The Browser: A quick look at recent releases
- July 2, 2012 - 9:50 AM
THE NERUDA CASE
By Roberto Ampuero
(Riverhead Books, 342 pages, $26.95)
This is one of a dozen books Roberto Ampuero has written, but the first to be translated into English. It is an auspicious introduction, starting in Ampuero's birthplace, Valparaiso, Chile, and featuring the city's most famous son, Pablo Neruda. The ailing poet enlists a directionless Cuban emigré, Cayetano Brulé, to do some discreet detective work for him. The case twists and turns with Neruda's whims as he realizes that, by choice as much as necessity, he has always put himself first. The book is often wryly funny, even in the face of tragedy and ineptitude: Brulé's wife packs her Hermes scarf as she leaves him to join the Cuban revolutionaries; the fledgling detective realizes the futility of trying, in a crumbling South American city, to emulate fictional counterparts like Inspector Maigret or Philip Marlowe. Indeed, this is not like the fast-paced, plot-driven detective novels set in the United States or Europe. It is a meditation on identity and exile, love and regret. Let's hope that more books in Ampuero's Brulé series find an English-speaking audience.
KATHE CONNAIR, copy editor
Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale
By Lynda Rutledge (Amy Einhorn/Putnam, 304 pages, $24.95)
On Dec. 31, 1999, God tells Faith Bass Darling to sell everything she owns because she will be dead before the day is over. Or at least Faith believes that to be the message. So she begins: She hauls out what she can and hires some neighborhood boys to carry the rest. She is determined to clear her mansion in Bass, Texas, of everything, from priceless antiques to worthless family letters, and soon her front yard is full of unbelievable bargains. A near riot ensues as people flock to the yard to buy vintage Tiffany lamps and antique furniture for next to nothing. Faith's estranged daughter Claudia Jean arrives, unprepared to deal with her mother's increasing memory lapses and her own emotional baggage. Although the entire book takes place in one day, we learn the story of Faith's life through her real and imagined conversations with key players. What unfolds is delightful, surprising and ultimately sad. In the end, we are left pondering this question in our own lives: Which memories are worth holding onto and which are better left at peace?
JUDY ROMANOWICH SMITH, news designer
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