“The Librarianist,” by Patrick deWitt, and more short book reviews

Editor’s note: The opinions of the smart, well-read women in my Denver book club mean a lot, and often determine what the rest of us choose to pile onto our bedside tables. Sure, you could read advertising blurbs on Amazon, but wouldn’t you be more likely to believe a neighbor with no skin in the game over a corporation being fed words by publishers? So in this series, we are sharing these mini-reviews with you. Have any to offer? Email [email protected].

“The Housekeeper and the Professor,” by Yoko Ogawa (Picador, 2009)

Intimately written in first person, this book seems more memoir than fiction. We never learn the housekeeper/narrator’s name (nor her son’s real name), but we learn so much about their personalities and grow to love them. The glimpses into Japanese culture were surprising in how Western things often seemed, such as meals that could be on my dinner table. And the Professor is a beautifully written character; I felt such compassion and affection for him. You don’t have to be a math nerd to appreciate the intricacies of the formulas the Professor doles out. The narrator develops an appreciation for number theory, and so did I. (Just don’t give me a test.) There are mysteries here that are never explicitly solved, so this book would elicit good discussion in a book club. — 3 stars (out of 4); Neva Gronert, Parker

“The Librarianist,” by Patrick deWitt (Ecco, 2023)

As a former librarian, I was pulled in by the title. Anybody who calls himself a “librarianist” has got to be a quirky character. And Bob Comet is, indeed, quirky. The best part of the story was the four-day jaunt of the child Bob, who ran away from home in 1945 and along the way met empathetic, protective and totally fantastical characters, including some dancing dogs. The adult Bob, whose heart was broken decades ago by his wife, is living a very limited and definitely not fantastical life, when

He uncharacteristically decides to volunteer at an assisted living facility, where he encounters people with links to his past. He recognizes some and some he doesn’t, although the not recognizing was truly puzzling. The ending was a bit abrupt and predictabe, but overall this was a fun read. — 2½ stars (out of 4); Kathleen Lance, Denver


“The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life On the Road,” by Finn Murphy (W.W. Norton & Co., 2017)

This paean to life on the road confirms our suspicions: A never-ending road trip would be great fun. More than 30 years ago, Murphy dropped out of college to become a long-haul trucker. He packed, hauled and drove more than a million miles, discovering human behavior, funny stories, and poignant and haunting happenings along the way. He clearly thought hard about life, people and this country, their strengths and weaknesses, with honesty illustrating a way of life few know. Some of his insights are unique snippets into life, and his teachable moments are valuable knowledge for all of us. – 4 stars (out of 4); Bonnie McCune, Denver; bonniemccune.com

“Mary Jane,” by Jessica Anya Blau (Custom House, 2021)

This is a rollicking coming-of-age tale told by 14-year-old Mary Jane, who takes a summer job as a nanny for a family in her respectable neighborhood outside of Baltimore. Her strict parents are delighted that it is in a doctor’s household, without realizing that the doctor is a psychiatrist treating a rock star for his drug addiction at his home. As the story unfolds, Mary Jane becomes the linchpin who holds the family together through her organizational and common-sense skills. The reader cheers her on as she discovers that there are many ways of living and finding happiness. A heartwarming story of life and love that may have you laughing out loud. — 3 stars (out of 4); Susan Tracy, Denver

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