The Week in Books #88

7/14 ✅

The week in books! I got through a couple gooders since my last book post, one more from this stack and an additional one I couldn’t wait to read.

1. Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder. What did I just read? The Mother/Nightbitch (she has no actual name) is a new mother who is struggling to adjust to life with her child and less time to create art. The depiction of motherhood was frankly very accurate and enjoyable to read, even if just to validate my own experiences and feelings. The rest of the story revolves around The Mother transforming into a wild dog. It was bizarre and uncomfortable and I really loved it.

An ambitious mother puts her art career on hold to stay at home with her newborn son, but the experience does not match her imagination. Two years later, she steps into the bathroom for a break from her toddler’s demands, only to discover a dense patch of hair on the back of her neck. In the mirror, her canines suddenly look sharper than she remembers. Her husband, who travels for work five days a week, casually dismisses her fears from faraway hotel rooms.

As the mother’s symptoms intensify, and her temptation to give in to her new dog impulses peak, she struggles to keep her alter-canine-identity secret. Seeking a cure at the library, she discovers the mysterious academic tome which becomes her bible, A Field Guide to Magical Women: A Mythical Ethnography, and meets a group of mommies involved in a multilevel-marketing scheme who may also be more than what they seem.

An outrageously original novel of ideas about art, power, and womanhood wrapped in a satirical fairy tale, Nightbitch will make you want to howl in laughter and recognition. And you should. You should howl as much as you want.

Penguin Randomhouse

2. Real Life by Brandon Taylor. This novel was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize which is how I heard of it. It is a coming of age story, of sorts, about Wallace, a Black and queer man studying sciences at university. It takes place over the course of a weekend and follows the introverted Wallace as he navigates the complex relationships between his friends and coworkers. It felt a bit slow moving at first but by the time Wallace ruined the dinner party around the halfway mark I was really liking it. The conclusion was a bit abrupt for me, particularly after the events that immediately preceded it, but the language throughout was quite stunning and that sort of makes up for the lack of closure.

Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.

Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.

Penguin Randomhouse

Small book haul this week. We had a one sailing wait to get back to Gabriola on Friday afternoon (whyyyy) so I popped over to the Literacy used book shop in downtown Nanaimo (Bestsellers is now gone!!) and found three books that are on my list. Not bad, even though I don’t need any new books haha. I got Wenjack by Joseph Boyden, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, and The New Wilderness by Diane Cook (also shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize).

This week I start The Great Gatsby which is one of those classics I have never actually read. Hoping to make some more progress on this stack as I inch closer to 100 books read this year (currently on book number 92). Things are looking good for my goal of 104 books before the end of December.

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