I'm Sorry, What is That? A Good American by Alex George, Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, February 7, 2012
Goes Well With: One Hundred Years of Solitude (sans the magical realism), East of Eden, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Explain Yourself, Upstart: YOU MUST READ THIS *pokes you.* It is a multi-generational saga concerning the Meisenheimer family, starting with the matriarch and patriarch meeting and falling in love in pre-World War I Europe. Love-type shenanigans ensue and they must FLEE to America, where they end up in Missouri. Cue children having, and their children having children, etc. See also: prizefighting, jazz, German food, family secrets, prohibition. Some parts are the heartbreakingest and other parts are the upliftingest and that combination gets me every time. Jette (the matriarch) reminded me of Ursula from One Hundred Years of Solitude, with her iron will and strange (nonmagical) longevity and having to see her family members off to war. The book has the vista-breaking scope and BIG HISTORICAL EVENTS AND HOW IT AFFECTS THIS FAMILY feel of East of Eden, with a touch of the immigrants-making-it-in-America-and-breaking-their-own-hearts of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (that is not to say that it is JUST LIKE these books because it is very much It's Own Thing, but there are FLAVORS of these, hence "goes well with cheddar.")
I'm Sorry, What is That? Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman, Scribner, March 6, 2012
Goes Well With: A Curtain of Green and Other Stories by Eudora Welty
Explain Yourself, Upstart: So, I am a bad reader of short stories. I rarely feel anything past "meh," with the exceptions being Salinger, Welty and Birds of a Lesser Paradise. There's also this thing where I'm not always pleased with how family and motherhood and relationships are portrayed in modern literature because it's so often HERE'S HOW SCREWED UP PEOPLE ARE SCREWED UP and HERE'S HOW MOTHERS ACTUALLY RESENT THEIR CHILDREN and while yes, those things can be true, I think more often life is HERE'S HOW SCREWED UP PEOPLE MEAN WELL AND LOVE THEIR FAMILIES and Birds of a Lesser Paradise is that (and also Welty is that). Sometimes women have children unexpectedly and it ends up being totes awesome (she says as she holds her unexpected twins [not really, I can't hold them both at once]) and sometimes your relationship with your dad is both I LOVE YOU and also YOU'RE SO FRUSTRATING and these stories are those things. And the writing is beautiful. And, like Welty, they are sometimes Very Southern, which I appreciate. So if both short stories AND contemporary literature gives you the "mehs," try this when it comes out. And then come back here and tell me how you hearted its face.