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Books

Cover for The Gathering
The Gathering
Anne Enright
Veronica Hegarty, wife, mother, and one of twelve siblings in a large Irish family, delves into the past to uncover the tragic events leading to her brother’s suicide. On her journey, Veronica is taken to the brink of destruction, and a secret is revealed that both siblings have deeply buried.
Why We Love It
Grappling with her brother Liam’s death through a fog of guilt and detachment, Veronica Hegarty is complex, unflinching, and flawed. Through her, we live among generations of the Hegarty clan to try to understand the complicated lineages, stories, and events that create who we are as adults.

At its center though, The Gathering, winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, is a story about grief and our failed attempts to forget its root causes. Veronica takes us into the lives of her ancestors and deep into her own consciousness to reveal the secret she believes has led to Liam’s alcoholism and suicide. We are her witnesses, her comrades, though she is surrounded by siblings, a sick mother, and her own husband and children. As she teeters on the edge of sanity, she takes hold of us and doesn’t let go until she has said what she needs to say.

We are entranced by Veronica’s swirling mind and her struggle to bring traumatic memories to the surface. But there are moments of clarity too. The beauty of the novel is how closely we get to experience these moments with Veronica. They are the little beating hearts that drive the twisting narrative and give light to this family’s many secrets.

Cover for Play It as It Lays
Play It as It Lays
Joan Didion
Maria Wyeth is a fading, fracturing starlet, the indifferent wife to a Hollywood director, and the grieving mother of an institutionalized daughter. As she sits poolside in the posh psych facility where she now resides we learn, through a chorus of voices, how she came to know what "nothing" means.
Why We Love It
If an old issue of Star magazine and someone’s dog-eared copy of Nietzsche ever engaged in a coke-fueled night of passion, the resulting love child would be this book. Named by TIME Magazine one of the best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005, the great fun of “Play It As It Lays” is that it allows us to gawk at the excess and decadence of late 1960s Hollywood, while also pondering some of life’s thornier questions. Maria’s grief-wracked descent into nihilism would be a real downer in most writer’s hands, but Didion’s unmatched powers of social observation and her precise, unfailingly cool prose make the going here both easy and pleasant. You come to care for Maria, to ache for her even, but reading of her dissolution is like hearing a harrowing piece of news through a haze of barbiturates.