It is Week Eleven of the Summer Reading Challenge. The original challenge was to read two books per week between June 1 and August 31. Some readers made themselves fancier challenges, but summer is a trying time chez fibermom, so I left mine at that. This allows me to report complete success so far. There are still a few weeks left, of course, but I am not in suspense.

This week’s two books have been Murder Every Monday by Pamela Branch and A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle. The two books have nothing whatsoever in common. No, wait, they are both in English. And well-written. I have catholic tastes in literature anyway, but I won’t read things that are not well-written.

Pamela Branch is a new author to me, one recommended at the site of another Summer Reading Challenger. I cannot remember which one, I am sorry to say, because if I could remember, I would go thank her. Murder Every Monday is witty and macabre without excessive gore, a pleasant romp of a book, and I plan to read everything else Branch has written.

A Star Called Henry is not a pleasant romp, being about the Irish Troubles. Poverty is a main character in the book, and so there is also filth, hunger, disease, crime, and degradation. I had previously only read Doyle’s children’s books, so reading this book is like reading Roald Dahl’s adult fiction if you had previously read only James and the Giant Peach. Both these authors have a darkness in their children’s books, so the darkness of their work for adults doesn’t come as a surprise, but it is certainly a contrast.

A Star Called Henry strikes me as a very Irish book, a great torrent of words that carry the reader to the intended impression. I have only the sketchiest knowledge of Irish history in the 20th century, so I am feeling as though I ought to brush up before I read any further.

Today is the day for my high school senior to pick up his schedule. Tomorrow will be Sophomore Orientation, which will begin at the moment when I am supposed to get off work (not, at this time of year, the time when I actually get off work, and that doesn’t even count driving and finding a parking place) and continue into choir practice. I am not sure how I will work that out. We haven’t yet done the boys’ back to school shopping or completed our transportation negotiations, and I also need to register #2 son for gymnastics and figure out transportation for that.

#2 daughter has an interview this morning. I must do some grocery shopping before work, even though I try to be pretty strict about only going once a week. The house is, as #2 daughter said, embarrassingly messy. I am ignoring it, repeating Sighkey’s words encouraging laziness to myself, and employing the same tunnel vision I use at work at this time of year.

Here’s what I mean by tunnel vision. I am checking out one person with several hundred dollars worth of stuff (and since a lot of our stuff is priced at $2.99, this can be a lot of stuff) for a purchase order, with two more people in line and a phone call wanting to explain to me at length why she needs me to set aside eight rolls of Mavalous tape, and there are crying children and messes being created all over the store and the principal of a local school strides up wanting confirmation that his materials have been ordered.

With tunnel vision, I can say, “I will check for you, sir, just as soon as I have finished with this order” with a comforting smile intended to mask the fact that I have no information about the special orders and probably won’t be able to get any, and then look only at the stuff I am scanning and packing.

JJ hasn’t developed this yet. She hisses “The whole store is a mess!” as we stand back to back at the computers, slipping people’s purchases into sacks. Everyone always wants to check out at once. When these people are all settled, we can go around the store and clean up.

Equally, at home, I look only at the meal I am cooking or the current load of laundry, clean a space for myself and take a couple of hours in the evening for knitting and reading because it is just a season. Once we are through this, I can clean up.

Update for those eagerly waiting for the news: #2 got the job.