14 July 2011
Book Banter -- Centuries of June
Author: Keith Donohue
Genre: literary fiction
Length: 342 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: In the middle of the night in June, a man takes a tumble on his way to the bathroom, gashing open a hole in his head. Thus the reader in thrust into his imagination/memory/dreams as he tries to explain what he was dreaming about when he awoke and how he got the hole in his head. He is repeatedly interrupted by women from the past -- all who make an attempt on his life with such murderous implements as frying pans and baseballs -- and then upstage him to tell tall tales of love gone wrong (The Woman Who Married a Bear for example). Each interruption brings him closer to his own present and truth of his injury.
Banter Points: I realize that the plot sounds odd, but in Donohue's lyrical and magical voice, the stories all hang together into a compelling narrative. Each of the women's stories is like its own novella, unique in voice and perspective and with moving story arc. The stories feel like stories you know to be almost true, drawn from history and mythology and something close to common experience.
Bummer Points: Given that each of the women's stories is unique, I didn't like them all equally. Also, once the reader figures out what the pattern of each interruption is, the technique gets a little old by stories six through eight.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you haven't read Donohue, I'd suggest starting with his debut novel, The Stolen Child, but Centuries of June is definitely worth picking up.