DISCOVER YOUR NEXT GREAT BOOK
The bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves returns with Booth, a triumphant work of historical fiction.
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interview | debbie millman. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
fiction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Revelatory conversations from a groundbreaking podcast
nonfiction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
feature | christian fiction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
young adult. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
It’s always inspiring when women speak up for what is right
children’s. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
feature | romantic comedies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 These love stories are hilarious and oh-so satisfying
feature | memoir march. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Six poignant, potent and unputdownable personal narratives
interview | erika krouse. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
the hold list . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Meet the author who unexpectedly became a private investigator
book clubs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
feature | amateur sleuths. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
audio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
New York City is full of mysteries, and two women are on the case
romance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
cover story | karen joy fowler . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
lifestyles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
A wholly original perspective on American history
feature | music fiction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
well read. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Classical music is a powerful force in two new novels
whodunit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
feature | women’s history month. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 These true stories were distorted, buried or erased—until now
behind the book | allison saft. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 How the young adult author found true magic
feature | young adult fantasy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Let your TBR fall under the spell of these enchanting reads
feature | women’s history for children. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Changing the world by helping others
meet | paula cohen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Meet the author-illustrator of Big Dreams, Small Fish
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EDITORIAL INTERN Jessie Cobbinah
BookPage is a selection guide for new books. Our editors select for review the best books published in a variety of categories. BookPage is editorially independent; only books we highly recommend are featured. H Stars are assigned by BookPage editors to indicate titles that are exceptionally executed in their genre or category.
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Cover includes art from Booth by Karen Joy Fowler © 2022, designed by Tal Goretsky, used with permission from Putnam.
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B O O K P A G E • 2 1 4 3 B E L C O U R T AV E N U E • N A S H V I L L E , T N 3 7 2 1 2 • B O O K P A G E . C O M
the hold list
A great second date can really turn things around Rereading our favorite books is such a comforting practice, but we also believe in revisiting books that we merely appreciated on the first go-around. With some time and a new perspective, a second reading can lead to love.
Interior Chinatown Experimental or unusual literary structures can be polarizing; either you’re up for a novel told in Slack messages (Several People Are Typing) or as an interview transcript (Daisy Jones & The Six and The Final Revival of Opal & Nev), or you’re just not. But here’s a well-known secret: Sometimes, the great equalizer is audiobooks. Charles Yu’s satirical masterpiece Interior Chinatown is structured partially like a TV script, which is intriguing in print but, perhaps unsurprisingly, makes for the best audiobook I’ve ever listened to. Narrator Joel de la Fuente balances caustic humor with the painful reality of Hollywood racism as he gives voice to Willis Wu, a Taiwanese American actor who dreams of ascending beyond the role of “Generic Asian Man” and achieving the much-coveted part of “Kung Fu Guy.” Willis’ internal monologue alternates with scenes from the crime show “Black and White,” about a white detective and her Black partner, culminating in a brilliant indictment of pop culture stereotypes. —Cat, Deputy Editor
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Rereading a book can lead to a discovery of something new about that book. Other times, to revisit something you read in another part of your life is like stepping into your own past and witnessing all the ways you’ve changed. When I first read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe in 2012, I was in my mid-20s and finishing my library science degree. I hadn’t really been in love yet. I was still, in many ways, not yet grown. Late last year, as I once again picked up this award-winning YA novel, I was struck by how removed I felt from Ari’s earnest adolescent musings. The paradox of children’s and YA literature is that it’s created by and introduced to young readers by adults. Somehow, it seems I’ve become one of those adults, but the simple, stunning beauty of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s prose still makes this raw, heartfelt story of teen boyhood transcend the boundaries of age or time. —Stephanie, Associate Editor
Northanger Abbey can seem like the silly kid sister of Jane Austen’s other novels. As a teenager, when I first read the story of gothic novel- obsessed Catherine Morland, I thought it was frivolous fluff and nothing more. It wasn’t until I reread the novel in college, armed with a much richer understanding of the gothic and what a pop culture juggernaut the genre was during the Regency, that I was able to understand how funny it was; imagine someone approaching their life as if it were a twisty thriller a la Gone Girl. But beyond its success as a culturally specific rom-com, Northanger Abbey should be mentioned in the same breath as early meta narratives like Don Quixote. Austen tracks Catherine’s growing maturity with enormous fondness: Her leaps of logic may be outrageous, but her warped impressions of the people around her are often shockingly astute. It’s a hilarious coming-of-age story that’s also a meditation on how fiction can both blind and guide us. (Also, kind but sassy Henry Tilney is one of Austen’s best heroes, full stop.) —Savanna, Associate Editor
I first read Hiroshima in my high school history class. Personally, as an 18-year-old student at an Alabama public school, I still had a ways to go in the appreciation of great books—even one so groundbreaking as John Hersey’s 1946 account of six individuals who survived the atomic bomb that America dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Luckily, I got the chance to revisit it in my master’s program, when I was better equipped to savor Hersey’s precise reporting and vivid, compassionate writing. (One description of a man who jumped into a river after the bomb exploded still haunts me.) Originally published in The New Yorker, this slim book packs a narrative and historical punch. Chapters alternate among the six subjects’ experiences, beginning with the morning of the bomb and continuing through the following year. (An additional chapter was added later, revisiting the six survivors after 40 years.) What emerges is a breathtakingly intimate portrait of atomic warfare’s inhumanity, especially the way it fuses suffering to survival. —Christy, Associate Editor
As a college freshman in March 2020, I found myself back at home after only one day on campus following spring break, and I turned to audiobooks to occupy myself. As I listened to Sally Rooney’s second novel, narrated by Aoife McMahon, I enjoyed hearing the characters’ Irish accents and piecing together their lives between time jumps. Still, the characters’ actions didn’t make sense to me at many critical points, and finishing the book left me with a funny feeling. I didn’t dislike it, but I felt like I was missing an essential component of what made it special, even after a conversation with the friend who’d originally recommended it. My recent second listen revealed how naive my initial evaluation was. The subsequent years of my college experience haven’t been like Marianne’s and Connell’s, but I now viscerally relate to their feelings of being lost in emerging adulthood. After updating my Goodreads rating to five stars, I called that same friend with my new revelations. —Jessie, Editorial Intern
Each month, BookPage staff share special reading lists—our personal favorites, old and new.
by julie hale
Fictional feasts Set in England during World War II, Jennifer Ryan’s The Kitchen Front (Ballantine, $17, 9780593158814) follows four very different women as they compete in a cooking contest sponsored by “The Kitchen Front,” a BBC radio program. The winner will earn a slot as the first ever female co-host of the show. The contestants include war widow Audrey; her sister, Gwendoline, the wife of a wealthy older man; kitchen maid Nell; and Zelda, a skilled chef. Ryan’s excellent use of historical detail and gifts for character and plot development will draw readers in, and after they finish this heartwarming novel, they’ll be able to discuss engaging topics such as female agency and women’s roles during wartime. Focusing on life at the fictional Beijing Duck House in Rockville, Maryland, Lillian Li’s Number One Chinese Restaurant (Picador, $17, 9781250229328) is a sly, compassionate portrayal of the culinary world. Owner Jimmy Han, whose father made the Duck House a success, is making plans to move on to a flashier restaurant. Reading groups will savor these The novel’s intricate plot involves delectable food-themed novels. members of Jimmy’s extended family, as well as a wide range of Duck House staff. Love affairs, back-of-house drama and a restaurant fire all figure into the entertaining proceedings, and questions concerning community, identity and class will inspire great reading group dialogue. Donia Bijan’s The Last Days of Café Leila (Algonquin, $15.95, 9781616208035) tells the story of Noor, who goes home to Iran after spending many years in America. In Tehran, her father, Zod, runs the family business, Café Leila. The return compels Noor to come to terms with her troubled marriage and reassess her life. At the heart of the novel lies Café Leila and the comfort it provides through food and camaraderie. Bijan’s nuanced depiction of modern-day Iran offers abundant subjects for book club discussion, including family ties, immigration and Iranian history. In The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux (Berkley, $16, 9781984806994) by Samantha Vérant, talented chef Sophie Valroux works hard in hopes of one day heading up a world-class restaurant. But when her culinary career falls apart and her beloved grandmother in France has a stroke, Sophie is forced to reevaluate her life, her values and her love for cooking. Brimming with delicious recipes, Vérant’s novel is a compelling tribute to food and family. Themes of female independence, foodie culture and the nature of the restaurant business make this a sensational selection for book groups.
A BookPage reviewer since 2003, Julie Hale recommends the best paperback books to spark discussion in your reading group.
BOOK CLUB READS FOR SPR ING THE PARIS APARTMENT by Lucy Foley “Stylish, suspenseful, claustrophobic and menacing... Lucy Foley just keeps getting better and better.” —ALEX MICHEALIDES, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Patient
THE TOBACCO WIVES by Adele Myers North Carolina, 1946. One woman. A discovery that could rewrite history. “Definitely a tale for our times.” —FIONA DAVIS, New York Times bestselling author
THE WINDSOR KNOT
by SJ Bennett “[A] pitch-perfect murder mystery… If The Crown were crossed with Miss Marple …, the result would probably be something like this charming whodunnit.” —RUTH WARE, bestelling author of One by One
SHADOWS OF PECAN HOLLOW by Caroline Frost “Paper Moon meets Badlands in this mesmerizing Texas backroads thriller, a twisty story of a runaway girl who finds a home and a desperate love on the road with an opportunistic criminal, and the long comet’s tail of their story.” —JANET FITCH, #1 New York Times bestselling author of White Oleander
f William Morrow I BookClubGirl
© JOHN MADERE
interview | debbie millman
NO TIME FOR S M A L L TA L K Debbie Millman dives deep into revelatory conversations from her groundbreaking podcast. Debbie Millman couldn’t have predicted that when she debuted her “Design Matters” podcast in 2005, it would so deeply satisfy her soul. Podcasts were brand-new in the early 2000s, so the show was a let’s-try-this-and-see endeavor, a creative experiment that she felt primed to conduct. “I had achieved a great deal,” she writes in the introduction to Why Design Matters: Conversations With the World’s Most Creative People (Harper Design, $60, 9780062872968), “but there was an echoing vacuum of meaning and purpose in my life.” Certainly, Millman has an impressive resume as a design leader, serving clients like 7UP, Burger King and Star Wars during her 20 years at the helm of Sterling Brands; co-founding the graduate program in branding at the School of Visual Arts in New York City; writing six previous books; placing her art in museums as well as in the New York Times and Fast Company; and much more. In its early years, the podcast was “very much a show about graphic design, graphic designers talking to graphic designers, very inside baseball,” Millman says during a phone call to the Manhattan brownstone she shares with her wife, author Roxane Gay. But as Millman shifted her focus from looking at human behavior through the lens of branding to instead connecting with individuals, people responded. They wanted in, both as listeners and interviewees, and her interviews quickly became a central element of her life and a pursuit that has been endlessly fascinating and rewarding. “The show evolved in two ways,” she reflects. “First, my courage in reaching out to people increased. And then I also started getting publicists reaching out to me about their clients being on the show, or fans I didn’t know were fans wanting to be on the show.” These interviewee-fans, more than 450 of them (and counting) over the course of 16 years (and counting), run the creative gamut. They’re standouts in the fields of design, writing, fine art, street art, acting, music, marketing, cooking—and the list goes on. Each guest is smart, thoughtful and, most importantly, game to join Millman on a conversational journey from childhood to adulthood, from past to present. They’re open to plumbing
the sometimes painful events, decisions and emotions that have shaped what they do and who they’ve become. For Why Design Matters, characterized in its introduction as “a love letter to creativity, a testament to the power of curiosity,” Millman distills that library of interviews into 50-plus Q&A conversations in five categories: Legends, Truth Tellers, Culture Makers, Trendsetters and Visionaries. Choosing 50 interviews from more than 450 was a challenge for Millman. “I ended up going through all of them in one way or another, whether it be listening or transcribing and reading,” she says. “I wanted there to be a timelessness to what they were talking about . . . [and] an evergreen quality to the interviews, so they could be relevant whenever they were being read and experienced.” The book’s veritable parade of fascinating, accomplished people begins with late design legend Milton Glaser (best known for his “I Heart NY” logo) and ends with Eve Ensler (who now goes by “V”) of The Vagina Monologues fame, with the likes of Alison Bechdel, Chanel Miller, Malcolm Gladwell, Amanda Palmer, Saeed Jones, Marina Abramović and David Byrne occupying the pages in between. Millman points to how each interviewee has shaped their career, life and body of work with fierce individuality. “They’ve lived their lives so differently,” she says, “and the ways they’ve coped with obstacles have been so varied.” For example, James Beard Award-winning chef and author Gabrielle Hamilton (Blood, Bones & Butter) reveals that in opening her restaurant, Prune, she set aside her long-held dream of writing fiction. Shepard Fairey, known for his OBEY street art, talks politics and explains why he won’t call himself an artist. And in discussing her short stories, Carmen Maria Machado quips that “a novel
is like being beat up over the course of a day, and a short story is like one punch to the nose.” There are full-page portraits and illustrations, playful type treatments and blocks of text that don’t always go in a straight line, just like in any good conversation. Millman has previously compared a successful interview to a game of pool, but through the design of this book, a new metaphor comes forward: the scribble. Striking handdrawn scribbles scrawled by Millman herself appear on the cover and throughout the book, hinting toward the notion of interplay, of thoughts and conversational paths that ricochet off and tumble toward one another. “For me, [the scribble] really portrays conceptually the arc of a conversation,” she says. “You know it could go anywhere; it could be an infinite loop. It is an infinite loop!” Another infinite pursuit, of course, is creativity itself. But where does creative success come from? What pushes a person into the stratosphere of, per the book’s subtitle, the “World’s Most Creative People”? Millman believes it’s “faith in their own work, self-awareness of what they’re capable of and a relentless sort of restlessness, a real restlessness about constantly evolving and growing and uncovering new ground.” That restlessness is something Millman also possesses, whether she’s learning from her compassionate exploration of the human condition in her “Design Matters” interviews, working with students at the School of Visual Arts or pursuing her ever- percolating new projects. “There are so many things I want to do,” Millman says, “including two more books I have in mind. Stirrings of a lot of different new things I want to try.” But she demurs at the thought of including herself on a “Most Creative” list: “I think I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to earn that title.” —Linda M. Castellitto
H Good Omens Good Omens (HarperAudio, 12 hours) is the most fun you’ll have at the apocalypse. While fans wait for the second season of Amazon Prime Video’s adaption of the 1990 novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, they’re rewarded with this audiobook update featuring an allstar cast, including the show’s two lead actors. David Tennant reprises his role as Crowley, a demon tasked with overseeing the end times but who is rather enjoying life on Earth. Michael Sheen returns as foppish and erudite Aziraphale, the angel who is happy to help Crowley thwart Armageddon despite their supposed enmity. Both actors have a long list of Shakespearean stage credits to their names, and their performances here are some of the best character work ever recorded on audiobook. Rebecca Front, known for her role in the British comedy series “The Thick of It,” provides the perfect narration, and an ensemble cast rounds out the other characters. —Anna Zeitlin
H Will In Will (Random House Audio, 16.5 hours), actor and rapper Will Smith tells his incredible true story of rising, falling and discovering himself. His delivery is spot on, with masterful imitations of family members, friends and colleagues, while musical interludes and background music create a soundscape from which epiphanies burst brilliantly. —Mari Carlson
READ BY NICOLA COUGHLAN
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READ BY CADY MCCLAIN, BRITTANY PRESSLEY, AND GARY TIEDEMANN
READ BY MARIN IRELAND & KARISSA VACKER
READ BY THE AUTHOR
READ BY BY KATHARINE CHIN
The Eye of the World The success of Amazon Prime Video’s adaptation of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is enticement enough to revisit his epic fantasy novels. But even more exciting is listening to the new audiobook of book one in the series, The Eye of the World (Macmillan Audio, 33 hours), narrated by award-winning British actor Rosamund Pike, who stars in the series. She gently invites the listener into Jordan’s richly detailed world before powerfully amplifying the high stakes and tension. —G. Robert Frazier
Olga Dies Dreaming Three bilingual actors of Puerto Rican descent give voice to Xochitl Gonzalez’s multifaceted novel, Olga Dies Dreaming (Macmillan Audio, 11.5 hours), which is layered with political, financial and personal drama. —Mari Carlson
H The 1619 Project In 2019, the New York Times Magazine published 10 articles written by a team headed by Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones. Collectively known as the 1619 Project, these essays argue that the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia in 1619 w as a defining event for our nation. The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story (Random House Audio, 19 hours) expands on this original work with additional essays and literary works. The audiobook’s variety of voices and styles allows the listener to understand American history on a profoundly human level. —Deborah Mason
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feature | christian fiction
Even if your voice shakes Across the ages, it’s always inspiring when women speak up for what is right. In these books of inspirational fiction, two affluent women endeavor to understand and rectify disparities within their societies.
H The Lady of Galway Manor
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Set against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence, The Lady of Galway Manor (Revell, $15.99, 9780800738426), Jennifer Deibel’s second novel after A Dance in Donegal, springs from the fascinating legend of the origin of the Claddagh ring, a traditional Irish band that features two hands clasping a crowned heart, symbolizing friendship, loyalty and love. In 1920, Lady Annabeth De Lacy is the British daughter of the new landlord of Galway Parish in Ireland, and she is excited to begin her jewelry apprenticeship with the descendants of the creators of the Claddagh ring. Although jeweler is an unusual pursuit for an aristocrat, Anna takes on this new opportunity with great enthusiasm. However, Anna’s trainer, Stephen, resents the British and is irritated to have her around. He’s also lost his faith in the ideals and promises of the Claddagh ring’s imagery, especially the love it symbolizes. But as Anna and Stephen work together, their bond grows, and they begin to recognize the misconceptions in their beliefs about each other. Deibel beautifully re-creates Galway’s sights and sounds, from the allure of the Claddagh area in Galway to the magnificence of its famed Spanish Arch and the locals’ appreciation of traditional Irish music. She also couches the bitter enmity between the Irish and British in the personal struggles of her characters. Stephen is unwilling to let go of his pain caused by past events, including atrocities committed by the British. And Anna is conflicted, torn between following her heart, which would risk alienation from her family, and accepting an advantageous marriage proposal devoid of love. In their divided world, the characters of The Lady of Galway Manor become open to each
other’s cultures, soon making way for acceptance and love.
Count the Nights by Stars Much like privileged Anna, Priscilla Nichols, the daughter of a wealthy and influential railway investor in Michelle Shocklee’s fifth novel, Count the Nights by Stars (Tyndale, $15.99, 9781496459930), enjoys a cushioned life. In 1897, Priscilla travels with her mother to Nashville to attend the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. They stay at the Maxwell House Hotel, where she meets an Italian immigrant named Luca Moretti. Priscilla appreciates Luca’s poise but is aware of the strict societal rules that dictate who her “appropriate” partner would be. After meeting Luca, Priscilla is introduced to a new world where she learns about the challenges facing destitute young women and children who are lured into a prostitution ring run by powerful forces. She quickly becomes an inspiring lead character who fights for the rights of the underserved and advocates for raising the legal age of consent. The impact of Priscilla’s actions is heightened by a parallel story. In 1961, Audrey Whitfield, the daughter of the Maxwell House Hotel manager, finds Priscilla’s scrapbook. Audrey, who had previously dismissed the eccentric and now elderly Priscilla living in the hotel, is captivated by the woman’s earlier life. Along with the historical intrigue of both story lines, Count the Nights by Stars also includes appealing mysteries and delightful romance. In 1897, Priscilla and Luca face danger as they try to solve the disappearance of Luca’s sister. In 1961, Audrey welcomes a striking young man into her life, and together they embark on an investigation into Priscilla’s stories and photographs—but it’s clear that someone else is set on having the scrapbook destroyed. In Shocklee’s novel, the important lifelong work of a daring woman inspires another to follow her dreams. It’s sure to stir such feelings in the reader as well. —Edith Kanyagia
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After the tragic Eastland disaster, many lives depend on the truth her investigation uncovers.
Seeking lost loved ones, two women across centuries will have to dig deep to let their courage bloom.
Being a princess seems like a dream come true . . . until it forces her to question everything.
Shaped by the Waves by Christina Suzann Nelson
Where the Last Rose Blooms by Ashley Clark Heirloom Secrets
In Search of a Prince by Toni Shiloh
When bankruptcy forces a widow to follow her family to New Mexico, she finds a fresh start and a new love.
She thought she was finally free to pursue her own path—danger and love were not the expected outcomes.
Will an eccentric heiress’s well-intentioned scheming get in the way of her chance at a happy ending?
When sparks fly with her best friend’s brother, she’ll discover that love and risk go hand in hand.
Along the Rio Grande by Tracie Peterson Love on the Santa Fe
The Element of Love by Mary Connealy The Lumber Baron’s Daughters #1
Enchanting the Heiress by Kristi Ann Hunter Hearts on the Heath
Drawn by the Current by Jocelyn Green The Windy City Saga #3
Her whole future is destined to change after another woman’s secrets send her on a journey for answers.
All That It Takes by Nicole Deese April 5
To save the innocent, two women—decades apart— seek light in the darkness. The Souls of Lost Lake by Jaime Jo Wright April 5
March 1 A division of Baker Publishing Group bethanyhouse.com
feature | romantic comedies
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll swoon Perfecting the rom-com is no easy feat. But these authors have cracked the code. These satisfying romantic comedies boast heaping doses of lightness and humor, as well as some perfectly deployed and fan-friendly genre tropes.
H Delilah Green Doesn’t Care Children’s and young adult author Ashley Herring Blake makes her adult debut with Delilah Green Doesn’t Care (Berkley, $16, 9780593336403), a queer small-town romance between—let’s be frank—two total babes who are most certainly worthy of their swoony whirlwind of a love story. Delilah Green has no desire to return home to Bright Falls, Oregon; the tiny town is full of painful memories of a childhood spent feeling abandoned and isolated by her stepfamily. But when her estranged stepsister, Astrid, offers Delilah a large paycheck to photograph her wedding, Delilah finds herself back in Bright Falls for the first time in years. She hopes to get the trip over with as soon as possible, but then she reunites with Claire Sutherland, a single mom who runs the local bookstore. Delilah recalls Claire being one of Astrid’s pretentious “mean girl” friends, but she’s matured into a warm, kind and all-too-alluring woman. This tender story of growth and change is about becoming a person your younger self can be proud of. Delilah and Claire’s connection starts as a sexy sort of antagonism, an attraction they just can’t get out from under their skin, but it soon blossoms into a wild vulnerability neither expected. Blake’s impressive talent is on display on every page, especially when it comes to tracking the evolution of her central couple’s relationship. Romance readers are sure to welcome her (and Delilah) with open arms.
Love at First Spite An interior designer and an architect work together to build the perfect revenge in Anna E. Collins’ Love at First Spite (Graydon House, $15.99, 9781525899799). Dani Porter’s already gotten mad about her cheating fiancé. Now, she wants to get even. When a vacant lot opens up next to her ex’s house, the place where they were supposed to live happily ever after, she quickly snatches it up. Her plan? Build an Airbnb right next door to block his beautiful
view. To help with the project, she hires Wyatt Montego, a grumpy architect who works at her design firm. Their personalities immediately clash, but they soon find their groove within the large-scale project, moving from strangers to friends to something more. Given how much time and emotion she invested in her last relationship, only to have her trust completely shattered, Dani is wary of love. And Wyatt is hiding his own sensitivities beneath his terse, stuffy exterior. The renovation and design elements provide the story’s foundation, giving Dani and Wyatt’s slow-burning chemistry plenty of opportunities to sizzle. This is a sweet story of healing after heartbreak, finding your person and debating the wrong and right ways to eat a sandwich.
If You Love Something Some romances aren’t about finding something new but rebuilding and reclaiming something you’ve lost. DeShawn and Malik Franklin haven’t seen each other in years, and as far as they know, they’ve been divorced that whole time. DeShawn is a successful executive chef in the Washington, D.C., area, but his comfortable lifestyle gets shaken up by one phone call from his dear grandmother. She reveals that she has cancer, she won’t be seeking treatment, and she’s finalizing her will and plans to leave half of her estate to Malik, with whom she is still very close. But there was a mix-up with DeShawn and Malik’s divorce paperwork: They’re still married. When DeShawn’s uncle contests the will, DeShawn agrees to pretend that he and Malik are back together, hoping the ruse, plus the fact that they are still technically married, will make it easier for Malik to fight for his rightful share. But once they reunite, old problems and even older attractions emerge. Fans who love a bit of family drama in their romances, as well as some fake dating (between spouses!), will tear through Jayce Ellis’ endearing If You Love Something (Carina Adores, $14.99, 9781335517159). DeShawn and Malik are clearly perfect for each other—they just met at the wrong time. Ellis shows how both men have worked on themselves and grown in order to become better romantic partners. If You Love Something will give you all the warm and fuzzy feelings. —Amanda Diehl Illustrations from If You Love Something © 2022. Reproduced by permission of Carina Adores. Art direction & design by Tara Scarcello.
by christie ridgway
H Hook, Line, and Sinker Two delightful people find both themselves and true love in Tessa Bailey’s sequel to It Happened One Summer, Hook, Line, and Sinker (Avon, $15.99, 9780063045699). Film production assistant Hannah Bellinger’s latest project is being shot in her late father’s small hometown of Westport, Washington, where she met fisherman Fox Thornton the summer before. They’ve been texting buddies ever since, and she bunks at his place during the shoot. Fox is funny and incredibly handsome but a self-avowed player, so she’s certain she’d never fall for him. Except there is so much about Fox to love: his humor, his self-deprecation, the way he believes in her (not to mention his unending sex appeal). The evolution of Fox and Hannah’s relationship from pals to lovers feels authentic every step of the way. Bailey is a master at articulating emotion through narrative prose and dialogue, and readers will feel everything going through the hearts of this charming yet imperfect couple. Every page in this fabulous novel is pure romance gold.
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Kamila Knows Best
Farah Heron retells one of Jane Austen’s classics in Kamila Knows Best (Forever, $15.99, 9781538735008). Accountant Kamila Hussain lives a busy life taking care of her father, her dog and her many friends. But is she paying attention to what she might really want . . . such as Rohan Nasser, a man she’s known forever? Heron’s prose completely captures the breezy, confident tone of her modern Emma. Like Austen’s protagonist, Kamila is a devoted daughter, an inveterate matchmaker and just a bit self-centered. But she’s as vivacious and fun to read about as Heron’s descriptions of clothing, decor and mouthwatering meals. Warm, wisecracking secondary characters and contemporary concerns fortify the rom-com plotline. A very good groveling scene (a trope beloved by many romance readers in which a character humbles themselves for love) is included, along with a recipe for biryani in this all-around delicious love story.
The Lady Tempts an Heir Harper St. George’s lush Victorian romance, The Lady Tempts an Heir (Berkley, $7.99, 9780593197240), sees a brash American fall at the feet of an English lady. Maxwell Crenshaw, the heir to a prosperous ironworks, leaves New York City to check on his ailing father in London, which means he’s back in the world of Lady Helena March. She’s oh-so proper and oh-so beautiful, and when they are both pressured by their families to marry . . . well, why not give themselves some breathing room by faking an engagement? In the way of these things, of course, Max and Helena begin to fall for each other as they discover they share similar stances regarding the rights of women and the plight of factory workers. But they live on separate continents and they’d agreed this wasn’t to last, right? This sensuous and entertaining love story is deepened by St. George’s pitch-perfect evocation of the yearning of lovers separated by distance.
Christie Ridgway is a lifelong romance reader and a published romance novelist of over 60 books.
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feature | memoir march
Spring’s most memorable These six personal narratives are poignant, potent and properly Discover your next favorite memoir based on others you’ve If you loved Wild by Cheryl Strayed, read:
If you loved Naked by David Sedaris, read:
H In the Shadow of the
Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?
Silvia Vasquez-Lavado understands that mountaineering is healing. Her memoir, In the Shadow of the Mountain, is a brilliant assessment of the power of high altitudes to heal trauma. Beautifully structured in back-and-forth chapters, the memoir travels between VasquezLavado’s childhood in the civil strife of 1970s Peru to her ultimately successful attempt to complete the Seven Summits, the Earth’s highest mountains. Vasquez-Lavado’s story is intimately Holt, $27.99, 9781250776747 collaborative and feminist, such as when she brings a group of young women from Nepal and America who have survived sex trafficking and other sexual violence to Everest’s base camp. When Vasquez-Lavado continues without them to Everest’s summit, her triumph at the mountain’s peak is merely a bonus. The real journey is these women’s path toward healing. —Catherine Hollis
If you loved Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur, read:
Never Simple Liz Scheier worshipped her loving, controlling, raging mother, Judith, even when doubt began to trickle in. Had Scheier’s father really died in a car accident? How could the two of them afford to live in their apartment when Judith had no means of support? Was everything Judith said a lie? After college, during her first job in publishing, Scheier learned that Judith had been concealing a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. This knowledge didn’t protect Scheier from her mother’s incessant, desperate phone calls, but it did force her onto a wobbly Holt, $26.99, 9781250823137 identity quest. In relating this tense and heart-rending story, Scheier is funny and frequently clever. Never Simple writhes with the sorrow and guilt only a deep and complicated love can arouse. —Alden Mudge Visit BookPage.com to read full reviews of these six memoirs.
Séamas O’Reilly’s debut book is a tender, uproarious chronicle of the author’s upbringing in Derry, Northern Ireland. He takes a jovial approach, and the result is a rousing tale of family fellowship. Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? opens in 1991, right after O’Reilly’s mother died from breast cancer and his father was left to care for their 11 children. O’Reilly describes his parents as “comically, parodically, Catholic,” and religion is a constant undercurrent in the book. As he Little, Brown, $28, 9780316424257 came of age, the violent sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland was waning, but he still reckoned with its long-term effects—such as the sense of gallows humor pervasive among the Northern Irish. Indeed, finding comedy in tragedy seems to be an operative instinct for the author. Throughout the book, as O’Reilly sifts through memories of his extraordinary, somewhat absurd childhood, he never fails to find cause for joy. As a result, Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?—title aside—feels bracingly alive. —Julie Hale
If you loved Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, read:
H Red Paint Red Paint offers a poetic narrative of trauma and healing through ancestral rites and punk rock. Haunted by childhood sexual abuse and periods of teenage homelessness, Sasha LaPointe initially found solace and community in the Pacific Northwest punk scene. But as she came to recognize her trauma as a sickness of the spirit, LaPointe began to lean into the Lushootseed language and the curative practices of five generations of her Coast Salish ancestors. For LaPointe, restoring the self to health is entwined with restoring Native Counterpoint, $25, 9781640094147 women’s voices that have been erased throughout history. She uses her own luminescent voice to tell her relatives’ stories as well as hers, wielding language, words, ritual and community as tools of contemporary and ancestral healing. —Catherine Hollis
memoirs unputdownable. read and loved!
Don’t Miss the Myriad of Memoirs from Simon & Schuster
If you loved Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener, read:
The Impossible City
If you loved The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, read:
H In Love Amy Bloom is known for examining the dynamics of intimate relationships in her fiction, yet never has she gotten closer to the flame than in this memoir. In Love begins with a trip to Zurich with her husband, Brian, who was pursuing a medically assisted suicide following his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. In the compressed, gripping pages that follow, scenes alternate between the couple’s journey and the strenuous months that led up to it as Bloom explored options on the dark web, wept with therapists and Random House, $27, 9780593243947 received unshakable support from friends and family. In turn, Bloom remained steadfastly present to Brian as he made his choice. There was suffering on both sides, which Bloom shares without flinching. —Kelly Blewett
The Other Side of Yet: Finding Light in the Midst of Darkness HC: 9781982173524 By Michelle D. Hord 3/15/22
Easy Beauty: A Memoir HC: 9781982151997 By Chloé Cooper Jones 4/5/22
Photo ©Miguel Herrera
Journalist Karen Cheung’s intimate memoir explores what it means to live in and love a complicated city. Though Cheung was ambivalent about Hong Kong as a child, she eventually embraced her hometown as a second family after her beloved grandmother died. Alongside her evolving personal relationship with Hong Kong, she narrates the city’s most significant moments from her lifetime, including the Handover in 1997, when the United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to China; Occupy Random House, $28.99, 9780593241431 Central in 2014, when crowds occupied Hong Kong for 79 days to demand more transparent elections; and both the SARS and COVID-19 pandemics. Hong Kong emerges as vividly multifaceted, both glamorous and full of people yearning for a more equitable future built through collective action and protest. In Cheung’s hands, the problems, charms and complexities that characterize Hong Kong are illuminated with grace and intelligence. The Impossible City will resonate with anyone who has struggled to love their city in a time characterized by political dissent, racial strife and pandemic. —Celia Mattison
Speak: Find Your Voice, Trust Your Gut, and Get From Where You Are Are to Where You Want to Be HC: 9781982195441 By Tunde Oyeneyin 5/3/22
Back to the Prairie: A Home Remade, A Life Rediscovered HC: 9781982177188 By Melissa Gilbert 5/10/22
Mother Noise: A Memoir HC: 9781982168759 By Cindy House 5/17/22
Asylum: A Memoir & Manifesto HC: 9781982183745 By Edafe Okporo 6/7/22
Blood Orange Night: My Journey to the Edge of Madness HC: 9781982188276 By Melissa Bond 6/14/22
Soundings: Journeys in the Company of Whales: A Memoir HC: 9781982171797 By Doreen Cunningham 7/12/22
Simon & Schuster 13
interview | erika krouse
Erika Krouse, private eye Meet the fiction writer who unexpectedly became a private investigator and helped crack a landmark sexual assault case. “My favorite book growing up was Harriet the victim receiving $2.5 million and another receivSpy,” Erika Krouse says, speaking by phone from ing $350,000. her home in Colorado. “It’s funny because that’s At the time, Krouse didn’t fully appreciate the what I ended up doing. [Harriet] wanted to be a enormity of her involvement. “I’ve been thinking writer, and she wanted to be a spy, and I did too.” about this recently,” she says. “How many times in your life do you get an opportunity to save someIn 2002, years after Krouse’s Harriet the Spy phase, she had a chance encounter with a corpoone when they need it or work on something that’s rate lawyer in a bookstore. At important? That’s not ordithe time, she was a 33-yearnary life, right? Ordinary old fiction writer working life—you’re just trying to pay a series of temp jobs, but the bills and get groceries there was something about and get here and get there. her face that had always So when these opportunities made people, including this do come up, it is actually an lawyer, confess their innerextraordinary circumstance. most secrets to her. After And a lucky one. A very, very experiencing this phenomlucky one.” enon for himself, the attorThroughout the memoir, ney offered Krouse a job as Krouse also writes about her Visit BookPage.com to read our starred a private investigator, and own childhood experiences review of Tell Me Everything. she accepted. As she writes of sexual abuse by a man she calls X. “I would have in Tell Me Everything: preferred to use his idenThe Story of a Private talking to on a deeper level. I don’t know what the Investigation, “I wanted balance is.” tity,” she says, “but in some to help people and find ways, it was freeing not to— Since she had no prior detective experience, things out, not necessarily in that, this is a person who Krouse learned on the job. Luckily, she says, ficin that order.” doesn’t even get to have a tion writers are uniquely qualified to be PIs. “We name.” Another benefit of That moment in the booklove the narrative. And we think, ‘Oh, wow. That this approach was that she store launched Krouse’s fivemoment back when they were 4 years old contribdidn’t have to address any year investigative career, uted to this completely unrelated thing.’ We like which included work on of the psychological factors the web, and the way we figure out the next clue, a landmark Title IX case that may have contributed so to speak, is never in a linear way. It’s always Tell Me Everything involving college footto his crimes. “I could just roundabout.” Flatiron, $28.99, 9781250240309 ball players and recruits focus on the functionality of Krouse’s chops as a writer, plus her talent for who raped fellow students this person, which is that he making strangers spill their guts, gave her an edge, Memoir at a party. For legal reawas a perpetrator,” she says, but there was still plenty of trial and error. She sons, Krouse changed their names in the book. “and not have to spend a lot of time humanizing readily admits, with a laugh, that as an Aries, her “I was committed to keeping the survivors safe,” someone who dehumanized me.” modus operandi tends to be “ready, fire, aim.” she explains, “but the funny thing is, I also had At first, Krouse didn’t plan to address her own But this approach worked. “I don’t think there’s to disguise the perpetrators, even though they a way to prep in advance because so much is victimization in the book. “I generally don’t talk fluid,” she says. “I definitely had no idea what I didn’t deserve it, because some of that could have about my history, even with friends,” she says. She splashed back at the survivors.” The only concrete was doing, and that feeling turned out to be an didn’t even discuss it while working on the sexasset because we details she provides are that, at the time of the case, ual assault case. But as Tell Me she was living “in the Front Range foothills of the “How many times in your life do you were in new legal territory. Nobody Colorado Rocky Mountains, in a small city that Everything began get an opportunity to save someone had done a case hosted a university and a swarm of tech startups.” to take shape, It’s enough information for readers to connect the like this, ever.” she decided, “I’m when they need it?” dots with a quick internet search. Krouse says she writing about all of never imagined that she’d write a book about sex“It’s the most famous case that no one’s ever these very brave women. For me not to even talk heard of,” Krouse says. “There have been whole ual assault until suddenly, she was doing it. The about my own past would be cowardly.” process has been healing—“but not in a warm books about Title IX sexual assault that don’t menKrouse knew her personal history would make bath and candles kind of way,” she says. “I think tion this case, which is amazing to me because it investigating a sexual assault case tricky. “In some there’s some strength to planting your flag in the was the first college case like this.” Krouse’s sleuthways, I think I might have been able to be more sand and saying, ‘This is me, and here I am. Deal ing helped reveal that the football team had used strategic had I had more distance from the topic with it.’ ” alcohol and sex as recruiting tools. The school of sexual violence,” she says. “But in other ways, —Alice Cary eventually reached a settlement in 2007, with one I think I was able to understand the people I was
by susannah felts
H The Second Half One of my favorite finds of 2021 was a newsletter called Oldster, which features interviews with people musing on the aging process and what age means and feels like to them. A new work from portrait and travel photographer Ellen Warner, The Second Half (Brandeis, $35, 9781684580866), beautifully mines similar territory. Warner crisscrossed the globe photographing and interviewing women over the age of 50, gathering reflections on change, pleasure, legacy, hope and more. She then edited these encounters into a trove of fascinating, brief narratives. One woman buys a pub in her 60s; another meets her new life partner, a woman, after a 35-year marriage to a man. “Everything is a bit blurred when one is young, and then comes the second half—the time when you have to make clarity out of the blur,” one reflects. As these women and others divulge their most difficult and joyous moments, the result is a book bristling with energy and wisdom.
by robert weibezahl
H Burning Questions
I’m not sure there’s a person on Earth who doesn’t know that walking is good for them. But how many of us know just how good, or in just how many ways? Annabel Streets presents loads of convincing evidence in 52 Ways to Walk (Putnam, $24, 9780593419953), a book equally geared toward dedicated perambulators and anyone who wishes to build a new healthy habit. She gives us researchbacked ways of thinking about our daily (or occasional) stroll while presenting a fun challenge: From just how many angles might we go about the act of taking a walk this year? I can walk with attunement to what I hear in the world around me, or I can walk with a focus on posture and gait. I can think about ley lines, ions or fractals as I walk; I can walk alone or with a friend or a dog or by water or at night. Apparently I can even hop up from the couch, take a brisk 12-minute walk and wring a surprising level of health benefits from it—and so, my friend, can you.
Women wearing red cloaks and face-concealing bonnets at political protests in recent years speak to the enduring popularity and relevance of Margaret Atwood’s most wellknown book, The Handmaid’s Tale. In a 30th-anniversary essay about the novel, featured in her delectable new collection, Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces, 2004 to 2021 (Doubleday, $30, 9780385547482), Atwood lays no claim to prescience, but of course, she is just being humble. (She is, after all, Canadian.) With an inquiring mind and the razor-sharp intellect to fuel it, this cherished and award-winning writer, now 82, is never afraid to push boundaries or speak her mind about the things that matter to her and, collectively, to many of us. What may surprise casual readers of Atwood’s work is the way her mind is honed by a delicious wit that makes reading her thoughts on a wide array of subjects as entertaining as it is edifying. There are more than 60 wide-ranging pieces gathered in this capacious collection: essays, speeches, reviews, introductions and appreciations. Somehow the book manages to be both an enchanting hodgepodge (in the best sense) and a cohesive amalA bracing, entertaining collection gam of a writer’s vision. Many of of nonfiction pieces further the entries tap into one or both illuminates Margaret Atwood’s of Atwood’s priinimitable and indomitable mind. mary concerns: literature and environmental science. The daughter of a scientist, Atwood has true bona fides in the latter category and has been sounding the call for climate change awareness for some time, such as with the MaddAddam trilogy. In addition to providing invaluable insight into her own work, Atwood digs with enthusiasm into Shakespeare, Kafka, Dickens, Dinesen, Bradbury and the ancient Greeks. She writes with cleareyed affection about women slightly older than her who paved the way, such as Alice Munro, Doris Lessing and Ursula K. Le Guin. Rachel Carson, a clear favorite, makes numerous appearances, and the book ends with a brief reflection on the 2020 death of conservationist writer Barry Lopez. This is the third collection of occasional nonfiction pieces Atwood has assembled over her 60-year career, and she divides it into five sections reflecting societal changes over the course of the last two post-9/11 decades. Some of the pieces are quite current—there is a piece on quarantine, for instance—but as one might expect, Atwood avoids a straightforward or navel-gazing approach even when contemplating our current state of affairs. Instead, the COVID-19 piece hearkens back to the everyday realities of quarantine (against diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping cough) when she was a child in the 1940s. While no means an autobiography, Burning Questions scatters a generous enough smattering of personal recollections and details throughout to grant intriguing, often charming insight into Atwood’s singular life, from girlhood to her life partner’s death in 2019. Years ago, a lesser-known Toronto-based writer told me that “Peggy” Atwood was always a welcome—and hilarious—guest at dinner parties. That appraisal stayed with me, and upon reading Burning Questions, there can be little doubt it’s true.
Susannah Felts is a Nashville-based writer and co-founder of The Porch, a literary arts organization. She enjoys anything paper- or plant-related.
Robert Weibezahl is a publishing industry veteran, playwright and novelist. Each month, he takes an in-depth look at a recent book of literary significance.
The Complete Cookbook for Teen Chefs In terms of trusted authorities on cooking technique, you can’t get much more legit or consistently helpful than America’s Test Kitchen. (Lately, I’ve been saving nearly all of their Instagram posts.) So a new title from ATK, The Complete Cookbook for Teen Chefs (America’s Test Kitchen, $21.99, 9781948703956), feels like cause for celebration. It remains to be seen whether a book designed for my 13-year-old will inspire her to prep dinner more often, but its format, with close attention paid to mise en place and the correct tools, should help her dodge frustration while widening both her comfort zone and palate. The recipes, labeled beginner, intermediate and advanced, range from the familiar (waffles, BLTs) to foodie faves like blistered shishito peppers, shiitake beef ramen and a fruit galette. My hunch, which I shall soon put to the test, is that parents, too, will absorb several valuable tips from this text as they play sous-chef to their kids.
52 Ways to Walk
by bruce tierney
H Shadows Reel I have been a fan of C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett mysteries since the outset of the series. The 22nd offering, Shadows Reel (Putnam, $28, 9780593331262), narrows in on Pickett’s pal, outlaw falconer Nate Romanowski, as he hunts down the thieves who killed some of his prized raptors and stole the rest of them. Romanowski is a sidekick in the mold of Spenser’s Hawk or Elvis Cole’s Joe Pike: hardboiled, loyal to a fault and probably tougher than the nominal hero of the tale. That said, Romanowski’s quarry is easily as well trained as he, and younger and stronger to boot, which is a potentially lethal combination for the aging warrior. Meanwhile, a Nazi relic creates quite a buzz in the town of Saddlestring, Wyoming—especially after its owner, a crusty old fishing guide, gets murdered most gruesomely. It will not be the last relic-related murder, as the killer has instructions to let nothing stand in his way, and he takes these instructions very literally. A recurring theme in these books is Pickett’s struggle with his deep-seated “cowboy code” morality, which is juxtaposed against the often frustrating legalities of the situations he comes up against. This time out, that conflict will give Pickett’s conscience a world-class workout.
H The Harbor Katrine Engberg’s third mystery featuring Copenhagen cops Anette Werner and Jeppe Kørner perfectly balances a mysterious disappearance with the no less intriguing domestic concerns of its two investigators. At the start of The Harbor (Scout, $28, 9781982127633), Oscar Dreyer-Hoff, the teenage son of a wealthy family, has gone missing, perhaps kidnapped, and clues are thin on the ground. The family boat is missing, and Oscar’s backpack has turned up near the vessel’s harbor mooring. His girlfriend says she has no idea where he is and in general acts very unconcerned about the whole thing. Some time back, scandal rocked the Dreyer-Hoff family, triggering some threatening letters that must be reconsidered in light of Oscar’s disappearance. In the background, home life in the Werner and Kørner households has become less than optimal. Anette is considering an affair with a person of interest in the case, and Jeppe struggles to balance the demands of work and his new lover, whose children are none too happy about their mom’s beau. Engberg is a must-read for fans of Nordic noir, and two more books starring Anette and Jeppe will soon be translated into English.
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H Girl in Ice Erica Ferencik’s Girl in Ice (Scout, $27.99, 9781982143022) is an excellent, thrilling mystery set against a quasi-science fiction backdrop. Linguist Valerie “Val” Chesterfield has accepted an unusual assignment: She’s traveling to Greenland to meet a girl rescued from an ice field who initially appeared to have frozen to death but has somehow survived. The girl speaks no known language, and Val is one of only a few scholars with sufficient knowledge of archaic Northern European languages to try and communicate with her. But there is a more pressing connection for Val: Her twin brother, Andy, died at the same Arctic outpost not so long ago, and try as she might, she cannot make any sense of his death. The novel veers into speculative territory as Wyatt, the team leader, begins to entertain the idea that the girl is not a recent freezing victim but rather from another epoch entirely, having been cryogenically preserved using technology lost to the ages. With its fascinating science and compelling characters (one or more of whom may be a murderer), Girl in Ice demands to be read in one sitting.
H The Berlin Exchange It’s rare for an espionage novel’s protagonist to be a traitor, but author Joseph Kanon quite successfully breaks that unwritten rule in his 10th novel, The Berlin Exchange (Scribner, $28, 9781982158651). As a physicist on the controversial Manhattan Project, the U.S. military program that introduced the world to atomic warfare, Martin Keller was privy to top-secret design and implementation information. Motivated by dubious idealism, Martin shared some intelligence with the KGB and received a lengthy sentence when his subterfuge was found out. Fast-forward to 1963: A prisoner exchange has been arranged, and Martin finds himself set to be released in East Berlin, swapped for two American students and a British spy. He has no interest in getting caught up in spy games again, but his freedom is fraught with terror from the get-go. As he passes the checkpoint, he narrowly escapes being killed by a sniper, and the danger doesn’t end there. In a perfectly paranoid touch, Martin has no idea why he was freed or what intelligence agency negotiated for his release. All he wants is to see his ex-wife, Sabine, and their son, Peter, but will his presence in East Berlin put them in danger? Can he even trust them to begin with? It will take all the resources at Martin’s disposal to stay one step ahead of whoever is trying to kill him and pierce through the web of secrets that surround him in this chilly, elegant and consistently excellent espionage thriller.
Bruce Tierney lives outside Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he bicycles through the rice paddies daily and reviews the best in mystery and suspense every month.
feature | amateur sleuths
Secrets in the city that never sleeps
DOESN’T STOP HERE.
New York City is full of mysteries—and two smart women are on the case. Nothing is more mysterious than the family we were born into. Amateur sleuths Lena Scott and Claudia Lin don’t quite fit in with their blood relatives, but the solutions to their respective cases may lie within the bonds they’ve known their whole lives. “I found out my sister was back in New York from Instagram. I found out she’d died from the New York Daily News.” These arresting first lines of Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister (Mulholland, $28, 9780316256704) alert the reader that this family- oriented thriller is anything but ordinary. Lena Scott and her younger half-sister, Desiree Pierce, have little in common. Lena’s a grad student living with her late grandmother’s life partner in the Bronx, while Manhattan-based ex-reality star Desiree blows through men, clothes and substances as fast as she spends the money from their father, music industry titan Mel Pierce. But when Lena sees the newspaper headline, she knows there’s more to her sister’s death than a simple heroin overdose. Desiree was afraid of needles, and why was she found shoeless near Lena’s own neighborhood, when the women have been estranged for two years? Garrett wrote for the television show “Cold Case” before publishing her award-winning debut novel, Hollywood Homicide, and its follow-up, Hollywood Ending, and in Like a Sister, she incorporates issues of race, class and, most of all, the complicated ties that bind into a twisty murder mystery with nuance and heart.
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, Claudia Lin knows she’s a complete disappointment to her family. The narrator of Jane Pek’s The Verifiers ( Vintage, $17, 9780593313794), Claudia has neither a nice Chinese husband nor a lucrative job. She likes women and hasn’t yet told her mother, and unbeknownst to her successful older brother, Charles, she has left the full-time position as a copy editor at Aurum Financial that he’d helped her snag. Instead, as the newest staff member of Veracity, a top-secret firm in glamorous Tribeca, C l au d i a h e l p s would-be lovers uncover the true identities of online paramours and expose any skeletons in their closets. When one of Claudia’s first clients, Iris Lettriste, is found dead in her apartment, Claudia discovers that Iris had her own secret: She wasn’t Iris Lettriste at all. Who was “Iris,” and could her online presence and virtual network be the keys to figuring out who killed her? Claudia is a scrappy, resourceful protagonist. She’s a dedicated cyclist who can and will bike anywhere, she’s a huge fan of a fictional mystery series starring the brilliant Inspector Yuan, and thanks to Veracity, she has invasive but effective tracking devices at her fingertips. Pek’s beautifully paced debut offers a hard look at our digital lives and the people we surround ourselves with IRL. It’ll have readers asking, along with Claudia, “Could a dating app, and the forces behind it, actually kill me?” —Lauren Emily Whalen
Divided We Stand H.W. Brands In Our First Civil War, historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist during illuminates the intensely personal convictions of the Patriots and Loyalists the American Revolution.
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cover story | karen joy fowler
OUR BROTHER, THE MONSTER In her triumphant eighth novel, Karen Joy Fowler offers a wholly original perspective on American history through the story of John Wilkes Booth’s family. came in the form of biographer Terry Alford, author of Fortune’s Fool: The Life of By now, Karen Joy Fowler’s husband knows what to expect when his wife starts writing a book, like The Jane Austen Book Club or Booker Prize finalist We Are All John Wilkes Booth, which Fowler calls “magnificent,” and the forthcoming In the Completely Beside Ourselves. She will lament, “Oh, it’s never been so hard,” and he Houses of Their Dead: The Lincolns, the Booths, and the Spirits. Alford’s biography features unique details, so Fowler reached out to ask a few questions. “He’s will remind her: “You did say that last time. And the time before that, you know.” been researching this family for 30 years, and he sent me piles of research that “Is it possible that every book is harder than the one before?” Fowler wonders, would’ve taken me months and months to find on my own, if ever,” she says. “It speaking from her home in Santa Cruz, California. “Or do you just not rememwas just mind-bogglingly generous.” ber? I don’t have an answer to that question.” As she does in her writing, Fowler laces her conversations with curiosity, humor John Wilkes Booth was born in 1838, the ninth of 10 children. In 1822, his and reflection. You can practically hear her good-natured wheels turning as she parents, Junius and Mary Ann Booth, emigrated from England to Bel Air, Maryland, where they bought 150 acres and moved a small log discusses her latest novel, Booth, an immersive, behind-the-scenes account of the years leading up to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre in cabin onto the property. Junius, an alcoholic who was at times men1865, by way of an investigation into the family of assassin John Wilkes Booth. tally unstable, was often away on tour, leaving his The Booths were a famous theatrical family celebrated for their Shakespearian wife—with the help of enslaved men and women— performances, especially father Junius and brother Edwin, whose 1893 funeral to tend to farming and maintaining the home. The was described as one of “the most remarkable ever held in New York City” by family faced poverty, hunger and disease; four of the New York Times. the 10 children died. Fowler portrays these ordeals with Despite such a wealth of source material, and despite startling immediacy, especially from the perspective of young Rosalie, who watches “the household collapse her husband’s reassurances, writing this book was particularly difficult for Fowler. Her despair over gun violence in into madness” and communes with the ghosts of her the United States prompted her to choose this topic, but dead siblings. she didn’t want to focus on the assassin. Instead, she was “I’ve had dreams about the place,” Fowler interested in exploring the culpability of the Booth parents says. “In my dreams, the barn is there, and and siblings. How to achieve this delicate balance was the slave cabins are there. It’s clearly a something Fowler “grappled with on nearly every page.” metaphor for doing research. . . . I had Now she passes that same conundrum along to her a sense of menace, that something was readers. “I would not have written this book if John Wilkes very wrong and that it was a dangerous had not killed Abraham Lincoln,” she says. “As much as I place to be.” am trying to argue that he is not the most interesting perJunius eventually had a larger home, son in this family, I know that the narrative tension in the named Tudor Hall, built on the property. It’s book is all because of John Wilkes Booth.” now a museum on a fairly small lot surrounded Even the book’s title is problematic. “It actually should by other houses. “There’s a lovely group of people be Booths—plural,” Fowler says, “but that’s just so hard who maintain it,” Fowler says. “It seems the ghosts have to say. I knew that at least in America, if you saw a book been purged.” entitled Booth, you would think this is a book about The name Tudor Hall is something of a touchstone, John Wilkes Booth. Which is exactly what I didn’t since Fowler’s love of historical fiction was inspired by want you thinking!” Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. “I blame Hilary Mantel for the This is one of the primary reasons why the fact that [Booth] is in present tense,” Fowler says. “Wolf novel doesn’t depict Lincoln’s shooting in real Hall was so powerful that somehow Hilary Mantel has time. “I didn’t want to imagine what John Wilkes persuaded me that this is how you write a historical novel.” Booth Booth was thinking [in that moment]. First of all, Indeed, readers will feel as though they’re watching Putnam, $28, 9780593331439 I can’t—my imagination doesn’t stretch that far. events transpire in real time, with different sections told from the perspectives of not only Rosalie but also brother But it’s still very painful to see that turning point in our Historical Fiction history, to wonder what might have been.” Edwin and sister Asia. Information about Edwin was plenThe Booth clan has long fascinated Fowler, and she has featured various famtiful due to his acting career, but Asia also left behind a valuable resource. In 1874, ily members in three short stories, including “Standing Room Only,” which is she wrote a secret memoir about her infamous brother, though it wasn’t pubabout time travelers who journey to witness Lincoln’s death. A science fiction lished until 1938, long after her death. Fowler calls Asia “an incredible woman, but fan, Fowler was frustrated by the many stories she read in which time travelers hard to like. . . . I would probably have wanted to make her more likable if her own seem to go undetected by those they encounter. “I thought, obviously not, it won’t words hadn’t condemned her in certain ways.” (For instance, although Asia disbe that way at all,” she says. “They’ll just be like tourists everywhere. I live in a approved of John Wilkes’ crime, she blamed Lincoln for going to the theater that tourist town, and I can spot the tourists. And then I went from that to thinking, night.) Photographs of Asia, however, continue to bewilder the author. “Nobody well, there will be destination holidays, and one of them, unfortunately, will be talks about Asia Booth without mentioning what a beauty she was,” Fowler says, the Lincoln assassination.” “and you look at the pictures, and you just think, what are they talking about?” Research, she muses, “is probably the closest we will come to time travel,” and Rosalie, in contrast, remains a cipher, with few details available. She never marfrom the start of creating Booth, she had mountains to sift through. A godsend ried and had some sort of “infirmity,” widely commented on but never specified.
© NATHAN QUINTANILLA
feature | music fiction
Bravo and encore Classical music is a powerful force in two novels, inspiring their heroes and illuminating the way forward.
“Every time Rosalie’s name comes up, you hear, ‘What an invalid she is, poor Rose,’” Fowler laments. But these gaps in Rosalie’s history proved useful. “There was a little more freedom to imagine who she might be. She’s pretty much made up, although the things that happened to her are not. I cannot tell you how delighted I was to discover that she had a romance with a lion tamer!” Although Fowler says she is always on the hunt for such “small details that I hope will bring the world more to life,” she also keeps a bigger picture in mind. When she first began to write Booth, she was primarily focused on issues of gun violence, but the 2016 presidential election caused a shift in the story’s significance. “I wasn’t really thinking about the Civil War, the ongoing legacy of white supremacy and the various ways in which that war has just never ended in this country,” Fowler says. “And yet, as I wrote, those things seemed more evident to me than the fact that John Wilkes Booth had a gun.” By the time of the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Fowler had completed her manuscript. “To watch the Confederate flag being carried into the Capitol was just terrifying and heart-wrenching, having just immersed myself in what that flag meant,” she says. “I couldn’t turn the television off. I sat and watched the footage in real time, and just couldn’t believe it.” There’s a similar sense of horror in Fowler’s visceral descriptions of how various Booth family members react to the news of John Wilkes’ horrific act: “Edwin’s first thought is not a thought, more like a blow to the head, a sense of falling, the crashing of the sea in his ears. His second thought is that he believes it. He wishes he didn’t.” There were several post-assassination details that Fowler had to omit from the novel—such as the fact that Ford’s Theatre collapsed during Edwin’s funeral, killing 22 people. “Maybe there needs to be a second book,” she says. “Something short—a slender, poetic novel dealing with their later lives.” After all, Fowler says, “History is full of fabulous stories.” Fabulous, provocative, challenging and necessary—such is the story of Booth. —Alice Cary Visit BookPage.com to read our starred review of Booth.
There’s a saying you might have heard: Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Two authors have ignored this warning and written novels about classical music, and we readers are luckier for it. The Great Passion (Bloomsbury, $28, 9781635570670) by James Runcie, author of the acclaimed Grantchester Mysteries, is a beautiful coming-of-age novel set in 18th-century Germany. In 1726, 13-year-old Stefan Silbermann is mourning the death of his mother. His father makes arrangements for Stefan to attend a music school in Leipzig, an especially useful education for a boy whose family’s business is building and repairing church organs. At school, lonely Stefan is tormented by the other students, finding solace only in singing and in the presence of the demanding but empathic choir director, Johann Sebastian Bach. Stefan’s heavenly singing voice and sensitivity endear him to Bach, who enlists Stefan as a soloist in many of his cantatas. But Stefan remains deeply unhappy, and when he runs away from the dorms, Bach invites him to live at the Bach family home. There, Stefan basks in the warmth of domestic life, assisting Bach’s children with chores and working as a copyist for the great composer. When another tragedy strikes, this time in Bach’s family, Stefan is a firsthand witness to the way grief can be a catalyst for musical genius, watching and then performing in the work that will become one of Bach’s most celebrated compositions, “The Passion According to St Matthew.” Stefan’s exposure to Bach’s creativity, family and devotion to God is the restorative balm that the young man needs in order to move forward with his life. On the other end of the spectrum
is Brendan Slocumb’s debut novel, The Violin Conspiracy (Anchor, $28, 9780593315415), a fast-paced thriller about a young Black violinist and his search for a priceless instrument, set against the backdrop of systemic racism within the world of contemporary classical music. Ray McMillian has a dream of becoming a concert violinist, and nothing will stand in his way: not his unsupportive mother and uncles, his disinterested teachers or the industry’s inherent racial bias. When Ray’s beloved grandmother gifts him with her grandfather’s violin, it brings him a step closer to his dream, and when the instrument is revealed to be an extremely rare and valuable Stradivarius, his star really begins to rise. Ray is on the verge of attending the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow when the prized instrument is stolen and held for ransom. Suspects range from members of Ray’s own family, eager to claim the insurance money, to his musical rivals in Europe. Even the descendants of the family who once enslaved Ray’s great-great-grandfather are claiming the instrument belongs to them. As Ray travels the globe, not sure whom he can trust, music remains the only constant in his life, supporting him no matter the situation. Resilience is a powerful presence in both novels, whether in the face of personal pain and grief or against the constant pressures of embedded prejudices. Music is the conduit through which two young men learn to overcome loss and fight against insurmountable odds, offering not only a reason to live but also a way to thrive. —Lauren Bufferd
reviews | fiction
H The Swimmers By Julie Otsuka
Literary Fiction Julie Otsuka’s first novel in 10 years is a quiet and startling masterpiece about memory, aging and the indelible experiences that define a life. The slim novel reads like a much longer one, its mere 192 pages giving rise to the possibility of infinite stories. The effortlessly musical prose will be familiar to readers of Otsuka’s previous novels, especially her 2011 bestseller, The Buddha in the Attic. But The Swimmers (Knopf, $23, 9780593321331) is even more structurally bold. The novel begins with two chapters told in the collective second person. A group of amateur swimmers, all of whom belong to the same community pool, speaks about their obsessions, grievances and small triumphs. When a mysterious crack appears in the bottom of the pool, some are curious, but some begin to panic. Soon they all wonder if this means that their swimming days are numbered.
H The Cartographers By Peng Shepherd
Popular Fiction It can be hard to remember just how important paper maps used to be. More than just a way of assisting travel from point A to B, a map was meant to depict the world, revealing a location’s form and significance to anyone who gazed upon it. But what if, rather than being mere reflections of what already exists, maps had the power to shape the world they represented? This intriguing idea forms the foundation of Peng Shepherd’s ingenious and exhilarating second novel, The Cartographers (William Morrow, $27.99, 9780062910691). Cartographer Nell Young is called in to the New York Public Library after her estranged father is found dead in his office in the map division. While looking through his desk, she finds a secret compartment containing a tatty dime-a-dozen gas station map—the same map that sparked a fiery argument between the two of them several years previously. He dismissed the map as worthless, and their disagreement ended with Nell being branded an outcast in the world of cartography. Nell can’t begin to understand why her father would have held onto the map he sabotaged her career over, but it soon becomes frighteningly clear
The third chapter, told in the second person, narrows in on one particular swimmer: an elderly Japanese American woman named Alice, who is in the early stages of dementia. As her memory slips away and the past and present lose their distinct boundaries, Alice struggles to hold onto her sense of self. She still exists in the world, still has opinions and fears and desires, but everyone around her—her fellow swimmers, her husband, her daughter—views her as someone fading, incapable, a danger to herself. The Swimmers seems to continually reinvent itself as each section reframes everything that came before it. Reading something so inventive and playful is a bit like being inside an architectural blueprint as it’s being drawn, or watching an acorn grow into a massive oak in only a few
minutes. This is not a simple, orderly, linear novel. It unfolds in a messy chorus of contradictory, unpredictable voices that each bring something different to the whole. With nuance, grace and deep tenderness, Otsuka ponders the questions that define our lives: Who are we without our memories? What does it mean to truly see someone else, to see ourselves? What is knowable about the world, and what do we do with the mysteries no one can solve? Funny, moving and composed of sentences that read like small poems, The Swimmers is a remarkable novel from a writer with an unparalleled talent for capturing the stuff of the world, whether mundane, harrowing or bizarre. —Laura Sackton
that things are not quite as they seem. Despite the map’s unremarkable provenance, it’s actually incredibly rare and highly coveted. In her attempt to understand why, Nell finds herself ensnared in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game, one that could turn deadly if the other party hunting for the map finds Nell before she uncovers its secrets. As fans of Shepherd’s 2018 debut novel, The Book of M, would expect, The Cartographers is wildly imaginative and totally mind-bending in the best possible way. Shepherd has crafted a juicy mystery masquerading as a grown-up scavenger hunt filled with astonishing twists and revelations. The result is a romp that’s pure pleasure to read and will keep readers guessing—and gasping—as the map’s true power and beguiling history are brought to light. —Stephenie Harrison
Francesca, in Syracuse, New York. Then her Uncle Hafez (Gabe’s brother and an adviser to the king of Jordan) calls from Amman with a surprising invitation: The king wants Gabe to partake in his 60th birthday celebrations, specifically a fencing exhibit. As teenagers in Jordan, Gabe and the king fenced together. In the interim years, Gabe immigrated to the U.S., married Francesca and raised Amani, their American daughter. While considering this invitation, Gabe pulls out a family heirloom, an ancient knife known as Il Saif, passed to him by his dying father. Amani returns the knife to its satchel, where she finds a note written by her grandmother Natalia, a sad fragment that speaks of loss, perhaps that of a child. Amani, wondering about this grandmother she never knew, persuades Gabe to accept the king’s invitation, and soon father and daughter are in Jordan, greeting extended family and attending the first of the king’s celebrations. This is only the beginning of a story that focuses on multiple searches. Amani is seeking clarity about herself and her failed marriage, but she also wants to understand her family’s past, in particular the sadness of grandmother Natalia, who was forced to flee her village in Nazareth as a child in 1918 and resettle as a Palestinian refugee in Jordan. With the help of her 19-year-old cousin Omar, Amani begins to decode the mystery embedded in her grandmother’s note, a possible secret at the heart of her family history. And although the novel belongs to Amani, it includes the perspectives of her uncle and father, Hafez and Gabe, who are brothers but opposites. Hafez is a self-centered mover and shaker in modernizing but autocratic Jordan, and Gabe is a quiet contractor living a suburban American life.
Fencing With the King By Diana Abu-Jaber
Family Saga As Diana Abu-Jaber’s novel Fencing With the King (Norton, $26.95, 9780393867718) opens, it’s late 1995 and Amani Hamdan is adrift. At 31, she’s separated from her husband and drinking too much, her poetry and teaching careers on pause. She’s moved back in with her parents, Gabe and
reviews | fiction Abu-Jaber, whose family’s story is reflected here, writes with a poet’s attention to language, and the novel beautifully evokes Jordan, from its modern cities and society parties to its ancient desert sites and Bedouin goatherds, all existing together under the whims of an autocratic kingdom and at a time (the mid-1990s) when peace in the Middle East seemed almost within reach. Fencing With the King is a complicated, character-driven and slow-burning mystery with a satisfying yet openended finale. —Sarah McCraw Crow
H The Cage
By Bonnie Kistler
Thriller The Cage (Harper, $26.99, 9780063089143) is a psychological thriller that’s tailor- made to be read in one breathless session. It’s so fast-paced and wide in scope that it feels almost cinematic. After working late on a Sunday night, Human Resources Director Lucy Barton-Jones and recently hired attorney Shay Lambert get in the elevator to leave the headquarters of fashion empire CDMI. The power goes out, trapping them both. After a frantic 911 call, the power returns and Lucy is dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to Shay, Lucy had a panic attack while stranded in the elevator and killed herself. But her story doesn’t quite add up to the police, especially when they dig into Shay’s past and discover that her resume is full of omissions and lies. The story certainly doesn’t work for Ingram Barrett, CDMI’s senior vice president and general counsel, given the bad press it will bring the company. He hired Shay only months before, and he’s willing to sacrifice her rather than risk the police looking too closely at Lucy’s recent activities. As the novel alternates between the events of the past and the present investigation, we learn how Shay came to be in the elevator that night. Shay is an unreliable narrator, and through her actions, rather than her words, it becomes apparent that her circumstances—financial, romantic and legal— are very different from what she projects. The way author Bonnie Kistler (a former attorney) portrays the contrast between what Shay tells the people around her and what the reader actually sees happening is captivating. You can never fully believe Shay, and as the mystery of Lucy’s death gains more momentum, readers are forced to rely on clues in the background to understand what happened. Lucy’s death isn’t the only mystery here: What were Lucy and Ingram involved with that makes him so eager for the police to arrest Shay
for murder? Who is Shay really, and what’s her endgame? Part locked-room mystery, part legal thriller, The Cage weaves these separate plot lines together so seamlessly that readers will be genuinely shocked by the finale. This thriller is the perfect book for readers who value mind games over violence but still want an explosive ending. —Elyse Discher
By NoViolet Bulawayo
Political Fiction Sooner or later, every country experiences moments of upheaval. Some moments, however, are more consequential than others, such as the 2017 coup that ended the regime of Robert Mugabe as the president of Zimbabwe after four decades in power. That ouster is the inspiration for Glory (Viking, $27, 9780525561132), NoViolet Bulawayo’s follow-up to her 2013 debut novel, We Need New Names, a finalist for the Booker Prize. Bulawayo has found a clever if familiar way to tell the story of a fictional African country and the fall of its leader: Clearly inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the population consists entirely of animals. Known as the Father of the Nation, Old Horse is the leader of Jidada. He held a leadership role in the War of Liberation during the 1970s and has been in power for the past 40 years, his reign “longer than the nine life spans of a hundred cats.” In one of many witty touches, Bulawayo writes that Old Horse’s authority is so great that the sun twerks at his command and blazes with the intensity he desires. Also in power, in her own way, is Old Horse’s wife, a donkey known as Dr. Sweet Mother, who denounces the “depravity” of the Sisters of the Disappeared, a group that demands the return of regime dissenters who have mysteriously vanished. The novel’s action takes off from there, with a pack of dogs known as Defenders determined to protect the current regime; a vice president, also a horse, who schemes to take over; an Opposition convinced that the overthrow of the government will lead to better days; and a goat named Destiny, long exiled from Jidada, who returns after a decade’s absence to reunite with her mother and tell the story of her country’s struggles. Glory is an allegory for the modern age, with references to contemporary world politics, chapters written as a series of tweets, and animals checking social media for updates on fast-changing developments. Animal Farm is the obvious parallel, but some readers will also note the influence of works by Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, especially in
Bulawayo’s extravagant storytelling and critique of colonialism. Late in the novel, Destiny notes “the willingness of citizens to get used to that which should have otherwise been the source of outrage.” As this wise, albeit occasionally repetitive, book makes clear, that’s a cautionary message all countries should heed. —Michael Magras
H Sisters of Night and Fog By Erika Robuck
Historical Fiction In pop culture, the women of the French Resistance often look as though they are poised to step onto a Chanel runway once they dispatch their current obligations. Think Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca or pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s beret-clad cartoon sharpshooter, crying out, “Now, mes petites . . . pour la France!” Our war heroines are often portrayed as beautiful, camera-ready and hypercompetent—but available for rescue by our heroes. In the cinematic sweep of Sisters of Night and Fog (Berkley, $17, 9780593102169), Erika Robuck artfully upends this trope. Although Violette Szabo and Virginia d’Albert-Lake fill central casting’s ideal of la femme de la résistance, they come across as actual people. Because they were. During her meticulous research for The Invisible Woman, her World War II-era novel about Allied spy Virginia Hall, Robuck encountered stories about Szabo and d’Albert-Lake. She initially intended them to be characters in the earlier book, then realized that each woman’s story needed more space, so a trilogy was planned. But when Robuck discovered that the arcs of Szabo and d’Albert-Lake intersected in an almost miraculous way, this novel was born. In many ways, the structure of Sisters of Night and Fog parallels the narrative arc of Roberto Benigni’s 1997 Academy Award-winning film, Life Is Beautiful. When war breaks out, there are rumblings and stirrings, inconveniences and portents. Then, as the monster draws nearer, life takes a quantum leap into something worse but still bearable. In one scene, a woman who houses Violette in Rouen reacts with Gallic stoicism to a pre-bombing leaflet warning her to leave the city: “Petite, I’ve lived seventy years, through two wars. If I go out in a blast, that’s how I go.” Violette and Virginia are not so lucky as that. They both fall into the hands of the Nazis and are moved from jail to concentration camp. Survival is a minute-by-minute endurance test, and Robuck wrings out every sweat-laden drop of emotion
reviews | fiction from their plight. You can almost feel your stomach growl when she describes the half-pint of thin rhubarb soup allotted to the prisoners each day. Horror pervades every corner of the camps, yet Robuck manages to keep humanity’s candle flickering at the gates of hell. Violette and Virginia are two women whose stories needed to be told, particularly now that most of the people who fought in WWII are gone. Robuck has done their memory great honor. —Thane Tierney
The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. By Lee Kravetz
Historical Fiction Even aside from Sylvia Plath’s literary output, there’s always been intense interest in the writer’s short, tragic life, which ended in 1963 with her suicide at age 30. Debut novelist Lee Kravetz’s The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. (Harper, $25.99, 9780063139992) is a fascinating fictional re-creation of Plath’s final decade, a paean to the allure of poetry and an investigation of the mysterious sources of literary inspiration, as told by three women close to Plath. When Plath enters the coveted Boston poetry workshop run by famed poet Robert Lowell, her arrival ignites the professional and personal jealousy of Agatha Gray, a contemporary who publishes under the pseudonym Boston Rhodes. Plath is the Mozart to Rhodes’ Antonio Salieri, “a success in all the ways I was not,” as Rhodes bitterly summarizes it. As she describes in a lengthy, anguished letter to Lowell, Rhodes is convinced that Plath is the only thing standing between her and the status of “Major Voice” in the confessional poetry movement emerging in the 1950s. Estee, a master curator at a struggling Boston auction house, also has her own personal connection to Plath’s story. In 2019, three spiral notebooks containing a previously unknown draft of Plath’s posthumous semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, are discovered in the attic of an abandoned home. As Estee supervises the sale of the notebooks in her final auction before retirement, she wrestles with her misgivings about allowing this literary treasure to pass into private hands. In addition to the voices of these fictional characters, Kravetz introduces Ruth Barnhouse, the real-life psychiatrist at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts who treated Plath with several unconventional therapies following the poet’s first attempted suicide in 1953. Ruth describes her
difficult work with Plath’s persistent depression in a series of candid journal entries: “Miss Plath is no longer chasing literary prizes, top marks, or perfection,” she writes. “I fear she is chasing death itself.” Rotating between the three voices, Kravetz skillfully orchestrates a chorus of regret and longing that swirls around Plath. The women, each of whom has been touched by Plath in markedly different ways, try to make sense of their lives and their relationship to hers. Into this narrative Kravetz cleverly inserts a subplot that pursues the mystery of how Plath’s notebooks fall into the hands of a pair of aliterate Boston house flippers. The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. will intrigue admirers of Plath’s work and likely introduce her to a new group of readers. —Harvey Freedenberg
H A River Enchanted By Rebecca Ross
Fantasy A River Enchanted ( Ha r p e r Voya g e r, $27.99, 9780063055988), Rebecca Ross’ adult fiction debut, is an elegant fantasy novel of homecoming and mystery. With its lyrical prose and tight world building, this story is both modern and timeless, drawing from the traditions of genre greats like Steven Lawhead and marrying them to the sensibilities of modern works like Genevieve Gornichec’s The Witch’s Heart and Tana French’s In the Woods. The novel opens with the prodigal Jack Tamerlaine’s return to Cadence, the isle of his youth, a land where magic and spirits run free and gossip is carried on the wind as easily as smoke. He soon learns that young girls are going missing on Cadence, seemingly plucked from the air by a formless spirit, leaving no trace of them behind. Adaira, heiress to the laird and Jack’s childhood nemesis, has summoned Jack back to the island to help her find out exactly what has happened to the girls—and to get them back before it’s too late. She wants him to sing down the spirits as her mother once did so that Adaira can ask them what matter of mischief is afoot. But as Jack and Adaira delve deeper into the mystery, the spirits begin to suggest that a far darker secret lies behind the loss of the girls. Already known for her young adult fantasy novels, Ross has created a world both rich and wonderful in Cadence. The island is full of so much magic, so many feuds and stories—enough that capturing them all in one novel, even a nearly 500-page one, seems a difficult task. But somehow Ross succeeds, guiding readers through the intricate warp and weft of the island and its traditions and creating a brilliant tapestry full of mystery and wonder. And while Ross does revel in world building, she doesn’t tell
her story at a remove. The four characters that the book centers on—Jack, Adaira, guardsman Torin and healer Sidra—are vibrant and fully realized, keeping the myth-making quality of the book at bay and instead grounding the story in these characters’ heartaches and fears, their desires and attractions. A sublime mix of romance, intrigue and myth, A River Enchanted is a stunning addition to the canon of Celtic-inspired fantasy. —Laura Hubbard
H Dead Collections By Isaac Fellman
Literary Fiction There’s a magic to Isaac Fellman’s fiction, born of his depth of perception, precise prose and straightforward sense of expression. In his second novel, Dead Collections (Penguin, $17, 9780143136910), his characters’ earnestness and warmth make even the darkest moments beautiful, in a way that will remind the reader of the work of Anne Rice and Stephen Graham Jones. Fellman tells the tale of two souls searching the depths of their experiences for something—and seemingly finding it in each other. Sol is a trans archivist who manages his vampirism by living among the collections in the basement of his workplace. His carefully cultivated isolation begins to shift when he meets Elsie, an alluring widow who brings in her late wife’s papers for archiving. As Sol digs into the writer’s work, he also begins to discover Elsie’s curious spirit. Elsie reciprocates, and as their spark kindles into something more, Sol must contend not just with the possibility of venturing out into the world but also with a newfound blight that seems to be seeping into his professional life. Through a combination of Sol’s incisive narration, message board entries, script books and other formalist flights of experimentation, Fellman lays out Sol’s and Elsie’s parallel journeys with propulsive, intense focus. The prose unfolds with notable determination, and there’s not a single wasted word, even when Fellman plays with format and frame of reference. Whether he’s conjuring the image of Sol soaking his hands in warm water to give the illusion of body heat or the way Elsie uses light to mimic the experience of daylight for her vampire friend, Fellman’s style is vivid, specific and deeply evocative. On a sentence level, Dead Collections is a sensual, tactile work, and when combined with Fellman’s confident grasp of his characters, it becomes a wonderful, bittersweet journey in which you may get happily lost. —Matthew Jackson
reviews | nonfiction
H Scoundrel By Sarah Weinman
True Crime Edgar Smith is not one of the names that comes to mind when one thinks of storied American killers, but according to the superb crime writer and journalist Sarah Weinman, he was at one point “perhaps the most famous convict in America.” Convicted for the brutal 1957 murder of 15-yearold Vickie Zielinski in New Jersey, Smith spent years on death row claiming he was innocent. His story caught the eye of conservative millionaire William F. Buckley Jr., who befriended Smith and helped him publish his story in a bestselling book. After years of legal wrangling, Smith was released from prison and became a passionate advocate for prison reform. But then? Smith was caught attempting to abduct a woman in California in 1976. After he stabbed and beat her, the woman managed to escape. He confessed to killing Zielinski while being tried for his second crime, and ultimately died in prison in 2017. Scoundrel (Ecco, $28.99,
H The Invisible Kingdom By Meghan O’Rourke
Memoir In her early 20s, Meghan O’Rourke began to experience an array of symptoms— fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, hives, fever, a sensation of electric shocks along her legs and arms—that neither doctors nor bloodwork could connect to a diagnosis. When one doctor suggested that O’Rourke might have an autoimmune disease, a condition in which the immune system begins to turn on the body, O’Rourke recalled her practical Irish aunts who lived with rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s disease and ulcerative colitis, all autoimmune diseases. As O’Rourke entered her 30s, her symptoms grew worse, despite seeing multiple specialists. She found herself barely able to leave her apartment, let alone have the baby she’d been hoping for. O’Rourke is the author of three collections of poetry and a memoir, The Long Goodbye. In her latest hybrid memoir, The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness (Riverhead, $28, 9781594633799), she chronicles her long search for healing, layering in extensive reporting on the rise of chronic illness and autoimmune disease
9780062899767) is the electric story of a man who managed to fool everyone around him: his wife, his mother, the famous neoconservative who founded the National Review and even the legal system. The most interesting detail Weinman uncovered during her research for Scoundrel is that Smith had an affair with his editor, Sophie Wilkins—or at least as much of an affair as one can have from the confines of prison. Weinman found a trove of correspondence from Smith to Wilkins, some of which are love letters and others of which are more sexually graphic. “Those long letters, exceeding twenty single-spaced pages, weren’t sent through the Trenton State prison system, lest
and the way our medical system fails to see ailments that aren’t readily diagnosable or easily treated. Likewise, she notes that autoimmune diseases are far more likely to affect women, and women, in turn, are more likely to be told that their symptoms are all in their heads. “Of the nearly one hundred women I interviewed, all of whom were eventually diagnosed with an autoimmune disease or other concrete illness, more than 90 percent had been encouraged to seek treatment for anxiety or depression by doctors who told them nothing physical was wrong with them,” she writes. O’Rourke examines her own experience with a lucid but compassionate lens, and she brings that same mix of analysis and compassion to the book’s reporting. It’s a delicate balancing act to write about a long journey of misery without being tedious or repetitive. She pulls it off by adding lyrical imagery and the words of other writers, such as Alice James and Susan Sontag, to her descriptions of suffering, the peculiar treatments she found herself undergoing, and the effect her quest for healing had on her marriage. And yes, the book reaches a happy, though not uncomplicated, ending. While it’s especially useful for those who have personally encountered chronic illness, The Invisible Kingdom will add to everyone’s understanding of disease and health. Ultimately it offers a fresh image of what good medicine could look like: doctors understanding each patient as a whole person, not just as a collection of parts. —Sarah McCraw Crow
snooping censors create problems and revoke the privileges of its increasingly famous Death House inmate,” Weinman writes. Instead, Smith gave the letters to his lawyers, who passed them along to Wilkins. Wilkins would later claim she was only using Smith’s affection to produce the best book possible, but the letters suggest a more complicated and sincere relationship between the pair. Despite his crimes happening more than 60 years ago, Weinman paints a complete portrait of Smith in all his complexity, with an unsettling ending that left me breathless. A chilling and deeply satisfying read, Scoundrel injects life into a story nearly forgotten by time. —Amy Scribner
The Trials of Harry S. Truman By Jeffrey Frank
American History When F ra n k l i n Delano Roosevelt died in April 1945, World War II was not over. His successor, Harry S. Truman, faced crucial choices both then and in the years to come. Some, such as the custody and use of nuclear weapons, had never been faced by another president. As Truman’s longest serving secretary of state, Dean Acheson, said of that period, “Not only is the future clouded but the present is clouded.” As president, Truman was forced to make quick and risky decisions in a time of war scares, rampant anti-communism, the beginning of the Cold War, stubborn labor strikes and petty scandals. When he left office after almost eight tumultuous years, his approval rating was 31%. More recently, however, historians have begun to consider him in the category of “near great” presidents. Jeffrey Frank, author of the bestselling Ike and Dick, considers Truman’s achievements and misjudgments in the engaging and insightful The Trials of Harry S. Truman: The Extraordinary Presidency of an Ordinary Man, 1945–1953 (Simon & Schuster, $32.50, 9781501102899). In
reviews | nonfiction Frank’s assessment, Truman was “a complicated man concealed behind a mask of down-home forthrightness and folksy language.” Truman thought the point of being a politician was to improve the lives of his fellow citizens. Overwhelmed at times, he at least made some excellent cabinet choices, such as George Marshall and Acheson. At the beginning of his presidency, Truman needed to conclude the war and assist in the founding of the United Nations. Other milestones followed, including the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, the Berlin airlift, the recognition of the state of Israel, the creation of NATO, the dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur and more. Truman’s two most controversial decisions, to use the atomic bomb and to enter the Korean War, are covered in detail here. On domestic matters, Truman worked for a national health care program but was ultimately unsuccessful. In 1948 he sent a civil rights program to Congress that included a Fair Employment Practices Act, an anti-poll tax bill, an anti-lynching law and an end to segregated interstate travel, but it also failed to gain enough support. The first detailed account of the Truman presidency in almost 30 years, The Trials of Harry S. Truman is very readable. Anyone who wants to go behind the scenes of those pivotal years will enjoy this book. —Roger Bishop
H The Bald Eagle By Jack E. Davis
Nature Gliding on prose as majestic as his subject, Pulitzer Prizewinning environmental historian Jack E. Davis conveys the breathtaking splendor of the most famous American bird in The Bald Eagle (Liveright, $29.95, 9781631495250). This bird’s fierce magnificence elevated it to the status of a national symbol that has dominated American iconography from the founding of the Republic to the present. As Davis points out in his rich cultural and natural history, no other avian species—indeed, no other animal—has “to the same extreme been the simultaneous object of reverence and recrimination.” Before Europeans colonized North America, somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 bald eagles flew and nested in the wild. In spite of the bald eagle’s appearance on the national seal in 1782, not every national leader embraced the eagle; Benjamin Franklin famously called the eagle “a bird of bad moral character who does not get his living honestly.” The bald eagle’s rapacious ways
did not sit well with the ranchers and hunters who decimated the species’ population either. “With ornithologists and popular culture portraying eagles as inveterate kidnappers, the myth became a green light for ranchers and farmers to shoot and poison bald eagles in the name of predator control and economic security,” Davis writes. In the 1960s and ’70s, the bald eagle population declined even further because of the widespread use of the chemical pesticide DDT. However, Davis’ spellbinding story doesn’t end there. In the second half of the book, he points to individuals and organizations that have worked tirelessly to pull the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction and restore its numbers, which are now estimated to be as high as they were before European contact with America. Davis concludes with a stirring paean to the bald eagle’s resilience: “Living for itself rather than for humankind, it pursued the evolutionary will for self-preservation and set an example of what can be.” The Bald Eagle swoops and soars in a dazzling display of writing, evoking the bald eagle’s majesty as it explores the eagle’s place in American history and legend, as well as its role in cultivating a robust environmental movement. —Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
H Off the Edge By Kelly Weill
Social Science We all have one. That friend or relative who cannot hold a conversation without bringing up their pet conspiracy theory. The one who believes COVID-19 is a hoax or that a certain former secretary of state actually wore a mask made from the face of a dead child. The one who frightens and confuses you in equal measure, leaving you to wonder what happened to your dear friend or favorite uncle. The one you might be thinking about cutting off, because the mere thought of listening to one more lecture about the faked moon landing sends you around the bend. Before you do, however, you really should read Off the Edge: Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture, and Why People Will Believe Anything (Algonquin, $27.95, 9781643750682) by Daily Beast reporter Kelly Weill. Since starting at The Daily Beast in 2016, Weill has focused on how conspiracy theories flourish on social media. In Off the Edge, Weill uses flat-eartherism as a case study, documenting its surprising roots in a 19th-century socialist utopian commune, its truly astonishing endurance and popularity, and its links to other conspiracy theories, including
QAnon. In addition to conducting meticulous research for her debut book, Weill had searching and substantive conversations with flat-earth believers that informed her understanding of how conspiracy theories evolve, grow and converge. She is especially critical of the role YouTube and Facebook have played in this history, but she is equally clear that the mainstream media, including some of her own articles, are also at fault. Weill’s investigation of flat-eartherism makes clear that adherence to a conspiracy theory is not intellectual but emotional. Fear and uncertainty about the world and one’s place in it fuel a desperate desire for clarity—even if that clarity is rooted in a nonsensical worldview that drives a wedge between the believer and their loved ones. But there’s still hope for these broken relationships. Weill shows that people can and do recover from their fever dreams, but not through intellectual argumentation alone. If the exploitation of fear can divide us, only compassion and openheartedness can lay the groundwork to draw us together again. —Deborah Mason
H The Far Land By Brandon Presser
Travelogue The tale of a British ship called the Bounty and the subsequent mutiny of some of its sailors has been endlessly scrutinized, romanticized and depicted ever since the event occurred in the late 1700s. With so many memoirs, historical accounts and fictional tales based on the Bounty’s story, it’s easy to assume that nothing new could be unearthed or written about it. But in his debut book, The Far Land: 200 Years of Murder, Mania, and Mutiny in the South Pacific (PublicAffairs, $30, 9781541758575), travel journalist Brandon Presser does exactly that, and brilliantly. By sifting through many of these prior texts, as well as other resources such as captain’s logs and interviews, Presser has managed to create a fact-based book that reads as grippingly as any thriller. As a travel writer, Presser has crisscrossed the world to report on memorable locales and adventures. When he was offered the chance to do a story on Pitcairn, the tiny, isolated isle in the South Pacific that became the home of the Bounty’s mutineers, and where 48 of their descendants still live, he knew he had to take it, driven by his need “to know what happened when you fell off the map.” Visiting Pitcairn, a month’s journey from his home in New York, certainly falls into that category. Presser spent three years researching and writing this thorough account of the mutiny on the
feature | women’s history month Bounty and its aftermath. In the process, Presser spent time on both Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island in Australia, where some of the mutineers’ descendants later migrated. His narrative toggles between past and present, fleshing out the timeline of events—epic in nature and sprawling in scope—and cast of characters, particularly the Tahitians who accompanied the mutineers to Pitcairn and whose roles have previously been underrepresented. Although some facts remain a mystery (such as the breaking point that made Fletcher Christian snap and take over the ship from Captain William Bligh), Presser’s detailed interpretation allows many of the formerly fuzzy pieces to fall into place. His personal experience on the islands combined with fastidious research make The Far Land such an incredible, unforgettable tale that Presser had to stress in an author’s note that it is “indeed a work of nonfiction.” —Becky Libourel Diamond
My Mess Is a Bit of a Life By Georgia Pritchett
Memoir Episodic, quirky, absurd: These are a few of the words that describe Emmy Awardwinning comedy writer Georgia Pritchett’s memoir, My Mess Is a Bit of a Life (HarperOne, $27.99, 9780063206373). Pritchett, best known for her work on “Succession” and “Veep,” writes in short bursts that echo her anxiety, which is central to how she experiences the world. The zany, tilt-a-whirl fun vignettes in My Mess Is a Bit of a Life fly by quickly at first. The memoir gains traction, though, as Pritchett transitions from adolescence to her tentative forays into comedy writing. She describes stepping around Oxfordeducated men in a series of fascinating stories about being the only female writer in the room. Pritchett’s natural reserve and distance served her well then; public criticism only made her more determined. With time, her steel began to shine through, tempered by sensitivity, kindness and an off-center oddness she treasured and shared in her work. Where I personally became fully immersed in the memoir was after Pritchett had her son, who has autism. She was told he wouldn’t speak. When she sent him to school, she sensed she was “putting him in a cupboard,” so she took him out of school and worked out a Plan B. Her poignant honesty about motherhood, coupled with her fierceness and creativity, made me a true fan of the book, which is one that readers will not soon forget. —Kelly Blewett
Setting the record straight These women’s stories were distorted, buried or erased—until now. From the Middle Ages to Reconstruction and beyond, women’s experiences have been undervalued—and therefore underdocumented. Two nonfiction books restore fascinating women to the historical record.
The Dark Queens Sure, the Plantagenets fought each other for a couple of generations, and the Tudors had wives and dynastic rivals beheaded. But if you think their reigns were bloody, just wait until you meet the Merovingians, the riveting royal family in Shelley Puhak’s The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World (Bloomsbury, $30, 9781635574913). The Merovingians were the rulers of the Franks in the Middle Ages, in territory now encompassing most of France and western Germany. History books have tended to neglect them—but two Merovingian queens have survived in legend and art, in much distorted forms. Puhak, an acclaimed poet, now brings a feminist eye to Queens Brunhild and Fredegund, who in real life were savvy, powerful and dangerous women. Brunhild, a Visigoth princess, and Fredegund, a formerly enslaved woman who charmed her way to a throne, were married to half-brothers, each of whom ruled over part of the Frankish territory. The brothers were deadly competitors, and after they were both assassinated, their widows took power as regents for young sons and continued the savage rivalry. Murders, kidnappings, perilous escapes, suicide missions, poisoned knives, marriage plots, witchcraft allegations: This book has them all. Fredegund, the more vicious ruler, attempted 12 assassinations and succeeded at six. Brunhild maneuvered her way into regencies for her son, grandsons and great-grandsons. One queen died in her bed; the other met an end so horrible that it’s the only thing many French people know about her—especially since the king who ultimately succeeded to both their thrones consciously erased them from history in a Stalin-esque purge. Puhak doesn’t pretend these women weren’t ruthless in their pursuit of power, but she also acknowledges the misogynist social and political context that shaped them. Most of all, The Dark Queens demonstrates that Brunhild’s and
Fredegund’s names deserve to be in the historical annals as much as any king’s. —Anne Bartlett
H To Walk About in Freedom Civil War scholar Carole Emberton titled this insightful study of “freedom’s charter generation,” the first group of enslaved people to be emancipated in 1865, after a soothing quote from the Bible (Psalm 119:45). But she is clear: There was nothing easy about this walk away from slavery for the Black Americans of the Jim Crow South. Their stories, gathered in interviews by the Federal Writers’ Project during the Great Depression, are carefully retold in To Walk About in Freedom (Norton, $28.95, 9781324001829), a necessary, judicious correction to previously published accounts. A project funded under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the FWP sent mostly white interviewers across the South to record the stories of formerly enslaved people who were still living. But before publication, the interviews underwent heavy editing to make them align with a more wistful vision of the South’s past. It would take Sterling Brown, a Black poet and FWP leader, to insist on authenticity and restore the interviewees’ words. Almost a century later, here they are. Emberton’s book especially focuses on one woman, Priscilla Joyner, who told her life story to the FWP. Born in 1858, Joyner was never formally enslaved, yet her struggle to be free lasted for her entire lifetime. The white woman who called herself Joyner’s mother did little to nurture or protect her. Joyner’s darker skin enraged her white siblings, who tormented her until, as a teenager, she was abruptly given away to a Black family. Within that community, Joyner found her people, went to school for the first time, wore ribbons in her hair and dresses that fit, and fell in love. Yet she and her family continued to struggle against inequities in pay, health care, education and professional opportunities. Emberton’s attention to detail, whether she’s describing an inept FWP interviewer, an intimidated storyteller or the heavy-handed project editor, succeeds in debunking any nostalgia attached to the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy. —Priscilla Kipp
behind the book | allison saft
FI NDI NG TH E S OURCE OF T RUE M AGIC YA fantasy author Allison Saft explains how she created alchemical wonders in A Far Wilder Magic. Allison Saft’s second YA novel is an enchanting tale about two young people, Margaret and Wes, who are drawn together in pursuit of a mythical fox purported to hold alchemical power. Throughout the story, Saft creates magic that feels astonishingly real. Here, she offers a deeper look at A Far Wilder Magic and explores how she gave life to the imaginary world of New Albion.
every choice Stiefvater makes. It’s the way I feel the characters—and by extension, for readers— when I close the book each time: like home is a in other ways. That challenge, I think, was what place I have never been before. That was the most drove me as I wrote A Far Wilder Magic. important lesson I carI’d argue that the true ried with me as I set out source of magic lies in point of view. The to write A Far Wilder details that a characMagic: Magic isn’t a thing, it’s a feeling. ter notices allow me to It was something of a conjure an entire world. ••• My job as an author is to revelation, since I most The idea for A Far Wilder Magic came to me often find myself gravconvince readers that there is magic in even in a glimmer of what felt like magic. For much of itating toward magic 2019, writing felt impossible. I’d recently finished that works like science. the smallest things. To revisions on what would become my debut novel, In New Albion, where do this, I think about what associations my moved halfway across the country and was desperA Far Wilder Magic is narrator attaches to a ately trying to figure out what my next idea would set, magic is alchemy. be. I wrote a quarter of a new book and immediIn our (real) world, particular place. What alchemists strove for ately trunked it. I despaired that I would never fall memories does a parpurification and perin love with a book again. ticular smell awaken for In writing circles, inspiration is often figured as a fection. Among their them? What are their goals were the transeyes drawn to when lightning strike, or else something that seizes upon you at 2 a.m. and refuses to let go. Now that I’ve formation of base they step into a room? metals into gold and gone through this cycle a few times, I’ve come to What gossip have they the distillation of an understand it as something that dwells beneath heard about another elixir for eternal life. unturned stones. You have to go looking for it. In character? Alchemy was a philthat fallow period in the months before I began Page by page, my setting and characters outlining A Far Wilder Magic, I began searching osophical pursuit as accrue meaning and for it in books. much as it was a scientexture and history. I tific one, and I wanted I found it in The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s a delightfully odd book and easto capture both of these can convince my readers that my protagonist ily one of my favorites. Few other books have aspects when I put my own spin on it. managed to capture my imagination in the same is someone with a life, way. I reread it every year, weeping inconsolably Just as real alcheone that began before A Far Wilder Magic through the last 50 pages of my yellowing papermists did, practitioners the reader and will conWednesday, $18.99, 9781250623652 back edition. of magic in New Albion tinue after they close the book for the last And it isn’t just me. Every year, on the first day of aim to make sense of Fantasy the world, to demysNovember, thousands of people share the book’s time. Through the protagonist’s fears, desires and memories, the setting first line on social media: “It is the first day of tify it. Industries have sprung up around alchembecomes a place the reader could visit, if only they ized goods, from cosmetics to fashion to military November and so, today, someone will die.” The Scorpio Races possesses a powerful magic indeed, to technology, and becoming a licensed alchemist knew the way. Books like that fill me with yearncompel its readership to treat the races like an event affords social status and political clout. Yet as ing that almost knocks me breathless, a nostalgia for something I’ve never had at all. That, to me, is we can set our calendars by, and I was determined New Albion modernized, its inexplicable magic far more fantastical than any alchemical reaction. to understand the began to vanish. workings of the “My job as an author is to convince All but one of the Sometimes I feel as though Margaret and Wes, spell Stiefvater mythical beasts the main characters of A Far Wilder Magic, are readers that there is magic in even have been killed, friends I could call. I carried them with me for had woven. and the last one During that 2019 months, imagining that they walked beside me and the smallest things.” is hunted each read-through, what wondering how they would respond to the things year in a sporting event. When magic is a part struck me most about the novel is that the most around me. Envisioning the world through their of everyday life, when it is in itself mundane, magical thing in it isn’t the mythical water horses points of view made me permeable to wonder in a way I’d never been before. or the race itself. It’s the atmosphere that informs an author needs to create a sense of wonder for
© LISA DENEFFE
feature | young adult fantasy
MORE M AG IC A L RE ADS Load up your TBR with these can’t-miss fantasy titles. Have you ever held your breath as you opened a door, hoping to step into a whole new world on the other side, or longed to pick up a sword and join the battle for all that’s right and good? If so, these two fabulous YA fantasy novels are for you.
In a way, A Far Wilder Magic is an archive of the things I was enchanted by as I drafted it: the color of a wave when struck by sunlight; the humbling, silent enormity of the redwoods; the whisper of the wind through the grass; the view from a mountaintop; people, from their most insignificant, charming quirks to their immense capacity for kindness and cruelty. And maybe most of all, the things you notice about the person you love.
“Magic isn’t a thing, it’s a feeling.” The title of A Far Wilder Magic refers to a specific line in the book: “Like this, she looks more wolf than girl, like some magic far wilder than alchemy runs through her.” Although Margaret and Wes initially dislike each other, in this moment, Wes sees something pass over Margaret’s face that renders her almost mythic to him. Throughout the book, he can’t stop noticing small things about her, all the little details that build to something unaccountable. Without even realizing it was happening, he’s fallen in love with her. The wildest magic in New Albion isn’t alchemy. It’s something more intangible. —Allison Saft
Olivia Prior has spent her entire life at the Merilance School for Independent Girls, a gray, loveless place haunted by half-formed ghouls only she can see. Although the ghosts are unsettling, it’s actually the mysterious journal her mother left behind that keeps Olivia up at night. Filled with ominous drawings in dark ink that suggest her mother descended into madness, the journal tells a story Olivia can’t untangle. One day, a letter arrives that reveals Olivia has living family members after all and summons her home to Gallant, her family’s estate. But Gallant has ghosts of its own, and within the sprawling house Olivia finds more questions than answers. A gate in the garden leads to a twisted world of dust and death, family portraits are missing from the halls, and a cousin insists that Olivia should leave while she still can. Yet no amount of secrets or nightmares can dissuade Olivia from claiming her place in the Prior family. In her first YA novel since 2017, V. E. Schwab explores what it means to have a home and how a house can be a haven for one person and a prison for another. She juxtaposes the pain of losing family with the pain of never knowing one, as characters struggle to preserve whatever scraps of love and comfort they manage to find. Such fragile familial bonds stand in stark contrast to the macabre imagery of the world beyond the garden gate. When Olivia, who cannot speak and uses sign language, meets someone who also signs, or finds traces of her mother through objects in her bedroom, or shares a moment at the piano with her cousin, these moments carry real emotional weight. But as Olivia discovers more about her past and a connection to the darker side of Gallant, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to hold onto her newfound family. In addition to its narrative text, Gallant (Greenwillow, $18.99, 9780062835772) incorporates reproductions of entries from Olivia’s mother’s journal, and dreamlike illustrations by Manuel Šumberac enhance the story’s moody atmosphere. The result is a cryptic tale of familial
love and loss that’s perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Seanan McGuire. —RJ Witherow
H Squire Because its military ranks have been decimated by famine, the Bayt-Sajji empire has expanded its squire training program to enlist young people from conquered territories. Aiza is a member of the Ornu people, who are treated like second-class citizens. She is deeply familiar with the oppression and discrimination that plague the empire but still dreams of becoming a knight. Once Aiza joins up, her visions of grandeur and heroism are quickly replaced by the harsh reality of grueling training, complicated new relationships and pressure to keep her Ornu identity a secret. As Aiza learns more about the empire, she realizes that its knights may not be as noble as she once thought. Eventually, she must decide where her loyalties truly lie. Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas’ graphic novel, Squire (Quill Tree, $14.99, 9780062945846), takes readers on a heart-pounding adventure set in a fantasy world inspired by the Middle East and North Africa. Aiza is charming and spunky, and although she can seem naive as she chases her lofty dreams, she also admirably clings to her desire to do good. Squire explores complex, ambitious questions: What happens when our dreams don’t turn out like we imagined? Who creates history, and whose stories are left out or lost? What should we do when we are ordered to compromise what we believe is right? Alfageeh’s illustrations brim with lush backgrounds and charming details. She excels at drawing expressive characters and conveying a range of emotion and movement, from silly banter between friends to fast-paced battle scenes bright with action and feeling. This is a graphic novel with detailed, poignant illustrations worth lingering over. Shammas and Alfageeh have created a story that successfully balances both exciting fantasy and resonant realism. Squire demonstrates how anyone, from earnest heroes to sneaky villains, can become tangled up in webs of social and political systems bigger and more powerful than a single person. But it also shows how, sometimes, it just takes one person to make a meaningful difference in the world. —Tami Orendain
reviews | young adult
H All My Rage By Sabaa Tahir
Fiction Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in the Ashes quartet is one of the most influential YA fantasy series of the past decade. In All My Rage (Razorbill, $19.99, 9780593202340), Tahir proves she’s just as skilled at realistic fiction. All My Rage alternates between the perspectives of former best friends Salahudin and Noor. As the novel opens, both teens feel trapped in Juniper, their small town surrounded by the Mojave Desert. Earlier in their senior year, Noor told Sal about the romantic feelings she’d been harboring for him, but Sal rejected her, and they haven’t spoken since. Sal’s parents, Misbah and Toufiq, run a roadside motel that has seen better days. Misbah has been skipping treatments for her kidney disease, and Toufiq is drunk more than he’s sober. Noor’s uncle adopted her when she was 6, but he resents that raising her meant deferring his own dreams and
Great or Nothing
By Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood
Historical Fiction During times of war, every person must make their own choices— and their own sacrifices. Meg, Jo and Amy March face both choices and sacrifices after their sister Beth dies and the United States enters World War II in Great or Nothing (Delacorte, $18.99, 9780593372593), a creative retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women co-written by Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood. The novel begins a few months after Beth’s death. Her sisters have had a bitter falling-out and are scattered across the world. Jo has given up writing and moved to a big city to work in an airplane factory. Amy has set aside her art and, without telling her family, joined the Red Cross in London. Meg has remained at home to teach high school and wait for John Brooke to return home from the war. Each sister struggles with who she is growing up to become. Amy wrestles with the secret life she’s living, which becomes a bigger issue when she encounters Jo’s friend Laurie in a hospital in
wants her to take over running his liquor store when she graduates. Noor has been secretly applying to colleges and ignoring the texts from Sal’s mom asking when she’s going to visit so they can watch their favorite TV show together again. Yet when Misbah’s health takes a turn for the worse, it’s Noor who’s in her hospital room to hear her last word: “Forgive.” Noor and Sal reconcile and grow closer while keeping secrets from each other. As the truth comes to light, Sal and Noor must both decide what can—and should—be forgiven. All My Rage takes the often cliched all-American trope of two young people who long to leave their small town behind and fills it with moral complexity and emotional heft. The book’s six sections each open with a stanza from “One Art,” Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle about grief and “the art of losing,” which Noor struggles to write a paper about for English class. Sal and Noor
experience numerous losses, and Tahir excels at conveying how trauma and tragedy ripple outward, shaping even the lives of those who seem untouched by darkness. Tahir explores weighty questions, such as how we can forgive someone for hurting us when they should have been protecting us, but she includes frequent moments of wry levity and solace, especially the comfort Noor finds in music and the Muslim faith she shared with Sal’s mother. All My Rage will likely make you cry, but it will definitely make you smile, too. “If we are lost, God is like water, finding the unknowable path when we cannot,” Misbah tells Noor. Tahir’s invitation to join Sal and Noor on their search for such a path feels like a gift every step of the way. —Stephanie Appell
England. Jo yearns to write again and to understand how she feels about her friend’s sister, Charlie, an adventurous reporter. Meg debates whether marrying John will make her happy. And Beth, who contributes sections in verse from beyond the grave, wonders whether the choices she made in life were the right ones. Great or Nothing will be enjoyed equally by devotees of Alcott’s novel and readers who are completely unfamiliar with it. The book’s co-authors impressively tell a cohesive, complete story in four separate narrative threads using four distinct voices. By the end, readers will feel a unique connection to each sister and her heartbreaks and joys. This is a compelling and tender historical comingof-age novel with wide appeal. —Kevin Delecki
jump at the chance to buy it. They plan to restore it to its former glory and sell it. Tagging along on the trip to pick up the car is Flaco’s crush, Susi. But when a man is murdered and Susi is falsely arrested for the crime, the boys must embark on a journey to Mexico to clear her name. The quest puts these friends’ lives in jeopardy but also transforms them into the men they have always hoped to become. Diamond Park (Dutton, $17.99, 9780593354254) is a poignant, powerful story about a compelling group of teens. Flaco knows his mother wants more for him than the meager living she earns. He wants to become an artist, but she’s pushing him to study medicine or law. Magaña worries that his only option will be to work at AutoZone. And despite his stellar grades, Tiny can’t apply to college because his parents entered the country without documentation when he was a child. Through their stories, author Phillippe Diederich offers a moving depiction of the injustice, poverty and trauma that many new Americans experience. In Mexico, Flaco begins to find his way toward hope when he reflects on how his life would have been different if his mother hadn’t come to the U.S. “It’s weird how one decision made by one person changes everything for everyone who comes later,” he thinks. There’s hope, too, when tough-talking Magaña has an epiphany of his own: “We need to shoot for more than what they expect from us.” Tense, raw and gorgeously written, Diamond Park will resonate with any reader who, in a world that provides ample reason for pessimism, strives instead for optimism. —Kimberly Giarratano
H Diamond Park By Phillippe Diederich
Mystery Rafael “ F l a c o” Herrera and his friends, Magaña and Tiny, live in an impoverished Houston neighborhood where their choices for the future are limited. So when they hear that Magaña’s godfather is storing a rare 1959 Chevy Impala in a barn in a South Texas town called Diamond Park, they
feature | women’s history for children
Tidal forces Get inspired by three women who changed the world by helping others. There’s an adage that says a rising tide lifts all boats. These three picture books introduce women who improved the lives of not only those around them but also those in the future, for generations to come.
One Wish Fatima al-Fihri was born around 800 A.D. in what is now Tunisia, but her spirit leaps across the centuries and jumps off the page from the very first sentence of M.O. Yuksel’s lyrical recounting of her life. “Fatima craved knowledge like desert flowers crave rain,” she writes. As readers will learn in One Wish: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University (HarperCollins, $18.99, 9780063032910), al-Fihri was tutored at home, since only boys attended school. That didn’t stop al-Fihri from dreaming of creating a school where everyone was welcome. Drawing on a scant historical record, Yuksel crafts a fully realized portrait of the woman credited with founding the University of Al-Qarawiyyin, one of the oldest continuously operating institutions of higher education in the world. Mariam Quraishi’s stellar illustrations evoke al-Fihri’s world, from the lively souq filled with vendors and shoppers to the sun that shines down on the builders turning al-Fihri’s dream into a reality. Greens, purples, reds and yellows pop against a sandy-colored desert background. A dark blue night sky is particularly striking on a spread in which war forces young al-Fihri and her family to flee Tunisia for Morocco. Yuksel skillfully portrays the role that al-Fihri’s Muslim faith, with its value of charity, played in shaping her dream. The book’s back matter includes a detailed timeline of notable events in the history of Al-Qarawiyyin University as well as a discussion of the school’s ongoing mission, all of which offer fodder for lively conversations about learning through the centuries. One Wish is an eye-opening account about a little-known woman’s amazing hope for education for all.
Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight In 2002, the U.S. Congress renamed Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, a law that prohibits federally funded educational organizations from discriminating on the basis of sex. Title IX is now officially known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. Jen Bryant and Toshiki Nakamura exuberantly bring the story of Mink and her many accomplishments to life in Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight: Patsy Takemoto Mink and the Fight for Title IX (Quill Tree, $17.99, 9780062957221). After becoming the first woman of color elected to Congress, Mink co-sponsored a bill that would require schools to treat men and women equally. Bryant excels at giving a sense of the broad sweep of historical events that Mink witnessed throughout her life. She grew up in Hawaii amid the Great Depression, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the campaign for Hawaii to achieve statehood and more. She also faced numerous obstacles, including discrimination because of her gender and her Japanese heritage. Bryant roots Mink’s determination in two lessons she learned as a child: one based on the Japanese proverb that serves as the book’s title and one derived
from the tradition of the Daruma doll. Nakamura’s energetic, approachable illustrations show young Mink painting one of the doll’s eyes to signify setting a goal, then painting the other eye after achieving it. Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight transforms Mink’s life into a rousing quest for justice and equality. Mink’s perseverance will inspire young readers to continue working to reach their own goals.
H Sanctuary “Who decides who gets the condo and who gets the cardboard box?” Kip Tiernan asked the world. Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women (Candlewick, $18.99, 9781536211290) is the informative story of Tiernan’s life as an advocate for people experiencing homelessness. Author Christine McDonnell, who has taught English to immigrants at Rosie’s Place, explains how Tiernan was raised during the Great Depression by her grandmother, who always shared food with anyone who knocked on her door. As an adult in the late 1960s, Tiernan began working at Warwick House, a charitable organization. She opened Rosie’s Place in Boston in 1974 after seeing women disguise themselves as men to try and obtain food and temporary housing, since shelters didn’t accept women. “...a heartfelt novel about finding joy, Victoria Tentler-Krylov’s atmopurpose, and human connection, even spheric illustrations draw readers while grieving those you’ve lost.” into Tiernan’s surroundings with —Lisl H. Detlefsen, author of Time for Cranberries immediacy and emotion. Shades of gray dominate early scenes of hungry people huddling in the snow, thankfully breathing in the steam from bowls of Tiernan’s grandmother’s soup. As Tiernan’s dedication to uplifting the lives of others grows, so does the amount of color within the book’s spreads, whether it’s through vegetables on a nourishing plate or the bright stripes and floral prints worn by the women at Rosie’s Place. Back matter, which includes an exploration of the causes of homeMiddle lessness and inspiring quotations Grade from Tiernan herself, rounds out the book. Sanctuary would sit comfortably on a shelf alongside titles such as Diane O’Neill and laurabirdbooks.com Brizida Magro’s Saturday at the Food Pantry and Jillian Tamaki’s FOR ORDERING INFO, VISIT: Our Little Kitchen. orangehatpublishing.com/bookstore This thoughtful book conveys a powerful, important message: “When you listen to others, you “...a uniquely charming setting, and a hero you’re sure to root for.” show respect; you learn who they —Dan Gemeinhart, author of are and what they need.” The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise —Alice Cary
reviews | children’s
The Aquanaut By Dan Santat
Graphic Novel The Caldecott Medal-winning author-illustrator of The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend brings his whimsical and fun-filled storytelling style to a longer format in The Aquanaut (Graphix, $12.99, 9780545497619), a graphic novel for middle grade readers. Sophia Revoy’s family has always been involved in marine biology. Her father and uncle regularly go out to sea on long research expeditions, and they also opened a marine reserve and theme park called Aqualand in their hometown of San Diego. But five years ago, Sophia’s father was lost at sea during an expedition, and neither Sophia nor Aqualand has been the same since. One afternoon, Sophia heads to the park to convince her uncle to help with her science fair project, which is her final hope of salvaging her
H John’s Turn
By Mac Barnett Illustrated by Kate Berube
Picture Book The opening of Mac Barnett and Kate Berube’s John’s Turn (Candlewick, $17.99, 9781536203950) ushers re a d e r s into an elementary school. Every Friday at this particular school, students gather in the cafeteria for what’s called assembly. Best of all, if everyone behaves, one student “gets to do something for the whole school.” The school dubs this tradition “Sharing Gifts.” (In one of many instances in the book that proves Barnett is no stranger to how children think, we read: “A lot of us think that’s a kind of dumb name, but we also think Sharing Gifts is the best.”) John is reticent and uneasy on the day of his turn for Sharing Gifts. While Mr. Ross makes announcements, John prepares behind the curtain. In a series of vignettes, we see him change into a leotard, pants and slippers. John has decided to perform ballet. Berube’s warmly colored illustrations capture how John’s apprehension turns to confidence and even elation as he dances; his facial expressions and body language are spot-on. Much of this perfectly paced book is devoted to John’s performance, including five elegantly and economically composed, almost wordless spreads. In one, John gracefully lifts himself in an arc across
failing grade in science class. On her way through the park to Aqualand’s lab facilities, she bumps into someone wearing an aquanaut suit. She quickly discovers that the suit isn’t being worn by a person. Instead, it’s an animatronic device being piloted by a quartet of sea creatures: Captain Sodapop, a hermit crab with a soda can for a shell; Carlos, a dumbo octopus; Jobim, a sea turtle; and Antonio, a tiny blanket octopus. Sophia is swept up in a series of mishaps and escapades with these unlikely friends. Along the way, she uncovers long-buried secrets about her father’s disappearance—and about Aqualand itself.
Dan Santat’s signature visual style lends itself beautifully to the lighthearted, adventurous tone of the story and its many moments of slapstick comedy. His panels are colorful and bright, and his characters are cartoonish in the best way. Santat excels in drawing human and sea creature facial expressions that drive home the emotions each character feels. A treat for graphic novel enthusiasts, The Aquanaut is a humorous and heartwarming tale about the lengths to which we’ll go to protect and care for our families. —Hannah Lamb
the page. In the next, he moves across and down the spread in a series of steps, Berube’s sure lines showcasing his strength and skill. Near the end, a blur of movement ends in John’s beaming face as he is suspended mid-air in a leap. Barnett wisely avoids heavy-handed commentary about ballet and gender stereotypes. There is no need for it. In John’s accomplished, nuanced and athletic performance, readers can see for themselves that boys, too, do ballet. And anyway, at its heart, John’s Turn is about much more: It’s about the abundant and everyday courage of children, and it is also about “sharing gifts.” John faces down his fear to share his gift with determination, beauty and a style that is all his own. A true gift, indeed. —Julie Danielson
from Weird But True! books such as, “Most people hide their valuables in their sock drawers”—a fact Aafiyah would be better off not knowing. Initially, Aafiyah only takes things that don’t belong to her by accident, but soon she is lured by the thrill: “I borrow things, / sort of like a library book. / I usually bring them back, / except sometimes / I don’t.” The stakes with her “itchy fingers” get higher. She swipes Zaina’s lip gloss, and later, her teacher’s cherished rainbow catcher. While Aafiyah struggles to manage her compulsion, her father is accused of embezzlement and detained on the way home from a family trip. Meanwhile, Aafiyah’s grandfather has traveled from Pakistan to Atlanta to receive chemotherapy. Suddenly, both Aafiyah’s father’s and grandfather’s welfare are on the line, and her family’s finances are strained. It all seems on the brink of spiraling out of control when Aafiyah hatches a scheme to help, but it leads to devastating consequences. This skillfully imagined novel is immediately absorbing. Faruqi’s lilting lines have plenty to savor, but her pages turn quickly, drawing readers easily into Aafiyah’s story. In spare but carefully chosen words, Faruqi builds a complex drama. All of the relationships, from Aafiyah’s friendship with Zaina to her relationships with her parents, her grandfather and her fellow tennis players, ring with authenticity and emotion. Faruqi portrays Aafiyah’s struggle with kleptomania exceptionally well, but the book also treats other subjects with nuance and care. When Aafiyah accompanies her grandfather to his chemotherapy infusions, Faruqi offers a realistic yet sensitive and hopeful depiction of a serious illness, and her incorporation of the Qamars’ Muslim faith and Pakistani heritage is just as skilled. A glossary
H Golden Girl By Reem Faruqi
Middle Grade Life takes an unexpected turn for seventh grader Aafiyah Qamar, the Pakistani American protagonist of Reem Faruqi’s novel in verse, Golden Girl (HarperCollins, $16.99, 9780063044753). Until recently, Aafiyah’s life was golden. She’s close with her best friend, Zaina. She’s earned a spot on the tennis team, and her family has plenty of money. She adores compiling facts
reviews | children’s
Nigel and the Moon
By Antwan Eady Illustrated by Gracey Zhang
Picture Book In his debut picture book, Nigel and the Moon (Katherine Tegen, $17.99, 9780063056282, ages 4 to 7), author Antwan Eady introduces a young boy named Nigel Strong. Every night, Nigel travels to the moon to share his hopes and aspirations. Nigel wants to go
to space as an astronaut or leap like a ballet dancer, but most of all, he’d love to become a superhero.
Nigel and the Moon is a simple but powerful story about being proud of yourself and your family. During career week at school, Nigel is beset by doubts. As he pages through books about occupations at the library, he doesn’t find any dancers with brown skin who look like him. While his classmates eagerly announce what they want to be when they grow up, Nigel holds back. It’s one thing to share his secret dream of being a superhero with the moon, but quite another to say it out loud in his classroom. And when his classmates discuss their parents’ occupations, Nigel asks to be excused, worried that everyone will laugh because his parents don’t have “fancy jobs.” But when Nigel’s mom, a postal carrier, and his dad, a truck driver, visit his class on the final day of
career week, their enthusiasm for their work lights up the room. Nigel, too, beams with pride after his dad declares, “Raising Nigel’s been the best job we’ve ever had.” His parents’ support gives Nigel the courage he needs to share his dreams with his peers. Illustrator Gracey Zhang’s ink, gouache and watercolor illustrations vividly capture the lush green trees and brightly colored houses over which Nigel soars each night on his way to the moon. Zhang’s images expertly convey Nigel’s emotions. The deep blue of the night sky and the large, luminous moon complement his nightly musings. In one spread, while his classmates share what their parents do for a living, Nigel sits at his desk on the opposite page, isolated and alone, surrounded by white space. Eady’s spare text tells a simple but powerful story about believing in yourself and being proud of your family. A final, wordless image shows Nigel peering out his bedroom window at the moon once more, inviting readers to wonder what he might be dreaming of—and to consider their own hopes and dreams, too. —Deborah Hopkinson
meet PAULA COHEN How would you describe your book?
What books did you enjoy as a child?
Who has been the biggest influence on your work?
What one thing would you like to learn to do?
Who was your childhood hero?
What message would you like to send to young readers?
© JULIAN MARTIN
and a recipe for Aafiyah’s aloo gosht, a goat curry, add sparkle to a book that’s already solid gold. Faruqi is the author of several picture books as well as Unsettled, a middle grade novel in verse. Golden Girl cements her place as one of the brightest rising stars in children’s literature. —Alice Cary
Shirley knows everyone would love the gefilte fish sold at her family’s store—if only she could convince anyone to try it! Paula Cohen’s Big Dreams, Small Fish (Levine Querido, $17.99, 9781646141265) is an affectionate ode to family, fish and creative problem-solving. Cohen, whose grandparents owned a grocery store in Albany, New York, studied at the Parsons School of Design. She lives in New Jersey.
Your Next Great Read
MARCH 2022 #1
One Italian Summer: A Novel By Rebecca Serle
(Atria Books, 9781982166793, $27, Mar. 1, Fiction)
“One Italian Summer is pure magic. Rebecca Serle marvelously creates a literary world that feels full and alive, like I can catch a flight with Katy and experience Italy alongside her. This treasure of a book is sure to delight readers.” —Kaitlin Smith, Copperfield’s Books, Healdsburg, CA
The Swimmers: A Novel
Delilah Green Doesn’t Care: A Novel
Tell Me an Ending: A Novel
(Knopf, 9780593321331, $23, Feb. 22, Fiction)
(Berkley, 9780593336403, $16, paperback, Feb. 22, Romance)
(Scribner, 9781982164324, $27.99, Mar. 1, Fiction)
By Julie Otsuka
“Emotional and moving, The Swimmers shows the world through a wide-angle lens, slowly narrowing focus until the image disappears completely. A beautiful, poetic novel of a mother and a daughter, of culture, loss, guilt, and grief.” —Betsy Von Kerens, The Bookworm of Omaha, Omaha, NE
The Golden Couple: A Novel By Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
(St. Martin’s Press, 9781250273208, $28.99, Mar. 8, Thriller)
“This dynamic duo did not disappoint with another twisty psychological domestic thriller. I love the psychological, unconventional approach Avery has with clients. Sometimes the unconventional way can lead to dangerous results.” —Stephanie Csaszar, Books Around the Corner, Gresham, OR
Hook, Line, and Sinker: A Novel By Tessa Bailey
(Avon, 9780063045699, $15.99, paperback, Mar. 1, Romance)
“A wonderful sequel to It Happened One Summer. I loved watching Hannah and Fox’s love bloom out of friendship as they both overcome insecurities, both seriously and with humor. And the town of Westport! When can I move there?” —Melissa Stusinski, Trail’s End Bookstore, Winthrop, WA
By Ashley Herring Blake
“What a pleasure to enjoy Ashley Herring Blake’s layered characters in an adult novel after all her books for kids and teens. Every story beat lands and Claire and Delilah were easy to root for. More romances set in this community, please!” —Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC
Girl in Ice: A Novel By Erica Ferencik
(Gallery/Scout Press, 9781982143022, $27.99, Mar. 1, Thriller)
“I knew little about linguistics or the Arctic until I read Erica Ferencik’s fascinating book. Her style is fast, impossible to put down, and the landscape is beautifully written. This is my first Ferencik book; it will not be the last.” —Connie L. Eaton, Three Sisters Books & Gifts, Shelbyville, IN
When We Were Birds: A Novel By Ayanna Lloyd Banwo
(Doubleday, 9780385547260, $27, Mar. 15, Fiction)
“Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s powerful observations and her tender and mysterious writing on death reminded me of Steinbeck and Fresh Water for Flowers. Still, this book was wholly unique, breathtaking, and beautiful from start to finish.” —Andrea Jones, The Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT
By Jo Harkin
“A compelling examination of the power and importance of memories, and the question of how much of our self would change if we could control which memories we keep and which we discard.” —Christy Peterson, Vintage Books, Vancouver, WA
Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk
By Sasha taqwšablu LaPointe (Counterpoint, 9781640094147, $25, Mar. 8, Memoir)
“A beautiful autobiography of a sometimes-rocky journey to heal from trauma. Her female ancestral line’s spiritual practices and wisdom help her embrace her Indigenous heritage. An emotional roller coaster well worth reading.” —Ashley Baeckmann, Briars & Brambles Books, Windham, NY
The Tobacco Wives: A Novel By Adele Myers
(William Morrow, 9780063082939, $27.99, Mar. 1, Fiction)
“In 1940’s North Carolina, tobacco is big business. If you saw that the crop your community’s livelihood depends on also harms their health, what would you do? This is teenager Maddie Sykes’ dilemma. Her story will really make you think. —Heather Obenberger, Bookends On Main, Menomonie, WI
To purchase and find more recommendations visit your local independent bookstores or IndieBound.org. Copyright 2021 American Booksellers Association