I've recently discovered Kent Haruf, and reading his work makes me feel like I'm in college again. I mean that in a good way - it reminds me of getting new-to-me short stories to read and dissect for workshops, analyzing fiction in literature seminars, and trying to apply what I've learned to my own writing. Haruf is direct, no flowery language, but the stories he tells are so compelling - maybe even moreso by the sparse writing.
Take this line from Plainsong (which I'm thisclose to finishing) for example: "It was evening when they got home. The early dark of late December." Isn't that so good? It's so descriptive - you can picture exactly how the evening light looks. And I love the quiet poetic opposites of early and late. Anyway, I read that sentence during my break and was frantically searching for a scrap of paper - I had to write it down!
I'm dying to apply his style to my own writing, but it will definitely have to wait until the editing process. I'm so wordy with first drafts, but I can edit like nobody's business.
Anyway, that's what my reading life has been like this past quarter. Trying to find the books with the writing that will move me and the stories that will blow me away.
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Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen. Originally read April 2011: This story followed a woman as she left her abusive husband, bringing her son along as they started a secret new life. There were vivid flashbacks, but also a lot of current action. It had a good narrative structure, but overall felt very stream-of-consciousness, which worked perfectly. As the woman adjusted to her new life, you were living day-to-day right along with her. When she was struck by fear of her husband finding her, you were jolted into that emotion as well. It was very powerful, very realistic, and very suspenseful. The prose was beautiful in many parts, but never too flowery. The characters were realistic and likable, and I find myself thinking about them even after finishing the book.
Re-read June 2019: I had read this years ago, and watching Big Little Lies made me want to read it again. The suspense and waiting were palpable and so well done. I had totally forgotten the ending so I have to say it gutted me and I was definitely weeping for the last bit of the book. So amazing. I can’t wait to forget the ending and read it again.
The Alcatraz Escape by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. I absolutely loved this book. Sometimes sequels and trilogies can get tired, or you can tell the author is running out of ideas. Not the case with Bertman. This book was AMAZING, and might even be my favorite of the Book Scavenger trilogy yet! I love the Alcatraz history and that twist, my goodness! PERFECTION.
The Seven Husbands of Eleanor Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. After reading more of Jenkins Reid’s work, I think my favorites are her novels that are presented as false memoirs. This book was amazing - so many good twists that were not written in just for the sake of being twists; they actually helped the plot and character development greatly. The ending twist took a bit to sink in for me - I hadn’t been keeping much track of the timeline of Hugo’s life and how it related to the current story, so it took a minute to have some impact. Reflecting back on it now, it’s SO good.
The Tie That Binds by Kent Haruf. I “discovered” this author thanks to #bookstagram, and then found out my dad is a huge fan after he saw me with one of the books! If it weren’t for these ringing endorsements, I don’t know what I ever would have picked this book, but I’m so glad I did! I checked all of Haruf’s books out from the library, but wanted to go in order just because. The Tie That Binds was a compelling story told in a conversational way, and at times I kept wondering why it was being told that way, why it was framed as a conversation, but… it didn’t matter. It was just good, and the sentences were so impactful and powerful without being over the top and trying too hard. Very eager to move on to Haruf’s next book.
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