Summer vacation was pretty unproductive (not counting sweat), but I did get some reading done. A few fiction recs:
The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
This novel's title refers to sibling friends of the protagonist, Jules. She is one of a lifelong group of pals who meet at summer camp, an idyll which late in the book morphs into a darker iteration of rural. Jules struggles to define her own modest life as successful and fulfilling by societal norms despite being the shoulder on which all her friends lean. Wolitzer explores the lasting bonds, and sometimes devil's bargain, of close relationships, as well as infatuation, fate, and the seduction of wealth. Wolitzer is a Smith-then-Brown alum, once a guest editor at the old Mademoiselle magazine (which stopped publishing in 2001!?). Engrossing, but takes a bit of investment.
Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell
This borderline YA novel is a binge read that may seem sweet, but the main character's family situation is heartbreaking and keeps the story grounded. Two unconventional high school kids bond over the power of music in a kind of 1980s Romeo & Juliet. And the ending is not neat, which adds to the book's intrigue. Quirky and quick.
The Engagements, by J. Courtney Sullivan
Several storylines that seem to connect only through the symbol of marriage—diamonds—stealthily weave together in the closing chapters. The introductory story about the copywriter who came up with the tagline "A Diamond Is Forever" binds everything together. The other individual stories are largely bittersweet, lest you think it's treacly romance. Sullivan's witty and her characters are snarky enough to get frequent chuckles, and I'm still marvelling at how she brings it all together. Another Smith grad.
And don't forget:
The Son, by Phillipp Meyer
A sprawling history of Texas through several generations of a family. Includes good old-fashioned Native American anecdotes about the practical skills of life (like scalping and hunting) that give the book some exotic grit.
The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller
Life after an apocalypse of sorts. Spare, succinct prose with finely etched characters, but the most gut-wrenching relationship is between a man and his dog.