Reading Rainbow: Two Good Novels

It’s rare these days to come across books that I really love, but I lucked out and read these two great novels on the beach in Hawaii:

historyoflove The History of Love

Please tell me you’ve already read “The History of Love.” I have no idea why it took me so long to read it because it is so good — a beautiful story (about love, of course, but also about loss), that is beautifully written and features two of my favorite kinds of narrators: a sweet old man and a determined young girl. (I laughed out loud reading the old man’s opinions of telemarketers: “They’re always calling to sell. Once they said if I sent in a check for $99, I’d be preapproved for a credit card, and I said, Right, sure, and if I step under a pigeon I’m preapproved for a load of shit.”) The old man and the young girl are both dealing with loss as best they can, and their stories and their histories tie together in such a surprising and satisfying way. “The History of Love” is easily the best book I’ve read since Barbara Kingsolver’s “Lacuna” or Abraham Verghese’s “Cutting for Stone.”


Blackwater Lightship

Colm Toibin’s “Blackwater Lightship” is a story about family, specifically one small Irish family — a daughter, son, mother, and grandmother, who are not a particularly close (the daughter hasn’t spoken to mother in years; the mother and grandmother only learn that the son is gay when he is in the hospital with AIDS). When the son invites his family and his friends to care for him at his grandmother’s house in on the coast, we see that this is also a story about family-of-origin vs. family-of-choice. What could be a heavy story of serious illness and long-simmering family resentments is made light by funny, often classic Irish moments, like when Granny learns perhaps more than she wanted to know about homosexuality from the son’s friends, or when the son’s friends and family all join together to prevent Granny’s nosy neighbors from finding out who exactly is staying in Granny’s house.


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