Monday, September 12, 2016

right here, right now

My recommendation to those who read Kate Atkinson is to try and read her books in a short period of time. The novels are complex with multiple characters some of whom are from prior books. Within a paragraph the reader finds allusions to Julia, Josie, and others who've had assorted relationships with Jackson Brodie--the main character.  The plot lines are complex. It is in one's best interests to not pick one of her novels up unless you can dedicate a day to it.  Otherwise you are forever re reading sections that you have already completed.

I have likened reading her novels to going on a roller coaster. After the one I just finished, When Will There Be Good News, it felt more like trying to stay on a bucking bronco--not that I have ever tried to do that.  It may be that I feel this metaphor is apt because--despite my recommendation--I was unable to read this one straight through. I read the first 100 pages in a gulp, but the next 150 I read in spurts during the course of a work week. I read the last 100 plus in a short period, but I probably did not get all the nuances, kept getting thrown off the Bronco.

One thing that a reader should definitely do is read the four Jackson Brodie novels in sequence.  I read the fourth one first, and then the first, second, and third.  Had my memory been better I would have known reading this third one, about what happened to a central character in it because she was mentioned in the fourth.  I only know this now because after I finished I checked out the fourth on Amazon. You can put in a word or name that might be in a book and find any place where that word or name is mentioned in the book.  I thought this one character might be familiar so I typed her name in and sure enough something that provided a surprising pivot in the third would not have been surprising at all had I had better recall.

All this is preface.

I highly recommend this book if for no other reason than its message at the end. And, I confess, I did not feel the impact of the novel until I finished it and read one of the many glowing excerpts from reviewers.  Laura Miller, a reviewer from Salon wrote "The novel satisfies the question in its own title. The answer is: Right here and right now."  This is likely cryptic to those who have not read the book, but when you complete it you will see why this is a walloping and accurate synopsis of the message.

It is tough to nutshell the novel without giving away much, but I will try. As always I'll warn that if you want to know nothing about the story, you might want to skip to the next paragraph.  In the Past (the title of the first section) a young family is walking home through a field from a trip to the market. A madman attacks the family in the field: killing the mother, infant child and daughter of 8. A six year old daughter is somehow able to escape.  This event happens right in the first ten pages.  When the book goes to the present (titled Today) we find out that the six year old has become a doctor and has married a shady fellow. She, Joanna (call me Jo), has a baby. Joanna hires a teenager to help care for the baby. The teenager became an orphan when her mother died in an accident. The teenager has a ne'er do well brother who is nothing but trouble with a capital T.  Enter another victim of a mass murder, the policewoman who is still trying to catch that perpetrator (the policewoman happens to be Jackson Brodie's love interest from the last book), a train wreck, switched identities, arson, and a disappearance.

In short, a whole lot of bad stuff goes on. At the end we readers learn the answer to the question posed in the title: Right here and right now is when there will be or could be good news.

When Will There Be Good News is wild. Atkinson can sometimes be exasperating, but I am glad I started reading her Jackson Brodie series.  This one will stay with me for a long time.

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