The first two chapters of When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle tell the completely engrossing story of a 1946 boat wreck from the perspective of Beverly Boyd. The story switches to present day with a focus on Alma Boyd Takesue, granddaughter of Beverly Boyd, and a biologist for the National Park Service. Alma is working to eradicate invasive rats on an island off the coast of California. Coincidentally, the island is the same one that her grandmother landed on after her 1946 boat wreck.
The reader is soon introduced to Alma’s nemesis, Dave LaJoy, who is an animal rights activist and opposes the extermination of rats on the island. Alma and Dave have quite the antagonistic relationship. One of the things I noticed right away was that Dave LaJoy was eating eggs, and I thought that was pretty contradictory to the image portrayed by Dave. I expected him to be vegan.* I believe several characters were written with the intention of showing hypocrisies. Dave, a character who cares so deeply about saving every animal’s life, is an extremely angry and mean person. He also drives a giant SUV and has a green, water guzzling lawn.
Alma has a few contradictions in her own life, but I’ll save those for the reader to discover. I really liked how the stories of Beverly, Alma, and Alma’s mother are told in some form throughout the book. There are similar notes of love and loss throughout all of their lives.
A reader who likes to find meaning in a story will find a lot to think about in When the Killing’s Done. Many side stories are told within the main story, including the history of the islands and other minor characters in the book. The problem I had with the story was that after those first two chapters, the book was a pretty slow read. I can’t say exactly why I found it so slow. Too many words? Too much description? I’m not sure. I am glad that I read the book. It gave me thinking material about what we expect of people and the natural world around us.
*I had expectations of Dave’s character based on who I stereotyped him to be. In my mind, of course an animal rights activist would be vegan! But then, I am an animal advocate and I am vegetarian. I eat eggs. Maybe I am seeing too much into the story, but I think it was Boyle’s point to show stereotypes and hypocrisies.
Book: When the Killing’s Done | Author: T.C. Boyle | Published: Viking Adult; February 22, 2011 | Format: Hardcover | Source: Library | Rating: 4 out of 5
This is my first week participating in It’s Monday! What are you Reading?, hosted by Book Journey.
I am currently reading the following books:
- Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran. This is an e-galley from the publisher, received via NetGalley. Claire DeWitt is a bit different than your average private investigator found in mystery novels. The concept is fresh, and I look forward to finding out how everything ties together.
- Spackled and Spooked by Jennie Bentley. I picked this up at the library a week or so ago. My nook needed to charge, so I took a break from Claire DeWitt and started this no-brainer, second book in the DIY mystery series. It is a nice, quick read and was handy for reading at the lake. Yes, I got brave and went swimming in a power plant cooling lake!
- Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn. This is the second book in the Chet and Bernie series, which is a favorite of mine. Dog as narrator! Chet reminds me of my goofy dog, Sherman, right down to the mismatched ears. I am listening to the audiobook, as I did with the first in the series.
Speaking of dogs, I would like to introduce you to the pack! I made a quickie page for them today. I hope to add the details surrounding their adoptions at a later date. Of course, the pack includes myself and the mister. We are going to start a new dog training class later this week. We might have some stories.
Last week I finished reading and reviewed:
- The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths – My Review
- Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters – My Review
I also joined the Goodreads Book Club Challenge and plan to read A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I am excited about this since I don’t belong to any in-person book clubs, and this book has received a lot of hype!
Unfortunately, April did not bring showers to this part of Texas. April did, however, provide plenty of opportunities to read. I finished the following books during April:
NetGalley April was a success for me! Four of these five books were e-galleys:
I look forward to NetGalley July, but I certainly plan to read more galleys between now and then. If you are not familiar with NetGalley, I encourage you to head over there and sign up to review books. All of the above authors were new-to-me and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to discover their work.
My favorite April reads were Swamplandia! and Abbott Awaits, but all five of these books were very enjoyable.
Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices is unique in that it is one complete novel written by 36 distinct authors. Each chapter represents the work of one author. The novel was originally written in front of a live audience during an event was called The Novel: Live!. You can read more about the original concept here. Given the parameters of the original event, the outcome is pretty incredible.
Knowing the number of authors involved had me asking all kinds of questions while reading. In the introduction, Garth Stein explains that a committee convened and outlined a plot before the writing ever began. During the six-day writing marathon, each author was provided with the text created prior to their chapter, and an editor suggested which direction the writer should take to follow the plot. My questions included: Was there a definite shell of a story – beginning, middle, end? Did the concept/plot ever change due to a writer’s contribution? I think it is more fun not knowing how much was decided in advance. That makes the novel as a whole seem more magical.
Hotel Angeline centers around fourteen-year-old Alexis Austin, who lives in a former mortuary turned hotel. The basement is filled with coffins leftover from the mortuary business. The hotel houses several long-term residents, including a pirate with a peg leg and a bonsai gardener. Alexis’ mother, also the hotel manager, is sick and no one has seen her for a while. In her absence, Alexis takes over and tries to run the hotel, dealing with everything from repairing the plumbing to serving afternoon tea. Alexis soon finds herself overburdened with grown-up responsibilities. What’s a girl to do? Go on a wild adventure and try to save the hotel from creditors! The long-term residents are like family to Alexis and she cannot bear to see them (or herself) lose their home.
Even though the novel is written by 36 different authors, the change in writing is mostly unnoticeable. There were only a handful of chapters where the writing style seemed noticeably different to me. In the foreword, librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl recommends that you read the novel once without noticing the author and a second time paying attention. I was not familiar with many of the authors so I did not have a need to pay close attention to which chapter went with which author on my first reading. I plan to go back through and take note of who wrote the chapters that I enjoyed the most.
Hotel Angeline is out next week, May 3rd, so have a read and find out what an event like The Novel: Live! has the ability to produce.
Disclosure: I received a free e-galley from the publisher, Open Road Media, via NetGalley.
Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices
Hotel Angeline is a rare book in that it was written by 36 authors, but it is not a compilation of short stories. The final product is one complete novel. Further, the novel was written in front of a live audience. Imagine the pressure! Watch a video about the concept:
Cop Killer by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (audiobook)
Cop Killer is ninth in the Martin Beck series. Of course, this is the first Martin Beck that I have read. I hope I am not missing too much by having not read the first eight in order. I am about halfway through and the narrator, Tom Weiner, is very good.
The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins
I won this one in a Goodreads giveaway and I can’t wait to read it.
Thereby Hangs a Tail and To Fetch a Thief by Spencer Quinn (audiobooks)
I listened to the first book in the series, Dog on It, and I loved it so much that I bought the book to read again. I bet I will want to do the same with these two. Going in, I never would have thought that Dog as Narrator could work so well. Folks, it works very well. I love a good animal-centric mystery.