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Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2013 5:32 pm

Taking a vow of silence, a loving, but offbeat father writes an account of a reckless getaway with the daughter he kidnaps during a custody battle. Now home and awaiting trial, his lawyer urges him to document the “disappearance,” hoping it will help a jury understand the father’s irresponsible actions and lay bare the sham of his pretended identity.

Prepare to be captivated by “Schroder,” a riveting novel by Amity Gaige with a unique and incredibly creative voice. Narrated by a man on the run, you’ll grow to care deeply about Erik Schroder because of his devotion to his 6-year-old daughter, Meadow. But alarms sound when Schroder and Meadow’s road trip spirals from sun-kissed days by a lake to a terrifying dash along city streets.

As Schroder documents his road trip, he flashes back to his youth and the early days of his marriage to Laura, a woman who grows increasingly disillusioned with his unreliability. One understands how she feels knowing the very foundation of their marriage is based on lies.

Laura knows her husband as Erik Kennedy, a fictitious identity Schroder adopts as a boy of 14. Pining to escape his East German accent and past, after he arrives in Boston with his father, the teen applies to a summer boys’ camp, filling out the application with a fabricated name. The ruse continues as he enters college, falls in love and marries.

Questions abound reading this novel and questions remain when finishing it. Rarely will a reader have more compassion for a narrator, more impatience or befuddlement. “Schroder” is a book to be digested slowly, reread and discussed. It’s quite a wild ride, but the miles fly by with Amity Gaige at the wheel.

***

Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world, its peak rising more than 29,000 feet. In recent years, increasing numbers of adventurers have tried to scale its summit. Professionally outfitted, often accompanied by Sherpa guides, they make the perilous journey up the mountain.

In the 1920s, an elite English gentleman had none of today’s modern conveniences, other than oxygen in his third attempt — his final, and fatal, quest.

“Above All Things,” a novel by debut author Tanis Rideout is more than just the tale of George Mallory’s drive to scale a mountain that stirs his blood and enslaves him. It’s also a love story, a book spawned by Rideout’s curiosity about the woman behind the man — Mallory’s wife, Ruth, and what marriage to an adventurer like Mallory would be like.

It’s a relationship of long absences and incessant dread of bad news, a marriage strained by empty words, “ . . . I’m done with it. I don’t need it. I need to be with you,” a promise made after the second attempt in 1922, when Mallory took what many thought were unnecessary risks, leading to the death of seven Sherpas lost in an avalanche.

Two years later, Mallory, the father of three, knows he’s growing older. If he’s going to attempt the climb again, it must be now. And so in 1924, he answers the siren’s call by joining a climbing expedition of five, which includes the youngest member of the group, Sandy Irvine. While the others in the climbing party stay at advanced base camp, the two venture forward in a harrowing climb that costs them their lives. To this day, speculation remains as to whether or not they reached the summit.

“Above All Things,” has wide appeal to a variety of readers — those desiring a chilling and exciting tale of survival, and others intrigued by the romance the Mallorys shared. On both counts the novel delivers. Bundle up and enjoy.

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Guest review by Mindy Sansoucie, Missourian staff

“Daddy Love” by Joyce Carol Oates is, beyond question, a horror story. Psychological complexity is a hallmark of Oates’ writing and she does not disappoint in “Daddy Love.” Her latest novel is a descent into the deepest, most sacred passages of the mind of a mother, father, young boy and a psychopathic child molester.

“Daddy Love” is not a light read. Oates directly addresses our worst fears with the respect they deserve. A lesser author would spare the gruesome details and lessen the impact of their atrocity. To clean up acts such as murder, child abduction and molestation is to discredit their severity.

“Daddy Love” is a study of evil, yes, but also a study of love. The latter turns out to be just as disturbing as a bond forms between young Robbie and his abductor, Chester Cash, aka Daddy Love. The charismatic traveling preacher surveys a shopping mall for the next addition to his collection of “sons.” Chester sees an unparalleled beauty in young Robbie’s slightly darker skin and lighter eyes. His pulse races with anticipation of acquiring a “mixed race” child. Chester pegs Robbie’s mother, Dinah Whitcomb, for an easy target. Indeed, he miscalculates the unyielding bravery stored deep in the sinews of a mother’s love. Dinah fights bravely; in return she is left forever disabled and in search of a son.

As Robbie ages in Daddy Love’s farmhouse, he retains only fading memories of his mother and the abduction, wisps of her hair and her hand releasing his. Robbie is a perceptive child and soon learns that “Daddy Love (is) two persons.” The first, “Daddy love who protect(s)” cuddles and clothes Robbie, hand-feeding him in a show of affection. The second, “Daddy Love who discipline(s)” ties the “disobedient” Robbie by the wrists above Daddy Love’s bed, or secures Robbie in the “Wooden Maiden,” a child-size coffin.

While there is rebellion in Robbie, he can’t help but have strong feelings for Daddy Love. Oates slowly draws the unthinkable question from her readers and we ask . . . would Robbie choose to stay?

At its very base, “Daddy Love” is a horror story. At its very brightest, it’s a disquieting narrative of human survival. Oates leaves us with our guards up, shades drawn and skin crawling.

/features_people