After a long period of not having time for pleasure reading, this summer I read three novels, each of which were fairly dark. My favorite of these was Janet Fitch’s Paint It Black, which is about a young woman trying to cope with the suicide of her boyfriend. It’s a beautifully written meditation on grief, guilt and loss, but the amazing thing is the redemptive ending, which was as surprising as it was inspiring.
I’m always a fan of Don DeLillo’s work, and I had great hopes for Falling Man, his novel about a family in Manhattan trying to cope in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. What’s remarkable about the book is DeLillo’s descriptions of the scene of the attack itself, both for those in the Towers and then out on the street as the Towers come down. But the novel begins to drift (albeit mirroring the lives of the characters) as we move forward in time, and DeLillo has to take us back to the scene of the attack in order to end the book. It’s also notable that the book takes us into the mind of one of the hijackers and renders his humanity.
I was in an airport ready to get on a red-eye when I picked up Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. This novel depicts the post-apocalyptic landscape we all fear, wherein civilization as we know it is completely decimated and the few survivors (the narrator is a father who is left to care for his son) comb through the wreckage trying to eek out another day. The language of this book is stunning, the images are brutal, and the vision is a little bit hopeful, but I felt cheated by the end, which seemed abrupt and too easy.