The Contortionist’s Handbook by Craig Clevenger

How do you hide from a difficult past when you have a left hand with an extra ring finger and bright red hair? Even if you’re exceedingly clever with a phenomenal talent for drawing? If you’re John Dolan Vincent of The Contortionist’s Handbook, you become a forger.

Initially running from a rough childhood – an abusive father in and out of jail; a school record that mistakes his savant abilities for special needs – the lure of reinvention becomes a habit, especially after the doctors can’t diagnose his headaches and conclude they are psychologically induced. In order to avoid the mental hospital – each headache episode ends in overdose as he takes more and more drugs to control the pain – every headache requires a new identity. Continue reading

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage starts with a newly married couple, Celestial and Roy, enjoying a romantic night in a hotel. A romantic night that begins a new and troubling era in their lives when Roy is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

The novel has three parts and is mostly told from three main first person perspectives, those of Celestial, Roy and Andre, Celestial’s childhood friend who introduced the couple. Interspersed between these first person narratives are letters sent between the characters, for the most part between Celestial and Roy but this structure also allows for letters to and from other characters, such as parents, lawyers etc. Continue reading

Skin by Liam Brown

A deadly virus, spread through human contact, has forced the remaining wealthy few into isolated, decontaminated chambers; phones and computers their only means of communication with others, even their children and partners. Going outside is forbidden without prior authorisation and requires the wearing of a protective suit and mask.

This is the world of Skin, a novel narrated by mother-of-two, marketing executive, Carol. She tells her story in two threads: one which covers the outbreak and survival of the virus; and one in which she examines life in the new isolated world where she can no longer hug her children or feel the sun on her face. A chance sighting of a figure without a protective suit, spotted one day on her neighbourhood watch route, forces Carol to reevaluate the realities of the post-virus world. Skin is a great fun read for the sci-fi enthusiast as you get this double narrative arc of initial survival and then conspiracy. Continue reading