Some Books I Read This Year: Stories about Misfits

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.”

Walter Isaacson

At one time or another, we all feel like a misfit. The idea of being a round peg in a square hole popped up in several novels I read in 2020, and I believe that’s why I found them so endearing. But also, each of the following have interesting twists for endings.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

By Gail Honeyman

Poor Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with saying the inappropriate and performing the socially awkward. She thinks, no she knows, she is going to end up with the hunky local singer who performs around town. Then she meets the smelly IT guy from work and bond as friends over an unfortunate incident.

With humor and heartbreak, Gail Honeyman presents an unreliable protagonist who seems to have all the answers at first. But the story explores the question: why exactly does Eleanor Oliphant act the way she does?

The Nickel Boys

By Colson Whitehead

In the 1950s, Elwood Curtis finds himself on the way to a successful life. But the young man finds himself in an unfair situation and ends up in the horrible Nickel Academy. Based on a true story, the main character must scheme to get out of the chamber of horrors that is the academy – or perish.

Upon the recommendation by my neice of several novels exemplifying the black experience, I picked up this particular book. I was forced to examine my own life as a white male. I admit I’ve had to learn a few things over the years about what people of color go through. The story of Elwood Curtis helped me begin to understand.

Where The Crawdads Sing

By Delia Owens

From a young age, Kyla Clark had to survive on her own. Known only to the nearby town as the “Marsh Girl”, Kyla fights prejudice and misunderstanding to use her intellect to make a contribution to society–and also to learn what it means to be loved by a family that abandoned her.

Some reviewers may claim this story is “unrealistic.” I never felt that way about Where The Crawdads Sing. After watching the Tiger King documentary earlier this year, I now believe truth is stranger than fiction. A girl raising herself in a swamp doesn’t seem so impossible after watching that Netflix dumpster fire.

Blood Meridian

By Cormac McCarthy

After escaping abuse from his family, a 14-year-old boy from the 1800s ends up in a gang of miscreants who kill Native Americans in Mexico for profit. The boy leads a pretty sad life.

To be honest, while Cormac McCarthy is a fantastic writer, this first novel of his may seem unfulfilling. The closest character to being a protagonist is “the kid” as he is referred to throughout the story, but most of the time Blood Meridian focuses on the exploits of the gang as a whole. Also, this book rambles along a storyline of non-ending violent, sexist and racist characters.

While I believe the way McCarthy wrote this book was a deliberate attempt to show the horrors of prejudice, I think many readers would find it disturbing; there’s a reason this book hasn’t been made into a movie. People may or may not understand Blood Meridian, so if they haven’t read this author before, I recommend they start with The Road or No Country for Old Men.

Next: Fantasy novels I read in 2020.

Photo by Inga Seliverstova from Pexels

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