Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
“I pray I’ll see you again. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.”
I rarely read horror/gothic books so this was different for me, but I liked it. The main character, Noemí, is a smart, headstrong socialite who is dragged into haunting and suspenseful circumstances. After receiving an unsettling letter from her cousin, she decides to go to High Place– a decadent, but decaying mansion hiding in the desolation of an old Mexican mining town. She becomes determined to solve the mysteries that lie there and uncover the secrets of the very strange family that her cousin married into. The action of this book was a slow burn and didn’t pick up until the very end… but when it did I needed to get to the ending. The horror elements can be very creepy and disturbing.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
“Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find.”
This is the story of identical twin sisters growing up together in a small town in Louisiana with a unique history– it is home only to light skinned Black people. When the girls make their escape from the only reality they’ve ever known, it becomes an opportunity to reinvent themselves. Bennett illustrates how these choices forever shaped the characters’ lives and the generations to come. This story is poignant and complex and beautiful. The characters were so vivid and real that I could picture their tragedy and confusion and compassion and longing as clear as day. I loved the element of moving forward with time, especially witnessing the daughters of the next generation– the physical embodiment of the choices that their mothers made. It asks us to contemplate the meaning of identity– how it is both a weight and a freedom; a dream and a consequence; a catalyst of loyalty, pain, and love all at once.
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
“The bounties of space, of infinite outwardness, were three: empty heroics, low comedy, and pointless death.”
This is not the typical kind of book I read, but I’ve been trying to branch out more! I was reading through a post somewhere about books that are just kind of weird but make you think, and a random person on the internet recommended this so I wrote it down and found it at the library the next day. This book travels through space and time exploring the meaning of life. It questions our free will. It tells our main character that the future is just as immutable as the past. His journey plucks him from his cushy existence and takes him across the universe, into the heart of interplanetary war, and to Titan itself. If we, in fact, have no control over the future and our decisions, as real as they seem, are nothing more than a “series of accidents”…can we still find meaning? Is that what makes us human?
Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
“Magic and faith were fickle. Life and living were fickle.”
Healing women and haints; “slaverytime” and “freedomtime;” secrets, love, and legacies. This book is a very rich and deeply researched historical fiction following Rue, the daughter of a conjurer, and how she must fill the shoes of her mama. It explores many different complicated relationships, particularly one between Rue and Varina, the daughter of the plantation owner. The story moves across multiple timelines– both before and after slavery– and the plot seems to meander in a sometimes dream-like way, but it was compelling nonetheless. I would describe it as somehow not having a climax that can be pinpointed and it may be that ambiguity that didn’t make this as memorable as I hoped it would be. I think it is worth the read for the depth of themes that are explored and the truths of history, but compared to the many historical fictions I’ve read, it was not my favorite.
Sweet Dark by Savannah Brown
“Full of so much darkness and so much sweetness, sometimes in the same breath.”
I love poems that force me to read them a second time, feeling the weight of the words in my mouth as I whisper them under my bedside lamplight. I don’t want to understand everything on the first read. This is what that was for me. This book of poetry evokes the ache of existence, feelings that are both beautiful and helpless. It is about time and death and growth and love, all at once.