Some favorite novels I read this fall would make good gifts or winter reading, and are popular enough to be found in most bookstores. I always like Sue Miller, and The Arsonist may be her best yet. The element of serial arson added intrigue without taking over the story of a middle aged woman in crisis, having left her work in Africa after about fifteen years, and her mother, who’s coping with changes due to her husband’s illness. We get love and achiness both in their relationship and the men they love.
Still Life with Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen begins as a sixty year old woman leaves New York City to live more simply upstate, not for philosophical reasons, but because of money, which plays a big part in her calculating and anxious mind. This becomes lightened by a developing relationship with a younger man, a roofer, who’s always lived in this small town. The parts I liked most dealt with her choices as a photographer, and the ups and downs of fame that don’t much influence her art, but affect her income and choices of how she’ll live. Her artistic process is beautifully described. Of course Anna Quindlen is also well known for nonfiction. I also liked Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, now out in paperback.
I just finished Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, which pulled me a long with a mystery involving a missing mother, with clues drawn from the maternal habits of elephants. Told in several points of view, I sometimes found the twelve-year-old narrator a bit unbelievably precious, but I loved her spunk all the same. To my surprise, I came to be very fond of the psychic. The elephant researcher sometimes brought me to tears, with her choice to endure scoffing by scientist colleagues to focus on grief, and her immense tenderness for the animals she studied. The elephants, based on real ones in sanctuaries, became complicated characters along with the humans, and there’s a magnificent moment of heroism near the end.