Monday, September 24, 2012
Threats by Amelia Gray (2012)
The latest pick for my amazingly wonderful book club (Go DAFFODILS!) is Amelia Gray’s 2012 novel, Threats. None of us really knew anything about the novel or Gray, except that the book was recommended on a list of new fiction, and the plot sounded interesting. Having read the book and several reviews, the novel is definitely divisive (which I think will make for some good discussion), but I fall on the side of really liking it.
David has a box on his kitchen table. It contains the cremated remains of his wife, Franny. Something mysterious and violent and deadly happened to her and she died (probably). It quickly becomes clear that David is not mentally stable and hasn’t been for a very long time (if ever). Officer Chico is trying to figure out what happened to Franny, which isn’t particularly easy. And then David starts finding typewritten threats in unusual places around the house and seeing Franny and a man who looks exactly like him around town. Did Franny leave the notes before she died? Is she actually dead? What is really happening and what is part of David’s increasingly complicated set of delusions?
As the book moves forward things both escalate and slow down and everything becomes very physical and disturbing.
This isn’t an easy book, especially if you are feeling sad or unhinged or fragile, but I think it is ultimately a rewarding read with a good balance of literary technique and attention to plot. Plus it is often surprisingly hilarious.
Some choice random quotes, and another threat:
He was by no means attracted to the girls, who, with their unmarked faces, shared more features with ambulatory fetuses than with women.
It was clear that in a past life the detective had been a phone booth beside an empty highway.
“Everything Is Dead, but It’s Still Kind of Nice,” said a woman observing the frozen house plants on the porch.
There was a page in the sock, but he was tired of knowing how to read, so he opened his mouth and inserted the page.
I WILL STAPLE MY ADDRESS TO YOUR WINTER COAT, LITTLE ONE. THEY WILL SEND YOU TO ME NO MATTER WHAT YOU CLAIM.
On a related note, this is the first book I’ve ever read completely on an e-reader. I got a Nook as part of a study I’m helping with at work (we are looking at how students and faculty can use e-readers in an academic setting), and to help familiarize myself with all the options, I bought this book electronically and read it both on my Nook at work and using the Nook app on my phone while I was at home, in line, and basically anywhere else. At first I found it a little off-putting, and I missed being able to flip ahead and see how much was left in a chapter or section. As I stuck with it, though, I ended up enjoying the e-reading experience. I don’t think I’d want to use it for everything, but being able to read it anywhere, and being able to easily mark passages that I wanted to remember, and to quickly look up words in the built-in dictionary was pretty great. I thought the screen on the Nook was easy on my eyes, and the interface wasn’t distracting at all. The only downside is that I couldn’t loan my copy to another book club member after I finished it, and I won’t be able to sell it on Amazon or Half Price. Still, I’m intrigued by this whole e-reading thing, and I’m going to try and work it into my regular reading routine.