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AMERICA’S BOOK REVIEW

AUGUST 2017

Reading with Patrick In Michelle Kuo’s i­nspiring new memoir, the bond ­between ­teacher and student ­withstands time and ­tragedy

New Voices inside...


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contents

AUGUST 2017

columns 04 04 05 06 08 11 12 13

19

Well Read Lifestyles The Hold List Whodunit Audio Book Clubs Romance Cooking

The power—and limits—of literature are explored in Michelle Kuo’s stirring memoir, Reading with Patrick.

21 FICTION

t o p p i c k : Home Fire

by Kamila Shamsie

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley New People by Danzy Senna The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson The Address by Fiona Davis Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Jonathan Dee Gail Honeyman New voices Zinzi Clemmons Education Parenting Short stories Bruce Handy

24 NONFICTION

t o p p i c k : Wild Things

by Bruce Handy

Kwame Alexander

meet the author 13

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro The Kelloggs by Howard Markel Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour Notes on a Foreign Country by Suzy Hansen Improbable Destinies by Jonathan B. Losos Ghost of the Innocent Man by Benjamin Rachlin Ants Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla

28 TEEN

t o p p i c k : Little & Lion

by Brandy Colbert

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovi´c

30 CHILDREN’S

t o p p i c k : This Beautiful Day

by Richard Jackson and Suzy Lee

Another Way to Climb a Tree by Liz Garton Scanlon and Hadley Hooper Refugee by Alan Gratz The Real Us by Tommy Greenwald and J.P. Coovert The List by Patricia Forde Confessions from the Principal’s Kid by Robin Mellom

“Sumptuous, vibrant, and sensational.” A M E R I C A’ S B O O K R E V I E W ASSISTANT EDITOR

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

OPERATIONS DIRECTOR

Lily McLemore

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ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER

ASSISTANT EDITOR

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

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EDITOR

EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

Michael A. Zibart

Lynn L. Green

highly anticipated new book

Defiance by Stephen Taylor Happiness by Heather Harpham The Bettencourt Affair by Tom Sancton Putin by Richard Lourie

31

PUBLISHER

collide as two stories intertwine across decades in the

from the author of What She Left Behind.

book reviews

features 14 15 16 17 18 20 23 25 29

on the cover

secrets and betrayals

Shocking

Savanna Walker

DEPUTY EDITOR

EDITORIAL INTERN

Cat Acree

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ADVERTISING OPERATIONS Sada Stipe

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columns

WELL READ

LIFESTYLES

BY ROBERT WEIBEZAHL

B Y S U S A N N A H F E LT S

A modern quartet

Knot fooling around

1922 is widely regarded as the year that literary modernism came of age. Bookended by the publication of Ulysses and “The Waste Land,” it was dubbed “the year 1 p.s.U” (year one, post scriptum Ulysses) by Ezra Pound, and Willa Cather would later reflect that “the world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts.” Cather’s phrase provides the title for Bill Goldstein’s accomplished, captivating look at that seminal year through the lens of the interconnecting lives of four literary icons. The World Broke in Two (Holt, $30, 368 pages, ISBN 9780805094022) explores how those 12 months would prove decisive in the lives and careers of Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence and E.M. Forster, each of whom would begin to approach the world anew and produce or conceive a book that has become an essential part of the modernist canon. Goldstein sets a somber stage: England less than four years after the end of the devastating First World War was, in Forster’s words, “a sad person who has folded her hands and stands waiting.” Each of these writers—well acquainted with one another in the small village that was London’s literary community—combated his or her own malaise. As the year began, Woolf was stricken by influenza, an illness which, coupled with the lukewarm reception of her last novel, hampered the progress of her writing. Eliot, mired in his tedious job as a banker and struggling to keep his marriage to his emotionally unstable wife intact, suffered a breakdown (and influenza, too) and for a time sought psychiatric care in Switzerland. Persona non grata in his native land of England, Lawrence had been living in Italy since 1919, but

Fiber artist Fanny Zedenius had been a lifelong crafter by the time she fell in love with macramé, or “creative knotting,” as she refers to it in Macramé (Quadrille, $16.99, 143 pages, ISBN 9781849499408). Zedenius makes it sound much less intimidating—or at least less ’70s kitsch. While learning a single knot can net a bounty of attractive

makeup as a subtle confidence booster, an enhancement of one’s features rather than a drastic re-creation of one’s face. My favorite chapter, “Lazy Perfection Punctuation,” is about adding “extra inflection” to your looks with bronzers, highlighters and lash curlers.

pieces, the possibilities are endless with a few basic knots. A gallery and how-to section displays 34 kinds of knots, followed by instructions for dreamy pieces such as wall hangings, plant hangers, dream catchers, table runners and more. Macramé feels “addictive in a whole new way,” writes Zedenius, requiring few tools other than your own hands. She deems it “the most meditative craft I have explored.” That said, you might proceed with some caution: She also acknowledges that repetitive knotting can be hard on the hands.

TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES

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was itching to move on to new frontiers. Forster, the eldest of the quartet, who had not published a novel since Howards End in 1910, had gone to India as personal secretary to the Maharaja of Dewas and returned home to England that winter, melancholy and bereft. As 1922 unfolded, great literature was born. Eliot completed “The Waste Land” and contentiously sought a proper home—and adequate payment—for what he knew was his masterpiece. Peripatetic Lawrence took a rather circuitous route to New Mexico by way of Australia, the source for his novel, Kangaroo, which Goldstein deems a neglected work. Ignited in part by reading Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, which first began appearing in English translation in that fateful year as well, Woolf started writing her luminous, ruminative Mrs. Dalloway. And Forster shed his Edwardian mantle to As 1922 begin work on unfolded, A Passage to India, a work great he had abanliterature doned years was born. before and returned to after his second trip to the subcontinent and the recent tragedy of his rekindled passion for an Egyptian man, the love of his life. Goldstein’s research into these (somewhat) intertwined lives is impressively rich and nuanced, and his evenhanded passion for each of his subjects plays out in an elegant narrative. In our own fractured, impatient age, the poignant and arresting stories of these four genius writers evoke nostalgia for a time when precision and introspection were the guiding principles of literature. The World Broke in Two beautifully captures a seismic moment of cultural rupture that, despite its shock and awe, left something new and exciting in its path.

MAKEUNDER “This is a book for women who like makeup, but don’t necessarily like to wear a lot of it.” Um, sold! With this first sentence of makeup artist Jenny Patinkin’s Lazy Perfection (Running Press, $20, 224 pages, ISBN 9780762461448), she is singing my tune. Cosmetics, she continues, are like “a good pair of floaties that can prop you up and make you feel more secure.” Lazy Perfection is a fairly comprehensive guide to makeup: There are tips galore— demystifying common products and explaining how to apply them for various effects—but Patinkin offers straight talk about how a gazillion products just aren’t necessary (you probably have too many lipsticks, all in the same color family). Patinkin champions

What is the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi? Things that are “perfectly imperfect,” for starters. In her gorgeous new book, Julie Pointer Adams describes wabi-sabi as “beauty found in unusual, unfashionable places, or in moments usually overlooked or unappreciated,” and an antidote to a culture saturated in images of perfection. Her Wabi-Sabi Welcome (Artisan, $29.95, 272 pages, ISBN 9781579656997) illustrates how we can approach our homes and time spent with friends and family with the wabi-sabi state of mind. In chapters focused on Japan, Denmark, California, France and Italy, Adams explores these cultures’ expressions of wabi-sabi, from the modest, wholesome meals of Japan to lingering happily over long dinners in Italy. There’s a lot more than talk of meals here, but Adams does include simple recipes in each chapter, plus pages of “Practical Matters”—quick ideas for bringing wabi-sabi to your life as these peoples around the globe do. “Ask thoughtful questions and don’t be afraid to candidly answer the same ones,” she advises. Simply paging through this book makes me feel soothed and delighted. And I love how the book’s Japanese binding allows it to lay flat, no matter what page it’s open to. Simple pleasures, indeed.


Each month, BookPage editors share curated reading lists—our personal favorites, old and new.

Stranger than fiction Looking for some true crime stories to give you a chill during the dog days of summer? These nonfiction accounts of real-life mysteries are a few of our editors’ favorite picks for truly gripping reading.

THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Erik Larson An easy first choice, this page-turning bestseller tells the almost unbelievable tale of a serial killer who stalked Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair. H.H. Holmes lured victims to his World’s Fair Hotel, a house of horrors that included a gas chamber, trap doors, secret rooms and a crematory. By the time he was arrested, it was far too late for his many victims.

UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN by Jon Krakauer Jon Krakauer recounts a chilling story of twisted faith, polygamy and madness in this book. Brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty were devout Latterday Saints as children, but later joined a fundamentalist splinter group of Mormonism. The brothers, believing that God had instructed them to do so, killed their sister-in-law and her baby. Ron is now on Utah’s death row, while Dan is serving life in prison and believes he is the prophet Elijah.

THE WICKED BOY by Kate Summerscale What could possibly drive two boys, ages 12 and 13, to kill their own mother? That’s the question Kate Summerscale tries to answer in this fascinating exploration of a case from Victorian-era London. In July 1895, the sons of Emily Coombes played cards in their home. In the bedroom, their mother’s corpse rotted. When police found the gruesome scene, the boys confessed to stabbing their mother to death. The story that unfolds is one of delusions, penny dreadfuls and just how bad boys can be.

Top book club picks!

THE HOLD LIST

RISE & SHINE, BENEDICT STONE Phaedra Patrick

Filled with charm, this novel is a reminder of the unbreakable bonds of family and that embracing life with someone is always better than standing on your own.

For fans of thrilling page-turners

WHO KILLED THESE GIRLS? by Beverly Lowry

NOT A SOUND

A few weeks before Christmas in 1991, shortly before midnight, firefighters responded to a report of a fire at a frozen yogurt shop in Austin, Texas. After the flames were extinguished, the bodies of four teenage girls were found in the ashes. The four girls were friends, and they had planned for a sleepover after closing up the yogurt shop where two of them worked. Despite dozens of false confessions and dead-end leads, the Yogurt Shop Murders remain unsolved.

IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote Could we really do a true crime list without including the book that started it all? Although this chilling narrative was first published in 1966, time has done nothing to lessen the horror of the story within In Cold Blood. Truman Capote, generally credited with creating the true crime genre with this book, skillfully unspools the tense and grisly tale of the murder of four members of the upstanding Clutter family by a pair of drifters in small-town Kansas. Even if you read this book years ago, chances are you’ll never forget it—this one sticks with you.

Heather Gudenkauf

For Sherlock Holmes fans who love a dark mystery ARROWOOD Mick Finlay

Do we have a story for you!

BookClubbish.com

@BookClubbish

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LIZZIE BORDEN TOOK AN AX. OR DID SHE?

columns

WHODUNIT BY BRUCE TIERNEY

A red-eye investigation The title of The Late Show (­Little, Brown, $28, 448 pages, ISBN 9780316225984), the first book in Michael Connelly’s newest series, is the au courant cop euphemism for what used to be called the “graveyard shift.” Cop Renée Ballard gets exiled to this very shift after she files sexual

serial killer known as the Lizard King in C.J. Box’s riveting Paradise Valley (Minotaur, $27.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9781250051042). Dewell’s latest sting operation should have been foolproof. But the culprit caught wind of the sting and then constructed his own retribution— punctuated with explosives and

media to see what people are posting. And that is where she finds the post from “Liv Danger” threatening to tell the truth about the accident. The post ends with the ominous note, “All will pay,” and this is where the story takes off. At 384 pages, Blame is a long read for one sitting, but you’ll want to do just that.

TOP PICK IN MYSTERY “EERIE AND COMPELLING.” —PAUL A HAWKINS , au t hor of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

“In this stunning debut novel, Sarah Schmidt transforms the Lizzie Borden story from lurid infamy to flawed reality.” —CHR ISTINA BAKER KLINE, aut hor of ORPHAN TRAIN

FOUR STARRED PREPUBLICATION REVIEWS



“DAZZLING.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS

“UNFORGETTABLE.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“SIMMERING.” —LIBRARY JOURNAL

“A MAJOR NEW TALENT.” —BOOKLIST

ON SALE AUGUST 1 G R O V E AT L A N T I C groveatlantic.com

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harassment charges against a senior officer and loses the battle for justice. Ballard’s new beat hosts a different sort of policing than that pursued by her daytime counterparts. Most of the time, her nighttime cases involve little more than preliminary interviews and the task of securing the crime scenes before passing the baton to the day-shift investigators. But this is all about to change when she comes across two new cases: the brutal beating of a transgender prostitute and the shooting of five people in a Hollywood nightclub called The Dancers (a nod to Raymond Chandler’s seminal Los Angeles noir, The Long Goodbye). Like any good cop, Ballard chafes at the idea of handing off her cases, so she pursues the investigation on the down-low, a particularly dangerous undertaking, considering that the lead officer on the nightclub case is none other than the officer who sexually harassed her. Few authors, if any, know more about drawing readers into a new series than Connelly, and he does so in spades this time around.

GOING OFF BOOK Sometimes the best-laid plans go awry, but rarely as spectacularly as those of Cassie Dewell, an investigator for the Bakken County sheriff’s department in North Dakota, in her foiled attempt to capture the

multiple dead bodies. Now Cassie is disgraced and out of a job, and the Lizard King is still at large. That said, Cassie still holds an ace or two in her hand—and she’s no longer constrained by the rules and regulations of the police department. She has no intention of stopping until justice is done, either by the courts or, if necessary, by Smith & Wesson. Nobody in contemporary suspense does a better job of portraying the new Wild West than Box.

SOCIAL SLANDER Adrenaline junkies, take note: The new Jeff Abbott novel, Blame (Grand Central, $26, 384 pages, ISBN 9781455558438), unfolds in totally unexpected ways—just as his fans have come to expect. Jane Norton is an old soul, aged by life events far beyond her tender 20 years: the mysterious death of her father; the tragic car accident that left her with serious injuries, partial amnesia and took the life of her friend and next-door neighbor, David; and the aftermath of being shunned by friends and family for her perceived role in said accident. None of the talk would stand up in a court of law, but a court of gossip is bound by far less stringent rules of evidence. Now, three years to the day after what she rightly considers the worst day of her life, Jane gathers up the courage to go on social

The field of suspense novels covers a broad range of subgenres and locales: intense urban police procedurals set in Oslo or Sao Paulo; unique detective stories set in North Korea or Botswana; cozies set in Martha’s Vineyard or provincial France. But if you’re desperately seeking mysteries set in post-revolution Laos, you have but one choice: Colin Cotterill’s series featuring the irrepressible Dr. Siri Paiboun. In his latest adventure, The Rat Catchers’ Olympics (Soho Crime, $26.95, 288 pages, ISBN 9781616958251), retired septuagenarian Dr. Siri finagles a spot on the Laotian contingent to the 1980 Moscow Olympics. (Keep in mind that this was a notoriously undersubscribed Olympic Games due to the politics of the time, thus affording an opportunity for poorer countries, like Laos, to take part.) Dr. Siri will not be a competitor, at least not in the athletic sense, but will serve as the team’s doctor. He’s also self-appointed investigator of all things seemingly not on the up-and-up, of which there will be many—like the unnamed team member who may be an assassin. The Dr. Siri books are by turns laugh-out-loud funny, sobering, convoluted, historical and endlessly entertaining, especially the parts where the eccentric Siri engages in putting one over on any or all of his acquaintances in government. This series will have you reading (and laughing) well after most people in your household are sound asleep.


Impossible to read just one!

So we’re giving you a chance to win all six. Go to BookPage.com/Contests to enter.

Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 PM (EDT) on August 30, 2017. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The Sweepstakes is open to all legal residents of the United States 18 years of age and older at the time of entry. Entries must be received no later than 8/30/17 (11:59 PM EDT). ONE GRAND PRIZE WINNER will receive one (1) Summer Prize Pack and a copy of each of the books advertised. The total approximate retail value of all prizes is $255.50 USD. Limit one entry per person. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. For the official rules, go to BookPage.com/Contests.

Pick up or download your copies today!


Listen to the

f o s d n u o S Sus pense READ BY KATE BURTON “Scottoline is an A lister all the way, and her Rosato series is always an A-plus.” —Booklist (starred review) on Corrupted

columns Murder and magic You might suspect that Booker Prize-winning writer John Banville used a bit of author’s alchemy when he wrote a series of acclaimed, atmospheric crime novels set in 1950s Dublin, using the pen name Benjamin Black. He’s used that Black magic again to write Wolf on a String (Macmillan Audio, 10 hours), a historical mystery that starts on a bitterly cold night. It’s 1599, and Christian Stern, a young, ambitious scholar of natural phi-

READ BY EDOARDO BALLERINI “Delicately crafted by Gross and splendidly performed by Ballerini.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The One Man

READ BY THERESE PLUMMER AND JULIA WHELAN “This thriller aims right for the heart.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Voice-driven psychological suspense by debut author Ali Land.” —Sunday Express

READ BY ROBERT BATHURST “Bathurst is nothing short of perfect.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch on A Great Reckoning

LISTEN TO EXCERPTS AT UNABRIDGEDACCESS.COM 8

AUDIO BY SUKEY HOWARD

losophy with a minor in alchemy, has just arrived in Prague to seek his fortune at the court of Rudolf II, the exceedingly eccentric Holy Roman emperor. A bit tipsy from an excess of arrival schnapps, Christian finds the body of an elegantly dressed young woman in the snow, her throat slit, her head in a pool of blood. He reports his find to a palace guard, and for his good deed is arrested and accused. But fortune smiles. The emperor takes note of him, decides he’s been sent by Jesus Christ, and suddenly, Christian is entangled, as you will be, in the wildly byzantine intrigues of the court. In this fascinating whodunit, Black offers a vivid portrait of 16th-century Prague, and narrator Simon Vance gives each character the perfect voice.

MYSTIFYING MASSACRE In the midst of a major midlife crisis, Bill ten Boom, a very successful lawyer from Kindle County, takes a job at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, trading white-collar offenses for the horrors of crimes against humanity. Testimony (Hachette Audio, 13.5 hours), Scott Turow’s latest, performed by Wayne Pyle in a cocktail of international accents, follows the consequences of that choice. Boom’s first case is to investigate the disappearance of 400

Roma (gypsies) from a Bosnian refugee camp in 2004. Now, 11 years later, there seems to be only one survivor, a Roma who claims to have seen the massacre. Is he or his gorgeous, overtly flirtatious Roma lawyer trustworthy? In the ever-shifting set of events in the chaotic aftermath of the Bosnian War, is anyone telling the truth—either the American general, his oddly engaging aide-de-camp or the savage leader of the Bosnian Serbs? Listen up, there’s a lot of complex history to absorb in this intricately plotted legal thriller.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO Until she was 11, Helena didn’t know that the father she both adored and feared had kidnapped, raped and held her mother captive in an isolated cabin in a remote marsh in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The marsh and that cabin were home, she’d never seen any other people until her rescue, and it had never occurred to her that she needed to be rescued. Karen Dionne’s powerful, intensely suspenseful, perfectly narrated new thriller, The Marsh King’s Daughter (Penguin Audio, 10 hours), is a seamless intertwining of Helena’s story then and now. We meet her as the married mother of two young girls, having taken on a new identity when her father was captured and jailed, never talking about her early life. When her father suddenly escapes, she knows he’s coming for her, and that only she, who learned how to stalk and track from this man, can find and stop him. And she must not let the little girl’s love that still lingers under the grown woman’s abhorrence get in her way.


Summer Entertainment BETWEEN THE PAGES “I turned the pages, crying with laughter….

“Warm and witty….

A little black dress hasn’t gotten this much attention since Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Bridget Jones is as relevant and funny today as she has always been.”

—Katie Couric

—Katie Law, London Evening Standard

“Charming…. Provides a one-sizefits-all happy ending.”

“Our favorite hapless heroine.”

—USA Today

—Vogue

“Pulsates with intrigue…. And Harris saves one whopper of a surprise for the final pages.” —USA Today

“This might be the ultimate locked-room mystery.... What happens?... Read it and find out.” —The Seattle Times

“A true-crime page-turner…. Lowry exhausts every possible scenario behind the shocking, unsolved quadruple murder.” —New York Post

“Gripping, moving, and as good as any depiction of a murder case since In Cold Blood…. This transcends the genre. Brilliant.” —Ann Patchett

NEW IN PAPERBACK. ALSO AVAILABLE IN EBOOK. VINTAGE

Read excerpts, print reading group guides, find original essays and more at ReadingGroupCenter.com

ANCHOR


columns

BOOK CLUBS BY JULIE HALE

Philosophy served here Sarah Bakewell pays tribute to some of the modern era’s greatest thinkers in the intriguing nonfiction book At the Existentialist Café (Other Press, $17.95, 464 pages, ISBN 9781590518892). Focusing on Paris in the 1930s, Bakewell delivers a fascinating account of philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, whose careers

converged in the City of Light, and whose radical new ideas shaped the existentialist movement. Bakewell skillfully lays out a history of the movement, which espoused individual freedom and personal choice. Appearances by literary heavyweights like Iris Murdoch, Albert Camus, James Baldwin and Richard Wright add to the grandeur of her tale. Unsurprisingly, Sartre—who could be tyrannical and cold-natured—looms largest in this masterful group portrait. As Bakewell demonstrates, his ideas informed both the feminist and gay rights movements. Fans of literary history and philosophy will find much to savor in her elegant chronicle of Paris during its intellectual prime.

ONE FATEFUL SUMMER Set in Asheville, North Carolina, Ron Rash’s The Risen (Ecco, $15.99, 272 pages, ISBN 9780062436320) is a suspenseful Southern tale about fractured families and the ways in which the past infiltrates the present. During the summer of 1969, the lives of brothers Bill and Eugene Watney are forever altered when they meet a free-spirited, fun-loving child of the times named Ligeia. Ligeia has come to North Carolina from Florida to stay with her clean-cut relatives. To the Watney boys—especially younger

brother Eugene— she’s a seductive, out-of-theordinary figure. When she goes missing, the questions surrounding her disappearance cause ripples throughout their small community. The novel is narrated by a middle-aged Eugene, now a struggling writer with a drinking problem. The experiences of that long-ago summer take on fresh meaning for him when the skeleton of a woman is discovered in a creek. The story of what happened to Ligeia makes for a taut page-turner of a novel. Rash’s many gifts as a writer are on full display in this haunting tale.

Hot Book Club Reads for August

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor “An enchanting and enthralling tale of childhood magic, forgotten dreams, and finding the parts of ourselves we thought were lost forever.” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

The Café by the Sea

by Jenny Colgan

The beloved author of The Bookshop on the Corner returns with a sparkling, sunny, soulful new novel perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand.

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS In her compelling novel Truly Madly Guilty (Flatiron, $16.99, 544 pages, ISBN 9781250069801), Liane Moriarty explores the challenges of relationships through her resonant portrayal of three families. Old friends Erika and Clementine are opposites. Clementine, a cellist and mother of two, leads a somewhat topsy-turvy life, while slightly neurotic Erika works as an accountant. When the women and their families are invited to a barbecue at the home of Erika’s affluent neighbors, the alcohol-infused afternoon is interrupted by an upsetting incident that alters the perspectives of everyone present. As the novel progresses, Moriarty skillfully depicts the sense of guilt and regret felt by the partygoers. Exploring the ways in which seemingly insignificant choices can shape a life, she delivers a convincing, compassionate account of tested friendships and frayed marriages. Fans of Moriarty’s previous bestsellers, including Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret, won’t be disappointed by this absorbing, sharply executed novel.

The Sworn Virgin

by Kristopher Dukes A gripping historical tale of a desperate Albanian woman who will do whatever it takes to keep her independence and seize control of her future…

My Sister’s Bones

by Nuala Ellwood “Rivals The Girl on the Train as a compulsive read (and beats it for style).” —Observer (UK)

@Morrow_PB

@bookclubgirl

William Morrow

Book Club Girl

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columns

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

ROMANCE B Y C H R I S T I E R I D G WAY

Highland homecoming

Sometimes happiness is just a heartbeat away.

worth the wait

A Highland warrior returns home in Never Kiss a Highlander (Zebra, $7.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9781420138801) by Michele Sinclair. After years away, Hamish MacBrieve heeds his brother’s call to return and protect the family holdings, even though painful memories reside there—the woman Hamish loved fell for his brother and married him instead. But once he returns home, another woman grabs his attention. Mairead

be a wife in name only, she marries Duel after sharing her darkest secret with him. They are working toward a productive and loving marriage when Jessie’s past catches up with them—in the guise of Duel’s own brother, a Texas Ranger. Now the new family is put to the hardest test of all, and while Jessie trusts her Western knight, she knows that fate isn’t always on the side of what’s right. Broday’s latest is a tender romance to touch the heart.

MacMathain, whom Hamish only recalls as a little girl, has grown up and is a tempting distraction even for a man who believes himself incapable of falling in love again. Mairead knows her heart—and soon Hamish has it—but there’s danger for the clan if Hamish can’t vanquish a brutal enemy who wants Mairead for himself. Family meddling adds another layer of trouble for the pair, and there is more than one secret plan afoot. A Highland frolic starring a feisty heroine and a hero with brains and brawn, Never Kiss a Highlander is great fun.

TOP PICK IN ROMANCE

FOUND FAMILY A resilient pair meets with tribulations and triumph in Knight on the Texas Plains (Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9781492646501) by Linda Broday. In 1880, grieving farmer Duel McClain finds himself encumbered with a baby girl and a woman in desperate need. Since he has no experience with caring for children, Duel and the mysterious Jessie Foltry make an agreement to travel back to his family together. Once they arrive in Tranquility, Texas, Jessie finds an ease she’s longed for. Although she’s ready to

“Count on Lori Foster for sexy, edgy romance.” —#1 New York Times bestselling author

Jayne Ann Krentz

LoriFoster.com • Harlequin.com

Pick up your copy today!

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Alisha Rai offers up an engrossing, hot-as-fire reunion romance in Hate to Want You (Avon, $7.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780062566737), the first book in her Forbidden Hearts series. Nicholas Chandler and Livvy Kane were teenage lovers, and their relationship was strengthened by the closeness of their families, who ran a successful business together. But tragedy struck, breaking up the company, the families and, finally, the young couple. After a decade away, Livvy returns to their hometown. Her mother needs her, and Livvy needs to reconnect with her family, but she intends for her stay to be temporary. Businessman Nicholas can’t stay away from Livvy, and though he knows a future for them is impossible, he asks her for a single night—and then another. Tattoo artist Livvy knows this situation won’t end well, even though there is some relief in facing the past. But Nicholas confronts his own feelings and decides it’s time to make a change. Can that be done without alienating his family and the woman he’s never stopped loving? Old feuds, dark secrets and sizzling love scenes make Hate to Want You impossible to put down.


Salad days are here Food52’s latest contribution to making our cooking lives more joyful is perfect for this time of year, when farmer’s markets are brimming with fresh, locally grown produce. Food 52 Mighty Salads (Ten Speed, $22.99, 160 pages, ISBN 9780399578045) sounds like it might be intended for this summer’s slew of avenging superheroes, but these 60 recipes are

here to offer us mere mortals ideas for hefty salads that are great for dinners, lunches and even a few brunches (take a look at the Farro & Golden Beet Salad, topped with Spice-Fried Eggs). Leafy salads, like a Caesar-Style Kale Salad, mix with more hearty ones, like a Grilled Mushroom & Fig Salad; a fall-friendly Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Endive & Apple Salad; an any-season Roasted Chickpea Salad with Za’atar and sensational, hearty seafood and meat combos. Invaluable tips, like a method for long-lasting lettuce storage, shore up your cooking acuity, and each recipe allows for foolproof improvisation with ingredients of your choosing.

COOKING CONFIDENCE Is the idea of cooking from scratch intimidating? Is your kitchen confidence subpar? Then I have the book for you. Alison Cayne founded Haven’s Kitchen, a cooking school on a leafy street in New York, five years ago. Realizing that many of us grew up disconnected from the kitchen, Cayne decided to rectify that sad state and reconnect her students to the “pride and pleasure of making a meal.” In The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School (Artisan, $35, 384 pages, ISBN 9781579656737), a beautifully designed book with elegant, eloquent photos, Cayne does just that,

capturing the essence of what her students experience and learn in class. Each of the nine chapters is centered on a dish or an ingredient (e.g. fritters, eggs, soups) and teaches one or more of the key tenets of cooking. And each of the more than 100 recipes is as delicious as it is educational. From a savory Pork Salsa Verde to the classic French dessert Clafoutis, Cayne is your savvy, super-supportive kitchen companion.

meet NUALA ELLWOOD

the title of your new book? Q: What’s 

Q: Describe the book in one sentence.

© JUSTINE STODDART

COOKING BY SYBIL PRATT

are three qualities any great war reporter needs? Q: What 

Q: We  understand you’re a big fan of Virginia Woolf. What’s your favorite Woolf novel and why?

TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS Stella Parks’ debut cookbook, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts (Norton, $35, 400 pages, ISBN 9780393239867), is a total wow. And the same goes for Parks herself—a brilliant pastry chef who understands why certain desserts are so distinctly desirable and can translate that understanding into recipes that are thoroughly detailed, yet alluringly doable. Her book includes more than 100 recipes, plus “mix it up” tips for an added 200 variations and gluten-free options, all divine whether you choose simple, salty-sweet Honey-Roasted Peanut Butter Cookies; a velvety, game-changing White Mountain Layer Cake with Parks’ signature silky Marshmallow Buttercream; or her truly magical Magic Key Lime Pie made with DIY condensed milk and graham crackers for the crust. Luscious, almost-edible photographs make Parks’ sweets even more irresistible. An entertaining writer and diligent researcher, she’s replaced ordinary header notes with charming, informative mini-essays with vintage illustrations that explore how many of our traditional American treats—like Oreos, banana pudding, fudge and sprinkles—came to be.

you began writing novels, you were a singer-song­writer. Q: Before  What’s a favorite line from a song you’ve written?

one thing you would like to learn to do? Q: What’s 

Q: Words to live by?

MY SISTER’S BONES The daughter of a British journalist who reported from Beirut and other war zones, Nuala Ellwood conducted research on post-traumatic stress disorder before writing her gripping debut thriller, My Sister’s Bones (Morrow, $15.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9780062661968). Her portrayal of a young war reporter haunted by dreams of a Syrian boy has already drawn critical praise in the U.K., where the novel was published earlier this year. Ellwood lives in York, England, with her husband, Nick, an illustrator, and their son.

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features

JONATHAN DEE

An accidental American allegory

J

onathan Dee’s keenly insightful, gently humorous seventh novel, set in a small town in western Massachusetts, was scheduled for publication in 2018. Then came the 2016 presidential election.

“Obviously the book reads a certain way now that I couldn’t have foreseen when I started writing it,” Dee says during a call to his home in Syracuse, New York. The Locals is a novel with an enticing ensemble of vivid small-town characters with many stories to tell. But the narrative thread that vaulted the book to the front of the publication queue has to do with Philip Hadi, a somewhat mysterious and very wealthy New York money manager who owns a summer place in Dee’s fictional Berkshires town of Howland. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Hadi receives secret intelligence through the elite circles he travels in that more attacks are imminent and moves his family to their summer home in Howland. He eventually is elected first selectman of the town and through a blend of generosity and paranoia begins to reshape the town in his own image. “The idea that the extremely wealthy not only possess a special skill set but a sort of moral purity has been around for a while,” Dee says, talking about his conception of Hadi. “That only the really rich can lead us seems like a very Amer-

THE LOCALS

By Jonathan Dee

Random House, $28, 400 pages ISBN 9780812993226, eBook available

LITERARY FICTION

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ican idea. I was thinking of Michael Bloomberg and Ross Perot. What fascinates me in terms of the role of class, class conflict and class aspiration in American society is the idea that if you get a little bit rich, you’re venal and corrupt, but if you get really rich, you’re a special kind of human being.” Then there are Mark Firth, a less-than-rich local contractor, his wife and young daughter, and his increasingly disorderly brother and sister. By chance, Firth, a victim of financial fraud, is in New York for a lawsuit during the 9/11 attacks. The Firths have deep roots in Howland, and simply because Mark returns safely from the 9/11 disaster, he is greeted, to his consternation, as a hometown hero. Firth is soon hired by Hadi to improve the security of Hadi’s home. After a casual conversation with Hadi about his middle-class American aspirations to better himself, Mark decides to buy foreclosed properties and flip them, with increasingly mixed results. From there, this smartly observed story moves forward without looking back, presenting the love and small betrayals of family and village life, and playing out on a small-town scale the bitter conflicts that plague the nation. “I wanted to find some way to write about what I felt had happened in American life in the first 10 or 15 years of this century, the mainstreaming of the once-radical idea that your problems are not my problems,” Dee says of his early musings on the novel. “When I thought about what had happened to our discourse about government and the social fabric, I had the idea that it begins with 9/11—technically the book begins on 9/12—with that intense reaction to what had happened: the coming together, the selflessness, the collective pride. That was real but it was also a reaction to something specific. I feel that gave way to an equal and opposite reaction over time, and a

sort of panic about collapse and an every-man-for-himself mindset resulted from that.” Dee, who is best known for his fifth novel, The Privileges, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, began working on The Locals in 2013 in his tiny Manhattan apartment. He finished the book in the old house in Syracuse that he shares with his partner, novelist Dana Spiotta. Both now teach in the Syracuse University writing program. “It’s a tonic just to be around very talented young artists who are struggling with the same things that you struggled with and continue to struggle with,” he says of teaching. Dee says “The book he grew up reads a in a town not far from the certain way location of now that and not unlike I couldn’t his fictional have foreseen Howland. He clearly draws when I heavily on started his personal experiences writing it.” in creating the novel’s sharply drawn characters and locale. “There was a summer population that really changed the character of the place, particularly economically,” he says of his hometown. “And when the summer ended, the place changed or reverted. That dynamic of both depending on and somewhat resenting the temporary population is a really interesting one.” Curiously, another source of inspiration for The Locals was George Eliot’s Middlemarch. “One of the models I very modestly had in mind was Middlemarch,” Dee says hesitantly in response to a question about the novel’s portrayal of neighborliness and

© JESSICA MARX

INTERVIEW BY ALDEN MUDGE

small-town society. “The surprise for you as a reader is that when you get really far into this long book, you realize that the characters you have grown to know so well and who live in a very confined space don’t know each other all that well, and that’s because they occupy different social realms.” The action of The Locals unfolds during a span that on the national scene roughly parallels the time between the 9/11 attacks and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not the most cheerful of eras. Asked if he thinks his novel is pessimistic or hopeful, Dee points to the character of Mark First’s daughter, Haley, who we meet when she is in second grade. “Ten years in the life of Mark First is momentous, but he’s still Mark First,” Dee says. “But 10 years in the life of somebody who starts the book so young is a much, much bigger deal.” Dee continues, “I gave a copy of this book to a friend to read. One of the things she said was, it’s interesting, your last three books have been similar in that they’re about well-meaning parents screwing up. But they manage to end on the hopeful figure of the child. Honestly, that would not have occurred to me in a million years. But when I thought about it, I thought she was right. And that seemed like a good reason to dedicate The Locals to my own hopeful child, Claire.”


GAIL HONEYMAN

2017’s bittersweet breakout debut

T

he reading world is in love with curmudgeons—perhaps because we all feel unbearably awkward at times—and Eleanor Oliphant, the lonely heroine of Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, is the latest hit.

Thirty-year-old Eleanor isn’t concerned with anything outside of her weekly ritual. But sometimes “fine” isn’t good enough, and when a love interest and unexpected friendships cross her path, Eleanor slowly ventures into social interactions and takes tentative steps toward confronting the great pain in her past. Her description of learning to dance the “YMCA” is worth the price of admission alone. Brimming with heartbreak and humor, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine was shortlisted for the U.K.’s Lucy Cavendish Prize in 2014 and was a hot title at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair. Rights were sold in 26 countries, and soon after its U.S. publication in May, Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, announced plans to bring it to the big screen. We asked Honeyman, who lives in Glasgow, Scotland, some questions about her standout debut. Did you have any idea that the world would receive Eleanor Oliphant with such open arms? Definitely not! As a debut writer, I was managing my expectations for

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE

By Gail Honeyman

Pamela Dorman, $26, 336 pages ISBN 9780735220683, audio, eBook available

DEBUT FICTION

the book very rigorously throughout the process of completing and submitting the manuscript. I still can’t quite believe what’s happened with it—I’m pinching myself! What reactions to Eleanor have surprised you the most? I’m delighted by how incredibly generous readers have been. When we first meet Eleanor, she’s not, on the surface, a particularly likable character; people have talked about feeling protective toward her, which has been wonderful to hear. In Eleanor, you have created a wholly original heroine: She is a social outsider, but she’s doing her best to avoid self-pity. She is—she must be—fine. Where did this determined voice come from? I wanted to show that Eleanor is a survivor, that she’s damaged but not broken by what has happened to her. I also thought it was important, if the character was going to work, that Eleanor never displays or experiences self-pity, however distressing her circumstances. I wanted to leave space in the narrative for the reader to draw their own conclusions about her life and her experiences and how she’s responded to them, and hopefully, to empathize with Eleanor as a result. At one point, Eleanor says, “Loneliness is the new cancer.” In the way people used to fear saying the word “cancer,” loneliness is often considered embarrassing, even shameful. Why did you decide to write about it? The idea for the book was initially sparked by an article I read about loneliness. It included an interview with a young woman who lived alone in a big city, had an apartment and a job, but who said that unless she made a special effort, she would often leave work on a Friday night and not talk to anyone again until Monday morning. That really struck me, because when loneliness is discussed in the media, it’s usually in the context

of older people. When I thought more about it, I realized that there were plenty of potential routes to a young person finding themselves in those circumstances, through no fault of their own, and how hard it can be, at any age, to forge meaningful connections. From this, the story and the character of Eleanor slowly began to emerge. Eleanor is aware that love could change her, to help her “rise from the ashes and be reborn.” She sets her sights on local musician Johnnie Lomond, and through the internet and social media, she’s able to believe that love with him “People is possible. have talked What are your feelings about feeling about the protective false intimatoward cy that can be formed [Eleanor], through sowhich cial media? has been Eleanor’s passion for wonderful to Johnnie is a hear.” crush— I tried to show, in her responses to him, that it’s a very juvenile passion. Although she’s 30 years old, emotionally she seems much younger because of what’s happened to her. I’m not sure about social media more generally, but in the book, it was a very useful way of allowing the reader to see aspects of Johnnie which Eleanor, in the throes of her crush, is oblivious to. I would be terrified and delighted to hear Eleanor’s initial impression of me. She’s so eloquent and specific with her harsh judgment. How would Eleanor describe your book? That’s a tricky one! Although Elea-

© PHILIPPA GEDGE PHOTOGRAPHY UK

INTERVIEW BY CAT ACREE

nor’s directness causes her some problems socially, the first-person narrative allows readers to know that there’s no deliberate intention on her part to offend. It certainly makes life a bit awkward for her sometimes, though! Some of my favorite moments of the book are when Eleanor ventures into areas of physical self-improvement, as her descriptions of getting a bikini wax or a manicure had me laughing aloud in public. What was the most fun to write? I don’t have a favorite scene but did make myself laugh when I was writing the ones you’ve mentioned, so it’s very reassuring to hear that they made you laugh, too—thank you! Eleanor has a spectacular vocabulary and perfect grammar. Has your own speech improved after spending so much time in Eleanor’s head? Sadly not, I suspect! I wanted to make Eleanor’s voice a distinctive component of her character, and a big part of that was her unusual and mannered way of articulating her thoughts, both internally and in conversation. In some respects, her speech mannerisms result from her loneliness and lack of social interaction, and unfortunately, they also sometimes serve to reinforce this. As a writer, trying to capture that particular voice was both a challenge and enormous fun.

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features

NEW VOICES

Six of the brightest new names in fiction

Holt, $26, 208 pages ISBN 9781250109163, audio, eBook available

For fans of: Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Stephanie Danler, Nell Zink. First line: “Tonight a man found Dad’s pants in a tree that was lit with still-hanging Christmas lights.” About the book: A 30-year-old woman returns home to help care for her father, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. About the author: The former executive editor of Lucky Peach magazine, Rachel Khong lives in the Bay Area. Read it for: Hilarious, insightful GATHER THE DAUGHTERS observations that balance well with By Jennie Melamed bittersweet memories. © ELAINE SHENG

Little, Brown, $26, 352 pages ISBN 9780316463652, audio, eBook available

REBELLION By Molly Patterson

Harper, $26.99, 560 pages ISBN 9780062574046, audio, eBook available

For fans of: Jane Smiley, Jane Hamilton, Min Jin Lee. First line: “Hazel is driving and damn her children and damn her

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For fans of: Tales of chilling societies like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. First line: “Vanessa dreams she is a grown woman, heavy with flesh and care.” About the book: An isolated cult society ruled by men begins to crumble when young girls rebel against their preordained and doomed futures. About the author: A psychiatric nurse practitioner specializing in working with traumatized children, Jennie Melamed lives in Seattle with her husband and two dogs. Read it for: The gripping, haunting portrayal of girls coming of age and

© NICHOLAS PURCELL STUDIO

SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE

© NINA SUBIN

By Rachel Khong

questioning everything they’ve ever been taught.

By Sarah Schmidt

Atlantic Monthly, $26, 324 pages ISBN 9780802126597, audio, eBook available

For fans of: Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, literary horror like Stephen King. First line: “He was still bleeding.” About the book: This fictional retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders is a domestic nightmare, unfolding through multiple perspectives to reveal a claustrophobic household laden with dread. About the author: Sarah Schmidt lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her partner and daughter, and works at a regional public library. Read it for: Staggeringly gorgeous, feverish prose and the thrill of deep, dark, gruesome detail. © VILMA SAMULIONYTE

GOODBYE, VITAMIN

eyesight and who cares where she’s going.” About the book: During the Boxer Rebellion in China, American missionary Addie Bell disappears, an event that will echo through the years and the lives of three other women. About the author: Molly Patterson, who won the Pushcart Prize for her 2012 short story “Don’t Let Them Catch You,” is a native of St. Louis and lived in China for several years. Read it for: The author’s dazzling ability to capture disparate settings, from a turn-of-the-century American farm to present-day China, and to weave together the stories of four strong women. © JENNIFER BOYLE

© ANDRIA LO

W

e’ve got our eyes on you: These emerging writers have stopped us dead in our tracks with their unforgettable first novels, from epic historical adventures to imaginative family sagas.

First line: “He only came back because Melvin said he would kill him if he didn’t pay off his debt by the end of the week.” About the book: Antiques dealer Johnny Ribkin journeys through Florida where he meets with other members of the Ribkin family, whose special abilities were used to further the civil rights movement. About the author: Ladee Hubbard lives in New Orleans with her husband and three children. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. Read it for: An intimate portrait of a black family battling against segregation and inequality whose strength literally turns them into comic book-worthy superheroes.

THE TALENTED RIBKINS By Ladee Hubbard

Melville House, $25.99, 304 pages ISBN 9781612196367, eBook available

For fans of: Toni Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Colson Whitehead.

THE HALF-DROWNED KING By Linnea Hartsuyker

Harper, $27.99, 448 pages ISBN 9780062563699, audio, eBook available

For fans of: Ken Follett, Diana Gabaldon, George R.R. Martin. First line: “Ragnvald danced on the oars, leaping from one to the next as the crew rowed.” About the book: A brother and sister fight to seize power and control of their own fate in the harsh, beautiful and unpredictable world of medieval Norway. About the author: A descendant of the first king of Norway, Linnea Hartsuyker grew up in the woods of upstate New York and turned to writing after a decade working at internet startups. Read it for: A spellbinding evocation of a long-lost world of magic and blood feuds, populated by characters riddled with doubt and human failing beneath their epic exteriors. Find reviews of these debuts on BookPage.com.


BEHIND THE BOOK BY ZINZI CLEMMONS

© NINA SUBIN

Remnants of a mother-daughter battle

I

started writing when I was in college. I had plans to become a doctor, which obviously made my parents very happy. My mother was born in South Africa, and my father’s mother was from Trinidad, and he grew up in the heavily West Indian neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens. Both were strict disciplinarians. Both had nice families but modest childhoods and, like so many immigrant families in this country, believed in hard work and sacrifice as much as they did in God.

They were devastated when, in my second year of college, I realized that no matter how proud medicine made my parents, studying it made me profoundly unhappy. So I signed up for a creative writing class on a whim and began my journey as a writer. There was never much of a question that I would write about my mother. She was a larger-than-life figure, at turns aggressive, funny and generous. Strong-willed and acid-tongued, she spoke her mind as a matter of principle, and even though she had a tendency to offend, she was incredibly well liked. Her brash, contradictory personality was the source of constant wonder for me as a child. Our fights were legendary, ranging in topic from the mundane to the serious. I didn’t have to do much inventing when I wrote the mother character in my novel. With my own mother as inspiration, the character wrote itself. Nevertheless, What We Lose

WHAT WE LOSE

By Zinzi Clemmons

Viking, $22, 224 pages ISBN 9780735221710, audio, eBook available

DEBUT FICTION

is a novel of ideas, primarily about how larger forces like race, nationality and gender shape our lives consciously and unconsciously. However, my mother’s influence and likeness appeared often in my early work. For example, my hair was a constant flashpoint of tension in our relationship. I grew up in the ’90s, and the natural hair renaissance that would take place around the mid-2000s was still a long way off. It was still the norm for black women to straighten their hair with harsh chemicals or scalding-hot irons, both of which usually left your scalp covered in burns, not to mention the permanent damage done to the hair itself. As a tomboy and an A-student, I could see little use for perfectly coiffed hair and would avoid my mother’s straightening sessions and hair appointments like the plague. Of course, this only made her angrier. Stories about hair have made their way into several of my short stories and my novel. I use these episodes as a way of discussing intergenerational conflict—how race impacts our conceptions of beauty, colorism and gender. Similar arguments arose around my clothes, grades and career choices. They mostly had the same result: My mother would double down on her objections, and I would become increasingly alienated from both her and the rest of my family. My father, an immensely agreeable man, was forced to play mediator during holidays when I would visit home. These visits would always be marked by at least one fight that, if we were lucky, wouldn’t balloon beyond my visit. But often, it did. Our relationship eased, as tends to happen, when my mother became gravely ill. About six months

before she died at 55, mere days after I finished my MFA program at Columbia University, I moved back into my parents’ Philadelphia house to help care for her. This decision in itself was shaped by the gender norms inherent in both Caribbean and South African culture. It is the daughter’s job to take care of the parents. Even though I volunteered, my brother stayed in New Mexico, where he had relocated for work. I missed my brother and felt incredibly alone, and I resented my parents for not placing the same responsibilities on him that they did on me. These gendered cultural expectations—as well as the experience of living in hospitals, caring for her nearly around the clock, my sadness at her impending death—all later became part of What We Lose. I wrote most of What We Lose after my mother’s death, and in so doing, I was finally able to gain a higher understanding of who she was. By delving into her history, both in her home country of South Africa and in the U.S., I began to realize that much of her behavior in my childhood had sprung out of fear: fear that she wouldn’t be able to succeed in a new country, fear that her children wouldn’t make it. Fear of what harm might befall me as a young, rebellious black woman, and the ever-present fear of raising black children in the United States. In addition to providing some closure, the stories of our conflicts illustrated how systemic issues play out in our everyday lives. Our fights about my hair were also about the expectations placed on young black

women, and how the failure to live up to those expectations would reflect on my mother. My appearance, my friends and my career were all constantly judged by our mostly white community. Growing up and leaving my hometown would only provide bigger dangers, when these choices could impact my ability to find a job, a family and in certain cases (usually involving law enforcement) whether I lived or died. By investigating my relationship with my mother—the years we spent at odds and our short armistice at the end of her life—I ultimately realized how these larger forces shaped my life as well, and how deeply I’d internalized them. To me, this is the most important part of What We Lose, the point from which all of the book’s relationships and drama emanates. The same was always true of my life, long before I even recognized it. Zinzi Clemmons is the co-founder of Apogee Journal and a contributing editor to Literary Hub. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, where she teaches at The Colburn Conservatory and Occidental College. What We Lose, her debut novel, is a poignant exploration of womanhood and identity. Visit BookPage.com to read a review of What We Lose.

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features

EDUCATION BY ANGELA LEEPER

Better ways to get schooled

F

rom China to the neighborhood down the street, parents and educators around the world are continually pondering the best environments, teaching methods and curricula for today’s young people. To guide their decisions, we’re highlighting five recent and upcoming books that reflect some of the most interesting approaches to improving the educational experience.

Public, private, charter, online, home, magnet—the list goes on. With so many educational options, how do parents choose the best one for their child? Luckily, Kevin Leman, a psychologist and author of more than 50 books on parenting and relationships, offers Education a la Carte: Choosing the Best Schooling Options for Your Child (Revell, $17.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9780800728434). This no-nonsense guide discusses the possible benefits of each kind of school environment and focuses on finding the right fit for each child. Leman will ease parents’ tension as he addresses typical concerns and shows how learning styles, birth order and parenting styles all factor into the decision process. Additional chapters cover topics such as preschool and kindergarten readiness, homework and grades. No matter the subject, Leman encourages parents to keep realistic expectations and to motivate with approval rather than criticism.

LAST LAUGH Liberal arts majors are often the punchline of jokes. In You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education (Little, Brown, $27, 352 pages, ISBN 9780316548809), Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author George Anders reveals that liberal arts majors are overtaking jobs once reserved for graduates with computer science and business degrees. He highlights the irony that, as tech fields become increasingly dependent on automation, the need for the human touch has never been more essential. Anders explains how liberal

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arts majors offer valuable critical thinking skills and gives examples of individuals whose liberal arts degrees took them down unexpected paths. For instance, Bess Yount, who holds a sociology degree, is on Facebook’s sales and marketing

team, and Stewart Butterfield, a philosophy major, now runs Slack Technologies. While the book is geared toward recent grads, even career switchers can benefit from the job strategies and insight into the dozens of major companies actively recruiting liberal arts majors. Above all, Anders shows that success is rarely a straight line.

WEST MEETS EAST When Chinese-American journalist Lenora Chu and her husband took jobs in Shanghai, they eagerly enrolled their 3-year-old son, Rainey, in Soong Qing Ling, an elite “kindergarten” that would instill academic drive seemingly missing in the U.S. The author discovered that while Rainey outpaced his American counterparts in math and language, he was also subjected to harsh discipline, propaganda and extreme competition. The latter even led to bribery, with Chu finding herself gifting Coach purses in exchange for school opportunities. Struck by these differences, Chu was curious about the Chinese education system. The result is Little Soldiers: An American Boy,

a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve (Harper, $27.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780062367853). Mixing personal anecdotes, observations of Chinese classrooms, interviews with parents and students and thought-provoking facts about

Chinese education, the author reveals how yingshi jiaoyu—highstakes testing—has created a culture of stress and conformity. Although Chinese schools have been influenced to some degree by Western ideals, such as creativity and independence, she notes that, ironically, American schools increasingly emphasize test taking. In the end, Chu lets readers consider what skills a 21st-century student needs and offers insight on the future of global education.

TEACHERS, BREATHE EASY As British educator Katherine Weare reminds readers, schools are busy, pressured environments where teachers and students are often more concerned with the future than enjoying the present moment of learning. Weare and co-author Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and international peace activist, also recognize that teachers typically focus on others’ needs over their own. Their secular collaboration, Happy Teachers Change the World: A Guide for Cultivating Mindfulness in Education (Parallax, $18.95, 400 pages, ISBN 9781941529638),

brings mindfulness to teachers and students. Essays from Nhat Hanh set a reassuring mood to prepare for mindfulness exercises, while the second part of the book explains ties between these techniques and valuable education traits. Weare also addresses best practices and shows how mindfulness can be integrated in specific curriculum areas. Once comfortable with these practices, teachers can move on to suggestions for cultivating mindfulness across school communities.

FINNISHING SCHOOL Even after experiencing burnout his first year of teaching, Timothy D. Walker, a contributing writer on education issues for The Atlantic, still espoused that good teachers “don’t do short workdays” but rather “push themselves—to the limit.” That is, until he relocated to his Finnish wife’s home country to teach elementary school. While educators around the world have recognized Finland’s consistent top scores in reading, math and science on international tests, the author was instead struck by how joy was prioritized in Finnish schools. In Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms (Norton, $25.95, 240 pages, ISBN 9781324001256), Walker offers realistic tips on creating joyful schools, arranged according to five “ingredients” of happiness: well-being, belonging, autonomy, mastery and mindset. From scheduling brain breaks to cultivating a community of adults who share responsibility for a child to discussing grades so students can reflect on their learning, the tips are prefaced with lively anecdotes from the author’s own classroom experiences and often reveal how he overcame American biases to embrace them. While some strategies may need to be adapted to individual schools, they all highlight how we can learn to value happiness more than achievement.


cover story

MICHELLE KUO

A rookie teacher’s unforgettable student

G

et out of my face, China woman.” That’s just one of the greetings Harvard graduate Michelle Kuo received during her two years in the Teach for America program. She was working in Helena, Arkansas, an impoverished town in the Mississippi Delta, where most of her students had never seen a person of Asian ethnicity.

“Students will say anything to see if they can get under your skin,” Kuo says. She is calling me from Berlin, Germany, where her historian husband is doing research (both now teach at the American University of Paris). “They called a teacher next to me fat,” she remembers. “They called the teacher across from me a cracker. But teachers know that once you let students know it bothers you, you’re done for, so I had to pretend it didn’t bother me.” Kuo had arrived in Arkansas in 2004 with lofty goals, eager to share readings she cherished from Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Ralph Ellison at an alternative school for kids who had been expelled from other schools. She was particularly fond of Patrick Browning, a quiet, reflective young man giving eighth grade a third try. He ended up completing the year with the “Most Improved” award. Kuo tells his story in her moving chronicle, Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship.

READING WITH PATRICK

By Michelle Kuo

Random House, $27, 320 pages ISBN 9780812997316, audio, eBook available

MEMOIR

Despite the challenges of teaching in Helena, the rewards were great, and when Kuo left to attend Harvard Law School, she felt seriously conflicted, wanting to stay longer. Not only did she and her students grow fond of each other, the adult townspeople welcomed her with open arms. Little did she know she’d be back two years later, after being notified that high school dropout Patrick was in jail, charged with murder two days before his 19th birthday. She visited him while she was in law school, and again a year later, after her graduation in 2009. Patrick was still in jail awaiting trial. This time she made a bold decision: to put her life on hold for seven months, postponing a fellowship in California. As she writes: “Your sense of responsibility to your students never leaves you. . . . You wonder if you failed them.” Kuo visited Patrick in jail every day, resuming their reading and writing lessons, and also taught Spanish part-time at a charter school (her old school had closed). “I initially just went to visit him and see how his case was going,” she recalls. “And then I realized he felt alone. I was devastated to see him like that. The last time I’d seen him was the last day of school, and he had been so excited about going to high school. So the news was a shock.” There have been any number of books about teaching challenging students (think Pat Conroy’s The Water Is Wide), and numerous others about reading with prisoners (including Mikita Brottman’s 2016 book, The Maximum Security Book Club). Few, however, share Kuo’s unique vantage point of having taught someone both before and during incarceration. It’s this singular relationship, combined with Kuo’s heartfelt, introspective prose,

that makes Reading with Patrick so memorable. “Those seven months changed my life,” Kuo freely admits. “They were so extraordinary. When do we feel most loved? It’s when people show up. I guess Patrick changed me in that way: my belief in that kind of love as being so important.” In the county jail, Patrick’s first words to his teacher were, “Mrs. Kuo, I didn’t mean to.” His 16-year-old special needs sister had been returning home from a date with a 25-year“When do old man whom we feel most Patrick judged loved? It’s to be drunk when people and high. The man refused show up.” to leave when asked, so Patrick picked up a knife left on the porch from a stroller repair. Patrick claims he simply intended to scare the man, but they ended up fighting, and tragically, his sister’s date ended up dead. Patrick was charged with first-degree murder. Had he been a white male in the suburbs, Kuo surmises, the charge might have been manslaughter due to mitigating factors such as the “castle doctrine,” giving people a right to defend their homes. During Kuo’s hours with Patrick in jail, they read poetry and the works of Frederick Douglass, C.S. Lewis, Marilynne Robinson, W.S. Merwin and more. Patrick wrote heartbreakingly lyrical poems, as well as letters to the mother of his victim, his own family and the young daughter he had fathered. “He had come so far,” Kuo writes, “. . . and it frightens me that so little was required for him to develop

© KATHY HUANG

INTERVIEW BY ALICE CARY

intellectually—a quiet room, a pile of books and some adult guidance. And yet these things were rarely supplied.” Patrick agreed to a plea deal, which saddened Kuo, who notes that “so little investigation was done into what happened during that evening that traumatized so many.” While in prison, he went on to proudly earn his GED—with notably high scores in reading and writing—and was released on parole after two and a half years for good behavior. After her months with Patrick, Kuo returned to her Oakland, California, fellowship, working as an immigrants’ rights lawyer and later as a law clerk. Patrick, meanwhile, worked various part-time jobs in Helena, including laying tombstones at cemeteries. More recently, he left for Texas in search of better opportunities. “I hope he’ll have a better shot at finding permanent work there,” Kuo says. Kuo wishes she were a clone so that she could still be “pushing [Patrick], encouraging him, lecturing him and sometimes haranguing him.” She continues to cherish their friendship and treasure his letters. “Every time I hear about somebody getting arrested,” Kuo adds, “or a felon getting out of jail, I think about how they were all once students in a classroom.”

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features

PARENTING BY AMY SCRIBNER

It’s a hard job, but someone’s gotta do it

R

aising children has never been more complex, but with a mix of expertise, humor and compassion, these parenting books offer important advice for parenting in the modern age.

It’s pretty easy to focus on weaknesses—our own and our kids’. How many times do we start sentences with “don’t” or focus on the average grades on the report card instead of the excellent ones? In The Strength Switch (Avery, $27, 352 pages, ISBN 9781101983645), Lea Waters, founding director of the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, urges parents to move away from the negativity bias and offers strategies for helping children build important strengths such as gratitude, self-control and mindfulness. “Savoring and gratitude help us and our children recognize the good times, intensify the juiciness of the moment, and do the strength building that happens when life is good,” she writes. Waters writes with typical Australian sunniness and uses stories from families (including her own) and educators to illustrate her points. The Strength Shift offers a roadmap for making small shifts that will yield big results for children.

LAUGH IT OFF Jen Hatmaker and her husband, Brandon, are pastors in Austin, Texas. She’s the bestselling author of 11 books, including several Bible studies, but her brand of religion is so inclusive, nonjudgmental and loving that her writing feels accessible to any woman—Christian or not—seeking wisdom about how to embrace a messy, beautiful life. Hatmaker’s latest book, Of Mess and Moxie (Thomas Nelson, $22.99, 224 pages, ISBN 9780718031848), is not strictly about parenting. She writes passionately about many aspects of modern female life, such as resiliency, the importance of creating art and how to find time to exercise (although she admits that, for her, “The problem is, I prefer watching Netflix and eating snacks.”). But her most poignant and hilarious

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chapters focus on her family of five children. From having the sex talk with her kids to grocery shopping for a family of seven, she mixes her advice with a healthy dose of humor and writes in a conversational tone that makes you feel like she’s confiding in you.

and living a life as a happy transgender individual.

well-Smith offers excellent “gentle discipline” strategies for addressing some of the most common issues, such as whining, sibling rivalry and lying. This is a handbook for endof-their-rope parents looking for a fresh approach to discipline.

BOYS AT THEIR BEST

If you’re looking for help with parenting your teenage boy, turn Sarah Ockwell-Smith, a doula to He’s Not Lazy (Sterling, $19.95, and homeopath, opens Gentle Dis- 288 pages, ISBN 9781454916871) cipline (TarcherPerigee, $16, 272 by Adam Price. As the mother of pages, ISBN 9780143131892) with a a 12-year-old son, I was drawn to bold statement: “Almost everything child psychologist Price’s empaTURNING POINT we think we know about disciplin- thetic views. He writes, “Not only are there the physical changes Many in our society are still ing children today is wrong.” to contend with, but on a deeper grasping what it means to be Can’t get your toddler to brush his teeth? Why is your son sudlevel your son is grappling with transgender, although the recent profound questions . . . Who am I? high-profile transition of Caitlyn denly swearing like a pirate? Jenner has helped educate AmerOckwell-Smith may be a parenting What do I believe in? What should I expert, but even she has experibecome, and do I have what it takes icans on the issue. Transgender ence with her own son yelling an to get there?” Children and Youth by Elijah C. expletive in public. The truth was, Price focuses specifically on Nealy (Norton, $27.95, 448 pages, boys, as boys are much likelier to ISBN 9780393711394) is an invalu- her son was tired, he was hot, and be diagnosed with learning disabilable resource for those supporting he was thirsty. “He just snapped. Just as we all do at times,” Ockities, and many education specialchildren who are transgender. ists believe boys “are at an intrinsic well-Smith writes. Nealy—a professor, clergyman disadvantage in a classroom that and transgender man—provides That’s the beauty of Ockwell-Smith’s guidance: She’s low discourages their natural tendenin-depth explanations of what it cy to be active, and competitive.” means to be transgender and to be on judgment and high on helpful So rather than facing failure, boys diagnosed with gender dysphoria, insights into why your kid can go from angel to monster in 10 secsimply opt out and are thus likely and what therapy and medical onds flat. She details how children’s to be labeled as lazy. transitions entail. Perhaps most Parents can help combat this by importantly, Nealy details how to brains develop, how they learn and some common physiological being their sons’ advocates. No, work with young people and their triggers for poor behavior (such families who are dealing with isthis doesn’t mean hovering while sues surrounding gender dysphoas sugar, lack of sleep and plain your son does his homework. It ria and gender diversity. old sensory overload), as well as means helping your son find his Although the book is geared psychological ones (mimicking the own motivation. As Price puts it, toward mental health providers actions they see in others). “The qualities you most want him and educators, it is a comprehenBut what’s truly thought provok- to develop—self-control, self-desive and compassionate narrative ing is Ockwell-Smith’s view that termination, self-regulation—all that will prove useful for anyone most common discipline methods begin with the same word.” seeking to better understand and just don’t work. Physical punishPrice outlines common-sense support transgender youth. Using ment like spanking causes kids tactics to support boys in finding vignettes from his years of personal to be more defiant. Distraction those “self” words. I have a feeling experience, as well as suggested prevents children from discoverI’ll be pulling this book off the shelf approaches for professionals to ing that emotions are OK. Ockto consult for years to come. take during family conversations, Nealy focuses not only on coming out as transgender but also on building

NO SHAME


reviews

FICTION

T PI OP CK

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NOW IN PAPERBAC K HOME FIRE

Choices made for love REVIEW BY LAUREN BUFFERD

In a startlingly relevant update, Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire relocates Sophocles’ Antigone to present-day London and weaves a timely tale of two British Muslim families with differing ideas about bigotry, belief and loyalty. After years of devoting herself to raising her younger siblings, Isma Pasha is free to return to college and complete her degree in sociology. She worries about leaving behind her beautiful, headstrong sister, Aneeka, but of even more concern is Aneeka’s twin brother, Parvaiz, who has disappeared. Parvaiz surfaces in Syria, pursuing the dreams of Adil Pasha, the jihadist father he barely knew. The two sisters are devastated by his choice and frightened by the intrusion of the British Security Service into their lives. When Isma meets handsome Eamonn Lone in the college coffee By Kamila Shamsie shop, she recognizes him as the son of controversial political figure Riverhead, $26, 288 pages Karamat Lone, who was a member of Parliament at the time of Adil’s ISBN 9780735217683, audio, eBook available death and is now British Home Secretary. But it is Aneeka who sees FAMILY SAGA in Eamonn a unique chance to get her brother home and starts an intimate relationship with him. Is it love? Or simply political manipulation? Home Fire is Shamsie’s seventh and most accomplished novel. The emotionally compelling plot is well served by her lucid storytelling, and she digs into complex issues with confidence. Divided into five sections, one for each of the main characters, the narrative combines the themes of Sophocles’ tragedy with this most up-to-date of stories. As this deftly constructed page-turner Visit BookPage.com to read moves swiftly toward its inevitable conclusion, it forces questions about a Q&A with Kamila Shamsie. what sacrifice you would make for family, for love.

THE WILDLING SISTERS By Eve Chase

Putnam $27, 336 pages ISBN 9780399174131 Audio, eBook available

GOTHIC FICTION

Eve Chase’s atmospheric gothic mystery is set in the Cotswolds in England and spans 50 years. In the summer of 1959, while their mother vacations in Marra­ kech, the four Wilde sisters spend the summer with their Aunt Sybil and Uncle Perry—who calls them the “Wildlings”—at Applecote Manor, their deceased father’s secluded family home. The events of that fateful summer are seen through the eyes of

Margot, the third oldest at 15 and the most intellectual. Flora, 17, is the beauty, heading off to finishing school in the fall. Pam, 16, tries her best to follow in Flora’s footsteps, and Dot, 12, born shortly after their father died, mostly feels left out. When the four arrive at Applecote Manor, they find their aunt and uncle mired in depression after the disappearance of their only child, Audrey, five years earlier. The mystery seems to haunt the manor, and the girls begin to look for ways to amuse themselves outside its confining walls. Fortunately, they meet two young men: Harry Gore, whose family owns the grandest of the local manors, and his cousin, Tom. The three older Wilde girls vie for the attentions of these handsome neighbors, threatening to weaken their ties of sisterhood. At the same time, Margot immerses herself in

the mystery of Audrey’s disappearance, forging a strange relationship with her aunt, who sees Margot as a sort of reincarnation of her child. Fifty years later, Chase’s second cast of characters makes its appearance at Applecote Manor. Jessie and Will Tucker leave London and buy the aging house in hopes of finding a better environment for Will’s 16-year-old daughter, Bella, who still struggles with her mother’s sudden death several years earlier. They know nothing of Audrey’s disappearance all those years ago— but they feel an eerie presence inhabiting their new home. Chase moves back and forth in time between these two families and the secret that ties them together. Her second novel will appeal to fans of similar English-house mysteries, like those by Daphne du Maurier. —DEBORAH DONOVAN

“ M AY B E H E R B E S T Y E T.” —E N T E R T A I N M E N T W E E K LY

“AT M O S P H E R I C A N D U N P U T D O W N A B L E .” —PEOPLE

“REQUIRED RE ADING FOR A N Y O N E W H O A P P R E C I AT E S TOUGH, UNFLINCHING INTELLIGENCE AND I N G E N I O U S P L O T T I N G .” —JANET MASLIN, T H E N E W YO R K T I M E S

“ THE MOST INTERESTING, M O S T I M P O R TA N T C R I M E NOVELIST TO EMERGE IN T H E PA S T T E N Y E A R S .” — T H E WA S H I N G T O N P O S T

PENGUIN BOOKS

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reviews MRS. FLETCHER By Tom Perrotta

Scribner $26, 320 pages ISBN 9781501144028 Audio, eBook available

SATIRICAL FICTION

FICTION skewered in Little Children (2004). A suburban anthropologist in the tradition of John Updike, he is so spot on about people who live “comfortably” that reading him makes you deliciously uncomfortable. —IAN SCHWARTZ

THE BEDLAM STACKS By Natasha Pulley

It’s a struggle to remain the heroes of our own stories. What we know in our hearts, that we are Jason Bourne or Katniss Everdeen, clashes daily with reality, where we coax kids out of the minivan each morning and lug individually bagged, nut-free snacks to a wearying number of Little League games. But even those of us bogged down in the quotidian have stories. And luckily, we have Tom Perrotta to tell them. Mrs. Fletcher, the acclaimed author’s first novel since 2011, is a smart, grown-up look at what happens when growing older doesn’t turn out as expected. Eve Fletcher is alone. Forty-six, abandoned by her husband for a younger woman and left with an empty nest by her college-bound son, Brendan (whom she dearly loves but finds hard to like), Eve fears the days ahead. Her only consolations are small but not insignificant: She doesn’t hate her job and she still looks good in jeans. Eve is, in fact, a MILF (if you don’t know the term, go stream American Pie). She knows this because a late-night text from an unknown number informs her, “U R my MILF!” The text sends Eve on a journey of discovery, both amusing and so cringe-worthy that you’ll want to read with your fingers covering your face. Eve’s struggles are matched by those of her son. Brendan is a “bro,” a frat-hungry jock who is unable to rein in his sense of entitlement, even in the progressive world of college. When he’s called out for the boorish, misogynistic behavior that worked like a charm in high school, he is forced to confront the type of person he wants to be. Perrotta makes a sharp, satirical return to the class of people he

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Bloomsbury $26, 352 pages ISBN 9781620409671 Audio, eBook available

FANTASY

of no return. Natasha Pulley’s captivating landscape unfolds slowly, her exquisitely crafted prose illuminating magical elements moving just at the edge of perception. The pace allows readers to probe Bedlam’s secrets and carefully pierce the boundaries between safety and savagery. Loosely connected to the world of her bestselling The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, The Bedlam Stacks is a lyrical paean to the power of transformation, faith and friendship. — G E R R Y PA I G E S M I T H

NEW PEOPLE Crippled while working as an opium smuggler for his own government, Merrick Tremayne’s infirmity has become his excuse to retreat from life and retire to his crumbling home in Victorian-era Cornwall. Disabled and destitute, Merrick is perplexed when his former employers approach him with a mission to locate the source of another drug: a malarial cure found in the bark of Peruvian trees. Although previous expeditions failed to return, Merrick has nothing left to lose and so accepts the job. Under the guise of botanist explorers, Merrick and his partner embark on a dangerous mission to locate the hidden trees and steal cuttings for the crown. They are assigned a local guide, Raphael, but as they climb into the Peruvian highlands, Raphael begins to reveal his own deeper connections to their destination. Raphael leads them to the remote mountain enclave of Bedlam, where luminous pollen powers clockwork lamps, rare woods have explosive potential, and a salt line is literally the border between life and death. Adding to the exotic mysteries of Bedlam are lifelike statues posted along the forest boundary. These ancient figures move in eerie response to villagers who regard them with religious reverence. Navigating not only his own physical limitations but also Raphael’s mysterious connection to the statues, Merrick races to reconcile the mystical aspects of his quest before he reaches the point

By Danzy Senna

Riverhead $26, 240 pages ISBN 9781594487095 Audio, eBook available

LITERARY FICTION

novel’s drama. Her obsession is so intense that she tracks down the poet at his apartment building. But before Maria can knock on his door, his confused white neighbor mistakes her for her Spanish nanny. Maria’s willingness to go along with the charade of being the baby’s nurse, even to the point of adopting a Spanish accent, is one of many ways Senna dramatizes Maria’s uncertainty and despair over the direction of her life. Expertly plotted and full of dark humor, New People is a thoughtful and unforgettable look at race and class at the dawn of the 21st century. —MICHAEL MAGRAS

THE CLOCKWORK DYNASTY By Daniel H. Wilson Doubleday $26.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780385541787 Audio, eBook available

SCIENCE FICTION

One might question some of her choices, but no one could accuse Maria Pierce, the protagonist of New People, Danzy Senna’s provocative new novel, of ordinariness. Perhaps that’s no surprise, given that she—like her equally lightskinned, dreadlocked fiancé, Khalil, whom she met at Stanford in the early 1990s—is biracial. They are two of society’s “New People,” children born to mixed-race couples in the late ’60s and early ’70s, offspring she calls “the progeny of the Renaissance of Interracial Unions.” It’s November 1996. Maria and Khalil, subjects of a documentary about biracial children, live in Brooklyn as she works on a dissertation about the Jonestown massacre. She’s the sort of well-meaning person who speaks in broken English when talking to someone with a foreign accent. And she is the adopted daughter of a Cambridge, Massachusetts, woman who—like a poet Maria has recently become infatuated with—was “old-school” black, with dark skin rather than the “octoroon-gray eyes or butterscotch skin” of New People. The poet, a “shaved-head black man,” and Maria’s infatuation with him are the sparks for much of the

June is a modern-day anthropologist who repairs centuries-old automatons—mechanized dolls that come to life. Upon her repair of a Russian writing doll that scribbles, “All who breathe do not live; all who touch do not feel, and all who see do not judge. Behold the avtomat,” June is faced with a brutal reality. There is a world running parallel to her own, in which the avtomat have been fighting for their survival for centuries. Her grandfather encountered an “angel” during World War II that demonstrated superhuman strength and left behind a metal relic. June now wears the relic around her neck, and she soon discovers that it connects her to the world of the avtomat—and she may be the only living human who can help them. Peter is an avtomat created in the likeness of Czar Peter the Great. His tale begins in a workshop in Russia in 1709 and spans centuries as he lives his nearly immortal life among humans. The avtomat have existed for thousands of years, and much of their technology is lost. A war has broken out among them


FICTION as they seek the technology to save themselves. Daniel H. Wilson, a seasoned writer of fiction, nonfiction and comics, also possesses a Ph.D. in robotics. The Clockwork Dynasty is bravely imagined and satisfyingly executed. Wilson has woven a brilliant fictional world into history, making this book a great read for lovers of historical fiction as well as fantasy and sci-fi. —LESLIE HINSON

THE ADDRESS By Fiona Davis

Dutton $26, 368 pages ISBN 9781524741990 Audio, eBook available

HISTORICAL FICTION

gender, social and economic inequality in both eras. In the earlier setting, one fallen woman is carted off to an insane asylum, while another retains her status by dint of being in a respectable marriage. In 1985, Melinda dismisses servants without a second thought and treats Bailey just a little bit better. This thought-provoking book makes you wonder what Edith Wharton would have made of these Camdens and pseudo-Camdens. Thankfully, Davis is here to tell us. —ARLENE MCKANIC

LESS By Andrew Sean Greer

Lee Boudreaux $26, 272 pages ISBN 9780316316125 Audio, eBook available

COMIC FICTION

The Dakota is a notorious, castle-like building on 72nd Street off Manhattan’s Central Park—but 130 years ago, this location was the muddy middle of nowhere. Fiona Davis’ The Address is the story of two women a century apart whose tumultuous lives become part of the Dakota’s sometimes unhappy history. Even John Lennon figures into it. The novel begins in 1884, when Sara Smythe is brought from London to New York City to be the “manageress” of this brand-new but remote apartment building. In 1985, Bailey Camden is the poor, not-quite relation of the Camdens, who now own the Dakota. Having been tossed out of her interior decorating gig, Bailey gets a job renovating her cousin Melinda’s apartment, transforming it from fusty Edwardian to Barbie beach house. Melinda, a deliciously nasty piece of work, wants green plastic drawer pulls. It’s dispiriting. Yet dispiriting isn’t the word when it comes to the fate of Sara, who falls in love with the Dakota’s designer. Theodore Camden is a man with three cherubic children and an unhappy wife—but you only think you know what happens next. Davis knows how to twist a plot. With her nimble writing style, Davis makes pithy commentary on

With the touching and very funny story of Arthur Less, author Andrew Sean Greer (The Confessions of Max Tivoli) takes readers on an aroundthe-world tour, leaping from Mexico City to Berlin, from Marrakech to Kyoto, in a grand midlife adventure of the heart. Gay novelist Less—like anyone with such a name—is a hapless, dreamy hero, a man straight out of a James Thurber story. He’s known more for his relationship with a much older, Pulitzer-winning poet than for his own work. Now, his most recent lover is getting married, and in an attempt to avoid the upcoming nuptials, Less has decided to accept every literary invitation on his desk. It just so happens that Less is about to turn 50, and his latest novel will soon be rejected by his publisher. Dressed in his trademark blue suit, Less adorably butchers the German language, nearly falls in love in Paris, celebrates his birthday in the desert and, somewhere along the way, discovers something new and fragile about the passing of time, about the coming and going of love, and what it means to be the fool of your own narrative. It’s nothing less than wonderful. —CAT ACREE

spotlight

SHORT STORIES BY JULIE HALE

Summer shorts

A

great short story offers a quick and powerful reprieve from reality. If escape is what you crave, then check out the stellar new collections featured below. Written by three of today’s top literary fiction authors, these stories will sweep you away.

“People pretend the world is ordinary every day,” a character says in Samantha Hunt’s hypnotic collection, The Dark Dark (FSG, $15, 256 pages, ISBN 9780374282134). But Hunt knows better; her narrative worlds are twilit realms suffused with dark possibility, in which jarring connections and overpowering transformations prove the rule. In a taut, “Twin Peaks”-ish story called “The Yellow,” a dead dog is resurrected when the man who killed him shares a moment of unexpected intimacy with its owner. In the bleakly humorous “Love Machine,” an FBI agent develops romantic feelings for a robot. The narrator of “Beast”—a woman grappling with the routines of life and marriage—turns into a deer at night. That’s right—a deer. Equipped with a voice that’s delicately poetic yet quietly ominous, Hunt can make the impossible seem plausible. She’s in a class by herself.

GLOBE TROTTER In his radiant new book, The Mountain (Simon & Schuster, $25, 256 pages, ISBN 9781501154089), Paul Yoon moves with ease through eras and locales, from New York State in the early 1900s to modern-day Russia. Despite the disparate settings, the six stories in this collection feel of a piece, as each features displaced characters who are adrift in the world. The solitary narrator of “A Willow and

the Moon” tries in the decades after World War II to come to terms with his family’s history. “Still a Fire” follows a drug-addicted nurse as she ekes out a meager existence in France during the late 1940s. Yoon uses precise, measured prose to create atmospheric narratives that lack neat resolutions. The Mountain’s overall mood is one of wistfulness—a feeling that stays with the reader after the final page has been turned.

MODERN PULSE Sarah Hall’s Madame Zero (Custom House, $23.99, 192 pages, ISBN 9780062657060) is a bold set of stories that speak to the times. Through these perceptive, sharply realized narratives, Hall explores gender roles, female sexuality and the power dynamics inherent in romantic relationships, demonstrating along the way a remarkable ability to shift between voices and forms. A three-page thriller about a deadly epidemic, “One in Four” is a letter written by a drug-industry insider to his wife. “Case Study 2” is just that—an objective, nearly clinical account of a troubled foster child who was brought up in a commune. In “Evie,” the title character’s aggressively erotic actions bewilder her husband and signal the approach of tragedy. Humming with tension and enlivened by Hall’s nimble prose, these of-themoment stories form a collection that’s destined to endure.

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reviews

NONFICTION

T PI OP CK

THE KELLOGGS By Howard Markel

WILD THINGS

Looking back at children’s books

Pantheon $35, 544 pages ISBN 9780307907271 eBook available

BIOGRAPHY

R E V I E W B Y K E L LY B L E W E T T

In Wild Things, Bruce Handy offers a rousing and nostalgic romp through the classics of children’s literature from the latter half of the 20th century, from Goodnight Moon to Ramona to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Clearly passionate about his topic, Handy dives into the context of the publication of these books with enthusiasm and verve. Handy makes unlikely comparisons (Beverly Cleary to Henry James; The Runaway Bunny to Portnoy’s Complaint). He vividly portrays Margaret Wise Brown, with her loads of golden hair, unconventional love interests and seemingly endless well of inspiration, and her mercurial editor Ursula Nordstrom, who hovers at the edge of many of the most beloved publications of this era (it was she who convinced Maurice Sendak that Where the Wild Things Are should feature monsters, not horses). Handy tangles with scholars from children’s literature, such By Bruce Handy as Philip Nel and his interpretation of The Cat in the Hat—Nel argues Simon & Schuster, $26, 336 pages it’s informed by minstrelsy, while Handy suggests that the cat may be a ISBN 9781451609950, audio, eBook available representation of Dr. Seuss himself. LITERATURE But this is no scholarly tome. Indeed, Handy makes the personal and idiosyncratic nature of many of his reflections apparent. He frames his chapter on Narnia in light of his own religious inclinations (which are not C.S. Lewis’) and describes how it felt to realize the book had such Christian themes (he was dismayed, but also enduringly drawn to the way the children relate to Aslan, which Handy believes was how Lewis experienced his faith). And Handy’s enthusiasm for Cleary’s character of Ramona is as genuine and sweet as an ice-cream cone on a hot summer’s day. This is a compulsively readable and entertaining collection of essays that will take readers back, in the best sense, to books they may have nearly forgotten but will delight in remembering.

WHAT SHE ATE By Laura Shapiro Viking $27, 320 pages ISBN 9780525427643 Audio, eBook available

HISTORY

Everyone’s got a food story, writes culinary historian Laura Shapiro, but most will never be told. Shaprio believes that one’s relationship with food typically defines who we are, and What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories profiles six vastly different women and their appetites: author, poet and diarist Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of William; British chef Rosa Lewis, known as the “Queen of Cooks,” whose champions includ-

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ed King Edward VII; first lady Eleanor Roosevelt; Hitler’s mistress and eventual wife, Eva Braun; British novelist Barbara Pym; and writer and publisher Helen Gurley Brown. Each of these women is fascinating, and Shapiro’s carefully researched, astute writing sheds light on their unique places in history, as well as the culinary trends of their time. Take, for example, Roosevelt, who proclaimed herself “incapable of enjoying food.” Shapiro asserts that instead, Roosevelt had “an intense relationship with food” all of her life, bringing the home economics movement to the White House while insisting on hiring “the most reviled cook in presidential history,” who served dishes like Shrimp Wiggle—shrimp and canned peas heated in white sauce, on toast. Meanwhile, in Europe, Hitler’s consort, Braun, regularly sipped champagne while the rest of Europe suffered complete devasta-

tion. She adored treats but considered keeping her figure of utmost importance, eventually choosing to kill herself with cyanide rather than by gunshot so she could be a “beautiful corpse.” British novelist Pym “was not a food writer, but she saw the world as if she were,” leaving behind diaries and 88 notebooks that proved to be a culinary historian’s dream, often including shopping lists and recipes. And while her literary characters sipped vast quantities of Ovaltine and tea, Pym showed in both her books and in her life that “good food can be found anywhere.” Each of the six essays in Shapiro’s What She Ate is a culinary and historical delight. Feast on them slowly so as not to miss a crumb. —ALICE CARY

Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Laura Shapiro.

Sibling rivalries are as old as . . . well, you know. But if you like them with some extra snap, crackle and pop, your best bet is Howard Markel’s story of brothers John and Will Kellogg, who put Battle Creek, Michigan, on the map in the first half of the 20th century. In The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek, Markel tells their intertwined stories with a great deal of skill and flair, opening a window into both American societal history and the complications of familial relationships. Born to a pioneer family in rural Michigan, the brothers ascended to the top of their chosen professions—medicine for John, business for Will. But with contrasting personalities and an eight-year age difference, they were at odds almost from the beginning—and certainly to the end. It makes for a sad family history, but entertaining reading. John, interested in medicine from an early age, founded the famed Battle Creek Sanitarium, known as “The San,” which thousands of people flocked to, seeking relief from various ailments. Will, the younger of the two, bounced around a bit before finding his niche running the sanitarium— and, fatefully, helping John develop health foods, including a ready-toeat cold cereal that would replace the hot mush most families consumed in those days. That’s where the fissure turned into a chasm, as Will went out on his own to found the Kellogg Company, today a multinational food behemoth. The sanitarium started going downhill during the Great Depression and eventually was converted into a federal center. Markel, an NPR contributor and a physician himself, doesn’t take


sides as he leads us through the family thicket, and there’s plenty of blame to go around, anyway. —KEITH HERRELL

LIGHTS ON, RATS OUT By Cree LeFavour Grove $25, 244 pages ISBN 9780802125965 Audio, eBook available

MEMOIR

The work Cree LeFavour has done—in therapy and in this stunning new memoir—rebuilds a damaged and fragmented self. But for most of Lights On, Rats Out, the reader races forward, worried that LeFavour and her therapist, called Dr. Kohl here, won’t be able to stop her self-destruction. Her chosen weapon is cigarettes, using them to inflict third-degree burns on her own body. After a childhood in the hippie bohemia of Woody Park, Colorado, a post-college LeFavour pretends she’s just fine, despite the fact that her father abandoned the family to open a fabulous Napa Valley restaurant, leaving LeFavour and her sister in the alcoholic neglect of their mother. Living alone by age 13, she’s exposed to the over-sexualized 1970s without parental guidance. In her early 20s, LeFavour’s careful facade begins to crack: Isolation, binge eating and long hours of reading no longer keep her safe from her psychological demons. Entering therapy with Dr. Kohl, LeFavour initially spirals into the compulsive rituals of self-harm. An institutionalization—vividly portrayed here—doesn’t appear to help. What does help, however, are the careful boundaries Dr. Kohl helps LeFavour gradually draw around herself. LeFavour’s portrayal of the dramatic exchanges between herself and Dr. Kohl is the best literary depiction of psychological transference I have ever read, including Freud’s Dora. If all this sounds dramatic and intense, it is—and perhaps this memoir, with literary antecedents

in Henry James and Sylvia Plath, isn’t for everyone. But LeFavour’s wry humor and whip-smart, bookish references create a brilliant portrait of a certain kind of young American: intelligent, sensitive and wounded. —CATHERINE HOLLIS

NOTES ON A FOREIGN COUNTRY By Suzy Hansen

FSG $26, 288 pages ISBN 9780374280048 Audio, eBook available

CURRENT EVENTS

New York Times Magazine correspondent Suzy Hansen begins her book, Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World, with her investigation into a lethal coal-mine fire in Soma, Turkey. She is shocked to learn of America’s role in the creation of an ineffectual union that failed to protect its members. Hansen had always assumed that American policies were essentially benign; we seek to “modernize” less developed countries and to democratize them—certainly not to cause harm. Hansen argues that Americans are dangerously innocent about American interventions in other countries. When confronted with intractable hostilities abroad, we don’t realize these hostilities are frequently the result of U.S. policies that have caused great harm—a history that is rarely taught in American schools. Raised in a conservative New Jersey town, Hansen, too, was “an innocent abroad” when she arrived in Turkey in 2007 on a fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs. Despite a Harvard education, Hansen had no understanding of how America’s fear of communism led it to support strongman dictatorships, destroy local economies and even encourage and support fundamentalist Islamist militants. Paradoxically, the foreign country she ends up taking notes on is her own.

q&a

BRUCE HANDY B Y K E L LY B L E W E T T

Kids’ stuff

W

ild Things takes a witty and singular look back at childhood literature through the eyes of Vanity Fair contributing editor Bruce Handy.

© THOMAS ENGSTROM © DENISE BOSCO

NONFICTION

What inspired you to write this book? It came out of reading to my children. I realized I was getting so much pleasure not just from the nighttime ritual but from the books themselves, books I had loved as a kid and enjoyed rediscovering, as well as the incredible wealth of kids’ books that have been published since I was a kid in the ’60s. Why do you think children love the books they love? I think mostly for the same reasons adults do: They love books that entertain them but that also speak to them on some deeper level, whether it’s in a comforting way or a challenging way. In your opinion, what’s the difference between good children’s literature and bad children’s literature? I think good children’s books, like good adult books, are written because the author has something he or she needs to express; they come from some kind of core inspiration. The problem with a lot of kids’ books is that they feel as if they were written with some moral or pedagogical impulse in mind—all the books that read like someone sat down and said, I want to write a book that teaches kids that sharing is good, or that there’s nothing wrong with freckles. Those are noble impulses and important things for kids to be taught, but in and of themselves they don’t make for great literature; you can’t engineer art that way—or not very often. The themes of many children’s books are much darker than readers might have realized the first time around. Did any examples of this darkness surprise you? The Grimms’ versions of fairy tales are famously violent and bloody, but I was taken aback by how deeply dark some of the more obscure ones are, like “The Willful Child,” about a dead boy who won’t stay buried, and “The Juniper Tree,” where the proverbial evil stepmother not only kills her stepson but cooks him in a stew and serves him to the father. On a different note, I didn’t end up writing about Bridge to Terabithia in Wild Things, but I read it for the first time as an adult, knowing that one of the main characters famously dies, but I was surprised by the rawness of the surviving character’s grief. I really admire that Katherine Paterson didn’t sugarcoat that and let it be messy and even ugly, like in real life. How did you arrive at the interpretation that the Cat in The Cat in the Hat may be a stand-in for Dr. Seuss? Like the Cat, Seuss was someone who needed a lot of attention; even he always described himself as a big, overgrown child. He had a ritual, every time he finished a book, of flying across the country from La Jolla to New York and reading the new manuscript aloud to the assembled staff at Random House—which put me in mind of the Cat’s plea to “Look at me, look at me, look at me now!” Also, like the Cat, he was tall and lean, wore bow ties, loved pranks and collected funny hats. I never read an interview where he said he modeled the Cat on himself—and I don’t think he would have been shy about saying so if it was true—but I think maybe unconsciously there was some kind of identification, a special affinity. Maybe the Cat was Seuss’ spirit animal?

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reviews Painfully honest, this book can be a difficult read, but Hansen leaves us room to hope that, while our innocence has harmed the world, self-knowledge and empathy can help heal it. —DEBORAH MASON

IMPROBABLE DESTINIES By Jonathan B. Losos

Riverhead $28, 384 pages ISBN 9780399184925 eBook available

SCIENCE

Every now and then a brilliant book comes along that helps us rethink what we know about a subject. Jonathan B. Losos’ fascinating, compulsively readable Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution is just such a book; it offers an opportunity for us to ponder the process of evolution, the questions that have fueled recent debates and the extent to which evolutionary biology can be confirmed through experimentation. Harvard biologist Losos raises two key questions that lie at the heart of conversations about evolution: Is it predictable? Or is it contingent? These questions spiral into more queries: If the process of natural selection and adaptation takes place slowly over time—as scientists traditionally believed— can we really observe it and reach provable conclusions? Can we conduct large field experiments that would give us insights into evolution? Drawing on his own experiments with lizards, as well as on the research of others in the Galapagos, Losos illustrates that the pace of evolutionary change is not glacial, and that evolutionary change can be observed over a relatively short time. He also concludes that convergence—in which species living in similar environments will adapt similar features—has emerged as a challenge to those scientists who argue that evolution is unpredictable, random and nonrepeatable.

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NONFICTION Losos demonstrates that “the contingencies of history play a minor role, their effects erased by the predictable push of natural selection.” With vivacious writing and thoughtful, provocative insights, Losos’ captivating study of evolution deserves to be read alongside the books of E.O. Wilson (The Social Conquest of Earth) and Stephen Jay Gould (Wonderful Life). —HENRY L. CARRIGAN JR.

GHOST OF THE INNOCENT MAN By Benjamin Rachlin

Little, Brown $27, 400 pages ISBN 9780316311496 eBook available

LAW

and has the instincts and resourcefulness of a street fighter. Together they create the Innocence Inquiry Commission, which is eventually recognized and funded by the state. Grimes remained in various state prisons for 24 years, refusing to confess to the crime even though doing so would have led to his early release. Rachlin recounts in heartbreaking detail the physical and psychological agonies Grimes suffered before finding a measure of relief in becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. Finally, with Mumma acting as his attorney, Grimes was exonerated of all charges. Rachlin fits the North Carolina reforms into the national thrust to free the wrongly convicted, especially with the advent of DNA testing. —EDWARD MORRIS

ANTS AMONG ELEPHANTS Ready yourself for emotional whiplash as Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption, Benjamin Rachlin’s account of a man wrongly convicted of rape, seesaws from scenes of judicial haste, incompetence and indifference to episodes of sublime compassion and legal professionalism. In 1987 near Hickory, North Carolina, a 69-year-old, white widow answered a knock at her door. A black man she didn’t recognize rushed in and raped her twice before leisurely helping himself to some fruit from her kitchen and walking away. Through police negligence and mishandling of evidence, 41-year-old Willie Grimes was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life plus nine years. Although the victim identified Grimes as her attacker, her identification was contradictory, and there were no physical markers linking him to the crime. But just when the reader is prepared to write off North Carolina as a legal snake pit, Rachlin shifts his narrative to a group of lawyers, law professors, judges and prosecutors who, on their own time, form a committee aimed at making trials fairer and freeing the innocent. They are led by Christine Mumma, who put herself through law school

By Sujatha Gidla FSG $28, 320 pages ISBN 9780865478114 eBook available

MEMOIR

The sheer immensity of India— its history, geography, politics and peoples—would be hard to condense under any circumstances, but author Sujatha Gidla, niece of the communist revolutionary hero and poet Satyamurthy, brilliantly narrows the scope by explaining the tumultuous events of 20th-century India through her own family’s strife-ridden lives. The result is Ants Among Elephants, an intense exploration of India’s caste system in all of its complexities, and the impact it continues to have in modern India. Born an untouchable in a slum of Andhra Pradesh, Gidla explains that the role of her caste is “to labor in the fields of others or to do other work that Hindu society considers filthy.” Mingling with those not in her caste is forbidden, and doing so can result in punishment. Untouchables live highly restricted lives, and their caste status affects

nearly every aspect of their existence. When, at the age of 26, Gidla moves to America, “where people know only skin color,” she realizes that her caste is now invisible and “my stories, my family’s stories, are not stories of shame.” The lives of Gidla’s uncles and parents convulsed as their country heaved with the changing times. Sweeping through it all with a broad but enlightening brush, Gidla pauses her tale to explore moments in time with vivid, grim details about the cruelties and injustices inflicted on her caste. Her father was forced to leave his starving children in order to support them, while her mother overcame prejudices to earn advanced degrees, only to become a teacher unable to hold a job. Satyamurthy inspired Gidla’s own activism before barely escaping with his life. Today Gidla works as a subway conductor in New York, telling these stories to ensure they will continue to matter. —PRISCILLA KIPP

DEFIANCE By Stephen Taylor Norton $28.95, 400 pages ISBN 9780393248173 eBook available

BIOGRAPHY

Lady Anne Barnard’s early life unfolded like a Jane Austen novel. Fatherless at 18 and a titled Scot with no fortune, Lady Anne was meant to marry early to bring some money into her family. But as chronicled by Stephen Taylor in Defiance, Lady Anne did no such thing, instead enjoying many flirtations and friendships and writing the ballad “Auld Robin Grey,” a giant hit of its day. On her own, Lady Anne managed to become a woman of property in London, as well as the confidant of the most powerful men of the age, including the Prince of Wales. Drawing on Lady Anne’s own memoirs and family letters, Taylor follows Lady Anne from early


NONFICTION childhood on, and at 400 pages, Defiance occasionally feels long. But the story finds its heart in Lady Anne’s late marriage: At 42, after turning down at least 20 other suitors, she married Andrew Barnard, 12 years her junior. Andrew was posted to Cape Town, South Africa, and she went with him. “Their happiness flourished in this bizarre, magnificent space because it offered freedom of a kind unavailable at home,” Taylor writes, recounting the couple’s long journey to the South African interior, Lady Anne’s diplomatic skills hosting British and Dutch colonists and native Africans, and her naturalist work collecting plants and animals. On a later solo trip to South Africa, Andrew had a liaison with an African slave, fathering a child, Christina. After Andrew’s death, Lady Anne learned about Christina and brought the girl to London, raising her in her Berkeley Square mansion. Christina served as Anne’s amanuensis as Anne wrote her memoirs, and she later married a Wiltshire landowner and had seven children. In Defiance, Lady Anne’s engaging voice comes through clearly, along with her unconventionality, her talents and her compassion. —SARAH MCCRAW CROW

HAPPINESS By Heather Harpham

Holt $27, 320 pages ISBN 9781250131560 eBook available

MEMOIR

theater. Brian, on the other hand, embodied the expectation of the East Coast elite. He preferred time inside, alone, left to his writing. Their dreams were also at odds: Harpham always expected she would someday become a mother, but Brian had no interest in being a dad. When Harpham learns she’s pregnant, that news appears to end the relationship. She flees New York, heartbroken but determined to raise their daughter alone. But within hours of Gracie’s birth, doctors realize something is wrong with the infant’s blood. Gracie’s doctors are unable to pinpoint precisely what is wrong, but frequent blood transfusions help. Harpham doesn’t know what Brian wants, even when he meets their daughter six months after her birth. Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After follows Harpham’s unexpected pregnancy and all that follows. It is filled with both pain and beauty, and she shares a clear-eyed view of messy relationships and the journey toward something that resembles joy. Harpham’s powerful memoir is the tale of two people struggling to save their daughter while trying to discern what their relationship to one another is all about. “We find happiness, if we find it at all, on accident,” Harpham writes. “We trip over it on our way somewhere else.” And by sharing her own experience, Harpham provides light for others’ paths. —CARLA JEAN WHITLEY

THE BETTENCOURT AFFAIR By Tom Sancton

“If I wanted to have children with anyone,” he’d said, “it would be with you.”If was the key word. If was the problem. Heather Harpham and Brian fell for each other quickly, in a classic opposites-attract scenario. They were both creative professionals, but the obvious common ground ended there. She was as carefree as her California upbringing would suggest, and her disposition was well-suited to her career in

Dutton $28, 416 pages ISBN 9781101984475 eBook available

TRUE CRIME

The butler did it (or at least, he lit the fire, by taping more than 20 hours of incriminating conversations). And that’s just the first of the many apt clichés about a

scandal that has gripped France for a decade. The story of this convoluted war of wills (pun intended), told with skill by former Time Paris bureau chief Tom Sancton in The Bettencourt Affair, features a cast of characters pulled straight from a Tolstoy novel: L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, the $40 billion-dollar woman; her only child, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, vying for control of her mother’s life (and her money); and the flamboyant, brash photographer François-Marie Banier who, over the course of a quarter-century, befriended the likes of Truman Capote and Salvador Dalí and then insinuated himself into hundreds of millions of the Bettencourt’s fortune. Nearly deaf since childhood and married to a respectable but acquiescent diplomat, Liliane delighted in Banier’s theatrical manner and his artistic aspirations, lavishing upon him artworks by Picasso and Matisse, insurance policies and cash gifts; she even reportedly considered adopting him. But her family and staff believed he was taking advantage of her age and increasing mental frailty, which was the crux of her daughter’s lawsuit against Banier. In the end, the lawsuit revealed political hand-offs, money laundering, Swiss and offshore accounts, as well as Fascist and Nazi collaboration. The entire ordeal is known in France as l’affair Bettencourt, which culminated in years of prosecutorial expense, suicides and the downfall of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and several ministers and judges. —EVE ZIBART

PUTIN By Richard Lourie Thomas Dunne $26.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780312538088 eBook available

BIOGRAPHY

Vladimir Putin is driven, outspo-

ken and controversial. He is also a very mysterious man. While his motives may never be totally clear, Russia expert and author Richard Lourie (Sakharov: A Biography) provides some intriguing insight into what makes Putin tick in his new book, Putin: His Downfall and Russia’s Coming Crash, which raises the thought-provoking theory that Putin’s notorious and alarming behavior is actually setting himself—and Russia—up for an inevitable fall. Delving into Putin’s backstory and how he came to his current position as president of Russia, Lourie explores Putin’s difficult childhood in Leningrad and the significance of his family connection to that era’s ruler, Joseph Stalin—Putin’s grandfather was his cook. Joining the KGB in 1975, Putin worked for counterintelligence, catching the eye of his colleagues in foreign intelligence, which led to “foreign postings, action on the front line and access to goods,” which helped fuel Putin’s desire for authority. Although many aspects of Putin’s role in the KGB remain murky, Lourie’s comprehensive research provides enlightening details of Putin’s time with the KGB, as well as an informative timeline of the fall of communism in the Soviet Union in the 1980s and ’90s, chronicling his rise to power. While Lourie admits that Putin did restore stability and a degree of self-respect to Russia, he also references Putin’s insecurity, pointing to his 2016 decision to create a National Guard as a “sign of a person feeling vulnerable, not one brimming with confidence.” He also covers other moves and missteps, including Putin’s seizure of the media, Arctic exploitations, suppression of dissent and invasions. However, Lourie theorizes that it will actually be his “failure to diversify the economy away from its dependence on gas and oil” that will seal both his own fate and that of Russia. A timely history lesson, Putin is a must-read for anyone interested in Russia and in understanding how current events can provide a glimpse into the future. —BECKY LIBOUREL DIAMOND

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reviews T PI OP CK

TEEN

LITTLE & LION

When home looks different REVIEW BY JILL RATZAN

Ever since their families merged eight years ago, Suzette and Lionel have been inseparable siblings. She calls him Lion; he calls her Little. Suzette and her mother, Nadine, are African-American, while Lionel and his father, Saul, are white. Suzette and Nadine converted to Judaism as they embraced Saul’s traditions, and all four have celebrated Shabbat every Friday night ever since. But when Lionel was diagnosed with bipolar disorder last year, Suzette was sent to boarding school in the Northeast. Her parents expected this separation to help her live her own life, undistracted by her brother’s needs, but no one, including Suzette herself, expected her to fall in love at school . . . with her roommate, another girl. Now back in Los Angeles for the summer, Suzette has a lot of adjusting to do. What does Lionel need from her, and what is she willing to By Brandy Colbert give? As she renews her relationships with her family and her lesbian Little, Brown, $17.99, 336 pages best friend DeeDee, she also struggles to name her own emerging ISBN 9780316349000, audio, eBook available sexuality. Is she bisexual if she’s attracted to both the hypnotic Rafaela, Ages 15 and up a Latina co-worker at her summer job, and Emil, a half-black, half-Korean boy? FICTION Told in a combination of present-day narration and flashbacks, Little & Lion is simultaneously a quick read and a thoughtful one. Navigating intersectional identities is never easy, and author Brandy Colbert doesn’t shy away from details of mental health, racism and how these issues affect friendships and families. This is an intense, readable and highly recommended choice.

THE LIBRARY OF FATES By Aditi Khorana Razorbill $18.99, 336 pages ISBN 9781595148582 eBook available Ages 12 and up

FANTASY

When ruthless Emperor Sikander announces his impending visit to Shalingar, Princess Amrita knows she’ll be required to marry him. Though her heart breaks to give up her family, her home and her first love, she knows it is a worthy sacrifice to protect her people. However, when the visit takes a tragic turn and Amrita finds herself losing much more than she’d bargained for, she sets out on a desperate journey to save what is left—and maybe undo the past. Aditi Khorana’s second novel, The Library of Fates, is a lovely

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coming-of-age story rooted in Indian folklore and infused with romance. The primary strength of the novel is the deep, lush world Khorana has built, vividly painting the beauty of Shalingar and juxtaposing it against the political turmoil of the empire. Princess Amrita is admirable in her utter selflessness, yet still relatable in her teenage ideologies and naiveté, as she seeks out her destiny and shoulders the safety of her entire empire in the face of devastating loss. Though not quite fully developed, the mystical characters who guide Amrita—an oracle, a vetala and members of the cave-dwelling Sybillines—are colorful additions to the rich tapestry of the novel. The Library of Fates is a perfect read for the lazy days of late summer. Khorana will take readers on a page-turning journey with a surprising yet wholly satisfying resolution. —SARAH WEBER

FIRST WE WERE IV By Alexandra Sirowy

Simon & Schuster $18.99, 448 pages ISBN 9781481478427 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up

THRILLER

Best friends Izzie, Graham, Viv and Harry know their idyllic California town harbors secrets— specifically the cover-up of a teen girl’s murder five years ago—so they start a secret society intent on carrying out revenge and justice. Dubbing themselves the Order of the IV, the group tests the waters with small pranks until their antics bring the unwanted attention of the popular clique. But as the Order grows and the pranks dangerously intensify, the friends must navigate their love for one another

amid the deep hatred they feel for their targets of revenge. Alexandra Sirowy uses creepy imagery to peel back the layers of a quaint, coastal town to reveal its seedy core and to bring this twisty ride to its inevitable yet shocking conclusion. Narrated through Izzie’s haunting first-person point of view, the original Order struggles to remain true to themselves and the tight bonds they’ve formed, even as their plan to topple corrupt adults goes horribly wrong. — K I M B E R LY G I A R R A T A N O

WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE By Lana Popovi´c Katherine Tegen $17.99, 416 pages ISBN 9780062436832 eBook available Ages 14 and up

FANTASY

Twins Iris and Malina have a special gift, or “gleam,” but it must be hidden from the world. In their small town on the coast of Montenegro, this means the sisters had to stop using their witchy gifts when they became too strong. Iris is naturally aware of people’s scents and shapes—gleaning important information from her observations. Malina’s gift for hearing emotions as music allows the sisters to evaluate who is to be trusted, and who to fear. Over the years, Iris’ skills have deteriorated with lack of practice, and unfortunately, so has her relationship with the twins’ secretive mother, Jasmina. But when a vicious attack leaves their mother technically dead—yet mysteriously alive—the sisters must unearth the wild truth of their heritage. Though the revelations about the twins’ background are somewhat murky, the power of their love—for themselves, their mother and their respective love interests—is movingly portrayed. A cliffhanger ending and layered, likable characters will leave readers eager for what’s next in this unique new series from debut author Lana Popovi´c. —ANNIE METCALF


features

KWAME ALEXANDER INTERVIEW BY LINDA M. CASTELLITTO

The ambassador for cool books

S

ince Kwame Alexander won the 2015 Newbery Medal for The Crossover, he’s been traveling far and wide in a whirl of evangelism for reading, poetry, friendship, self-expression, sports, music and love.

During a call to his Virginia home (where he was resting before lighting out for Ohio, Texas and beyond), Alexander says, “When I won the Newbery, I committed myself to being an ambassador of poetry and literature. Nobody asked me to. I just decided I’d give it two years and go everywhere.” And so he has, from schools to TED talks, connecting with kids, teachers and librarians. He also continued writing, and his latest YA novel-in-verse, Solo, co-written with Mary Rand Hess, weaves poetry, music and text conversations into a coming-of-age tale. Seventeen-year-old Blade is a talented musician in Hollywood and the son of a former rock star who’s a longtime addict. His teasingly sarcastic sister, Storm, and secret girlfriend, Chapel (her parents don’t approve), help make life fun sometimes, despite persistently cruel tabloid stories and long-simmering anger at his dad, who’s been emotionally checked out since Blade’s mom died 10 years earlier. Blade’s mentor, Robert, “a magician / who turns worries / into

SOLO

By Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess

Blink, $17.99, 464 pages ISBN 9780310761839, audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up

NOVEL-IN-VERSE

songs,” is a haven for the teen. Their conversations are a call-andresponse rhythm of wisdom and calm that culminates in music. But Blade’s still having a hard time finding serenity, and just as family conflict reaches yet another crescendo, a secret is revealed that has him questioning his very identity. Thanks to Blade’s songwriting, Storm’s efforts to become a singer and Robert’s improvising, plus name-checks of musicians as varied as Meghan Trainor, Lenny Kravitz and Metallica, there’s plenty of music sounding through Solo. Alexander says a mutual love of music helped him and Hess find their way from disparate tastes to their own perfectly tailored collection of influences. “Mary’s a hard rock fan, and I’m the 1980s Lloyd Dobler type, the Genesis guy. . . . But there were no arguments, just a frustration and sadness when we had to leave certain people out.” He jokes, “Whenever it got to a point where there was gonna be a disagreement, I brought out my Newbery Medal,” then says, “No—there were certain things I knew that were not up for discussion, and certain things I trusted that she knew that weren’t up for discussion. You need that level of trust when you’re writing together. And it’s poetry! You’ve got to follow the rules, rhythm, emotion, metaphors, and distill powerful moments into very few words.” Some of Solo’s most powerful moments take place in Africa, where Blade flees in pursuit of more information about that shocking family secret. Alexander says he chose Ghana for the book because of his own feelings for the place: “In 2012, a friend was becoming a queen in a village, and she wanted me to document it. I went to Konko and fell in love with the people and the children, the possibilities and hope and history.” Since then, he’s founded LEAP for Ghana, which has provided

books, literacy training and more. Last year, when Hess asked if he wanted to team up on a book, he knew the time was right: “I’d always wanted to write about Ghana but hadn’t figured out the story. Mary’s novel-in-progress was set in Kenya, but she’d never been there. I said, let’s put my ideas with yours, and a year later, we were finished.” In Solo, when Blade goes to Konko, he falls for the place and the people, too, even though he’s nervous about what it might mean for his future. And of course, there’s the culture shock: It’s quite different from what he’s used to in Hollywood. “This is a kid who has everything, and that’s juxta“I was excited posed with by the concise, the complete opposite, with rhythmic . . . people and a language that country that captured the have very emotional little materially,” Alexander woes and wonders of my says. “Would world in a few it be realistic, would people words.” care? That was a challenge, and I think we met it. The readers will tell us.” They really will, too; for Alexander, an important part of his writing and his travels is the backand-forth with his enthusiastic and vocal young readers. “I’ve heard way too many times that boys don’t read,” he says. “I never believed that. You’ve just got to give boys a book they’re interested in reading.” Alexander’s parents were avid readers and educators, so books were big in his home. But “in middle school, I wasn’t interested in books. . . . I was well-read,

intelligent . . . but nobody made the connection that I should be given books I was interested in reading.” In college, “I found my way back to reading through love poems. . . . I began to write poetry as a way to communicate with girls. I was excited by the concise, rhythmic, figurative, sparse language that captured the emotional woes and wonders of my world in a few words. I knew from college on [that poetry] can transform your life. It transformed mine, and I thought, I’ve got to find a way to share it with the world.” And now he does, through Solo and his other books, his speaking engagements and his work in Ghana, where this summer LEAP for Ghana will finish building a library. There will be plenty more Alexander books, too, including novels-inverse Swing (about baseball and jazz, written with Hess) and Rebound, the prequel to The Crossover. “Most of us have forgotten that we love poetry, but it’s how we learn to communicate as children, in rhythm and rhyme and verse,” Alexander says. “It’s my job to remind us how powerful it is, to help us become more confident, find and raise our voices, become more human. . . . I want everyone to know words are cool, books are cool. They’re the most transformative things.”

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reviews T PI OP CK

CHILDREN’S

THIS BEAUTIFUL DAY

Sunny attitude on a rainy day REVIEW BY JULIE DANIELSON

The cover of Richard Jackson’s This Beautiful Day, a glass-half-full story of cheer and resilience, says it all: A child walks through pouring rain with an umbrella. The sky is dark. The clouds are heavy. But the child still smiles. It’s a beautiful day, no matter what, if you decide to see it as such. The story opens indoors, where three young children stare outside at the heavy rain and dark clouds. They are bored and more than a little defeated. But one child turns up the music on the radio, and they begin to dance and spin. Determined to make the most of crummy weather, they grab their rain gear and head outside, stomping in the puddles, jumping and playing. Jackson’s playful text, heavy on busy By Richard Jackson verbs, bursts with action: “This beautiful day has all of us skipping and Illustrated by Suzy Lee singing and calling aloud. . . .” Caitlyn Dlouhy, $15.99, 40 pages The body language in Suzy Lee’s relaxed, loose-lined illustrations is ISBN 9781481441391, eBook available spot-on, the children nearly bursting from the pages in all their joy. Her Ages 4 to 8 palette opens wide, as the monochromatic colors of the rainy day fade PICTURE BOOK to reveal bright, sunny colors when the clouds pull away. It’s as if the entire story is one big contented sigh; the storyline builds with infectious energy to a happy climax, then slows down in the end when the family sits outdoors, popsicles in hand, happy for the beautiful day they were smart enough to spot before the sun ever showed. Invigorating and inspiring, This Beautiful Day is the perfect summer read. Illustration copyright © 2017 by Suzy Lee. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Simon & Schuster Children’s Books.

ANOTHER WAY TO CLIMB A TREE By Liz Garton Scanlon

Illustrated by Hadley Hooper Roaring Brook $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9781626723528 eBook available Ages 4 to 8

PICTURE BOOK

Lulu is friends with all the trees in the neighborhood. Even the trickiest, gnarliest trees can’t stop this intrepid climber. Unable to resist the pull of a good branch, she rescues kittens and kites while the neighborhood kids watch in awe. But when forced by illness to stay inside, Lulu discovers a tree’s shadow on her wall and suddenly her imagination (and the tree) burst into enormous being. There is a special bond between kids and trees. Another

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Way to Climb a Tree beautifully depicts that friendship and the creativity that blossoms when kids roam outside. Liz Garton Scanlon narrates with unpretentious language, throwing in repetition and alliteration for good storytelling measure. With a retro feel, Hadley Hooper’s illustrations are cheerful and reminiscent of simpler times. Each page and background is filled with gentle, subdued color, which adds to the story’s warmth. Hooper skillfully personifies the trees; their colors become subdued, hazy and less distinct with Lulu’s absence. Tiny details like nature-themed book titles, branch-patterned pajamas and leaves taped to the wall give Lulu’s world a lived-in feeling. Admittedly, many of us are beyond our climbing years, but this book provides the perfect encouragement to grab a hammock or pull up a lawn chair while kids find their way into the leaves. —J I L L L O R E N Z I N I

REFUGEE By Alan Gratz

Scholastic $16.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780545880831 Audio, eBook available Ages 9 to 12

MIDDLE GRADE

On the surface, the protagonists of Alan Gratz’s Refugee have little in common. They live in different eras, different countries, and practice different religions. Yet when they are forced to flee their homes, they all become refugees. Geared toward young readers but fast-paced and honest enough to keep young adults engaged, Gratz’s insightful novel offers little calm before the storm. Barely on the cusp of adolescence, our protagonists’ worlds are already crumbling at their feet. When a

bomb destroys Mahmoud’s home in modern-day Syria, the crumbling is both literal and figurative. With no place to stay, his family embarks on a journey out of the Middle East and across Europe. For Josef, a youth in 1939, it is the rise of Nazism and the horrors of Dachau that shatter his preconceptions and force his family out of their home country. For Isabel, change comes when her family decides to flee the destitution of Castro’s Cuba for the promise of American shores, braving the 90 miles of treacherous sea between Havana and Miami in a makeshift boat. A heart-wrenching escape story, a coming-of-age tale, a treatise on the hopes and traumas of refugees the world over—with the civil war in Syria still raging and immigration a hot-button issue across the world, Refugee could not be more timely. —J O N L I T T L E

Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Alan Gratz.

THE REAL US By Tommy Greenwald

Illustrated by J.P. Coovert Roaring Brook $16.99, 256 pages ISBN 9781626721715 eBook available Ages 9 to 12

MIDDLE GRADE

Tommy Greenwald, author of the popular Charlie Joe Jackson series, is back with The Real Us, another look at middle school life. Greenwald has a knack for capturing the voices of young teenagers, making it easy to understand their states of mind and points of view. Alternating chapters are written in the first-person voices of three eighth-graders: Damian, the new kid who sweats too much, Calista, the pretty, popular girl; and Laura, average, athletic and Calista’s former best friend. The entire story takes place over the first five days of the school year, and it’s amazing how much can happen in such a short time. By the time the


CHILDREN’S First Week Dance rolls around on to the ways love and art can lift our Friday, Damian has discovered that spirits and replenish our souls in a he doesn’t have to hide who he is, world that often seems dark. Calista learns that “pretty is as pret—HANNAH LAMB ty does,” and Laura discovers that self-acceptance isn’t something CONFESSIONS FROM THE you can just talk about, it’s somePRINCIPAL’S KID thing you have to find inside. By Robin Mellom The Real Us may sound a bit facHMH ile in its summary, but the excellent $16.99, 272 pages writing and spot-on coming-of-age ISBN 9780544813793 story make it a must-have for any eBook available middle school library. The illustraAges 10 to 12 tions were not available for review. —J E N N I F E R B R U E R K I T C H E L

THE LIST By Patricia Forde

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky $16.99, 368 pages ISBN 9781492647966 Audio, eBook available Ages 10 and up

MIDDLE GRADE

With her debut novel, Patricia Forde crafts a richly imagined future society, the development of which feels all too plausible in today’s climate. As Wordsmiths, young Letta and her master, Benjamin, are charged with the task of maintaining the List, a collection of 500 words that make up the only language available to the residents of Ark. John Noa formed Ark after the great Melting, when the world was flooded and the land destroyed. This new society was meant to be a safe haven, and Noa their savior, creator of a world free from the ignorance of those who would deny the realities of the harm that humans have caused the planet. But when Letta meets a boy named Marlo and is drawn into his world of beauty and art, she begins to doubt whether Noa’s intentions are as pure as she once thought or, worst of all, if he’s actually been lying to them all along. This is a story with a message and a purpose, one full of relevance and originality. With this novel, Forde reminds us that words do hold power, both to heal and to destroy, and that because of this we should be mindful of how we employ them. This is a love letter

MIDDLE GRADE

“My mother is ruining my life,” notes fifth-grader Allie West. Many kids come to that same conclusion, but Allie really can’t escape her mom, who is the principal of her elementary school. Allie is stuck at school all day, long after everyone else has headed home, which is why she’s such good friends with the kindly custodian. Allie has several things on her mind, especially the fact that her best friend, Chloe, hasn’t spoken to her for months, ever since Allie mistakenly got her in big trouble— with the principal. Allie desperately wants to make things right and also hopes to be chosen for the school math team, of which Chloe just happens to be captain. Confessions from the Principal’s Kid has plenty of heart and soul, especially since author Robin Mellom actually was a principal’s kid and weaves some of her own memories into the story. “This novel is not a memoir nor an autobiography,” she writes, “but it was inspired by my experiences as an After.” Afters are the handful of faculty kids forced to hang out after school while their parents finish up their duties. Not only do the Afters know every nook and cranny of the school, their bonds go deeper than Allie realizes, especially Allie’s friendship with a bullied boy named Graham. Like Allie, this tale is full of fun, pluck and longing as she learns to navigate difficult social situations while discovering the true and sometimes tricky meanings of friendship and loyalty. —ALICE CARY

NOTHING RHYMES WITH ORANGE Adam Rex is the author and illustrator of many beloved picture books and novels. In the funny and punny Nothing Rhymes with Orange (Chronicle, $16.99, 48 pages, ISBN 9781452154435, ages 3 to 5), Rex captures the unique loneliness of being the only fruit without a rhyme—but don’t worry, because Orange won’t be left out of the fun forever. Rex lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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Volume 14

Find Us at BorrowReadRepeat.com

BookPage August 2017  

Book reviews, Author interviews

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