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Friday, May 25, 2012

Contents May Have Shifted

Contents May Have Shifted
Pam Houston
Norton, 2012

Narrator Pam, not to be confused with author Pam but seemingly very much like her, travels a lot. Her day job is teaching writing at a California college, and she must use every school break she gets to fly somewhere else. The planes she takes vary from jumbo jets to single propeller puddle-jumpers, and her flight experiences vary as well – sometimes dangerously so. Pam is a scattered narrator, who explains in many short chapters that bounce around in time that she is searching for a committed relationship that will be strong enough to keep her at home. Recovering from a hard breakup, she is now with an artist who shares her love for travel but has his own baggage: a child with a controlling mother who causes problems. When it gets too much for Pam, she goes somewhere else, or gets a massage, or talks to one of her friends to get a more realistic perspective. Pam has lots of friends who are much wiser than she is.

This is a scattered and untraditional method of novel writing but an effective one. The reader may need a few chapters under her belt to get to know Pam, but to know her is to love her. Whether she is escaping her present life or looking for a new one, we understand that she is searching for something bigger than herself to make some order out of chaos. She has a remarkable and beautiful way of describing her life, unsettled as it may be that makes the reader envy not only her ability to write so lyrically but her enthusiasm for travel as well.


Other novels by this author:
Waltzing the Cat (1998)
Sight Hound (2005)

Other titles you may enjoy:

A Risk Worth Taking by Robin Pilcher (2004)
Laid off in the wake of the dot-com industry collapse, Dan Porter finds himself increasingly estranged from his clothing designer wife and three teenage children and considers implementing drastic changes in his life.

The Ha-Ha by Dave King (2005)
Rendered unable to speak, read, or write after a Vietnam War injury thirty years earlier, Howard Kapostash feels trapped by his disability until his high school sweetheart, recently forced into rehab, asks him to care for her nine-year-old son.

Vibrator by Mari Akasaki (2007)
Following a chance encounter with a truck driver one night, Rei Hayakawa, a troubled young journalist, embarks on a journey through the snowy wastelands of northern Japan. Together the unlikely pair explores their sexuality and their demons, and the memories that compel them to keep moving.

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