Gotta Love Those Intertwining Plots
October 2016

I must not be the only reader who enjoys reading “intertwining plots”—because there are so many of them published! I’m thinking of novels with separate story lines and separate points-of-view, told in alternating chapters. The stories don’t become entwined with one another until later in the book.

Here are some of my favorites of this genre.

Capital by John Lanchester. Stories of various families living on the same street in London during the economically troubled time of 2008. In different ways, reminds me of (dare I say it?) Tom Wolff, Dickens, and Trollope.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Heartbreaking intertwining stories of New York in the 70’s, including the tightrope walker between the Twin Towers.

Still Here by Lara Vapnyar. Intertwined lives of four Russian friends who are immigrants in New York facing mid-life, death, the digital age, ambition, and the grass is always greener.

Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda. The twists of fate that connect four screwed-up characters in Paris: a starving artist; her shy, aristocratic neighbor; his obnoxious but talented roommate, and a neglected grandmother.

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell. Intertwining plots about a famous actress on the lam, husbands, and children. Different chapters at different times with different characters.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Alternating chapters about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Consists of six stories, each in an extremely different setting, at a different times, told by a different character, in distinctly different styles, arranged in a clever and unusual chronological order. This book is more challenging than any of the others, but well worth the work.

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Need airplane reading? Having spent far too much time in airports lately, I am shocked to realize I have had the mixed fortune of having read five books currently on the Best Sellers list. Let me save you some money: The Nightingale (trite, sentimental, predictable), Razor Girl (ridiculous and implausible), The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (boring and un-funny). On the other hand, go for Ian McEwan’s Nutshell (original and clever) and Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning (good plot, kept me guessing!).