I'm on a roll, fellow readers. After a long spring of disappointing novels and nonfiction, I fell into three can't-put-downers in a row. They're not beach reads, per se; those might be a smidgen junkier. I was completely absorbed by each of these, though. The plot and the writing beckoned so strongly that I choose book time on the sofa over essentially every other activity. Just imagine the fun I would have had reading them on a chaise longue, under a shade umbrella, on the beach. Here are three more great beach reads for summer 2015.
Caucasia looks too drab and serious for summer, doesn't it? Buy this book. It's a stunningly painful immersion into the life of a half white, half black girl with militant parents. The story begins during the height of the hippie-era power movements. Kudos to Danzy Senna for her powerful creation. "Painful" and "summer read" don't jive, I know, but when a book is this magnetic, powerful and compelling, it'll do as well on the beach as in a ski cabin.
Tana French made my summer last year with In the Woods, a psycho thriller that's as much humane character study as it is absorbing mystery. I struggled in the beginning; French tried too hard and made the first chapters too wordy, I thought. Once the book picked up speed, I was doomed. I read the entire second half in one day. The hardcover tome is a mighty 429 pages, to be clear. The book was THAT GOOD.
So imagine my delight at having a summer expanse of reading time with the sequel, The Likeness, in my possession. This book is a continuation of the first, but it stands alone, 100 percent. It's about a secondary character from In the Woods; he, and the former adventure, are referred to, but you can easily skip straight to The Likeness.
The basics: A young woman cop goes undercover, spending several weeks pretending to be an ultra-close friend of four PhD-candidate students living in a historical old house. I see that that description doesn't sound tempting. Let me just assure you that the plot works, and the enviable talent-rich writing nudges and entertains and surprises, all delightfully. This book, another biggy at 466 pages (hardcover), took me four days. Slower readers might want to savor the story and stretch their The Likeness adventure over the course of the summer.
Swamplandia! centers around a quirky family living on the Florida coast. The family encounters serious trouble and the children deal with the changed circumstances in different, painful ways. More pain! More kids! Oh, there's more. The style is "magical realism," and most of us really need to be an open-minded mood to tackle that.
Insanely excellent writing trumps all. Karen Russell turned this unlikely premise, written in a style I often question, into a novel so wonderful that it was considered for the Pulitzer Prize. I have friends who disliked the book and others who just didn't love it. I, however, spent most of my vacation reading it--on the terrace of a cabin on the outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina. That's not the beach, but it served the same purpose. If you tend to like the same books that I do--here's the lot of them--then trust me enough to give this a try.
P.S. Here are the first three summer beach reads I recommended for 2015.