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In a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense, master of horror Joe Hill takes readers on a

ROAD TRIP TO also inside A FANTASTIC FANTASY DEBUT WORLD’S STRONGEST LIBRARIAN TELLS ALL THE GIFTS OUR MOTHERS GAVE US

paperback picks p p PENGUIN.COM

Stolen Prey

Bond of Passion

Nightbound

Cheyenne Amber

There’s something about this murder scene that tugs at Lucas Davenport’s cop instincts—it looks an awful lot like the kind of scorched-earth retribution he’s seen from Mexican drug gangs. But this is a seriously upscale town. None of it seems to fit. Until it does…

Reluctant at first to bed the unassuming Annabella, Angus finally accepts his duty as a husband— only to discover that beneath his bride’s modest demeanor is a wildcat with a spark waiting to be ignited. When, however, they accept an invitation to the court of Scotland’s Queen Mary, they find themselves caught up in royal intrigue.

No human can know that Beaumaris of York is an immortal Darkyn assigned to Knight’s Realm, the Kyn stronghold disguised as a medieval theme park. And none of his brethren can discover that he’s a half-breed, rescued from slavery as a child. Lately Beau has been yearning for action—and he’s about to find it with his new mission.

Laura Cheney’s fragile beauty and amber eyes hide a spirit to be reckoned with—and a mother’s fierce protectiveness. When her son is kidnapped, Laura turns to Deke Sheridan, a man feared by many and trusted by few. But his steely reserve is no match for Laura’s intoxicating beauty. And to win her trust and devotion, Deke will stop at nothing.

9780425260999 • $9.99

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Time Thief

The Enemy

Roses in Moonlight

Haven

When Peter discovers his own family is stealing time from Kiya, all bets are off. While she may drive him crazy at times, it’s clear that it’s not just lightning that’s creating some serious sparks between them. And he’s not going to let secrets, lies, or a devious murderer keep Kiya from where she belongs: at his side.

He’s the world’s deadliest assassin, locked in an uneasy alliance with the CIA. And Victor has a list: three names, three victims. But with each name he crosses off, the game grows far more complex —and far more lethal. With a woman to protect and a conspiracy to unravel, the perfect assassin is now the perfect target.

Trapped first in Elizabethan England, then caught in a web of modern-day intrigues, Samantha and Derrick are forced into an unlikely alliance by peril, never imagining that what they’re forging is a timeless love.

With the help of Noah Bishop, cofounder of Haven, the group of psychic investigators that Jessie Rayburn works for, Jessie and her sister, Emma, fear they won’t be able to outrun the secrets buried in Baron Hollow—or the evil targeting them one last time.

9780451417428 • $7.99

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From the author of Hemingway’s Girl comes a powerful novel inspired by the life of Zelda Fitzgerald. From New York to Paris, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald reigned as king and queen of the Jazz Age. They seemed to float on champagne bubbles above the mundane cares of the world. But to those who truly knew them, the endless parties were only a distraction from their inner turmoil, and from a love that united them with a scorching intensity. When Zelda is committed to a Baltimore psychiatric clinic in 1932, vacillating between lucidity and madness in her struggle to forge an identity separate from her husband, the famous writer, she finds a sympathetic friend in her nurse, Anna Howard. Held captive by her own tragic past, Anna is increasingly drawn into the Fitzgeralds’ tumultuous relationship. As she becomes privy to Zelda’s most intimate confessions, written in a secret memoir meant only for her, Anna begins to wonder which Fitzgerald is the true genius. But in taking ever greater emotional risks to save Zelda, Anna may end up paying a far higher price than she intended...

NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY A Penguin Group (USA) Company

9780451239921 • $16

contents

MAY 2013 w w w. b o o k pa g e . c o m

features 12

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MoTHeR’S DAY Memoirs of mothers’ gifts

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Evil rides again—in a sleek 1938 Rolls-Royce—in Joe Hill’s new horror novel, NOS4A2.

MoMS in ficTion Moving portraits of motherhood

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lAuRen gRAHAM Meet the author of Someday, Someday, Maybe

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TRAvel

Illustration by Gabriel Rodriguez Cover photo © iStock.com/John_Brueske

reviews 19 ficTion

24 nonficTion

TOP PICK:

TOP PICK:

And the Mountains Echoed Jet-set with travel memoirs by Khaled Hosseini joAnnA HeRSHon ALSO REVIEWED: An anthropological look at friendship A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra Helene WeckeR The Kings and Queens of Rome Mixed mythologies in a fantasy debut by Daniel Wallace The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell joSH HAnAgARne Is This Tomorrow Strongman in the stacks by Caroline Leavitt Americanah SARA ZARR by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Fearlessly changing the rules in Snapper by Brian Kimberling The Lucy Variations Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng SAlinA Yoon Red Moon by Benjamin Percy Meet the author-illustrator of The Woman Upstairs Penguin on Vacation by Claire Messud Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer The Humanity Project lifeSTYleS by Jean Thompson THe AuTHoR enABleR The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley Well ReAD The River of No Return WHoDuniT by Bee Ridgway Fools by Joan Silber AuDio Flora by Gail Godwin

columns

04 04 05 06 08 08 cooking 10 RoMAnce 11 Book cluBS

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Editor’s note: From the April issue, the publication of Seeds of Hope by Jane Goodall has been been moved to August 2013.

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Joe Hill

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Here Is Where by Andrew Carroll ALSO REVIEWED: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris She Left Me the Gun by Emma Brockes Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas The Cooked Seed by Anchee Min Scatter, Adapt, and Remember by Annalee Newitz The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne Stuck in the Middle With You by Jennifer Finney Boylan

coNTrIBUTING edITor

Michael A. Zibart

Sukey Howard

ASSocIATe PUBLISher

chILdreN’S BookS

Julia Steele

Allison Hammond

edITor

coNTrIBUTor

Lynn L. Green

Roger Bishop

MANAGING edITor

cUSToMer SerVIce

Trisha Ping

Alice Fitzgibbon

ASSocIATe edITor

ProdUcTIoN MANAGer

Kate Pritchard

Penny Childress

TOP PICK:

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes ALSO REVIEWED: If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano The Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci Doll Bones by Holly Black Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes 15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey The Milk of Birds by Sylvia Whitman Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

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columns

lifestyles

THE author enabler

by joanna brichetto

by Sam Barry

SMART Tips from a Butler Known as “Charles the Butler” from decades of working with royalty and other elites, Charles MacPherson, the witty and engaging author of The Butler Speaks: A Return to Proper Etiquette, Stylish Entertaining, and the Art of Good Housekeeping (Appetite by Random House, $27.95, 288 pages, ISBN 9780449015919), is uniquely qualified to give pointers—practical pointers, never stuffy—to the rest of us on bettering our personal and professional lives. Whether we rent

ents (and potential allergens). Each is accompanied by detailed, step-by-step instructions—with photographs— and 60 templates and a stock of lovely papers are included. Daunted by intricate patterns? Start with easy projects like tissue paper pom-poms or hanging paper rosettes. Whichever project you tackle first, the artist provides plenty of variations and inspirations to keep things fun and personalized.

Top Pick in Lifestyles

or own, entertain often or hardly ever, we want our homes to be efficient, our guests to feel welcome and those with whom we interact to feel considered. Here’s a sampling of his style and etiquette how-tos: saying thank you, folding a shirt, setting a table, presenting a business card, making polite conversation, pouring wine, sewing a button and making an introduction. The book also presents a fascinating history of domestic service, as well as a peek inside the world of Charles the Butler himself. For “Downton Abbey” fans still mourning the season finale, The Butler Speaks will provide a welcome and edifying diversion.

DIY party decorations

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Anyone can create gorgeous papercut projects with Cut Up This Book! Special Occasions: Stepby-Step Instruction for Festive Decorations, Invitations, & More (Running Press, $19, 144 pages, ISBN 9780762447879) by Emily Hogarth. Beginners will become familiar with the basic materials, tools and techniques in the introduction, while more advanced crafters can cut right to the gallery of paper projects designed for a wide range of celebrations and holidays. Projects include cards, garlands, gift tags, drink tags, toppers and wrappers for cakes, place cards, napkin holders and tiny flags to identify ingredi-

How I envy folks for whom a dinner party or even a casual gettogether is a regular and stress-free situation—like Susan Spungen, who is so adept at such things that she’s a “culinary consultant and food stylist” for such movies as Eat, Pray, Love and Julie & Julia. Her new book, What’s a Hostess to Do? 313 Ideas and Inspirations for Effortless Entertaining, offers hundreds of tips to make any occasion fabulous and enjoyable. The book’s eight sections take party planners—veterans and first-timers alike—from the brainstorming stage (what kind of party, whom to invite, how much to spend) all the way to when the party’s over (what to do with the leftovers). This “all-purpose handbook” really does cover all, no matter the size or purpose of an event, and even includes 121 party food recipes. The extraordinary volume of detail is balanced by bottom-line essentials so readers don’t feel overwhelmed, and the author always keeps a practiced eye out for ways to save money, time and sanity. My favorite list: “Ten Jobs You Can Delegate.”

What’s a Hostess to Do? By Susan Spungen Artisan $17.95, 288 pages ISBN 9781579653682

entertaining

Practical advice on writing & publishing for aspiring authors

TO COPYRIGHT OR NOT? Dear Author Enabler, My husband and I are wondering how to copyright our writings. We have both written some things that we are considering submitting to magazines. Shouldn’t these be copyrighted before we send them off for possible publication? Thank you in advance for your advice. I love getting BookPage from my local library! Donna Morrill Carver, Massachusetts We are (by this I really mean I am) often asked this question by authors who are nervous that their work is going to be stolen. In fact, you don’t need to do anything to copyright your work because it is automatically copyrighted. The simple act of writing something down, whether on paper or digitally, means that your work is copyrighted and protected under U.S. law. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be stolen. If it is stolen, the burden of proof will fall on you to prove it’s your work. If you are really concerned and want absolute peace of mind, you can register your work with the United States Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov) for a fee, which currently starts at $35. This will officially establish the work as yours, but again, I don’t see the need to do this in your case. The truth of the matter is that reputable publishers—whether of newspapers, magazines or books— aren’t out to steal work. There simply isn’t the motive, but the key word here is reputable. Do your due diligence in deciding which publications to submit to. And be wary of posting your work online, where it could be easily poached by someone else. Sadly, this does happen, likely because of the ease with which people can copy and paste.

THE WAITING GAME Dear Author Enabler, About a year ago at a writers’ conference, I met an agent from a wellestablished agency. She’d read the first 40 pages of my manuscript and wanted to see more. Pure excitement! After sending her the rest (and waiting months until breaking down and

finally calling her), she told me she really liked it but thought the mystery market was too swamped. Pure disappointment. She then agreed to look at the first few chapters of a young adult novel I’m writing. She liked it and wanted to see more, which is again very encouraging for a fledgling in the field. So I sent her more and am waiting to hear . . . again. I realize she must be really busy with current clients and sifting through hundreds of query letters, so I’ve pursued her rather than vice versa. What I’m wondering is when do you patiently wait for a response and when do you decide that maybe she’s just not that into you? Michelle Taverner Michigan Waiting around is, unfortunately, the not-so-fun part of trying to land a literary agent, and getting no response can sometimes be nearly as discouraging and frustrating as a flat-out rejection. Hang in there. It doesn’t sound like you’ve signed a contract with this agent, which means that you don’t have an obligation to her. This is great because it means that you are completely free to send query letters to other agents while you wait to hear back. (If you had signed a contract and you wanted to end the relationship, you would need to formally break the contract before approaching other agents.) That said, she hasn’t said no, so I would still check in with her to follow up. Instead of waiting around to hear back, though, try to concentrate on researching other agents to query, which will not only distract you from the stress of waiting, but also increase your chances of finding an agent who is the perfect match for both you and your book. Just make sure to focus your search on ones who specialize in young adult books. Think of the search for a literary agent as being similar to looking for a job. Try to stay as unemotional as possible (though I know this isn’t easy), and be patient. Good luck. Send your questions about writing and publishing to authorenablers@gmail.com.

Well ReAD by robert weibezahl

ReDiScoveRing o’HARA’S clASSic jAZZ Age novel Once among the best-selling novelists in the country, John O’Hara has largely fallen by the literary wayside since his death in 1970. The many movies made from his books, including BUtterfield 8 and Pal Joey, still cycle through on old movie channels, but his readership is scant compared to such near-contemporaries as Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Penguin Classics hopes to resurrect O’Hara’s reputation by issuing new editions of four of his novels this year, beginning with his first, Appointment in Samarra, originally published in 1934. Appointment in Samarra is often compared to The Great Gatsby, and there are some surface similarities in its portrayal of Jazz Age egotism and excess. The O’Hara is Great Gatsby, though, is a an expert at lyrical work, depicting the given to poetic idiosyncrasies digressions and an almost of class. languorous nostalgia. Appointment in Samarra is a much grittier, unsentimental novel, driven by pages of colloquial conversation (a talent for which O’Hara was justly renowned) and much more blatant in exploring the underside of everyday human behavior. Indeed, with its frank discussions and depictions of sex, it most surely was considered a “dirty” book when it first appeared. Opening on Christmas Eve, 1930, and unfolding over the ensuing 48 hours, the increasingly foreboding story traces the self-destruction of Julian English, the 30-year-old owner of a Cadillac dealership in the provincial town of Gibbsville, Pennsylvania (a not-at-all-disguised version of O’Hara’s hometown of Pottsville). Julian and his cohorts are members of what we would today call the upper-middle class, but was then referred to as the Country Club Set. Money and booze flow freely, and drunkenness is a chronic state of affairs—especially for poor Julian. While inebriated, he throws a drink in the face of another partygoer, Harry Reilly. It is a spontaneous and not particularly malicious act, but its consequences will ripple far. In this small town, with its closely defined roles, interpretations of

“A Dr. Spock for parents with children in all stages of emerging adulthood . . . informative, direct, and reassuring.” —Robin Marantz Henig, coauthor, with Samantha Henig, of Twentysomething

Julian’s act vary. For instance, Reilly is a wealthy Catholic in a largely Protestant town, so his churchmen quietly rally behind him, jeopardizing some of Julian’s business. As Julian reacts with a curious blend of privileged defiance and nagging self-doubt, he makes matters far worse by carrying on with a nightclub singer, the mistress of a local mob boss. Soon, it seems that all sorts of people have a reason to wish Julian dead, not least of all his wife, Caroline, whom he loves with a passion that is nonetheless too weak to keep him from philandering. The relationship between Julian and his wife is the most intriguing, well-detailed aspect of the novel, and a central chapter about Caroline is its strongest section. O’Hara beautifully gets inside the head of this young woman, emblematic of a certain type of girl of that era, who seems to have the world on a string but deserves more than the circumscribed choices she is given. Caroline has a much more shaded inner life than, say, Daisy Buchanan, which makes her role in the subsequent events feel more concrete. O’Hara is so expert at depicting the idiosyncrasies of class in this particular time and place, that one can almost read Appointment in Samarra as a work of ethnography— albeit a breezy and profane one. This talent for realism is perhaps both O’Hara’s greatest appeal and the thing that has kept him from the pantheon of 20th-century writers where he so eagerly wished to dwell. O’Hara was less poet than teller of tales, but his work still maintains its own haunting resonance.

AppoinTMenT in SAMARRA By john o’Hara

Penguin classics $16, 240 pages ISBN 9780143107071

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columns new from

HELENE WECKER An enchanting debut novel

A woman made of clay... A man born of fire... Both adrift in New York City... Until, one cold and windy night, they meet... “Has the intimate feel of a story handed down from generation to generation... delightful.” — Deborah Harkness, author of

A Discovery of Witches

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www.HeleneWecker.com

WHoDuniT by bruce tierney

finAl SHoWDoWn on THe BoRDeR Since the early 1990s, T. Jefferson Parker has been lauded as the go-to guy for contemporary California noir, thanks to such genre classics as Laguna Heat, Silent Joe and Little Saigon. In recent years, he has crafted a supernatural, suspenseladen series featuring Charlie Hood, a Los Angeles County sheriff on loan to the ATF, who works along the U.S.-Mexican border to try to stem the flow of illegal arms northward. In Parker’s latest, The Famous and the Dead (Dutton, $26.95, 384 pages, ISBN 9780525953173), Hood and his nemesis, the otherworldly Mike Finnegan, battle for the allegiance (or perhaps the soul) of Bradley Jones, a young cop on the take. Lives hang in the balance, including that of Jones’ unborn son, who is of considerable interest to Finnegan and his diabolical cohorts. As always, Parker’s depictions of the Baja cartel violence, the corruption endemic in law enforcement circles and the uneasy relationship between the protagonist and antagonist are flawlessly rendered. The Famous and the Dead is said to be the last of the Charlie Hood series, but we have seen characters rise up from the ashes before, and can but fervently hope that Parker will see fit to resurrect Hood for more outings.

peAce, love, MuRDeR Speaking of characters reappearing from the thin edge of oblivion, Walter Mosley’s complex and well-loved Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins returns after a several-year hiatus in the gripping Little Green (Doubleday, $25.95, 304 pages, ISBN 9780385535984). Rawlins has been in a coma for some months following a terrifying car crash on the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California. His recovery may never be complete, but with the help of some voodoo meds from his longtime friend Mama Jo, he can survive on an hour-by-hour basis, just barely enough to launch an investigation into the whereabouts of a missing teenager, a potential casualty of California’s late-1960s, drug-addled Summer of Love. There are complications in this case,

however: Rawlins’ best friend, Ray “Mouse” Alexander, is responsible for the death of the missing boy’s father. With the help of a resourceful hippie girl, Rawlins infiltrates the inner circle of a Hollywood drug dealer, and from that point forward, both he and the reader will have to hang on for a wild and bumpy ride. Easy Rawlins, welcome back!

SuSpenSe’S neW WARRioR Richard Crompton’s excellent debut novel, Hour of the Red God (Sarah Crichton, $26, 304 pages, ISBN 9780374171995), opens in Little Mombasa, a small lakeside

area of Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, named after Kenya’s main coastal city. It may not be particularly evocative of its namesake, but it nonetheless serves as a weekend playground for the hot and weary denizens of East Africa’s chief metropolitan hub. One weekend in 2007, however, there is little merrymaking after a horribly mutilated body is found: a young Maasai woman, perhaps a prostitute. Maasai policeman Mollel is summoned to investigate the killing. At first blush, the death appears to be attributable to a botched female circumcision, but as Mollel delves into the case, he begins to sense something much deeper, and certainly much darker, than the random killing of a prostitute. Hour of the Red God, character-driven from the get-go, offers up a splendid protagonist in Detective Mollel: outwardly ritually scarred, inwardly emotionally scarred and always a bit at odds with fellow cops (especially the higher-ups) and his own family. I look forward to whatever author Crompton may have up his sleeve for a sequel.

Top pick in MYSTeRY It has been the better part of five decades since the publication of John le Carré’s signature work, The

Spy Who Came in from the Cold. The intervening years have been kind to le Carré’s hordes of fans, as the iconic espionage writer has moved from strength to strength, crafting such thrillers as The Tailor of Panama, The Russia House, The Constant Gardener and The Little Drummer Girl. Le Carré’s latest, A Delicate Truth, begins in 2008 Gibraltar, where a covert operation pairing Brits and Americans goes stunningly wrong, leaving a young Muslim woman and her baby shot to bits on a seaside cliff. Details of the botched operation are closely guarded and never released to the media. Fastforward three years, and a couple of the principals find themselves in wildly disparate circumstances: One has been knighted for his foreign service work; the other has fallen on hard times, unable to reconcile his innate goodness with the Gibraltar carnage for which he was at least partly responsible. After a chance meeting in which the two compare notes about their respective parts in the operation, they resolve to pursue the matter further, deciding to go public with graphic evidence if necessary. They enlist the aid of Toby Bell, former personal secretary to the member of Parliament who signed off on the Gibraltar fiasco, and the three undertake an oh-so-covert investigation—one that, if they live through it, may well have the potential to topple governments. Line up at the bookstalls for this one, folks: It is le Carré at the top of his game.

A DelicATe TRuTH By john le carré

Viking $28.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780670014897 Audio, eBook available

MYSTeRY

This spring’s most anticipated novel!

“The Apple Orchard

is sweet, crisp and juicy.” —Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Day

#1 New York Times bestselling author

SUSAN WIGGS brings readers to the lush abundance of Sonoma County in a novel of sisters, friendship and how memories are woven like a spell around us.

“Susan Wiggs paints the details of human relationships with the finesse of a master.” —Jodi Picoult

Also available.

Available April 30! 7

columns

AuDio

cooking

by Sukey howard

by Sybil pratt

elegY foR THe coMMon MAn Kent Haruf is a master of understatement, of spare, hauntingly simple prose that becomes even more powerful and affecting when read aloud. And that subdued strength is underscored by Mark Bramhall’s performance of Haruf’s latest novel, Benediction (Random House Audio, $35, 9 hours, ISBN 9780385363617). Set, as are his previous novels, in Holt, a small town on the High Plains of eastern Colorado, it follows the declining days of Dad Lewis’ life. In those last hot summer days, Dad—a good man with understandable flaws—remembers and regrets with unflinching honesty. As we meet his loving, patient wife of 55 years, his daughter, his estranged son, a few family friends and the newly arrived, troubled preacher, we also come to know their stories,

their disappointments and missed opportunities—lives lived with quiet yearning and quiet acceptance, brushed by the big questions that don’t get answered. The mood is elegiac, and Haruf’s no-frills dialogue and descriptions mirror the flat, open plains and become a hushed celebration of ordinary people in ordinary circumstances, life-affirming even in the face of death.

THe fAllouT of WAR

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Dale Maharidge’s father, Steve, carried a deep rage within him— a rage he brought back from World War II and the Battle of Okinawa, along with undiagnosed and untreated PTSD and blast concussion. He talked little about the war but always kept a photo of himself and a fellow marine with him. When Steve died in 2000, Maharidge, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, felt impelled to find out about his father’s war. Over the next 12 years, Maharidge sought out and got to know many of the men who had served with his father. Now octogenarians, these members of the “Silent Generation” finally talked, finally described the carnage they and his father had been part of. Bringing Mulligan

MucH MoRe THAn THe MAfiA

Home: The Other Side of the Good War (HighBridge Audio, $34.95, 9.75 hours, ISBN 9781622311712), excellently performed by Pete Larkin, is memoir and history, a son’s need to know his father, to understand why his father said, “There are no heroes. You just survive.” Furthermore, Maharidge wants to “put the past in touch with the future”—to help the kids of this generation’s soldiers understand that when the bullets stop, the war goes on for those who fought and for their families.

Top pick in AuDio “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” Well, the Shadow knows for sure, and so does Brigid Quinn. White-haired, 59, tough, fit and prone to cracking wise, Brigid is a retired FBI agent, a legendary hunter of sexual predators and the unusual and unusually appealing star of Becky Masterman’s debut thriller, Rage Against the Dying, narrated by the always-superb Judy Kaye. Though haunted by an unsolved case involving a diabolically crafty serial killer who murdered her protégé seven years ago, Brigid has moved on from crime and punishment—and from the horrors she dealt with daily—and has found never-expected happiness married to a former priest and philosophy professor. But her new life starts unraveling when a man confesses to the unsolved murders and Brigid, not buying this confession, begins a desperate, dangerous hunt of her own. OK, I don’t want to spoil this ingeniously plotted story, so I’m not going to give you any more details; you’re just going to have to listen. I got so hooked that I didn’t want to take the earphones off until the very end.

RAge AgAinST THe DYing By Becky Masterman

Macmillan Audio $39.99, 11 hours ISBN 9781427229724

THRilleR

Omertà, the Godfather, Don Corleone? There’s a lot more to Sicily than Mafioso melodrama. It’s a beautiful island with beautiful food, food that stands out in a part of the world known for its extraordinary cuisine. Sicily (Phaidon, $39.95, 272 pages, ISBN 9780714863528), compiled by the esteemed editors of the Italian classic The Silver Spoon, with 50 regional recipes and more than 150 full-color photos of countryside and kitchen, offers a new tribute to this storied, sun-drenched land and its vibrant, varied table. A profusion of fusion, Sicilian cuisine today is a marvelous mélange of its conquerors and the food culture they brought with them—from the early Greek colonies to the Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Normans, Spaniards and French—a unique mosaic

set in a fertile landscape that moves from sea to mountains to sea, from simple Baked Swordfish to Stuffed Eggplant Slices and Fried Stuffed Tomatoes to traditional Pasta with Sardines and the ubiquitous, unfailingly flavorful Caponata. This is a great book for travelers, cooks and dreamers, armchair and otherwise.

SuMpTuouS AnD SuSTAinABle Twenty years ago, a group of well-known, committed chefs got together to talk about environmental issues, food production and sustainable cooking (though the phrase was not yet part of our vocabulary). Chefs were becoming celebrities, and these forward-looking cooks realized that they could impact the American foodscape—and they have. The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook: Local, Sustainable, Delicious Recipes from America’s Great Chefs (Taunton, $40, 304 pages, ISBN 9781600854187) celebrates the positive effect their message continues to have with a collection of 115 local, seasonal and sustainable recipes from some of our best chefs. From Heirloom Beet and Upland Cress Salad with Apples, Grapefruit

and FennelButtermilk Dressing, to White Chocolate Mascarpone, Strawberries, and Basil in Phyllo, with stops for Crispy Porchetta with Salsa Verde and Sweet-and-Sour Catfish with Green Tomato Jam and Red Pepper Marmalade, the bounty of the seasons and the pleasure of eating pastured meat and poultry and sustainable seafood is showcased in fabulous, creative and elegant dishes. With these chefs as your guides, your food can be, as Ruth Reichl points out, “gorgeous and good for you and the planet.”

Top pick in cookBookS In his debut cookbook, Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, Fabio Viviani—a fan favorite on “Top Chef All-Stars” and host of Yahoo!’s super-popular “Chow Ciao!”—tells us that this is more than a cookbook. It’s his inspiring, heartfelt celebration of Italian tradition and his rags-to-riches (or scraps-to-scrumptious) life, from poor Florentine kid who started cooking with his great-grandmother at the age of 5 to celebrity chef and owner of three successful restaurants in the U.S. The list of more than 150 recipes should get your full attention, too. After all my years in the kitchen, I often skip the basics, but not here: Check out the Basic Risotto, simple Tomato Sauce and Chunky Basil Pesto, all worth the price of admission. Fabio’s food is old world, old school; it’s “not meant to impress, it’s meant to feed people.” When you add his Mom’s Meatballs, Drunken Spaghetti and Chicken with Marsala Sauce to your repertoire, you’ll be feeding family and friends real Italian home cooking, and you’ll agree that Fabio is favoloso!

fABio’S iTAliAn kiTcHen By fabio viviani

hyperion $24.99, 296 pages ISBN 9781401312770 eBook available

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The Chance

Karen Kingsbury $22.99

Sinners and the Sea Rebecca Kanner $22.99

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Sleeping in Eden Nicole Baart $16.00

One Sunday

The Offering

Carrie Gerlach Cecil $14.99

Angela Hunt $14.99

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Great reads for every fiction fan from Howard Books

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Roses Have Thorns Sandra Byrd $14.99

The Face of the Earth Deborah Raney $14.99

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columns The Ladies of Lantern Street are back for a second historical adventure in Amanda Quick’s The Mystery Woman (Putnam, $26.95, 384 pages, ISBN 9780399159091). Beatrice Lockwood—a former practicing psychic, now private investigator—is drawn into a dangerous case by a wounded ex-spy. When his sister is threatened with blackmail, Joshua Gage believes Beatrice is to blame—and he also suspects her in the grisly murder of her former employer. But upon meeting the courageous beauty who carries a gun in her stocking, his mind changes—and his heart is engaged. Beatrice’s near-kidnapping leads them to discover that an obsessed villain seeks to use her paranormal

powers to raise the dead. As Joshua and Beatrice fight for their lives, they fall in love, though she fears their difference in social station will preclude a happily-ever-after. Before that problem can be addressed, however, they must stop an assassin and the evil man who hired him. Thrilling, imaginative and amusing, this Victorian love story is another Quick winner.

Somewhere in Time

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They call her the Unattainable... She has vowed never to marry—the only way to break the family curse— and spurned every suitor...until now.

“Spirited and tender...

a joyride that careens from adventure to adventure.” —Publishers Weekly

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Love, victorian style

Love is Ablaze in HOT Historical Romance

In the third and final chapter in the Lost Lords of Pembrook series, Lord Rafe Easton returns to reclaim his birthright...and his Lady.

romance

Enchanting as usual, Lynn Kurland spins a tale of love across the ages in Roses in Moonlight (Jove, $7.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780515153460). Antique textiles expert Samantha Drummond escapes her smothering parents for a summer in the British Isles. Right away she lands in trouble when she discovers stolen goods in her handbag. In her attempt to get away from some unsavory types, Samantha stumbles into Elizabethan England with another refugee from modern times, Derrick Cameron, a British antiquities dealer who is determined to retrieve his client’s precious artifact and is sure that Samantha is the thief. An experienced

time traveler, Derrick isn’t as awed as Samantha by the change in environs, but his attraction to the pretty Yank has him reeling. They make their way in and out of different centuries, and trust develops between the pair as they unravel mysteries and right past wrongs. Though love blossoms, is Samantha ready to curtail her newfound freedom? With charming characters and humorous banter, this kisses-only story sparkles.

Top Pick in Romance In The Week Before the Wedding by Beth Kendrick, bride-to-be Emily McKellips anticipates a lovely seven days of festivities, capped off by her marriage to her fiancé at a lakeside resort. Surgeon Grant Cardin is the perfect man, and his family is the perfect antidote to her dysfunctional childhood that led to some wild ways. But Emily has an MBA now, and is all things practical— nothing like the 22-year-old who married on a whim 10 years ago, divorcing a mere five months later. But the week is wreaking havoc on her nerves, with her many-timesmarried mom on the prowl, her best friend recalling crazier times and the unexpected appearance of her ex. How did he get there, and how fast can she get rid of him? But Ryan Lassiter has other ideas. Now a successful movie producer, he’s never forgotten the woman he wed. Will Emily be forced to choose between two good men? A romantic comedy with charming characters and laugh-out-loud scenes, this story is perfect for the upcoming wedding season.

The week before the wedding By Beth Kendrick

NAL $15, 336 pages ISBN 9780451415738 eBook available

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

book clubs by julie hale

New paperback releases for reading groups

AMONG THE STARS Celebrated nonfiction writer Peter Heller ventures into new creative territory with his inventive debut novel, The Dog Stars (Vintage, $15, 336 pages, ISBN 9780307950475). Hig, the book’s hero, lives at an old airstrip in Colorado with his Blue Heeler, Jasper. A flu epidemic has eliminated most of the world’s population, including Hig’s wife, and his only human company is Bangley, a cranky Navy SEAL who also lives at the airstrip. Jasper and Hig sleep outside at night so that Hig can contemplate the stars. During the day, in his old Cessna, Hig flies in search of fuel and food and ponders the past. When his radio picks up a faint

But the impulse to fight fails to take hold of Bartle, who struggles under the burden of his promise to keep his young friend alive. And Murphy himself is suffering. Pushed to the edge by the pressures of combat, he loses his grip on reality. Spanning six years—2003 to 2009—and recounted from Bartle’s perspective, this compelling narrative of modern-day war and its aftermath has all the makings of a classic. Powers, who served as a machine-gunner in Iraq, drew on his own haunting experiences to produce this novel. It’s a first-class work of fiction that captures the awful complexities of war.

Great Reads New in Paperback

From the author of Bird in the Hand and The Way Life Should Be “A lovely novel about the search for family that also happens to illuminate a fascinating and forgotten chapter of American history. Beautiful.” —Ann Packer, New York Times bestselling author

A precisely-crafted psychological journey from debut novelist Lisa Ballantyne “Sophisticated, suspenseful, unsettling, and highly recommended: a terrific debut from an author to watch.” —Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author Available for the first time in paperback from New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS

transmission, Hig decides to follow the signal and investigate—a fateful choice that brings new possibilities, as well as new dangers. Heller’s portrayal of Hig as a lonely wanderer mourning a lost world is stirring and authentic. He writes beautifully about nature and the remarkable bond that unites man and dog. With this impressive debut, Heller widens his range and demonstrates that he’s a fiction writer to be reckoned with.

FIGHTING FOR LIFE A finalist for the National Book Award, Kevin Powers’ unforgettable debut novel, The Yellow Birds (Back Bay, $14.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9780316219341), tells the chilling story of two young soldiers whose platoon is deployed to Iraq. Private Bartle, 21, and Private Murphy, 18, have been together since basic training at Fort Dix, when Bartle pledged to his young comrade’s mother that he would protect him and ensure his safe return home. In Iraq, they’re led through the maze of war by Sergeant Sterling, a gruff, seasoned veteran who urges them on during a deadly battle for the northern Iraqi city of Al Tafar.

Bring Up the Bodies is a wonderful addition to Hilary Mantel’s fascinating trilogy-in-progress about Thomas Cromwell’s career in the court of Henry VIII. Following up on the award-winning Wolf Hall, Mantel’s focus this time around is the fall of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Although she is beautiful and clever, Anne can’t hold Henry’s affections, and her inability to produce a male heir adds to the king’s displeasure. Cromwell designs her downfall, standing at the center of a scheme marked by gossip, intrigue and betrayal—a plot that ends in Anne’s execution and opens the way for Jane Seymour, who replaces her in Henry’s heart. Mantel portrays Cromwell as canny, ruthless and politically astute, yet he’s an oddly appealing figure—the ultimate antihero. Winner of the 2012 Man Booker Prize, this beautifully written, impeccably detailed slice of history will leave readers wanting more from Mantel.

“Phillips’ signature mix of complicated characters, sexual chemistry and emotionally compelling writing is irresistible.” —Chicago Tribune An inspiring story of the strength of a mother’s love “Bloom is one of the most emotionally stirring books I’ve ever read. This story is a reminder that …. a mother’s love for her child is a powerful, eternal, unshakable force.” —Ree Drummond, New York Times bestselling author A brilliant, hilarious, and touching story with a Texas twist “Palmer’s dialogue is reliably natural and funny, and her insights into the way women betray their true selves in search of acceptance are keen and honest.” —Publishers Weekly

Bring Up the Bodies By Hilary Mantel

Picador $16, 432 pages ISBN 9781250024176

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11

features Make Your Mother’s Day Bloom!

Gus Hollister owes all of his success to his feisty grandmother—but now he stands to lose it all. For a man who’s never wanted for anything, Gus starts to understand the enduring bonds of family, and finds the courage to start a new life— and to love again…

The perfect gift!

READ AN EXCERPT AT KENSINGTONBOOKS.COM/FERN

by alice cary

A mother’s gifts last a lifetime

H

ow do you approach Mother’s Day? With reverence and joy, or sorrow and trepidation? Are you fulfilled, exhausted or both from being a dutiful child or caretaking parent? No matter what your emotions, these engrossing books about mothers, children and parenting are bound to speak to you.

Particularly wonderful is a collection gathered by Elizabeth Benedict, What My Mother Gave Me (Algonquin, $15.95, 304 pages, ISBN 9781616201357). Benedict, who had a trying, distant relationship with her mother, found herself surprised by the intense feelings she had about a long woolen scarf her mother gave her in the last years of her life. She began to wonder: “If this one gift meant so much to me, if it unlocked the door to so much history and such complicated feelings, might other women have such a gift themselves?” Indeed they do, and their answers come to life in stories from such writers as Ann Hood, Mary Gordon, Elinor Lipman and Mameve Medwed. Lisa See’s mother taught her to pen “a thousand words a day and one charming note,” a work ethic that involves writing steadily and aiming high. Joyce Carol Oates describes the first days of her widow­ hood, when she wrapped herself in a rainbow-colored quilt made by her late mother. The quilt became “a sign of how love endures in the most elemental and comforting ways.” And Emma Straub ponders gifts less tangible, such as tickets for a rainy, rather miserable but memorable cruise around a Wisconsin lake. Straub writes: “My own happiness during every terrible minute of the Betty Lou Cruise came from knowing that when it ended, I would get to tell [my mother] about it.”

Big fat Greek love

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mother’s day

For some, the road to motherhood can be fraught with formidable roadblocks, as was the case for actress Nia Vardalos, the famed actress and writer of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She tells her story in Instant Mom (HarperOne, $26.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9780062231833), which is as compelling, witty and wonderful as her now-classic movie about Greek family life. While Vardalos filmed the movie, went on press tours and was eventually nominated for an Oscar, she was

desperately enduring a series of fertility treatments and heartbreaking miscarriages. Her dream of becoming a mother was finally fulfilled in 2008 when she and her husband became the unimaginably proud parents of a 3-year-old daughter

the unflappable Mrs. Wiggins. Now Burnett bares her soul in her touching memoir, Carrie and Me (Simon & Schuster, $24.99, 224 pages, ISBN 9781476706412). Carrie Hamilton was the oldest of Burnett’s three daughters, a young woman who shared both her mother’s looks and her wide-ranging talent as an actress and singer. Burnett highlights the great triumphs and tragedies of her beloved daughter’s life, filling in details with stories, diary entries and letters. The pair went public in 1979 about Carrie’s adolescent struggle with drugs and alcohol—a multi-year battle from which she ultimately emerged victorious. Mother and daughter later collaborated on a play about Carol’s early life, and the adult Carrie lived in a Colorado cabin while writing a story called “Sunrise in Memphis,” which is included in the book. Sadly, Carrie’s bold spirit and artistic talent were cut short by lung cancer in 2002. Carol and Carrie were lucky to have each other, and their ironclad bond shines through in this short but sweet memoir.

A life renewed

that they adopted via the foster-care system. “After years of praying to be parents,” Vardalos says, “this little miracle simply appeared.” The first few months involved exhausting efforts by all to acclimate and build trust, and Vardalos never sugarcoats the details, though she always buffers them with her and her husband’s complete joy and adoration of their headstrong, vivacious little girl. Vardalos brings readers along for a delightful ride as she navigates the toddler and preschool years, ending the story with a helpful question-and-answer section about the adoptive process. Her goal is to educate her readers about adoption, and she achieves it in an endlessly entertaining fashion.

Shared laughter Comedian Carol Burnett also has a powerful mothering story to share. Like many, I grew up watching “The Carol Burnett Show” and still grin at the thought of her Tarzan yell and

Like Nia Vardalos, Glennon Doyle Melton became something of an instant mom, but in a very different way. On Mother’s Day 2002, this unwed 26-year-old was shocked to discover she was pregnant. What’s more, she was battling bulimia, alcohol and drug addiction. Happily, her life of struggle has become one of triumph, which she describes in Carry On, Warrior (Scribner, $25, 288 pages, ISBN 9781451697247). Becoming a wife and mother was a turning point for Melton, who is now the mother of three and the successful creator of the blog Momastery.com, some essays from which are collected here. She calls herself a “reckless truth teller,” and like Anne Lamott (one of her favorite writers), Melton has dedicated her life not only to her family but to religious faith and humor. She explains that once her husband and first child entered her life, she realized, “If two such good, kind, full people needed and wanted and loved me, could I really be so worthless? Suddenly, it seemed that there might be parts of life that were beautiful and good and meant for ME.” All four of these books will make readers laugh and cry in recognition, and think more deeply about their own roots and relationships.

MoMS in ficTion by Stephanie gerber

THe peRilS of pARenTing

E

very woman facing motherhood asks herself a million different questions: Who will I become after having children? What if I never have children? How will life change after a baby arrives? As Mother’s Day nears, two novels offer very different portraits of motherhood, allowing readers to see themselves reflected in these honest and moving stories. The Sunshine When She’s Gone (Holt, $24, 240 pages, ISBN 9780805096620), Thea Goodman’s debut novel, explores what happens when everything in life is suddenly divided into “before” and “after.” The big event? Having a baby. When Dad bundles up the baby for an early morning walk, an impulsive whim takes him to the airport and onto a plane bound for Barbados. It’s a rash decision compelled by his desire for his wife of “before” to reappear— maybe rest will do the trick? As a father who “had never done anything without first asking [his wife] Veronica” struggles with a sick baby and a search for a complicated goat-milk formula, he begins to better understand his overwhelmed, overtired wife. Meanwhile the new mom finds herself unexpectedly free from child and husband for a weekend—an eternity!—and she revisits the woman she was before becoming consumed with naptimes and nursing. But her impulsive actions take her down a path as misguided as her husband’s. This dreamlike story is told from the alternating points of view of the young couple, whose life-altering decisions can only be attributed to sleep deprivation. You may laugh at their absurdity, but author Goodman brings compassion and humor to the domestic struggles of new parents trying to come to terms with the changes to themselves, their spouses and their marriage “after baby.”

ADopTion AgonY Told with brave humor by acclaimed author Jennifer Gilmore, The Mothers (Scribner, $26, 288 pages, ISBN 9781451697254) is the raw story of one couple’s seemingly endless journey to become parents. After abandoning IVF attempts, Jesse and Ramon decide to pursue

domestic open adoption. And the process is bureaucratic, baffling and often heartbreaking. The author, who wrote about her personal struggle to adopt a child in Vogue, said she turned to fiction to make the process “interesting instead of just emotionally devastating.” And she succeeds. Both brutally funny and honest, Gilmore confronts Jesse’s “obscene want-

meet lAuRen gRAHAM

the title of your Q: What’s new book?

would you describe the book Q: How in one sentence?

already achieved success and fame as an actress. Q: You’ve What inspired you to write a novel?

the most appealing thing about Franny Banks, Q: What’s your novel’s lead character?

you were starting out, what were the best and worst Q: When parts of being young, poor and unknown in New York City?

ing” for a child: The hope that never ends. The anger, self-pity and panic. When friends try to tell her that motherhood “doesn’t solve everything,” it does nothing to diminish her need. Yes, Jesse is stubborn, but Gilmore gives her compassion and optimism, even as her world is reduced to pregnant bellies and babies that can’t be escaped. The path to adoption forces Jesse and Ramon to confront issues of race, drug use and mental illness. It exacts an unknown toll on their marriage even as they forge unlikely friendships with other prospective parents. The process becomes even more tortured when Jesse attempts to build relationships with the birth mothers. She talks for hours with women who may or may not “choose” them—and who might not even be pregnant! The novel is filled with such keen insight that the ending of this intimate ride is abrupt. Perhaps the author, who hasn’t reached the end of her own story, can’t quite give it to her characters either.

Q: When should an aspiring actor throw in the towel?

Q: Words to live by?

SoMeDAY, SoMeDAY, MAYBe A fresh and funny look at the struggles of a young actress trying to make it in New York city, SoMeDAY, SoMeDAY, MAYBe (Ballantine, $26, 300 pages, ISBN 9780345532749) is the first novel by Lauren Graham, an actress best known for her work on the television series “Gilmore Girls” and “Parenthood,” as well as film roles in Bad Santa, evan Almighty and Because I Said So. Graham, who spent several years working as a waitress in NYc while she pursued a career in acting, now divides her time between Los Angeles and New York.

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cover story

joe hill Interview by Becky Ohlsen

Shane Leonard

Readers, start your engines—for a creepy trip to Christmasland

J

oe Hill says it took him quite a while to find the spark that would make his riveting new horror novel roar to life. Though he ended up writing the bulk of NOS4A2 in about seven months, getting the book started wasn’t easy.

“I struggled with figuring out how I wanted to write a female lead,” Hill says by phone from his home in New England. The novel’s main character, Victoria McQueen, is a tough, wild thing with an unusual talent. When we meet her as a young girl, Vic has just discovered that sometimes, much to her surprise, her beloved Raleigh bicycle takes her to a covered bridge that shouldn’t exist. When she rides the Raleigh across the bridge, Vic finds whatever lost object had been on her mind: a teddy bear, her mother’s bracelet and, later on, serious trouble.

NOS4A2

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By Joe Hill

Morrow, $28.99, 704 pages ISBN 9780062200570, audio, eBook available

From the start, Hill knew the basics of the story, its broad arc and time span. But he wasn’t quite sure how to frame it. “That took a little while to figure out,” he says. Then, like Vic, the author set out to find trouble—specifically, he needed to find Charlie Manx, the story’s villain, a creepy but weirdly charismatic old man, a kidnapper who might also be something much worse. “It took me longer to find Manx’s voice than almost any character I’ve ever struggled to reach,” Hill says. “That was a lot of the struggle early in the book. Then once I found it, it was like a big car engine turning over.” Charlie Manx drives a sleek black 1938 Rolls-Royce with the license plate “NOS4A2.” (“It is one of my little jokes,” Manx tells another character early in the book. “My first wife once accused me of being a Nosferatu.”) Manx’s crooked teeth, bony skull and hawk-like stare make him instantly sinister, but he’s also—like all the best bad guys—mysteriously seductive, and he genuinely believes he’s helping the kids he lures in. It’s precisely this bizarre mix of evil and magnanimity that makes the old guy such a charmer. As Hill puts it: “He’s so happy!” Manx drives around collecting children with bleak futures,

“rescuing” them and taking them to a place he calls Christmasland. To Manx, he’s doing these kids the favor of their lives. Even if they resist at first, a ride in the Rolls makes Christmasland irresistible to Manx’s young passengers. “When they get out of the car,” Hill says, “they are filled with joy.” Never mind that they are also . . . in for a surprise. The Rolls-Royce, it turns out, runs on souls instead of unleaded. “I like a big, fat, high concept to hang a story on,” Hill acknowledges. And this is an enormous novel: 704 pages long, spanning 25 years and much of the United States, not to mention a few landscapes in other dimensions. Hill says he’d been wanting to go big for a while, and part of the draw of writing such a vast tale came from his fondness for episodic storytelling, the kind Dickens used to do. As far back as the ’50s, Hill points out, one of the highest goals for a fiction writer was to have a story serialized in The New Yorker. Even today there’s plenty of great episodic storytelling to be found—it just happens to be on television instead of paper. “ ‘Breaking Bad’ isn’t a TV show,” Hill says, “it’s a novel.” As Hill’s fans know, NOS4A2 is not his first venture into epic story­

telling; he’s spent years writing episodes of the dark-fantasy comic book Locke & Key, which is illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (who also did the illustrations for NOS4A2). Like the novel, Locke & Key is concerned with the idea that magic and wonder, though commonplace in childhood, are either lost or dangerous to adults. “When I was growing up, a lot of my literary heroes were comic book writers,” Hill says. He mentions Alan Moore’s 40-issue run on Swamp Thing ; Frank Miller; Neil Gaiman’s Sandman; and later examples such as Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man, all of which turned him on to the idea of writing something episodic. “I wanted to have something like that,” he says. “I wanted to see what it was like to have a story that would take me years to tell.” The constancy of writing Locke & Key, he found, was a comfort, a touchstone he could rely on during difficult times in his personal life. Like the issues of Locke & Key, chapters in NOS4A2 frequently end with a cliffhanger—sometimes even in the middle of a sentence. “I had no shame,” Hill says. “I tried to make one chapter end where it would be hard to put the book down.” Further demonstrating the pull of episodic storytelling, this was an “extension of what I’ve done in Locke & Key.” Later this year, Hill adds, he plans to write a comic book set in the NOS4A2 universe. It will be drawn by Charles Wilson III (The Stuff of Legend), whose style Hill calls “really terrifically disturbing, like if R. Crumb illustrated Winnie the Pooh.” The comic will include a Charlie Manx origin story that originally took up almost 100 pages in the novel but was lopped out for pacing reasons, and because Hill thought it somehow reduced the level of Manx’s menace. Using the example of Darth Vader, Hill points out that some of the greatest villains are great only until we find out where they came from: “Sometimes the less you know, the scarier someone is.” Which brings us, conveniently, to the Joe Hill origin story. Hill’s dad happens to be Stephen King, though he kept this a secret for the first decade or so of his writing life. He’d started writing fiction seriously while in college, and he worried

N “FU that even if he wrote something mediocre, someone might publish it anyway because of the famous name, and then he’d be branded as the guy trying to “ride the coattails.” He also wanted the freedom to write whatever he felt like, including genre fiction. So he chose a pen name (drawing on his full name, Joseph Hillstrom King) and kept his famous parentage under wraps mostly “by failing,” he says, adding with a laugh: “Nothing assures your anonymity like failure.” Though it was, of course, frustrating when he couldn’t sell his first novel to a publisher, Hill now sees that as “the pen name doing its work.” He did find early success in comics and with his short stories, and eventually his agent (who “Sometimes also didn’t know he was King’s the less son) sold a colyou know, lection of stories the scarier to PS Publishsomeone is.” ing, which opened the door to the publication of his novel Heart-Shaped Box, in 2007. That book drew enough media attention that clues to his identity began to emerge. Bloggers would speculate, particularly after readings and public appearances (Hill looks strikingly like his father). But his savvier fans cooperated in keeping the secret, until eventually a mainstream magazine broke the news. By then, though, the pen name had done its job: Hill was confident that he had earned his success on his own merits. “In the end,” he says, “you will always be judged by your own work, and it doesn’t matter who your dad is.” (Adding to the family’s literary legacy, Hill’s brother, Owen King, has also just published a novel, Double Feature.) Hill is hard at work on his next novel, which he’s about halfway through and expects to publish in 2014. “I’m trying to get faster,” he adds. He writes full-time: “It’s a 9-to5 job.” When he’s not at work, Hill likes riding his motorbike, a Triumph Bonneville (not coincidentally, an old Triumph figures prominently in NOS4A2). For the novel’s publicity tour, he says, “I was toying with the idea of getting an Evel Knievel suit and riding from bookstore to bookstore . . . you know, you want to put on a good show.”

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features

travel By heather seggel

GETAWAYS FOR ARMCHAIR TRAVELERS

W

ill you be vacationing at an exotic locale this year or staycationing in your own backyard? If your journey is limited to armchair explorations, consider these four travel memoirs, reviewed with tips to help you find the perfect read, be it a dip into history or a high-speed adventure.

FUN ON TWO WHEELS Amsterdam is widely known for its relaxed laws where drugs and prostitution are concerned, but it’s also heaven on earth for cyclists. In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist (Harper Perennial, $15.99, 448 pages, ISBN 9780061995200) recalls Pete Jordan’s simple plan to spend a semester abroad, which immediately gets complicated when he falls in love

Rachel Gibson TRULY MADLY YOURS Where there’s a will… There’s NO way Delaney Shaw will fall truly, madly in love with With an Excerpt from Nick Allegrezza RUN TO YOU again… Coming Fall 2013

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with the city and its bike-friendly ways. Instead of returning to his wife, Amy Joy, he convinces her to move to Amsterdam and they work at building a life and starting a family. While Pete enjoys their freewheeling moves from one sublet to the next, Amy Joy discovers an aptitude for bike repair that leads first to a job, then a place to stay, and ultimately a family business. Travel Tip: The memoir is at most 10 percent of the story here; this is really a meticulously researched history of cycling, in both Amsterdam and the U.S. Dig in for the stories of bike theft (even Anne Frank wasn’t exempt from having her bike stolen) and the wartime use of bikes to ferry the injured to safety. Before long you’ll be dusting off your Schwinn and trying to “dink” your sweetheart on the back (that is, carry her seated sidesaddle behind you). Just watch out for fire hydrants.

GLOBAL ROAD TRIP When Dina Bennett felt the intimacy fading from her marriage, it seemed like throwing herself into a project with her husband, Bernard, would be the perfect fix. Some couples take up swing dancing, some study gourmet cooking; these two chose to participate in an 8,000-mile road race from behind the wheel of a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle. Peking to Paris: Life and Love on a Short Drive Around Half the World (Skyhorse, $24.95, 276 pages, ISBN 9781620878002) follows the pair as they break down and rebuild not just the car, but their ideas about one another. Bennett agrees to the rally despite having no mechanical aptitude and a propensity for carsickness. When it’s all over, she misses the cramped quarters of their beloved Cadillac (nicknamed Roxanne) so much that they take to the road

again—this time in a rental car. The camaraderie between participants in the race is a secondary character: “I look around the table and note Americans, Swiss, French, Dutch, Greek. And the one nationality we now have in common: Rally.” Travel Tip: Start at the end. The book’s glossary and numerous appendices spoil nothing, but give you a clear sense of what goes into a project like this, which only enhances the fun once you actually hit the road. And get out a world map, just to put one finger on Peking (Beijing) and one on Paris to visualize the distance these cars crossed, often over no road whatsoever.

A PERSONAL JOURNEY As the author of the Frugal Traveler column in the New York Times for four years, Matt Gross focused on getting where you want to go as cheaply as possible. In The Turk Who Loved Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World (Da Capo, $15.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9780306821158), his concerns are more philosophical as he examines why we travel and what our travel experiences can tell us about ourselves. The narrative gathers stories from his stops all around the globe, but strings them along a continuous thread: the tale of his first solo sojourn after college, a trip to Vietnam where he lived for a year and began to eke out a living as a writer. Travel Tip: While this book makes more farflung stops than any other here, it’s less about any of the people and places Gross visits than about how they shaped his growth as a man, a writer and a traveler. What has kept him on the go for so long? “I want to be uncomfortable, to be an outsider not just in my own mind but in the eyes of everyone who glances at my awkward, bumbling self,” he writes. His accounts here bear much of that out, from engaging the services of a Southeast Asian prostitute to suffering through numerous bouts of giardia, a vicious intestinal parasite. There are sweet moments as well, as when the Turk of the title refers to the author as both friend and brother after their brief

time together. After confirming the meaning of the second word by consulting his phrasebook, Gross is suitably wowed.

ONCE MORE TO AFRICA The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari (HMH, $27, 368 pages, ISBN 9780618839339) follows noted travel writer Paul Theroux on a final tour of the African continent, winding north from Cape Town into Botswana, Namibia and Angola, often despite warnings not to bother. At the age of 70, Theroux reflects on changes he’s seen in Africa—for every improvement in one area, the poverty and pain seem to have grown elsewhere—while also taking stock of himself and his fitness for further travel. Initially dismissive of travelers who go “animal watching in the early morning, busybodying in the afternoon,” he revises his view after visiting Tsumkwe, an outpost long ignored by the Namibian government, whose language and oral history would not have been preserved but for the efforts of outsiders. Travel Tip: Theroux is a master storyteller; his prose seems workaday, but every scene is alive on the page, and he delivers travel and memoir in a near-perfect balance. Read this book if you enjoy getting lost in language as much as scenery. You’ll hate coming to the end, but it’ll be a beautiful journey.

interviews

joanna hershon By alden mudge

JOEL SELIGMANN

Echoes from an unlikely Harvard friendship

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ovelist Joanna Hershon says she has always wanted to write about her father and baseball. Until a few years ago, her father was the official doctor for the New York Yankees; he is now the team’s senior medical consultant. The problem, Hershon says, is that her father “is self-effacing. He’s the strong, silent type. He rarely talks about work. I think that’s why he lasted so long with George Steinbrenner,” she adds, laughing. “He is definitely not giving out gossip, which is good for his job but not so great for eavesdroppers and writers.” But if her father’s reticence has frustrated Hershon’s career as eavesdropper and writer about baseball, his and his classmates’ experiences at Harvard in the late 1950s are a tributary to the cascade of observations, investigations and imaginings that flow seamlessly into Hershon’s fourth novel, A Dual Inheritance. Hershon—who lives in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens with her husband, the painter Derek Buckner, and their 7-year-old twin sons—remembers spending hours as a seventh grader in her father’s study reading about his classmates in the Harvard Red Book. “Basically alumni are asked to write about their lives. Some people write a couple of sentences; some people write a kind of personal essay. As a 12-year-old, I was just completely fascinated with these self-expressions. I was from a conservative suburban home, and I was always drawn to kind of fringy characters. How much our culture changed over those years just always fascinated me. At the time I was not thinking, oh I’m going to write a novel, but looking back, I think it planted a seed in my imagination.” From that seed sprouted the opening of Hershon’s capacious new novel, which begins on the Harvard campus in 1962, at the start of the unexpected friendship of Hugh Shipley, reluctant scion of a storied New England family, and Ed Cantowitz, rejected son of an embittered, widowed, former boxer. “I’m fascinated by environments in which unlikely friendships are possible, and I’m especially interested in male friendships,” Hershon says. “I think that has something to do with my perception as a woman of male friendships being kind of

mysterious, with a depth of feeling that maybe isn’t always expressed.” Then, after a pause, Hershon adds, “I’m aware that writing a book about a friendship between a Jewish guy and a WASPy guy is walking the line of stereotypes,” Hershon says. “But the reason I think it’s done all the time is that people, including me, are fascinated by it. There’s something we’re drawn to “There’s in the other. I think we’re something all looking for we’re drawn what’s missto in the other. ing. I’m also really interestI think we’re ed in insiders all looking who feel like outsiders. So for what’s I didn’t find missing.” these characters remotely stereotypical, and I really committed to them.” Indeed. Hugh and Ed—each with unique personal, cultural and sexual baggage, following divergent career arcs—end up at opposite ends of the world. Hugh, rebelling against the prejudices of his privileged upbringing, goes to East Africa as a dilettantish sort of anthropologist and stays on to dedicate his life to humanitarian efforts. Ed, driven to accumulate the sort of wealth that Hugh’s family has had for generations, goes first to Wall Street, then to China and then to jail. Theirs is a friendship that does not last very long after they leave college. But in the long arc of the story— which takes the reader up to 2010— Ed and Hugh are brought together again through the more elastic and more enduring friendship of their daughters, Rebecca and Vivi. “I always knew this was going to be a book where a great deal of time passes,” Hershon explains. “I wanted to explore that sense of nostalgia and the mystery of why certain friendships ignite something and remain, and certain friendships completely fizzle out with no lingering effects.”

One of the reasons A Dual Inheritance feels so lived or lived in— at times almost autobiographical—is Hershon’s unusual method of researching the book. “This book is kind of an experiment in my own crackpot anthropology,” she jokes. Instead of lots of traditional book-based research, Hershon “did a lot of interviewing people, a lot of really intimate discussions.” Early on in her research, for example, Hershon tried to interview everyone she knew who had been at Harvard and Radcliffe in the late 1950s and early 1960s. When she ran her invented character of Hugh Shipley by one of her interviewees and asked if the character sounded plausible, the friend introduced her to the seminal anthropological filmmaker Robert Gardner, “who gave me just amazing information that I incorporated into the book.” The vivid detail of Rebecca’s emotionally fraught visit with Hugh along Lake Tanganyika, which occurs late in the novel, derives from long conversations with Dr. Amy Lehman, a schoolmate who now heads a floating clinic on Lake Tanganyika. “That and good old imagination,” says Hershon, who has never set foot in Africa. Even the novel’s title reflects Hershon’s anthropological point of view. “I was trying to find something that had a kind of anthropological, tribal nuance because in some ways I think this book is about people in their tribes trying to escape what does or does not define them.” Only after she settled on the title did she discover that the term is used for an actual anthropological theory. Hershon has written three previous novels (Swimming, The Outside

of August, The German Bride) and believes her latest is her most ambitious book yet. “It has a larger scope. It has a larger cast of characters than my previous books and a larger conversation about politics and work and class and money. I think that in itself is a departure. But reading a summary of the book, I worry that it doesn’t sound as good as it is. I think, oh gosh, you’re just going to have to read it.” And she’s right. Summary doesn’t do justice to A Dual Inheritance. Readers will have to discover the book’s appeal for themselves.

A Dual Inheritance

By Joanna Hershon

Ballantine, $26, 496 pages ISBN 9780345468475, audio, eBook available

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interviews

helene wecker

an electrifying new voice in fantasy

H

ow did debut author Helene Wecker—who just published her superb fantasy novel The Golem and the Jinni—burst onto the literary scene with such an extraordinary achievement right off the bat? When we asked her that question, the answer only made us shake our heads in further wonder. “To be honest, this really was the first big project that I worked on. When I jumped out of college, I went straight into the corporate world,” Wecker says by phone from her home near San Francisco. After seven years of corporate work, the urge to write wouldn’t let up. “I got to a point where I thought, I’m going to really kick myself if I don’t give the writing a fair shot.” So she went back to school: at first, night classes, then Columbia University’s writing program. In the workshop there, she was building a collection of linked short stories about her own family and her husband’s family. “I’m Jewish and he’s Arab-American. But I was too close to that real-life material. When I tried to turn it into fiction, it lost its power over me.” Then a friend in the workshop gave Wecker the leg up she needed. “My friend said, you’re such a total nerd, you’re always talking about fantasy and sci-fi, you’re always talking about the legitimacy of bringing genre elements into literary fiction. So how come you’re not doing that?” It was the right question. On the very same day, the premise for The Golem and the Jinni came to Wecker. Conceived at first as a short story, the idea expanded into a novel

the golem and The Jinni

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By Helene Wecker

Harper, $26.99, 496 pages ISBN 9780062110831, eBook available

over the course of seven years. “It wasn’t just writing the book; it was learning to be a writer,” she recalls. “It went through so many drafts and I learned so much about how to get across what I wanted to say. This book was my crucible for becoming a writer.” Wecker’s novel is a dream come true for any devoted reader of fantasy (and is sure to make many new ones). Everything about the tale marks it as an immediate classic. The two greatest legendary beings of Jewish and Arabian folklore are brought together in the melting pot of lower Manhattan, at the peak of the immigrant tide a century ago. The book’s fusion of golem and jinni is nothing short of epic, their encounters ever more fraught with powerful emotion and mortal danger both for the creatures themselves, and for all their magnificently varied human relations. Being so new to writing, Wecker felt intimidated by the thought of looking into the sizable catalogue of modern literary retellings of golem and jinni stories. So she decided to start from scratch, drawing from two beautifully divergent sources: on the one hand, the old, original legends of the golem and jinni; on the other, pop-culture icons like Star Wars, “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica,” where “approachinghuman” characters abound. “In a way, I felt like my own golem Chava was almost a cross between Data and Counselor Troi” (of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”), Wecker says. “Chava can feel people but not understand them.” Obvious question: Are the female golem and the male jinni stand-ins for Wecker and her husband? “At about a year into the writing process, the story shed that connection. The characters really became themselves,” she says. Even so, the long gestation period of the novel had its vivid counterpart in the efforts of Wecker and her husband to get pregnant during those same years, fertility treatments and all. “In one

of the final editing sessions, I started to realize just how many childless people were in this book, people who wanted to have kids. And I thought, oh come on, was my unconscious really spewing onto the page like that? So I took a couple of them out.” But Wecker need not have worried about making her story too autobiographical. The internal logic of The Golem and the Jinni is both profound and startlingly unsentimental. Its expressive content feels uncompromisingly truthful, even difficult. The book’s ironic realism—including its intensely vivid portrait of the “grit and squalor” of the Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century—comes close to the spirit of fantasy masters Wecker’s Tolkien, Rowlremarkable ing and Clarke. Another debut bond between combines two Wecker and this magisterial legendary company is the beings from strong ethical Jewish and thread running through her Arabian tale. In essence, folklore. the golem and the jinni are both potentially destructive to humanity. But they evolve through the novel, going against their own natures. “A conscious angle of the book was this idea of humanizing, and what that means for each of them— in the Pinocchio sense of becoming a real person, but also adapting to society and learning to live with those around you and what that means on a moral level,” she says. “For the jinni, it’s having to learn to accept help, having to learn that his actions have consequences.” Wecker also reflects on the way her monstrous hero and heroine

Sheldon Wecker

By michael alec rose

change and grow together, bringing the process back to its source in her own marriage. But it’s not just because she is a Jewish woman married to an Arab-American man (although that in itself is worthy of a U.N. resolution). “It’s drawn from my experiences of being in a long-term relationship and growing up with someone,” she says. “You’re not fully formed when you’re 18 or 20. Being together for years and learning to adapt to each other and with each other—that’s a feat of endurance and of empathy, and it’s really, really tough sometimes. That’s what I was trying to bring across. I wanted the golem and the jinni to have a real relationship.” The fact that each of them is the only living being in the world capable of seeing exactly who and what the other one is—that’s terrifying to both of them. And it’s the essence of any true love. There’s a thrilling spiritual challenge, too, at the heart of Wecker’s tale, embodied in the communion of two creatures from completely different cultural traditions. “It’s the idea that there could be many truths, all coexisting, none of them negating the others,” she says. “My question is, does that point to something larger? Is each truth a facet of a larger whole? That’s the question I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to answer. But it’s really fun to turn over.”

reviews

FICTION all-too-real cast of characters. This is an exquisite debut. —Megan Fishmann

The Kings and Queens of Roam and the mountains echoed

Trading lives, trading worlds Review By ken champeon

If you could guarantee your child a rich life in exchange for forfeiting your right to see her, would you do it? The question informs the engrossing new novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini, whose surprise international bestseller, The Kite Runner, so enchanted readers 10 years ago. The child in question is Pari, whose long-suffering father arranges her adoption by a well-to-do Afghan and his half-French wife, Nila. Pari’s brother Abdullah stays behind, and their fates diverge in predictable ways: Pari becomes a professor of mathematics while Abdullah ends up selling kabobs. The novel jumps backward and forward in time, with settings as diverse as Monterey, Paris, Kabul and Athens. The relationships between the far-flung cast members—including Idris, an Afghan-American physician, modeled probably on Hosseini himself; a Greek plastic surgeon and adventure photographer; a former Afghan jihadi and his iPod-toting By Khaled Hosseini son—are sometimes obscure. But the female characters steal the show, Riverhead, $28.95, 416 pages most notably Nila, who gleefully explodes the stereotype of the downISBN 9781594631764, audio, eBook available trodden Afghan woman. An acclaimed poet, as fond of men as she is enOn sale May 21 slaved to Chardonnay, she evokes a time when Kabul was downright chic. Then there’s the flip side of the book’s opening dilemma. Having escaped, what obligation does one have to the motherland? Can an expat enjoy success when his or her country so desperately needs help? “For the price of that home theater,” Idris muses, “we could have built a school in Afghanistan.” After a trip back, he experiences worse culture shock upon returning to America, a situation familiar to anyone with experience in both countries. Ultimately Idris decides that Afghanistan was “something best forgotten.” But his story also suggests that life in America, with its stresses and mass distractions, is no Elysium either. Do Pari and Abdullah reunite? Hosseini certainly isn’t given to facile resolutions. To the distances of space the novel adds the ravages of age. Ultimately, And the Mountains Echoed is about the human endeavor to transcend differences.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena By Anthony Marra

Hogarth $26, 400 pages ISBN 9780770436407 eBook available

debut fiction

For a first-time novelist, Anthony Marra has a lot going for him. Currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Marra holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has won The Atlantic’s Student Writing Contest, the Pushcart Prize and the Narrative Prize. If that isn’t enough to convince you of Marra’s extraordinary talents, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena has already been awarded the 2012

Whiting Writers’ Award. Set in contemporary Chechnya—a republic in southern Russia—the novel opens with 8-year-old Havaa hiding in the freezing-cold forest. She is forced to witness the burning down of her home and the abduction of her fingerless father by Russian soldiers. When Havaa’s father’s lifelong friend and neighbor Akhmed discovers her, he decides that the only guarantee for her safety is to take her to a physician he has only heard rumors about: Dr. Sonja Rabina. For Sonja, her day-to-day life is a furious routine of staying hopped up on methamphetamines, running the town’s bombed-out hospital and desperately searching for her heroin-addicted sister, Natasha. Akhmed—a doctor as well, although his passion lies in portraiture—offers his assistance to Sonja, in exchange for her harboring Havaa. The Russians have already begun

hunting down the girl, and Akhmed has sworn to protect her, for reasons deeper than Sonja initially suspects. Marra delicately weaves together several narratives against the backdrop of this bleak, war-ravaged country. Over five days filled with dying rebels, mysterious blackmarket con men, friends-turnedtraitors and ghostly visitors, Marra allows the stories of Sonja, Natasha, Akhmed and Havaa’s father to intersect in incredibly imaginative ways. Readers will become convinced that each subsequent piece in the puzzle of Marra’s narrative is not coincidence but surely must be fate. If you’re a fan of beautifully composed, internationally set fiction like The Tiger’s Wife or The Orphan Master’s Son, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a worthy next pick. The Whiting Writers’ Award selection committee dubbed Marra’s ambitions “Tolstoyan,” and there could not be a better word to describe his

By Daniel Wallace

Touchstone $24, 288 pages ISBN 9781476703978 Audio, eBook available

southern fiction

Sisters Rachel and Helen live in Roam, a place that “felt like the abandoned capital of an ancient civilization: still a wonder to behold, out here in the middle of nowhere, but worn down, broken, nearly empty.” At 17, Rachel is the younger of the sisters, blind since the age of 3 and cared for by Helen since their parents died in a car accident. Rachel is beautiful, while Helen “was ugly since the day she was born.” Their outsides match their insides: Rachel is pure and kind, and Helen is bitter and needy. She lets her younger sister believe that she is the ugly one, and that the world is too dangerous to ever venture outside of Roam. No one in Roam realizes the cruel hoax Helen has perpetrated, not even Jonah, the hapless local mechanic Helen’s been involved with since he was a teenager. Rachel and Helen are sure they’ll spend the rest of their days together in Roam, settled by their greatgrandfather, who made his fortune by building a silk factory and forcing Chinese immigrants to work for him. But Helen makes a miscalculation one day that gives Rachel the chance to see for herself whether she can survive on her own. A creative writing professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose Big Fish was made into a Tim Burton movie in 2003, Wallace specializes in novels with a tinge of folklore. The Kings and Queens of Roam is a tall-tale jaunt that features a giant lumberjack, a tiny bartender who can see all of Roam’s ghosts (he prefers to call them old-timers) and a doctor convinced he can cure Rachel’s blindness with water from an underground river. Wallace toggles between two

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reviews equally compelling stories: that of the sisters and that of their greatgrandfather, Elijah McAllister, who exploits his friend Ming Kai to get rich. Set in a mossy, haunted backwoods somewhere in America, this is a whimsical, tender tale about friendship, trust and the price of second chances. —Amy Scribner

The Other Typist By Suzanne Rindell Amy Einhorn $25.95, 368 pages ISBN 9780399161469 Audio, eBook available

debut fiction

FICTION she seems—but the one thing she is not, is to be trusted. With shades of Notes on a Scandal and a dash of The Great Gatsby thrown in for pizzazz, Rindell has concocted a potent psychological thriller that is downright addictive and more than a little twisted. The Other Typist is an excellent game of cat and mouse, one made all the better for never knowing exactly who is the hunter and who is the prey. Only one thing is for certain: Few readers will escape the mind-bending trap Rindell has set—and even fewer will be interested in trying. —Stephenie Harrison

Is This Tomorrow By Caroline Leavitt

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Rose Baker is the kind of girl who prides herself on the knowledge that the only remarkable thing about her is just how very plain she is. Often overlooked, prizing moral rectitude above all else and fastidious to a fault, Rose is a natural at her somewhat outré job as a typist in a 1920s New York City police station, where she dutifully types up the confessions and A prim typist reports that put guilty men befinds her hind bars. Upon the hiring of a dark side vivacious new in Rindell’s typist named devilish, Odalie, Rose’s perch on her delicious principled peddebut. estal becomes precarious when she falls under the spell of this magnetic and irresistible young woman. Swept into an opulent but forbidden world of bootleggers and back-alley drinking halls, Rose starts to loosen her grip on her precious rules, only to find that reality and her own sense of self are soon to follow. The Other Typist is Suzanne Rindell’s debut novel, but what a deliciously devilish debut it is! Rindell’s prose is rich with vivid turns of phrase and imagery that dazzles like the tassels on a flapper’s frock, but her real coup is the creation of meek little Rose—who is actually anything but. In contrast to her drab exterior, Rose’s inner monologue is satisfyingly tart and her world view slyly subversive. Readers will swiftly realize that she is more than what

Algonquin $14.95, 384 pages ISBN 9781616200541 Audio, eBook available

historical fiction

Ava Lark is different. She’s divorced, an unusual state of being in 1956, and one that the women at her part-time job and in her neighborhood treat as though it’s a contagious disease. And she’s Jewish, which leaves those same women feeling affronted when she declines to decorate for Christmas. Ava struggles to believe that she deserves a happy life, even years after her husband, Brian, left her for a mistress. She blames herself for his departure, as does their son, Lewis. Ava makes his life worse, Lewis believes, by not dressing or acting like other mothers, whose fear of anyone different is only exacerbated by the Cold War. Lewis’ only solace is in his friends Rose and Jimmy, the other fatherless children on his suburban Boston street. After 12-year-old Jimmy vanishes, his sister Rose, at age 13, joins Ava and Lewis in shouldering the blame for a loss that isn’t her fault. Rose’s mother is convinced that if Rose had been with her brother that afternoon, he would still be around. Lewis likewise regrets not meeting his friend at the appointed time on that fateful day. Jimmy’s disappearance leaves those who were close to him questioning who they are and what they know to be true—questions

that continue to haunt them years later. Both Lewis and Rose have held people at arm’s length, reluctant to let others into their lives for fear of sharing their past. Indeed, in Caroline Leavitt’s 10th novel, Is This Tomorrow, the past colors each moment in the characters’ present. As they attempt to discover what’s behind Jimmy’s disappearance and their resulting tumultuous lives, Rose, Lewis and Ava must retrace their steps to find understanding. Leavitt’s compelling work explores how a tragedy casts a shadow—not only upon the days that immediately follow, but sometimes the rest of a life. Life isn’t always what we expect, a fact that is thoughtfully explored in this beautifully rendered tale. —Carla Jean Whitley

Americanah By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Knopf $26.95, 496 pages ISBN 9780307271082 eBook available

world fiction

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new novel, Americanah, begins in a train station in Princeton, New Jersey, where Ifemelu is on her way to Trenton to get her hair braided. This errand, seemingly simple, could stand as a microcosm for a plot that is all about transitions—epic, life-altering journeys from Nigeria to America and London, the transition from high school to college, the evolution of teenage crushes to true love, right down to the minute, but no less significant, detail of where a black girl can get her hair done. Ifemelu and Obinze fell in love as teenagers in Lagos. The military dictatorship in Nigeria made it almost impossible for them to complete college, and both hoped to go to the United States. Ifemelu left Africa first, living in Brooklyn with her aunt and cousin Dike, and then on to college in Philadelphia. The plan was for Obinze to join her, but, unable to get a visa after 9/11, he instead went to London and plunged into the dangerous life of an undocumented immigrant. Both young people did whatever they could to survive, and the subsequent feelings of shame and embarrassment changed their

relationship. Fifteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man with a family in newly democratized Nigeria. Ifemelu is at Princeton, the author of a wildly successful blog about race in America with the wonderful tonguein-cheek title Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (those formerly known as Negros) by a Non-American Black. She has a sexy academic boyfriend and a lively and diverse group of friends. But she is homesick for Nigeria, and realizes that her thoughts of returning are all wrapped up in her unresolved feelings for Obinze. As she did with Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie creates a multigenerational tale, spanning three continents and incorporating the complicated politics of Lagos, the slippery codes of race and class, and the emotional network of family and friends. The novel is stuffed with characters—single mothers, students, hairdressers, cab drivers, academics—each a perfectly realized portrait in a lively tapestry. Adichie’s observations are needlesharp when it comes to race, but her empathy makes Americanah—a term that is used for Nigerians who go to America and return with an exaggerated sense of superiority—a warm and surprisingly funny read. Americanah is an engaging novel about love, change and identity in today’s globalized world that is not to be missed. — L a u r e n B u ff e r d

Snapper By Brian Kimberling

Pantheon $24.95, 224 pages ISBN 9780307908056 Audio, eBook available

debut fiction

An ornithologist by choice and trade, Nathan loves the world of birds, but as a character he is as much Tom Sawyer as John James Audubon. And fascinating as some of his bird-related research may be (for instance, Eastern Phoebes and Yellow Warblers have responded very differently to climate change), by the end of Snapper, Nathan has learned more about people than any other creature.

ficTion Brian Kimberling’s charming first novel immortalizes moments along Nathan’s journey to inner perception in quirky chapters of self-discovery, as he grows up in Indiana—and can’t wait to get out of it. Almost capable of standing alone as short stories themselves, each chapter sheds new light on Nathan’s life journey: his loves, his friendships and his response to health problems. Time works its black magic on everyone, and readers see Nathan growing up before their eyes, as he navigates Uncle Dart and Aunt Loretta (“who didn’t just come from Texas, they brought it with them”); Lola, his first and persistent love; and Shane, his lifelong friend. Ruefully Nathan arrives at a perverse truth that will restore your faith in the ultimate survival of the best qualities of the human character, especially an acceptance of human nature itself. Kimberling, a former birdwatcher, now lives in England, where lessons learned in Indiana no doubt hold true as well. With its story of eventual maturity and understanding, Snapper (a reference to a turtle who made a lasting impression on Nathan and his friends, as they unfortunately did on him) is one of those rare books that reads like a breezy exercise of a novel but leaves a profound and lasting impression. —maude mcdaniel

SouTHeRn cRoSS THe Dog By Bill cheng

Amistad $25.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9780062225009 eBook available

DeBuT ficTion

In 1927, the Mississippi River broke free of its banks and flooded parts of its namesake state. The flood scattered the river’s neighbors across the Mississippi Delta region, changing the course of their lives but not separating them for good. Robert Chatham is a child of 8 when the river destroys his home and his family. Five years after the flood, he’s working as an errand boy at the brothel Beau-Miel in Bruce, 100 miles from Issaquena County, unsure of whether his parents sur-

vived. As author Bill Cheng writes, Robert is “thirteen years old and already broken.” Robert comes to realize he’s “bad crossed,” and trouble follows him wherever he goes. Along the way, one of the characters he meets gives Robert a “devil,” a pinch of rock salt, ash and an Indian-head penny to keep in a pouch around his neck. These will keep trouble away, the man says. But if Robert isn’t exactly trouble-free, well, he’s still alive—a fact that seems miraculous at times, as he traipses through the Mississippi Delta and faces a variety of dangers, including a wild river, angry trappers and a burning building. “He could not count the times he’d come so close to death only to be thrown violently again into life,” Cheng writes. Along the way, Robert stumbles upon people from his past, welcome faces and those not so welcome, and tries to evade the trouble that he can’t seem to lose in search of a happier life. Chinese-American writer Cheng was raised in New York City and, at the time of writing this book, had yet to set foot in the state of Mississippi. Even so, his lyrical storytelling is reminiscent of tales shared on a front porch. The stories dance through time in this nonlinear, epic adventure tale, skipping between 1927, 1932 and 1941. The rambling story covers an awful lot of territory, emotionally and physically—just like life itself. —carla jean whitley

His second novel is Red Moon, a fat, multilayered page-turner that has fans of Percy and lycanthropy alike gnashing their teeth in anticipation. Yes, it’s about werewolves, but it is also about coming of age, young love, racism, In Percy’s xenophobia, warfare’s moral alternative complexities world, the and the zeitgeist of 21st-century decadesAmerica. In long peace other words, between Percy went big. In Red Moon’s humans and alternative werewolves world, humans has been and werewolves—they broken. prefer to be called Lycans, thank you—have coexisted forever. Living worldwide, but with a sovereign Lycan state—in the manner of Israel—Lycans are required by law to take Lupex to keep from changing with the full moon. The Lycan

Republic is policed by American armed forces, which are increasingly looked upon as occupiers. American patrols are often targeted by insurgents, from full-on attacks to IEDs. Sound familiar? When Lycan terrorists target American airliners, the innocent and guilty alike are rounded up, killed or disappear, and the lives of American teenagers Claire Forrester and Patrick Gamble change forever. Claire is a Lycan, while Patrick’s father serves with the Army in the Lycan Republic. Their complex existences eventually intersect, and both will play key roles in the violent dawning of a new world. As a Percy character might say, when you let fly with a one-two punch combination, some blows may miss. Occasionally, the allegory is a bit heavy-handed, but parables aren’t known for their subtlety. The book’s white-knuckle excitement more than atones for a little emotional bias. At its spellbinding best, Red Moon is a cross between Stephen King and the Michael Chabon

A powerful talent makes her debut with this unconventional and passionately romantic love story that is as breathtaking and wondrous as The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Visit BookPage.com for a Q&A with Bill Cheng.

ReD Moon By Benjamin percy Grand central $25.99, 544 pages ISBN 9781455501663 Audio, eBook available

fAnTASY

When you talk of talented writers under 40, Benjamin Percy is a name that must come up. A list of his awards—mostly for visceral short stories that are as elegant and lilting as Irish ballads yet possess a raw violence beneath—would take up more space than this review allows.

A V A I LA B L E W H E R E V E R B OO K S A N D E - B OOK S A R E SO LD an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

WHO IS ADAM HOPE? Find out here: bit.ly/12ddNTJ

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reviews of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, two very different writers who both give plausible wings to absurdity. If you haven’t read Percy, get started. —Ian Schwartz

The Woman Upstairs By Claire Messud

Knopf $25.95, 272 pages ISBN 9780307596901 Audio, eBook available

literary fiction

FICTION If there’s any shortcoming to this artful story, it’s that Messud is better at ratcheting up the tension among these characters than she is at resolving it. But through the psyche of its complicated protagonist, The Woman Upstairs effectively raises serious questions about how we come to live the lives we do, and how we respond when our dreams of how those lives might be different are thwarted. When a novelist of Messud’s talent invites us to consider such questions, we can be certain they’re ones worth pondering. —Harvey Freedenberg

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots

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Nora Marie Eldridge, the protagonist of Claire Messud’s taut and psychologically astute fourth novel, is an angry woman, a fact she reveals in its first paragraph. For her, “to be furious, murderously furious, is to be alive.” Over the course of the story, Messud excavates the roots of that anger with sure-handed patience, creating a complex narrative that painstakingly interweaves themes of obsessive love, feminism, creativity and the nature of art. Putting aside her dreams of an artistic career, unmarried and childless Nora has settled, in her late 30s, into a pedestrian life as a third-grade teacher in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, public school. Her outwardly placid routine is upended when Reza Shahid, the son of a Lebanese father and an Italian mother spending the academic year in Boston, arrives from Paris and enters the class. Nora’s affection for the 8-year-old boy deepens when he’s victimized by playground bullies, but that’s nothing compared to the intensity of feeling that surfaces when she discovers his faintly exotic mother, Sirena, is an accomplished artist. The two women’s decision to rent a shared space where Nora can work on dioramas featuring Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, the troubled artist Alice Neel and Andy Warhol acolyte Edie Sedgwick, while Sirena constructs a career-defining installation based on Alice in Wonderland, both strengthens and complicates their relationship. That web becomes more tangled when Nora senses her growing fascination with Sirena’s husband, Skandar. Nora’s account of these multiple attractions slowly reveals how she is transformed by the role she plays in this intricately choreographed dance.

By Jessica Soffer

HMH $24, 336 pages ISBN 9780547759265 Audio, eBook available

debut fiction

decides to learn how to cook a meal Nancy once rhapsodized over. When she sees a flyer announcing Victoria’s cooking school, she thinks it’s a reprieve. Well, yes and no. Victoria and Lorca take to each other right away, gently circling each other physically and emotionally as they put together meals from Victoria’s native Iraq. The reader roots for Lorca as she begins to emerge from her isolation. She befriends not only Victoria, but also an equally lonely boy named Blot and maybe even Dottie. Indeed, we root for all of Soffer’s rich and complex characters, with the exception of Nancy, perhaps— Soffer dislikes her too much. Sometimes families just don’t work, the author seems to say. The good news is you can always find another. —Arlene McKanic

The Humanity Project By Jean Thompson

Lorca, the excruciatingly vulnerable protagonist of Jessica Soffer’s first novel, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, is, like so many teenage protagonists, burdened with a couple of seriously bad parents. Her mother Nancy, a chef, notices her when she feels like it. When the novel opens, she’s beginning to feel like it less and less. Lorca has been caught cutting herself and is to be packed off to boarding school. Nancy can’t wait, but the thought of being so discarded terrifies Lorca. As for Lorca’s absent father, he obeys and is cowed by his ex-wife. On the other side of New York City is another lousy mother, Victoria, a woman with a self-obsession that sucks the air out of any room she’s in. (One mark of Soffer’s talent is that she makes the reader stick with Victoria even at her worst.) Victoria wants to believe that her love for her late husband, Joseph, with whom she used to run a restaurant, was so overpowering that there was no room in their marriage for anyone else. This was why she gave up their child at birth. But now Joseph, as subservient to his wife as Lorca’s dad is to his, is dead, and she has no one but her somewhat scattered upstairs neighbor Dottie. To get over her grief, Victoria starts a cooking class in her own kitchen. To finally win her mother’s affections, Lorca

Blue Rider Press $26.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780399158711 Audio, eBook available

literary fiction

Jean Thompson’s latest compelling and character-driven novel, following 2011’s The Year We Left Home, is set in California, north of the Bay Area, and centers on two dysfunctional single-parent families. The first is headed by Sean, out of work due to a crippling auto accident (initiated by an unfortunate Internet date), and now losing his house to foreclosure. His son Conner, 17, has dropped out of school to become “an amateur thief, an odd-jobs man and hustler”—trying to take up his father’s slack. The other family consists of Art— an “overeducated and underemployed” 40-year-old with a master’s in English literature whose resumé holds a mélange of jobs including tutor, book reviewer and screenwriter—and his estranged daughter Linnea, whom he hasn’t seen since he moved to California when she was 2. Linnea, now 15, has been traumatized by a school shooting in Ohio, where she lived with her mother and stepfather, and has been handed off to Art to give her a change of scenery as a “test drive, an exile, a visit of

uncertain length.” The lives of these emotionally scarred characters—along with a few others, including Art’s friend Christie, a nurse, and Mrs. Foster, a wealthy widow who is one of Christie’s home-visit patients—intersect in surprising ways, which are gradually revealed in chapters written in their alternating voices. Thompson involves the reader immediately in her characters’ unpredictable situations, each chapter offering a new glimpse into their intertwined lives—resulting in a pithy, psychologically astute and highly entertaining novel. —Deborah Donovan

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope By Rhonda Riley

Ecco $15.99, 432 pages ISBN 9780062099440 Audio, eBook available

debut fiction

In 1946 North Carolina, during a raging winter rainstorm, young Evelyn Roe discovers a man buried in the rich red clay of her farm. Impossibly, he’s alive. She frantically digs him from the muck and thinks he’s a burned, lost soldier. But as she warms him, feeds him, clothes him, his gnarled skin “heals” illogically fast, and he acts like he’s never eaten food, taken a bath or even heard language before. This can’t simply be a man with amnesia. In fact, he’s not even a man. Rhonda Riley’s marvelous debut, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope, spans 50 years and chronicles the relationship between Evelyn Riley and this guilecontemplates less being, who goes through the mysteries more than one strange metaof those we morphosis. love in a Eventually, they standout marry. They raise five daughdebut. ters. And in all those years, despite their passion, their happy, ordinary life and their profound bond, Evelyn’s husband never ceases to be a mystery to her. Richly drawn and tenderly deliv-

ficTion ered, what’s perhaps loveliest about Riley’s story is that Adam doesn’t know any more about his origins than Evelyn does. And he doesn’t care—he just is. Captivating in his joy and openness, he’s worldly and innocent, not to mention otherworldly, all at the same time. Meanwhile, Riley creates in Evelyn a wonderfully real narrator, a subtle masterpiece. With a loving but unobtrusive voice, Evelyn inspires instant, unnoticed loyalty in the reader, allowing for a complete suspension of disbelief that is a great feat given the book’s premise. Enhanced by gorgeous depictions of the land Evelyn and Adam love, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope evokes the wonder of being alive, of loving, of finding one’s home. By the end, it feels like you have truly listened in on a life—that these things have occurred somehow, in some realm. Combining terrific writing with mass appeal, this should be one of 2013’s most deserving hits. —Sheri bodoh

THe RiveR of no ReTuRn By Bee Ridgway

dutton $27.95, 464 pages ISBN 9780525953869 eBook available

DeBuT ficTion

Fantasies that span centuries, time travel, epic romances, secret societies and ancient conspiracies—Bee Ridgway’s debut novel has all of these things, but despite these familiar tropes, The River of No Return provides some exhilarating surprises. Nobleman Nick Falcott died on a Napoleonic battlefield in 1812. Or at least, that’s what everyone in 1812 thinks. Somehow, Nick actually jumped forward in time to the year 2003, where a mysterious organization known as the Guild took him in, taught him how to live in the 21st century, and told him he could never return to either his own time or place. Ten years later, Nick is suddenly summoned by the Guild and asked to break the rules and travel back to the year 1815 in search of a mysterious Talisman, something of great power that the Guild must find before its enemies, the Ofan, get

their hands on it. In 1815, Falcott’s former neighbor Julia Percy is grieving the loss of her extraordinary grandfather and suffering under the yoke of his heir, her cousin Eamon, when she finds that she’s been blessed with an incredible gift. When Nick returns, suddenly back from the dead, Julia finds that his mission and her gift are linked, and the two embark on an adventure across time to unravel the secrets of the Guild, the Ofan and the Talisman. Establishing a firm set of rules for the way time travel works is arguably the most important part of building a story like The River of No Return, but too many restrictions can turn a story stale before it even gets started. It’s a fine line to walk, and though this is her first attempt, Ridgway navigates it like a master. Her tale and the world she’s crafted unfold gracefully and compellingly through precise yet lush prose. The result is a novel that fans of hardcore fantasy and literary fiction alike can get behind. The River of No Return is a gorgeous, sweeping debut that is easy to get lost in. —matthew jackSon

foolS By joan Silber

Norton $25.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780393088700 eBook available

SHoRT SToRieS

gay man in the midst of a breakup finds solace in a memoir of Village life written by one of Vera’s friends and in the teachings of Gandhi. The spirits of Gandhi and Dorothy Day (founder of the Catholic Workers), two idealistic individuals who lived out their principles, are never far from these stories. Silber’s characters are also fools for love. Vera finds herself drawn to Forster, a member of their social circle, and is unable to hide the attraction from her husband. In “Different Opinions,” Vera’s daughter Louise remains in New York after her husband takes a job in Japan, determined to live a separate life but not willing to divorce. In “Going Too Far,” a young man, superficially attracted to dharma talks and meditation groups, marries a woman he meets at a Sufi concert and then is alienated as she is gradually drawn wholly into the practices of mystical Islam. Each story in Fools is as satisfyingly dense as a novel, and the links between them are subtle and elegant, never forced. Silber’s characters are open to the lure of ideas, wealth and passion, even when they lead to despair—or at least uncomfortable circumstances. Though their actions may be reckless, their convictions are not. The stories sweep through time and place, but the carefully accumulated details and the characters’ vulnerabilities ground them in a way that is as authentic and foolish as life itself. —lauren buFFerd

Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Joan Silber. When does an idea become a conviction, love become an obsession, interest become a passion? When do we shift from engagement to foolish fixation? In the six connected stories of her new collection Fools, Joan Silber—whose 2005 linked story collection, Ideas of Heaven, was a National Book Award finalist—tackles these questions head-on, uncovering the price we pay for our beliefs, our attractions and our ideals. Religious belief, politics and the pursuit of money are tangled up in this collection. In the opening title story, Vera, raised by Christian missionaries in India, turns to politics and finds a place in the lively bohemian and anarchist circles of Greenwich Village in the 1920s. Five decades later, in “Better,” a

floRA By gail godwin

Bloomsbury $26, 288 pages ISBN 9781620401200 eBook available

liTeRARY ficTion

For 10-year-old Helen, spending the summer cooped up in her family’s crumbling hilltop manse with her late mother’s fragile cousin is just the latest indignity in a young life punctuated by loss, longing and lamentation.

In Gail Godwin’s luminous new novel, Flora, the best-selling author has once again breathed life into a child heroine, weaving a narrative that is both plaintive and charming, and above all, almost eerily authentic in capturing the linguistic patois and emotional nuances of youth during the final months of World War II. Readers who have enjoyed Godwin’s 13 previous novels, including Unfinished Desires, The Finishing School and Father MelanDarkly choly’s Daughter, hypnotic, will recognize mesmerizing echoes of some of her prevailing and magical, themes, including a small-town Godwin’s North Carolatest novel lina setting, the is not to be enchantment of first love and, missed. above all, the devastation of childhood abandonment. While Helen has only vague memories of her own mother, who died when she was 3 years old, the recent death of her beloved grandmother, Honora, has left her paralyzed with grief, guilt and anger. After Helen’s father—a sarcastic and often soused school principal who has never recovered from his young wife’s death—accepts a summer job in Tennessee, he recruits his late wife’s cousin, 22-year-old Flora, to care for his daughter in his absence. Neurotic, albeit kind-hearted and lovable, Flora is painfully eager to please her young charge, but the prickly Helen is determined to remain aloof and impenetrable. While this coming-of-age novel unfolds in the shape of a tragic love triangle involving Helen, Flora and a mysterious young veteran, Finn, Godwin gives a subtle nod to the Southern Gothic, giving readers a shiver or two with the shadowy presence of house ghosts known as “The Recoverers”—previous residents for whom the eccentric old manse served as a boarding house and a haven as they recovered from the ravages of alcoholism and mental illness. Readers are sure to be enchanted by this darkly hypnotic novel. Godwin has once again crafted a mesmerizing and magical tale, inhabited by characters whose pathos will linger long after Flora reaches its hauntingly eloquent final pages. —karen ann cullotta

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reviews Here Is Where

NONFICTION

Exploring our forgotten history R e v i e w b y K e l ly B l e w e t t

History buff Andrew Carroll—best known for his remarkable work in archiving and publishing American wartime letters—offers a new book that profiles 50 or so forgotten locations in the United States whose stories continue to impact us today. The project began with an unruly file folder where Carroll would stuff history articles he found intriguing, creating a sort of rabbit trail. Then, one fine day, he decided to start visiting these locations to see what they looked like in real life and whether the people who lived near them had any sense of their significance. The result is Here Is Where: part travel memoir, part history, and wholly entertaining. With Carroll as your guide, visit Niihau, a privately owned island near Hawaii where an airplane crashed on its way back to Japan after attacking Pearl Harbor. What happened next will give you chills. Learn about a steamship that sank in Arkansas, carrying nearly 2,000 souls near the end of the Civil War. Find out about the stories behind little-known Supreme By Andrew Carroll Court cases, the Spanish influenza and 19th-century orphans shipped to Crown Archetype, $25, 512 pages Michigan from New York. See their world as it looks today (often, a barISBN 9780307463975, audio available ren field with no marker). And witness Carroll’s humorous and spirited attempts to engage the people around him in the stories he’s researching. It gets hairier than you might expect (and even involves the FBI!). Carroll’s own story of finding these sites provides continuity between the chapters. He is a cheerful, curious and avid character. And far from growing tiresome, the book actually picks up speed as it continues, with one of my favorite sections, “Burial Plots,” toward the end. The collection closes in Carroll’s hometown of Washington, D.C. For one brief vignette, we see our nation’s capital through his eyes. Around each bend is another story, a surprising twist of fate, a crazy tale; it’s an exhilarating ride. In Here Is Where, Carroll invites readers to see their own topography the same way, so that we, too, might share these stories with others as he has so generously done with us.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls By David Sedaris

Little, Brown $27, 288 pages ISBN 9780316154697 Audio, eBook available

HUMOR

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David Sedaris’ previous book, a collection of fictional animal stories called Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, may have worried some of his longtime fans. Had the lovable curmudgeon, famous for his sidesplitting essays about his family’s dysfunction and his misspent youth, abandoned memoir for imaginary stories (however funny and bizarre) about talking animals? After he’d hit the big time—best-selling books, sold-out live performances, homes in England and France—had his own life become too comfortable to be funny? This latest collection of (mostly)

autobiographical essays should put any such worries to rest. Although his life is certainly much happier now than when he was hooked on drugs or working as a department store elf, Sedaris still finds plenty of absurdity in the airports, hotels, book tours and vacation-home renovations that now fill his days. Sedaris is the sort of writer who can make standing in line at a coffee shop an occasion for gleeful, vicarious outrage (and in less time than it takes to steam a cappuccino). As in his previous book, there are plenty of animals here, though none of them talk. Stuffed owls, mangled roosters, melting sea turtles, skewered mice and a graceful kookaburra populate these pages like the inmates of a psychopath’s barnyard. There are other kinds of beasts here as well. There is his father storming, capricious and pantless, through Sedaris’ childhood. There are the despicable, heartless fanatics whom Sedaris imagines and inhabits in the book’s few fictional pieces. And there is Sedaris himself, so candid about his own moral failings that

you almost want to hug him and tell him he’s really not so terrible, even if he did once consider displaying a stuffed Pygmy in his living room. All this is vintage Sedaris: sharp, strange, moving and funny—proof, if any were needed, that success is no barrier to absurdity and that humans are the strangest talking animals of all. —Mark Doyle

She Left Me the Gun By Emma Brockes Penguin Press $26.95, 320 pages ISBN 9781594204593 eBook available

MEMOIR

If Emma Brockes’ memoir She Left Me the Gun reminds you of Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, don’t be surprised. Both books grapple with a larger-

than-life mother whose formative experiences in the harsh landscape of southern Africa turned them somewhat eccentric, even melodramatic. But while Fuller’s mother held on for dear life to their farm in what was then Rhodesia, Brockes’ mother, Paula, fled South Africa as soon as she could manage it and lived the rest of her life in England, raising her daughter in the kind of sleepy suburban security she could only have dreamed of as a child. Furthermore, as it turns out, Paula wasn’t just escaping the heat, the scorpions or the poisonous racial politics in the country of her birth. She was also leaving behind a brutal past marked by abuse. Throughout Brockes’ childhood, her mother kept the truth about her family under wraps. It was only after she became very sick with cancer that Paula revealed she had testified against her father at a trial. “Deathbed revelations weren’t something people had,” Brockes writes. “That my mother, who would ring me at work with the newsflash that she’d found the socks she was looking for . . . had managed to keep this from me was extraordinary.” Still, even then, Paula wasn’t entirely forthcoming about the details of the disturbing charges against her father. Brockes, an only child, felt unmoored after her mother’s death; she thought there was more to Paula’s past than she’d let on, but she also craved a connection with her mother’s family back in South Africa, many of whom she’d never met. Flying to Johannesburg to meet her mother’s siblings and oldest friends, Brockes was seeking some grand revelations, and she was not disappointed. These stories are doled out in bits and pieces, foreshadowed and then fulfilled. Along the way, a remarkable family narrative emerges, one with more than its fair share of darkness. Yet Paula herself is not only a sympathetic figure, but even a triumphant one. The love that her seven younger siblings still feel for her is palpable, and her daughter’s admiration only grows with her deeper understanding of her mother’s past. She Left Me the Gun illuminates the necessary fictions we create when trying to understand our family history, as well as the relief, and even pride, that comes from knowing the truth of our origins, however sad or strange they may be. —Kate Pritchard

nonficTion fRoZen in TiMe By Mitchell Zuckoff harper $28.99, 416 pages ISBN 9780062133434 Audio, eBook available

ADvenTuRe

In Frozen in Time, his second recounting of a largely forgotten World War II rescue mission, Mitchell Zuckoff shifts his focus from the steamy jungles of New Guinea—the locale of 2011’s Lost in Shangri-La— to the glacial wilderness of Greenland. Even before America entered the war, it began constructing military bases in Greenland, both to defend the frozen island against possible German invasion and to serve as a way station for ferrying planes from the U.S. to Britain. So much air traffic over such a hostile environment made crashes inevitable and rescue attempts perilous. On November 5, 1942, a C-53 Skytrooper cargo plane crashed onto a glacier there. But its five-man crew survived the impact. One of the planes dispatched to locate the survivors was a B-17 bomber. It also went down in a snowstorm, leaving nine survivors stranded. Yet another rescue plane, a Grumman Duck, crashed after having transported two of the downed B-17’s crew to safety. These three crashes and their aftermaths form the core of Zuckoff’s account. Drawing on personal letters, recollections and official reports, he spins claustrophobically up-close stories of what it was like to be marooned for weeks and months in subfreezing temperatures with gravely ill comrades, insufficient supplies and dwindling hope. Early in the book, Zuckoff introduces yet another level of drama. While amassing details for his main story, he encounters a modern-day adventurer who is intent on finding and retrieving the Grumman Duck, now buried under hundreds of feet of ice. Zuckoff joins in, helps finance the project and describes the bumpy course of this high-risk effort. Astoundingly thorough in his research, Zuckoff not only chronicles the significant actions of dozens of “characters,” but he also probes their individual lives before they went to war, sketches in their per-

sonality traits, digs up their photographs and interviews their descendants. Thus, each character stands apart from the others. Because so much of this narrative takes place against an unvarying backdrop of snow and ice, and because there are no real “villains” to heighten tension, Frozen in Time doesn’t have quite the same expansive, edge-of-your-seat quality that Lost in Shangri-La possesses. Even so, it is an engaging testimony to perseverance, ingenuity and monumental self-sacrifice. —edward morriS

A foRT of nine ToWeRS By Qais Akbar omar

FSG $27, 416 pages ISBN 9780374157647 eBook available

MeMoiR

If the U.S. withdraws its combat troops from Afghanistan by late 2014 as planned, it will mark the end of a 13-year American war. But for Afghans, it will be merely the close of the latest chapter in decades of violence that began in the 1970s. For them, there has been little respite from coups, civil war, foreign invasion and terrorism. Before it all began, Qais Akbar Omar’s extended family was prosperous, well-educated and rooted in its large Kabul compound. The patriarch was his respected grandfather, a successful carpet merchant. His father was a physics teacher and champion boxer; his mother worked in a bank. Then, everything collapsed. Omar’s remarkable memoir of his childhood, A Fort of Nine Towers, describes the family’s suffering and survival during the horrendous years that preceded the American invasion. Omar is the co-author of Shakespeare in Kabul, but his new book reads more like Les Misérables than anything by the Bard. As a child and teen, he was held captive more than once, tortured, forced to witness gang rape and summary executions. His clan’s home was lost and its business destroyed. For one remarkable year, his father moved Omar’s immediate family from place to place around northern Afghanistan

seeking refuge. For a period, they lived in a cave behind the giant stone Buddhas later destroyed by the Taliban. They even traveled with a band of nomadic herders for a while before returning to Kabul. Through it all, Omar and his relatives prove themselves courageous and resilient. And in the midst of all the strife, family members are saved time after time by the generosity and bravery of strangers. Omar has a personal epiphany when he is taught carpet weaving by a deaf-mute Turkmen woman, a skill he later uses to survive under the Taliban dictatorship. Omar is a masterful writer, fully in command of his striking material. He describes from the inside the human cost of what he sees as the pointless struggles among venal warlords and ignorant peasant fundamentalists. He barely knew who Osama bin Laden was—some rich Arab guy living in a mansion—when a whole new wave of trouble arrived with U.S. aerial bombing. Ultimately, Omar comes to— more or less—like Americans. They are friendly, and always pay full price for carpets. His extraordinary life story should help us better understand the people we are leaving behind. —anne bartlett

BunkeR Hill By nathaniel philbrick

Viking $32.95, 416 pages ISBN 9780670025442 Audio, eBook available

HiSToRY

Since elementary school, we’ve been told that the American Revolution was the work of such luminaries as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. But there were a number of other patriots who’ve long been neglected by the history books, and it is time to give them their due. This is the premise of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Bunker Hill, a marvelous book that recaps the highlights of the birth of our nation, while adding new insights into our history. We know from our history lessons that on June 17, 1775, a group of inexperienced colonists repelled two

assaults by highly trained British forces on Bunker Hill and adjoining Breed’s Hill. The colonists were scattered on the third assault, but the British suffered heavy casualties, and Bunker Hill became a symbol of the grit and determination of the colonists and their struggle for independence. As in his previous books, including the bestsellers Mayflower and In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick immerses himself in his subject; like a detective, he doesn’t quit until every stone is turned. He writes of the Battle of Bunker Hill in rich detail and gives credit to such heroes as Colonel William Prescott, Colonel John Stark and General Israel Putnam. But Bunker Hill isn’t a book about one battle. It also covers other important aspects of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Ride. And in telling these tales, Philbrick places the spotlight on heroes who rarely get proper credit. Consider Dr. Joseph Warren, who was the field commander at Bunker Hill and who lost his life in the third assault by the British. Warren was a key figure in Boston, and the one who gave Revere his orders on April 18, 1775, to mount his horse and warn the colonists of the arrival of the British. Another strong figure was Mercy Scollay, Warren’s fiancée, who cared for his four orphaned children after his death. Bunker Hill helps humanize history, bringing to life characters that we’ve heretofore only known as two-dimensional figures, if at all. It will appeal equally to both serious history buffs and casual readers looking for something lively and enlightening. —j o h n t. S l a n i a

Island: How Islands Transform the World by J. Edward Chamberlin BlueBridge • $19.95 ISBN 9781933346564

Island explores the history, literature, art, anthropology, biology, and earth science of islands around the world and ponders why humans have always been fascinated by islands.

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reviews Confessions of a Sociopath By M.E. Thomas

Crown $25, 320 pages ISBN 9780307956644 Audio, eBook available

memoir

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Confessions of a Sociopath opens on a disturbing scene. Author M.E. Thomas (a pseudonym) finds a baby opossum in her swimming pool. Fetching the skimmer, she uses it to hold the animal underwater; when it escapes, she leaves it to drown, returning later to toss the body over her neighbor’s fence. Does this sound like you or anyone you know? If it did, would you admit it? Confessions of a Sociopath mingles elements of memoir with some scientific analysis and material from the author’s blog, SociopathWorld. Her own psychological evaluation defines her as “egocentric” and “sensation-seeking,” focused on “interpersonal dominance, verbal aggression, and excessive self-esteem.” Living in constant pursuit of her own advantage in any situation, with no regard for the emotions of others, Thomas has essentially lied, cheated and stolen her way to a good life, working less than half-time as a law professor and “ruining people” for sport, from fellow faculty members to romantic interests. A devout Mormon, she teaches Sunday school and claims to adhere to moral guidelines (she isn’t physically violent, for example), but finds wiggle room in even the most straightforward rules and exploits them to her benefit. The book is fascinating for its glimpse behind the curtain, but it’s not without its flaws. The combination of a pseudonymous author who has blurred many identifying details with a sociopath’s lack of emotional connection leaves the experiences recounted here somewhat lifeless. Thomas also contradicts herself, boasting at length about her ability to ruin people, then giving a tame example and speculating that it was harmless to those involved. Most surprisingly, she initially calls her childhood “unremarkable,” then goes on to describe an upbringing shot through with abuse, neglect and melodrama verging on the op-

NONFICTION eratic. It may not be the direct cause of her condition, but unremarkable? No way. It’s a sociopath’s prerogative to be evasive, so we may never reach a full understanding of how the condition takes root or if it can be, if not cured, at least constructively channeled. Confessions of a Sociopath offers no easy explanations, but it’s an unsettling look at something that is far more common than most of us realize. —Heather Seggel

The Cooked Seed By Anchee Min

Bloomsbury $26, 368 pages ISBN 9781596916982 eBook available

memoir

On August 31, 1984, Anchee Min hurtled through the night into the unknown, flying alone away from the familiarity of family and home into an uncharted territory full of adventures and challenges. “Sitting in the airplane crossing the Pacific Ocean, I felt like I was dreaming with my eyes wide open. I tried to imagine the life ahead of me, but my mind went the other way.” In her powerful and compulsively readable new memoir, The Cooked Seed, Min pulls back the curtains on her most intimate fears and hopes, inviting us to join her as she travels from her life in China, by turns wretched and loving, to her life in America, often miserable yet ultimately triumphant. Desperate to escape the privations of life in Communist China, where she toils in a labor camp as a young girl and is shipped off like a package to work on propaganda films in Madame Mao’s Shanghai Film Studio, Min tirelessly and haltingly learns English in order to seek a new life in America. Despite her lack of a secure grasp of the language, she applies for a visa, fearful of being turned away and surprised (yet secretly excited) when her application is approved. Woefully underprepared for coming to America—she is not fluent in English, and she has no friends or family in this new place—Min faces one challenge after another when

her plane lands in Chicago. She is almost turned away at customs, but a kindly translator recognizes Min’s talent and potential and allows her through; her first roommate, Takisha, teaches her lessons about the racism and poverty that exist even in the midst of wealth and plenty in American society. She struggles constantly with her inability to understand English, her lack of money—she works five jobs—and her dream of discovering her true identity and embracing it. About a photo taken during her first months in Chicago, she writes, “I looked confident and attractive. . . . The real me was depressed, lonely, and homesick. I craved affection, and I dreamed of love.” Looking for love and acceptance amongst the harsh realities of her new home, Min falls into an unhappy marriage, becomes pregnant, almost dies giving birth and gets divorced. “I was broken yet standing determinedly erect. I could be crushed, but I would not be conquered.” In the midst of all this, she discovers her talent for telling stories and blossoms as a writer, going on to write six novels in English as well as a previous memoir about her life in China (Red Azalea). Min’s soulful tale of despair and hope stirs our hearts and souls with its moving, harrowing and often heartrending stories of one young girl’s coming of age in a land of threat and promise. —Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

Scatter, Adapt, and Remember By Annalee Newitz Doubleday $26.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780385535915 eBook available

science

Earth—you know, that big round thing we live on?—is in for a rough time. We’re overdue for a catastrophe the likes of which have caused mass extinctions in the past. We don’t know if a megavolcano will darken the planet’s surface or if gamma rays might fry us like so many man-in-the-moon marigolds. We may even author our own demise by continuing to burn fossil fuels at a rate that overheats the at-

mosphere. Bad things will happen, and people will die. But humanity as a whole? We got this. The key is to Scatter, Adapt, and Remember. Science writer Annalee Newitz initially set out to write a fairly gloomy analysis of our planetary destiny, but the facts she found wouldn’t support it. Traveling the world to study past mass extinctions, as well as cutting-edge urban design, Newitz found evidence at every stage of survival through adaptation and evolution. Building a foundation in prehistory, she speculates that our future may involve a combination of more underground cities, as well as space colonization. It’s heady reading, both thoughtprovoking and entertaining. Among the fantastical notions Newitz uncovers are visions for bioengineered cities, where all available surface area is used to grow food, indoor lights may be powered by algae and bacteria may help filter pollutants. This could potentially lead to a greater sense of urban stewardship, as neighbors “tend their buildings together, trading recipes for making fuel the way people today trade recipes for holiday cakes.” While much of the information here is subject to debate—even the causes of previous mass extinctions tend to be argued over by scholars— we do know it will happen again. How we choose to act on that information may slow the process, or give us a fighting chance at a legacy to be proud of. Scatter, Adapt, and Remember raises frightening issues but offers multiple reasons to remain hopeful. Read it and find your place in the matrix of solutions. —Heather Seggel

The World’s Strongest Librarian By Josh Hanagarne Gotham $26, 288 pages ISBN 9781592407873 Audio, eBook available

memoir

Imagine a man who can bend a horseshoe with his hands, whose outsized literary interests include everything from Jonathan Franzen to Stephen King and who towers above most of us at six feet seven

NONFICTION inches. He sounds like a comic book hero, but the most heroic thing about him is this: He chooses to spend his days working in a public library, even though he suffers from a syndrome that compels him to act out, often audibly. Tourette’s, which Josh Hanagarne has referred to for years as Misty (for Miss T), is a formidable foe and constant companion. And the way he deals with her—graciously, courageously, humorously—gives this book its strength and staying power. Most readers might not know a lot about Tourette’s, but that doesn’t matter. Hanagarne explains it to us in vivid detail and without self-pity. The Tourette’s-driven desire to act out—physically, verbally—is as impossible to avoid as an oncoming sneeze, and the precise manner of acting out is ever evolving. “In the coming chapters, when I experience new, significant tics, I’ll say so,” he writes. “Once I’ve had a new type of tic, you can assume it stays in the rotation. Each new tic is stacked on top of what came before it.” When friend and future mentor Adam grasps the full reality of Hanagarne’s world, he asks, “How have you not gone insane?” Tourette’s and the myriad of impacts it has had on Hanagarne’s life—he took 10 years to finish his undergraduate degree, for example, and had trouble holding down a job in his 20s—sounds like it would make for a depressing tale. But that’s not the case. I frequently found myself laughing aloud, such as when he described his first major literary crush: the gentle and maternal Fern from Charlotte’s Web. His story spills over with affection for his parents, especially his mom. He’s curious about the big questions of faith and life. And he is passionate about his chosen field. Librarians, Hanagarne says, are rarely suited for anything else. They are the ultimate generalists. They are a quirky, caring, funny, readerly bunch whose daily business is different than readers might imagine (ever dealt with snarky teenagers in the stacks?) and whose field is on the edge of significant change. The World’s Strongest Librarian speaks to that change, joyfully celebrates books and reading, and illuminates an unlikely hero who will be remembered long after the final page is turned. I couldn’t put this book down.

Best-selling memoirist Jennifer Finney Boylan returns with an engaging parenting memoir/handbook for the “new normal” American family. While Finney’s 2004 memoir She’s Not There explored her transition from male to female and its initial impact on her family and community, Stuck in the Middle With You examines the long-term influence of her transition on her two sons and the experience of parenting them. “What kind of men will my children become,” Boylan wonders, “having been raised by a father who became a woman?” The short answer is “lucky.” Blessed with two loving parents who remain together after Boylan becomes a woman, the boys seem like well-adjusted, smart and funny teenagers. Theirs is an eminently happy and functional family that has adjusted well to the evolution of one of the parents. Fans of dysfunctional family memoirs will have to look elsewhere for drama. The true value of this book lies in the larger conversation it seeks to open concerning the idea of the “typical” American family. Ultimately, Stuck in the Middle With You is a frank and funny advice manual for parenting outside the box. Boylan expands her focus outside her own family to look at a wide variety of American families in a sequence of interviews with literary luminaries and gender outlaws. Richard Russo, Augusten Burroughs, Edward Albee and Ann Beattie all offer perspectives on parents and parenting in conversation with Boylan. This beautifully expands the focus of the book from the story of one family to a round-table discussion on what it means to be a mother or a father, or whether we should drop such gendered terms in favor of simply being a parent. Generous, expansive and open-hearted, Stuck in the Middle With You initiates a conversation and invites us to join.

— K e l ly B l e w e t t

—Catherine Hollis

Stuck in the Middle with You By Jennifer Finney Boylan Crown $24, 304 pages ISBN 9780767921763 eBook available

parenting

q&a

JOSH HANAGARNE B y K e l ly B l e w e t t

A LIBRARIAN WHO STANDS TALL

W

ith his powerful 6'7" frame and a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome, Hanagarne defies the stereotype of the timid librarian, turning his love of books into a rewarding career. A librarian with Tourette’s sounds like an oxymoron. How did you choose your career? Like a lot of librarians I know, I’m just not well-suited to do anything else. I chose this career because it combines all of the things I love about life into one vague job description. Also because I knew it would test me as far as the Tourette’s. You are a hugely avid reader, thanks in large part to your mom. What did she do to turn you into such a bookworm? She led by example. My mom loved books and reading, so her kids did as well. I never had a chance to be anything but a ­bookworm. Can you briefly describe growing up with Tourette’s? Twitching, tears, timidity and a few triumphs. How did Tourette’s shape your 20s? I let it steal most of my 20s. I let it take much of my self-worth, my ambition and my confidence from me. But there’s nothing that makes me sadder than the lost time. Which is one of the reasons why I’m pathologically productive at this point. You write candidly about uncomfortable situations in the library. What is the public’s greatest misperception about libraries? Probably that libraries are just buildings full of books. Why are physical libraries so important to communities? To answer that question, I’d ask you to go to your local library and watch everything that happens there for a couple of hours. Look at the schedule of activities. Watch children looking at picture books with their parents. Then picture everything that would be lost if the library were suddenly gone. That makes the case for me better than anything I could say. You obviously love your job, even though it entails “attending community council meetings, monitoring the mentally ill, surrogate parenting, gang and drug

activity tracking” and more. What makes working in a library so great? There’s nothing I love as much as I love stories, and working in the library is one huge, unpredictable story. I’ve learned more about the highs and lows of humanity here than I have anywhere else, from both the books and the people. I think it would be a great location for an anthropology dissertation. Strength training and breathing exercises enable you to anticipate and manage tics. What’s your coolest strength-training trick? “Trick” would imply something anyone could do, if they just knew the secret. The “trick” is to get strong enough to do this stuff! I think that the coolest thing I can currently do is to pick up a 300-lb. stone and put it on my shoulder. What message would you like to send to young people struggling with Tourette’s or other significant limitations? Any time you spend thinking “I can’t believe this is happening” is ultimately wasted time. It’s easier said than done, but I believe real hope comes from moving from “I can’t believe this is happening” to “this is happening.” Because once you can accept that it’s happening, the logical next question is, “So what now?” If you can ask, you can improve your situation.

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SARA ZARR interview by linda m. caStellitto

MoRe THAn one WAY To live A life

© krISTI hedBerG PhoToGrAPhY

Is Children’s Corner just for kids?

children’s books

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t’s safe to say that readers of all ages would benefit from pondering the big-picture questions Sara Zarr explores in The Lucy Variations: Are you obligated to “use” your talent, or is it all right to simply enjoy it? And what do you do when someone you love makes decisions you abhor? Thanks to a family that pushes her toward achievement to the exclusion of all else, at age 13 piano prodigy Lucy Beck-Moreau found herself at a crossroads: She could keep buying into the compete-atall-costs ethos, or just . . . quit. No more competition, no more pressure, no more piano. But after so many years of playing, a life devoid of piano isn’t one she can sustain. That’s where Zarr introduces us to Lucy: She’s 16 now, a pariah in her own home with plenty of free time to explore her San Francisco hometown, make non-pianist friends and contemplate a future that’s no longer preordained. It’s a revelation to Lucy that there are options beyond the ones she’s been spoon-fed. Flashbacks to her 13th year reveal the circumstances that led her to quit, and in Zarr’s skillful hands, Lucy’s growing awareness becomes a delicious inevitability, as well as an object lesson for readers who aren’t quite comfortable living a life of supposed-tos but don’t know how to make changes. Zarr herself grew up in a musical family; her parents were both accomplished musicians, and Zarr played clarinet through high school. But her parents never pushed her toward a career in music. In a phone call from Salt Lake City, where she lives with her husband and pet parakeet, she explains, “Lucy’s family couldn’t be more different from mine in that way. My mom was not ambitious, though she is extremely smart and talented. My late father lost his career as a musician and college professor because of his drinking. . . . There was a lot of pain around that. And my mom was just trying to survive. No one pressured me to do anything, and there was never any talk about what I wanted to do when I grew up.” Fortunately for fans of her work— four previous novels, including her debut, 2007 National Book Award finalist Story of a Girl—Zarr found her way to the writing career she believes she was meant to have. Now,

with The Lucy Variations, Zarr says she wanted to try new things. “It was a very different experience to write about a family so driven by tangible success and appearances. Usually I write close-to-middle-class or struggling-middle-class kinds of stories,” she explains. Creating characters with different concerns was a challenge the author welcomed. Also on Zarr’s to-do list: creating a story “about a relationship For a teenage between a piano prodigy, teen girl and an older man there is joy that wasn’t about abuse.” when the She’s done music stops. so with Lucy and Will, the charismatic young piano teacher who’s hired to teach Lucy’s younger brother Gus. Will, with his unapologetic appreciation of the beauty in life, becomes a catalyst for Lucy’s new outlook. Zarr is aware that Lucy and Will’s relationship might make some readers uncomfortable, but she knows from experience that such friendships can be wonderful. “When I was a teen, I got involved in community theater and had a life in the world of adults in my own way. I felt like, I have a place in this world, people like me and respect me, expect me to do a good job, and treat me like an equal. That was really great for me, because I didn’t feel accepted and respected with my peers in that way.” She adds, “Obviously there’s a line where it is something terrible, and people should be concerned, but there’s a whole range of appropriate behavior and gray area. . . . There is so much fear around it, and I don’t think it’s necessary.” Ultimately, facing fear in its many forms is at the heart of The Lucy Variations. Because of Lucy’s crisis-induced life changes, her family and friends experience uncertainty, too. Some of them are unwilling to stray from their

expected paths; after all, change and choices can be scary, especially when the people around you want to maintain the status quo. Not unlike her protagonist, the author says she’s thinking about a change in her life. “This is my midlife crisis disguised in this book about Lucy,” Zarr says with a laugh. “I’m definitely at the point of burnout. . . . I intentionally got to the point where I don’t have any pending things that I owe anyone, and I’ll be in that space for a while before I do whatever I’m going to do next.” Before her hiatus began, Zarr did co-write a novel with Tara Altebrando: Roomies, due out in the fall. “It felt super-easy and fun—it was a complete delight,” she says. And despite her plans to take some time off, Zarr also feels that her writerly life so far has been delightful: “My whole career has been a big surprise—I’m really grateful. . . . It’s a great place to be.” Her readers certainly hope it’s a place she’ll return to when the time is right.

THe lucY vARiATionS

By Sara Zarr

Little, Brown, $17.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780316205016, eBook available Ages 12 and up

reviews

Hero on a Bicycle

The BRAVEST rider on two wheels R e v i e w b y ANGELA LEEPER

Every night, 13-year-old Paolo Crivelli sneaks out of his villa in Florence to ride his bicycle. This stealthy act is even riskier because it’s the summer of 1944 and Nazi troops occupy his beloved city. Fully aware of Paolo’s clandestine adventures are his British-born mother (an enemy in the eyes of the Germans) and his sister Constanza, a typical 16-year-old who’s grown restless reading her outdated Vogue magazines and listening to Edith Piaf. His father, on the other hand, has disappeared, presumably with the Partisans, the anti-Fascist band of rebels that hides in the hills and carries out subversive missions. Paolo’s evening rides become fraught with danger when his mother reluctantly agrees to help hide escaped Allied prisoners. Suddenly, no one can be trusted completely with the family’s secret, not the nosy neighbors, their live-in housekeeper, or the German lieutenant who shows a fondness for Constanza when the Gestapo starts searching the house. By Shirley Hughes The boy’s chance encounters with the Partisans and their leader, Il Volpe Candlewick, $15.99, 224 pages (“The Fox”), heighten the suspense as they battle to liberate Florence. ISBN 9780763660376, audio, eBook available Inspired by a courageous family she met in Florence just after World Ages 10 to 14 War II, Shirley Hughes, the author of more than 50 picture books and illustrator of more than 200, had longed to tell this story for years. Amazingly, Hero on a Bicycle is her debut novel. With a style that recalls children’s classics, Hughes writes with a keen appreciation for children’s sensibilities, but never insults them by avoiding the harsh realities of war. Her captivating historical fiction reveals a few of the many unsung heroes of World War II, some with guns and bombs as ammunition, and others with only a bike.

If You Want to See a Whale By Julie Fogliano

Illustrated by Erin E. Stead Roaring Brook $16.99, 32 pages ISBN 9781596437319 Ages 2 to 6

picture book

I have no doubt it’s hard to write what picture book author George Shannon, for one, calls “quiet picture books,” the ones that are contemplative and introspective. The challenge is to keep the pace of such stories compelling and to keep them from being, as Shannon writes, “lifeless.” Cue poet and author Julie Fogliano and Caldecott Medalist Erin E. Stead. With last year’s And Then It’s Spring, they presented such a well-crafted, quiet book, it could be considered a case study in such endeavors. Now they’re back with If You Want to See a Whale, another exquisite story of waiting and wonder. “[I]f you want to see a whale / you will need a window,” the book opens. As in their previous book, Fogliano gives readers what is es-

sentially a poem, Stead’s challenge being to bring these inviting and abstract words to life with concrete details. In this case, she chooses a young boy—his dog and an everpresent bird as his companions. It is the boy who seeks the whale. He needs time, patience and focus. It’s hard when there are such things in this life as pink, sweet roses, clouds floating by and mysterious ships at sea with “possible pirates.” Fogliano writes with tenderness and humor (“pelicans who sit and stare can never be a whale”). She evokes the beauty and mystery of the boy’s world, capturing a child’s awe without being cloying. Stead’s primarily pastel-colored illustrations, rendered via linoleum printing and pencil, are finely detailed and endear readers to the boy and his mission. Uncluttered and with ample white space on many spreads, they let this story breathe, fitting for a tale of the big and little wonders of life. Despite all the boy’s interruptions, there is a whale sighting in this book, and Stead renders it so majestically that I literally took in my breath when I turned the page. (And don’t forget to pull off the book’s jacket to see the whale on the cloth cover!)

Sparks fly when these two join forces. Quiet sparks. Here’s hoping they continue to collaborate. —J u l i e D a n i e l s o n

The Mighty Lalouche By Matthew Olshan Illustrated by Sophie Blackall Schwartz & Wade $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780375862250 Ages 4 to 8

picture book

Move over, Madeline—there’s a new Parisian picture-book character to adore in Matthew Olshan’s unusual story, The Mighty Lalouche. At the turn of the 20th century lives a humble postman named Lalouche. Although he’s small and “rather bony,” his hands are nimble, his legs are fast, and his arms are strong. This pint-sized postman has much to love—his pet finch, a room along the Seine (even though it lacks a view) and his handlebar mustache. But when a fleet of electric autocars replaces the mail carrier, Lalouche fears he’ll lose everything he has. Refusing to give up, he applies

for an advertised boxing position. Such hulky champions as the Piston and the Grecque simply laugh at Lalouche and prepare to pulverize him. With her layered ink and watercolor artwork, Sophie Blackall, the talented illustrator of the Ivy + Bean series, creates a 3-D effect that exaggerates the size of the French boxers and Lalouche’s unthinkable matches against them. The endpapers sport funny trading cards of these outlandish athletes. Using the speed and agility he developed as a postman, Lalouche beats his challengers one by one, even the Anaconda. Although undefeated as a boxer, he knows he must return to his true passion—delivering the mail. Lalouche proves that true might comes from determination. A new room with a view of the Seine, and even a nook for his beloved finch, is all the reward he needs. This winning tale, c’est ­magnifique! — ANGELA LEEP e r

Odd Duck By Cecil Castellucci

Illustrated by Sara Varon First Second $15.99, 96 pages ISBN 9781596435575 Ages 6 to 10

picture book

Graphic novel meets picture book in Odd Duck, a humorous and heartfelt story of friendship. Theodora is a creature of habit who spends each day shopping and visiting the library before heading for home, where she always makes the same wish: “Theodora wished that nothing in her happy life would ever change.” Soon a moving truck arrives next door, disrupting her happy life and depositing all manner of oddities: smelly chairs, umbrella sculptures and a giant cardboard chicken. Though Theodora is worried, she is a gracious bird, and she bakes a cake for her new neighbor, Chad. She tries to look beyond his oddly colored feathers, lack of manners, splashy swimming and loud construction jobs, but her only hope is that Chad will fly south with the other ducks when winter comes. Chad isn’t bothered by the cold, however, and that allows this odd

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children’s books couple to develop a friendship. Starting with their mutual love of constellations, the two ducks end up having lots in common. Chad and Theodora spend all their time together until one day, a comment from other ducks threatens their friendship. The comment? “Look at that odd duck!” Each thinks the comment is aimed at the other, causing a rift between them. It takes some serious soul-searching to allow these true friends to mend the split, understanding that they are both odd in their own ways. Readers who are struggling with friendships will be heartened that these ducks are able to deal with their differences. Kids with a quirky sense of humor will be drawn to the graphic elements but will stay for the endearing story. — ROBIN S MITH

Doll Bones By Holly Black

Margaret K. McElderry $16.99, 256 pages ISBN 9781416963981 Audio, eBook available Ages 10 and up

MIDDLE GRADE

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Holly Black, co-author of the best-selling Spiderwick Chronicles and author of several fantasies for teens, aims her latest book, Doll Bones, squarely at the middle-grade audience. Zach, Poppy and Alice have just the right mix of hangingonto-childhood imaginations and coming-of-age interest in the world beyond make-believe. For several years, the three friends have been playing an ongoing game with their action figures, but real life is starting to get in the way. When Zach’s father intervenes and prevents Zach from continuing the game, the friendship is challenged and may not be reparable. The game they’ve been playing becomes more important, however, when Poppy reveals that her mother’s antique china doll—the “queen” of their story—has been haunting her dreams. Poppy steals the doll from the forbidden cabinet in her home, insisting that she and her friends go on a quest as mandated by the “queen,” and from then on,

reviews

their childlike make-believe starts to become disturbingly real. This is a spooky story, and the adventure the three embark on is thrilling, but the real drama is the underlying sense of these preteens letting go of childhood and moving into their grown-up selves. Conflicts at home, difficulties relating to each other and secret feelings all combine to make this a great book for those “in-betweeners.” Black’s prose is fluid and lyrical while maintaining its characters’ 13-year-old vocabulary, which will no doubt help the book find a delighted audience in middle-school readers everywhere. — JENNI F ER BRUER KITCHEL

on life are most appreciated. This forced immigration of Chinese workers to Southern plantations is a little-known fact in American history. Rhodes takes this glossed-over event and adds human faces to it. Sugar, Mister Wills, Beau and Master Liu are just a few of the many characters young readers will come to know and better understand. It is Sugar’s story, however, as a strong-willed, independent and tolerant child that will have the greatest impact. With compelling characters and suspenseful storytelling, this is well-crafted historical fiction that will appeal to anyone who loves a good story. —Kevin Delecki

Sugar

15 Days Without a Head

By Jewell Parker Rhodes

Little, Brown $16.99, 276 pages ISBN 9780316043052 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12

—Deborah Hopkinson

The 5th Wave By Rick Yancey

Putnam $18.99, 480 pages ISBN 9780399162411 eBook available Ages 12 and up

teen

By Dave Cousins

Flux $9.99, 312 pages ISBN 9780738736426 Ages 12 and up

teen

middle grade

Having freedom in a legal sense doesn’t always mean you’re free. That statement was especially true for Southern slaves freed as a result of the Civil War. Although these men, women and children couldn’t be forced to work any longer, that didn’t keep plantation owners from paying wages, and then charging rent, food costs and other fees that kept the workers forever indebted. This is the reality of life for the characters in Sugar, the powerful new novel by Coretta Scott King Honor Book recipient Jewell Parker Rhodes. This group of men and women, including a 10-year-old orphan named Sugar, live and work on Louisiana’s River Road plantation, harvesting sugar cane and doing what they must to survive. Sugar isn’t content with this life, however. She longs to play with other children, meet new people and not work from sunup to sundown. Sugar doesn’t always follow the rules, either. She befriends the white plantation owner’s son, Billy, and escapes on adventures with him that break every rule and boundary set for them both. It is not until the plantation owner brings in Chinese laborers, though, that Sugar’s indomitable spirit and unique outlook

heavy-handed way. And even while Laurence is negotiating the complexities of the adult world, school and the authorities, he also makes tentative first steps in a relationship with a girl his own age named Mina. By the end, teen readers will pull for Laurence, his mum and little Jay to win that top prize: making it as a family.

Laurence Roach is a 15-year-old boy with a plan: save his family, no matter what it takes. You’d think that trying to win a radio trivia contest with a grand prize of a luxury holiday might be enough, but unfortunately, things don’t quite work out the way Laurence plans. Instead, one day his mother simply doesn’t come back from work. Saving himself and his little brother Jay from the long arms of social workers takes all of Laurence’s considerable talents. He employs everything from complex lies to investigative detection to, well, cross-dressing. But if that’s what it takes to keep his family together, Laurence is not about to give up, even when things get really bad: “Jay’s moaning that he’s hungry. He wants some breakfast. But there isn’t any food left and we’ve run out of money again.” Set in England and written by London author Dave Cousins (who began writing at age 10), 15 Days Without a Head manages to be gritty and heartbreakingly funny at the same time. The book examines serious issues of alcoholism, suicide, parenting, trust, honesty and responsibility, but never in a

“It wasn’t just the world that had changed with the coming of the Others. We changed. I changed,” 16-year-old Cassie writes in her diary, the book that shares space in her backpack with canned sardines, bottled water and her little brother’s teddy bear. Ever since the alien invasion’s first four “Waves” wiped out most of the human race, Bear has been Cassie’s only companion—not counting her M16 rifle, of course. Cassie’s on a mission to find her younger brother, who was stolen away along with other child residents of a supposedly safe refugee camp. But two other teens are on missions, too—missions that might help or hinder Cassie’s. Like all those who weren’t killed by power outages, floods, pestilence or roaming snipers, Cassie and her fellow survivors find themselves constantly wondering how anyone can hold onto hope in a world where human idealism is rapidly becoming the enemy’s best weapon. What shape will the upcoming 5th Wave take . . . and what new horrors will it bring? Set on a future Earth where aliens look human, humans look alien and no one can be trusted, Printz Honor-winning author Rick Yancey’s post-apocalyptic adventure story mixes high-energy action with sharp psychological tension. Narrative sections become shorter and fasterpaced as the dénouement looms, echoing the characters’ increasingly rapid choices as they navigate between individuality and conformity

and between loyalty and paranoia. Fans of dystopias and suspenseful thrillers won’t want to miss this exploration of the limits of human tenacity in a world gone horribly wrong. —j i l l r a t z a n

meet SAlinA Yoon © MArLo YoShIMoTo

RevieWS they’ll ultimately be moved to learn more about Sudan’s ongoing injustices and the people they affect. —angela leeper

goRgeouS By paul Rudnick

THe Milk of BiRDS By Sylvia Whitman

Atheneum $16.99, 384 pages ISBN 9781442446823 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up

Scholastic $18.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780545464260 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up

Teen

Teen

When 14-year-old Nawra, living in an Internally Displaced People Camp in Darfur, receives a small sum of money from an unknown donor, she assumes a rich widow with many sheep must have bestowed her wealth on her. In actuality, it’s 15-year-old K.C. Cannelli from Richmond, Virginia, after her mother signs her up for Save the Girls, a fictional yet realistic relief organization that encourages a year-long correspondence between young women from the U.S. and Sudan. In Sylvia Whitman’s The Milk of Birds, their initial hesitancy becomes a fierce connection that cannot be separated by oceans, war, poverty or different faiths. Peppered with wise, traditional sayings, Nawra’s letters describe the destruction of her once-lively village, the murder of its men, the rape of its women and the aftermath that led her and the scant survivors to the IDP camp. A lesser author would have made K.C. a rich, selfish snob who only comes to realize her privilege in light of Nawra’s hardships. Instead, K.C. is a nuanced teen, struggling with a learning disability, fallout from her parents’ divorce and the possibility of a new boyfriend—yet she is responsive to Nawra’s dilemmas. Nawra and K.C. worry over one another, extend advice and encourage each other’s talents—all the things good friends simply do. Inspired by Nawra, K.C. starts a school club to raise awareness for the tragedies in Africa. Together, these teens offer hope to Darfur. Readers will feel shocked, outraged and saddened, but like K.C.,

The actual solstice may be several weeks away, but Gorgeous ushers in the summer reading season with a bang. Becky Randle is living in a Missouri trailer park with her mom and working as a checkout girl when fate throws her a curveball. When her mom dies, she’s called to New York to meet international design icon Tom Kelly, who offers to make her three dresses that will turn her from average-on-a-good-day into the most beautiful woman in the world. Who wouldn’t bite? The newly minted Rebecca Randle, who lands the cover of Vogue and a hit movie in record time, is only visible when someone else is looking at her; when they leave, she morphs back into Becky. Things are further complicated when she meets gawky but adorable Prince Gregory, heir to the British throne, and falls in love. For the relationship to work, he’ll have to find Becky behind the gloss and sparkle of Rebecca. To say “wacky hijinks ensue” would be putting it mildly. Author Paul Rudnick brings his biting wit to this fierce, foulmouthed and very funny fairy tale. The worlds of fashion, celebrity obsession and the royal family are skewed and skewered for big laughs—the names of Tom Kelly’s signature fragrances alone are worth the price of admission (“Intoxicated” causes a memorable girl-fight). References to My Fair Lady are not coincidental, but the wonderfully snarky social commentary will also connect with fans of Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens. The laughter complements a big-hearted story with a clear moral: “Inner beauty wants out.” So don’t just read Gorgeous: Be gorgeous, because you are. —heather Seggel

penguin on vAcATion Salina Yoon has written, illustrated and designed nearly 200 novelty books for children. In 2012, she introduced a lovable new character in the picture book Penguin and Pinecone. In the sequel, penguin on vAcATion (Walker, $14.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780802733979), the little bird learns how to enjoy the beach. Yoon and her family live in Southern california.

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WORDNOOK

By the editors of Merriam-Webster

NOUNS VS. VERBS Dear Editor, My wife and I know that the past tense of widow is widowed. We also know that a man who has lost his wife is a widower. But what is the past tense of widower? B. E. Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey Widower doesn’t have a past tense because it is only used as a noun, not as a verb. Widow can take verb endings because, in addition to its noun senses, it has a verb sense meaning “to make a widow or widower of.” Therefore, widow can be applied to a surviving spouse of either sex. The past tense used to describe a man who has become a widower would therefore be widowed, as in “He was widowed several years ago by an automobile accident.”

THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA Dear Editor, When my dad used to get angry or irritated with something, he would say, “That really gets my goat.” I never

understood this expression. What do goats have to do with it, anyway? J. S. Portland, Maine The phrase get one’s goat originated in American slang in the early 20th century. Exactly how it came to be isn’t known. Some theorists have suggested a connection to an older French phrase, prendre la chevre, which translates literally as to take the goat. The difficulty with this explanation is that the French phrase is actually used to mean “to take offense,” and it’s not at all clear how this French idiom might have been adopted with an altered meaning by the purveyors of American slang. Another theory ties get one’s goat to the practice of placing a goat in a stable to exert a calming influence on high-strung racehorses. The idea is that unscrupulous gamblers would make off with the goat before a big race, getting the goat of the horse’s owner and causing the horse to run poorly. Unfortunately, this appealing explanation is not supported by hard evidence. In fact,

no connection at all to the world of horses is suggested by the earliest examples of get one’s goat, which include this passage from Pitching in a Pinch (1912), a memoir by baseball player Christy Mathewson: “Lobert . . . stopped at third with a mocking smile on his face which would have gotten the late Job’s goat.”

BIRDS OF A FEATHER Dear Editor, I read crime novels and sometimes see the term stool pigeon used to mean “an informer.” It is often shortened to stool or stoolie. Can you tell me where the term stool pigeon comes from? R. F. Santa Fe, New Mexico Now used to refer to someone who informs on wrongdoers, stool pigeon is believed to have originated with a practice used in hunting. In early years, when hunters were on the lookout for pigeons as targets, they would often capture one pigeon and then tie the bird to a stool so that it could not move. (The stool

in this case most likely refers to a tree stump, not a piece of furniture.) When the bird struggled in its attempts to free itself, it would attract several more of its own kind, thereby giving the hunter more to shoot or trap. The live bird served as a decoy that would lure its fellow pigeons to their own demise. Stool pigeon acquired the figurative sense that we recognize today in the early 19th century. Playing on the notion of bringing down one’s fellow man, now the phrase can refer to a person (such as a member of a crime syndicate) who reports his or her fellow criminals to the authorities, or to a person who is sent by police to act as a spy within a group of criminals and to report back useful information. The shortened form stool first appeared around the turn of the 20th century, with stoolie following shortly after.

Send correspondence regarding Word Nook to: Language Research Service P.O. Box 281 Springfield, MA 01102

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BookPage May 2013