Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Review: The Last Chairlift

The Last Chairlift

The Last Chairlift
By John Irving
Simon & Schuster, 9781501189272, October 2022, 912pp.

The Short of It:

It’s been a long time I’ve read Irving but his new book does not disappoint.

The Rest of It:

Rachel Brewster is a slalom skier at the National Downhill and Slalom Championships in 1941. Due to her slight stature, she’s known as Little Ray. Although she’s well-known for her skill on the slopes, she doesn’t come close to winning a medal. Back home in New England, she becomes a ski instructor and has a son named Adam. The son who was conceived while at the Championship.

Little Ray and Adam are part of a very unique family. Although Little Ray had relations which resulted in her pregnancy, Little Ray’s partner is actually her long-time friend Molly. Another friend, Elliot, who happens to be small like Little Ray, is a cross-dresser that is near and dear to everyone, including Adam. In fact, Adam goes out of his way to protect Elliot when his secret is discovered.

If you think this is quite the cast of characters, then you’d be right and that’s not even the half of it! There is also Em, who doesn’t speak but pantomimes what she wants to say, nosy Aunts who are obsessed with Adam’s sexual preferences, oh, and ghosts. Ghosts.

Adam is a writer so some of the story is left up to the reader. Is it fiction that Adam created or is it actually part of his story? The ghosts he sees at the Jerome Hotel could be real, or they could be part of his plot. You see what I mean?

This is a wild ride of a story. At 900 pages, I really couldn’t predict how the story would end or where these characters would end up. What I can tell you is that Irving’s knack for character development is very strong and he continues to use his platform to make some political statements. The entire last part of the book was political. That said, this was probably one of the most unique stories I’ve read in a really long time.

I can’t emphasize enough how unique this story is. It’s a love story, a ghost story, and ripe with sexual politics. These characters will stay with me for a very long time.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Swimmers

The Swimmers

The Swimmers
By Julie Otsuka
Knopf, 9780593321331, February 2022, 192pp.

The Short of It:

This slim novel packs a punch.

The Rest of It:

When the story opens, we meet the swimmers. A group of people who frequent the community pool for laps, sometimes social interaction, but mostly as a form of therapy. The busyness of their lives comes to a halt once they submerge themselves in the water. All the noise of the world is drowned out and they are left with their thoughts as trivial as some of them may be.

As their routines unfold daily, Otsuka takes note of each detail. Almost in a checklist format. We learn about the rules of the pool and how some of the swimmers follow them religiously, and some not so much but never enough to lose their pool privileges because it’s clear that each of them value that time in the water.

The second half of the story focuses on a startling flaw that appears in the form of a crack, along the bottom of the pool. What does it mean? Is it just cosmetic? Will it grow larger? Does it represent a larger issue that could jeopardize their cherished swim time? As with most changes in routine, the appearance of this crack does not go over well.

In fact, we see how it affects these swimmers, specifically Alice who is suffering from dementia. Her time in the pool, and the regular interaction with the other swimmers is what holds her memory together but as soon as that is disrupted, her memory begins to slip away even more quickly. Her daughter relays to the reader her mother’s time in the Japanese internment camp and how bits of those memories float around untethered only to disappear all together.

The Swimmers is a little sad but also wonderful. Otsuka brings importance to every minute detail.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.