Lee Smith’s novella “Blue Marlin” can be read in an afternoon — a really pleasant afternoon. Like all of Smith’s books, it’s wise and funny, shot through with a deep understanding of human nature. Smith was born in the tiny Appalachian coal town of Grundy, Va., and most of her novels and short stories are set in that area.

But “Blue Marlin” busts out, following a small-town Virginia family as they head south to Key West on vacation in hopes that the parents can patch up their faltering marriage. Narrated by their 13-year-old daughter Jenny, the book is funny and poignant, and Jenny is a sharp and dynamic observer — and way more astute than her parents think.

And when you finish it, be happy — Smith has almost 20 other wonderful titles for you to plunge into.



Quarantine Read recommends upbeat books to read during the lockdown. E-mail your suggestions: books@startribune.com.