Frank Deford’s novel Bliss, Remembered (Overlook, set against the ominous backdrop of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where the confident, young, and naive American falls in love with the charming son a German diplomat. Their passionate affair falters as their nations, and their perspectives, are confronted by war. The novel discusses whether love and politics can co-exist, and whether love once lost can be regained, or even if it should be.
Bruce Machart’s The Wake Of Forgiveness (Mariner, $14.95) is a fantastic debut. An American Western with all the scope that implies, the novel follows the Skala family over thirty eventful, sometimes explosive, years. It is a novel about men, certainly; the Skala boys, led by their merciless father, toil in the fields and plot and scheme to acquire land and influence. It is also a novel about women, or the absence of them, and the impact this has on the men as they grow. Machart blends sparing dialogue with strong emotional undercurrents. Yes, there are horse races, shoot-outs, arson, and other staples of the Western, but there is also a family coming to terms with who they are, and learning to accept themselves and each other.
The past and the present merge in the fictional town of Pont Bonita in WEST OF HERE by Jonathan Evison (Algonquin, $24.95). The novel tells two parallel stories set about a century apart, one the formation of this town as a thriving community and the other its present day slide into irrelevance. Compelling characters from both periods must decide how their lives will develop and evolve as the place they call home changes around them. Evison has really created two narratives that feed off each other and create a wonderful whole.