Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

The book cover shows a Victorian-era white house with a wide front porch, surrounded by flowers and greenery, with some growing out of the windows. A seagull perches on the cupola at the very top.

By Rebecca R.

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken is a story built along side a family history – and an odd one at that. Bertha Truitt, the family’s matriarch loves candlepin bowling and opens a bowling alley in the small town of Salford, MA.

Throughout the book we see Bertha navigate relationships and her bowling alley, which are sometimes indistinguishable from on another. She balances both with a strong and determined hand. She marries Leviticus Sprague and has a daughter, Minna, before she succumbs to drowning in a flood of molasses.

After Bertha dies things start to fall apart. Readers see begin to see the characters for who they really are. Their quirkiness really starts to shine, which, in my mind, makes this story a standout.

We learn that Bertha had a long lost son (or is it her son?). After Leviticus dies (like his wife, under mysterious circumstances), Nahum Truitt comes to Salford to try and run the bowling alley but his heart isn’t in it. Minna is sent away to live with relatives abroad, and she comes in and out of the storyline throughout the book.

More and more odd characters are introduced as the story goes forward, and the Truitt family grows and generations pass. As the story closes we meet Bertha’s great, great, grandchildren and are re-introduced to a character from the beginning of the book who brings the story full circle.

Readers who enjoy authors such as Karen Russell, Lauren Groff, John Irving, or Kristen Arnett should enjoy this book. The characters are well developed, the story is engaging and has visual elements to it that allows readers to easily get to know this family and their small town and follow them through the generations.

Rebecca is the Assistant Branch Manager of the HCLS Glenwood Branch. She enjoys creative art projects and taking long walks with her puppy.

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