THE HEART GOES LAST by Margaret Atwood

This book is downright bizarro-funny! It takes place in the future, but it is not the stately, lit-quality of THE HANDMAIDEN’S TALE, a classic in Freshman College Anthologies.  Think Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas, sexbots, and The Green Men Group, an ecologically-correct parody of The Blue Men Group. Put all these in a nursing home, a casino, and in the middle of a rescue-kindapping, and you have a furiously fast-paced, laugh-out-loud (even if you shouldn’t!) read.

Charmaine and Stan, her husband are living out of their car when they hear of the too-good-to-be-true offer from the gigantic Positron conglomerate/company to give people a better life.  What the offer involves is living in a wonderful, idyllic, retro-fifties home and lifestyle for six months of the year, then living in prison for the next six.  A couple is not to have any contact with the “other couple” who occupies their home the six months they are in prison…and there’s where the fun begins.

This is Margaret Atwood having fun, yet making points about conformity, corruption of money and/or power on individuals, and the evils of mega-corporations who strive to take over the world.

It was a quick read and made me want to go back and see if Atwood had any short stories in my (paper) back issues of The New Yorker, tucked into my book closet with magic marker notations on the cover, “Have read all but the Fiction section.”

TRU AND NELLE by G. Neri

If you liked The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Sherlock Holmes, you’ll love the adventures of Truman Capote (author of In Cold Blood) and Nelle (Ellen spelled backward) Harper Lee (author of To Kill A Mockingbird). As young friends in the tiny town of Monroeville, Alabama, during the Great Depression, Tru and Nelle become acquainted. The novel opens with even less than usual going on in the slow-moving, small town.

This book is written as fiction based on fact, and the author “recasts their time together” in a narrative that is engaging and probably very close to accurate.

Many cases open up to Sherlock Holmes (Truman Capote) and Watson (Harper Lee) who are joined by “Big Boy” as Inspector Lestrade (who never had a clue, according to Nelle), aka Jennings Falk, a real resident and childhood friend of the pair. Jennings adds a section at the end of the fictionalized account as “Tall tales told by Tru and Nelle,” which he recounted.

Foreshadowings of To Kill a Mockingbird in the real persons and events from the kids’ childhood emerge, such as Sonny, a neighbor boy (who is the basis for Boo Radley, and a scene in which the Klu Klux Klan show up at Truman’s going away( costume-dress) Halloween party. The result is hilarious, entertaining reading and just plain fun.

The author’s notes at the end of the narrative deal with the eventual ending of the Capote-Lee friendship.  I felt it was an accurate surmise at what actually caused the dissolution of the friendship and maybe one reason for Harper Lee’s reclusive lifestyle.

The story itself is worth the read, but the whole volume is a good investment of one’s reading time for anyone who follows literary events and is interested in where authors get their “ideas.”

I highly recommend this 2016 publication.