The gift that keeps on changing

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like a wrapping a present and not giving it.  –William Arthur Ward

There!  With someone else’s graceful expression, I address the ThanksgivingBlackFridayChristmas mash-up constructively — unlike what happened at home:  Schlepping laundry across the TV-viewing area last week, I spied a beloved holiday (hint: not Thanksgiving) production radiating merrily from the screen.  In tones better reserved for violent or slanderous content, I huffed, “Are you kidding me???” and stomped out. 

“Told you,” my daughter observed to my husband.

Thanksgiving, until recently, represented our last chance for appreciative reflection before the onslaught of commercial appeals to max out our credit cards in pursuit of Holiday Magic. However, as confirmed by increasing numbers of retail employees obliged to depart family gatherings early or miss them altogether to staff pre-Black Friday promotions, standards continue to evolve. 

Chief among blessings I count are novels that explore facets of contemporary experience, thus helping us acquire greater perspective and process change.   

These forthcoming books — I’ve already designated them for library purchase — could accomplish that:

John Vaillant’s The Jaguar’s Children (Jan. 2015) imagines the plight of illegal immigrants abandoned in the Arizona desert in a broken-down water truck that has been welded shut in what Luis Alberto Urrea (The Devil’s Highway) calls …a real-world horror worthy of Stephen King.”

Detroit’s financial troubles precipitate the plight of a hard-working family in Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House (4/21/15) as their cherished investment falls victim to economic decline.

Readers heartened by the posthumous awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three civil rights workers slain in 1964 should watch for Ravi Howard’s Driving the King (1/6/15), set in 1950s Montgomery but based on an actual incident in Birmingham.  After a friend leaps onstage to defend Cole from a white audience member’s attack and consequently draws a prison sentence, Cole hires him as his chauffeur/bodyguard in Los Angeles. 

The Navy studies of combat roles for female soldiers could spark interest in these stories about other women in traditionally male spheres:  Angelina Mirabella’s The Sweetheart (1/20/15)–women’s professional wrestling in the early 1950s, and Anna Freeman’s The Fair Fight (4/14/15) –a female bare-knuckle fighter pursuing fame in 18th-century England.

If you’re intrigued by trends in workplace culture, try these soon-available novels, both of which have elicited comparisons to Kafka:  Swedish actor/playwright Jonas Karlsson’s The Room (2/17/15) features a government employee who surmounts his co-workers’ disdain by creating a special private workspace not visible to others.  The Guard by Peter Terrin (1/6/15) envisions a not-too-distant future in which Harry and Michel, confined to the basement of the luxury apartment building they are hired to secure, begin to sense that no one is left to protect…

Not (thankfully) related to actual events, Robert Repino’s Mort(e) depicts an Orwellian upending of society–ants, in league with four-legged creatures, have taken over the world.  Look for it on 1/20/15; in the meantime, be especially kind to your pets.  

And the many fans of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project will be grateful to follow developments (no spoilers here!) in The Rosie Effect, due out December 30.

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