It's a grey day in Grey County. Even though the excitement of Christmas is in the air, I find that, more and more, I'm reading voraciously to fend off the winter blues. Hallelujah for good fiction.
Most recently, I checked this one out of the local library. It's science fiction, which I don't normally read - I was intrigued, unsurprisingly, by the cover.
Turns out John Scalzi has been writing successfully for donkey's years, and I just had never come across him.
The premise of this one is that a down-and-out journalist who lost his job, his partner and his father in rapid succession finds himself substitute teaching and living on a severely pinched salary. A woman shows up on the porch to tell him his estranged uncle has died and has a special request. What ensues is the most fun, strange and entertaining romp that slices through all the tropes you've ever heard about villainy. But this one includes cat spies and dolphin security. Think a smart Austin Powers with animals in the spotlight. Yay.
On a much more serious note, the Dutch House takes you through the lives of two siblings who find themselves out in the cold after their mother dies and father remarries. It's not just about the mean old stepmother, because everyone in this book has their own foibles.
While the brother and sister are close, they butt heads often, and, over fifty years, ambitions are crushed and dreams are realized, but they both learn a great deal from each other, and start to understand themselves far better.
With many quirky characters, a good slice of humour and amazing insights, no wonder this one was up for a Pulitzer. A ripping tale.
On a more Canadian note, Mary Lawson is now one of my favourite authors and while most people know Crow Lake, her incredible debut novel (also completely worth the read), I recently read this one.
While I'm a bit late to the game on this one, too, I figure it's never too late, especially when it comes to beautiful stories.
With three characters at different stages in their lives, Lawson deftly weaves together their lives, loves, hopes and despair. From the innocence and stark clarity of a child's point of view to the weirdness of being 30 something to dealing old age and regrets, Lawson gets it, and uses the town as the backdrop to their trials and tribulations.
Finally, Terry Fallis is always great for a laugh. His wry insights into human nature come to the fore in this rattling tale of a guy whose name is scarily similar to a famous author's. He is able to combine a light touch with an examination of who we are, who others think we are, and how we can get to where we want to be.
All of these are the kind of reads that take you away to another place, make you think, laugh and rejoice that, no matter what's going on in a world that feels like it's falling apart, really talented folks are out there with imaginative gifts to lift your spirits.
Gratuitous cat photo courtesy of Nick (bottom) Nora (top) and Lily (in with the shoes). This was at the side entrance to our house in Guelph, and all three of these lovelies are no longer with us.