Three reads of great character.
Wally Lamb’s literary triumphs began only after a career in teaching was well under way, but with his first novel, 1992’s She’s Come Undone, Lamb was hailed by critics and readers alike as a creator of unique, affecting characters. Novels, like I Know This Much Is True contiued to gather acclaim, but the author’s teaching continued to be a central part of his work, and in 2006 he shepherded into print Couldn’t Keep It to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters, an anthology of writing by the inmates he had been working with at a Connecticut penal institution. His latest book, Wishin’ and Hopin’, is a wry, irreverent portrait of one family’s holiday season in a blue-collar New Englad town in 1964. He recommended three wonderful reads.
By Elizabeth Strout
“I caught up with this 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner while vacationing at Cape Cod this fall. (Having arrived at the same time as the great white sharks, I did lots of reading and precious little swimming!) Strout’s novel-in-stories is beautifully rendered and features a title character the likes of whom I’ve never before encountered in fiction. Flip and feisty, self-righteous yet oddly sympathetic, Olive is unforgettable. In some of the stories she stars; in others she makes cameo appearances. Each tale is a gem. With this one book, Strout proves herself a master of both the short and long forms. I loved it.”
By Bonnie Jo Campbell
“Campbell’s American Salvage may not be for the faint of heart, but each of the stories in this memorable collection reveals the hard, unvarnished truths of lost souls just barely scraping by, emotionally as well as economically. I’m a fan of both Maine writer Carolyn Chute and the late, great Southern writer Larry Brown, and though Campbell’s Michigan-tethered characters live west of Chute’s and north of Brown’s, they’re kindred spirits. Campbell is a 2009 National Book Award nominee for this collection—deservedly so. Chick lit this ain’t!”
By Dough Anderson
“Anderson’s unflinching memoir of his hard-scrabble 1950s childhood, his harrowing tour of duty as a combat medic in ’Nam, and his subsequent struggle for emotional survival from both is rendered in language that somehow manages to be simultaneously lush and brutal. Anderson’s depiction of “snake brain,” the defense mechanism that helps him survive the ravages of jungle combat, then dogs and debilitates him as he struggles against addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder is visceral, heartbreaking, and illuminating. Anderson, a gifted poet, lays bare his soul and helps us better understand the ravages of war. “