Book Review: Berkeley Noir

By Jenny Hayes

Berkeley Noir collects tales from my California hometown, a place where, the anthology’s editors write, “even outcasts can feel at home.” Editors Jerry Thompson and Owen Hill introduce the collection: “The search through darkness for an authentic, eclectic voice is the most important ingredient in the rich stew that is Berkeley, California.” Akashic Books’ Noir series launched in 2004 and now has well over 100 titles collecting sinister stories from locations around the world. The books are a great way to get a glimpse of unfamiliar cities or to relive places you know well—a perfect escape for this time of sheltering in place.

Book Review: All This Could Be Yours

By Jenny Hayes Jami Attenberg’s novel All This Could Be Yours takes place largely over a single day, a day which Victor Tuchman—a pretty terrible man— spends mostly unconscious and near death in a New Orleans hospital. The book bounces around between the points of view of the family members and various others who come into the scene—sometimes only tangentially—near the end of Victor’s life. This structure gives the book a loose, kaleidoscopic feeling, with a consistent narrative tone that keeps it feeling cohesive; the prose is clear and rhythmic, conveying each character’s point of view while occasionally interjecting its…

Book Review: Roxane Gay’s “Difficult Women”

By Jenny Hayes

difficult-womenRoxane Gay’s Difficult Women is a relentless and thrilling read. As in much of Gay’s other work, particularly her novel An Untamed State, there is no looking away from brutality, yet moments of grace, beauty, and humor serve as striking counterparts to the more unsettling passages.

In these twenty-one stories, women negotiate problematic relationships, search for love and comfort, and try to cope with pain.

Book Review: Rich Ferguson’s “New Jersey Me”

By Jenny Hayesnew-jersey-me-cover

Rich Ferguson’s debut novel New Jersey Me is a coming-of-age tale set in an intriguingly dysfunctional ‘80s South Jersey town. The narrator, Mark, has a chaotic home life. His mother moved out of the house when he was fifteen, leaving him alone with his dad, a tough-talking, somewhat shady police chief, and the good things in his life are few and far between. He and his best friend Jimmy are even convinced they’re cursed by a “pet jinx” that causes all animals in their care to meet a premature demise. The two teens spend most of their time listening to music, getting wasted, and trying to have as good of a time as they can in Blackwater, a town Mark describes as “just strip malls, gun shops, radiation, and funeral homes.”