Saturday, March 22, 2008

Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch

Little, Brown April 2008

My younger brother chose years ago to move from the East coast to the South; specifically, he moved to Savannah, Georgia where he practiced medicine, raised a family and lived on the edge of a swampy, wood in a large home. At first they loved Savannah but soon he found that the difference between South and East was as large as the crevices that define the Grand Canyon. Savannah was made up of people who had lived their entire lives in the South, people who distrusted Northerners, people who defined themselves by the homes they owned and the families they had come from. My brother and family soon sold their home and moved to a college town in Virginia where they were accepted.

Katie Crouch in her new work, Girls in Trucks, relates the story of Sarah Walters, a Charleston debutante, who is determined to leave behind her Camellia Society past and start anew. Crouch, a talented writer with a honest voice, moves through time and space quickly; Sarah is a college student, an aspiring writer in New York City, a woman grappling with a failed relationship. The reader moves through Sarah's experiences and roots for her to succeed. Crouch has created a character that the reader adores and understands. When tragedy brings Sarah home, it is clear that she can not run from her past; that she must accept her roots in order to become the person who she needs to be.

I can't wait for the next Katie Crouch book.

Keeper and the Kid by Ed Hardy

Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin's Press(2007)

James Keeper is a man who finds himself emotionally at odds. After his marriage ends, he moves to Rhode Island to work with his best male friend selling antiques at a store called Love and Death. His girlfriend, Leah, is wonderful - smart, funny, filled with a sense of life that keeps James on his toes and passionately in love. Things seem to be going extremely well, at last.

Of course, life always throws curve balls. Keeper receives a phone call from his former mother-in-law advising him that his ex is ill and asking him to come to Boston to pick up the dog. It soon becomes clear that the dog is not a four legged animal but a two legged boy. Keeper has a son, Leo, who is now without a mother and forced to live with his inept and terrified father. Exhibiting all of the traits of a man who never wanted to or dreamed of being a father, James lets Leo eat what he wants, sleep in his clothes and bath once a week. As the relationship between father and son tenuously strengthens, Keeper's relationship with Leah ends. She can not allow this child into her life, a life that she has become comfortable with and has no intent on changing. Turning the typical genre on its head, Hardy's bad guy is the woman who can't commit to family versus the man who must.

Hardy's writing is at times poignant, at times humorous. The author succeeds when he focuses on Keeper's character arc. The author falters on story line - it is difficult, if not impossible to emphatize with many of the characters. Leah, at first likeable, becomes so disagreeable that a reader's first instinct is to put the book down and walk away. Keeper's initial inability to accept his son is offputting, if not absolutely frustrating.

Ed Hardy's writing falls into the new genre of male lit, a challenge to the chick lit genre that was huge years back. Whether or not men will actually pick up a book such as this will remain to be seen.