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Two very different reads

June 23, 2008 | 12:06 pm

MorethanithurtsyouDarin Strauss, author of "Chang and Eng" and "The Real McCoy," has a new not-historical novel, "More Than It Hurts You." What it's about, exactly, varies depending on who's telling you about it.

The Chicago Tribune details the plot, which begins with two young parents, Josh and Dori ("a Jewish Yuppie Everycouple"), bringing their child to the emergency room. The boy's condition worsens at the hospital; his illness is troubling and mysterious. The Tribune reviewer reveals that mystery (I won't), writing that the suspense comes from whether the "self-deluding and ultimately none-too-admirable Josh" will figure it out.

The Washington Post seems to have read a very different novel: The review asserts that "Strauss has packed this gripping story with the whole radio dial of divisive, hot-button issues." Race is high on the list. The doctor who treats the boy is African American — not that any character is racist per se, but "all the good liberals who populate this novel are constantly agonizing about race." Other issues are class, sexuality and cynicism about American culture.

Angelenos can decide for themselves whether the book is more domestic mystery or issue-laden thriller; Strauss reads at Vroman's in Pasadena Tuesday evening. He's also blogging about his book tour for Newsweek; his book is serious, he explains, but his blog is light and entertaining.

Carolyn Kellogg