Further Reading: Hurricanes

 

As many Americans recover from or suffer through hurricanes, those of us in drier parts of the country can empathize with their plight through literature (and donate to relief efforts too, of course). The following novels, linked to their Booklist reviews, underscore the devastation of hurricanes on people and landscape alike.

 

 The Distant Marvels, by Chantel Acevedo

The elderly Maria Sirena has lived through and, as a young girl, participated in the Cuban war for independence; now, in 1963, at the dawn of Castro’s new Cuba, with Hurricane Flora on the way, she is evacuated with other women to a historic mansion being used as a shelter. A former cigar-factory lector (a reader-out-loud of fiction into which she surreptitiously weaves her own stories), Maria Sirena entertains her fellow refugees with personal and richly imagined stories that will remind delighted readers of everything from Chaucer to García Márquez.

 

 

 

 

 Grief Cottage, by Gail Godwin

Orphaned at 11, Marcus is delivered to his only living relative, his great-aunt Charlotte, whom he has never met. Artist Charlotte has long lived in solitude on a South Carolina island, supporting herself by selling her moody paintings of the seashore, especially of the so-called Grief Cottage, an evocative ruin. Over this disorienting summer, Marcus becomes obsessed with the tragic story of the boy who lived in the cottage with his parents 50 years ago until they all disappeared in a hurricane. As flinty Charlotte wrestles with newly rekindled and traumatizing memories, her drinking problem worsens.

 

 Let Me Be Frank with You, by Richard Ford

This cleverly titled set of four novellas narrated by Ford’s signature character, Frank Bascombe, is caustically hilarious, warmly philosophical, and emotionally lush. After appearing in three novels, Frank is 68, retired from selling real estate, contentedly married to his compassionate if brusque second wife, and wryly cognizant of the expected shackles and surprising liberations of age. But his tenuous equanimity is put to the test in the disorienting aftermath of Hurricane Sandy during intense and unforeseen encounters, each associated with a residence bristling with memories.

 

 

 

 Men in Miami Hotels, by Charlie Smith

In this Florida tale of diabolical passion, Smith brings subtle noir elements to the foreground. Cot, a stone-cold gangster working in Miami, returns to his home on Key West to help his estranged mother in the wake of a hurricane and to see Marcella. He and she are incurably mad for each other, even though she’s a lawyer, and her husband is the county prosecutor. Feral to the core, Cot steals his boss’ secret stash of emeralds, thus endangering everyone he knows as gunmen arrive from the mainland to hunt him down. Strung as tight as a bow even as he spoons out tropical banter, Cot is a wizard of vigilance, stealth, and decisive attacks as smoldering rivalries reignite, and evasive tactics involving bicycles, boats, and planes keep everyone in motion. The tension is as thick as the heat and humidity.

 

 Three Can Keep a Secret, by Archer Mayor

Hurricane Irene caused nearly every river and creek in Vermont to flood, taking lives, doing billions of dollars of damage, and leaving some towns cut off from outside aid for two weeks. But for Joe Gunther and his team of Vermont Bureau of Investigation detectives, Irene brings an unearthed coffin, filled with rocks instead of a cadaver; the suspicious death of a once-powerful state senator, who lived in a fabulously expensive retirement home; and a missing patient from the state’s mental hospital. The patient, known as The Governor because she had once been made “Governor for a Day” in a tone-deaf PR campaign, had been in the hospital for 40 years; Joe learns that she may have been imprisoned there and drugged daily because of something she saw decades ago.

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About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist. She worked in bookstores for twelve years, reviews books for The Boston Globe, and writes about books, culture, and politics for several other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Genie.

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