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Book Nook - 07-05-2019

Tuesday, May 07, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

The Good Father
In his new standalone book, Run Away—already on top of the bestseller lists—Harlan Coben goes straight for the heart. His protagonist, Simon Greene is the fiercely devoted father, who cannot give up on his missing daughter. The smart and pretty Paige, was inexplicably drawn into the world of drugs, while she was in college. When she disappears on day, Simon, a wealthy Manhattan finance manager, just refuses to give up the search for her, even when his doctor wife, Ingrid, and two other kids shrug her off.

On a tip by a well-meaning neighbour, Simon tracks down Paige to a park, where he is shocked to find a dirty, emaciated girl playing the guitar and busking for coins. He tries to talk to her, and when interrupted by her dealer boyfriend Aaron Corval, Simon hits him. Misunderstanding the situation, onlookers post videos of the ‘attack’ accusing the wealthy man of beating up a homeless person. The video goes viral and Simon’s life into a downward spiral. Just when he is recovering somewhat, a Detective Isaac Fagbenle (described as jaw-droppingly handsome) turns up to investigate the murder of Aaron.

Simon and Ingrid go to the apartment Aaron shared with Paige—a squalid dump—hoping to find their daughter; there is an altercation with a drug dealer, that ends in Ingrid being shot and going into a coma. Now Simon is even keener to find out what is going on, and has as an unlikely ally, Paige’s scruffy neighbour and landlord, Cornelious.

The story of the Greene family troubles is interspersed with Chicago private detective Elena Ramirez, hired to hunt for missing adopted son of the rich Sebastian Thorpe III, and a nasty pair, Ash and Dee Dee, going about murdering seemingly random targets. Going by Coben’s past thrillers, the three threads have to come together, though the connection and the reason for the turmoil is rather far-fetched and much too schematic.

However, Coben’s brisk writing never lets the reader’s interest flag; he makes Simon Greene so earnest and caring that you can’t but root for him. He also has unusual descriptions and backstories of some characters, just in case the book is turned into a film; plus there is a multi-racial cast so that the inclusivity clause is ticked. The wait for the next in the Myron Bolitar series is on.
 
Run Away
By Harlan Coben
Publisher: Grand Central
Pages: 384

 

Excerpt Of Run Away
Simon sat on a bench in Central Park — in Strawberry Fields, to be more precise — and felt his heart shatter. No one could tell, of course, at least not at first, not until the punches started flying and two tourists from Finland of all places started screaming while nine other park visitors from a wide variety of countries caught the whole horrible incident on smartphone video. But that was still an hour away. There were no strawberries in Strawberry Fields and you’d be hard-pressed to call the two-and-half-acre landscaped grounds a field (singular), let alone more than one, but the name was derived not from anything literal but from the eponymous Beatles track. Strawberry Fields is a triangular-shaped area off Seventy-Second Street and Central Park West dedicated to the memory of John Lennon, who was shot and killed across the street. The centerpiece of this memorial is a round mosaic of inlaid stones with a simple caption in the middle:

IMAGINE
Simon stared straight ahead, blinking, devastated. Tourists streamed in and snapped photos with the famed mosaic—group shots, solo selfies, some kneeling on the inlaid stone, some lying down on it. Today, as it is most days, someone had decorated the word imagine with fresh flowers, forming a peace sign of red rose petals that somehow didn’t blow away. The visitors—maybe because the place was a memorial—were patient with one another, waiting their turn to step toward the mosaic for that special photo that they’d post on their Snapchat or Instagram or whatever social media platform they favored with some John Lennon quote, maybe a Beatles lyric or something from the song about all the people living life in peace.        Simon wore a suit and tie. He hadn’t bothered to loosen the tie after leaving his office on Vesey Street in the World Financial Center. Across from him, also sitting near the famed mosaic, a – what do you call them now? vagrant? transient? drug-addled? mentally ill?
panhandler? what? – played Beatles songs for tips. The “street musician”—a kinder name perhaps—strummed an out-of-tune guitar and sang in a cracked voice through yellowing teeth about how Penny Lane was in her ears and in her eyes.        Odd or at least funny memory: Simon used to walk past this mosaic all the time when his children were young. When Paige was maybe nine, Sam six, Anya three, they would head from their apartment only five blocks south of here, on Sixty-Seventh Street between Columbus and Central Park West, and stroll across Strawberry Fields on their way to the Alice in Wonderland statue by the model-boat pond on the east side of the park. Unlike pretty much every other statue in the world, here children were allowed to climb and crawl all over the eleven-foot-tall bronze figures of Alice and the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit and a bunch of seemingly inappropriate giant mushrooms. Sam and Anya loved to do just that, swarming the figures, though Sam at some point always stuck two fingers up Alice’s bronze nostrils and screamed at Simon, “Dad! Dad, look! I’m picking Alice’s nose!” to which Sam’s mother, Ingrid, would inevitably sigh and mutter, “Boys,” under her breath.        But Paige, their firstborn, had been quieter, even then. She would sit on a bench with a coloring book and intact crayons — she didn’t like it when a crayon broke or the wrapper came off — and always, in an ironic metaphor, stayed within the lines. As she grew older—fifteen, sixteen, seventeen—Paige would sit on a bench, just as Simon was doing now, and write stories and song lyrics in a notebook her father had bought her at the Papyrus on Columbus Avenue. But Paige wouldn’t sit on just any bench. Something like four thousand Central Park benches had been “adopted” via big-money donations. Personalized plaques were installed on the benches, most of them simple memorials like the one Simon now sat on, which read:

IN MEMORY OF CARL AND CORKY
Others, the ones Paige gravitated toward, told little stories:
For C & B — who survived the Holocaust and began a life in this city…

To my sweetie Anne — I love you, I adore you, I cherish you. Will you marry me?…

This spot is where our love story began on April 12, 1942…

The bench that Paige most preferred, the one she’d sit on for hours on end with her latest notebook — and maybe this was an early indicator? — memorialized a mysterious tragedy:

The beautiful Meryl, age 19. You deserved so much better & died so young. I would’ve done anything to save you.

Paige would move from bench to bench, read the inscriptions, find one to use as a story prompt. Simon, in an attempt to bond, tried to do that too, but he didn’t have his daughter’s imagination. Still, he sat with his newspaper or fiddled with his phone, checking the markets or reading the business news, as Paige’s pen moved in a flurry. 
What happened to those old notebooks? Where were they now? Simon had no idea.

 

SHORT TAKES
For animal lovers, Noel Fitzpatrick’s Listening To The Animals: Becoming A Supervet is a must read. Says the synopsi, “Growing up on the family farm in Ballyfin, Ireland, Noel's childhood was spent tending to the cattle and sheep, the hay and silage, the tractors and land, his beloved sheepdog Pirate providing solace from the bullies that plagued him at school. It was this bond with Pirate, and a fateful night spent desperately trying to save a newborn lamb, that inspired Noel to enter the world of veterinary science - and set him on the path to becoming The Supervet.

“Now, in this long-awaited memoir, Noel recounts this often-surprising journey that sees him leaving behind a farm animal practice in rural Ireland to set up Fitzpatrick Referrals in Surrey, one of the most advanced small animal specialist centres in the world. We meet the animals that paved the way, from calving cows and corralling bullocks to talkative parrots and bionic cats and dogs.

“Noel has listened to the many lessons that the animals in his care have taught him, and especially the times he has shared with his beloved Keira, the scruffy Border Terrier who has been by Noel's side as he's dealt with the unbelievable highs and crushing lows of his extraordinary career.

“As heart-warming and life-affirming as the TV show with which he made his name, Listening to the Animals is a story of love, hope and compassion, and about rejoicing in the bond between humans and animals that makes us the very best we can be.”
 
Listening To The Animals: Becoming A Supervet
By Noel Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 374



According to the summary of Arabia: A Journey Through The Heart of the Middle East.”Following in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia and Wilfred Thesiger, Arabia is an insight into Levison Wood's most complex and daring expedition yet: an epic and unprecedented 5000-mile journey through 13 countries, circumnavigating the Arabian Peninsula.

“Honest, reflective and poignant, Arabia is a historical, religious and spiritual journey, through some of the harshest and most beautiful environments on Earth. Exploring the Middle East through the lives, hearts and hopes of its people, Levison Wood challenges the perceptions of an often misunderstood part of the world, seeing how the region has changed and examining the stories we don't often hear about in the media.”
 
Arabia: A Journey Through The Heart of the Middle East
By Levison Wood
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 358

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