In Bitter Chill, What We Lose, The Trespasser…more September Reads


September is always a crazy busy month for me and this has been no exception, but I have squeezed in three more reads.  Starting with a mystery that I really loved, In Bitter Chill, I’d say this novel grabbed my attention and kept it through great pacing and tension throughout the length of the novel.  The characters and the story had me engaged, I really wanted to know what happened to Rachel and Sophie as children and why one of them came home and the other never did.

The unwinding of the story and all the clues is really well done.  There are enough hints for you to ascertain the ending and it is tragic for all involved.  The theme of secrets and their repercussions, especially the unexpected ones are what this book explores.  Very good, well written mystery.

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons is a book I added to my very long TBR after reading about the author’s debut in the Guardian’s book reviews.  It caught my attention initially because the author and the protagonist of the book are raised in Philadelphia, relatively close to where I live.  It jumped up higher on my list because I kept seeing write ups and finally one day I was in Barnes and Noble and saw this young man, who was not an employee cheerfully putting copies prominently on the summer reading display.  I stopped at the table and he said he was the author’s brother and I should buy the book.  Whether he was or not, I’ll never know, but the encounter was enough to push the book up on my list.

I did enjoy the style and the mixture of story and fact that What We Lose entails.  This is less of a novel and more of a series of vignettes and essays loosely tied around the events and relationships, particularly with her mother and father, in Thandi’s life .   Thandi’s perspectives shift from an American, who sees herself as black, to a South African, who is not seen as black, but rather Coloured.

Other shifts occur with the passage of time, as she becomes a motherless daughter and then a motherless mother and explores her grief.    She considers the meaning of orphan, what it means to her and to others.  She then looks at the number of orphans in the black community and how that compares to the white community, as her friends lose parents.

Thandi details her visits South Africa and exposes her feelings of fear and danger and outsiderness there.  Her personal experiences  are tied to current events and used to  make sense of them or explain what has happened in the context of South African culture.

Themes explored here are grief, motherhood, and belonging (or not).  I would recommend this, especially for this unique voice.  I enjoyed the tying of the personal to the context of the outer world in an attempt at sense making.

The Trespasser by Tana French is next.    I have to admit, I am all over the place with this series.  I read the first couple out of order.  Then, this month, The Trespasser was book club pick and it is book 6?  I shouldn’t have read it,  because I am somewhat confused.  The last I read this series a man was the protagonist….Arghhhh!

The writing is excellent, as I remember from other Tana French books.  The mystery was well done.  Some very good red herrings to keep our detectives hopping around.  I was not a huge fan of the Conway as a lead.  She seems to have huge chip on her shoulder and I just didn’t like the way  she dealt with people.  I warmed up to her a little by the end.  I did like her second though.  The case had a good and unexpected resolution that tied up what had happened throughout the book.

I will have to go back and read this series from the beginning or at least from book 3 forward.