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#MyMoravian Summer Book Club

#MyMoravian Summer Book Club: Part II

July 6, 2016

While I never imagined I’d say this during the school year-- summer break can feel too long! If you’re anything like me, you might find that reading helps to pass the lazy days. I have one novel and one book of poetry to add to My Moravian’s summer book club...

Tethered by Amy MacKinnon

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The novel is from the point of view of Clara Marsh, an undertaker who lives a guarded, solitary life. She would maintain her own loneliness before accepting friendship from Trecie, a neglected little girl who comes to the funeral parlor to play, or from Detective Mike Sullivan, who wants to revisit the case of Precious Doe, a child whose unidentified body was prepared by Clara years ago. When they realize Trecie may be involved with Precious Doe’s murderers, Clara can either maintain her carefully isolated existence, or take the emotional risk of connecting and growing attached to others.

It’s a morbid novel, to say the least: set in a funeral home in a sleepy, dreary New England town during late fall, with themes of death and particularly child death, the plot and setting complement each other in a deliberate sort of aesthetic. I can’t imagine this story working in a sunny, populated setting, nor would a happy love story fit the chilly grey that surrounds these characters. The characters are compelling, revealed gradually, especially Clara, who resists being understood, and Trecie, the mystery at the center of the story.

There is an element of the supernatural that caused me not to understand the ending the first time I read it, years ago, and might be off-putting to other readers not expecting it-- while it’s foreshadowed well and makes sense, it’s easy to miss, and not everyone’s thing. I would still recommend this book to anyone looking for an emotionally compelling story where the mystery exists both within the plot and the characters.

Egghead: or, You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone by Bo Burnham

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I first knew of Bo Burnham through his comedy, which combines stand-up with performance art and music; his most recent special, Make Happy, was released on Netflix early this June.

Egghead is a collection of poetry which, much like his comedy, veers rapidly back and forth between silly and profane and sad and insightful, sometimes within the same poem. He draws humor from all things morbid and taboo while still showing an impressive amount of thoughtfulness. Burnham’s acknowledgements include George Carlin and Shel Silverstein, and both of their influence is abundantly obvious. Many poems are self-conscious, on the verge of beautiful, but quickly turn self-deprecating and irreverent. Instead of questioning whether none of it is honest or all of it is, it’s best to take it all as it happens, and appreciate the way Burnham balances humor with sentiment.

Every page features illustrations by Chance Bone, and while they don’t always have to do with every poem, they complement the unconventional nature of Burnham’s poetry. Here's an example:

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Having been a fan of Burnham’s for a few years, I had a lot of appreciation for his style of humor and the way it translated into poetry. While fans of his comedy will love it, I also recommend Egghead to anyone interested in some off-kilter poetry, featuring sentiment when you least expect it and humor in subjects you’d never guess could be funny.

What summer reads have you been enjoying?  Share in the comments!

Comments

I'm finally getting to this, with only 2 weeks left in the summer, Alicia--but so happy to read it, and to learn about both of these books. (I think my daughter would love them both.) I've read a kind of odd assortment of things this summer, including Jonathan Spence's THE CHAN'S GREAT CONTINENT (because we traveled to China in June), Tom Rachman's THE RISE AND FALL OF GREAT POWERS, Barbara Trapido's BROTHER OF THE MORE FAMOUS JACK, and Lionel Shriver's THE MANDIBLES, and Philip Levine's NEW SELECTED POEMS. All pretty great in their own ways (though I had some trouble with the Shriver novel).

Thanks for this great post!

Joyce Hinnefeld (not verified) | Mon, 08/15/2016 - 17:37