I just read two books back to back and they couldn't have been more different. Beneath a Marble Sky takes place in 17th century India where the Emperor is building the Taj Mahal to honor his recently deceased wife. He has married off his favorite daughter, Jahanara, to a cruel, disgusting businessman who brutally mistreats her. She secretly falls in love with the brilliant architect of the Taj Mahal, Isa, and they find a way to be together with the help of her dying father. This story is told by Jahanara talking to her granddaughters in the 'present' so we know the outcome will be favorable for her. This is John Shors' first novel and I went from barely knowing what country the Taj Mahal stands in, to being fully immersed in the world of war, culture, relationships and architecture of Agra, India in 1632-48.
The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat is set in southern Indiana a few years back and is reminiscent of "Steel Magnolias" which I saw on stage recently. Three friends nicknamed "The Supremes" since high school meet regularly at a diner and the story weaves past and present seamlessly to reveal their rich, intertwined lives and the power of friendship. Amazingly, written by a man in the voice of a woman, Edward Kelsey Moore nails the female psyche. In a nod to 'seven degrees of separation' Moore is a concert cellist who is friends with my sister's old college pal, Claudia, who plays viola professionally in the Chicago area.
Both these novels were recommended to me by my parents, and both took about 1/3 of the way through to become engrossed, but by the end I was disappointed to reach the last page.
I am now at the beginning of The Whole World Over a 2006 novel by Julia Glass. If you have read Three Junes or anything by Glass, you will find her writing can only by described as dense. The way she details every passing moment or thought is just incredible. Not in the way I find monotonous as when authors go on and on describing scenery. This density is internal, as if we are inside the mind of the characters and seeing and thinking as they experience life.