Book Reviews: Recent Fiction

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

This new novel by multifaceted artist Miranda July has received considerable acclaim.

The story is a long, first person, mostly internal monologue, through which we follow an eventful year in the life of a pretty strange woman and the strange people around her. We learn little of her past, and much of the present makes little sense.

The monolog was difficult to follow, and, so far as we can tell, this woman is not fully in touch with reality. Many of the episodes consist of her (mis)interpretation and reinterpretation of events, often based on her incomprehensible fantasy world. It was hard to identify with Cheryl, because so much of her thinking and action is so, well, stupid. Worse, many of the healthiest, most human, actions around her are undermined asshe stumbles into (and messes up) serious interpersonal relations.

I found myself concerned about her, but in the same way I worry about a child who clearly does not understand what she is doing. It was impossible to really like her or identify with her, or even to understand her.


String of Beads by Thomas Perry

Prolific author Thomas Perry brings us another story from the life of his memorable heroine, Jane Whitefield. If you haven’t read the earlier books, stop right now, go to your library, and read everything you can from Perry. I’ll wait.

This story is yet another tense, fast-paced, contemporary thriller that Thomas does better than anyone. Once again Jane is forced into desperate action, this time under instruction from the clan mothers, who want to see a Seneca man protected from what appears to be a conspiracy to kill him. When all eight clan mothers show up at your house, it is not likely to be trivial, and their Ote-ko-a could not be deferred or declined.

Jane must now use her skills to help Jimmy escape and hide, but nothing can be settled until she can figure out who is chasing him and why. All this is very risky and very hard on her marriage. In addition, Jane finds herself feeling even more strongly a rift between her Seneca heritage and her life in the modern world.

Perry is a modern master, these stories are awesomely written. Buy it. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.


  1. July, Miranda, The First Bad Man, New York, Scribner, 2015.
  2. Perry, Thomas, String of Beads, New York, Grove/Atlantic, 2015.


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