Still no cookies?  Oh, well.

The best part about all of these grown-up books is that each is relatively short (under 300 pages).  I like me some short grown-up books.  (Of course, I like long grown-up books, too, but short is almost always good just by virtue of itself.)

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

Princess Zurg gave me this book for Christmas.  PZ has given me a lot of books as presents.  (Her father guides her choices.  She herself wouldn’t know Toni Morrison from Marisha Pessl.)  What I love about getting books from PZ is that she always inscribes them, “Dear Mom, I hope you enjoy this book.  Love, PZ.”  It’s very cute.  Fortunately, she’s never given me a book that I didn’t enjoy.

Set in very-late 17th-century America, A Mercy is narrated through various points of view, several people whose lives are connected by the common thread of slavery.  It centers, however, on four women struggling to maintain a farm that is failing as a result of the death of its benevolent homesteader–there is the widow, her Native American servant and two black slaves.  There isn’t a lot of plot to give away here; it’s mostly a lyrical rendering of human pain and the different ways in which people are enslaved, regardless of their color and legal status.

I was a huge fan of Morrison’s earlier books, and I realize it takes cheek to say this about a Nobel-prize winner, but I’ve found her work since Beloved to be hit and miss.  I can’t read her without being reminded of all the poor imitations by amateur writers trying to be her, and sometimes I can’t help thinking, “Would Toni Morrison be getting away with this if she weren’t Toni Morrison?”  I had that thought once or twice when I started reading A Mercy, but once I became engaged in the story, it stopped being an issue.  When I finished the last sentence, I thought, “Wow.  That was something.”  But I found the entire journey intriguing.  I think this book is one of Morrison’s best.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

And now for something completely different!  I picked this book off a sale rack at Powell’s on a whim.  It was probably the title.  Come on, The Dud Avocado?  You’re not the least bit curious?  I knew I had to read it when I saw that it was highly recommended by Groucho Marx.  It is a picaresque novel about an American girl in Paris who takes various lovers and makes various blunders in her wild-hearted quest to suck all the marrow out of life.

There isn’t much to say about it except that it’s very witty and deceptively light reading.  I saw it compared to Sex in the City.  I haven’t watched much Sex in the City, so I can’t swear the comparison is apt, but I suspect it is.  Anyway, you have to read it just to figure out what a dud avocado is.  I’m not going to explain it to you.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

Here’s something you have to know from the outset:  I have had a girl crush on Chelsea Cain since she was writing the Let’s Go! column for the Oregonian weekend edition.  I bought this book because I’ll buy anything she writes.  As far as I know, this is only her second novel, the first being Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, a hilarious parody of the Nancy Drew series.  Heartsick, by contrast, is a serious mystery about sicko serial killers.

There are two parallel main characters:  Archie Sheridan–a police detective who spent ten years tracking the Beauty Killer, eventually getting captured and tortured by her (her!) for several days before being returned to his life a very, very broken man and who comes out of his painkiller-addicted retirement to catch a new serial killer that is terrorizing Portland–and Susan Ward, the punk newspaper reporter assigned to cover Sheridan’s hunt for the After-School Strangler.  Susan’s got problems of her own, but let’s face it, she’s got nothing on Archie, who is so messed up in the head that he’s been visiting his former torturer (the Beauty Killer–were you paying attention?  her name’s Gretchen) in prison every Sunday afternoon for the last two years.  Oh, it’s weird all right.  But in a good way.

At least it was good for me.  The whodunnit aspect is actually a tad predictable, but I didn’t care because I was so fascinated by Archie’s relationship with that psycho b-word who sliced him open and fed him drain opener and still holds an uncanny power over him.  It’s not a funny book, of course, but Chelsea Cain does inject her peculiar wit into the writing and feeds her characters some clever dialogue.  I do love me some Chelsea Cain, so you’re going to have to forgive me for loving this book even though it’s twelve shades of sick and wrong.  If you like a good serial killer book, you might want to read this one.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I see that the sequel, Sweetheart, is up for sale on Amazon, and thus I have some shopping to do.  Happy reading, amigos!

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