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Friends and their Books


If You Follow Me                         Gutshot Straight                  
                 by Malena Watrous                        by Lou Berney                                         
(Harper Perennial, 2010)                (William Morrow, 2010)

While I was on my blog-break, I had the pleasure of attending local readings by two former teachers/now friends of mine. Both their books would make great additions to your summer reading list, especially if you, like me, like to travel vicariously through your books.  

When I think of Lou, I picture him seated within our circle of MFA hopefuls as we discussed the craft of writing by reading really good.  No matter how heated the debate between who was a better writer -- Rushdie vs. McCarthy -- Lou maintained his equanimity and good humor.  Best of all, he introduced me to Lessons Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, for which I will forever be grateful.  And now, with Gutshot Straight, I can have Lou's humor whenever I need it.  But humor isn't the only tool in Lou's thriller shed.  He balances fear and burning desires against  high stakes and suspense, and adds the perfect exotic location -- Panama.   Following the adventures of Shake and Gina in Gutshot Straight will surely add some hot to summer your reading!  

It feels more than a bit odd to write about Malena's book, If You Follow Me, since she was the Stanford instructor who got me started on book reviewing.  What started out as a strictly online teacher-student relationship has turned into a professional friendship.  When I received an invitation to go to her book reading at Kepler's, I found a wedge of time in my school-work schedule and I'm so glad I did!  It's diminishing to this novel to slot it into the coming-of-age genre because of the protagonist is in her early 20's and happens to have traveled to Japan to spend a year teaching and recovering from her father's suicide.  Malena's wit, intelligence, and passion infuse this story and make one want to turn the page to see how Marina stumbles and picks herself time and again.  Especially delightful is the examination of the challenges of communication -- how sometimes sharing a language is no guarantee that you can understand the person sharing your bed, or how not sharing a language can sometimes lead to unexpected intimacies.  Travel to Japan with Marina this summer.  You'll enjoy the trip!  




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