Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hurricane Reading (a couple reviews)

I’ve discovered that, in the aftermath of a major natural disaster, I am only able to read certain types of books. Lacking power and all of its associated comforts (air conditioning, a ready supply of food, and water pressure, to name a few), philosophical German novels and Croatian essays about dislocation and exile are nearly impossible to get through. I set aside Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf and Dubravka Ugresic’s Nobody’s Home for brighter days.

Instead, I gravitated towards a good story—something to hold my interest in the daylight on the front porch and in the dim candlelight at night. I picked up Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief and Christine Blevins’s Midwife of the Blue Ridge. Both are thumping good tales and quick reads, just the sort of thing to make me forget about the refrigerator filled with spoiled food and the lack of air conditioning.

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (3/5)

Ren, the young protagonist of The Good Thief, is an orphan “adopted” by a dashing man with dubious ways of making a living. From the very start of this book, the plot is off and running on a twisting trail. The story is populated by characters familiar to any fairy tale: villains wearing red and black, dimwitted giants, and dwarves. The Good Thief makes for an afternoon of fine, if ephemeral, entertainment. This simplistic tale serves its purpose but is quickly forgotten.

Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins (2.5/5)

Maggie Duncan, an orphan trained in the arts of midwifery, finds herself on the American frontier as an indentured servant bound by a four-year contract. Maggie is kept on the defensive by hostile Indians and several villainous would-be-lovers as she tries to tame the heart of a wandering fur trapper. The story is predictable and the characters clichéd, but the never-ending action kept me turning the pages. Blevins’s repeated attempts to translate the characters’ thick accents into written dialog weighs down the otherwise nimble plot. This book is a good way to pass the time if you’re in the mood for light historical fiction, but don’t expect too much substance.

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