Brief reviews of recent releases: 'My Wish List,' by Gregoire Delacourt, and 'Mercy Snow,' by Tiffany Baker.
MY WISH LIST
By Grégoire Delacourt, translated from the French by Anthea Bell. (Penguin, 163 pages, $15.)
What would you do if you won the lottery? Would you be prepared for the way that your life might change? When Jocelyne, the narrator of Grégoire Delacourt’s novel, “My Wish List,” finds herself with a winning ticket worth millions of euros, she does not immediately cash the check. Instead, she pauses. She wonders: How satisfying would it be to have all of her needs met? What would life be without desire?
Jocelyne runs a little fabric shop, writes a sweet blog with a devoted following, has a small circle of friends, is married to a comfortable-like-an-old-shoe husband, has children grown and gone. If she cashed the lottery check, what would she gain? An expensive jacket she covets, a new car for her husband, a complete set of James Bond DVDs? She doesn’t think big because, frankly, her desires aren’t big. But they exist, and they help define who she is.
He who hesitates is lost, though, and by taking that pause, Jocelyne loses control of her fate. Delacourt’s novel — a runaway bestseller last year in France — is unexpectedly thoughtful and affecting.
Laurie Hertzel, Senior editor/books
By Tiffany Baker. (Grand Central Publishing, 336 pages, $26.)
A bus crashes on a dark, snowy road in the first pages of this novel, and it sets the tone for the story: “An evil S-curve with a tilt was coming up, and the snub nose of the bus was leaning into the curve now, Fergus’s cue to start pumping the brakes slow and gentle before switching to the accelerator. Suzie braced herself against the bus seat, waiting for the centrifugal pull of the turn, but it never came.” Such a perfect description of expecting the usual and then realizing that something terrible is about to happen instead.
After the accident, two very different families in this small New Hampshire town are reeling: the Snows, three orphaned youths who have recently settled into a hard life on the decrepit family homestead on the banks of the Androscoggin River, and the McAllisters, the owners of the local paper mill. When Zeke Snow is accused of causing the accident, his sister Mercy sets out to gain the town’s trust and prove his innocence.
Meanwhile, June McAllister is equally determined to drive the Snows out of town to protect the secrets of her husband, Cal, and the innocence of her son, Nate. Author Tiffany Baker excels at creating offbeat characters with big hearts who live in difficult circumstances. Nineteen-year-old Mercy is unforgettable as she ekes out a living in the harshest of circumstances while caring for a young sister and battling the town’s wrath. This third great novel, following “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” and “The Gilly Salt Sisters,” clinches Baker’s place on the “must-read” list.
Judy Romanowich Smith, freelance writer