By Jason Starr. (Polis, 336 pages, $26.)
No wonder so many people from the suburbs are moving back to the city. "Savage Lane," the new novel by Jason Starr, is a deadly tale of dysfunctional people living on a cul-de-sac in an upscale suburb of New York City.
Deb Berman is a boozing, unhappy housewife who is having an affair with a loser, while her husband, Mark, imagines a different life for himself, so much so that he's slightly out of touch with reality. Their attractive neighbor, divorced and dating-again mom Karen Daily, draws unfair gossip. Add to this mix two distrustful teenage daughters, a psychopathic killer and a likable gay detective, and you get a fun, trashy domestic thriller that's hard to put down.
WE ARE NOT OURSELVES
By Matthew Thomas. (Simon and Schuster, 620 pages, $16 paperback.)
This sprawling, brilliant, heartbreaking debut novel richly deserved its inclusion in the New York Times' list of the 100 best books of 2014. It's the story of an American family deeply affected by the father's early-onset Alzheimer's, told primarily through the consciousness of his wife, a fiercely proud nurse named Eileen.
After a hardscrabble childhood minding alcoholic parents, Eileen marries Ed Leary, a bright, steady scientist, and they have a son, Connell. Eileen's early dreams of a more financially comfortable, less stressful life fizzle early on, partly because Ed doesn't share them, and partly because of his growing moodiness and confusion, which soon manifests itself as degenerative brain disease. Most of the Learys' dreams dissolve, but over time and many pages, it becomes clear they have something priceless — a gritty, powerful love for each other that comes close to being a quiet redemption in their difficult lives. It's stunning how this novel, page after unblinking page of seemingly mundane details in the lives of three people, can be so utterly captivating and moving.
West/North metro editor