Moving trucker Finn Murphy shares stories from a life on the open road in “The Long Haul.”
Murphy is not your typical trucker. As a moving truck driver, often known as “bedbuggers” hauling “roach coaches,” he describes the strict hierarchy among truckers and how his type are shunned as outsiders. He also touts his middle-class background in suburban Connecticut and his nearly completed education at Colby College, a prestigious liberal arts school in Maine, to distinguish himself from the “cowboy truckers” who think of themselves as living out some modern fantasy of the Wild West. The author even mentions his nickname “The Great White Mover,” which refers to his talent and indirectly to the industry’s widening racial gap. In fact, Murphy decided to leave college a year before graduating (much to his parents’ disapproval) to work full-time in the moving business following his experience of the camaraderie of working with a local company as a teenager. Eventually, the author worked his way up as a driver in the “high-end executive relocation” business, where he routinely makes cross-country hauls for his high-profile clients. Throughout his recollections, Murphy maintains an air of armchair philosopher, imparting common-sense wisdom and morals from three decades behind the wheel. With carefully retold anecdotes that illustrate the minutiae of life as a trucker, Murphy sheds light on this unique subculture. More than anything, he uses the narrative to combat the negative stigma against movers, taking jabs at past customers who slighted him. One story in particular fittingly encapsulates the author’s background and mission: he purposely placed an abusive customer’s antique Chinese gravestones upside down (he took a course in college) to embarrass the owner, who wouldn’t have noticed. Ultimately, the behind-the-scenes appeal of Murphy’s stories fades a bit after several chapters, but they shed light on a world not experienced by most.
“The Long Haul” is an entertaining and insightful snapshot of the hauling life.
(Murphy will speak and sign copies of his book starting at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 at BookPeople. Free to attend; only books purchased at BookPeople are eligible for signing. Information: bookpeople.com.)
The tension of keeping still
A dark, still figure, wearing long black robes and a hood, appears on the charming village green of Three Pines, a small Québec town; though at first it seems scary but harmless, it turns out to be something much more sinister in Louise Penny’s “Glass Houses.”
The strange figure’s appearance coincides with a Halloween party at the local bistro, attended by the usual villagers but also four out-of-town guests. They are friends from the Université de Montréal who meet for a yearly reunion at the B&B in Three Pines. But this event actually happened months ago, and village resident Armand Gamache, now head of the Sûreté du Québec, is recounting the story from the witness stand in a courtroom suffering from oppressive summer heat. Gamache’s testimony becomes narrative, explaining how over the course of a few days the masked man grew into a fixture on the village green and morphed slowly into an omen. Gamache’s son-in-law and second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, is asked to research the “dark thing’s” back story after one of the B&B guests, a journalist, mentions that the figure reminds him of story he did on an old Spanish tradition, that of the “debt collector.” It becomes clear, as Gamache relays the events leading up to murder, that “someone in the village had done something so horrific that a Conscience had been called.” But did the dark thing come for a villager or for one of their guests? Conscience is an overarching theme in Penny’s latest, seeping into the courtroom narrative as Gamache grapples with an enemy much larger than the dark thing, a war he took on as the new Chief Superintendent. His victory depends on the outcome, and the path, of this murder trial. While certain installments in Penny’s best-selling series take Gamache and his team to the far reaches of Québec, others build their tension not with a chase but instead in the act of keeping still — this is one such book. The tension has never been greater, and Gamache has sat for months waiting, and waiting, to act, with Conscience watching close by.
This is a meticulously built mystery that follows a careful ascent toward a breaking point that will leave you breathless. It’s Three Pines as you have never seen it before.
(Penny will speak and sign copies of her book starting at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 at Central Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $33 and include one copy of “Glass Houses.” Information: bookpeople.com.)
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