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Review: Summerlong


By Dean Bakopoulos
(Ecco Press, Hardcover, 9780062321169, June 2015, 368pp.)

The Short of It:

A very dark look at marriage in the midst of a midlife crisis. Heavily laced with tension but so hard to look away.

The Rest of It:

See that cover? Looking at it now, I’d say it hints at the trouble lurking between its pages but I bet a lot of readers picked this one up thinking it was a fun beach read. It is SO not that.

Nope. This one is about a marriage falling apart during a long, hot summer in Iowa. Don has a secret. His failures as a real estate agent have taken their toll and due to the insurmountable debt he’s created, he’s about to lose his home. Claire, aware of their financial troubles but not fully in the know over just how bad it’s gotten, doesn’t take the news all that well and becomes attracted to Charlie, who happens to be in town dealing with some property after his father’s death.

One evening, Don takes a walk in the neighborhood and meets a young woman who goes by the name ABC. She’s young and vibrant but grieving over a loss of her own. She’s working as a caretaker for a pot-smoking pistol of a lady who’s seen a thing or two in her day. ABC invites him in to light up and what seems totally out of character for Don, suddenly becomes a regular thing.

Don and Claire have so many issues. As parents, they find themselves so completely absorbed with their own problems, that they both end up leaving the house one night only to realize the next morning that they left their kids unattended.

Surprisingly, ABC and Charlie also have their own issues to deal with. These four people hook-up with each other, sometimes in surprising combinations but they are all searching for the same thing. Love, acceptance, redemption, peace.

I didn’t like Claire. She’s self-absorbed, bitchy and intent on being miserable. She’s one of THOSE people but sadly, I could relate to some of what she was going through. As Don tries his hardest to make things right, she continues to push him away and I wanted to slap her for it. Yeah, I guess I liked Don a lot.

I really loved this book. It’s dark because it paints such a real picture of a marriage in crisis but in between the crusty bits there’s hope, too. I love how the characters play off of one another. It’s so natural and effortless even though as a reader sometimes I caught myself thinking, “No! Don’t do it!”

Summer is typically a time for lighter, fluffier reads but not for me.  I prefer to sink my teeth into something with a little bite and this book satisfied all my wants.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Wind / Pinball

Wind / Pinball

Wind / Pinball
By Haruki Murakami, Translated by Ted Goossen
(Knopf Publishing Group, Hardcover, 9780385352123, August 4, 2015, 256pp.)

The Short of It:


The Rest of It:

You all know how I love Murakami, right? Well, when I got a review copy of Wind / Pinball, I nearly fainted. Why? Because Hear the Wind Sing was Murakami’s very first novel and Pinball, 1973 was his second. Along with A Wild Sheep Chase, they form what is known as The Trilogy of The Rat.

Wind / Pinball was not available in English here in the US so all this time I’ve wondered about The Rat and his origins, as did fans everywhere. I’m happy to say that readers will get to spend much more time with The Rat in this volume of two books. Two books in one! I die!

In Wind, we meet our unnamed narrator. He’s an unassuming guy (a Murakami trademark). He hangs out at J’s Bar, has an on again, off again romance with a nine-fingered woman and when he is not fantasizing about her, he’s hanging out with The Rat. You could call this novel “uneventful” but it’s classic Murakami. Lots of deep thinking. Not a lot of action.

In Pinball, things pick up a bit. It’s the same unnamed narrator but set during his days as a student. This novel is more surreal in feel. He comes home to find a set of twins in his bed. He calls them 208 and 209. As you may or may not know, sex is almost a given in a Murakami novel and if there are ears involved in any way, then you get to take a drink (kidding, sort of). To make this novel even more interesting, our unnamed narrator and The Rat find themselves obsessed with a particular pinball machine which sends them on a search to find it.

The beauty of a Murakami novel is often how simple the story is. It’s usually this tiny thing that’s surrounded by strange and unusual people and sometimes weird, fantastical happenings. I love his writing.

That being said, there is a slightly different tone to Wind. I could tell that he was still figuring out what type of writer he wanted to be. After all, if you read the newly added introduction, you learn that he decided to be a writer while attending a baseball game. Just like that. He wanted to write and did. If you read nothing else, read the introduction.

This first novel made me feel as if I was reading something in secret. I sometimes think that Murakami injects pieces of himself into his books but in Wind, it felt as if HE was a character in the book. I kind of loved it for that reason.

It comes out today so run out and get a copy if you can.

I’ve read all of his novels now. What am I going to do? I was thinking about reading Kafka on the Shore again. Why? Because that is what you do when it takes years for a new book to come out.

There’s always this:

Kafka on the Shore, The Show

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.

Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.