This week I ventured much closer to home. In fact, I read a book that takes place in Chicago and my hometown of Evanston. You can’t get much closer than that.
I’d read rave reviews of Katherine Shonk’s debut novel, Happy Now? (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010) and recognized her name from high school. (She was a couple years ahead of me; I was so shy in school I never would have initiated a conversation with an upperclassman!)
Shonk’s main character, Claire, loses her husband on Valentine’s Day–to suicide. Only in her mid-30s, Claire tries to make sense of her marriage, her late husband, and herself as she picks up the pieces after his shocking death.
Death is never an easy subject to discuss with those who’ve been touched by the loss of a loved one, especially when it involves suicide. Shonk shows, in a humorous way, how people–and Hallmark cards–can be so insensitive. One of my favorite such scenes takes place when Claire goes to a suicide survivors’ support group.
Happy Now? is one of the best books I’ve read this summer. Shonk debuted with The Red Passport (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), a collection of short stories based in new Russia. I’ve just put that on my short list of to-read books and look forward to many more exciting stories from Shonk in the years to come.