"Our life here is just like an old horror movie," muses the loquacious, inscrutable Raquel Motherwell near the end of Rebecca Wolff's debut novel, The Beginners. "It's like the skeleton of the horror novel hanging in the closet with all the suits and dresses that we never wear. Young couple moves to small New England town. House drafty, locals suspicious. Strange friends, omens of doom. Unreliable narrator. Cows lowing in the fields, arcane pagan religious festivals."
The Beginners does play tantalizingly on Raquel's friendly and familiar formula for a hair-raising tale, though the reader learns early on that one shouldn't trust any story Raquel's telling. We also can't trust her husband, Theo. And to make matters worse, the unreliable narrator that Raquel so self-referentially mentions is actually neither Raquel nor Theo. That distinction belongs to Ginger Pritt, the precocious fifteen-year-old who guides us along her dreamy and sometimes sinister path of awakening in the tiny Massachusetts town of Wick.
What if the Rapture happened, but it wasn't like anyone had expected? In fact, what if "Rapture" might not be the right word, considering that the millions who vanished were of numerous different faiths and the date didn't align with anyone's holy texts? How would the people who lost everyone they loved live with their grief, and how would untouched families manage their guilt?
The Kirkus Review hails The Leftovers as Tom Perrotta's "most ambitious book," a claim that at first seems obvious for a writer whose previous works have centered on realistic suburban angst. However, despite its more imaginative set-up, The Leftovers is about exactly the same things as Perrotta's other novels: struggling to find contentment, doomed love affairs, and growing up.
Mary is not happy. Simply put, her husband, Joel, is a slob: He leaves garbage, wet towels, and dirty clothes around and ignores her (or, worse, tells her to "chillax") when she brings these habits up. At the start of the story, Mary decides to keep a tally of the times that Joel annoys her and the times he pleases her, with the goal of reevaluating their relationship after six months... and possibly ending it.
Despite the dodgy politics of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, Lisbeth Salander is an interesting character from a feminist perspective because she is a rare detective on the outside, with no faith in the system to produce a just result.
I have a lasting affection for Fearless, a young adult series created by Francine Pascal. (Yes, that Francine Pascal.) For today's addition to Pop Pedestal, a weekly column applauding our favorite characters in pop culture, I could write about many of the books' inventions: Gaia, the ass-kicking titular fearless lady; Mary, the bright clubgoer with an unfortunate drug habit. Ultimately, though, my favorite of the books' inventions is Ed Fargo, the best loverboy, sports fan, and devoted friend at Village High.
The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities is an incredible anthology (that started as a zine) out from South End Press providing essays, accounts, and testimonials about challenging assumptions about interpersonal violence while constructing and sharing new paths to healing and accountability.
Ching-In Chen and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, two of the three intrepid co-editors of the book, took some time from their busy schedules to answer some questions about the book, and shared some incredible organizations and resources that inspire them, including several mentioned in the book. Read on!
In a nameless yet all-too-familiar city, where "box-mall-churches" and faceless plazas named after the banks that funded them rub up against vegan cafes, yoga studios, and a "mural of neighborhood black people enjoying gentrification," Della Mylinak thinks about what it would be like to set herself on fire. In her attic bedroom in her brother's house, she places pins in maps to mark where others have self-immolated and rips her mail to shreds to make a papier-mâché head of John the Baptist. She buys candy-colored prepaid cell phones in a mall kiosk and uses them to call in bomb threats that she has no intention of carrying out. Meanwhile, all around the city, actual bombs explode regularly. Della watches the catastrophe with detachment and a muted sense of panic, trying to decide what to do and whether anything can be done.