Sunday, January 11, 2009

20 in 2009 : The Last Good Day


The Last Good Day
by Peter Blauner


About 13 years ago, I was getting ready to attend a summer session at Carnegie Mellon University (any Dalcroze Eurhythmics fans out there?) and packed along two novels to read on the plane. One was The Poet by Michael Connelly and the other, The Intruder by Peter Blauner.

They kept me up so late the first few nights that I would get to class with my mind still in the stories and so sleepy by 1 p.m. that piano improvisation classes became even more of a headache-inducing time that usual.

In the last year or so, most of the books I've read were MG or YA books, either to learn about the market or to study for craft. Over the Christmas break, I decided I would read a book, just for the sake of losing myself in a good tale.

The Last Good Day was that book. And it kept me riveted. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I couldn't turn off my writer brain. Blauner is such a masterful creator of recognizable yet not stock characters, I can't help but get drawn into their complicated lives. It was pretty clear who he wanted his readers to believe to be the villain, but I didn't mind. I wasn't reading the book to pit my sleuthing powers against the book. I was reading it to enjoy and feel. And I did.

A headless body washing up the shore, a town with more intricately-related lives than a tangled jump rope, and personal and racial prejudices all come into play in this book set a few weeks post 9/11. So many of the things we think about when the lights are off at night--forgiveness, relationships with the few people we love most fiercely, our own courage/cowardice--are in here. I don't know why there is still the perception that writers of genre fiction don't give us glimpses into our lives.

I am now eyeing Slow Motion Riot for my next Blauner treat.

1 comment:

Fiddler said...

I love a good mystery, Yat-Yee. : )

Genre fiction is often all I read for long stretches of time, and I can definitely say I learn about myself, my life, my relationships, etc. (not to mention I learn things about the world at large from time to time) when reading it. I've noticed that there tends to be a bit of snobbery toward it in my online, "laid-back" book club, but I keep reading it, anyway.