Top Contender for 2023’s Best Book: A ‘Likely’ Masterpiece

The Berry Pickers VS The Vanishing Half?

As I was halfway through this book, a thought struck me: Is it just a coincidence to discover the best book of the year only at its end? Today, as I turned the final page and closed the book, I pondered – maybe it truly is ‘the one’.

Set in 1962, in a Maine orchard, the story revolves around a Native American family engaged in seasonal work during the harvest. All five children, including Joe, the fourth child, contribute to the orchard work. Joe was the last person to see four-year-old Ruthie, sitting quietly on a large stone. After her mysterious disappearance, the family embarked on a relentless, year-after-year search. The mother, holding onto a firm belief in Ruthie’s survival, constantly worried about her well-being. Joe, burdened with guilt, eventually left to wander the world, only returning when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Meanwhile, Norma, a girl from a nearby town, is haunted by recurring dreams of a warm bonfire and strangers who feel oddly familiar. The narrative takes over fifty years to reach its poignant conclusion.

This book feels ‘just right’ in every aspect.

The story strikes a perfect balance. It’s a blend of suspense, empathy, brilliance, and depth. The author skillfully applies the brakes, avoiding unnecessary prolongation of suspense and steering clear of forced melodrama. It’s a tale told with restraint and subtlety, leaving the depth of interpretation to the reader – ideal for mature audiences.

The writing is equally balanced. It’s ‘genuine and deeply moving’, but never crosses into ‘showy and emotionally manipulative’ territory. Nor does it ever become a ‘flat and uninspiring narrative’. It’s rare to find a work that hits this sweet spot. Discovering such a book is a true delight.

The intent is also spot on. Coming from a Native American author, the ideological expression feels natural and sincere. Often compared to

‘The Vanishing Half’, which I found good but not to my liking, primarily because it seemed to force-feed too much ideology. Initially, I thought ‘The Vanishing Half’ was overly ambitious, cramming in elements like a political correctness manual. ‘The Berry Pickers’, in contrast, unfolds more subtly, focusing on storytelling. Its underlying messages are woven into each character’s journey, where surrounding distractions remain just that – noticeable but not detracting from the core narrative.

I adore this book, immensely. For now, it wavers between the first and second spot among my top books of 2023. The final verdict will likely come after finishing the other two books I’m currently engrossed in.

As an enthusiastic reader, I’ve often hailed books this year as ‘the pinnacle’, ‘a masterpiece’, ‘unmissable’. However, these accolades usually last only until the next great read.

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