Here are the books I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on August 7. Enjoy a peek inside my beach book bag of escapism, mostly, and some education as well: Three page-turning novels and one nonfiction book about rats. Trust me on that one; it’s quite an interesting read.
The Last Thing I Told You (William Morrow), by Emily Arsenault, is a haunting, dark and well-written thriller—a perfect beach read and it’s in paperback, too. Therapist Mark Fabian has been brutally killed in his own office, but former patient Nadine Raines continues to talk to him—in her head—and try to explain the reason behind the violent act she committed when she was 16.
Nadine had been away from her hometown for decades, and Dr. Fabian died a few days after she returned. When Detective Henry Peacher begins investigating the doctor’s murder, he considers that coincidence. He also realizes that Fabian had pulled two old patient files before he died: Nadine’s and that of Johnny Streeter, who is serving a life sentence for a mass shooting that devastated the town five years earlier. It’s up to Peacher to figure out if there’s a connection between Nadine and Streeter and if so, what that means.
Sing, Unburied, Sing (Scribner), now in beach-ready paperback, is by acclaimed Southern writer Jesmyn Ward. She won her second (her second!) National Book Award (2017) for this one and her first in 2011 for Salvage the Bones. Ward takes readers again to rural Mississippi to examine the bonds of family and life in the Black American South where the past is not always the past.
This is a road-trip book unlike any other. It’s also a remarkable story of fathers and sons, and it will stay with you. Jojo is 13 years old, the son of a black mother, Leonie, who struggles to put her children above her own needs (and her drug addiction), and an absent white father, Michael, who is getting out of prison. As Jojo is growing into being a man, his black grandfather, Pop, has been there for him, but his other grandfather refuses to acknowledge his existence. When Michael is released, Leonie, with her kids and a friend, drives north through the heart of Mississippi to Parchman Farm, the state penitentiary. There’s another 13-year-old boy at Parchman; he’s a long-dead inmate who still carries the ugly shadows of slavery and violence and the Jim Crow South with him in his wanderings. Even as a ghost, this boy has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons.
I’m enjoying Let Me Lie (Berkley) by Clare Mackintosh, the internationally bestselling author of I Let You Go and I See You. It’s another tight, twisty thriller that will keep readers up at night. Anna’s parents are dead. The police say it is suicide. Anna says it is murder. Turns out, they both are wrong.
When Anna has her own child, she misses her mother more than ever and becomes determined to find out exactly what happened to her parents. But when she begins looking into the past, someone in the present wants very much to stop her. This is another fun and shocking psychological thriller with some awesome surprises.
Rats (Bloomsbury) The subtitle of this creepily fascinating book by Robert Sullivan is Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants. New Yorkers have hunted down and killed rats for centuries, but the rodents stubbornly remain. And they are, in fact, as much a part of this city’s history as any of its humans. With a notebook and some night-vision goggles, Sullivan went to a garbage-filled alley in lower Manhattan to contemplate the wild city rat. He came away with lots of icky rat facts and entertaining rat-related stories (most everyone has one!).
The author introduces us to rat foes—sanitation workers and exterminators—as well as agitators and activists who have used rats to achieve social reform. Sullivan searches for the fabled “rat kings,” shares tales of rat fights in the Gangs of New York era and stories of how rats figured into the Harlem rent strikes. He also travels to Chicago, Milwaukee and other American cities to learn about rats there. By the end of this book, you’ll never look at a rat the same way again.