Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout
We had to hold back from sending you Lizzie Strout for the third October in a row. Not because she doesn't deserve to be in your brown paper bags with this latest release (she does, she absolutely does), but because WellRead is supposed to be about discovery and we like to keep you on your toes. Lucy by the Sea picks up more or less where Oh William! left off - but, as with all of Strout's books, you don't need to have read the previous titles for the latest ones to make sense or mean something to you (of course, they probably mean more if you have).
As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it’s just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea.
We'll be the first to admit that we weren't thrilled to head back to lockdown, but in Strout's (or should we say Lucy's?) hands, any subject matter has the capacity to become a profound reading experience about the delicate workings of the human heart. There is an immediacy to Strout's writing that makes it feel very close to real life. And so much is felt while reading it - Lucy's loss and love and empathy and discovery and joy become your own. It is nothing short of transcendent and we remain in awe.
The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li
We don't need to be told twice to read a story about storytelling that involves two inseparable young teens who share a world they’ve created for themselves in the provinces of post-war France, and that has been positioned as Elena Ferrante meets Ottessa Moshfegh. The Book of Goose is a story of disturbing intimacy, obsession, friendship and exploitation, by celebrated author Yiyun Li. With fairytale-like qualities, save this raw and mysterious read for when you're feeling that specific combination of sadistic and literary.
Liberation Day by George Saunders
If, like us, you're a good book nerd who places the releases of anticipated titles in your calendar, then October 18, the day George Saunders' first short story collection in a decade published, would have been an auspicious day. We're happy to report that the auspiciousness continued with the reading of the stories. Allow us to introduce you to a few of them: Mother's Day is about two women who loved the same man and who come to an existential reckoning in the middle of a hailstorm; Ghoul is set in a hell-themed section of an underground amusement park in Colorado, and follows the exploits of a lonely, morally complex character named Brian, who comes to question everything he takes for granted about his 'reality'; and in Elliott Spencer, our eighty-nine-year-old protagonist finds himself brainwashed - his memory 'scraped' - a victim of a scheme in which poor, vulnerable people are reprogrammed and deployed as political protesters.
Saunders' stories delight as much as they probe, they offer absurd fantasies that somehow connect deeply to our realities. The author described the state they leave you in best himself in his latest newsletter:
"The goal is for the reader, at the end, to be in an (enjoyably, I hope) stunned state—newly aware of the world, maybe. Maybe her vision of a character has gone, over the course of the story, from a simple state of judgement to one that has more tenderness in it; she’s become slightly more aware of the complexity contained in any human life and of the negotiable quality of that first, easy judgment. But the “stunned” is key to me—that wordless feeling after we read something good, that briefly lifts us out of ourselves—relieves us of that burden, so to speak. Then that ends, and we are ourselves again, except . . . not. Or, differently ourselves, I guess."
And if you're more of an audio book person, a heads-up that this format features an incredible cast of stars including Tina Fey, Jack McBrayer, Michael McKean, Edi Patterson, Jenny Slate, and Melora Hardin.