Mini Book Reviews: Universal Harvester by John Darnielle and On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

Mini Book Reviews: Universal Harvester by John Darnielle and On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux (February 7, 2017)

214 pages, Kindle Edition

Advance copy provided by publisher

 

When I requested a copy of this novel, I really had no idea what to expect; I'd read a description in a post by Shannon at River City Reading, earlier this year, and it sounded intriguing. In addition, it sounded a little outside of my usual fare, and I love to throw in a couple of "unusuals" every once in awhile. 

A few rows of corn will muffle the human voice so effectively that, even a few insignificant rows away, all is silence, what to speak of out at the highway’s shoulder: all the way back there, already fading into memory now.

It's part mystery/thriller, part drama; filled with little lessons learned as a native of a small town, as well as the feelings of desperation that often accompany the connectedness of a small community, the story is fast paced, yet also measured. 

It’s not that nobody ever gets away: that’s not true. It’s that you carry it with you. It doesn’t matter that the days roll on like hills too low to give names to; they might be of use later, so you keep them. You replay them to keep their memory alive. It feels worthwhile because it is.

Initially, I felt drawn in by the mystery; the relationships and slow-to-unfold stories of the characters are what kept me engaged. I loved the rural setting (could envision myself at the old video store in my hometown), but beware: don't get bogged down in the details, the mystery, the original story. Darnielle's writing and the stories within the story should be your focus. 


On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (February 14, 2017)

320 pages, Kindle Edition

Advance copy provided by the publisher

Years ago, I read Lipman's novel The Family Man and enjoyed it; her novels are great when you need a light pick-me-up, and this one hit the spot. Lipman's characters seem to be a little quirky, a little idealistic and, some days, this is just what I need!

Clearly I was in a confessional mode, which happens when a person is drinking coffee with three police officers at her own kitchen table. Having taken a mental health day, I found myself confiding to the female among them that the possible homicide under investigation wasn’t the only creepy thing associated with my house.

Faith Frankel is a witty, sarcastic, lovable protagonist and, while somewhat predictable, the story kept me entertained during a weekend when I needed a little break. Enjoy this one outdoors, with a cup of tea, and get ready for some smiles. 

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We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

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