The best books of Locally Writ in 2020
After a year of highlighting local writers, it seemed time to look back and check the list. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites as well as one I’m looking forward to in the New Year. All of the books listed can or are purchased from Auntie’s Bookstore.
“Before Familiar Woods” by Ian Pisarcik: Set in the densely forested fictional town of North Falls, Vermont, the mystery follows Ruth Fenn, a recently bereaved mother, and Milk Raymond, a soldier who has returned five days from a three-year deployment in Iraq and struggles with the stress of parents alone. The death of Ruth’s son Matthew is shrouded in malicious gossip. Milks son Daniel seems to be a stranger to him. Amid this deeply personal fear, a greater mystery unfolds in the city. After her husband disappears, Ruth begins to understand how far she had distanced herself from Matthew before his death; Milk tries to avoid doing the same while his son is still alive.
“The Colds Millions” by Jess Walter: Sometimes I worry that I’ve written too much about this book. But knowing how good it is seems unlikely. Set during the Spokane Riots in 1909, The Cold Millions is about Rye and Gig Dolan, two brothers who live by their senses and struggle to find their place in a world they don’t want.
“Leaving the Boys” by Mindy Cameron: After an unplanned pregnancy towards the end of her senior year at Pacific University, Cameron put her plans for a career as a journalist on hold. But all was not lost. Eventually she was able to renew that pursuit by writing and editing for publications such as the Seattle Times, Lewiston Morning Tribune, and the Idaho Statesman, as well as public television networks in Boise and Rochester, NY. A personal and compelling account of Cameron’s life. “Leaving the Boys” covers topics such as motherhood, work, feminism and romance.
“In Accelerated Silence” by Brooke Matson: Matson’s second volume of poetry “In Accelerated Silence” is primarily a work of grief. But it also embodies a personal survey of the universe that reflects the new understanding she has gained from reading Louise Glück’s “The Wild Iris” that as a poet one can accept a multitude of voices, even and perhaps especially of things who don’t ‘I don’t really speak.
“Eden Mine” by SM Hulse: “Eden Mine” follows Jo Faber, a paraplegic artist who lives in the fictional town of Prospect, Montana, as she prepares to move out of her family home. On Sunday morning, 37 days before her move date, Faber is suddenly alone and faces a different kind of crisis when her brother Samuel becomes the main suspect after the bombing of the local courthouse. When we first met Faber, Hulse explored the social and emotional effects of loving a family member, even after they did something unforgivable.
“Atomic Theory 7: Poems to My Wife and God” by Shann Ray: In this sonnet collection, Gonzaga professor and poet Shann Ray Ferch examines the question of suffering and the “violence of life” through poetry using illustrations by the artist Trinh Mai. Ray contrasts examples of ultimate violence and ultimate forgiveness to explore the capacity of human kindness. “What does ultimate forgiveness have to say about ultimate violence?” Asks Ray.
“Woke to Birds” by Janelle Cordero: While Cordero’s first collection of poems, “Two Cups of Tomatoes”, was a piece of growing up that was about finding stability and tangible security, “Woke to Birds” delves into her more abstract fears: faith, spirit and mortality. “For me poetry is prayer,” she said. “It’s my way of expressing something that is transcendent and magical and enchanting. It is a way of honoring the ordinary and the extraordinary, and putting the beauty and mystical essence of life together into something on one page, which then connects to another person. “
“Bury My Heart At Chuck E Cheese” by Tiffany Midge: Whether through poetry, Twitter posts, opinion pieces, or the humor column she once wrote for Indian Country Today, Midge always finds ways to express herself. Midge’s “Bury My Heart with Chuck E. Cheese,” featured on this year’s Spokane Is Reading list alongside nationally recognized authors such as Ta-nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, explores life, politics, and Midge’s identity as a native American woman .
“The Great Offshore Grounds” by Vanessa Veselka: Veselka’s latest novel, which won the National Book Awards 2020 for Fiction, tells the story of sisters Livy and Cheyenne who set out to claim an unusual legacy from their estranged father. The book examines how individuals begin to deal with ethics and emotions until they figure out where in the world they belong.
“The Sound of Spokane” by Jim Kershner: When the conductor and “musical discipline” Harold Paul Whelan came to Spokane in 1945, many before him had tried and failed to form a stable symphony orchestra. Spokane clearly wanted a symphony, Kershner says, but it would take Whelan’s particular blend of musical dedication and business acumen to finally get the pieces in motion. 75 years later, despite enough turmoil, emotion, and general drama to fuel a symphony written by Beethoven, the Spokane Symphony has further cemented its reputation as the smallest major orchestra in the United States.
“The Hand of the Sun King” by Jeremy TeGrotenhuis: The first episode of TeGrotenhuis’ debut fantasy trilogy “The Hand of the Sun King”, which was officially acquired by the British publisher Gollancz, is due to be released on August 5th. Wen Alder is about to take the Imperial Trials, the first step in becoming the Emperor’s Hand and learning to use the Empire’s legitimate magic. Alder’s path will lead him from the lowly apprentice to the Wizard of the Empire, forcing him to choose between his land and his family, and leading him to uncover the truth.