summer reading, because it's summer and you maybe read on the beach or in your backyard or in your living room because it's raining and you can't be at the beach or in your backyard. and you're not in a Dostoevsky state of mind.....and because these are two books i like. one is a first novel, by a former student and current friend, david bunzel, and since i taught him a totally unrelated class 1995 i will take all the credit for his writing talent. under god is a somewhat poignant, often witty story of an average guy, mickey donovan, who is chosen by God to fix up the world, which isn't going the way He [or, as referred to in the book, the Entity] planned it. the Entity zaps Mickey with virtually divine powers. mickey at first runs around like the proverbial kid in the candy store, and then comes to realize that godlike power is pretty scarey, and cleaning up humanity is a very complicated job. the more mickey does, the more he learns, and, predictably, the more he learns the more he realizes how little he knows. at points he makes big mistakes, at points he gets arrogant, and by the end he hasn't changed the world, but he's changed something, part of which is himself. Bunzel writes well and cleverly, in a matter-of-fact tone neither flippant nor ponderous. though the premise is pure fantasy, the execution is crisply realistic, like the world we know only too well.
the other book is far from a first novel--Aunt Dimity Goes West is the thirteenth in a series by nancy atherton, about a delightful wife-and-mother who stumbles into dangerous situations and, with no police or detective help, has to solve the mystery. she does, however, have some help, which is fairly special. like bunzel, atherton uses the supernatural as a base for dealing with very natural problems. aunt dimity has long been dead, but she doesn't let that stop her from giving advice and comfort to lori, the grownup daughter of dimity's onetime earthly best friend. having willed lori a strange empty blue notebook. dimity writes to her whenever lori open the notebook. dimity's sophistication appears in her elegant cursive script (depicted in the book by an elegant, cursive font]. dimity is not omniscient, only very sensible, so she ends up being a sort of older partner in lori's undertakings. booklist describes the series approvingly as 'cozier than cosy,' and based on this one, i'd agree. the mystery itself is almost incidental to the charming characters and, especially to the chats between the odd couple whose mode of communication is as 'cosy' as the genre. there's no murder here, just some nasty shenanigans that entail the merest soupcon of danger. you don't lie awake at night frightened by the events of the mystery; you drift into comfortable sleep wishing you too had a ghostly aunt dimity to consult with.