The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven is a delightfully interesting story about life in the frozen landmass of Spitsbergen, north of Sweden--one made all the more beguiling with the range of ethnicities--Scottish, Swedish, Russian, Finish, and Ukrainian--Miller includes. The narrative focuses on Sven, a solitary miner who, after suffering a disfiguring accident, pursues an isolated existence as a trapper. Though hoping to escape human relationships, Sven does encounter people and dogs--and some of these become unexpectedly important to his survival.
The first half of Julie Otsuka'sThe Swimmers focuses on the group of regulars at a local underground pool. Swimming is a huge part of these people's daily or weekly routine--but this comes to an end when the pool develops cracks and can no longer be used. At that point the novel becomes the story of one swimmer in particular: a woman named Alice, who has dementia. My mother also suffers from advanced dementia, and I found Otsuka's portrayal familiar and poignant, and the love Alice's daughter feels for her mother is palpable. This is a beautiful little book.
This book of short stories is amazing, in particular the novella, My Monticello. Set in Charlottesville after the heatwaves, wildfires, and demonstrations, it traces "the unraveling" when the power fails and the guys with the tiki torches return and drive people away from their homes. A diverse busload of students and others--including the protagonist, De'Naisha Love, and her grandmother, MaViolet, descendants of Jefferson and Sally Hemings--escape the mayhem and flee to Jefferson’s hilltop home, Monticello. Over 19 days the group organizes and tries to fend for iself. The writing sizzles.