Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No, Virginia

There is no such thing as Santa Claus or your father’s law degree.

Laurie Sandell grows up believing her father’s stories…grenades and diamonds, stints on the National Security Council, and hobnobs with the pope. But her suspicions arise when as a teenager, she watches her father build a bomb shelter in the basement and stock an attic arsenal. Finally as a college student, her image of her father as a Rushmore-size personality begins to shrink when she discovers he’s been racking up debt in her name on ill-gotten credit card accounts.

In her “true memoir” The Imposter’s Daughter, Sandell has broken her life into graphic novel blocks illustrating her disillusionment with her adored father. While she is investigating her father’s true identity, she’s jetting around the country writing celebrity profiles for Glamour and pursuing a long distance relationship with Ben, a screenwriter she met on the Internet.

Sound fascinating? Indeed. You’ll speed through this one as fast as the author goes through her prescription for Ambien. And you'll sleep just as soundly knowing you could never write such a book about your father. Or could you?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Candy, Nuts and Ladies Underwear

I would have posted yesterday, but I was up late finishing a real find.

It’s the 1930s in Middle Swan, Colorado. Hennie, who was made a young widow by the Civil War, doesn’t want to leave her mountain home, but her daughter Mae wants her to come live with her. As she enters her last seasons in Middle Swan, Hennie meets Nit, a young woman seeking to buy a prayer. Through coffee cake and quilting, Hennie helps the new arrival acclimate to life in the small gold mining town.

Through Hennie’s recollections and reflections, Sandra Dallas pieces together bits of romance, loss, and retribution in Prayers for Sale. Her language more than anything creates a sense of time and place. Nit’s husband fears being hoovered from his tenuous job on the dredge but looks forward to a tasty hereafter (dessert). Middle Swaners take leave of one another with “tap ‘er light.” The final leaving is referred to as a planting.

Should you read this one? As Nit likes to say,“Hello yes!” This one's sound as a dollar.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Going up?

Blythe Young is on the lam from the IRS, numerous creditors, and a vindictive Austin socialite named Kippie Lee. After a rags-to-riches marriage unravels, Blythe seeks refuge with Millie, her former roommate who is still living in the Seneca House co-op they inhabited in college. Millie, now an un-ordained minister, spends her days feeding the homeless, the unemployed day laborers, and teen runaways that panhandle on the Drag.

No longer able to rely on the drugs and alcohol she needs to get through her day as a bankrupt extreme events coordinator, Blythe turns to her far worse habit of manipulation. After alienating Millie by forcing a love confession from her already-spoken-for-in-an-arranged-marriage-sort-of-way crush Sanjeev, Blythe is kicked out of the house. Blythe, and the novel, finally finds her groove when she successfully coordinates a last-minute retreat for Kippie Lee’s gang at the Seneca “Spa.”

Sometimes silly, sometimes trite, sometimes funny, sometimes not, How Perfect is That by Sarah Bird isn’t. What it is, however, is entertaining. Like its characters, the novel is over-the-top at every possible moment. In it you’ll find at least one characterization of every person you’ve ever met living in Austin from the Whole Foods bagger/bassist to the Westlake malpractice lawyer who hires Lyle Lovett to entertain at parties.

With reading, “sometimes you get the elevator, sometimes you get the shaft” (to borrow a line from the novel). But Bird’s writing, as evidenced in her other books I’ve read (The Mommy Club and The Flamenco Academy), never fails to give you a lift.

Find Bird's writing for Texas Monthly here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Can't find your copy of A Christmas Carol? Click here to read a classic.