In our monthly book club, we discuss whatever we happen to be reading and ask everyone in the comments to do the same. What Are You Reading This Month?
Violet by Scott Thomas
While I enjoyed the pulpy pleasures of Scott Thomas’ Kill Creek, it didn’t impress me the way follow-up thriller Violet does (published this September). An across-the-board improvement from his debut novel, the book is even more Stephen King-esque than his previous, in that it blends traumas of childhood and adulthood to explore the ways grief can warp people’s lives in disturbing ways. Kris Barlow, a woman whose husband has just died in a grisly car accident, takes her daughter, Sadie, back to the summer home where she used to vacation in hopes that it will help them process the tragedy, only for strange events to leave Kris wondering if her past contains unfinished business. Thomas manages to unearth something honest and unsettling in his supernatural account of a mother who may have unwittingly passed her troubles on to her progeny, a potent and creepy gloss on the “sins of the parent” concept. The ending legitimately freaked me out, a rarity for a horror novel these days. Thomas’ commitment to making the emotional core of his narrative ring true goes a long way toward enriching the scares. [Alex McLevy]
Females by Andrea Long Chu
With her nonfiction debut, Females (October, Verso Books), author Andrea Long Chu potentially finds herself on the other side of the polemic. A memoir shaped as much by gender theory and a ribald, radical feminist play by Valerie Solanas as by Chu’s lived experiences, the book is reliably eloquent and provocative. It’s only 105 pages (of which I’m halfway through at this point), but reading Females feels like wading into the deep end of the discourse on gender performativity and expression. Just like one of the inspirations for the book, Chu declares an intent to defend an indefensible claim, then promptly gives her contemporaries (and critics) multiple options that fit that bill, including the argument that “Gender is something other people have to give you.” I’m just as interested in reading all the writing about Females as I am in finishing this unusual memoir. [Danette Chavez]
The Power Of The Dog by Don Winslow
The Power Of The Dog, a decades-spanning crime epic dissecting the DEA’s war on drugs, was first published in 2005, but Don Winslow’s deep dive into the cocaine trade continues to persevere. Earlier this year, the author released The Border, the novel’s second sequel, just a few weeks before FX announced they’d be turning the trilogy into a series. That news, combined with Stephen King’s professed love of Winslow, was enough to pique my interest. A good thing, too, as the author’s punchy, no-nonsense prose had my head spinning in the best possible way. Jaded cops, vicious drug lords, anxious gangsters, and weary holy men set a pulpy foundation for Winslow’s peripatetic story, which doubles as a motor-mouthed, coke-addled dissertation on Operation Condor, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, and the Cristero War. It’s a wonder it hasn’t been adapted already. [Randall Colburn]