#56: Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? by John R. Powers. Part of the Loyola Classics series--books by Catholic authors that are being reissued.
I had seen the musical version of this--a version written for the stage by Powers. It's actually nothing like the book at all, but both of them were enjoyable.
The book is the story of the high school years of Eddie Ryan--at a parochial school on the south side of Chicago. The things they ran into--dances with the girls (where all the boys stood on one side of the room and the girls on the other), raging hormones, the trials of acne (just when that new girl noticed you), first cars and the like are probably true to everyone's life. While it didn't make me laugh out loud, it did make me smile.
#57: Unveiling by Suzanne M. Wolfe. Rachel Piers is an art restorer who has just ended a bad marriage. She leaves her job behind in the US and travels to Rome to restore a painting that just may be a lost masterpiece. As she removes layers of grime from the painting, layers of her own life peel away as well, and we learn of the sexual abuse at the hands of a stepfather, the lack of closeness with her mother, a divorce, a miscarriage. However, she also uncovers a plot to take over old masterpieces and a new love. Interesting asides about the Church--it would be interesting to see where the author fell on the continuum of belief.
There is really not enough "there" there. We don't really get a good enough feel for the context of anything that happened in the past--was it one instance of abuse, or many? Why, exactly, was her marriage so bad? Surely just not because her husband was a modern architect and she a restorer of old art. Too neatly plotted. Too easy to find the new love. How could one so seemingly badly damaged by the past so easily fall into the arms of the first good man she meets? Parts of it I liked very much, and it was worth the time to read, but it's not going to be a book that I rush out to add to my library. The borrowed copy is going back without regret.
#58: A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. Fannie Flagg, known to many as a comdienne, is actually a more than decent writer of the Southern novel. Most of you have heard of at least the film adaptation of her novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe. She has also written, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl and Standing in the Rainbow.
This is the story of Oswald T. Campbell, a "nobody" who has never really had any luck in his life. From his abandonment as an infant (he's named after the can of Campbell's soup that's in the basket with him) through a nothing much career and a failed marriage, he is the kind of guy that never really made it in any social way--not able to really fit in with any community. He gets bad news from his doctor--his emphysema is so bad, he'll likely not make it another year, and his time will be even shorter if he doesn't leave the ice and snow of Chicago. He ends up in the tiny town of Lost River, Alabama, where he learns the value of community and love from a little girl named Patsy and a redbird named Jack. For the first time he is valued and has friends. Love and friendship are healing--to him and to Patsy. Sweet, but not saccharine.
#59: The Mirror Crack'd by Agatha Christie. A Miss Marple mystery. A movie star, Marina Gregg and her husband have purchased Gossington Park in St. Mary Mead. At the fete they hold, Mrs. Babcock is poisoned and dies. Obviously the poison must have been meant for the star, though. Or so everyone thinks. Miss Marple solves the case from her home, where she is confined after a nasty bout of bronchitis. Classic Christie!
#60: A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. Short, short, short. A boy's memories of Christmas time growing up. Funny, touching. True. We'll be watching the movie made from this at our December book club meeting.