A couple of smalltime grifters are taken for a ride by the enticing young woman they choose as an easy mark in this nifty little page-turner from Holden (The Narcissist’s Daughter). Young, beautiful and bored Darcy Arlen is in Rome on a group tour of Europe, a gift for her high school graduation. When she comes across young, good-looking Will staring pensively into the Tiber River, she’s more than ready for an adventure. Will and his partner/lover Justine, 39, have been on the road for several years, living off small cons and thievery, into which she has initiated him. The duo sees Darcy as a lamb to be shorn, and soon enough the two separate her from her tour, and they all head to Venice and then on to the Greek island of Matala. It slowly becomes clear that Darcy is not the innocent everyone supposes her to be, and the plot morphs into con-man-conned territory. Holden cops out on a few promised revelations, but in the end everything falls nicely into place, adding up to a slick, sexy read.
At age 70, Susan Sontag was diagnosed with a virulent form of blood cancer, her third bout with cancer over the course of 30 years and one she would not win. Her son, journalist Rieff (At the Point of a Gun), accompanied her through her final illness and death, and offers an extraordinarily open, moving account of the trial and journey. Sontag’s avidity for life had prompted her to beat the advanced breast cancer that devastated her in 1975; she now resolved to fight the statistical odds of dying from myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), despite the pessimistic prognosis from doctors. Rieff, who admits he was not close to his mother over the preceding decade, is silenced by Sontag’s refusal to reconcile herself to dying and unable to console her. Both mother and son are by turns angered by doctors’ infantilizing treatment of terminally ill patients and by their squelching of hope. Anxious, chronically unhappy and obsessed with gathering information about her disease, Sontag was unable to be alone, and Rieff becomes one in a circle of devotees who rotate staying with her at her New York City apartment. A doctor is found who does not believe her case is hopeless, and in Seattle she undergoes a bone-marrow transplant. In this sea of death, Sontag took her son with herâ€”conflicted, wracked, but wrenchingly candid, Rieff attempts to swim out.