The Mind-bending Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7.5 Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleTucked amidst the charming shops lining Northville’s downtown Main Street, sits My Little Paris Cafe & Bookstore. I’ve been out of the literary loop for a bit, so I decided to drop in and check out the space that formerly housed The Next Chapter. A toasty tour of the shop led me to a display of the store’s January Community Book Club pick, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. There’s been quite a bit of conversation surrounding Turton’s unique novel, so I thought it a solid club selection. Quotes of dazzling, triumphant, mind-blowing twisty– and this look up – pure-silk Möbius strip of a story, cover the back jacket and urge the reader to jump in and enjoy the ride. Since I never leave an indie without buying a book, Evelyn Hardcastle made the cut for my latest review.

What I want to tell you is that I loved the book. Unfortunately, I only just liked it. Turton’s work has been called bewildering and complex, and in that I can agree. While reading different reviews regarding this book, I noticed that the descriptors in one mimicked those of another, as if no one really knows what to say about The Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. It’s that kind of book. Is it genius? Chaos? One thing that most do seem to agree on (including me), is that it’s totally original and worth the reading experience.

Main character Aidan Bishop has eight days and eight witnesses in which to work with to solve a murder, name a killer, and escape the sinister Estate of Blackheath. Each day repeats (think Groundhog Day), with Bishop inhabiting the bodies of each witness and compiling clues garnered from his time spent in each person. At times the character switch is utterly confusing, but Turton is exceptional at character portrayal and giving the reader a full-feel of what it is like to take on the physical, mental and emotional characteristics of another human being. Here’s a brief glimpse of Aidan’s time in the obese form of Lord Ravencourt:

     We walk slowly, but my mind is fixed on the ponderousness of this body I’m dragging forward. It’s as though some fiend has remade the house overnight, stretching the rooms and thickening the air. Wading into the sudden brightness of the entrance hall, I’m surprised to discover how steep the staircase now appears… It would take a pulley, two strong men, and a day’s pay to hoist me into Bell’s room.

Each character is seen from the inside-out through Aidan’s eyes as he slowly absorbs the perspective of the character in which he resides. Trippy? Yes. Confusing? Quite, but for those who persevere it does work itself out in the end.

The setting is a wealth of intrigue. Based on the “old chap” language and the decaying country mansion, perception dictates the timeframe to be around the 1920’s. Sprawling grounds, murky lake, looming graveyard, hidden webby rooms, and flickering gas lamps shadowed throughout the surrounding forest, all combine to provide an undertone of serious creep throughout the story. Recurring characters such as the skin-prickling Plague doctor and the ominous footman are integral to the story, and up the clever factor as clues click and slide into place.

Overall, this thriller is stacked a bit too high for me. Turton is apparently a fan of time travel, Agatha Christie mysteries, and video games, all of which take me beyond the bounds of my reading comfort zone. No plot spoilers here, but I need to add that the ending didn’t work for me – it was just too far out of my grasp. This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t recommend The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Turton’s writing is crisp and engaging, reminding me a bit of Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. In the back of the book Turton reveals just how important the connectedness and precision of the events and characters in the book had to be for his concept to hold. The intricacy of the plot is a head-spinner. Therefore, if you are strong in the logic department and enjoy a good puzzle, then give it a go. If you tend to drift a bit while you read and prefer linear fiction, this isn’t the one for you.

My Little Paris Cafe & Bookstore

I haven’t covered our local independent bookstores in a while, but it is refreshing to know that they are alive and well in the Detroit metro area. My Little Paris Café & Bookstore’s Community Book Club meets the fourth Tuesday of the month. The next title is Curtis Sittenfeld’s, You Think It, I’ll Say It and will meet on February 26, 2019 from 6:00-7:00. Don’t forget to buy your book from an indie!

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

Why a Title Changes – The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

– Post by Megan Shaffer

Pessl’s ‘Night Film’ is Deliciously Scary!

CT  CT nightfilm.jpgOkay, I loved Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics and couldn’t wait for her next book to come out. Her recent, horrifying release Night Film has me so scared I’m not even sure I can continue reading it. I am a fraidy-cat to be sure and I know it’s just a book, however, I am torn between wanting to know what happens and sending it straight back to the library! I’m halfway through and not sure my heart can take it. Delicious….

 

 

 

Looking for a few more scary reads this Halloween season? Check out a few of the lists below. Feel free to comment and add your personal faves.

– Amazon’s Top Ten Scariest Books

Listverse Top 10 Most Disturbing Novels

10 Best Steven King Books for Halloween

listal 25 Best Horror Novels

Flavorwire 10 Utterly Terrifying Books for Your Hallowe’en Reading

Michigan Reads

Paranormal Michigan Book Series

– University of Michigan Press – Sprirts and Wine by Susan Newhof

– Wayne State University Press – Ghost Writers: Contemporary Michigan Literature

Haunts of Mackinac: Ghost Stories, Legends, & Tragic Tales of Mackinac Island by Todd Clements

The Michigan Murders by EdwardKeyes

Murder in the Thumb by Richard W. Carson

Isadore’s Secret by Mardi Link

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Finding Robert Coles ‘In the Garden of Beasts’

In the Garden of BeastsAuthor Erik Larson’s nonfiction work, In the Garden of Beasts, has been sitting in my “to read” pile since its pub date back in 2011. For the love of summer, I was able to turn the final page last night and can’t quite stop thinking about it.

Larson, also the bestselling author of The Devil in the White City, shifts his focus in Beasts to 1930’s Berlin, where the unlikely American ambassador William E. Dodd has taken his post during Hitler’s chilling rise to power. As Dodd navigates the complexities of his political post, the reader is introduced to an incredible cast of characters both demonic and heroic.

ColesCompFinal.inddIt is a wonderful intersect when what we read gives way to contemplation, and more so, empathy for humankind. It is of note here that I have also been reading Secular Days, Sacred Moments:  The America Columns of Robert Coles, recently published by Michigan State University Press.

Coles is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities at Harvard University and “is unparalleled in his astute understanding and respect for the relationship between secular life and sacredness… .” (via)

In the thirty-one essays of Secular Days, Sacred Moments, which are drawn from Coles’s monthly column in the Catholic publication America, how odd that the one I happened to read today pertains to the German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer, who lived “a singular, voluntary opposition to tyranny that culminated in his execution in a concentration camp only weeks before the end of Hitler’s regime,” is hailed by Coles. Bonhoeffer’s brave resistance to the Nazis outweighed his concern for self-preservation, and he left the safety of the United States to return and stand by his fellow Germans.

There is both a Christian and psychological angle to Cole’s essay, and having just read In the Garden of Beasts, it’s poignancy can’t be missed. The question, “What would you do under such circumstances?” is posed in Cole’s work, and hums behind each line of Larson’s.

In the Garden of Beasts offers a close, personal look at a pivotal era in history. The “what-ifs” are boundless, and the outcomes staggering. It is an important book in terms of moral self-examination and offers endless ethical scenarios for consideration. Though my reading of Cole’s Bonhoeffer essay is a coincidence, his full body of work in Secular Days, Sacred Moments offers much in the way we reflect and interpret our everyday exchanges and the world that surrounds us.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters

– Post by Megan Shaffer

 Links

Michigan State University Press

Announcing Our Jolly Good Fellows!

Image courtesy of Detroit Free Press
Image courtesy of Detroit Free Press

Oh, how I wish it were me! Congratulations to the 2013 Kresge Artist Fellows in the Literary and Visual Arts. With your combined talents and the generosity of the Kresge Foundation, may we keep the arts alive and well in Detroit and beyond.

“Announced Tuesday by the Troy-based Kresge Foundation, the no-strings-attached $25,000 grants are among the country’s most generous for individual artists,” states the Detroit Free Press. “This year, the recipients included nine in the literary arts and nine in the visual arts. Two independent panels of five professionals judged more than 700 applicants.” Lucky buggers.

For those of us who didn’t make the cut this year, there’s always next fall. Chin up and keep on writing…

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

Vande Zande’s ‘American Poet’ Gives Notable Nod to Poet Roethke

perf5.500x8.500.inddDenver Hoptner walks at night. The recent University of Michigan grad, jobless and without prospects, has returned home to live with his father while he regroups and considers his future.

Instead of opening doors, Denver’s fresh MFA in Poetry has left him open only to his father’s scrutiny, and worse, at a devastating loss for the words he longs to put down. Seeking solace, Denver routinely takes to the bleak Saginaw streets searching for a sign.

In Jeff Vande Zande’s  tight, coming-of-age novel American Poet (Bottom Dog Press $18.00), Denver’s sign comes in the form of late poet Theodore Roethke’s boyhood home. The prize-winning poet’s house, found smoke-damaged and in disrepair, gives Denver angry encouragement and fuels his commitment to both his craft and the preservation of a bygone poet’s brilliance.

“It was one of the few things that I didn’t hate about the town,” Denver says. “When I was in high school and thinking that maybe I wanted to write, I used to walk out to the Roethke House at least once a month, just to look at it. He was a pretty big poet in his day. Pultizer Prize for one thing, and it meant something that a guy like that could come from a place like Saginaw. He was a guide. A lodestar.”

Poet Theodore Roethke drew his words from the well of his Saginaw surroundings. Through Denver’s eyes, author Vande Zande also offers bright discovery in the gray and grit of this roughed-up city. Ultimately, it’s in Denver’s struggle to reconcile his future ideal with his present reality that his true poetry begins to emerge.

Jeff Vande Zande teaches English at Delta College and writes poetry, fiction, and screenplays. He was selected as the recipient of the 2012 Stuart and Venice Gross Award for Excellence in Writing by a Michigan Author for American Poet; his novel that was also selected as a 2013 Michigan Notable Book.

– This review can be found in the January, 2013 issue of Hour Detroit. For Hour subscription information, link here.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

‘Annie’s Ghosts’ is Back as the 2013 Great Michigan Read

Annie's Ghosts

The Michigan Humanities Council has announced their much-anticipated biennial title for the 2013-14 Great Michigan Read program. Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret by journalist and Detroit native Steve Luxenberg, is the selection for this impressive statewide program.

“It was quite a surprise, and certainly a pleasant one,” shared Luxenberg in a recent email. “It’s an honor for the book to be in the same category as the previous choices, and to be considered worthy and compelling enough for the selection committee to choose it.”

Annie’s Ghosts  is the thorough, moving story of Luxenberg’s mother, and a mysterious relative long hidden away at Eloise, the massive psychiatric hospital that once housed some nine thousand people from the state of Michigan. Luxenberg’s story digs into the dark corners of his family’s past, and exhumes the complicated history of his ancestors in hopes of revealing a family secret.

Michigan Humanities Program Officer Carla Ingrando said the response to Annie’s Ghosts has been tremendous. “Within three days of the announcement, more than 100 organizations have preregistered as Great Michigan Read partners.”

The Great Michigan Read is a statewide reading initiative sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council. Reaching out to schools, libraries, religious organizations and other nonprofits, the program aims to connect readers throughout the state with titles that explore our past, present and future.

How did the program select Luxenberg’s title? “The Great Michigan Read titles are selected through a grassroots process,” explained Ingrando. “During the fall of 2012, six regional selection committees made up of librarians, teachers, and literary enthusiasts nominated titles to a statewide selection committee, which met in January 2013.”

This year, Ingrando said the tragedy of Sandy Hook played a significant role in the 2013-14 title selection. “We met in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, and the committee felt like reading and discussing Annie’s Ghosts would provide an opportunity to think deeply about mental disability, mental illness, and mental health care.”

Annie’s Ghosts is a fascinating journey of immigration, identity and Detroit history. Luxenberg’s work has other honors in the Mitten as well; Annie’s Ghosts was selected as a 2010 Michigan Notable Book. For all program and participation information, link here.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Link

– Annie’s Ghosts on NPR: A Journalist Uncovers His Family’s ‘Ghosts’  Full of Detroit’s colorful history, this true mystery was selected as

Live announcement of The Great Michigan Read –http://www.spreaker.com/embed/player/standard?episode_id=2201249

The Great Michigan Read is presented by the Michigan Humanities Council with support from Meijer and the National Endowment for the Humanities

Acclaimed Author Thomas Lynch to Read his Latest at Local Commemoration

Thomas Lynch*

Elaine Morse was a long-time Birmingham resident and much-loved member of the community until her death in April 2012.  She had the knack of inspiring joy and respect in those around her.

Among her many contributions to the Birmingham area was her service on the boards of the Baldwin Public Library and the Friends of the Birmingham Historical Museum & Park. “Everyone associated with Baldwin is pleased and honored to be offering this event in memory of Elaine, who accomplished so much for the Library and the rest of Birmingham,” said Doug Koschik, Library Director.

On Sunday, October 28 at 2 p.m., the Baldwin Public Library will commemorate Elaine by hosting a poetry reading in her honor.  At this program, the critically-acclaimed author, Thomas Lynch will read from his two most recent books of poems, Walking Papers and The Sin-Eater: A Breviary.

Thomas Lynch is a writer and funeral director from Milford, Michigan. His first book of nonfiction, The Undertaking, won the American Book Award and the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.  Another of his books, Bodies in Motion and at Rest, won the Great Lakes Book Award.  Two more, Booking Passage and Apparition and Late Fictions, were named Notable Books by the Library of Michigan.

Naturally, copies of Mr. Lynch’s books will be available for purchase and signing at the reading courtesy of Book Beat Bookstore. The Baldwin Public Library is located in downtown Birmingham at 300 W. Merrill Street and can be reached at 248-647-1700 or through the Library’s website at www.baldwinlib.org.

*Photo taken from McLean & Eakin

– Event information provided in conjunction with the Baldwin Public Library

Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

Post by Megan Shaffer

Boo’s Bestseller Selected as “One Book, One Community” Title

The City of East Lansing and Michigan State University announced the OBOC program’s 11th anniversary book selection, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” by New York Times bestselling author Katherine Boo.

What is East Lansing’s One Book, One Community? The annual One Book, One Community program, co-sponsored by the City of East Lansing and Michigan State University, encourages the city-university community to read the same book and come together to discuss it in a variety of settings. The book is also an assigned reading for all incoming Michigan State University freshmen. Pick up a copy of this year’s book and turn the pages with the community.

*Support your local bookstore, library, and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer/information taken directly from the OBOC site.

Michigan’s Literary Stars to Shine on Saturday Night

Michigan’s finest authors will be stepping out Saturday night for a few hors d’oeuvres, some fine Michigan wines, and a swell of well-deserved recognition for their award-winning contributions to the 2012 Michigan Notable Books.

The Library of Michigan’s annual Night for Notables is an event designed to pay tribute to those authors who have written works that offer high-quality titles with wide public appeal and are reflective of Michigan’s diverse ethnic, historical, literary, and cultural experience.

This year’s featured speakers are 2010 and 2011 National Book Award Winners for Fiction, Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones) and Jaimy Gordon (Lord of Misrule). The evening’s moderator is both a National Book Award Finalist and one of my favorite authors, Bonnie Jo Campbell (American Salvage and Once Upon a River).

Authors to be honored at the Night for Notables this year include such names as Michael Moore, Jack Dempsey, Steve Hamilton, and Jim Harrison among others. Many of this year’s contributors will be on hand to sign and discuss copies of their award-winning books.

What are the Michigan Notable Books? Each year, the Library of Michigan selects up to 20 published titles over the last year that celebrate Michigan people, places, or events. Stretching back to 1991, the Michigan Notable Books began as the “Read Michigan” program but switched its name in 2004.

Anywhere between 250 to 400 Michigan-related titles are reviewed each year. Book selections are highly competitive and are reviewed by a board of 10-16 members who come from various literary backgrounds. The program is supported by sponsors and grants handled by the Library of Michigan Foundation.

For NLR coverage of a few of this year’s titles, you can link here. For a detailed piece on the upcoming event, link to this wonderful City Pulse piece by fellow friend and Mittenlit blogger Bill Castanier.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer