‘Bowlaway’ by Elizabeth McCracken


Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken is the acclaimed author’s latest release. This multigenerational novel explores themes of love, connection, and imperfection all within the setting of a bowling alley.

McCracken starts the novel off with the finding of a body in a cemetery. The body though is alive, and its keeper, Bertha Truitt, comes to wholly change the town of Salford, Massachusetts. Against all odds and all societal norms, Bertha, a white woman, marries an African American doctor when segregation is still very much alive and opens a candlepin bowling alley where women of the town come to bowl and show their worth as more than just housewives.

Over the span of the novel, characters die, leave, and keep coming back. Through a series of mysteries and missed connections, the bowling alley sees a number of new owners with new agendas as Bertha’s family, both blood and not, try to unravel their inherited mysteries and find their own place in the world.

While the story is intriguing, I often found myself unable to be fully pulled into Bowlaway. Much of the novel is told as summary as we are whisked through time to new places and new periods where the characters are often unfamiliar and unknowable because of the constant shifting. Further, while the plot of the novel has unbounding potential for interest, the stakes for the characters in many of the scenes feel distant or not wholly there.

A quick read with an element of humor and remorse, Bolwaway is slated to be released by HarperCollins on February 5, 2019. You can preorder a copy of Bowlawayby Elizabeth McCracken at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘The Shore’ by Sara Taylor

The Shore by Sara TaylorThe Shore is a place of beauty and nightmare, of magic and perversity, of both horror and insight. In this collection of interconnected short stories, author Sara Taylor takes readers on a journey of genealogy that explores themes of family, the cyclical nature of violence, the importance of self-preservation and perseverance, as well as the complexity of what it means to love and be loved by others and by oneself.

Female characters are at the center of most of the stories, and the strength and vulnerability of the female condition is explored in depth. One of the most valuable aspects of the novel though is Taylor’s ability to shift her perspective from male to female, from past to present, from first to third person and back again. We hear from the raped and the rapist, from the abused and the abuser, from mother and child and from friends, lovers and cousins all to culminate in the telling of not only the individual stories, but the larger, over-arching themes that span the entirety of the novel.

In narrating The Shore in such a way, Taylor creates an air of empathy that would otherwise be vacant space. Because of the multiple perspectives offered, though, the reader is better able to gain access into the minds and spirits of characters whose connections to one another only ensure the reader’s own attachment to that character. Though this by no means absolves any of the characters of their often malevolent personas, and in some cases the reader is made to hate the already detestable characters even more so.

The Shore is unarguably a work of literary fiction; however, Taylor is still able to weave elements of magical realism, dystopian narrative and thriller inspired mystery into a number of her stories. Though Taylor is often successful in seamlessly shaping these deeper stories despite their more plot-driven impetus, the reader can at times get distracted from the value and significance of the story as she is drawn into the what rather than the who of the narrative.

Nonetheless, The Shore is an emotionally charged read that forces you to contemplate larger questions of violence, love and hatred while encouraging the growth, development and perseverance of the individual despite hardship, failure and horror.

Published by Hogarth, Sara Taylor’s The Shore was realeased May 26, 2015.

Pick up a copy at your local bookstore today.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.