Author

Karla Starr

How to depict personal struggles caused by political and religious oppression in modern Turkey? You could pick characters who seem to be stand-ins for issues, as O.Z. Livaneli does in Bliss — like Meryem, a naive girl who ”discredited” her family by being raped; cousin Cemal, a shell-shocked soldier ordered to kill Meryem; and Irfan, the professor they befriend while traveling cross-country to escape their small town, who feels so trapped by his materialistic life that he’s aimlessly fleeing via sailboat.

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Sharp and shifty, Lisa Moore’s superb Alligator begins with teen ecoterrorist Colleen Clark watching a film by her aunt Madeleine, a frail-hearted director, then adds a cast including depressed actress Isobel, hot-dog vendor Frank, and Frank’s vicious bully of a neighbor, Valentin. While the number of seemingly disparate plots is initially confusing, paths cross in unexpected, satisfying ways — Madeleine hires Isobel, Isobel dates Valentin, Frank sleeps with Colleen — that give the characters depth.

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Although Angel’s Rest takes place in ’60s Sunnyside, Va., the whiff of biscuits and tobacco juice veers a bit close to Southern Clichéville, USA. Narrating with breathless naïveté, 11-year-old Charlie York begins the story after his perfect dad — mayor and TV-store owner — dies from a suspicious shotgun blast. After his mother is arrested for the murder, she leaves Charlie in the hands of a family friend, an ”old colored man” who becomes a surrogate father figure.

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