Hi, hello and happy March! True to form, I’m behind and playing catch-up on my reviews but I’ve finished three books since I last posted, and I think I’m just going to review them all below. I was maybe going to split it up, but they are long overdue as it is, so let me just throw them all in here. These three were book club reads for January/February, so they don’t quite fit with my “intimidating books” theme. Okay! Without further ado! My reviews for book #2, book #3, and book #4 of 2019 are below.
book #2: the pisces by melissa broder
I’m sure you’ve seen this book around; the cover is so striking and beautiful, and this novel got all the press last year. The Pisces tells the story of Lucy, a listless, emotionally unstable woman who accidentally ended her own 8-year relationship. After humiliating herself trying to win him back and then kind of, sort of, maybe attempting suicide, her older sister invites her to come house- and dog-sit over the summer at her beautiful home in Venice Beach. Lucy agrees to this and plans to spend the summer finally finishing her thesis, take care of her sister’s dog, and attending a love and sex addiction group (which she does, without gaining any real insight or engaging with any of the members). She eventually meets a mysterious young man who goes for a nightly swim on the beach in her sister’s backyard, and – surprise! – turns out he’s a merman. Even though she’s spending the summer staying away from reckless love affairs, Lucy falls hard for Theo (the merman) and does what she does best: neglects everything in her life, including her own self-preservation, to make this relationship work! I liked this book but didn’t love it, and I totally understand why it was polarizing. I do think it was hilarious, and certain parts/lines had me laughing out loud. Melissa Broder absolutely nails the aloof ennui of a woman enduring an existential crisis that she’s somewhat brought on herself. Another thing that I really liked about this book had to do with that “female narrator likability factor.” You know that thing that happens whenever there’s a popular book with a female narrator/main character? And the conversation revolves not just around the plot, writing, etc. but also whether or not we like the protagonist? It’s a conversation that never really comes up in male-centric stories, as far as I can tell. The Pisces somehow bucks that trend and that made me very happy. There is no question or Lucy’s likability; she’s an awful person and I never felt much sympathy for her or her struggles. But it didn’t matter! I’ve never read a book where I’m meant to hate the narrator, from the get-go, but I remained invested in her story despite that. So that was impressive. I would recommend this book to anyone with a stern emphasis on the fact that it’s bizarre and unlike any book I think I’ve ever read. But overall, it was a good time and a good read.
I would say I’m less afraid of dying than I am of life.”
I really loved this book, and I’m so sorry because it doesn’t come out until May. But! The good news is, May is now only 2 months away, and time flies when you’re waiting for good books, am I right? I was wary when I started this bad boy because I’m usually not the biggest fan of family saga stories. I’m not totally sure what I’m basing that on, because off the top of my head I can’t think of any other “family saga” stories that I’ve read, but it’s just my immediate reaction when I hear about a book in this genre of fiction so it has to come from somewhere. However, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna exceeded all my expectations. At its core, it’s about the Fortuna sisters, Stella and Tina, and their late-in-life estrangement after Stella undergoes a lobotomy in her 60’s. The book kicks off with that detail, then takes us back in time to before Stella’s birth in a small Italian village. Early on in her life, Stella experiences four near-death experiences, and then three more once she emigrates to America with her family as a teenager. The narrative is driven by these near-deaths, but it’s the details between the deaths that made this book impossible for me to put down. Stella is a strong, amazing woman whose only wish is to never have to get married. Because she’s a woman born in a certain era, that unfortunately isn’t an option for her, and her life tends toward tragedy because of it. It’s a bleak and important spin on the narrative of women overcoming for their families, as Stella resists her family every step of the way. This book also touches on the immigrant experience and the brutal role women were often forced to play in a fully patriarchal society. Because we’re with Stella as a character basically her entire life, Juliet Grames did an amazing job of including small details and situations that would eventually come full circle to justify the logic behind every one of Stella’s hopes, fears, and decisions. It was super well-written and engaging and I would recommend this book to anyone. I could also see it as a movie (albeit a dark, bleak one) so I hope that eventually happens.
Stella Fortuna is like most women in that you can’t understand her life story if you don’t understand her mother’s.”
book #4: my sister, the serial killer by oyinkan braithwaite
This was a fun one, despite the macabre title and subject matter. My Sister, the Serial Killer is told from the perspective of Korede, a serious nurse in Lagos, Nigeria. She’s always left cleaning up Ayoola’s (her younger sister’s) messes, and that becomes a bit more literal when Ayoola starts the nasty habit of murdering her boyfriends. She always claims to Korede that she’s acted in self-defense, that she had to stab the men because they were going to attack her, but Korede has her doubts. Then, when Ayoola begins dating the doctor at Korede’s hospital, who she herself has been pining after for years, she has to choose between protecting her sister from jail or her unrequited love from certain death. And to make matters worse, Korede has been confiding in a long-time comatose patient in the hospital, since she has no one else to talk to. His family is discussing pulling the plug, but when he shows signs of waking up, Korede is terrified that he could somehow remember what she was telling him. I really liked this story because it dealt with some of the jealousies, resentments, and versions of love that I imagine all sisters deal with (I only have brothers), but at the most extreme level. Korede loves Ayoola fiercely, and that’s beautiful to see, but she also views her as a burden from time to time and that ultimately affects her decisions and their relationship in the story. It’s a super quick read, and I recommend it if you’ve been in the mood for a darkly funny novel.
The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.”
Sorry for the massive delay on these book reviews, all of which I finished in February. They were all treats, but I think Stella Fortuna was probably my favorite of the three. Shocking! Did not see that coming. I just finished another book last night, so I’ll be posting that review very shortly. Or another month from now, who can say. (just kidding, it’s coming soon I promise.) ◊