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Book Nook - 26-11-2018

Monday, November 26, 2018
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

The Lightness Of Being
Stephen King’s slim new novella, Elevation, packs in more heart and soul into its pages than many doorstopper tomes. It is kind of scary too, but not in a ghost-and-ghoulish way.

King fans would remember his 1984 novel, Thinner, in which a man is cursed with endless weight loss. In the new book, healthy and happy-go-lucky 42-year-old Scott Carey, discovers that he is losing weight at an alarming rate, but that makes no difference his 230-pound appearance—he gets lighter but does not lose mass. He has reason to be unhappy—his wife left him; but also to be happy—he got a well-paid work assignment.

Scott goes to see a doctor friend, Bob Ellis, who tells him, “I doubt very much if this is something that can be scientifically investigated.”  Scott does not want be turned into a science guinea pig and media freak, so decides to keep his strange condition to himself, swearing the doctor to secrecy.  It would seem like a dream to some, to be able to eat as much as they want without putting on weight, and having surplus energy to run a marathon, but nothing comes without a tragic price.

Going alongside Scott’s affliction, is the hostility faced by his new neighbours, a married lesbian couple, that has moved to the town of Castle Rock to run a vegetarian Mexican restaurant called Holy Frijole, which is on the verge of closing down for lack of patronage. Scott’s starts on the wrong foot with the more aggressive of the two, Deedee (the other partner is the mild-mannered Missy, a chef), by politely telling them that their dog is crapping on his lawn. He soon realizes that the women have more serious issues to deal with. When he gets into a scrap with a bully to defend his neighbours, Deedee gets inexplicably angry. His civility is so rudely rebuffed that he can only say, “All I want, is for us to be good neighbours.”

The conservative town does not want the Deedee and Missy flaunting their ‘otherness’. A character comments to Scott, “The county went for Trump three-to-one in ’16 and they think our stonebrain governor walks on water. If those women had kept it on the down-low they would have been fine, but they didn’t. Now there are people who think they’re trying to make some kind of statement.”  And just like that, King, gently slides in politics, intolerance and rigid social attitudes.

The book is simple, heartwarming (in spite of the cliché of a white male savior of women in distress) and stands for simple kindness over strident political correctness. It can
be read in one quick sitting, but its impact on the mind will stay longer.

By Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 160



Excerpt of Elevation
Scott Carey knocked on the door of the Ellis condo unit, and Bob Ellis (everyone in Highland Acres still called him Doctor Bob, although he was five years retired) let him in. “Well, Scott, here you are. Ten on the dot. Now what can I do for you?”

Scott was a big man, six-feet-four in his stocking feet, with a bit of a belly growing in front. “I’m not sure. Probably nothing, but . . . I have a problem. I hope not a big one, but it might be.”

“One you don’t want to talk to your regular doctor about?” Ellis was seventy-four, with thinning silver hair and a small limp that didn’t slow him down much on the tennis court.

“Oh, I went,” Scott said, “and got a checkup. Which was overdue. Bloodwork, urine, prostate, the whole nine yards. Everything checked out. It was diabetes I was worried about. WebMD suggested that was the most likely.”

Ellis led him into the living room, where a big bay window overlooked the fourteenth green of the Castle Rock gated community where he and his wife now lived.

“I’m losing weight,” Scott said abruptly. “That’s what’s on my mind. It’s sort of funny, you know. I used to steer clear of the bathroom scale, because these last ten years or so, I haven’t been crazy about the news I got from it. Now I’m on it first thing every morning.”

“I’m sure you know that weight-loss isn’t just a marker for diabetes, Scott, it’s a marker for cancer. Among other things. How much weight are we talking about?”
“Twenty-eight pounds. So far.”


Something About Mary
In John Sandford’s eleventh Virgil Flowers novel, Holy Ghost, the investigator is faced with an elusive sniper in a newly prosperous town.

Wardell Holland, the mayor of the beleaguerd town on Wheatfield, who had lost a foot in Afghanistan, spends his time literally shooting flies, till precocious teenager John Jacob Skinner comes up with a fraudulent but harmless scheme to alter the town’s fortunes. When the Virgin Mary appears in the town’s church, the devout flock to Wheatfield. The direct beneficiaries are Holland and Skinner, whose new store is right opposite the church.

Then two people are shot in apparently random attacks, and Wheatfield is in danger of going losing all its recent gains.. Flowers of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is summoned to help solve the case. He reluctantly leaves his pregnant girlfriend Frankie (quite a character, but she has little to do in this book) and drive to Wheatfield.

When the gun used in the killing is identified, its owner, Glen Andorra, turns up dead, shot in his home, with one of his own guns—of which has plenty, since he runs Wheatfield’s shooting rage. That makes one thing clear, the killer is from the town, and knew Andorra. Virgil believes that if he can find the motive, he will be able to catch the killer. The smartalecky Skinner is sure that the motive is money, but whose money, and who gains in a cash-strapped town? Holland is, of course, worried about the financial implications if the religious tourists are scared way by the sniper.

Sandford populates the novel with a cast of amusing characters—the top being Holland’s mother, who runs a café with such inedible food that Flowers and the other cops who land up for another case, have to survive on packaged junk from Holland and Skinner’s store, which also ends up being the cops’ headquarters. The dialogue is witty, the wisecracks fly thick and fast; the only small problem is that track that leads to the killer is not quite linked to the humorous set-up, but that does not take away from the enjoyment of the novel. John Sandford is, as Stephen King is quoted saying, “one of the great novelists of all time!'  High praise indeed from the master of horror and suspense.

Holy Ghost
By John Sandford
Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 400


Excerpt of Holy Ghost
As Virgil rolled past a million acres of newly sprouted cornfields on the way to Wheatfield, he realized that there were damn few wheatfields around anymore. Everything had gone to beans and corn. A patch of oats might pop up here or there, recognizable by the bluish tint, and there were spotty plots of commercial vegetables—cucumbers, string beans—but that was about it.

On the animal side, there were pigs and cows and some riding horses.

One interesting thing about spring, Virgil thought, especially a wet one, was how you could identify the livestock without ever seeing them. Cow shit was a definite stink, but a tolerable one. Pig shit, on the other hand, wasn’t tolerable: it had a hard ammonia overtone that made the nostrils seize up. Chicken shit had an unpleasant edge, like when damp pinfeathers were scorched off a roaster’s carcass; horse shit, on the other hand, was almost sweet, if not actually cheerful.

He thought about it as the car rolled through a swampy smell and decided he might have been working out in the countryside a tad too long, now that he had begun comparing and contrasting the different varieties of livestock odors.

He switched to contemplating the appearance of the Blessed Virgin. Virgil’s father was a Lutheran minister, and Virgil had gone to church almost every Sunday and Wednesday from the time he’d been born until he’d gone to the University of Minnesota. At the university, he’d lost his faith in churches as bureaucratic organizations, but hadn’t entirely lost his faith in God: if you spent time immersed in nature, in his opinion, you simply saw too many wonders to casually dismiss the possibility of a deity. Think about a solar eclipse for a while . . .

About the Virgin Mary, he was agnostic. The Lutheran Church, in the years he’d spent in it, seemed confused on the subject of Mary. But if Mary was actually out there somewhere, as a spirit, it didn’t seem completely unreasonable that she might decide to appear from time to time.

On the other hand, most Marian apparitions—he’d looked it up on the Wiki—seemed to present themselves to children or deeply religious folk whose testimony was accepted on the basis of faith rather than hard evidence. Skeptics might ascribe these apparitions to religion-based psychological phenomena or even a type of hysteria, if not outright fraud.

Wheatfield was a whole new kind of apparition: the crowd was large, not uniformly religious, and armed with cell phone cameras.

Virgil crossed I-90 and ten minutes later entered  Wheatfield.

Most similar small prairie towns resembled the main street in the movie High Noon before the shooting started—a line of ramshackle stores on an empty street. Wheatfield had all the ramshackle you could hope for but was busy. Even six blocks out, he could see people crossing Main Street and walking along the side- walks, cars lining the block-long business district.

He got out, looked around to orient himself, walked past the church and spotted Skinner & Holland, Eats & Souvenirs, across the street. He let a couple of cars go past, hurried across, and went inside. The place was packed: two women were looking at a rack of three-dimensional postcards of the apparition, several other people were buying soft drinks and snacks and ice-cream cones. A tall, thin, freckled kid was manning the cash register, keeping up a steady sales patter with the customers. Virgil took a Diet Coke out of a cooler, got in line, and, when his turn came, gave the kid a five-dollar bill, and said, “I’m looking for Wardell Holland. I’m with the BCA.”

The kid nodded, and turned and shouted, “Wardell! The cop is here.”

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