Fairy tale wisdom rich in ‘Kings and Queens of Roam’

“The Kings and Queens of Roam” by Daniel Wallace. Touchstone, 2013. $24.

Wallace’s fifth novel is another foray into his wonderfully weird world of tall tales and magical landscapes.

This time he invites readers to Roam, an oasis somewhere in the wilderness of America full of ghosts, lumberjacks, wild dogs and other unusual inhabitants. The sad decay of this once lovely hamlet sets the tone for the story about a pair of orphaned sisters.

Helen is as bitter and fantastically ugly as Rachel is beautiful and blind. Forced to care for Rachel after the death of their parents, Helen weaves a horrific fantasy world for Rachel, one which they both struggle to escape.

Wallace’s prose overflows with proverbs, giving the story a sense of droll fairy-tale wisdom.

Yet, the conclusion may not quite satisfy modern fairy-tale lovers in the same way as Big Fish. Nevertheless, Roam speaks to anyone burdened by ghosts of the past whilst hoping for a better future.

Brittany Hart,

New Orleans

“The Funeral Dress” by Susan Gregg Gilmore. Broadway Books, 2013. $16.

Midcentury Appalachia and poverty are just as much main characters in Gilmore’s latest book as the humans, Emmalee Bullard, her father and the women that work with Emmalee at the factory.

Emmalee’s chances weren’t good, born in poverty to a no-account father, and the struggle that surrounds her attempts to improve her lot is one most women can relate to, even if they’ve always had running water and indoor plumbing. Gilmore’s brisk storytelling and knack for conversational writing drive the story along, tugging heartstrings as it sets off deep divides in class and status.

The underlying stars of the book are the relationships that knit these women together with knots of tragedy and threads of joy. Most all of us know someone like one of Gilmore’s characters. Reading her book was like being surrounded by old friends.

Beth Colvin,

bcolvin@theadvocate.com

“Wave” by Sonali Deraniyagala. Knopf, 2013. $24.

How does one survive the death of a child? Two children? A spouse? A parent? Both parents? How does one survive the death of all their family members at one time?

In the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her two sons, her husband, and her parents.

“Wave” is her poignant memoir of her life before and after the tsunami. It is a heartrending account of immense proportions.

Eight years after the tsunami Sonali still struggles to understand her loss and to believe it is real.

This memoir is unlike any you will ever read. Haunting may be too light of a word to describe it. It is raw and honest, but lacks any of the self-pity often seen in a memoir. It is a tale of pure survival.

Laura Acosta, Baton Rouge

Your New Job Title is “Accomplice” (Dilbert, #40) by Scott Adams. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013. $12.99

What employee doesn’t want his or her own personal service monkey? In his latest Dilbert comic, Adams introduces Wally’s newest employee, his very own service monkey who keeps his coffee warm, as well as a new group of outsourced data vampires to the cartoon world. Since 1989, Dilbert has provided comic relief for workers distressed by workplace absurdity. After 40 books, Dilbert is as snarky as ever. With a new offsite e-mail server, now located in Transylbonia, Dilbert and his cubicle cohorts continue churning out the laughs, keeping office humor relevant and relatable, demonstrating the funny side of the 9-to-5 life. Their latest shenanigans are sure to brighten a dreary workday.

Vivian Solar, Prairieville