AMERICAâ€™S BOOK REVIEW
Stephanie Powell Watts Memories of a ghostly hometown and echoes of The Great Gatsby inspire a resonant debut,
No One Is Coming to Save Us
INTRODUCING A NEW SERIES
with a remarkable heroine certain to become an icon of suspense from
“Koontz writes FIRST-RATE SUSPENSE, SCARY AND STYLISH.”* “There is no one who can match Dean Koontz for pure excitement when writing HIGHLY CHARGED THRILLERS.”**
rk Times o Y w e N #1 author g n i l l e s t bes
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Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly and screenwriter Bruce Feirstein explore the clash between conservative baby boomers and social justice crusaders in their new book, Old School.
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“A masterful tale.” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW Available Everywhere Books Are Sold
columns In this gripping new series, a disgraced FBI profiler must save her reputation by stopping a sadistic killer she knows all too well.
In the second installment of Hope Ramsay’s Chapel of Love series, A Small-Town Bride (Forever, $7.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9781455564842), Amy Lyndon’s father kicks her out and cuts up her credit cards when she refuses her family-approved groom. Trying to stand on her own feet for the first time, Amy gets a job
on the landscape crew at a local Virginia resort. Nobody expects much from her, including her boss, Dusty McNeil, aka the “Casanova of Shenandoah Falls.” But Amy finds pleasure in her work, in standing up to her family and in a flirtation with Dusty. Entrenched bachelor Dusty can’t help but admire Amy’s attitude and work ethic, but he knows the high-society girl is above his touch—until she isn’t. Still, he tries to keep the relationship casual, aware he’s not marriage material and that her extended and interfering family would never approve of a forever for the two of them. Yet some desires cannot be denied, and the best of intentions evaporate in this fun, charming frolic of a story.
A DUKE OF HER OWN
“What romantic suspense is supposed to be—
fast, furious, and very sexy.”
—New York Times bestselling author Karen Rose
Determined to fulfill her father’s bequest, an heiress confronts a recalcitrant duke in Karen Ranney’s Victorian-era romance, The English Duke (Avon, $7.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780062466891), the second novel in the Duke series. Following the death of her father, a brilliant inventor, Martha York travels to the home of Jordan Hamilton, the new Duke of Roth and her father’s protégé, to deliver her father’s notes and the prototype of his torpedo ship. But Jordan’s pride dictates that he develop such a de-
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Love in full bloom
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vice on his own. Still, he finds Martha beautiful in body and mind, and when he reluctantly asks for her advice, he’s even more impressed. But there is more than one snake in their garden. While the pair is falling in love, schemers work to change the course of their future. They must put a stop to these maneuvers and place their happiness first in order to win the game of love.
TOP PICK IN ROMANCE An extraordinary romance is found within the pages of Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union (Kensington, $15, 320 pages, ISBN 9781496707444), as well as unforgettable insight into the struggles and pain of the Civil War era. Elle Burns, a former slave with an eidetic memory, uses this trait as a spy for the Loyal League, a society determined to destroy the Confederacy. Installed as a slave in the household of a Virginia senator in the course of her undercover work, she meets Rebel soldier Malcolm McCall, who is actually a Pinkerton detective tasked with funneling information to the newly established Secret Service. Though their interests are aligned and trading secrets will help them both, Elle is wary of the Scotsman turned American. Malcolm, though, is instantly attracted to Elle’s intelligence, bravery and beauty. As they work together, facing danger after danger, she begins to trust him, and they both fall in love. Will they survive to help their cause and find happiness together? The historically accurate language, attitudes and risks add tension and conflict to this very special story.
THE HOLD LIST
Top book club picks for
In this new feature, BookPage editors share curated lists of the best books—old and new—on a variety of subjects. Feed your TBR!
For fans of bestselling, heartfelt books
A MILLION LITTLE THINGS
We don’t want to see anyone fail at life, but sometimes the juiciest stories come from a character who just can’t get his or her life together. From bumbling Magoos to well-meaning screw-ups, here are five of our favorite books starring characters who earn that classic Southern phrase of affectionate pity, “Oh, bless their heart.”
A twisty tale of family dynamics that explores what can go terribly, hysterically wrong when the line between friendship and family blurs.
SKIPPY DIES by Paul Murray Readers know from the outset that 14-year-old Daniel “Skippy” Juster isn’t getting out of this story alive, but they’ll find themselves hoping (and knowing better than to hope) for a different outcome. In Murray’s tragicomic second novel, a finalist for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, the entire cast of a historic boy’s school in Dublin is perfectly rendered, from immature students to equally fallible teachers. It’s an intelligent, witty and tender depiction of adolescence.
I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE by Sloane Crosley
For fans of THE GOOD GIRL
The sighting of a woman who supposedly died years ago sparks a desperate search for the truth in this breakout suspense thriller.
With her debut essay collection, Crosley explores what it’s like to be a 20-something navigating modern urban life with compassion but hilariously falling short. Packed with self-deprecating, sardonic wit, Crosley’s essays pinpoint the dark ironies of unpleasant weddings, nightmarish first jobs and the unique emotional pain of moving to a new apartment. Her voice is vulnerable, quippy and always unexpected.
For fans of historical fiction
AN ALMOND FOR A PARROT
THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER by Junot Díaz These nine stories center on Yunior (making his third appearance in Díaz’s work), a hardheaded, sexist Dominican-American lothario caught between the codes of machismo and the need to be loved. He’s reckless with the women in his life, hopelessly holding onto his macho reputation even as it screws up everything good in his life. Yet with every misstep, readers empathize with Yunior’s bad choices and good intentions.
In Newgate Prison, a girl awaits trial. Accused of murder, she will surely hang if found guilty. London thinks of her as a celebrity. She is Tully Truegood.
ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS by Elan Mastai Is there a bigger loser than Tom Barren? Maybe not, but someone should’ve given him a hug anyway, because in a fit of rage and grief, he hijacks his father’s time machine and travels back to the 1950s—and completely alters the present. It may be the biggest blunder of all time (and space), but Tom is profoundly endearing as he details his struggles to set things right, not just for himself but for all of humanity.
I TAKE YOU by Eliza Kennedy Charismatic Lily loves her fiancé, Will, but she also loves sex—lots of it. And even though she’s preparing to wed him in just a few days, Lily isn’t sure if she wants to alter her promiscuous lifestyle. This bawdy, sexy romp of a novel explores gender politics through the laugh-out-loud tale of a future wife who’s far from faithful but oh-so-much fun.
For fans of page-turning mysteries
THE SECRET SISTER Brenda Novak
Did she once have a sister? Has her mother lied all these years? These are the questions Maisey Lazarow must answer upon her return to her home on Fairham Island.
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WHODUNIT BY BRUCE TIERNEY
Tribal divisions turn deadly
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When a high-end BMW is blown up in a rural Arizona school parking lot, the preliminary investigation suggests eco-terrorism, since the car owner is a well-known mediator in matters concerning a controversial multimillion-dollar resort planned on Navajo lands in the Grand Canyon. Navajo tribal cop Bernadette Manuelito is at the
investigator Lincoln Rhyme and his able-bodied compatriot/lover Amelia Sachs, begins with the pair racing against time to save the Composer’s current video victim, a businessman with a noose around his neck, balanced none-toosteadily atop a precariously placed box. One wrong move, and the rope will snap the victim’s neck
be, Cates has a trick or two up his sleeve, including a canny defense lawyer who leaves Cates free to continue his seeming life’s work of bedeviling clan Pickett. Vicious Circle is perhaps the most intricately plotted installment in the series since its inception; Box never falls into the series trap of caricaturing his protagonist or making him seem larger than life. Pickett remains a good guy fighting the good fight, quietly and for all the right reasons.
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scene moments after the explosion, quickly stepping in to secure the area and prevent further carnage, unaware that it will plunge her into one of the most intriguing and potentially deadly mysteries ever to come her way. Song of the Lion (Harper, $27.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9780062391902) is the latest in Anne Hillerman’s series featuring characters created by her late father, the legendary Tony Hillerman. Although she echoes her father’s voice perfectly, Hillerman brings a totally new sensibility to the series, elevating the female contingent without neglecting the contributions of series stalwarts Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. There is no shortage of Navajo culture and mythology woven into the narrative, as well as a very modern Old West tale of jealousy, envy and revenge.
SWAN SONG They call him “The Composer.” It seems an innocuous enough moniker, until you learn that the nickname is derived from the rolling credits at the end of homemade videos of slow murder. He abducts people, seemingly at random, leaving only a calling card as a clue: a small hangman’s noose at the scene of the abduction. The Burial Hour (Grand Central, $28, 480 pages, ISBN 9781455536375), the 13th in Jeffery Deaver’s series featuring wheelchair-bound
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like a saltine cracker. With Rhyme and Sachs hot on the Composer’s trail, the arch-criminal makes good his escape, but soon his macabre handiwork turns up on a dusty back road in southern Italy. And Rhyme, who can be coaxed out of his apartment even less often than porcine detective Nero Wolfe, will at last leave not only his apartment but even the continent to bring his latest nemesis to justice.
OLD ENEMIES I started reading C.J. Box with his first novel, Open Season, in the summer of 2001. Now, 16 years and 16 Joe Pickett novels later, I am still reading, watching Pickett’s career as a game warden in Wyoming triumph and suffer. Box’s latest, the aptly titled Vicious Circle (Putnam, $27, 384 pages, ISBN 9780399176616), finds Pickett once again up against disgraced rodeo star Dallas Cates, with whom Pickett has some unpleasant personal history (his daughter ran off for a time with Cates, learning the hard way what a callous individual he is). This time, there is ample evidence that Cates was complicit in the killing of a ne’erdo-well character who haunted the periphery of Pickett’s life: Dave Farkus. Moreover, Pickett is pretty sure he witnessed the murder, albeit via heat-sensing night scope. But as strong as the evidence may
Let me go on record as saying that this is one of the most difficult reviews I have ever had to write, for a myriad of reasons. First off, Greg Iles’ latest novel, Mississippi Blood (Morrow, $28.99, 704 pages, ISBN 9780062311153), is roughly twice the length of your average mystery novel. And it’s the third book of a trilogy, which adds another 1,600-plus pages. I can give you but a brief synopsis, something along the lines of the three blind men touching an elephant and each thinking the animal looks completely different. And so it is with Mississippi Blood. Detective novel? Yep. Police procedural? Yep, that, too. Courtroom drama? Affirmative, Your Honor. Romantic interest, post-Jim Crow racism (The Double Eagles, a fictional KKK splinter group, are particularly chilling), Southern culture clash, decades-old secrets enshrouded in Spanish moss? Oh, yeah, all of that and more. There are overtones of Mockingbird-era Harper Lee in here, and storytelling skills that rival those of the late, great John D. MacDonald. As all books do, Mississippi Blood draws to a conclusion, and therein lies the hardest part of this review: Because as long as this book is, and as long as the entire trilogy is, I simply didn’t want it to end. I found myself oddly wanting to move to Natchez, Mississippi, and see how the rest of these people’s lives played out.
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All day, every day Elisabeth Prueitt and her husband, Chad Robertson, opened Tartine Bakery in San Francisco 15 years ago to wild acclaim. Now Prueitt, a James Beard Award winner, treats us to Tartine All Day (Lorena Jones, $40, 384 pages, ISBN 9780399578823), which is filled with over 200 recipes that share the discoveries she’s made about combining new ingredi-
ents with old techniques and the lessons she learned as a professional chef turned home cook. Unlike many cookbook authors, Prueitt openly admits that cooking is work, but she wants that effort to be part of the pleasure. That pleasure can certainly be found in this consummate breakfast-through-dinner guide and kitchen companion for both newbies and old hands. Her go-to, all-purpose Cream Cheese Dough is made with a combo of three gluten-free flours, the Many Bean Salad sings with the additions of preserved lemons and salsa verde, the salt cod of a classic Brandade is replaced with fresh cod, and the desserts, Prueitt’s original calling, are divine. I’d gladly have Tartine all day, every day.
CUISINE OF WANDERERS Jews all over the world will celebrate Passover this month. And, though they will all tell the same story of the exodus from Egypt, the dishes on the table can be very different, reflecting the cuisines and cultures of the Jewish diaspora. This is the perfect time to enjoy King Solomon’s Table (Knopf, $35, 416 pages, ISBN 9780385351140), Joan Nathan’s exploration of Jewish cooking around the globe and the 12th star in this marvelous maven’s cookbook crown. The 170 recipes included go from morning
BY SYBIL PRATT
B Y S U S A N N A H F E LT S
Backyard activist delights to fish, poultry, meats and sweets gathered in places from New York to New Delhi, Teheran to Tbilisi and Mexico to Morocco, with fascinating references to cooking in ancient Sumer and Babylon as well. Along with an herb-infused Azerbaijani frittata, Persian Chicken Soup with chickpea dumplings and delicious Green Chile Relleno Latkes, you’ll find Nathan’s favorite recipe for Chopped Chicken Liver and easy, light Salmon Gefilte Fish Mold, all enhanced by in-depth header notes, detailed instructions and luscious photos.
TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS Deborah Madison, “Queen of Greens” and venerated matriarch of vegetarian cuisine, has done it again. In My Kitchen: A Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes (Ten Speed, $32.50, 296 pages, ISBN 9780399578885), the latest addition to her exceptional list of cookbooks, is as inspiring, fresh, chatty and wise as all of its predecessors. Arranged from A to Z—or Artichoke and Scallion Sauté Over Garlic-rubbed Toast to Zucchini Pancakes with Feta and Dill—the over 100 recipes gathered here are dishes that have settled into Madison’s repertoire. Some are new or made with new ingredients, some are familiar and worthy of tweaking for today’s lightened-up approach to cooking and eating. Dishes that are vegan or gluten-free are marked, and if you’d like to pair her glorious Eggplant Gratin with a Golden Dome of Saffron-Ricotta Custard with a roasted chicken, you have the chef’s OK. No strict rules here— these wonderful, imaginative plant-based dishes can be center stage or play a supporting role as the vegetable side.
“At a time when our fellow inhabitants of the earth increasingly depend on our mercy and ingenuity to survive, our default has instead been to kill and destroy,” writes naturalist Nancy Lawson. In The Humane Gardener (Princeton Architectural Press, $24.95, 224 pages, ISBN 9781616895549), Lawson does the important work of speaking for the trees—and
the bees, butterflies and other living creatures that need healthy ecosystems. It’s telling that Lawson opts to use gendered pronouns when referencing animals: Her goal is to show us the wisdom of living in harmony with, and dissolving boundaries between, our habitations and the diverse wildlife that surrounds us. Chapter titles echo her low-impact, gentle-living message: “A New Kind of Dream Home: Plant Native Plants,” “The Beauty of Letting Go: Letting Nature Guide Your Garden” and “Safety Zones: Creating Sanctuary in a Treacherous World,” for example. Between chapters, profiles of humane gardeners offer real-world examples. With luxe, matte pages and plentiful full-color photographs, this book is as much a beautiful object as a passionate and well-researched rallying cry.
job for each week. “Sometimes we want someone to tell us what to do,” she writes. “Set it and forget it.” Easing us into her routinized approach to cleanliness, Rapinchuk starts simple with daily tasks (making the bed, wiping down counters, de-cluttering), and then suggests how to build a “cute cleaning caddy,” which feels like a fun prize for mastering the basics. A seven-day quick start and 28-day challenge follow, plus tips for specific rooms, hard-toclean spaces and DIY cleaners.
TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES
I picked up Jessamyn Stanley’s Every Body Yoga (Workman, $16.95, 232 pages, ISBN 9780761193111) at the end of a long day, wearied by the state of my country. I didn’t feel like doing much of anything. But Stanley soon had me in stitches, ready to take on yoga, the world, you name it. The Instagram-famous yogi is the polar opposite of the slender-and-serene type you know all too well—and this is one of her greatest strengths. Fat? Yes, she owns it. “I wrote this book for every person who is self-conscious about their body,” she says, her tone throughout that of the most WIPED OUT irreverent, motivational BFF you Not going to lie: I cast a wary eye could hope to meet on the mat. on this one. How could I thrill to a Stanley sprinkles funny, candid book on cleaning? But maybe I was personal narratives—“A Chickmissing the point. If the point is to Fil-A Bandit Walks Into Weight have a sparkling, organized home, Watchers”—between chapters that Simply Clean (Touchstone, $19.99, teach her favorite poses and pro272 pages, ISBN 9781501158797) vide an introduction to the theory can get you there. Becky Rapinand practice of yoga. I feel ready to chuk’s secret is a reasonable, “every “prop that ass up,” and when you day a little something” routine: a consider how many others might schedule of basic 10-minute tasks be, too, Stanley’s teachings feel for each day and one hour-long downright revolutionary.
BOOK CLUBS BY JULIE HALE
Man versus forest Grand in scale, somber in message, Barkskins (Scribner, $20, 736 pages, ISBN 9780743288798), Annie Proulx’s sprawling historical novel, is an old-fashioned tale of exploration and discovery that chronicles the destruction of the world’s forests. The novel follows the fortunes of René Sel and Charles Duquet, two poor Frenchmen in 17th-century Canada who become
woodcutters, or barkskins. Sel marries a Mi’kmaw woman and fights to eke out a life, while Duquet goes on to start a timber enterprise. The book tracks their descendants as they struggle to survive in far-flung locales, including New Zealand and China, deforesting every region they enter and clashing with native cultures along the way. Proulx spins this epic tale all the way into the present day. Her richly developed characters, including Duquet’s great-grandson, James Duke, who continues the family timber business, and his smart, resourceful daughter, Lavinia, keep the book from being preachy or pedagogic. This is a rewarding read from a world-class writer that’s sure to get book clubs talking.
FAMILY MONEY One of the biggest debuts of 2016, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s shrewdly observed novel, The Nest (Ecco, $16.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780062414229), is the story of the Plumb siblings and their struggles over an anticipated inheritance. Melody, Jack and Beatrice have a face-off with their brash, irresponsible brother, Leo, whose car accident (involving lots of alcohol and a teenage waitress) has imperiled their shared trust fund, which they refer to as “the nest.” Each Plumb
sibling needs the money to solve a particular problem. Melody is contending with a mortgage and her daughters’ college tuition, while Jack is hoping for a bailout on funds he borrowed to keep his antique store afloat. Aspiring writer Beatrice, meanwhile, needs all the help she can get as she wrestles with her first novel. The story of how the Plumbs resolve the matter of the nest makes for a funny, poignant family saga. Sweeney writes convincingly about domestic feuds and sibling dynamics. This is a delightful debut from a writer of great promise.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS Nearly two years after it was first released, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner, $17, 544 pages, ISBN 9781501173219) arrives in paperback this month. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows the lives of two characters during World War II in Europe. Werner is a German orphan who—thanks to his remarkable facility for math—is placed in a special Nazi school. Marie-Laure, a young blind girl, lives in Paris with her father. When the war escalates, Marie-Laure and her father flee to Saint-Malo, a walled city in Brittany where they have relatives involved in the French Resistance. Werner, meanwhile, rises through the ranks of Hitler Youth to become a Resistance tracker. When he arrives in Saint-Malo, he connects with Marie-Laure, and their lives change forever. Doerr’s beautifully rendered novel has all the makings of a classic. Poetic, compassionate and compelling, it’s a book that will stand the test of time.
Fresh Book Club Picks for Spring
Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue
“A heartfelt, funny, poignant and suspenseful story of a good woman trying her best, making mistakes, picking up the pieces and moving on — a celebration of what it means to be a working mother.” — Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author
The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman
A chilling tale of psychological suspense that blends the gothic allure of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca with the twisty, contemporary edge of A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife.
The Sun in Your Eyes
by Deborah Shapiro The Sun in Your Eyes blends the emotional nuance of Elena Ferrante with the potent nostalgia of High Fidelity, in a story of two women and their fervid and troubled friendship.
The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick
“Readers who loved Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife are in for a wonderful treat with Ellen Herrick’s lovely new novel.” — M.J. Rose, New York Times bestselling author
Book Club Girl
AUDIO BY SUKEY HOWARD
N OTA B L E NA M E S
All in the family Epistolary novels let us make a direct connection with the characters. Letters used to be the common form, but it’s email for Harry and Matilda, the angst-ridden, 30-something twins who star in Rachel Hulin’s quirky, comedic debut novel, Hey Harry, Hey Matilda (Random House Audio, 5 hours), performed in tandem by Ari Fliakos and Kristen Sieh, and set in today’s
cyber-centric world. Matilda, an aspiring artist who pays her bills by working as a wedding photographer, lives in Brooklyn. Her love life is not particularly happy and she drinks just a tad too much— this is New York, after all, the city of skyrocketing rents, dusted with Woody Allen-esque neuroses. Harry teaches at a Connecticut college and yearns for literary fame, tenure and love. Their emails, laced with confessions, dating disasters and remembrances of their intriguingly dysfunctional family, gradually reveal an unusual intimacy and, perhaps, the solution to their romantic quandaries.
MURDER AT SEA A young Irish woman from Cork goes missing at the beginning of Distress Signals (Blackstone Audio, 11.5 hours), Catherine Ryan Howard’s fast-paced debut thriller, read by Alan Smyth, Bronson Pinchot and Suzanne Toren. “Girl” is not in the title, thank goodness, and this isn’t just another Gone Girl wannabe. Adam Dunne, though distraught, is a reliable narrator. He’s been trying to sell his screenplays for years, and just after his first big sale, his beloved and lovely girlfriend, Sarah, who’s paid the bills and kept him going, leaves on a supposed business trip to Barcelona. She never comes back. Desperately tracking her moves, Adam finds that she got on the
Celebrate, a huge Mediterranean cruise ship, with another man. In his search, Adam connects with Peter, whose wife vanished from the same ship a year earlier. Is there a serial killer on the high seas? Together, the two bereft men board the Celebrate to find out. Then the plot twists, roiling like the sea. Hold on, you’re in for a wild ride.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO It was love at first bite. Ian urkayastha was not enamored P with school or sports, but when he tasted truffled ravioli at a fancy Houston restaurant, he knew he had found his calling. Purkayastha was 15, living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. His passion for truffles, that noble and wildly expensive white fungus, plus an extraordinary entrepreneurial urge, took him to New York instead of college. He became a truffle dork, hooked up with an Italian importing company, made the rounds of New York’s best restaurants, got a strong foothold in the weird, often shady world of rare food purveyors and remained a man, if a young one, of integrity. By the time he was 18, Purkayastha had been christened the “Prince of Truffles” by Forbes. So maybe it’s not unusual that this 23-year-old foodie wunderkind has written an early account of his life. Truffle Boy (Hachette Audio, 9 hours), his memoir, read with just the right amount of youthful enthusiasm by Will Collyer, is charming and packed with esoteric info about exotic foods. Purkayastha now has his own company that sources the rarest of the rare, has found the woman of his dreams and is still propelled by the passion that made it all happen.
READ BY THE AUTHOR
READ BY THE AUTHOR “ Warren’s narration lends warmth, liveliness, and passion to her writing.” —Library Journal on A Fighting Chance “Michael’s leadership and optimism remind us that by working together, we can develop breakthrough innovations to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of clean-energy technology.” —Bill Gates
INTRODUCTION READ BY MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
MN E W F I C T I ON READ BY GEORGE NEWBERN “[Scottoline is] a virtuoso of suspense.” —The Washington Post
READ BY ROBERT PETKOFF
READ BY SCOTT BRICK READ BY ARI FLIAKOS
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WITH SPECIAL BONUS “WRITER’S CUT” READ BY STEVE BERRY
“Sit back and enjoy Brick’s riveting and immensely entertaining performance.” —Booklist on The 14th Colony
the title of your new book? Q: What’s
© SAM LAMOTT
meet ANNE LAMOTT
Q: Describe the book in one sentence.
is the first step to start extending mercy to ourselves? Q: What
Q: What three things in the universe are you most grateful for?
character in the Bible do you identify most closely with? Q: Which
your proudest accomplishment? Q: What’s
Q: Words to live by?
HALLELUJAH ANYWAY A bestselling author who has explored everything from parenting (Operating Instructions) to writing (Bird by Bird ) to prayer (Help, Thanks, Wow ) in her previous books, Anne Lamott turns to the subject of mercy in the heartfelt and inspiring Hallelujah Anyway (Riverhead, $20, 192 pages, ISBN 9780735213586). Mercy, Lamott writes, is “radical kindness,” offered both to ourselves and to those around us who need forgiveness and compassion.
WELL READ BY ROBERT WEIBEZAHL
Decanting a life Grace Paley, who died 10 years ago and whose 95th birthday would have been this coming December, is not a universally well-known writer, although her work is revered by many who know it. With a distinctive narrative voice that relies heavily on the rhythms of the vernacular, her stories unflinchingly capture the experiences of ordinary people—often, but not always, women—as they shuffle through life, at once pushing against and accepting what fate has dealt them. Kevin Bowen and Nora Paley, the writer’s daughter, have compiled a marvelous introduction to her work, A Grace Paley Reader (FSG, $27, 400 pages, ISBN 9780374165826). It comprises short stories (about half the volume) as well as essays and poems, and it proves a fitting tribute to a great writer. Paley was known first and foremost for her inimitable stories— her The Collected Stories was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award and won the PEN/Malamud Award—and the 15 stories included in A Grace Paley Reader give full measure of her singular talents as a storyteller. To read Paley is to be invited inside the intimate lives of her characters, who always speak their minds, sometimes with alarming honesty. These unromantic creations, often hard-bitten denizens of New York City, are funny in their forthright appraisals of any situation, be it love or sex or how to beg credit from the neighborhood butcher. The stories hold up a mirror that clearly reflects the unvarnished concerns of people in a specific time and place. And yet, as with all good writing, these stories are timeless. Does today’s stay-athome mom, for instance, feel any less trapped than her 1950s coun-
terpart? Can she not love her children unconditionally while wishing she could shed the burden of motherhood, if only for a few hours? In a Paley story, a character might succumb to an ill-advised affair with her eyes wide open, knowing full well that there is no future to be found—surely this is as germane a scenario as any contemporary writer might devise. Throughout her life, Paley could be found, quite literally, on the frontlines of protest and civil disobedience. Arrested more than once for her efforts, she demonstrated for all the great causes of the era: women’s and civil rights, the anti-war movement, nuclear disarmament. Her essays reflect this side of her life, but as with her fiction, they are wholly her own in approach: personal rather than polemical, passionate and compassionate, anecdotal—in a word, humanist. Her poems, on the other hand, straddle the line between her stories and essays, laced with poTo read litical concerns Paley is to but enriched as much by the be invited heart as by the inside the head. “It is the intimate responsibility of society to lives of her let the poet be characters. a poet,” she begins in her poem “Responsibility,” later declaring, “It is the responsibility of the poet to listen to gossip and pass it on in the way storytellers decant the story of life.” After encountering one of Paley’s stories, it is hard to leave it behind. It—and the characters who fill it—linger. In his introduction to this volume, author George Saunders calls Paley “a kind of secular saint”—a saint of seeing. It is, indeed, her singular way of seeing that makes Paley’s work still relevant, still essential and still so eminently readable.
OMAR EL AKKAD
From the front lines to fiction
sense of necessity drew Omar El Akkad to war reporting, until another sense of necessity compelled him to write his stunning debut novel, American War.
For 10 years El Akkad led a double life, working as an international war reporter for Canada’s The Globe and Mail and writing fiction between midnight and 5:00 a.m., squeezing in sleep here and there. The grueling schedule allowed him to write three draft novels that never left his hard drive, but his fourth, American War, is not only being published, but creating significant and well-deserved buzz. El Akkad’s future dystopian tale begins in 2075 during the second American Civil War, in which Red and Blue states clash over the need for sustainable energy. Climate change has wreaked havoc, with water swallowing Washington, D.C., and Florida, while a new Middle Eastern and North African superpower has emerged: the Bouazizi Empire. To keep track of all of this devastation and conflict, the author peppered his upstairs office walls with invented maps, timelines and drawings. “I didn’t get many visitors up there, but the ones who did visit certainly had a few questions about what the hell was going on in that room,” he remembers.
By Omar El Akkad
Knopf, $26.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780451493583, audio, eBook available
Occasionally, during moments of early morning fog, El Akkad himself momentarily confused fact and fiction. “I’d be groggy because I was up until 5:00 writing,” he says, “and I would mention something stupid and have to catch myself and say nope, South Carolina still exists. Not a real thing.” Born in Egypt, raised in Qatar and Canada, El Akkad now writes fiction full time from the home he shares with his wife near Portland, Oregon. In a multitude of ways, he seems uniquely qualified to have written this remarkable novel. American War chronicles the life of Sarat Chestnut, who metamorphoses from an inquisitive 6-yearold living with her family in a shipping container in Louisiana into a radicalized, head-shaven warrior on the prowl in the refugee camp where she and her family end up. El Akkad peppers his page-turning narrative with short excerpts from history books, eyewitness accounts and other imagined documents. “[Their inclusion] started as a bit of a crutch,” El Akkad admits. “I didn’t think I had the talent to tell the kind of story that I wanted without making it horribly clunky. So I would write the main narrative and then dream up a document that I thought would be left as sort of an archival echo of what had happened. As I progressed, I found that [these documents] had added an element of texture that I didn’t anticipate.” Although set in America, Sarat’s riveting story in many ways transcends politics, with details so impeccable and a plot so tightly woven that the events indeed feel factual. How, I wondered, did El Akkad pull off this feat? “The short answer is outright thievery,” he says, laughing. “I stole much of it from my experiences growing up in the Middle East and also from my experiences as a journalist.”
After moving with his parents from Egypt to Qatar at age 5, and from Qatar to Canada at age 16, El Akkad finished high school in Montreal and studied computer science at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “I can’t program my way out of a paper bag for reasons that still baffle me,” he admits, “but I earned a computer science degree.” His real passion, however, was the college newspaper, where he spent most of his time. Later, at The Globe and Mail, he covered the war in Afghanistan, military trials at Guantánamo Bay, the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, In a nearthe Black future Lives Matter America, Red movement in Ferguson, and Blue Missouri, and states clash the effects of climate change in a second in places like Civil War. Florida and Louisiana. “A lot of the world of the book is based on the things I saw while on those assignments,” El Akkad says. “I like to say that a lot of what happened in this book happened; it just happened to people far away.” He points out that Camp Patience, the refugee camp where Sarat’s family lives, is modeled on the NATO airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and on Guantánamo Bay. “A lot of tents in wartime look exactly the same,” he notes. The journalist was drawn to war reporting after reading Dispatches, Michael Herr’s classic account of frontline reporting on the Vietnam War. “It seemed to me that war zones combine the ability to write stories that otherwise wouldn’t be told with a sense of necessity—the idea that wars are among the most significant things we do as hu-
INTERVIEW BY ALICE CARY
man beings and deserve the most coverage.” On the front lines of Afghanistan in 2007, El Akkad discovered that the adrenaline rush he anticipated never materialized—even though he was in the line of fire during nightly RPG attacks. “I never got that sort of strange Hemingway-like fascination with the kinetics of war,” he explains. “I was mostly interested in its effects on the losing side, the way that it moved the losing side backward in time.” In Afghanistan he saw people living in mud huts that “you wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see Jesus walk out of.” The tragedies he witnessed as a reporter ultimately drew him back to his first love, fiction. He had no intention of writing a political future dystopian tale; that’s simply what unfolded. “It’s called American War,” he says of the novel, “but I never intended to write a book about America or war; I intended to write a book about the universality of revenge. I wanted to explore the idea that when people are broken by war, broken by injustice, broken by mistreatment, they become broken in the same way.” He continues: “The notion was to take all of these wars that I’d grown up seeing—the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, the wars on terror, even cultural events like the Arab Spring—and recast them as something very direct and near to America. The idea being to explore this notion that if it had been you, you’d have done no different.”
STEPHANIE POWELL WATTS
The house that dreams built
irst-time novelist Stephanie Powell Watts prefers to write outside her home in a place where there’s some noise—somewhere like a grocery store or a coffee shop.
A grocery store?! Watts laughs. “I don’t like to be isolated,” she says during a call to her home near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Watts has been teaching creative writing and African-American literature at Lehigh University since 2004. She and her husband, the poet Bob Watts, are the creative writing department at Lehigh, she notes. They have a 7-year-old son. Watts adds that she wrote most of her wonderful novel, No One Is Coming to Save Us, in the coffee house on campus. “I had four younger brothers in my house,” she says, explaining her need for noise. “There was always noise and there were always people running in and out, so you had to carve out your own space. And we had a very small house. Maybe I’m referring back to that. I really, really like a sense of connection.” Watts grew up in Lenoir, North Carolina, a small town “right at the base of the Smoky and Brushy mountains,” where as a child 30 years ago, there was a vibrant furniture-making industry. The town has now fallen on hard times. “It’s
NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US
By Stephanie Powell Watts
Ecco, $26.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780062472984, audio, eBook available
empty parking lots. People have nothing to do. It’s a beautiful area, but the town used to be bustling and kind of grimy. Now there’s no bustle.” Watts draws brilliantly on her personal experiences of those changes to create her fictional town of Pinewood. The place has an exhausted, ghostly feel that underlies the nostalgia, tumult and strife in the lives of her characters, who are mostly African Americans. Watts drew similarly on her experiences in this part of North Carolina in creating her highly regarded short story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need. The book earned Watts a Whiting Award, which comes with a $50,000 prize, and individual stories in the collection won additional awards. That’s one reason her first novel has deservedly earned a lot of early attention. Another is that one of the surprising influences on the novel is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. “Once I realized that this was a story about displacement and identity, particularly racial identity,” Watts says, “I started to wonder how I could embody that. And I began thinking how Gatsby appears to be about one thing, but is really about many other things. That had generative force for me.” But influence did not lead to imitation. In Watt’s telling, Jay (JJ) Ferguson, who left Pinewood as a very, very poor man, returns after 17 years as a rich man and begins building a house on a hill overlooking the town, where in the past only wealthy white people could live. Like Jay Gatsby, his intention is to woo and win a married woman he has long been in love with. The object of JJ’s obsession is Ava Bailey. And here the shape, texture and even the diction of the two novels diverge widely. “When I read Gatsby and thought about [the women
characters] Daisy and Myrtle, I thought, oh my gosh, they should have some say here. We never see them as anything other than materialistic and flighty people. Their stories seemed potentially fascinating.” The emotional heart of Watts’ novel actually lies in the vexed relationships between Ava and her mother, Sylvia, and between each of these women and their detached and wandering husbands. Sylvia is so saddened by the absence In Watt’s of her son that powerful she begins a phone reladebut, a Gatsby-esque tionship with a desperate figure returns young man in to his North the county jail who ranCarolina domly called hometown. her. She also feels free to intrude upon her daughter’s life while maintaining a complicated distance from her husband. Ava, nearing 40, is a manager at the local bank and wants fiercely to have a baby. Her husband, Henry, a casualty of the collapse of the furniture manufacturing business, seems aimless. “One of the things I wanted to write about was difficult mothers and daughters. But I wanted to write about loving difficult mothers and daughters,” Watts says of Sylvia and Ava. The men, she admits, “are not on their best behavior. These men have access to a kind of power, and it’s sexual power, and they take it. But I hope they are rounded enough and that I’ve shown their lives in other lights.” One way Watts leads the reader to feel empathy toward her characters, even though we may
INTERVIEW BY ALDEN MUDGE
not always like them, is through an inspired shifting and intermingling of points of view. Another is the humor in the book, both in her own narration and in the exchanges among her characters. “Humor is absolutely necessary to keep going,” she says. “So many of the people in my family and my community were wonderful storytellers. They would tell stories about just awful things that happened to them. But their humor made what happened into their own kind of triumph.” The novel, Watts says, “absolutely has the particularity of African-American experience. But I feel strongly that this kind of experience is not so different from other people’s experiences. This is about a particular time and place, but I think there are so many other resonances here to other kinds of experiences. And that to me is the beauty of reading. As a reader, you know the gut of it and say, ‘I get this,’ and I’ve felt like that, too.” In the end, these characters achieve a kind of peace with one another, a place where Watts says, “I could see them having a future, a difficult one, but a future.” She adds, “There are mercies that we get all the time, if we can see them as that. That doesn’t necessarily mean change and it doesn’t necessarily mean forgiveness. But we can decide that this [harm done to us] is not going to destroy me or lead me to destroy you. I think my characters are on that road.”
I’m often referred to as a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing. I refuse to see myself as a victim. I am a survivor. This is the story of how I took my life back. “Riveting . . . transparent . . . compelling . . . hopeful. Rebekah is not only a survivor. She’s an overcomer! Taking My Life Back is a rollercoaster triumph of faith over depression, defeat, and evil.”
—DON PIPER, New York Times bestselling author of 90 Minutes in Heaven
Rebekah Gregory’s life was forever changed on April 15, 2013, when a bomb exploded behind her while she attended the Boston Marathon. This act of terrorism may have claimed her leg but it could not claim her spirit. She is now a powerful motivational speaker who encourages people all across the country with her message of faith and hope.
Available wherever books and ebooks are sold
BASEBALL BY JOHN C. WILLIAMS
Celebrating the season of the Cub
t’s a new world, baseball fans. The Cubs are World Series champs for the first time since 1908—and there’s plenty to read this spring about the team’s success. The lovable losers stopped losing by employing a manager untethered to traditionalism, a load of young talent and an analytics-savvy front office. This sort of data-driven thinking has become a favorite topic of baseball books, and we get another strong entry this year. The gem of the season, though, takes us back to an earlier era and a much rowdier and more dysfunctional bunch.
To start with the team of the moment: It’s hard to overstate the enormity of the Cubs’ triumph. Just three years ago, they were fresh off an abysmal 96-loss season; in this very space, a reviewer had the gall to call the Cubs “inherently funny.” Oh, how the tables have turned. The last laugh goes to Scott Simon, whose My Cubs: A Love Story (Blue Rider, $23, 160 pages, ISBN 9780735218031) is a brisk, sweet romp through Cubs history to the glorious present. Who can forget the numberless celebrity Cub fans who emerged at the 2016 Classic—your Bill Murrays, your John Cusacks, your Eddie Vedders? Simon, host of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday,” was among them, if not so frequently the object of the Fox cameraman’s gaze. Hard to question his bona fides, though. “Uncle Charlie” was Charlie Grimm, who managed when the Cubs last appeared in the Series in 1945. “Uncle Jack” was longtime broadcaster Jack Brickhouse. Neither of these men was Simon’s uncle in the technical sense, but they were close enough to get him access to Wrigley as a boy and a lifelong Cubbie bug. The personal bits are the best parts here. Simon also finds some deep cuts, such as a remembrance of second baseman Ken Hubbs, whose star shone bright in the early ’60s before a plane crash snuffed it out. Most of the rest is familiar to the initiated—the goat, the Bartman, the victory just lived—though sprinkled liberally with Simon’s Cubs-related doggerel. The Chicago faithful should eat it up, baseball fans with an ear
for whimsy will be amused, and no one can begrudge it (Cleveland devotees excepted).
BUILDING A DYNASTY More straightforward, though deeper, is Tom Verducci’s The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse (Crown Archetype, $28, 384 pages, ISBN 9780804190015).
The stars of this show are Theo Epstein, the curse-dispelling general manager who earned his first star with the Red Sox, and Joe Maddon, the unorthodox coach and, as is reported here, big Pat Conroy fan. Verducci, who got plenty of access to his subjects, handles Epstein’s transition to the Cubs from the Sox and Maddon’s coaching philosophy. He structures the story of the team’s construction around a game-by-game description of the 2016 Series. It’s an effective and entertaining breakdown of what looks to be the next MLB dynasty.
THE FUTURE OF STATS You can be sure the Cubs front office is hip to the stats that are the subject of ESPN analyst Keith Law’s Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones
That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think about Baseball (Morrow, $27.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9780062490223). The subtitle, in all its verbosity and italicization, nicely encapsulates the author’s impatience with atavistic analysis. And it provides the three-part structure for the book. In the first section, Law brings the hammer down on stats like
batting average, RBI and fielding percentage—pillars of baseball cards but irrelevant to a player’s true quality. In the second, he discusses more revealing measures like on-base percentage and fielding independent pitching. In the third, he applies modern stats to questions like the Hall of Fame and discusses where the future of baseball analytics is going—particularly with the advent of MLB’s Statcast product, which promises to give us new information and to make hard-to-quantify abilities like defense easier to grade. Many readers will already know the undeniable truths here (like the idiocy of saves and pitcher wins); on some of the less familiar concepts (like weighted on-base average, or wOBA), the book is, unfortunately, a bit murky. In most of its sections, though, it qualifies as a
useful introduction to (or refresher on) statistical fundamentals—assuming the reader doesn’t mind a little snark, a flat attempt at humor here and there or a condescending tone. Pete Palmer and John Thorn’s The Hidden Game of Baseball (to which this book owes a great debt) is better stats through dense mathematical analysis. Michael Lewis’ Moneyball is better stats through narrative. Smart Baseball is better stats through polemic.
DYSFUNCTIONAL FUN One team that most certainly did not believe in “smart baseball” was the 1970s Oakland A’s, which took three straight Series from 1972–74. Jason Turbow tells their tale in Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s (HMH, $26, 400 pages, ISBN 9780544303171). This team is a perfect fit for Turbow, a wonderful storyteller who gave us a rollicking look at major league players’ daily lives in The Baseball Codes. These A’s were a dysfunctional bunch, known almost as much for their fighting in the locker room as for their play on the field. (Manager Dick Williams could shrug off his own role in one of these scrums by telling the press, “And don’t forget, I had five or six scotches at the time.”) What arguably fueled the winning was the one person the A’s hated worse than each other: owner Charlie Finley. He was a dictator, a micromanager and a showman. He favored loading up the bench with pinch runners; one of his prized signings was a sprinter who couldn’t read a pitcher’s pickoff move. And he was a skinflint, a quality that earned him the enmity of his players and that famously drove off star pitcher Catfish Hunter. The beauty of Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic is that it works on two levels: as a great yarn but also a sharp illustration of the game as it existed just before free agency changed it forever. Turbow tells the story with a facility that makes it the read of the season.
CHRISTIAN LIVING BY HOWARD SHIRLEY
Easter journeys of life and love
he Easter season is a time for pondering life’s promise and seeking new direction for the path ahead. It is also a time of love, for the love of Christ is at the heart of the Christian experience. This Easter, five new books offer inspiring journeys of change, hope, amazement, empowerment and love. “You are one decision away from changing your life forever,” writes Craig Groeschel, bestselling author (Soul Detox) and founding pastor of Life.Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize that decision when it comes along or make the best choice. But like the proverbial domino, each decision knocks into the next, and soon we find ourselves in circumstances, for good or ill, that we never imagined and never intended. Recognizing those moments of decision and following God’s guidance is the focus of Groeschel’s latest book, Divine Direction: 7 Decisions That Will Change Your Life (Zondervan, $22.99, 208 pages, ISBN 9780310342830). The seven decisions are characterized by the actions that define each circumstance: Start. Stop. Stay. Go. Serve. Connect. Trust. Using life moments, humor and biblical examples, Groeschel explores how these decisions arise in our lives and how God’s word offers wisdom and encouragement in every circumstance. Divine Direction is an engaging read, with both challenges and insight, pointing the reader toward making conscious, deliberate, life-changing decisions with confidence in God’s plan. If you are struggling with challenges, whether overcoming past pain or seeking a better future, Divine Direction will be a welcome guide.
JOURNEY TO THE CROSS North Carolina pastor Steven Furtick explores God’s love through Christ’s words on the cross in Seven-Mile Miracle: Journey into the Presence of God Through the Last Words of Jesus (Multnomah, $17.99, 192 pages, ISBN 9781601429223). Furtick weaves the story of the seven-mile walk to Emmaus, where the resurrected Jesus revealed His place in Scrip-
ture to two of his followers, with the seven sentences Christ uttered on the cross. Imagining these statements as mileposts along the way to Emmaus, Seven-Mile Miracle examines not only how each of Christ’s words fulfilled prophecies about Him, but also how each sentence matches our own experiences and struggles in life—and offers us hope, through Christ, in this world and the next. Furtick’s writing is approachable and accessible,
Filled with interesting anecdotes and firm conviction, but also an uplifting openness towards others, Living Amazed encourages the reader to seek a deeper relationship with Christ and to trust Him in all things. Amid these insights and Scriptural teachings runs Robison’s call for unity in the Christian faith, and a challenge to overcome denominational disagreements and embrace every believer as part of the body of Christ, working
but also offers deep insight into Scriptural truths. Whether you’re looking for a compelling Easter read or want to grow richer in your faith at any time, the Seven-Mile Miracle is a journey worth taking.
together to serve Christ’s purpose. Robison’s life story is remarkable, and his challenge to personally embrace the limitless power of God is compelling. Robison has lived a life of amazement, and Living Amazed calls everyone to do the same.
THE POWER OF GOD Another journey winds its way through James Robison’s Living Amazed: How Divine Encounters Can Change Your Life (Revell, $19.99, 224 pages, ISBN 9780800727925). Through autobiography and personal testimony, the renowned evangelist and minister traces the moments of amazement he has found—and continues to find—in his walk with Christ. From miraculous answers to prayer, to unexpected direction and even unwanted (yet needed) spiritual correction, Robison reveals how the Holy Spirit has worked in his life and in the lives of others he has encountered.
WOMEN AND THE BIBLE The rise of feminist thought has brought a swell of challenges against the Bible and its treatment of women. From the admonition that wives should “submit” to their husbands to Paul’s instruction that women should “remain silent” in church, the Bible faces questions and outright rejection by many activists. Wendy Alsup counters those arguments through in-depth analysis in Is the Bible Good for Women? (Multnomah, $15.99, 224 pages, ISBN 9781601429001). Using the Christian principle that the Bible’s purpose is to point to
Christ, Alsup argues that even the most troubling passages of Scripture reveal God’s love for women and their status as equal heirs of Christ. Throughout the book, she reveals the historical and cultural realities behind laws, stories and restrictions that are troubling today, placing these strictures in context both in their time and in our biblical understanding. In the end, Alsup argues, the Bible is not only good for women today, but also at the heart of a truly empowering identity for all God’s daughters.
LOVE IN ORDINARY DAYS I can think of no more empowering book for either God’s daughters or sons than Maria Goff’s inspirational Love Lives Here: Finding
What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want (B&H, $17.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9781433648915). In beautiful, touching and often amusing stories, Goff, wife of bestselling author Bob Goff (Love Does), offers wisdom gleaned from her life as a mother, neighbor and wife. And a life of love it is. From imaginary lava flows down staircase steps to actual dangers in war-torn Iraq, she shares a life both ordinary and extraordinary, and through that life the love God has for us all. This is not a book you gobble up in a reading rush. Rather, Love Lives Here is like a home-cooked meal with cherished friends, full of moments to be savored, each chapter a delightful morsel for the soul. It is a night around the table—laughing, talking, sharing, full of smiles and sometimes tears. Love lives in Love Lives Here, and Goff’s words will linger in your heart.
This is an extremely complicated tale, full of delicious twists and turns taking us on a roller ride of ghostly fun. The characters are just so alive and so much fun.
Mariana's Letters Mariana de Saint Phalle www.xlibris.com 978-1-4535-9274-8 | Hardback | $29.99 978-1-4535-9273-1 | Paperback | $19.99 978-1-4535-9275-5 | E-book | $9.99 This is a simple cookbook of simple recipes with stories and comment in the way one would write a friend with French and American recipes.
POETRY BY JULIE HALE
Women poets who challenge boundaries
ffering invaluable perspectives on gender, politics and life on the domestic front, these four diverse poets work in a range of styles to create work that’s POETIC CONTRADICTIONS Hard Child (Copper Canmoving and deeply personal. yon, $16, 96 pages, ISBN
Channeling the quick-change nature of contemporary experience, Morgan Parker’s intoxicating There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House, $14.95, 80 pages, ISBN 9781941040539) is both an of-the-moment book and a collection for the ages. In aggressive poems packed with pop-cul-
9781555977672). A member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, Long Soldier draws upon the bureaucratic language of the U.S. government—specifically that of the 2009 congressional apology to Native Americans—using the term “whereas” as the foundation for an extended cycle of poems that
ture references, Parker explores her identity as a black woman, often writing without the constraints imposed by punctuation. The freedom gives her work a sense of breathless, unchecked urgency. From Beyoncé to Michelle Obama, Parker invokes a gallery of cultural icons as she probes the nature of African-American womanhood. “Will I accidentally live forever / And be sentenced to smile at men / I wish were dead,” she writes in “The President’s Wife.” Filled with mid-stanza mood shifts, the poems track the movement of Parker’s mind, flying high on a cloud of grown-up sophistication one moment (“records curated to our allure, incense, unconcern”), then telling the world to go to hell (“I don’t give any / shits at all . . .”). “I live somewhere imaginary,” Parker writes. That place, the reader suspects, is poetry.
includes brief, concrete pieces and lengthy prose narratives. Tension simmers beneath the surface as she reflects on her culture, sense of identity and family: “Whereas her birth signaled the responsibility as mother to teach what it is to be Lakota, / therein the question: what did I know about being Lakota?” In ways that feel fresh and innovative, she plays with word patterns and typography to produce poems that appeal to the eye as well as the intellect. She can stop the reader cold with a stunning image, as in “Steady Summer,” when “two horseflies love-buzz / a simple humid meeting / motorized sex in place.” Long Soldier is such an assured, versatile poet that it’s difficult to believe this is her debut.
A POISED DEBUT Layli Long Soldier creates a work of dignity and power from the seed of a single word in the haunting collection WHEREAS (Graywolf, $16, 114 pages, ISBN
ham’s work preserves and reminds us of that shock at a time when we can’t afford to forget.
ECO-CONSCIOUS Pastoral poems typically celebrate the beauty of the great outdoors—Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” is a classic example—but for Rebecca Dunham, the pastoral tradition’s benign portrayal of humans at one with nature is no longer valid. She upends the tradition
in Cold Pastoral (Milkweed, $16, 80 pages, ISBN 9781571314789), an urgent collection inspired in part by her research into the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Dunham interviewed oil rig workers, oystermen and others affected by the spill, and she incorporates their stories into poems such as “To Walk on Air,” in which crew members jump from the burning rig: “. . . feet cycling air. / Their boots / pierce cloud as they crash / into a sea stirred to wildfire.” For the men in “Pump Room,” the earth is “a blue balloon,” the bit of the oil drill “a pin pushed / as far as it can go, until—everything / that could go wrong was going / wrong.” Filled with images of desolate beauty, Cold Pastoral does the important work of bearing witness. In “Black Horizon,” Dunham writes of “dark / pools oiling sands of blinding / white”—a vision that “never fails to shock.” Dun-
9781556595097), the second collection from award-winning poet Natalie Shapero, is a book of abrasive beauty. Detached and Plathlike, Shapero’s approach can be clinical at times, and many of her poems seem cold and removed. Yet she creates connections with the reader through the use of black humor and unexpected rhyme and wordplay. In first-person poems that often portray the narrator as an outsider, Shapero explores motherhood, gender and history. In “Secret Animal,” she writes, “I would rather / eat straight from the cup of my palm, as / though I’m my own secret animal: fed / from the far side of a link fence, trusted / in spite of warnings.” For the poet, everyday experience is often spiked with menacing signifiers. In “Monster,” a new baby outfit reminds the speaker of the jacket a child wore in Schindler’s List, inspiring a bleak consideration of the past. Shapero’s poetic voice is at once irascible and appealing, cynical and comical. It’s a tone she employs without isolating her audience— one of the many pleasures to be found in this engaging collection.
by Morgan Parker
I’m hiding secrets and weapons in there: buttermilk pancake cardboard, boxes of purple juice, a magic word our Auntie Angela spoke into her fist & released into hot black evening like gunpowder or a Kool, 40 yards of cheap wax prints, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a Zulu folktale warning against hunters drunk on Polo shirts and Jägermeister, blueprints for building ergonomically perfect dancers & athletes, the chords to what would have been Michael’s next song, a mule stuffed with diamonds & gold, Miss Holiday’s vocal chords, the jokes Dave Chapelle’s been crafting off-the-grid, sex & brown liquor intended for distribution at Sunday Schools in white suburbs, or in other words exactly what a white glove might expect to find taped to my leg & swallowed down my gullet & locked in my trunk & fogging my dirty mind & glowing like treasure in my autopsy Excerpted from the poetry collection There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé published by Tin House Books. © 2017 Morgan Parker.
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THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE
Secrets in sanctuary REVIEW BY AMY SCRIBNER
What was Germany like for regular citizens in the months and years after World War II? In the enthralling The Women in the Castle, Jessica Shattuck paints a portrait of a postwar country wracked with guilt and confusion, trying to regroup and rebuild even as Allied forces require Germans to watch footage of the liberation of Buchenwald and paper villages with photos of concentration camp victims. In this uncertain world, where many Germans still believe these actions to be propaganda and don’t yet understand the full horror of what has transpired, three women come together through unlikely connections. Marianne von Lingenfels is an aristocrat whose husband died due to his involvement in an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life. By Jessica Shattuck Before he dies, Marianne pledges to take care of the wives and children Morrow, $26.99, 368 pages of other resisters. Making good on that promise, Marianne retrieves ISBN 9780062563668, audio, eBook available Benita, who is being abused by Russian soldiers in Berlin, and locates Benita’s son, who’s being held in a Nazi children’s home. HISTORICAL FICTION The group makes its way to the von Lingenfels’ castle, where Marianne’s children also live. Then quiet Ania and her two shell-shocked boys arrive, ostensibly fleeing the Red Army. But there’s more to her story, and Benita’s, and it will take years for Marianne to fully understand the pasts of the women she’s been charged with protecting. Shattuck, whose novel The Hazards of Good Breeding was a finalist for the PEN/Winship Award, sheds new light on World War II’s aftermath and the families left behind, and raises poignant questions about blind loyalty: “Could you see a person’s soul in their face? Marianne and Albrecht had often argued about this. Yes, she had insisted. Didn’t you know from the moment you saw Hitler’s photograph that he was bad? Albrecht wasn’t sure. If it was so obvious, he pointed out, how did he fool the rest of Germany?” The Women in the Castle is haunting, a beautifully written and painfully vivid glimpse into one of the most horrific times in world history.
THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE By Lisa See
Scribner $27, 384 pages ISBN 9781501154829 Audio, eBook available
Lisa See’s enlightening new novel offers her readers multiple storylines, each of which focuses on the engaging character of LiYan, a member of the Akha tribe of Yunnan Province, one of China’s ethnic minorities. When the novel opens in 1988, Li-Yan is 10 and already the star pupil in the Spring Well Village School. Her mother is the village
midwife, and she hopes to pass on her skills to Li-Yan one day. But Li-Yan, the smartest and most ambitious of the family, harbors the hope to be the first to advance to secondary school and beyond— and eventually to venture outside her isolated mountain home. But her lessons are cut short when she becomes pregnant at 17. According to tribal custom, Li-Yan’s baby, born out of wedlock, must be killed—but she and her mother conspire to give the baby girl away to an orphanage in a nearby town. Li-Yan leaves her daughter there with a tea cake wrapped in the swaddling blankets. Li-Yan and her mother are heirs to a secret grove of trees that produce the most sought-after tea leaves in the region. See’s extensively researched story of the tea production in Yunnan Province, es-
business and both the difficulties and joys of Chinese-American adoptions. But ultimately it’s a novel about the strength of mother-daughter ties—peopled, as is each of See’s novels, with strong characters with whom the reader empathizes from the first page to the last.
pecially the rare Pu’er tea unique to Spring Well Village and the mountains nearby, is fascinating, and it becomes the main focus of Li-Yan’s life as she attends a selective tea college and eventually opens her own highly successful tea market. Interspersed with chapters portraying Li-Yan’s years of struggle and eventual marriage to a wealthy Chinese American are those written in the voice of her daughter, who was adopted by an American couple and grows up in southern California with all the privileges Li-Yan could have hoped for her. From a young age Haley has hoped to someday find her birth mother, the only clue to her identity being the tea cake that came with her to America. See’s ambitious novel touches on Chinese cultural history, the centuries-old intricacies of the tea
MARLENA By Julie Buntin
Holt $26, 288 pages ISBN 9781627797641 Audio, eBook available
From its brilliant opening sentence, “Tell me what you can’t forget, and I’ll tell you who you are,” Julie Buntin’s debut novel creates a hauntingly original atmosphere for a familiar story. In Marlena, a woman in her 30s recalls events from two decades earlier, when a brief friendship had a profound impact on her life. When Cat was 15, she and her “full-blown poor” family, which included her divorced mother and older brother, moved from their home in a Detroit suburb to a “grubby half-acre” in the woods of Silver Lake, Michigan. As she helps unload the U-Haul, Cat meets Marlena Joyner, two years her senior, who lives nearby in “a renovated barn coated in layers of lilac paint that were sticky to the touch.” Cat and Marlena become best friends. Their friendship lasts only a year, until Marlena “suffocated in less than six inches of ice-splintered river.” But it’s a life-changing year for Cat, one in which Marlena introduces her to a world very different from her accustomed environment. She encourages Cat, an excellent student in her previous school, to cut classes, drink heavily and take recreational drugs. And Marlena’s father is hardly a stabilizing influence; he cooks meth in a railcar behind their house. Today, Cat has a prominent job in New York, but the effects of her Silver Lake years remain. She still
reviews struggles with alcoholism, and when Marlena’s younger brother, Sal, who was 8 when his sister died, calls Cat to say that he’s in town, events from a past she never quite forgot come rushing back. Despite an error in chronology— YouTube, which figures into the narrative, wasn’t around 20 years ago—Marlena is still an unforgettable portrait of teenage confusion and experimentation, a time when one discovers “that time doesn’t belong to you. All you have is what you remember.” —MICHAEL MAGRAS
THE WOMAN ON THE STAIRS By Bernhard Schlink
Pantheon $25.95, 240 pages ISBN 9781101870716 Audio, eBook available
Bernhard Schlink is best known for his internationally successful novel The Reader (1997), and he returns to the themes of passion and loss in The Woman on the Stairs, about a German lawyer who stumbles onto a nude painting of a woman for whom he once risked his career and who then mysteriously disappeared from his life. When the nameless protagonist is in Sydney working on a case, he comes across a familiar painting in a local museum. Decades earlier, as a young lawyer in Frankfurt, he became entangled in an affair involving an artist, a woman named Irene and her art collector husband, who commissioned the aforementioned painting of the unfaithful Irene. Hired to mediate a series of conflicts involving damage and restoration of the canvas, the lawyer fell in love with Irene, who in turn convinced him to help her steal the painting, promising she would run away with him if they were successful. The day he helped her was the last day he saw her. The lawyer is able to locate Irene with the help of a local detective. Living in a remote area outside of Sydney, Irene is now leading a qui-
FICTION et life, assisting her elderly neighbors and growing her own food. It also becomes apparent that she is quite ill. Irene’s life of passion forces the lawyer to come to terms with his own losses and to understand that many of his choices were merely reactions to the coldness that he experienced as a child. Schlink, a professor of law in both Germany and the United States, writes with lawyerly precision, and his protagonist’s midlife search for meaning is thought-provoking and surprisingly tender, though some of the characters never fully come to life. The Woman on the Stairs will appeal to readers as an exploration of the moral ambiguities of blame and guilt and the ethical issues of ownership. —LAUREN BUFFERD
TELL ME HOW THIS ENDS WELL By David Samuel Levinson Hogarth $27, 416 pages ISBN 9780451496881 eBook available
If there were a shade of comedy darker than black, David Samuel Levinson’s novel Tell Me How This Ends Well would define it. The story of an ill-conceived murder plot hatched by three adult children to dispatch their psychologically abusive father, it’s a devilishly funny and yet painfully honest dissection of one Jewish family’s angst, set against the backdrop of a terrifying near-future America in which anti-Semitism has emerged with renewed vengeance. On an April weekend in 2022, the Jacobson family gathers at the San Fernando Valley home of Moses Orenstein-Jacobson, a B-movie actor and the star of a cancelled reality show that also featured his wife and their five sons. They’re joined by his sister Edith and, from Berlin, his brother Jacob and Jacob’s German partner, Dietrich. Over the course of the weekend, the Jacobson siblings—in the presence of their mother, Roz, the
victim of a terminal lung disease— rehearse their lifelong litany of grievances against their “mean, viperous, and unpredictable” father, Julian, a man with an uncanny knack for seeking out and exploiting each child’s point of maximum emotional vulnerability. Julian’s verbal cruelty, past and present, easily qualifies him for membership in any hall of fame of literary villainy. The Jacobsons’ murderous scheme, climaxing on the evening of a televised Passover Seder at Moses’ home, unfolds with the lack of professionalism and bizarre humor one would expect from such a profoundly damaged trio. Levinson’s vividly imagined America is home to some 4 million Israeli refugees, an influx of new immigrants that sparks a wave of anti-Jewish terror that includes suicide bombings on the Los Angeles freeways and attacks on Jewish day schools. The hostile environment, which seems eerily plausible, only exacerbates the Jacobson family’s insecurity, heightening the tension that surrounds their criminal designs. Tell Me How This Ends Well takes the familiar tropes of family conflict and flashes them in a funhouse mirror. Yet somehow, they emerge from that process of distortion ever more clearly reflected in our own minds. —HARVEY FREEDENBERG
THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY
fair share of criminal capers by little more than the skin of his teeth, Hawley has spent most of his life on the lam, pulling up stakes and starting over with his daughter, Loo, whenever a job goes poorly. But when Loo turns 12, Hawley decides a little stability might serve her well and moves them to Olympus, Massachusetts, the small coastal village where Loo’s dead mother spent her girlhood. As the two perennial outsiders cautiously become part of a community, the past that Hawley has spent so long running from begins to close in on them. Loo’s adolescent misadventures are interspersed with histories of the dozen bullet wounds that decorate Hawley’s body, the narrative nimbly flitting between past and present day until the two timelines merge in a deadly and devastating climax. Cinematic in its scope, this expansive novel confidently dwells in the murky liminal spaces of human morality while exploring enduring topics of time, death, love and grief. Tinti has created a darkly daring (yet oddly uplifting) book that serves as a beguiling study in contrasts and contradictions, one that will leave readers pondering the conundrum of whether her protagonist is a good man who has done bad things or a bad man who has done good things. Expertly infusing old-fashioned storytelling with a modern sensibility, Tinti blends spaghetti Western, literary suspense and mythology to great success. —STEPHENIE HARRISON
By Hannah Tinti
Dial $27, 400 pages ISBN 9780812989885 Audio, eBook available
COMING OF AGE
A LINE MADE BY WALKING By Sara Baume
HMH $25, 320 pages ISBN 9780544716957 eBook available
Who has more lives than a cat and the bullet scars to prove it? That would be Samuel Hawley, the fascinatingly complicated and morally dubious titular character of Hannah Tinti’s gorgeous and gut-wrenching new novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley. Having escaped more than his
In Sara Baume’s second novel, A Line Made by Walking, we meet Frankie on the cusp of turning 26, seemingly posed for a conventional coming-of-age story—until she’s unable to swallow, hear or pull
FICTION herself up off the old carpet. Frankie, determined if nothing else, hopes to regain her footing and find some artistic inspiration by moving into her grandma’s vacant house in the Irish countryside. Solitary among the green pastures, roaming cows and plenty of dead wild things, Frankie reflects on her life and takes stock of exactly why happiness has eluded her so far. Throughout her reverie, readers meet Frankie at different ages and phases of life, always surrounded by the loving company of family, friends and a creative community. And in each scenario, she is hopelessly incapable of dwelling in that comfort and that sense of belonging. Artists often hold a divergent view of the same world we share, and Baume takes full advantage of this ethos, using Frankie’s reflections and wavering mental health as a way to keep us guessing whether her perpetual suffering and experiments are a form of art in itself. There is no denying that A Line Made by Walking is full of sadness and pain, but with captivating writing, a vivid rural landscape and frequent references to famous works of art, Baume creates a layered experience that leaves the reader nurtured and restored. For artists and lovers of art, this will be an extra-special treat. —CHIKA GUJARATHI
Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Sara Baume.
THE ARRANGEMENT By Sarah Dunn
Little, Brown $26, 368 pages ISBN 9780316013598 Audio, eBook available
President?” More on him later, by the way. The bobo protagonists of Dunn’s story are Lucy and her husband, Owen. Their marriage has gone a bit stale, due not in small part to their son, Wyatt, a ghastly child for whom Lucy has put aside her career to care for full time. It’s one of the many ironies of the book that this little beast is more biddable in the care of his harried dad. At least Wyatt doesn’t spit in Owen’s face and scream, “I hate you!” all the time. To revive their marriage, to let it aerate a little, Lucy and Owen agree to sleep with other people for a sixmonth period. The ground rules are no falling in love, snooping or leaving. (So much for that.) Dunn, a television writer for “Spin City” and creator of “American Housewife,” draws the reader into Owen and Lucy’s situation while painting a lively picture of their neighbors. They live in a tidy, Starbucks-free burb called Beekman, accessible to Manhattan via Metro North. Neighbors include Sunny Bang, a busybody as kind as she is up in everyone’s grill; and Mrs. Lowell, the transgender school teacher who arouses the transphobic wrath of town billionaire Gordon Allen. You know who he’s based on because he’s on his third wife, doesn’t pay taxes, and Alec Baldwin harangues him for being a climate change denier. The book charms with the author’s compassion for all her foolish, bumbling characters. All everyone wants, she says, is a little tenderness, from the horrible Wyatt to the horrible Gordon. The Arrangement will make you smile. —ARLENE MCKANIC
MUSIC OF THE GHOSTS By Vaddey Ratner
It only requires a few pages of Sarah Dunn’s sad, funny novel to spark a line of thought: “Are there still people like this? People who drink Ridge Zinfandel and slice their grass-fed wagyu beef with Laguiole steak knives? Don’t they know that Donald Trump is the
Touchstone $26, 336 pages ISBN 9781476795782 Audio, eBook available
American involvement in Cambodia during the Vietnam War was
often called a “sideshow.” Bombing of the countryside displaced the population and destabilized the government, which paved the way for the rise of the Khmer Rouge. Music of the Ghosts by survivor Vaddey Ratner only touches on American culpability, but the grueling, heart-wrenching novel indicts any treatment of Cambodia as mere footnote. The novel concerns a woman named Teera, who, like the author, lost her father, escaped Cambodia to America and attended Cornell. Teera returns to Cambodia to meet a man known as the Old Musician, who claims to have known her father. The Old Musician—once a pupil of Pol Pot, who was a teacher before becoming leader of the Khmer Rouge—ended up in one of the regime’s prisons, where officials tried to extract confessions to confirm their paranoia. There, the Old Musician often shared a cell with Teera’s father. The novel thus splits in two. On the one hand are Teera’s impressions of her unknown native country. On the other are the Old Musician’s memories of life under “the Organization.” Through Teera, Ratner seems keen to show present-day Cambodia as recovered from the war, if nothing else to offer contrast to the book’s darker chapters. Teera admits her time in America has made her a reflexive optimist, but the war keeps dimming her rose-colored glasses. The landscape is scarred by bombs. Social relations remain tense. In an unforgettable passage, Ratner describes a woman whose job is to remove mines, but she later replaces them, as otherwise she’d be out of work. Thus the never-ending parade of amputees perpetuates on Cambodia’s streets. The novel isn’t unending desolation. On the contrary, it is often very sweet, told with a careful lyricism that sometimes gets the better of the plot. Occasionally calling to mind Things Fall Apart, another novel about collapsed societies, Music of the Ghosts evokes a world with ghosts aplenty, but less apt by Ratner’s hand to be dismissed as a sideshow.
Love often exceeds the power of words, but Karen Neulander is doing her best. Whenever she has a spare moment, Karen tries to write her way to telling her son how deeply she adores him. Someday, she won’t be there to say it herself. Karen has stage IV ovarian cancer, and it’s only a matter of time before she leaves 6-year-old Jake to face the world without his mother by his side. She’s made plans for her son’s care after her death, but Karen also wants him to know her. She is the parent who loved him and cared for him no matter what. She’s been his only parent—until recently. As Karen faces a terminal diagnosis and tries to reconcile her son’s life without her, Jake asks for the one thing she’s reluctant to give: his father. See, Karen’s pregnancy was a surprise, and her then-boyfriend, Dave, was uninterested in becoming a father. After Karen told Dave she was pregnant, his bad reaction led her to cut him out of her life forever. That was the plan, anyway. But how can she deny Jake a chance to meet the person who provided the other half of his DNA? Surely it’ll be a one-time meeting, Karen convinces herself. If only life were so simple. Our Short History is the book Karen writes as she grapples with mortality, love and the fear that her ex will take Jake away before her final days. It’s a meditation on love and grief, and lauded novelist Lauren Grodstein (A Friend of the Family) plunges into both beautiful and ugly emotions without hesitation. That’s real life, after all. Even when we want the best for someone, our own self-interest and insecurities can arise. It’s what we do afterward that can truly reveal love.
—CARLA JEAN WHITLEY
OUR SHORT HISTORY By Lauren Grodstein
Algonquin $26.95, 352 pages ISBN 9781616206222 eBook available
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HOURGLASS By Dani Shapiro
A revolutionary childhood
Knopf $22.95, 160 pages ISBN 9780451494481 eBook available
REVIEW BY CATHERINE HOLLIS
Peter Andreas’ enthralling new memoir describes growing up on the lam with his Marxist revolutionary mother. In a childhood only the American counterculture could create, young Peter and his mother flee the bland suburbs of Kansas for new horizons: a hippie commune in Berkeley, a socialist farm in Allende’s Chile and collective living in Peru. Writing with candor and sincerity, Andreas—now an international studies professor at Brown University—creates an unforgettable portrait of a remarkable woman. Born into a Mennonite family in central Kansas, Carol Andreas grew up questioning the strictures of her community. On her wedding day at 17, she suddenly balked and told her husband-to-be that she didn’t know if she believed in monogamy. Despite going through with the marriage, Carol’s years as a 1950s housewife quickly came to an end By Peter Andreas once she began studying for a Ph.D. in sociology and became involved Simon & Schuster, $26, 336 pages ISBN 9781501124396, audio, eBook available with 1960s political activism. Subject to the increasingly repressive countermoves of her husband, Carol kidnapped Peter from school in MEMOIR 1969, taking off with him and his two older brothers for Berkeley and freedom. For the next decade, Peter and Carol would travel throughout Latin America, while Carol wrote books about their experiences. Peter’s father never gave up trying to regain custody of him, and the emotional heart of this story is the tension between young Peter’s loyalty to his mother and his desire for the domestic stability (cereal and Saturday morning cartoons) of his father. The great achievement of Rebel Mother: My Childhood Chasing the Revolution emerges from the balance and respect with which adult Peter portrays the conflict between his parents. Written with the aid of Carol’s extensive diaries (found after her death), Rebel Mother offers a sympathetic and fascinating glimpse into the life of a radical woman, a tumultuous era and a sensitive young man’s coming of age.
THE GATEKEEPERS By Chris Whipple Crown $28, 384 pages ISBN 9780804138246 Audio, eBook available
When a presidential campaign is over and the winning candidate is in the White House, he (and in the future, she) must face the difficult task of turning political rhetoric into concrete legislation or executive action. Presidents get accustomed to people agreeing with them, but it is imperative that the top elected official in the land has someone with the authority to challenge the president. He or
she must be willing to “speak truth to power” when problems emerge and must be ready to accept the blame when things go wrong, but be certain that when things go well, the president is the one who receives credit. For many years that person has been the White House chief of staff. With his carefully researched, bipartisan and eminently readable The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, Chris Whipple has written a must-read book for all who want a backstage view of the presidency, from the Richard Nixon years through Barack Obama’s two terms. Based on extensive, intimate interviews with all 17 living former chiefs of staff, former presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, and many others, this is a treasure trove of experiences.
James Baker, chief of staff for Ronald Reagan, who later served as treasury secretary and secretary of state, says a strong argument can be made that the position is the “second-most-powerful job in government.” Forty years after he served as Gerald Ford’s chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld said the position was “unquestionably the toughest job I ever had,” despite later serving as secretary of defense under two presidents. Whipple is an acclaimed writer, documentary filmmaker and multiple Peabody and Emmy Award-winning producer at CBS’ “60 Minutes” and ABC’s “Primetime.” The remarkably candid interviews and reader-friendly narrative of this book make for very informative and entertaining reading. —ROGER BISHOP
Dani Shapiro is a novelist and short story writer, but above all she is a memoirist. In her three earlier memoirs—Slow Motion, Devotion and Still Writing—Shapiro used the lens of her own life to explore family tragedy, the search for meaning and the act of writing. In her latest memoir, Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, she examines her marriage to journalist and screenwriter Michael Maren. By almost every measure, they have a strong marriage: They’ve been together for 18 years, coped with their young son’s rare and dangerous illness and succeeded in a business where very few people thrive. And yet, like every other marriage, there are fault lines. Maren, a former war correspondent, is addicted to adrenaline, and Shapiro fears that he regrets their safe life. She is also terrified that they will end their lives in poverty. They are both haunted by the deaths and illnesses of their parents. In Hourglass, Shapiro paints a beautiful portrait of a marriage that miraculously flourishes despite fear and guilt. This is not a chronology of a marriage: It is a memoir, and while the lives we lead are linear, our memories rarely are. Shapiro analyzes her marriage by linking together the memories of seemingly unrelated events, recounting each episode with clarity and beauty. The story of Maren’s futile battle with an annoying woodpecker deepens the meaning of Shapiro’s rediscovery of her old journals. In a particularly moving episode, Shapiro recalls a vision of her grandchildren playing with her friend’s grandchildren. The golden beauty of that dream may never come true, but nonetheless its very existence becomes a real part of
NONFICTION the structure of the marriage. Together these memories form a reality that is as diaphanous, fragile and as surprisingly resilient as a spider web. Hourglass is not only a profound and moving reflection on Shapiro’s marriage, but on all marriages. —DEBORAH MASON
THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN By Jeff Guinn
Simon & Schuster $28, 544 pages ISBN 9781476763828 Audio, eBook available
ran his ministry as a narcissistic cult, luring followers with phony faith healing and half-baked “socialist” rants, then exploiting his followers financially and sexually. Was he always a monster or did something change? Initially, he resembled a number of other unorthodox evangelists. Then a pivot occurred in 1971 when Jones became addicted to drugs—his promiscuity and paranoia surged, and a tragic outcome became more likely, if not inevitable. Guinn’s blow-by-blow account of Jonestown’s final days in the book’s last chapters is riveting. Jones betrayed hundreds of people who worshipped him; Guinn helps ensure we’ll remember their ruin. —ANNE BARTLETT
Even now, after all the mass killings of recent decades—9/11, Oklahoma City, all the rest—the Jonestown massacre is still staggering in its horror. More than 900 Americans—nearly 300 of them children—died in a Guyanese jungle in 1978 after a dangerous crackpot named Jim Jones told them to commit suicide by swallowing a poison-infused drink. How on earth could this have happened? Couldn’t someone have done something, anything, to prevent it? If there are answers to those questions, they start with examining Jones himself, the charismatic cult leader originally from small-town Indiana who drew thousands to his Peoples Temple, then destroyed those who followed him to his remote settlement. Writer Jeff Guinn, already a biographer of Charles Manson, provides a powerful account of Jones’ life based on a comprehensive examination of the records and new interviews with Temple survivors and Jones’ relatives in The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. Jones is ultimately more interesting than Manson because he was a man of real accomplishment. Particularly in his early days, the white preacher fought effectively for civil rights for African Americans. Even as he drifted ever further into lunacy, his organization’s social service programs were always genuinely helpful. But simultaneously, Jones
THE FIRST LOVE STORY By Bruce Feiler
Penguin Press $28, 320 pages ISBN 9781594206818 Audio, eBook available
Mae West’s archive! What could that have to do with Adam and Eve?), dropping back to describe a particular aspect of Adam and Eve’s story, then returning to the more contemporary scene to reveal more. Some unexpected but compelling detours include visits with Mary Shelley, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, all of whom spun their own interpretations of Adam and Eve. One of Feiler’s key conclusions? Eve is Adam’s equal and partner, not his inferior. The First Love Story serves as a kind of relationship book, too; each chapter illuminates an aspect of Adam and Eve’s experience, which Feiler then applies to modern relationships. He concludes with six principles, or “What Adam and Eve Taught Me About Relationships”—covenant, connectedness, counterbalance, constancy, care and co-narration. “This is what I took from Adam and Eve,” Feiler writes. “Love is a story we tell with another person. And as with them, the telling never ends.” —SARAH M�CRAW CROW
MERCIES IN DISGUISE Even if you don’t know much of the Bible, you know this story: Adam, Eve, the Garden of Eden, the serpent, the apple, banishment by God—familiar, yet so ancient as to be utterly strange. But the account from Genesis of Adam and Eve has much to tell the 21st-century reader about love, family and equality, writes Bruce Feiler. In The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us, Feiler aims to show why Adam and Eve still matter, diving into their story through a wide range of sources. As in his books Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths and Walking the Bible (and its companion PBS series), Feiler visits experts and pertinent sites on multiple continents, from the purported Garden of Eden in Iraq and Adam’s tomb in Jerusalem to the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel and John Milton’s cottage outside London. Feiler’s style is chatty, and he builds an argument by setting a surprising scene (now he’s in
By Gina Kolata
St. Martin’s $25.99, 272 pages ISBN 9781250064349 eBook available
the story of one small-town Southern family ravaged by a mysterious illness. The Baxley family of Hartsville, South Carolina, always felt they were special. They were even named the South Carolina Family of the Year in 1985 by former governor Richard Riley. Following family patriarch Bill Baxley’s death, they discovered their specialness arose not only from hard work and community respect but from carrying a rare disease that started to afflict almost every member of the family. After watching her father die slowly from Gerstmann-SträusslerScheinker (GSS) disease, Amanda Baxley, Bill Baxley’s granddaughter, tests positive for this degenerative illness that is plaguing her family. In poignant detail, Kolata tells of Amanda’s fear, hope, strength and courage as she chooses to undergo preimplantation genetic diagnosis, a procedure in which embryos with the disease are discarded while a healthy one is implanted. As a result of this procedure, Amanda delivers twins not long after her father breathes his last breath, and she sees her children as a gift of life from her father. Kolata’s book tells a riveting tale of fear and fierce determination in the face of an overwhelming medical situation that at first seems hopeless. —HENRY L. CARRIGAN JR.
THE YELLOW ENVELOPE By Kim Dinan
Imagine watching your father die slowly from a degenerative neurological disease so rare that there is no cure. Imagine, then, coming to grips when you learn the disease is genetic and there is a good chance that you carry those genes, and will not only die from the disease but pass it along to your children. If you could take a simple blood test to reveal whether or not you have the genes, would you take it? Part medical mystery, part family history and part medical history, Gina Kolata’s gripping Mercies in Disguise: A Story of Hope, a Family’s Genetic Destiny, and the Science That Rescued Them tells
Sourcebooks $15.99, 368 pages ISBN 9781492635383 Audio, eBook available
It takes a great deal of planning, support and courage to leave a life of comfort to travel around the world. But this is exactly what Kim Dinan and her husband, Brian, did. After saving their money, selling their belongings and quitting their jobs, they traveled to locales such as Ecuador, Peru, India, Nepal and Vietnam. The story of their trans-
reviews formative journey is chronicled beautifully in Dinan’s debut book, The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World. Before embarking on this powerful experience, Dinan was at a turning point. She wasn’t sure what she wanted; she just knew she wasn’t happy and wished to see the world. Happily, some generous friends give her and Brian a yellow envelope with $1,000 inside that they named the “Kim and Brian Yellow Envelope Fund.” They wanted the couple to help “make the world a better place” by giving the money away however they saw fit. As Dinan fondly describes, they “were asking us to be a conduit for their goodness.” However, things don’t go exactly as Dinan had imagined in just about every way—from the places they visit to her relationship with Brian to the gifting of the Yellow Envelope money. Her brutal honesty is admirable, particularly when recounting her doubts, mistakes and mishaps in vivid detail. She doesn’t sugarcoat the situations they encounter that end up having life-changing ramifications for them both. But there are many joys along with the missteps. These experiences help Dinan find inner peace and realize that she was already everything she needed to be. Having the Yellow Envelope made “ordinary interactions more meaningful,” teaching her how to give not just money, but of herself. The Yellow Envelope is an uplifting memoir of bravery and self-discovery. —BECKY LIBOUREL DIAMOND
THE 1997 MASTERS By Tiger Woods
Grand Central $30, 256 pages ISBN 9781455543588 Audio, eBook available
I may be getting cynical in middle age, but my first thought
NONFICTION upon hearing that Tiger Woods was writing a memoir about his triumphant victory at the 1997 Masters was, “How clever! He gets to relive his glory days without having to address the mess that came later in his personal life.” It’s true that Woods neatly sidesteps the revelations of his serial cheating that became a public spectacle and cast shadows on his storied career. The only mention is on the second-to-last page: “I’ve gone through a lot on and off the course, what with different injuries, changes in the game, and the equipment we use, as well as being married, having kids, and getting publicly divorced. It’s definitely been tough at times.” To be fair, this book is clearly for fans of golf, not scandals. Woods dives deep into his preparations for and experience at the 1997 Masters. Just 21 at the time, he electrified fans with his decisive win and became a global icon. At the start of the book, Woods writes compellingly, if briefly, about his childhood as a golf prodigy. Life wasn’t always perfect for the Woods family, who experienced racism after moving to a mostly white city in Southern California. “Some of the residents weren’t happy that a mixed-race family had moved in, and threw things at the house—lemons, limes, rocks,” Woods writes. Still, Woods remained laser-focused on the sport he loved, dreaming about someday playing at Augusta. He finally did as an amateur, but it was in 1997 that the stars aligned for him. Woods takes readers behind the scenes at the legendary club, writing about the accommodations, his interactions with reporters and other golfers, the African-American staff at the club who snuck out to watch him play and even the types of clubs he chose for major shots throughout the four days. Capped off by Woods’ reflections on his nagging injuries and what he would change about the course at Augusta, The 1997 Masters: My Story is a vivid and ultimately satisfying read about a singular event in American sports.
Were you on the edge of your seat for the Netflix series “The Crown”? Do you still have the Charles and Diana coffee mug you badgered a London friend to send you 36 years ago? If so, you’ll have a jolly good time reading Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, billed as the first major biography of the Prince of Wales in over 20 years. If not, you’ll still enjoy it as a psychological case study of a man who’s spent almost his entire life waiting for a role that might never be his. (For one thing, Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II, remains active in her 90s.) Charles, 68, has lived a life in the spotlight, with some of his most intimate secrets exposed thanks to those pesky intercepted phone conversations. So author Sally Bedell Smith doesn’t claim to expose any great secrets, concentrating instead on writing a highly readable account of Charles’ life, with emphasis on what makes him tick. In this she succeeds admirably. As for the passions mentioned in the title, rest assured that Charles’ disastrous marriage to Lady Diana Spencer is recounted along with his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, whom he married eight years after Diana’s death. But— you must eat your broccoli, you know—Smith devotes equal weight to Charles’ more prosaic passions, such as alternative medicine and environmental sustainability. And the paradoxes? That’s where the psychology comes in, and Smith makes it clear that Charles could provide full employment for a team of psychoanalysts. And that’s with many more chapters of his life still to be written, kingship or not.
Out of Line details Barbara Lynch’s extremely unlikely journey from a “project rat” (her term) to a three-time James Beard award-winning chef living la belle vie. Along the way she falls in and out of infatuations, describes glorious meals and keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Lynch’s teenage escapades— boosting a bus, driving without a license from Boston to Florida, flying to the Bahamas using stolen credit cards—are almost as jaw-dropping as her memories of growing up in the South Boston neighborhood under the eye of mobster Whitey Bulger. Lynch’s vivid memories, her straightforward and direct manner of telling stories and her obvious passion for food make these pages fly. The child of a single mother, Lynch remembers how her mom made everyday food special—pickle juice in the tuna salad, crushed saltines in the meatballs, a particular brand of tomato sauce. Here, Lynch acknowledges that care in the preparation of food happens at all levels, that lingering over flavor is part of what it means to be fully human. The gutsiness that led her to steal that bus later enables her to accept a series of seemingly impossible professional tasks—single-handedly cooking a wedding feast in Italy, making dishes in Hawaii for hundreds, launching a variety of restaurants with the slenderest advance preparation. She admits to saying yes and figuring out the details later, a report that I find fully believable after traveling through several chapters at her side. This is a candid telling of how a devil-may-care attitude gave rise to one of the most powerful female restaurateurs in the country today.
— K E L LY B L E W E T T
PRINCE CHARLES By Sally Bedell Smith
Random House $32, 624 pages ISBN 9781400067909 Audio, eBook available
OUT OF LINE By Barbara Lynch Atria $26, 304 pages ISBN 9781476795447 eBook available
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GEM & DIXIE
Between me and my sister R E V I E W B Y E R I N A . H O LT
Sisters Gem and Dixie only have each other. Their parents’ marriage ended when their drug and alcohol addictions made it difficult to hold down jobs, let alone raise a family. However, when the girls are in high school, Dixie receives a letter from their dad, who wants back in their life. Dixie, younger and still easily charmed by their father, falls for it, but Gem isn’t fooled. Their father arrives, certain that their mother will take him back. But she kicks him out again—after he stows his backpack full of money in the girls’ room. Upon discovering the backpack and its contents, the girls take their own adventure, leading them to realizations about themselves and each other. Sara Zarr returns with one of her most heartfelt books yet. Gem & Dixie packs a real punch, highlighting the ugly truth of severed relationships and the loneliness of a broken home. She examines the inner workings of a sibling relationship that was once close but grows more By Sara Zarr and more distant. Gem is a particularly strong character; she struggles Balzer + Bray, $17.99, 288 pages with her belief that it’s her sole responsibility to ensure that the family ISBN 9780062434593, audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up doesn’t fall apart. At Gem’s core is the fear of abandonment, whether by her own will or by her parents. Meanwhile, will Dixie ever fully underFICTION stand her parents, and will Gem ever forgive them? Other characters are equally rich in depth, each contributing to Gem and Dixie’s adventure, including a transgender girl who befriends Gem, and the school guidance counselor who helps Gem unpack her feelings. Intense, honest and at times heartbreaking, Gem & Dixie can be hard to read. Zarr sheds light on the life of a teen who doesn’t have it all and is struggling to grasp what she has left. Tackling trust, honesty, faith and hope, this novel is sure to strike a chord with readers coming from similar situations.
OVERTURNED By Lamar Giles
Scholastic $17.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780545812504 eBook available Ages 12 and up
For 16-year-old Nikki Tate, home is a Las Vegas casino called Andromeda’s Palace that her parents own and run, but it’s Nikki who actually keeps the place afloat. This is by necessity, as her father, Nathan, was sent to death row on a false murder charge. Miraculously, his innocence is proven, resulting in his release from the penitentiary. But Nathan’s return home has not been as joyful as expected. Nikki’s been pulling in money
by winning poker games against Vegas lowlifes, a practice that is squashed by her father. Nathan hasn’t been around the casino; he’s spending long hours looking for the true murderer who escaped justice. When Nikki’s father is found slaughtered in a dark alley, she takes up that search herself, but things get complicated quickly. Nikki’s new boyfriend, Davis, is the son of rival casino owner Big Bert, who incurred her father’s enmity. Is Big Bert behind Nathan’s murder? If so, what does that mean about Davis’ interest in her? The suspense builds steadily as Nikki is consumed by her quest. Author Lamar Giles stokes the tension with Nikki’s involvement in high-stakes poker games and the dangers she faces charging through the sordid side of Vegas. Like Nick in Giles’ Fake ID, Nikki is black, a fact that will appeal to many read-
ers as much as the twists and turns of this well-crafted mystery. This is a fun read for fans of Harlan Coben or April Henry. —DIANE COLSON
from their homes, alive and well. They’ve never revealed their secret to one another. The only one who knows is a local psychiatrist who convinces Noah that these are simply hallucinations. But Min isn’t convinced she’s crazy, and a slew of events—including an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, a suspicious military presence in the area and unexplained natural disasters—have assured Min that her hunch is correct. After breaking into her psychiatrist’s office, Min discovers that she and Noah are part of a global conspiracy that starts with her sophomore class. Brendan Reichs, who penned the popular Virals series with his mother, Kathy Reichs, knows how to build plot twists and dynamic characters. Min, the daughter of a struggling single mother, is sharp and intuitive, while Noah, the son of an affluent businessman, is lonely and insecure. There’s also a protective best friend, a surly bully and a shady principal. Everyone’s a cog in this well-plotted machine. Readers who get hooked must be warned: This isn’t a standalone. A sequel is likely underway. — K I M B E R LY G I A R R A T A N O
THE DEAD INSIDE By Cyndy Etler
Sourcebooks Fire $17.99, 304 pages ISBN 9781492635734 eBook available Ages 14 and up
NEMESIS By Brendan Reichs
Putnam $17.99, 464 pages ISBN 9780399544934 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up
In an isolated Idaho town, 16-year-old Min Wilder and Noah Livingston share both a birthday and a secret: Every two years, they are murdered by a strange man only to awake the next day miles
Here’s the most terrifying fact about a cult: Nobody has any clue what’s happened, or is still happening, inside until someone finally escapes. With The Dead Inside, Cyndy Etler reveals that dark unknown from the inside out. As a teenager, Etler was sexually abused by her stepfather. Rather than stop it, her mother simply turned a blind eye. However, what she did always seem to notice was 14-year-old Etler’s “dangerous” and “rebellious” behavior that resulted from this abuse. So when Etler
reviews finally found solace with a few friends who were into heavy metal and occasionally experimented with weed and beer, her mother tossed her into the den of another abuser: Straight, Inc. Drawing from her own firsthand experience of surviving 16 months inside Straight—a supposed drug rehab facility for teens—Etler spares no details. She shows readers just how the program is designed to break down troubled teens, removing any sort of spirit, personality or individuality. Etler’s tales of her months inside Straight are nearly impossible to believe. But in The Dead Inside, she tells them so matter-of-factly that her horrors will haunt you for years to come. And hopefully, they’ll also make you more compassionate toward a “troubled” teen. —J U S T I N B A R I S I C H
THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED By Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray $17.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780062348708 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up
Molly Peskin-Suso has had 26 crushes, but never a boyfriend. Not even a kiss. She’s just never felt ready to put herself out there. But during her 17th summer, her twin sister, Cassie, falls head over heels for the girl of her dreams, their moms are finally allowed to marry, and not one, but two boys take an interest in Molly. Love, it seems, is all around. But will these new relationships change things between Molly and Cassie? Will Molly be able to take the risk? Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, has a knack for capturing the all-encompassing emotions of adolescence, and her talents are on full display in The Upside of Unrequited. In a moment when Molly is feeling particularly low, her mother notes that being 17 feels like both the end
TEEN and the beginning of the world. This becomes a mantra that sets the tone for the book, as Albertalli’s characters revel in the ups and downs of friendship and first love. The Peskin-Suso twins and their friends are a lovable, diverse group of talented teens, made relatable by the fact that each is rife with his or her own insecurities about growing up and fitting in. The characters’ authentic voices will feel intimately familiar to teen readers and will catapult older readers back to their high school days.
reprising their roles. However, gaps in the original story get filled with down and dirty details, revealing the twisted nature of the characters. Only the Minotaur acts with nobility and leads readers to a central question of how people treat those who are perceived as different. Like any good timeless story, Bull offers contemporary analogies that will resonate with readers.
By Bill Konigsberg
BULL By David Elliott
HMH $17.99, 200 pages ISBN 9780544610606 eBook available Ages 14 and up
It’s rude, it’s crude and it’s a whole bunch of fun. David Elliott’s raunchy retelling of the myth of the Minotaur and Theseus, Bull, takes a decidedly modern turn with multiple perspectives and a sympathetic look at the Minotaur. A useful list of characters, complete with brief biographies, supplies background information that helps illuminate the plot. The characters have unique voices, which reflect their stations in life, understanding of the world and distinctive attitudes. Each character’s narration unfolds through a unique poetic form, and while the forms don’t strictly adhere to poetic rules, they are perfect foils for the characters’ interwoven personalities. The ancient Greek tale begins with Poseidon’s revenge, resulting in the birth of a baby with the body of a human male and head of a bull. Pasiphae, his mother, names him Asterion, an ironic choice as King Minos eventually spirits him to the depths of the labyrinth where there are no stars to rule. The story is accurate to the legend, with all the principal players
—LORI K. JOYCE
HONESTLY BEN Arthur A. Levine $17.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780545858267 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up
Last semester ended badly for Ben and Rafe. How could they do anything but break up after Rafe lied to him? But the spring semester is about to start at elite all-boys boarding school Natick, and Ben might be ready to be friends . . . or more than friends with Rafe again. In this follow-up to Openly Straight, readers see inside Ben’s head for the first time. Ben has recently won a prestigious scholarship, been voted captain of the baseball team, begun a new semester of Model Congress and met a smart, interesting girl. But as Ben struggles with balancing all these commitments, Rafe is always on his mind. Would Ben and Rafe be fine as best friends, or does either of them want more? How can Ben consider himself attracted to girls, yet always be drawn to kissing Rafe? Should he stand up to the casual misogyny of his teammates, or is maintaining a low profile more important to him? Readers may wish more time had been allotted to addressing one of the novel’s most interesting issues—the conflict between Rafe’s mother’s insistence on labeling Ben versus Ben’s reluctance to label himself. But plenty of humor, often in the form of the comic escapades of Ben and Rafe’s friends Toby
and Albie, balance out the serious issues of gender fluidity, emotional vulnerability, economic privilege and the inadequacy of labels that author Bill Konigsberg addresses here. —J I L L R A T Z A N
BECK By Mal Peet with Meg Rosoff Candlewick $17.99, 272 pages ISBN 9780763678425 eBook available Ages 16 and up
Not since A Monster Calls, the novel Patrick Ness wrote based on a story idea from the late Siobhan Dowd, has a collaboration from two of my favorite authors felt so bittersweet. But Beck, Mal Peet’s posthumously published novel finished by his friend Meg Rosoff, comes close. Rosoff is perhaps the perfect writer for the job; her sensitivity to language allows her to meld her narrative voice with Peet’s, and her prior work has shown her ease in writing introspective characters like the title character in Beck. Born in 1908 in Liverpool to a prostitute mother and an unknown Ghanaian father, Beck becomes an orphan at a young age. What follows over his next two decades is violence, abuse, rejection and outright hatred—due in no small part to the color of his skin—interspersed with brief moments of acceptance and joy. Only when he meets an older woman—auspiciously named Grace—during a journey across Canada does Beck dare to hope for something resembling a future infused with love. “Go on the way you’re facing until you can’t go no further” is the motto that keeps Beck walking in the face of adversity. Luckily for readers, Peet also kept writing in the face of illness and impending death, and his friend Rosoff carries on his legacy. —NORAH PIEHL
Enter a dark dream
vital element of Laini Taylor’s sweeping, dramatic, exciting new novel is travel in many artfully rendered guises, including flights of imagination via books in an amazing library, a grueling but thrilling road trip to a forgotten city and nocturnal tours of people’s dreams.
Journeys near and far have been central to Taylor’s own story as an author as well, with the wonders of travel first opening to her through her father’s job as a naval officer. “It definitely had a huge impact on me,” Taylor says during a call to her home in Portland, Oregon. “I was so lucky to be able to live in Europe as a kid. . . . I wish everyone had the opportunity to see the world from different perspectives at a young age.” She adds: “As an elementary school student, I went on field trips to Pompeii! We were living in incredible places, and I had a blessed childhood.” Taylor’s literary career began in 2004 with the graphic novel The Drowned, followed by the Dreamdark series, the National Book Award finalist Lips Touch: Three Times and the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. That’s a lot of writing over the course of a decade, and Taylor’s work certainly doesn’t tend toward the spare. She creates highly detailed, multilayered worlds
STRANGE THE DREAMER
By Laini Taylor
Little, Brown, $18.99, 544 pages ISBN 9780316341684, audio, eBook available Ages 15 and up
populated by complex characters engaged in grand-scale endeavors. She’s at it again with Strange the Dreamer: 500-plus pages of poetic prose, finely crafted fantasy and oodles of adventure, peril, romance, redemption, gods, royals and warriors. It’s a fantasy lover’s delight, with ever-higher flights of fancy brought crashing to earth and then soaring anew as the pages turn and the characters journey on. It all builds toward a shocking ending—and maybe, a beginning. Fans will be happy to hear that it’s the first book in a duology. Readers meet Lazlo Strange, orphaned during a war in Zosma and adopted by monks. Around age 5, Lazlo became fascinated—obsessed, really—with the lost city of Weep, a faraway land with a mysterious story. At age 13, he begins work at the Great Library, “a walled city for poets and astronomers and every shade of thinker in between.” (Be warned: Taylor’s descriptions of the place are sure to awaken a great longing in avid readers.) Just when life is starting to seem a bit routine, Lazlo learns that a man known as the Godslayer has come to town, and he’s leading a band of people with special skills to Weep. Lazlo leaps at the chance to join them, and so begins a journey to a beautiful, damaged place where strange contradictions abound: Beautiful temples and a “cityscape of carved honey stone and gilded domes” share space with “butcher priests . . . performing divination of animal entrails.” It’s a setting of great mystery and wonder, where it becomes clear the travelers’ challenges have only just begun. In the meantime, Taylor introduces us to some of the residents of Weep, including a beautiful young woman named Sarai who has a most unusual ability (she can enter and manipulate dreams), a decidedly untraditional family sit-
uation and jewel-toned skin. She is one of the children of gods, left behind after a longago war between gods and men. And she lives in secrecy with her siblings (also in possession of singular talents) in a giant citadel that floats in the sky miles above Weep. With such a marvelous backstory, it’s easy to see why, at first, Taylor intended to begin the duology with Sarai’s story (and there’s so much more to it than we’ve touched on here). When she first began work “I had to on Strange honor the the Dreamer, darkness I’d Taylor thought about “chilcreated, but dren of war, still make the like children story a place of soldiers readers enjoy left behind in Vietnam, and being. Kissing their strughelps!” gles.” But as she tried to write Sarai’s story, about someone “living someplace where they look down on the population but aren’t part of it,” Taylor says, “I knew I wanted to enter [Weep] through the eyes of an outsider.” Lazlo was that outsider, Taylor explains. “He totally took over the story. All of a sudden, after weeks and weeks of struggling, I had a lightning bolt: His nose was broken by a falling book of fairy tales—and I had him! In that moment, it was his book, and everything shifted. I fell in love with the librarian.” Speaking of love, fans of Taylor’s work will be happy to hear that there’s romance to be found amid the trauma and fear in Weep. “[A kiss] is a tiny, magical story, and a miraculous interruption to the mundane,” muses one character. That’s exactly what Taylor says she was going for when she
© ALI SMITH
INTERVIEW BY LINDA M. CASTELLITTO
imbued this often dark tale with the lightness and joy of new love: “It was a hard lesson to learn [as I became an author], that I had to honor the darkness I’d created, but still make the story a place readers enjoy being. Kissing helps!” So, too, do those fairy tales: The book that bonks Lazlo on the nose contains the kinds of narratives that have long fascinated Taylor. “The only books I have in my office are folklore and fairy tales!” she says. “Reading folklore from other countries is a great way to expand your imagination. One line of a folktale from a country you don’t know about could be the seed of an entire novel.” Certainly, Lazlo’s dedication to reading and research helped expand his mind beyond the walls that surround him. As for Sarai, Taylor says she travels through peoples’ dreams into greater waking consciousness for herself. “She could learn more about the people she’d been taught to hate when she sees their dreams and nightmares. How could she not feel for them?” There’s much to ponder and relate to in Strange the Dreamer— in addition to simply enjoying (and marveling at) the fantastical fruits of Taylor’s imagination. It’s a compelling, engaging mix of super-fun adventure and timely allegory. As for how to pass the time while awaiting Taylor’s next book, The Muse of Nightmares ? Well, there’s always reading and traveling . . . and dreaming.
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PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE
The wisdom of a little mischief REVIEW BY JULIE DANIELSON
Poor Princess Cora. Her anxious parents are determined to fix all of the things that might be wrong with her. Their solution is to keep her overscheduled. Cue excessive hygiene (three baths a day) with the nanny, studies over dull books with the Queen and intensive exercise sessions with the King. Cora, who just wants to play, so deeply resents her tightly scheduled life that she writes a letter to her fairy godmother. Wishing for a dog, she ends up with a crocodile, who promises to chew on people Cora doesn’t like. She strikes a deal with the reptile—“I want a day off,” she tells him—and he takes her place, dressing like her and telling her to head out and have fun. The look on Princess Cora’s face here is spectacBy Laura Amy Schlitz ular, as she’s never once had the opportunity to see what leisure is like. Illustrated by Brian Floca This ruse works long enough for Cora to get dirty and have a blast Candlewick, $16.99, 80 pages outside. The adults back at the castle are too preoccupied (only at first) ISBN 9780763648220, audio available to notice that Cora’s place has been taken by a crocodile, one who esAges 4 to 8 sentially imprisons everyone, simulating Cora’s own daily experiences. CHAPTER BOOK On the castle grounds, Cora engages all her senses in moments of exploration and wonder, all the while putting her problem-solving skills to work. Through all this, Princess Cora finds peace. She also rescues herself on her own terms, speaking up in the end for what she wants, having found her courage in her play. Newbery winner Laura Amy Schlitz, in seven well-paced chapters, has a lot to say about the modern phenomenon of rigorous educational standards and children’s lack of free time for play. As the crocodile wisely asks Cora, what kind of life is one with no trouble? There’s also a lot of humor here: The crocodile’s get-up as a little girl is delightfully absurd, and Brian Floca brings it all to vivid life in his playful illustrations. Timely and incisive, this one’s a keeper. Illustration copyright © 2017 by Brian Floca. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
shimmery trails of . . . shimmery stuff.” If you think snails are too slow, well, that’s only because a By Dashka Slater French snail likes to relax before Illustrated by Sydney enjoying his salad. And if you think Hanson snails are too shy, Escargot is eager FSG to demonstrate that he is quite $16.99, 40 pages fierce. In fact, his fierce face can ISBN 9780374302818 Ages 3 to 7 scare away a lion, a wild boar—and PICTURE BOOK even a carrot that might sneak into Everyone loves books about the beautiful salad waiting at the bears, mice, kittens and pupend of the story. By the time young readers get to pies. Other animals barely stand a chance at being popular with that salad, they still might not be young readers. Even hippos, lemurs ready to rush out to get a pet snail, and wildebeests beat out snails in but they might be persuaded to enthe favorite animal department. joy some greens—and even carrots. Dashka Slater and Sydney HanUp until now, that is. Escargot is a quirky story of a jaunty French son have conjured a sweet little snail sure to appeal to the presnail eager to make the case that school set. And adults will certainly snails deserve a shot at being your favorite animal. If you think snails savor a story that supports healthy are too slimy, Escargot explains eating—and giggles. that it’s “not slime . . . more like —DEBORAH HOPKINSON
RAIN By Sam Usher
Templar $16.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780763692964 Ages 3 to 7
Rain, like heavy snow, is an inconvenience, delaying our important, grown-up tasks. But for kids, a waterlogged street is an opportunity for an extraordinary day. Author-illustrator Sam Usher throws open the front door to whomever, or whatever, might pass by. Rain begins with rain—lots of it. Granddad is reluctant to go outside, but Sam knows there are monsters and voyages out in that soaking, reflective world. While their home is
warm and cozy, the storm beckons, and our imagination grows wings (or perhaps a rudder). Usher is a storybook wizard, using simple first-person language to tell a story that resonates with children. He even manages to peg the reasonable, calm voice grown-ups use to speak with kids (and that kids often echo). His illustrations, while unpretentious, are detailed, artistic and colorful; the raindrops are so realistic they could be photographs. Little reader spotting tip: Watch the stuffed animals, who seem to mimic Sam’s moods and occasionally sport seriously bored expressions. While Rain is a fun read in its own right, it’s also a delightful elbow-in-the-side reminder to look up from our adult routines once in a while. After all, you never know what might float by. —J I L L L O R E N Z I N I
ONE HUNDRED SPAGHETTI STRINGS By Jen Nails
HarperCollins $16.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780062427601 eBook available Ages 8 to 12
Since Steffy was 3, she and her sister, Nina, have lived with Auntie Gina. All that changes when their aunt decides to move in with her boyfriend, and Steffy’s dad, a musician she scarcely knows, comes for dinner. Steffy makes homemade pasta and draws a name tag for the stranger who’s about to take Auntie Gina’s place in the bedroom down the hall. Steffy is a budding chef, and cooking is how she frames her life and makes sense of things. Through cooking, she tries to reconnect with her mother, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident and has to be re-introduced to her daughters each Sunday when they visit. Steffy’s only connection to her mom is the old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook filled with handwritten notes. She carries homemade favorites to her mother’s long-term care facility, fixes the family meals and even enters a
cooking contest. Steffy and Nina want to get close to their dad, but he’s unapproachable. When Steffy does some sleuthing in the church basement where he attends meetings, she hears his secret. Her dad’s an alcoholic, and he’s struggling to get better for his wife and his girls. Jen Nails draws in readers with a disarmingly simple style. As the story builds, the characters take on more depth. One Hundred Spaghetti Strings shines with nuance and simplicity. —BILLIE B. LITTLE
boot) displays signs of dementia and moves in with the Lotterys. Even if their grandpa is more of a “Grumps,” can Sumac find it in herself—and help show the rest of the family—to find patience and love for one more? Donoghue’s quirky family story is a winning combination.
meet R.J. PALACIO
the title of your Q: What’s new book?
would you describe Q: How the book?
Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Emma Donoghue.
A WHISPER OF HORSES
has been the biggest influence on your work? Q: Who
By Zillah Bethell THE LOTTERYS PLUS ONE By Emma Donoghue Illustrated by Caroline Hadilaksono Arthur A. Levine $17.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780545925815 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12
In a departure from such evocative adult works as Room and The Wonder, Emma Donoghue crafts her first novel for children, The Lotterys Plus One. Set in progressive Toronto, it begins: “Once upon a time, a man from Delhi and a man from Yukon fell in love, and so did a woman from Jamaica and a Mohawk woman.” When the two couples befriended one another, had a baby together and won the lottery, the result is enough money to buy a huge home (dubbed Camelottery) and more than enough love to fill it with seven children (all named after trees). Told from the perspective of 9-year-old Sumac, the fifth child, the story describes this whirlwind family that lives green without a car, eats all-natural and thrives on individuality. Each child not only has a different racial background but also adds to the family through varying abilities, gifts and gender fluidity. Despite their seemingly chaotic lifestyle, the Lotterys value their rich family history. The family’s fun-loving harmony is tested, however, when one dad’s father (a racist and homophobe, to
Feiwel & Friends $16.99, 352 pages ISBN 9781250093943 eBook available Ages 9 to 12
was your favorite subject in school? Why? Q: What
As a “Pb,” the lowest of three classes in Lahn Dan, Serendipity’s life is narrowly prescribed: a food pill for breakfast, manual labor for lunch, another pill for dinner and then off to sleep in the cramped pod she shares with her ailing mother. But when she discovers a handwritten map that details a world stretching beyond Lahn Dan’s walled confines—a world her government says no longer exists— everything begins to change. With the light of dawn slicing through the proverbial crack in the wall, Serendipity is left facing a world she no longer fully recognizes or trusts. Aided by a host of colorful characters—most notably Professor Nimbus, a subversive storyteller whose tales offer the Pb children one of their few delights, and Tab, a rough-on-the-outside, soft-on-theinside smuggler—Serendipity risks her life to discover what is real. Is her map real? Is there really a world where horses still roam free? Set in a near-future London, Zillah Bethell’s dystopian world fails to inspire nagging unease, but a storyline that rarely lags makes A Whisper of Horses a memorable tale. It may not keep kids reading late into the night, but it will keep them entertained. —J O N L I T T L E
Q: Who was your childhood hero?
books did you enjoy as a child? Q: What
one thing would you like to learn to do? Q: What
message would you like to send to young readers? Q: What
WE’RE ALL WONDERS R.J. Palacio’s middle grade novel Wonder has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide and has spread a message of kindness and empathy to children everywhere. Palacio adapts Auggie’s story for a younger generation in a heartwarming picture book, We’re All Wonders (Knopf, $18.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9781524766498, ages 4 to 8). Palacio lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, their two sons and two dogs.
BY THE EDITORS OF MERRIAM-WEBSTER
ez ’ozel—“the goat that departs.” More modern translations render scapegoat in the text as Azazel, but the misreading endured and has entered the lexicon.
Dear Editor: Why is someone who unfairly takes the blame for something called a scapegoat? M. N. Maywood, Illinois
SHOCK AND AWE
An ancient Hebrew custom called for the high priest on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, to take two goats away into the desert—one to be sacrificed to the Lord and the other to carry the sins of the people. After the Lord’s goat had been sacrificed, the priest confessed the sins of the people over the head of the live goat, which was then released. That goat carried the sin of the people away with it, thereby cleansing Israel for another year. The English scapegoat is a compound of the archaic verb scape, which means “escape,” and goat. It is modeled on a misreading of the Hebrew azazel (which is probably the name of a demon) as
Dear Editor: Rival can mean “to compete with someone for something” or it can mean “a person who competes with someone for something.” One meaning must have come from the other. Which was first? P. W. Crawfordsville, Indiana It’s close, but evidence for the noun rival goes a bit further back than for the verb. Rival is borrowed, directly or indirectly, through French from the Latin rivalis, which means “of a brook or stream.” As a noun, rivalis occurs only in its plural form in Latin texts, and refers to those who used the same stream as a source of water. Since contention is inevi-
table when people strive to obtain something that only one person can possess, the Latin rivalis also developed relating to competition in other areas, especially love, and in this sense it came into French and English. Despite its aquatic background, rival is unrelated to river, which descends ultimately not from rivus, but rather from an unrelated word, ripa, meaning “bank, shore.” The Old French word rivere or riviere (from an unattested spoken Latin word riparia) meant “riverbank” as well as “watercourse, stream.”
THE GIFT OF GAB
Dear Editor: What is the connection between Blarney Castle in Ireland and the use of the word blarney to mean charming talk and flattery? S. B. Salem, Oregon Blarney is the name of a town, a stream and especially a castle built
in 1446 in County Cork, Ireland. Embedded in the southern wall of the castle’s keep is a block of limestone, known as the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that anyone who manages to kiss the Blarney Stone—not an easy task, since it requires you to lie down and hang your head backward over a precipice—will be blessed with the gift of flattery or cajolery. One story claims the word blarney gained popularity as a word for flattery after Queen Elizabeth I of England used it to describe the flowery (but apparently less than honest) cajolery of Cormac MacCarthy, who was then the lord of Blarney Castle. The lack of historical evidence for the story has failed to stifle the claim that anyone who kisses the stone will acquire comparable persuasive powers. Send correspondence regarding Word Nook to: Language Research Service P.O. Box 281 Springfield, MA 01102
Test Your Mental Mettle with Puzzles from 417 More Games, Puzzles & Trivia Challenges Specially Designed to Keep Your Brain Young
what’s the sport?
fill in the letters Fill in the blank spaces with letters to make common English words (no proper nouns allowed). For example, __ a t yields twelve answers: bat, cat, eat, fat, hat, mat, oat, pat, rat, sat, tat, vat. (Note:The number in parentheses indicates how many common English words can be made.)
__ u __ e (32)
__ l a __
__ __ n g (26)
m i __ __ (20)
__ e a d
s w i __ __ (7)
4. t __ i __
s h __ __ e (12) 1. Football (American) 2. Track and field
3. Car racing 4. Baseball
5. Bowling 6. Boxing
7. Pool/Pocket billiards 8. Cycling
9. Soccer 10. Golf
11. Horse racing 12. Hockey
13. Roller derby 14. Rugby
15. Skiing 16. Surfing
WHAT’S THE SPORT? 1. Cube, Cure, Cute, Dude, Duke, Dune, Dupe, Fume, Fuse, Huge, Jute, Lube, Luge, Lure, Lute, Mule, Muse, Mute, Nude, Nuke, Puce, Puke, Pure, Rube, Rude, Rule, Rune, Ruse, Sure, Tube, Tune, Yule
Other, more obscure correct answers are possible. 2. Bang, Bong, Dang, Ding, 3. Bead, Dead, Head, 5. Alas, Blab, Blah, Clad, Dung, Fang, Gang, Gong, Hang, Lead, Mead, Read Clam, Clan, Clap, Claw, Hung, King, Long, Lung, Pang, Clay, Flab, Flag, Flan, Flap, Ping, Rang, Ring, Rung, Sang, 4. Tail, Thin, This, Toil, Flat, Flaw, Flax, Glad, Plan, Sing, Song, Sung, Tang, Tong, Trig, Trim, Trio, Trip, Play, Slab, Slam, Slap, Slat, Wing, Zing Twig, Twin, Twit Slaw, Slay
FILL IN THE LETTERS
6. Mica, Mice, Mien, Mild, Mile, Milk, Mill, Mime, Mind, Mine, Mini, Mink, Mint, Minx, Mire, Miso, Miss, Mist, Mite, Mitt
8. Shade, Shake, Shale, Shame, Shape, Share, Shave, Shine, Shire, Shone, Shore, Shove 7. Swift, Swill, Swine, Swing, Swipe, Swirl, Swish
We provide the name of the movie. Can you name the key sport that was featured in it?
1. Jerry Maguire (1996) 2. Chariots of Fire (1981) 3. Days of Thunder (1990) 4. Bull Durham (1988) 5. The Big Lebowski (1998) 6. Raging Bull (1980) 7. The Hustler (1961) 8. Breaking Away (1979) 9. Bend It Like Beckham (2002) 10. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) 11. National Velvet (1944) 12. The Mighty Ducks (1992) 13. Kansas City Bomber (1972)
14. Invictus (2009) 15. The Other Side of the Mountain (1975) 16. The Endless Summer (1966)
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