From “Fleishman Is in Trouble: A Novel” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner to “Light Shining in the Forest” by Paul Torday.
This is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are:
- Link the books together in any way you like.
- Provide a link in your post to the meme at Books are My Favourite and Best.
- Share these rules in your post.
- Paste the link to your post in the comments on Kate’s post and/or the Linky Tool on that post.
- Invite your blog readers to join in and paste their links in the comments and/or the Linky Tool.
- Share you post on Twitter using the #6Degrees hash tag.
- Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.
THANKS FOR PLAYING!
This month we start with the 2019 sensation, “Fleishman Is in Trouble: A Novel” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner!
“Fleishman Is in Trouble: A Novel” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner is another book I hadn’t heard before Kate picked it for this month’s chain, which apparently received no small number of accolades, including long listed for the National Book Awards. According to Amazon: “Toby Fleishman thought he knew what to expect when he and his wife of almost fifteen years separated: weekends and every other holiday with the kids, some residual bitterness, the occasional moment of tension in their co-parenting negotiations. He could not have predicted that one day, in the middle of his summer of sexual emancipation, Rachel would just drop their two children off at his place and simply not return. He had been working so hard to find equilibrium in his single life. The winds of his optimism, long dormant, had finally begun to pick up. Now this.” I also checked with Goodreads, which filled in a touch more about Toby. “Recently separated Toby Fleishman is suddenly, somehow–and at age forty-one, short as ever–surrounded by women who want him: women who are self-actualized, women who are smart and interesting, women who don’t mind his height, women who are eager to take him for a test drive with just the swipe of an app. … But Toby’s new life–liver specialist by day, kids every other weekend, rabid somewhat anonymous sex at night–is interrupted when his ex-wife suddenly disappears. Either on a vision quest or a nervous breakdown, Toby doesn’t know–she won’t answer his texts or calls.” Okay… these blurbs made me think that this isn’t a book I want to read. Then again, I just read a review of this book which might change my mind. Whichever I decide is no matter – on with the show!
First Degree. While I could have gone the Jewish route here, I realized that this sounds more like a story about dysfunctional relationships than it is about a Jewish couple or family (although I’m sure that the fact that Toby and Rachel are Jewish plays no small part in the novel). That made me think of “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen. Now, I don’t usually include books that I only give 3/5 stars, but it does work. I mean, reading about Toby from these blurbs, I automatically didn’t like him, just like I didn’t care much for Walter Bergland, and wasn’t thrilled with how Franzen portrayed Patty, either. But it was a dysfunctional relationship, and if I recall correctly, Patty also tripped out and squirreled herself away from the world after her divorce from Walter. In fact, the descriptions of what she did and where she went in Franzen’s book really pissed me off – such self-pity and wallowing – blech! But that’s the fault of the author, who wrote Patty from such a misogynistic viewpoint. No, the more I think of this book, the less I like it, but it does link well to the first book in the chain, so that’s what I’m sticking with.
Second Degree. If I continue to take up the running away theme here, I’m reminded of a book written by an old High School classmate of mine, Alison Burnett, and his novel “The Escape of Malcolm Poe.” It just so happens that I reviewed his book the same year as I did “Freedom.” In sharp contrast however, Alison’s book ended up as one of my favorites of 2014. That was the year I dubbed the “year of the curmudgeon,” because all my favorite books that year had male, primary protagonists who either weren’t very happy or had something (both reasonable and unreasonable) to be unhappy or angry about! Malcolm is a 50-year-old man going through what many would call a mid-life crisis, which apparently, he’s been going through for over 20 years! His intricate plans for his titular escape sound as convoluted as they are amusing. I really enjoyed this book, and not just because I know the author (and his brother) from High School.
Third Degree. I think I’ll continue down this road of the escaping or disappearing with this next book, which was the first book by the author Patrick Gale I read and reviewed. That is “Notes from an Exhibition” which is the story of a Canadian artist Rachel Kelly, who lived most of her life in Cornwall. After her somewhat mysterious death (death is a type of escape, right?), her family decide to mount an exhibition of her work. Each piece becomes the title of each chapter, where we find out a little bit more about Rachel, her life, and what influenced her paintings, turning this novel into a work of art in its own right – an intricate mosaic, if you will. This absolutely marvelous book got a full 5/5 stars from me, and instantly made me into a fan of Gale’s writing.
Forth Degree. Gale’s book also reminds us that sometimes, as much as we want to, we can’t always help those we love when they’re in distress. Sometimes, we just have to leave them to their own devices, and sometimes that distance can backfire terribly, if not tragically. That’s why my next book is one that has a tragic aspect, and an escapist aspect. The protagonist and narrator of this next book is a year into mourning the loss of his wife in a plane accident. He’s enjoying his wallowing, but his family and friends – almost all of whom he’s trying to avoid – are scheming and pushing from every angle to get him to move on with his life. I’m talking about “How to Talk to a Widower” by Jonathan Tropper. Yes, this sounds like it could be a very heavy, angst-filled novel, but it isn’t. In fact, this book is very funny, since the protagonist Doug, is a journalist who uses his newspaper columns to vent what he calls his “emotional Tourette’s.” You’ve got to read this book to believe it, and I do recommend it highly (which reminds me: why haven’t I read anything else by Tropper? I think I really should fix that).
Fifth Degree. When a woman finds out that her marriage has been a sham, because for years her husband has been cheating on her, often she’ll decide to cash it all in and walk away. This is exactly what happens in Fredrik Backman’s novel “Britt-Marie Was Here” which is a kind of sequel to his novel “My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologizes”. What she walks into is something that is totally unexpected, and she soon finds herself acting very uncharacteristically. What I really liked about this book is that although Britt-Marie is a very unlikable person in the earlier novel, Backman makes us all change our minds about her with this book, even if she still annoys us with her compulsive cleaning and need for everything to be in order and just so!
Sixth Degree. For this last one, I’m going to go with something criminal, and in particular abductions. I have read a few books that could apply here, but I think the one I’m going to go with is the one that made me think of the TV show Criminal Minds. What I’m referring to is the novel by the late Paul Torday, “Light Shining in the Forest”. In this book there’s seem to be an unusual number of children going missing, but everyone who knows about this are ignoring it since they’re probably all runaways. But Willie, a small-time, local Northumberland reporter has another theory. He decides he wants to investigate this theory, by consulting with the newly appointed “education czar” Norman Stoke, but Norman isn’t buying it, until his secretary Pippa also gets involved. This dark story is an engrossing read, that’s also peppered with some humor, and one of the reasons why I’m sorry that Torday passed away at such a young age!
So, there you have it – a chain of books that all have to do with running away, escaping, leaving, or disappearing. By the way, you might also notice that this month, all of the authors in my chain – with the exception of the starting book – are men. I did this on purpose because my “best of 2019” list featured only female authors, and I thought I should give them equal time with this month’s meme!
If you don’t know any of these books, I hope you’ll click on the links to my reviews and check them out!
If you decide to join in on this meme, I hope you’ll give me the link to your post in the comments below, as well as on the linky page that Kate has on her blog for this meme.
Next month (March 7, 2020), we will start with Lucy Treloar’s Wolfe Island.