Some More Novels I Liked

A few books from my summer reading list…


The SignalThe Signal by Ron Carlson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must confess a soft spot for this book, having backpacked some of the same territory that estranged couple Mack and Vonnie traverse in this short and (somewhat) sweet novel. Carlson does a wonderful job of creating a sense of place and giving the reader enough technical jargon to put them squarely in the Wyoming back country. His style of dialogue is clipped and spare, and this, combined with vivid descriptions of the rugged terrain Mack and Vonnie cross, gives the story a style and voice all its own. In particular, the scene where the couple fly fish for trout in a high alpine lake had me longing for the mountains big time and single-handedly earned the book its fourth star.


Having said all this, the story itself was just OK–workable, but nothing to write home about. (three stars at best) The couple are on their last annual trip together into the mountains to basically say goodbye to each other, wrestling with some personal demons along the way. And Mack’s search for the source of “The Signal” results in a less than thrilling confrontation with a somewhat undeveloped antagonist.


Recommended for lovers of rugged, descriptive fiction, not so much for die-hard thriller fans.


Goodreads Book Description:
Backpacking into the Wind River Mountains on their tenth annual trip, Mack and his wife, Vonnie, find the magnificent woods and stunning mountains of Wyoming full of ghosts and danger. Mack comes from a long line of ranchers, and his dedication to keeping the family land has led him into penury and a life of crime. Vonnie is a fiercely intelligent, headstrong girl who came west for love, only to have it stolen from her bit by bit.


They’ve made this trip to say goodbye to each other, but as they navigate the trails they know so well, they come to understand the true nature of their wounds. And Mack has one more secret: he is trying to receive a signal and retrieve something that has fallen from the sky. It is a beacon that will lead them into a wood far darker than they’ve ever imagined. Ron Carlson’s love for the mountains and his mastery of fiction radiate in the pages of this thrilling, fast-paced love story.


The Tortilla CurtainThe Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those “ripped from the headlines” novels (despite being published over twenty years ago) that is especially poignant in today’s political climate.


The Tortilla Curtain tells the story of two couples set on a collision course with each other: Delaney and Kyra–successful, self-described liberals from suburban Los Angeles, and Candido and America–Mexican illegals scraping out a meager but hopeful existence on the outskirts of Delaney and Kyra’s affluent, gated community.


I enjoy stories that challenge the ‘right and wrong,’ ‘black and white’ mindset that is all too easy to fall back on with social and political issues, and TC Boyle pulls this off brilliantly.


Goodreads Book Description:
Topanga Canyon is home to two couples on a collision course. Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher lead an ordered sushi-and-recycling existence in a newly gated hilltop community: he a sensitive nature writer, she an obsessive realtor. Mexican illegals Candido and America Rincon desperately cling to their vision of the American Dream as they fight off starvation in a makeshift camp deep in the ravine. From the moment a freak accident brings Candido and Delaney into intimate contact, these four and their opposing worlds gradually intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.

LunaticsLunatics by Dave Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two ordinary men with nothing in common find themselves inextricably connected after they are mistakenly accused of domestic terrorism. As they try to get a handle on how this happened, the stakes rise as they become embroiled in world affairs and international politics.


This is one of those “what more could possibly go wrong” stories, with each successive pickle the men find themselves in more ludicrous than the last. Given Barry’s reputation, I had high hopes for a funny and entertaining read, and I wasn’t disappointed. It started out slow for me, but as the story went on, I eventually found myself laughing out loud.


Not highbrow literature by any means, but funny, entertaining and satisfying.


Goodreads Book Description:
One of them is a bestselling Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist. The other is a winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Together, they form the League of Comic Justice, battling evildoers in the name of . . . Okay, we made that line up. What they do form is a writing team of pure comic genius, and they will have you laughing like idiots.


Philip Horkman is a happy man-the owner of a pet store called The Wine Shop, and on Sundays a referee for kids’ soccer. Jeffrey Peckerman is the sole sane person in a world filled with goddamned jerks and morons, and he’s having a really bad day. The two of them are about to collide in a swiftly escalating series of events that will send them running for their lives, pursued by the police, soldiers, terrorists, subversives, bears, and a man dressed as Chuck E. Cheese.


Where that all takes them you can’t begin to guess, but the literary journey there is a masterpiece of inspiration and mayhem. But what else would you expect from the League of Comic Justice?


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