of the village and hopefully to the man who will take her to her son – for a price. Lowry details her training, from one-handed push-ups to slippery runs with rocks in her backpack. Her trainer is Einar, a young man, now crippled from his unsuccessful attempt to get out. Her actual climb is thrilling; Lowry will have you gasping at each slip of foot, drop of the glove, and the attack by a mother gull protecting its nest.

After Claire makes a deal with the evil Trademaster, she finds her son, now a young man who is yearning to learn about his roots. But Claire’s trade has left her unrecognizable.

Lowry ends the tale with a satisfying triumph of good over evil, and with a rewarding reveal for her fans who wondered about the fate of Jonas and Gabe.

When It’s OK Not to Know the Ending

After recently watching the spy thriller, The Debt, I wondered what happened to the characters’ lives next – after the story ended.  With George Clooney’s The Ides of March, the follow-up from the abrupt plot ending is predictable, given the intrigue of politics, but who knows.  Those loose ends reminded me of  books that end without neatly pulling in the loose threads: did the heroine die or walk off into the sunset?  did that rotten guy get his due?  will the boy/girl grow up to find the cure, change the universe, fall off a cliff?

Without a firm ending, the story goes on in my mind – changing outcomes and possibilities…

A few classic ambiguous endings that come to mind:

  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
  • The Dead by James Joyce
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry

Can you think of any?