Gathering String Kindle Edition
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|Length: 457 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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But beyond that, this is a high-stakes political thriller with a love triangle among the three heroes, and it was the perfect read to start my grad-school semester break: plot, characterization and dialogue realistic enough to draw you in and keep you there without going down any thematic or plot rabbit holes. It ain't literary fiction, but that's OK: It's still the first book I stayed up past 2:30 a.m. to finish in a long, long time.
Brava, Mimi Johnson. (Full disclosure: Her husband, Steve Buttry, and I corresponded electronically from time to time during and shortly after my time in newspapers, which ended in early 2009. We've never met in IRL.)
(A technical note: This is the first novel I've read start to finish on the Kindle app for Android. I found quite a few typos, misplaced words and other things that adept copy editing should have caught. Also, a lot of paragraphs started without indentations. The publisher and/or Amazon should pay closer heed to this stuff.)
But Mimi Johnson's "Gathering String" is the only novel about newspaper people I've ever read that communicates the soul-deep, convoluted mess that old school journalists loved and hated about that lifestyle. The commitment and passion, but also the weariness of knowing, the betrayal, the unending conflict between so much idealism and cynicism pressed together in such close quarters.
There's a good plot here, but most books about reporters covering a tough story have strong plots. What separates "Gathering String" from the field are the characters and the inevitability of their conflicts, both romantic and professional. Tess, Sam and Jack aren't beautiful rookies with simplistic concepts of the news or the world, and like real-world adults with old wounds and complex emotions, what emerges from their triangle isn't a simple up-down-vote for happiness. "Gathering String" isn't a story about paper dolls, and if you're looking for simple conflicts and easy resolutions, keep on browsing.
But if you're a fan of stories that stick with you, download this one. It's been more than a year since I read this novel, and it still trails around in my head like the last whiff of smoke from the bonfire of my own newspaper career. I met my second wife in a newsroom. I've worked in small towns and big ones, covered scandals and been scandalized. I know how men and women working in such close proximity under such unrelenting pressure can produce intense relationships, regrets, close enemies, and hard choices. And the miracle of it all is that so many people with so much history can, on occasion, find ways to put it all aside and do truly amazing things together.
Johnson captures that experience in honest, easy prose that's as beautiful and unpretentious as the Iowa landscape she so clearly loves..This is an easy book to recommend, and not just to journalists.