Happy April Fool’s Day! It’s a day full jokes, pranks, and tricks. April Fool’s Day makes me think of books with quirky characters. If you like funny characters with lots of quirks, check out these books.
by Tom McCarthy
Opening in England at the turn of the twentieth century, C is the story of a boy named Serge Carrefax, whose father spends his time experimenting with wireless communication while running a school for deaf children. Serge grows up amid the noise and silence with his brilliant but troubled older sister, Sophie: an intense sibling relationship that stays with him as he heads off into an equally troubled larger world. After a fling with a nurse at a Bohemian spa, Serge serves in World War I as a radio operator for reconnaissance planes. When his plane is shot down, Serge is taken to a German prison camp, from which he escapes. Back in London, he’s recruited for a mission to Cairo on behalf of the shadowy Empire Wireless Chain. All of which eventually carries Serge to a fitful–and perhaps fateful–climax at the bottom of an Egyptian tomb.
The Junior League of Willow Creek, Texas, is tres exclusive. Undesirables need not apply. Fredericka Mercedes Hildebrand Ware (Frede to her friends) is a member beyond reproach…until her life begins to unravel. When her husband betrays her, steals her money, and runs off to places unknown, it’s something Frede would rather keep under wraps. The last thing she needs is to become fodder for the JLWC gossip mill. And to make matters worse, there’s only one person in town who stands a chance at helping her get revenge: Howard Grout, a tasteless, gold-chain-wearing lawyer who has bought his way into Frede’s tony neighborhood. But there’s a price: She has to get his tacky, four-inch-stiletto-and-pink-spandex-wearing wife Nikki into the Junior League.
Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno’s ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys — and most affecting love stories — in recent literature.
In this touching, hilarious novel of the heart and mind, of dreams and memory, of desire and first love, Abe Lee comes of age in the 1960s, living with his unforgettable family at the Flamingo Drive-In Theatre on a scrubby patch of coast between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Florida. There, some of America’s last sweet moments of innocence are unfolding. For Abe’s father, Hubert, there’s nothing better than presenting larger-than-life Hollywood fantasies on his vast silver screen. Nothing, that is, except gleefully sparring with Turner West–a funeral home operator who doesn’t much appreciate the noise and merriment from the drive-in next door. Within the lively orbit of this ongoing feud is Abe’s mother, Edna Marie, whose calm radiance conceals deep secrets; his sister, Louise, who blossoms almost too quickly into a stunning, willful young woman; and Judge Lester, a clumsy man on the ground who turns graceful when he takes to the sky, towing the Flamingo banner behind his small plane. Then Abe falls for Turner’s beautiful daughter Grace. That’s when, long before the Fourth of July festivities, the fireworks really begin.
Hitchcock Sewell is up to his ears in murders, and the latest clues point to a Baltimore nightclub. Following his nose, Hitch uncovers a host of nefarious goings-on as well as some downright strange characters, including a felonious artist, a Miles Davis wanna-be, an Ida Lupino look-alike, and one very irritated dance instructor. Put them all together, throw in a bag full of cash and an incriminating Polaroid, and you have another surefire, humor-laced hit.
Somewhere in the not-so-distant future, the screwed-up residents of Ennet House, a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts, and students at the Enfield Tennis Academy search for the master copy of a movie so dangerously entertaining that its viewers die in a state of catatonic bliss. Explores essential questions about what entertainment is, why we need it, and what it says about who we are.
Early one morning in New York City, Will Heller, a sixteen-year old paranoid schizophrenic, gets on an uptown B train alone. Like most people he knows, Will believes the world is being destroyed by climate change; unlike most people, he’s convinced he can do something about it. Unknown to his doctors, unknown to the police – unknown even to Violet Heller, his devoted mother – Will alone holds the key to the planet’s salvation. To cool down the world, he has to cool down his own overheating body: to cool down his body, he has to find one willing girl. And he already has someone in mind.
Odile is a lovely twenty-three-year-old art-school dropout, a minor vandal, and a hopeless dreamer. Jack is a twenty-five-year-old shirker who’s most happy capturing the endless noises of the city on his out-of-date tape recorder. Together they decide to start their own art movement in defiance of a contemporary culture made dull by both the tedious and the obvious. Set in February 1999, just before the end of one world and the beginning of another, Office girl is the story of two people caught between the uncertainty of their futures and the all-too-brief moments of modern life.
“If you have anything weird wrong with you in this country, you’d better be Canadian.” So says widowed Cassie Jones when, after being written off by countless doctors, she finally finds one who diagnoses her with a rare genetic form of arthritis. The condition is manageable, but not curable, and a new diagnosis, so her health insurance refuses to pay for most of her expensive medications and treatment. So widowed Cassie, still grieving for the love of her life and facing destitution because of her medical bills, decides she has to remarry for better health coverage. Enter one-legged hermit and curmudgeon Jack Wilson, on the same appointment schedule at their specialists, who’s rude and obnoxious, but eventually tries to help by setting up e-dating for Cassie. After a hilarious round of fix-ups and e-dating, Cassie’s left with no hope and no prospects. That’s when Jack offers a strictly business marriage that could solve both their problems, with a serious set of house rules, including separate bedrooms. How well it will work remains to be seen.
After losing virtually everything meaningful in his life, Benjamin trains to be a caregiver, but his first client, a fiercely independent teen with muscular dystrophy, gives him more than he bargained for and soon the two embark on a road trip to visit the boy’s ailing father.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
The Bigtree alligator wrestling dynasty is in decline—think Buddenbrooks set in the Florida Everglades—and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park, is swiftly being encroached upon by a sophisticated competitor known as the World of Darkness.
Ava, a resourceful but terrified twelve year old, must manage seventy gators and the vast, inscrutable landscape of her own grief. Her mother, Swamplandia!’s legendary headliner, has just died; her sister is having an affair with a ghost called the Dredgeman; her brother has secretly defected to the World of Darkness in a last-ditch effort to keep their sinking family afloat; and her father, Chief Bigtree, is AWOL. To save her family, Ava must journey on her own to a perilous part of the swamp called the Underworld, a harrowing odyssey from which she emerges a true heroine.
The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family–including Judd’s mother, brothers, and sister–have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose fourteen-month affair with Judd’s radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family. As the week quickly spins out of control, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions reawakened. For Judd, it’s a weeklong attempt to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying in vain not to get sucked into the regressive battles of his madly dysfunctional family. All of which would be hard enough without the bomb Jen dropped the day Judd’s father died: She’s pregnant.
When he is four years old, Jack travels with his mother Alice, a tattoo artist, to several North Sea ports in search of his father, William Burns. From Copenhagen to Amsterdam, William, a brilliant church organist and profligate womanizer, is always a step ahead – has always just departed in a wave of scandal, with a new tattoo somewhere on his body from a local master or “scratcher.”
Alice and Jack abandon their quest, and Jack is educated at schools in Canada and New England – including, tellingly, a girls’ school in Toronto. His real education consists of his relationships with older women – from Emma Oastler, who initiates him into erotic life, to the girls of St. Hilda’s, with whom he first appears on stage, to the abusive Mrs. Machado, whom he first meets when sent to learn wrestling at a local gym.
Jack has always lived in the shadow of his absent father. But as he grows older – and when his mother dies – he starts to doubt the portrait of his father’s character she painted for him when he was a child. This is the cue for a second journey around Europe in search of his father, from Edinburgh to Switzerland, towards a conclusion of great emotional force.