Today at Great New Books, we are delighted to have guest contributor and bestselling author Caroline Leavitt join us to recommend one of her recent favorite books.
Why I revere Monday, Monday by Elizabeth Crook
by Caroline Leavitt
I have a certain shelf in my writing office filled with the books I especially love. I often pull them down and reread parts just for the pure pleasure of it, or sometimes I just feel a rush seeing a title, like Elizabeth Crook’s rapturously good fourth novel, Monday, Monday. After I first got it, I carried this book around with me for a week, unable to stop devouring the pages, and I blurbed the novel, too, calling it “a stunning achievement.” And that it is.
I love when novels ask unanswerable questions, like Crook’s does. How does someone live after unspeakable tragedy? How can one moment change everything in your life? Monday, Monday begins on a sultry Texas day in 1966, when Charles Whitman climbs a tower at the University of Texas and goes on a murderous shooting spree, the song Monday, Monday playing in the background. Crook homes in one three indelible characters, Shelly Maddox, whose hesitation in a classroom, “one of those small, seemingly inconsequential actions that she would recall for the rest of her life,” leads her into a rain of bullets and a 40 year relationship with cousins Wyatt Calvert and Jack Stone, who are heroically rescuing victims–including her. All three lives become entangled. Jack is a damaged Vietnam vet. Wyatt is a kind of renegade, and even though he is married, his and Shelly’s love for each other persists on every page.
Crook gets at what makes people act–and what makes them stall, and the ramifications of choice versus chance. Love, infidelity, heartbreak and unabashed joy trickle down through four generations, held to each character and expressed like DNA. You don’t just come to care about Shelly, Wyatt and Jack, you ache for them. Their wounds become your wounds, and the pages literally breathe with life as they search to overcome the damage of the past into the possibilities for the future.
Honest. I sigh when I see this title on my shelf. The emotional insights are like fireworks, and the story feels lived rather than written. Go read it. And then email me so we can rhapsodize about it together.
Have you read Monday Monday by Elizabeth Crook? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!