Miami Book Fair : four stand out from the rest

Wasted Beauty, by Eric Bogosian

This is a novel about drug abuse, adultery, mental illness and the difficult world of professional modeling which shows the shaded part of life. Novelist, playwright and actor Eric Bogosian’s story revolves around Reba, a young woman who commutes from suburb to city to sell apples in Union Square. Struggling for a way to free herself from a cycle of bills and depression, Reba is suddenly discovered at a McDonald’s and turned into the new and fresh model, Rena. Combined with drug use and the fallout of her younger brother who is weirdly in love with her, Rena searches for herself in the midst of her chaotic life.

Although the novel is rather dark, Bogosian treads lightly with his words and does finish with a happy ending. As a writer, Bogosian uses inner monologues and thoughts to keep the story moving through the main characters, creating a compelling tension. The end result is a novel that asks both the main characters and the readers to question how to live, love and survive without hurting.

This Book is Not a Toy! by Chuck Goldstone

Chuck Goldstone is a man with an interesting sense of humor and an immense ability to make people laugh. His new book is a collection of Goldstone’s ridiculously funny observations about the human mind and the way the world functions.

The book’s short chapters focus on everyday affairs that play out the drama of life. Goldstone is not shy to point out that everyday workers at a Home Depot can put together a drill but the esteemed professor who bought the power tool doesn’t even know where to begin. These stories show Goldstone’s quick wit and his ability to point out the ironies and idiosyncrasies that unfold everyday.

Good for some laughs, the book is an interesting look at life that serves as a reminder that everyday events can often be just as harrowing as worldly affairs and international events. Using his natural knack for humor, Goldstone provides readers with insightful observations and entertaining reflections that bring the bigger complexities of life back to earth.

The Tattoo Artist by Jill Ciment

A inventive novel about the art of tattooing, Jill Ciment has written a truly vivid and beautiful story with her book, The Tattoo Artist. The story centers around a surrealist artist who takes off for the South Seas with her revolutionary boyfriend after the New York art scene dies pre-WWII. In search of inspiration the couple become captives on the island of Tu’un’uu where natives forcibly tattoo their faces.

The story here shows the innocence of love and loss when the couple take to tattooing as a way of expression for their situation. After the death of her lover, the main character, Sara, has no option but to become one of the natives, spending her days practicing the art of tattooing. As a result Sara continues to imprint herself and ultimately becomes a canvas of artworks. After decades of tattoos Sara finally returns home to New York after being discovered by a reporter for Life magazine, which lands her a story and photo layout in the magazine.

Ciment’s story is truly unique as it weaves the worlds of life and art together so intimately. Not only does the novel paint a beautiful picture is brings a new light on the historic art of tattooing.

Love and Ghost Letters by Chantel Acevedo

A heartfelt story about the lives of families in pre-Castro Cuba, Love and Ghost Letters is the debut novel of Cuban-American writer and UM alumna Chantel Acevedo. The story follows the relationship of a father and daughter as he writes letters of events that shaped the Cuba that the world now knows.

The daughter, Josefina Navarro, trades her rich life with her father for that of lesser status with her new husband, Lorenzo. Cut off emotionally and financially, Josefina is left with no support and no money as her husband slowly drifts away, spending less and less time at home and leaving her with her two children. During this time a riot at El Cotorro ensues and her father, the sergeant of police, is presumed dead. In truth her father slips to Miami and begins to write her letters, informing her of his past and the events that have occurred since she has left. Josefina, unaware of her father’s escape, begins to believe that her father is writing these letters from the grave in a mystical and mysterious manner. The story spans almost 40 years tells the story of love, loss and memory.

For a debut novel, Avecedo does an excellent job conveying the events of pre-Castro Cuba and the struggle of a father and daughter to regain their once loving relationship and face the struggles that challenge them as Cubans during a time of turmoil.