For those of a certain age, you may remember the classic commercial for Calgone brand bubble bath from the 1980’s. Beset by heavy traffic, a difficult boss, and a crying baby, a working woman voices the famous plea, “Calgone, take me away!”. Cut to the woman luxuriating in a bubble bath, her problems slipping away in this moment of bliss…
During this time of uncertainty and stress, my “Calgone” of choice is immersive books that take me away to a different place and time. Here are three of my recent favorites:
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (2018)
“Virgil Wander survives a car crash with some speech and memory problems, and encounters a kite-flying stranger searching for information about his long-lost son. Enger explores and intricately layers the feelings and stories of an entire town full of people, each trying to survive their own life-changing experiences.” — Elizabeth Isabelle, DeKalb County Public Library System (October 2018, Libraryreads.org)
The small Minnesota town in which this story is set feels like one of its quirky characters, broken-down and ready for rebirth. A touch of magical realism, whimsy, and engaging characters make this an uplifting reading experience. The audio book, narrated by MacLeod Andrews, is mesmerizing and casts a cozy, homey spell.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (2019)
“In a distinct, perceptive, and vulnerable first-person narrative, Emoni, a young single mom being raised by her grandmother while raising her own daughter, relates the story of her last year of high school in vignettes and short chapters, trading off between sharing bits of the story and her musings about her life and her future. Emoni has a gift for cooking, and her food, like magic, conjures emotions in people she shares it with. Her teachers, friends, and family are all ready to support her when the subject of culinary arts schooling comes up, but the one Emoni needs to learn to trust is herself.” –Kristina Pino (Reviewed 3/15/2019 for Booklist)
This book has beautiful writing (“Acevedo’s keen, stirring prose reads like poetry and demands to be read slowly”), interesting and complex characters, realistic depiction of a young woman juggling her responsibilities and opportunities, and most important for me, a warm embracing atmosphere. Though complicated at times, the love between ‘Buela, Emoni, Angelica and Baby Girl, is visceral and I find great comfort in being included in their extended family. The audio rendition is read by the author.
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (2019)
“Meeting at the remote fence line separating their cattle ranches on an isolated belt of the Australian outback, two brothers navigate the haunting realities of the isolation that ended their third brother’s life.” (Novelist)
This is a gritty, dark rural noir that vividly transports you to the harsh and unforgiving Western Australian desert. Even though the outback setting conjures images of stocking up and hunkering down that may provide eerie parallels to our current situation, it is appropriate to the dramatic landscape so evocatively brought to life here.
All the titles described above may be downloaded in either ebook or eaudio format through the free Overdrive app.