I like a good nail-biting thriller, one that keeps me sitting bolt upright as I read. Sometimes. Other times, life itself is challenging enough, and I don’t need added stress from my fiction. On those occasions, I prefer a kinder, gentler novel, one in which the main character is never threatened by assassins.
Following are a few gentle reads I’ve enjoyed over the past couple of years. These books contain minimal violence, minimal raunch and no serial killers.
“Love in Lowercase” by Fransec Miralles
This is a story of quiet revelations and subtle, but life-changing events. Samuel is a professor of linguistics who has little human contact outside of his classroom lectures. One day a mischievous cat appears and leads him to places he’s never been. The upstairs neighbor’s apartment, for instance. And the vet. Samuel meets new people, he encounters a long-lost childhood crush, his life expands. He accomplishes the monumental human task of overcoming loneliness.
“Minding Frankie” by Maeve Binchy
Noel is marginally employed, living with his parents, and struggling with alcohol addiction. With little time to prepare, he finds himself the sole surviving parent of an infant. It could be the set-up for a grim tragedy, but instead it’s a warm story about the power of community, as family and friends pitch in to help raise his child. If it takes a village, he has one. But there’s still a skeptical social worker to convince.
“The Pure Gold Baby” by Margaret Drabble
Jess is an anthropologist who has done no field work since her daughter Anna was born, beautiful and good-natured. Anna floats through the world on a slow, gentle breeze, remaining a child. The story is not conventionally plotted. There is no countdown to a critical event, no bomb to be defused, no race for anything. It’s about how we value each other, how our lives don’t turn out like we expected, but maybe that’s okay in a lot of ways.
“The Call” by Yannick Murphy
This is written in the form of journal entries in a rural veterinarian’s logbook. He records his encounters with his clients — animals and their people — his random musings along the way, and interactions with his own family. As the book goes on, and his 12-year-old son ends up in a coma from a hunting accident, these entries grow more lengthy. He also receives mysterious phone calls — a hanger-upper who finally starts to speak a few words after several weeks. It’s a nice window on the life of a father and husband doing what he can to keep going when things get difficult.