Sunday, December 28, 2014

Still Another Local Author New to Me - Ann Packer

I met Ann Packer at Books, Inc., Palo Alto, in late November for Small Business Day. Each of the local bookstores had authors coming during the day to help customers choose books.  I didn't know that Ann was going to be there in the early afternoon, but I'm glad she was.  She's written 2 novels and 2 books of novellas/short stories.  Since I'm a novel (double meaning?) kind of guy, we talked about which of her 2 I should read.  We picked one, she signed it, and I read it.  It's Songs without Words, and it's darn good. Here's the rundown from the back of the book:

"Liz and Sarabeth were girlhood neighbors in the suburbs of northern California, brought as close as sisters by the suicide of Sarabeth's mother.  In the decades that followed, their relationship remained a source of continuity and strength.  But when Liz's adolescent daughter enters dangerous waters, the women's friendship takes a devastating turn, forcing Liz and Sarabeth to question their most deeply held beliefs about their connection."

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of a genre that goes by many names - women's fiction, chick lit, literary fiction, among others.  Bottom line is that I like books written by women about women.  Does that mean I lose my man card?  Some (maybe many!) would say that it's too late.  That I lost it long ago.  Well, gosh darn it, so be it.

Several elements of Songs without Words resonated with me immediately.

1.  Ann does a great job of setting up the story in her prologue.
2.  The story grabs you immediately.
3.  You learn on page 3 that Sarabeth's mother committed suicide.  This is like C. Lee McKenzie's The Princess of Las Pulgas (our RBC author/book for March) when we find out on page 2 that Carlie's dad died.
4.  Ann's writing reminds me a little of Meg Waite Clayton's writing.  That's obviously a good thing.

And then there were other parts of the book that I liked:

1.  The story takes place in the Bay Area.  El Cerrito is mentioned.  That is right next to Albany, where I grew up.  And Montclair in Oakland is also mentioned.  I moved from Albany to Oakland and spent lots of time in Montclair.  Recognizable geography is always fun.
2.  The book is told from the point of view of 4 people - Liz and Sarabeth, of course, along with Liz's daughter, Lauren (my younger daughter's name!), and Brody, Liz's husband. And here's the thing - I absolutely cared about all of them.
3.  Sarabeth goes to a movie theater called the Albany Twin.  This is where I saw my 1st movie with friends.  I was probably around 13.
4.  The word perspicacious is used to describe Sarabeth.  I specifically remember my father using that word with me when I was young.  He never substituted a small word when the bigger word was what he wanted to use.
5.  Jim, Sarabeth's friend, comes to pick her up.  She gets in the car, and he waits until she is buckled in before he drives away.  I do that.  I know sometimes it's a little annoying to family and friends.  But I can't help myself.

I enjoyed Songs without Words and, just like with Linda Gunther's Endangered Witness, I intend to read Ann Packer's other novel, The Dive from Clausen's Pier.  Ann, can I get you to sign it for me?

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