I hate the cold. Hate it. H-A-T-E.
The only thing I hate more than the cold is its terrible offspring, Winter Weather. Winter Weather is the unruly—and unwelcome—toddler that makes everything worse: it makes a terrible mess, holds you hostage and leaves you in a constantly unnerved state, worrying something important is going to get broken.
I hate winter weather.
Though I’d be content to never see snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain—your winter whatnot—again I have to admit that the last two iced-in, homebound days were glorious. I couldn’t work and couldn’t go anywhere. And I was prepared, stocked up on the essentials: books. And some food, but, most importantly, plenty of books. Truthfully, if I had a supply of books as good as the two I read these past two days, I could have effortlessly outlasted Jack Torrance at the Overlook Hotel.
Find Me, by Laura van den Berg
Joy Jones was abandoned in a cardboard box on the steps of a hospital on a winter day as a one month-old. In the 20 years since, she bounced from foster homes to group homes and back again. She spends her days as a part-time cashier at a Stop-n-Shop and a full-time cough syrup addict. When an epidemic hits that starts by slowly eroding victims’ memories, then moves to producing scaly silver sores on their bodies and, then, to swift but painful death, Joy finally catches a break in life: she’s seemingly immune. She’s invited to join others who are immune at a secured hospital in Kansas for a mandated 10 month stay, during which time doctors run tests on them in hopes of finding a cure. But the tests hardly seem medical in nature and the supposedly immune patients keep dying from the disease.
During her stay, Joy stumbles upon the identity of her mother. Possibly. Tracking down and meeting her becomes Joy’s focus. After news that the outbreak may be over, Joy decides to leave an increasingly chaotic and aimless hospital.
I won’t spoil Find Me by providing additional plot details, but I will say that it is fantastic, unexpected in all the best ways. Unsettling and strange, it frequently had me feeling untethered. Were the events actually happening or were they just part of Joy’s cough syrup-addled—or disease-impaired—memories? Van der Berg’s writing is assured, commanding, propulsive. She plays with the concept of memory and how it consists of, essentially, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Van de Berg treats time like a taffy pull, leaving the reader always on less than solid footing. The effect is vertiginous.
Find Me is a Murakami-like fever dream that questions the boundaries, limits and meanings of personal memory and the implications of a population that loses the ability to remember.
A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul G. Tremblay
available June 2015
This one’s not out for a while, but you can be assured you’ll be hearing more from me about it. Maybe soon because—oh boy—this is a gooooood one. I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun reading a book.
On the surface, A Head Full of Ghosts is a horror novel about 14-year old Marjorie Barrett who is either a troubled teen or possessed by a demonic spirit. At the end of their rope, both emotionally and financially, the Barretts agree to have TLC film a reality show about their daughter’s possession and exorcism.
A Head Full of Ghosts is clever, creepy, and inscrutable. Most of all, though, it is so, so smart. Paul Tremblay brings a piercing, original point of view to his novel, creating a story that has a subtext even more terrifying than the gripping, leave-the-light-on horror tale.
More on A Head Full of Ghosts later.
With books this good, I’d welcome a return engagement from Winter Weather. I’ve got plenty more books I’m excited about…and am keeping my fingers crossed for more snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain…winter whatnot. Friday looks promising.
Be prepared. Your friendly neighborhood booksellers at Booksellers can help make sure you’re well-stocked and ready to not want to leave your house.