Fairy tale, comedy, drama, mystery. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is all that and more. Truly Plaice is the giant, the fairy princess, and the witch of the story all at once. Born unbelievably large, she continues to grow even larger than her beautiful sister, two years older than her. Truly’s life is riddled with bad luck and heartbreak, and she sticks out like a sore thumb in small Aberdeen County. The question throughout the book seems to be “Will she find revenge or forgiveness in her giant heart?”

Baker’s style although compared to greats like John Irving and the Brothers Grimm, is no doubt all her own. Although one can certainly draw parallels with other novel-writing greats such as Irving, Baker’s voice feels unique and one of a kind to me. She has the ability to really let loose while still maintaining control of her pen, as in The Little Giant she subtly adds occasional tastes of fairy tales we all know – just to remind you that indeed this is a story of magic like those we loved as children – yet darker and deeper.

I loved the depth of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County from its characters to its setting, but especially the tone. Dark comedy is a longtime favorite of mine, and anyone who can weave a story that keeps me simultaneously smirking and spooked has my rapt attention. And if Tim Burton doesn’t pick this one up for the silver screen I’ll eat my pointy black hat.

09. December 2008 · Comments Off on The End of the Straight and Narrow – David McGlynn · Categories: Book Reviews, Fiction, Short Stories · Tags: ,

Like most avid readers, I tend to seek out books with a unique voice.  When you read several books a month, it’s easy to find commonalities in books that others might not see.  For instance, there are certain themes that tend to crop up in short story collections again and again.  But I’m happy to tell you The End Of The Straight And Narrow dispensed with all those similarities that can have many active readers yawning in their shirtsleeves.  

The End of the Straight and Narrow manages to be unique without being outlandish or unrelatable.  The subject matter of author David McGlynn’s stories often focuses on the lives and difficulties of people who happen to be Christians.  I say “happen to be” because it’s nether in-your-face proselytizing, nor is it an exercise in faith-bashing, but a true-to-life look at how people really are, flaws and all.  Most of the stories link together having the same characters emerge; new plots, different viewpoints, a different slot of time.  But each story can easily stand on its own two feet.

At first I even hesitated to mention the Christian aspect because I didn’t want anyone to view this book as Christian fiction.  But I can’t imagine skipping over it.  Depth of faith has such a hold on these stories, and in such a fresh way, that any reviewer would be remiss to brush past it.  I’ve often wondered why authors incorporating faith into their stories wouldn’t take an approach such as McGlynn did.  Too often writers either glamorize or tear apart their faith-filled characters, trying to make either a sainted or an ugly example of them whether they be Christian, Jew, Muslim or other.  Personally I find it refreshing to see believing people be believable.  So thanks to David McGlynn.  My brain, as well as my soul, enjoyed the ride to The End Of The Straight And Narrow.

Published by Southern Methodist University Press.

When a photographer stumbles upon a Kentucky mountaintop homestead and upsetting one of the residents, everything for this small community begins to change and shift.  Chain reactions are set into place, and the results in Ziesk’s latest novel The Trespasser will draw you into a world where you will definitely change your mind over and over again about who the trespasser really is.  Living in the Appalachians is its own unique challenge, and not for everyone.  Sometimes it’s for hermits who never want to leave, other times it becomes a prison to those who don’t want to stay.  Whichever one you turn out to be, The Trespasser is a book you’ll stay with to the end.

I loved Ziesk’s style of writing; very visual, beautiful writing with just the right amount of darkness about it.  The characters are well-constructed and believable, the scenery plays like a movie in your mind, and the plot took turns I never expected.  When you read a lot of books, this is a nice surprise indeed!  Overall, her style offers something I always look for in a book: an air of mystery with characters I keep thinking back to long after the book is closed.  The Trespasser just has to receive the Goldfish Award, and I happily give it.

Edra Ziesk has written two other novels: Acceptable Losses: A Novel and A Cold Spring.  Will I be looking for them?  Most definitely.

13. August 2008 · Comments Off on The Book of Marie by Terry Kay · Categories: Book Reviews, Fiction · Tags: , , ,

Cole needs to sort out his feelings about what happened in his complicated past. He’s facing his 50-year class reunion, and with that come the questions, the flashbacks, the story of a girl he knew so long ago. She touched his life much more deeply than he seems to be willing to admit, and here she is again, resurfacing. Way back when, in a 1950’s Georgia town, she exploded on the scene with her “controversial” viewpoints about the South, civil rights, and even Cole himself. She never was liked, but she was right–no one forgot her.

The Book of Marie is an aching and heartfelt novel that flashes back and forth between the present day and the events of 50 years ago, giving the reader an interesting perspective on how a life can change so much over the years, and how it stays the same despite the passage of time. I loved the setting of high school in the pre-civil rights South, and the relationship between Cole and Marie kept me riveted to the book.

Terry Kay is an accomplished author with a long line of books to his credit. For me, reading The Book of Marie is only the first of many Terry Kay works I intend on reading. The quality of the writing style and the sensitivity towards his characters have me wishing I would have discovered his sooner, but glad I finally did. He has a real mastery for storytelling, and I can recommend it with confidence. My only warning: Finish the book alone and with tissue nearby. If nothing else, you’ll be sorry to see this one end.

Published by Mercer University Press.