In the past few weeks I have read several books. Three of them were: RIVER, CROSS MY HEART by Breena Clarke, JUST ONE LOOK by Harlan Coben, and The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano…
First, RIVER, CROSS MY HEART: (sighhhh) I hate it when I cannot figure out where a book’s title comes from, such is this book. Breena Clarke has a good premise and a heart-wrenching tale, but the history of the 1920s Washinton, D.C., I found more interesting.
The main character is Johnnie Mae, a 12-year-old girl and a natural swimmer. Johnnie Mae and her family moved to Georgetown from down south, after hearing how much better life for colored people was in Washinton. One hot summer afternoon, despite many warnings, she and her friends went down to the muddy, dangerous Potomac River once again to cool off because coloreds were not allowed to swim in the whites’ pool in Georgetown. Johnnie Mae’s 6-year-old sister, Clara, went along everywhere she went. Clara, who could not swim, sat on a big, dead branch hanging over the water, while Johnnie Mae went swimming and the other girls flopped around near the bank. When the dead tree branch and Clara splashed into the river, no one saw it happen. One of the girls noticed the tree and Clara just weren’t there anymore and yelled at Johnnie Mae, who dove and dove and dove trying to find her baby sister. For the rest of the book, Johnnie Mae tries to get through Clara’s death by deciding that one shy, new girl in school is Clara reincarnated.
The other part of the plot is Johnnie Mae’s nighttime efforts to sneak into the whites’-only swimming pool, even after a brand new pool for coloreds is built in the year following Clara’s death…Breena Clarke writes well, but the ending is as up in the air as the title.
Tired of books about the human spirit, I went back to a mystery by Harlan Coben. His writing has a tendency to hook the reader quickly. JUST ONE LOOK is typical Coben. (After reading nine of his books, I can say that.) It starts out as a little mystery, which grows and expands into eventual out-of-the-blue add-ons to the plot. He gives the reader a simple beginning and a convoluted, complex ending. His books remind me a little of Agatha Christie’s novels: an obvious plot with twists, turns, and hidden clues known only to the author, so that there is no way the reader can see ahead. Coben keeps the ending close to his chest, as well…Oh, what’s it about? Murder, revenge, kidnapping, odd characters, love, lies, and a photograph.
The cover of The Solitude of Prime Numbers cites it is “THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER,” but it frustrated me into a headache. After the main characters, Mattia and Alice, were revealed in all their oddness, I kept waiting for resolution. Their parents seemed oblivious to their emotional and mental problems, as though the children were born, suffered, and left alone. Therefore, they were not helped or made to feel better, but the parents were not blamed.
Extreme guilt for the death of his twin sister is at the bottom of mathematical genius Mattia’s self-mutilation, but what put Alice on a lifelong anorexic path is never concretely explained. For me, there are too many blanks that Giordano did not fill in. It’s like going to a movie that has been severely edited…
Sometimes I wonder if book critics receive paybacks for good reviews and blurbs or if their brains are just wired differently than mine. I imagine, it is the latter, for there are just too many bestsellers that do not measure up to my standards of good literature. (sighhhh)