Hope Amid Despair

Kercheval, Jesse Lee. My Life as a Silent Movie. Indiana Univ. Sept. 2013. 220p. ISBN 9780253010247. pap. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780253010254. F

In her latest novel, Kercheval (Brazil; Museum of Happiness) has painted a near-perfect portrait of grief and of the hope that can arise out of the ashes of despair. The book follows Emma, a woman in her early 40s who loses her husband and daughter in a terrible car accident and subsequently tries to rebuild her life. After learning she was adopted, Emma travels from New York to Paris and Moscow to find out about her real parents (a beguiling White Russian movie star and a passionate French communist) and along the way encounters unexpected surprises. As she searches for her true identity, Emma also tries to connect with those around her. Kercheval tells the story from a first-person perspective, and the painful yet exciting journey Emma takes is akin to a postmodern adult Alice in Wonderland. VERDICT Fans of literary fiction will devour this tale of heartbreak, family, and politics. At times, the book can feel a bit melodramatic and overly dark, but the haunting quality of Kercheval’s writing makes this easy to forgive. This is a story not to be missed.—Mariel Pachucki, Seattle

Noble, Elizabeth. Between a Mother and Her Child. Berkley: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9780425267936. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781101623701. F

Devastated from the death of their oldest son, Jake, killed in the 2004 tsunami while traveling on a gap year in Asia, the members of the Barrett family cope with the sudden tragedy in different but similarly isolated ways. Bill confronts his son’s death by visiting Thailand, where Jake died. A once creatively vibrant mother of three, Maggie retreats into herself, relying on emotional help from her younger sister Olivia. Teenaged Aly throws herself into schoolwork. Too young to have known his older brother well, Stan is more impacted by the actions of his family. When Bill moves out, then meets another woman at his grief counseling group, Maggie must learn to cope with even more change and further emotional repercussions. Worried for her sister, Olivia convinces Maggie to hire an elderly housekeeper named Kate. Leaning on Kate’s patience and wisdom, the family finally begin to show signs of recovery. VERDICT British author Noble (The Reading Group; The Friendship Test) vividly and sensitively explores family relationships in the midst of a crisis and its aftermath. A London Times best seller and a “Richard and Judy Pick,” this emotionally compelling and absorbing tale of a family dealing with grief and change will resonate with readers of thoughtful domestic fiction.—Joy Gunn, Paseo Verde Lib., Henderson, NV