When I can't sleep sometimes I troll the true crime sections of various eBook purveyors trying to find a new sordid tale to entertain me. This is how I found Joan Barthel's 1981 book A Death in California, the story of a deeply bizarre 1973 murder. The case centers on Hope Masters, a beautiful, petulant mother of three who grew up wealthy and turned into a very spoiled grown up. Her boyfriend is murdered while on a weekend getaway with Hope, and what follows is a very strange Stockholm-Syndrome situation that defies logic. It's a well-paced, appealingly retro thriller. If you want to read an excerpt, Barthel ran one in the New York Times Magazine when the book was first published.
This week I'm reading two novels at the same time in attempts to keep the president-elect's Inauguration out of my mind. Book of Addis: Cradled Embers by Brooke C. Obie tells the story of Addis, an enslaved woman who finds freedom in a world defined by inequality and injustice. With gripping drama and heartfelt prose, Brooke's novel unflinchingly depicts a history our nation has yet to fully reckon with. In The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera, Margot (aka "Princesa") finds herself working at her family's supermarket in the Bronx instead of vacationing in the Hamptons with friends after using her father's credit card without permission to revamp her wardrobe. This novel is a bildungsroman for brown girls and anyone who's ever felt like they don't fit in. It will make you laugh and cry (in a good way) from beginning to end. Both novels reminded me of the foresight, strength, and resilience that we as women possess.