Or, How I Spent My Summer Vacation
I know that many people have been able to make plans, travel, see places other than their neighborhoods this past year. I’m not one of them. For many reasons, both personal and not, I’ve either had to cancel every trip I planned this year, or the powers that be did it for me.
The Tao of Letting Go
I’ve decided to stop planning. At least for now. But, what about my love of travel? What to do?
Novels to the Rescue
In no particular order, here are some of the books I’ve read this past year that allowed me to walk the streets of Edinburgh, wander the fields of Ireland, live in a cabin in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, and in one in coastal North Carolina, and in one on the Czech-Polish border. Yeah… I spent a lot of time in cabins in the woods.
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
My family was supposed to travel to Scotland a few months after the world went into lockdown. So, after canceling my AirBnb in Edinburgh, I picked up this lovely gem. This novel is addictive in all the best ways, and I became deeply absorbed in each of the cases. The magic of Kate Atkinson is that she knows exactly how to write characters who are completely bonkers, yet utterly relatable.
The Searcher by Tana French
The year before lockdown, we managed our first European trip in more years than I care to admit. We did a road trip through Ireland, and it was BEAUTIFUL. I loved every field, every sheep, every ancient building converted to a bank, and every thousand-year-old pub. Not to mention the fact that when one orders tea in a pub, one gets a humongous tea pot overflowing with teabags. Paradise! This novel contains one of the best descriptions of an Irish pub, ever, among other examples of just plain excellent writing.
The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
I never had to live off the land, though I did spend a few summers living in a wooden one-room farmhouse in Russia. This was considered “healthy” living by my parents because it got me away from the city. It also got me away from running water, an oven, and refrigeration. I loved the setting of this novel and I especially loved the secretive and very capable woman who drives the narrative.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Yes, I’m VERY late to this party. I’m not sure why I hadn’t picked this one up until now. Partly it was the title–I couldn’t understand it at all. Partly the cover–SO girly, and I hadn’t been in the mood, though other times I love me a girly girl book. But once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. I listened to it, read it on my kindle, and then bought the hardcover. Beautifully written, smart, it let me inhabit a place I never knew existed, and taught me a great deal about the natural world as a bonus.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
Many years ago, I traveled through Poland–a sideways kind of heritage tour that included Warsaw, Krakow, and Oswiecim. I’m partly Polish via a great-grandmother who found her way to Russia back before the revolution. Driving through the Polish countryside felt weirdly familiar, and I didn’t know if it was because of all the WWII movies playing in my head, or a deeper recognition. This quirky book brings the Polish wilderness to vivid life, along with murderous animals–and denizens.
Your turn. Which books have you read lately that let your soul travel to parts unknown?
Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in A Stranger Comes to Town, edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.
When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.