Thursday, June 8, 2017

Do you prefer books with one protagonist or many?

Some novels are told from a single point of view. Others invite you into lots of different minds and ways of seeing. Some offer a single main protagonist, but open your eyes to things they've failed to see. And still others let the reader float free over a sea of strangers. So... do you prefer books with one protagonist or with many? Or does it depend on the story, or the author, the writing style, the promise fulfilled by story's end?

For myself, I've experimented with multiple points of view (in Divide by Zero), single point of view (Infinite Sum), and a single protagonist who doesn't quite see it all (in Subtraction, coming August 1st from Indigo Sea Press). I read and enjoy books written in many different styles, and I can honestly say I enjoyed all the novels included in today's reviews.

So, choose your novel and choose your brew. Please remember the ratings are for the coffee, not for the book (which by no means suggests the coffee's more important--perhaps it's a close thing--rather that I don't feel qualified to rate books. I'd rather just read and write them).

Starting with a classic, Moo by Jane Smiley, is one that many of my friends have read and recommended. Since I hadn't yet read anything by Jane Smiley, a friend loaned me Moo. It's a comfortably slow read, set in chapters with cool headings and easy endings, so perfect for bedtime. It has a wealth of protagonists, including a pig. The satire is sharp and the humor is starkly real. Characters are colorful and intriguing, and the location evocative. Enjoy this story's rich elegance with a richly elegant four-star coffee.

Brian Doyle's Mink River is another multi-character tale, set on the Oregon Coast. If rivers could speak, they would surely tell this tale, and so one of the protagonists travels to record the water's voice. Another seeks peace in the water. Another falls. A bird speaks its own intriguing thoughts. And the whole is beautifully woven into a truly absorbing song of Mink River's hopes. Enjoy another rich elegant four-star coffee with this one.

Rare Birds by Kathleen Novak also tells its tale through lots of different pairs of eyes, and is another thoroughly absorbing book. Like Mink River, it flows through a summer rather than driving the reader from a to b. It's set in 1960, in a world about to change, around characters whose world is set, yet disturbingly fragile. And it's beautifully, vividly real. Another four-star elegant coffee would suit.

Mrs. Thistlethwaite and the Magpie by J. B. Hawker includes a fine cast of fascinating characters too. The tale's told mostly through the eyes of 85-year-old Tillie, but friends and strangers also take the stage, and Tillie will need the help of many by the story's end. A girl has gone missing. A predator is killing women. And an anonymous stranger is leaving gifts on doorsteps. But what's the connection, and how will an 85-year-old with a motto for everything, great health, and a wonderful sense of humor solve it all? Enjoy this cozy mystery with some well-balanced full-flavored three-star coffee.

The Landlocked Lighthouse by Mixi J Applebottom is a mystery/horror tale, mostly told through a single first-person point of view, with short passages from another viewpoint. It's sometimes annoying to be pulled out of first-person narration, but here it works, adding tension and hinting at depth. It's a scary Hitchcockian tale that keeps readers and characters guessing. Drink some dark five-star coffee while you try to puzzle out its dark mystery.

And finally, saving one I knew I would love till last, The Devil's Triangle by Howard Owen will soon be the latest novel in the Willie Black Mystery Series. The novels stand alone perfectly, are all narrated in first person (one protagonist...always just the one) by hard drinking, hard-driven reporter, Willy Black, But the character and his world develop convincingly as the stories continue. Black is older. He's a grandfather struggling to hold onto his job in the face of Twitter and cutbacks. And ex-wife number three might need his comfort as a terrorist's plane hits the bar where here husband was dining. Risking life and relationships, true to all he holds dear, Willie Black will surely win through, but readers will find it hard to put the book down till the end. Enjoy with some more dark five-star coffee. It's great.

So what did I like best - I like them all. One protagonist with a clear strong voice. Many protagonists, each with their individual voices and points of view... I guess it really is the writing, the story and the people that count.






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