In the Woods

The tone is eerily set when on one such night, three children disappear into the woods to play and don’t return. The police are dispatched, and find no traces whatsoever of two of the children. The third, a terrified little boy with his fingernails embedded in the tree he is plastered against, is catatonic and his shoes are filled with blood.

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Like Water for Chocolate (Como Agua para Chocolat)

On one evening after a particularly sumptuous meal infused with Tita’s desire for Pedro, Tita’s eldest sister Gertrudis becomes overcome with an unquenchable lust and runs away with a Mexican Revolutionary, furiously making love with him on horseback as they ride away. Mama Elena is furious, but Tita begins to realize that if Gertrudis can defy Mama Elena, perhaps she can too.

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Portnoy’s Complaint

Portnoy is a chronic masturbator and a sexual deviant with an oppressive mother, a chronically constipated father, and a crippling superiority complex. The book is less a story than an (often very funny) monologue by its titular character, who seems to blame many of his problems on his Judaism, and by default, the family who raised him that way.

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Outlander

Claire Randall is a WW2 nurse on vacation in Scotland with her historian husband, Frank. Separated during the war, they are enjoying a second honeymoon while Frank looks into his Scottish family history. Claire is increasingly disinterested in her husband’s obsession with the past, and ends up making friends with a local who knows all of the native plants of the region. Interested in botany, Claire ventures with the old man to a nearby stonehenge-esque site where rumored pagan rituals are conducted…

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Although brilliant, Christopher struggles with many of the trappings of such a disorder. He is agoraphobic, afraid of strangers, dislikes being touched, dislikes any deviation from a predictable routine, cannot correctly interpret tone of voice or facial expressions, and very much lives in his own world. His tutor, Siobhan, has drawn a chart with faces on it displaying various expressions, which Christopher carries around with him so that he can compare it with the faces of those he interacts with; helping him understand if they are happy, sad, angry, etc.

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The Thirteenth Tale

She has given hundreds of interviews over the course of her career “My genius is not so fragile that it must be shut away”, but when it comes to the inevitable questions about herself; she’s cooperative but her answers are always lies. Not lies, stories. After all, storytelling is her craft, and there is nothing more telling than a good story.

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Choke

The first lines of Choke explain that you won’t love Victor Mancini, and they’re right. Victor is a medical school dropout who may be a sex addict. Anyway, he attends the meetings (and generally winds up in the bathroom, having sex with one of the other twelve-steppers.) His mother is wasting away in an expensive care facility which Victor has to pay for. He does so by supplementing his day job income (he works in a re-enactment museum which forces him to be in character for the 1800’s) by going to fancy restaurants and pretending to choke.

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The Virgin Suicides

The neighborhood is shocked when 13-year old Cecelia attempts suicide by slicing her wrists. She is rushed to the hospital and saved. Her doctor remarks “Why did you do this? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.” Cecelia deadpans “Obviously, doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year old girl.”

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Interpreter of Maladies

In “The Third and Final Continent”, a man rents a room from a 103-year old woman until he can afford to bring his newly acquired wife from India. Upon his nightly return to the house, the old woman remarks “Did you know that there’s an American flag on the moon? Isn’t that splendid?” Ever-polite, the man replies “Yes, madame.” “No,” the woman demands, “Say it was splendid!” “Splendid!” he exclaims.

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