Book Serendipity, April‒Early July

I call it serendipitous when two or more books that I read at the same time or in quick succession have something pretty bizarre in common. Because I have so many books on the go at once (usually around 20), I suppose I’m more prone to such incidents than some. I also list these occasional reading coincidences on Twitter. The following are in rough chronological order. (January to March appeared in this post.)

 

  • Characters named Sonny in Pew by Catherine Lacey, My Father’s Wake by Kevin Toolis, and Sacred Country by Rose Tremain.

 

  • A double dose via Greenery via Tim Dee – while reading it I was also reading Other People’s Countries by Patrick McGuinness, whom he visits in Belgium; and A Cold Spring by Elizabeth Bishop, referenced in a footnote.
  • A red thread is worn as a bracelet for its emotional or spiritual significance in The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd and Plan B by Anne Lamott.

 

  • The Library of Alexandria features in Footprints by David Farrier and The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd.

 

  • The Artist’s Way is mentioned in At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison and Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott.

 

  • Characters sleep in a church in Pew by Catherine Lacey and Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout. (And both novels have characters named Hilda.)
  • Coins being flung away among some trees in In the Springtime of the Year by Susan Hill and The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd (literally the biblical 30 pieces of silver in the Kidd, which is then used as a metaphor in the Hill).

 

  • Rabbit-breeding projects in When the Lights Go Out by Carys Bray and Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler.
  • Mentions of the Great Barrier Reef in When the Lights Go Out by Carys Bray and Footprints by David Farrier.

 

  • The same very specific fact – that Seamus Heaney’s last words, in a text to his wife, were “Noli timere” – was mentioned in Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell and Greenery by Tim Dee.

 

  • Klondike ice cream bars appeared in both Small Victories by Anne Lamott and The Fixed Stars by Molly Wizenberg.
  • The metaphor of a rising flood only the parent or the child will survive is used in both Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and What We Carry by Maya Lang.

 

  • The necessity of turning right to save oneself in a concentration camp setting is mentioned in both Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels.

 

  • An English child is raised in North Africa in Oleander, Jacaranda by Penelope Lively and The Child in Time by Ian McEwan.

 

  • The Bristol Stool Chart appeared in both Gulp by Mary Roach and The Bad Doctor by Ian Williams.
  • A Greek island setting in both Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (plus, earlier, in A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson).

 

  • Both Writers & Lovers by Lily King and Mother: A Memoir by Nicholas Royle mention Talking Heads within the first 20 pages.

 

  • A trip to North Berwick in the early pages of Mother: A Memoir by Nicholas Royle, and hunting for cowrie shells on the beach – so familiar from Evie Wyld’s The Bass Rock, read the previous month. (Later, more collecting of cowrie shells in Oleander, Jacaranda by Penelope Lively.)

 

  • Children’s authors are main characters in The Crow Road by Iain Banks and The Child in Time by Ian McEwan.
  • A character is killed by a lightning strike in The Crow Road by Iain Banks and Writers & Lovers by Lily King.

 

  • Characters named Ash in The Crow Road by Iain Banks and The Fixed Stars by Molly Wizenberg.

 

  • A brother steals the main character’s object of affection in The Crow Road by Iain Banks and Sacred Country by Rose Tremain.

 

  • A minor character in Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler is called Richard Rohr … meanwhile, I was reading a book by Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ.

 

  • A maternity ward setting in The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue and The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting.

 

  • A love triangle is a central element in Writers & Lovers by Lily King and The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting.
  • Reading a book by a Galloway (The Trick Is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway) and a book about Galloway (Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape by Patrick Laurie) simultaneously.

 

  • Attending college in L.A. in The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama.

 

  • Two books that reference the same Darwin quote: Into the Tangled Bank by Lev Parikian, and “The Entangled Bank” is the title of the final poem in Red Gloves by Rebecca Watts.
  • Characters with the surname Savage in The Box Garden by Carol Shields and Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain.

 

  • A character is taught how to eat oysters in The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

 

  • A Louisiana setting in The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and Property by Valerie Martin.

 

  • Characters named Stella in The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and The Group by Lara Feigel.
  • The last line of the book has a character saying “Come in” in Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ankomst by Gøhril Gabrielsen.

 

  • Currently reading four books with mixed-race narrators: (Black/white) The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow, Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey; and (Japanese/white) My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki.

 

  • Currently reading two novels in which a pair of orphaned sisters are taken in by relatives (Deerbrook by Harriet Martineau and Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen). Plus two more novels with orphan characters: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky and My Year of Meats.
      • In two of these four (not telling which, though you can safely assume it’s not the Victorian novel!), they are orphans because both parents were killed in a car accident. I feel like this is a fictional setup that I encounter all the time (cf. All the Beautiful Girls, The Monsters of Templeton, Saint Maybe) that can’t be that common in real life?
  • Vassar as an alma mater in Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and The Group by Mary McCarthy.

 

  • Punahou School (Honolulu, Hawaii) is the author’s alma mater in The Noonday Demon by Kathleen Norris and Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama.

 

What’s the weirdest reading coincidence you’ve had lately?

18 responses

  1. Erm, I don’t think I’ve had any. I’m reeling from the sheer number of books you’ve recently read ….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Make a note of the next one you have and let me know 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not my own experience, but a librarian friend of mine once read two books in succession that had men having sex with goats in them!

    Like

    1. Yipes! That’s one I’d be happy to miss.

      Like

  3. An impressive list! I am so annoyed with myself – a book serendipty popped into my head last week just before I was distracted by something or other which promptly made me forget it. No amount of dredging my brain will bring it back, sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Next time, jot it down and send it to me in a tweet 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just to compound my dottiness further, I was out walking and had forgotten my phone. No hope…

        Like

  4. Yikes! with the number of books you devour you’re bound to come across a few, but your list is terrifying. Ditto your ability to note and report on same. I am slinking away very quietly, racking my brains to come up with just one example from my own reading.

    Like

    1. Even if you read just one book, or a few books, at a time, there will probably be times when an element from one book reappears in the next one you pick up. Look out for them — I’d love to hear about them!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hooray for My Year of Meats – I read that aaaaages ago but still remember it fondly. And I thought I had one the other day then it turned out I was reading two very similar nature books so it wasn’t really one after all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My Year of Meats is so good — maybe even a 5* for me. I hope to finish it tomorrow and write it up soon thereafter.

      My husband had one today: he reread Ella Minnow Pea right after me, and now in John Irving’s The Water-Method Man someone is using that pangram (“The quick brown fox…”) for typing practice.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. The one that seems “too much” to me is the same last line, “Come in”. That can’t happen very often! Speaking of infrequency, it never occurred to me to question how often both parents ARE killed in a car crash. It clearly happens a lot. *Ahem* The other week, browsing a free library near to home, I found a YA novel with a character named Flannery, which was synchronous for me as I’m still enjoying my Flannery reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fun! Although I do question quite how often it’s used as a fictional setup to get the protagonist all on their own, I did, sadly, have a high school classmate to whom that happened — and his mother had been one of our substitute teachers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. buriedinprint

        Oh my! That’s so interesting. I was all prepared to agree that it’s likely overused, but you’re actually making the case for it being otherwise.

        Like

  7. On a superficial note, if others are reading this post through a Reader, and are seeing all the cover images jumbled and the spacing weird, I hope they click through to the post and see how beautifully arranged they all are IRL here. I wish that Readers were better able to adjust for these situations, but I know it’s likely hard to get things integrated so the formatting will look perfect everywhere!

    Like

    1. I never know how things will look in Reader (which I don’t use) or on a phone screen; I tailor it to how it looks on my wide-screen monitor and have to hope the photo galleries, etc. look okay. Any idea of what would work better? Just have all the images right or left aligned?

      Like

      1. buriedinprint

        I don’t know, but if you want to experiment, send me the new published URL you’re wondering about in an email and I’ll check in the reader, if it’s “fixed”, or screen-shot it, if it’s not. I’ll go back in my feed next time I’m catching up, and if I can find this post in the archives, I’ll screen-shot it for you too, in case that gives you some ideas.

        Like

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