|Oliver models my 2020 TOB t-shirt.|
But we still have each other via the internet and we have books to read and discuss and for that I consider myself especially lucky. And I have The Tournament of Books which absolutely can be enjoyed while maintaining a six foot distance from other humans.
I did end up reading all 18 of the shortlisted 2020 Tournament of Books. And the winner was Normal People by Sally Rooney. It wasn't my favorite from the list. My top favorites were:
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo: This was this year's Booker Prize winner and it features 12 characters, almost all exclusively female, black and British. It was a real joy to read and suss out the links between the characters. I think it is a real credit to the author that I was both irritated and empowered by every character’s opinion or actions at times. Evaristo compellingly presented each person in all their contradictory glory, warts and all. No one person is representative of anything other than themselves and their own unique trajectory. The only thing that spoiled it for me what the epilogue. I thought the book didn't need it.
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha: This was a taut novel that rolled out like a Greek tragedy. It is based on a real life shooting of a young African-American woman by a Korean-American convenience store employee in Los Angeles in the 1990s. The book starts with a similar incident and then fast forwards 25 years focusing on the families of both the victim and the perpetrator and showing how this crime has affected them. As the story progresses, the events conspire to bring the incident back to life and the reader is asked if one can ever reconcile one's pasts with the present. It wasn't always easy reading but I thought it was a thoughtful portrayal of a tragic situation.
Normal People was a fine book. I would encourage any reader to give it a try if it sounds interesting to them or if they are curious about Sally Rooney, who isn't even thirty yet and has two best sellers under her belt along with much critical acclaim. I read Normal People last summer before the TOB shortlist was published. It is about two young people in Ireland who meet in high school and maintain a strong bond, though not necessarily a relationship (friendship or otherwise) up through university. What brings them together and what pulls them away from each other is the novel's focus. Their communication is so deep on many levels and yet completely inadequate on others. If it weren’t for the fairly explicit sex scenes, I would consider this YA. It often read like that to me, in any case.