Here’s a hot tip for you. Amazon has just released a free Kindle book—Best Books of 2013:Reader’s Guide. You might want to check it out. I don’t know how long the free offer will last, but this little book contains a great compilation of novels you might want to read and authors you might want to know about. I’ve downloaded and read most of them. See if you’ve done the same.
Right now, I just want to alert you to a great novel, which is included in these reviews—The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis.
If you blinked, you might have missed the review in the NYT. But, this is serious literature for serious times and you should consider picking it up. The plot is difficult but compelling, as are the characters, as is the language. At over five hundred pages, the reviewer Neal Thompson says “reading it is a commitment, a marathon, a revelation, an absolute thrill.”
I agree. I’d read National Book Award Winner Shacochis earlier works, and I still think his story “Dead Reckoning” from “Easy in the Islands” should be taught along with Chekov and Hemingway. I’ll never look at sailing or the stars the same way again.
Since the novel I’m working on now —Bird of Paradise—involves political and economic intrigue set in what could be a tropical paradise, Shacochis’s new book, which takes place in the impoverished tropical island of Haiti among other places, intrigued me. Reading it became a nightly exploration of the dark elements of US culture that have led us into what many reporters and former reporters like Bob Shacochis are calling a nation at perpetual war.
If that sounds grim, believe me in the hands of a master writer like Shacochis it’s not. You become fascinated—his word is obsessed— by people and a world you might never have known about had you not picked up this book.
In the Q&A after the book review, Shacochis says this about his readers:
“When my editor at Grove Atlantic asked me who did I think my audience was for The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, I told her, people who pay attention. Pay attention to other people (no narcissists, please), pay attention to their country, pay attention to the world and America’s impact on the world, and finally people who pay attention to language and literature. The structure of Soul is a bit complicated, as is the plot. You’re not going to be able to follow the narrative if you have some sort of attention deficit problem, or if you can’t focus on anything bigger than a tweet.”
I would like to think of myself as one of those people who pays attention. With writing like Shacochis’s, it’s not hard. To paraphrase Neal Thompson’s review of the book: ‘Soaring across time and space, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul . . . is smart, sexy, magical and lurid… a commentary on the ancient hatreds that would build to 9/11. This is a breathtaking work.’