2 book recommendations: Raw by Mark Haskell Smith and Splitting the Difference by Tré Miller Rodríguez
2 book recommendations, one a very ridiculous, fun reality TV-themed novel, one a moving memoir about death and its aftermath. No relation, save that I just read them both. Found Raw: A Love Story in Portland, Maine at Longfellow Books, found Splitting the Difference: A Heart-Shaped Memoir, a She Writes Press book, via the author's column at Modern Loss. I'm linking to Amazon, because I make a few cents from each purchase through those links, and these days, every penny counts bigtime, but purchase at your favorite bookstore, online or off. Trust me, if Red Bank had a bookstore, I'd be there multiple times a week. If I move, that is something I will look for in my new town!
Raw by Mark Haskell Smith
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I stumbled across Raw when I was looking for a light, fun read. I got that and more, including plenty of ridiculousness in this novel about reality TV, publishing, books snobs and adventure. Sepp Gregory a reality star with women lining up for a piece of him--ideally, his impeccable abs that he shows off at almost every opportunity. Sepp is on a book tour for a book his ghostwriter, a struggling Brooklyn author named Curtis, wrote, but that Sepp hasn't read. What happens from there is utterly over the top, including a momentous and game-changing visit to the Playboy Mansion, where Harriet, who up til now has been the epitome of a book snob and easy to hate, takes on a life of her own. It's to Smith's credit that while this book is utterly absurd and about as far from reality as you could get, it's in the most inane and unlikely of the story's adventures that it becomes the most fun. If you're part of the publishing or book blogging world, there's plenty of insider humor, right alongside the most cynical and careerist publicists. But you don't have to be a fan of reality shows, or even books, to enjoy this romp of a novel. In fact, I'd venture that Sepp Gregory, who treats books as pure marketing tools and practically foreign objects, just might enjoy Raw. It's a perfect beach read, whether you're on an actual beach or not, with a bit of snark, and plenty of sex, death and fame.
Splitting the Difference by Tré Miller Rodríguez
Buy in print or Kindle
I discovered Rodriguez via her column for Modernloss.com, and was intrigued enough to want to check out her memoir. Her husband's death comes at the start of the book; then, tracing backwards, she shares the story of how they got together, her decision to give up her daughter for adoption when she became pregnant at 18, and her brother's death. The core of the book, though, is about the practical matters surrounding the death of her husband of four years, Alberto. The shock of discovering him dead in their bed only hours after she'd seen him alive is vivid and present throughout the story. There's an immediacy to the writing style here that takes readers right into the heart of both grief and coping with the seemingly endless minutiae of death, the ongoing reminders everpresent in their home and beyond. Rodriguez tackles dating, dealing with family (her own and her husband's), the scattering of his ashes in various locations and her eventual reunion with her daughter in a way that made me want to keep reading. The writing and emotion are raw, yet never without care and thoughtfulness. The portrait painted of their relationship, through flashbacks and mementos and memories, is one of a couple who were different in many ways, but had seared their lives together in pretty much every way, which makes the decisions Rodriguez has to make all the more challenging. Is there sex and drugs? Yes, a little, and it's to her credit that she is unapologetic about what she gets out of them. There's no moralizing here about anything, and certainly no sugarcoating, which is what makes this a brave and haunting memoir.