This week’s list of Five Good reads was submitted by Amy Fletcher. To submit your own list of Five Good Reads, email email@example.com
Taking a cue from my friend Katie Spielberger, who submitted her list a couple weeks ago, I narrowed down the parameters of my list to make this task easier. Here are five great books that employ the technique of multiple narrators. I would read them all again in a heartbeat.
“A Visit From The Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan
The connections between Jennifer Egan’s characters reveal themselves slowly, allowing the interweaving narratives to take on the fullness of multiple perspectives over the course of the book. Told in multiple time periods (time is the “goon squad”), the bleak parts are more than balanced out by the hopefulness of the final chapters. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2011.
“Let The Great World Spin” by Colum McCann
The beginning of this book dragged a bit for me, with descriptions of a tightrope walker high above New York. But once McCann got into his characters it became a fantastic read. The narrative perspectives presented here include a woman grieving the loss of her son after Vietnam, a hooker who works the streets with her daughter, and a man committed to helping people he knows he’ll never be able to save.
“As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner
One of the first books I can remember reading that employed the different-narrator-every-chapter technique, used even more famously in “The Sound and The Fury.” For me, the strength of this book hinges on a single short chapter narrated by Addie Bundren, the family matriarch, who is dead by the time the action of the book begins (the story centers on her family transporting her body back to where she wanted to be buried). The language and ideas in Addie’s chapter made me a lifetime Faulkner fan in the course of 10 minutes.
“The Story of a Million Years” by David Huddle
Some narrators in David Huddle’s book get more than one chapter, as he alternates perspectives between four different people across different time periods. Huddle traces the marriages of two couples who are good friends, touching on each of their secrets and highlighting our ability to trick ourselves into believing things we know aren’t true.
“The Feast of Love” by Charles Baxter
I read this around the same time as “The Story of a Million Years” and couldn’t believe my luck in hitting upon two great reads back to back. Apparently it is based on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but I didn’t know that when I was reading it and didn’t feel cheated by not having that reference. Baxter draws on his talents as a short story writer to provide a series of vignettes about love in many different forms.