Books for Benchwarmers: Your Jury Duty/Waiting Room Reading List
This past Monday and Tuesday, I partook in what the Hon. A Goldberg, the judge on the case I very narrowly avoided selection for [is it even legal for me to reveal her name?], called “the highest form of public service.” Yes, I was selected for Jury Duty. Actually, I was initially summoned in July 2013—and managed to successfully postpone until now, since, for whatever reason, you’re not allowed to miss classes to serve, but you are allowed to miss work. The most common jury duty gripes are that it is financially straining and boring. And today, we’re going to focus on the second one. Because, take it from me—it doesn’t have to be. I had a genuinely good [well, not bad] time at jury duty, and it was all thanks to two things—one, The Clasp by Sloane Crosley, and two, In a Dark, Dark Woodby Ruth Ware. Emphasis on two—every time I get lost in a thriller, I end up wondering where exactly the day went. And I get bored easily. So, if you have the honor of being called to service, don’t while away the hours trying to answer work e-mails—because there is one bar of Wi-Fi and everyone is gunning for it—or sleeping (because, first of all, sleeping in public is gross, and, secondly, the woman sitting next to me will indubitably have neck problems for the rest of her life). Moving along to the important part—the actual plot of these books:
In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware
I picked this one up after finishing The Clasp, but I liked it better, so I’m featuring it first—if you decide the entire post isn’t worth reading, at least if you get this far, you’ll know that In a Dark, Dark Wood is your next Girl on the Train. It’s a thriller that takes place in England; as I’ve mentioned, I happen to think English authors are better at writing thrillers than Americans. I read this book in two sittings—before and after lunch during my second day of duty. It was that absorbing. I’ve complained in the past that an unfortunate outcome of the recent popularity of the ‘psychological thriller’ genre has been the “quantity over quality” mindset [ahem, Luckiest Girl Alive], but that also means that it’s particularly exciting to find a good one. I came across In a Dark, Dark Wood via the #RWBookClub [aka books Reese Witherspoon reads and then often options for her film company—i.e. how Wild got it’s big break] hashtag. I was initially skeptical, because this hashtag was also how I happened upon Luckiest Girl Alive, which I hated. Still, this one looked good.
The book follows twenty-six year old crime author Leonora [formerly Lee, now Nora], who gets an out-of-the-blue invite to a hen [UK version of a bachelorette] party by her former best friend Clare, whom she lost touch with after Nora left their high school, under circumstances that remain mysterious until the end of the book. Clare’s hen takes place at a glass weekend home in the middle of the woods [hence the title], and is off to a strange start when Nora realizes that Flo, Clare’s best friend from university and organizer of the hen, is obsessed with Clare; she copies her clothes, cries when she thinks she’s unhappy, and generally behaves in ways that put Talented Mr. Ripley & Single White Female to shame. The real drama, though, centers around Clare’s fiancé, who—semi-spoiler alert—is Nora’s ex-boyfriend. Ware skillfully injects little twists throughout the entire book, until it culminates in what can only be described as an absolute shit-show, with—and this is not something you come by often in thrillers anymore—a neat and satisfying ending. And with Halloween coming up on Saturday, there couldn’t be a more perfect time to curl up with a captivating thriller.
The Clasp, Sloane Crosley
The Clasp is the perfect post-college tale; the main characters in the story may or may not have attended Colby [I don’t actually think it does, but the setting is a small liberal arts college in a run-down, but formerly booming, industrial town in New England]. The book is told from the perspectives of three postgrads in their late twenties, all experiencing various types of ennui—Nathaniel, the former literary savant, has sold himself out as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Kezia, working for an eccentric New York jewelry designer, considers life so unpleasant that she hardly realizes her behavior is the root cause, and the third member of their college crew, Victor, recently laid off from his middling startup job, isn’t doing much better.
The book focuses more on character development than it does plot, not necessarily a bad thing as the content of the story—a tale not-so-loosely based on Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace—is not as interesting as the characters who tell it, and it’s difficult to describe exactly what goes on, because, until the end, not much does, but it’s worth picking up for a long ride on a train, plane, or automobile, or—of course—for a long and lovely sojourn in the ~Juror’s Lounge~.