Fall Into Books

Ah fall. Crisp weather, warm apple cider, football…and books.Some people look forward to fall for the football season but I keep my eye on new books releasing this time of year. Last weekend at my local Barnes and Noble ( doing my part to save my beloved brick and mortar book stores) I plucked Donald McCaig’s just-released novel, RUTH’S JOURNEY from the “new arrivals” table. Authorized by the Margaret Mitchell estate, RUTH’S JOURNEY is the story of Mammy, the beloved character portrayed in the novel by Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her role.

jpeg“Her story began with a miracle,” McCaig writes, opening his novel on the island of Saint Domingue ( later Haiti)  during the French occupation with the story of Solange, who would become Katie Scarlett’s grandmother. He follows Solange, and five year old Ruth as they escape the war-torn island and establish a new life in Savannah and later, in Charleston.

This story was not quite as engrossing as McCaig’s imagined background of Rhett Butler, which he told in RHETT BUTLER’S PEOPLE, but RUTH’S JOURNEY is a worthy successor to that book, brimming with rich, often raw detail, heartbreaking cruelty, steadfast love, and blending Ruth’s story into the stories of Margaret Mitchell’s beloved cast of characters. I loved it. A must for any GWTW fan.

I picked up Christina Baker Kline’s new novel, Desire Lines. I am a great fan of her writing. Last year I wrote about how much I loved ORPHAN TRAIN, her historical/contemporary blend based on the lives of actual people who were sent west on orphan trains to live with strangers. One of the best books I read all year.

Desire Lines is well written.The plot revolves around Kathryn, a young woman newly divorced and in a dead end career who moves back to Bangor to live with her mother while she figures out what comes next. As it happens, she arrives on the eve of her tenth year class reunion which is overshadowed by the unsolved disappearance of her best friend, Jennifer, who walked away from a bonfire on graduation night and was never seen again. The editor of the local paper,  also a member of that class, assigns Kathryn to write a series of articles about the long-abandoned search for Jennifer.

As Kathryn interviews those who knew Jennifer best, a different picture of her friend emerges, and suspicion falls on an unlikely suspect. Except that I figured it out right away.

Kline’s prose shimmers, and her characters’ interior lives are well defined. But the threats to Kathryn as she delves deeper into Jennifer’s past seem lukewarm,her final showdown with the perpetrator doesn’t seem all that scary, and his explanation for what happened is anticlimactic. For all of its admirable qualities, this one left me feeling unsatisfied.

What fall books are on your TBR stack? I’d love to know.