AMERICA’S BOOK REVIEW
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING Escape to the wild marshlands of North Carolina in Delia Owens’ picturesque debut novel
Our favorite new voices in fiction . . .
In their own words
Delia Owens Paula Saunders Camas Davis Ling Ma
Return to the world of the New York Times-bestselling
THE REMNANT CHRONICL ES
Every exchange of words between Jase and me seemed like a
a step forward, a step back, circling, both of us
leading, anticipating, wonder ing what the
next move would be.
MAKE YOUR MOVE >> START READING AT REMNANTCHRONICLES.COM
Henry Holt â€¢ An imprint of Macmillan
Winner of the
PULITZER PRIZE and
NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD NOW IN PAPERBACK!
Discover the real life saga of the woman who wrote Little House on the Prairie. “ABSORBING.” —The New York Times Book Review
“THE DEFINITIVE BIOGRAPHY.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“MAGNIFICENT.” —USA Today
“A FANTASTIC BOOK.” —Wendy McClure, author of The Wilder Life
AVAILABLE WHERE BOOKS ARE SOLD
AUDIOBOOKS READ BY KATE BURTON “In this nail-biting legal thriller... featuring personal conflicts, corporate corruption, and ruthless villains...This audiobook is a fast-paced listen.” —AudioFile on Exposed
columns Making lemonade It’s August, and we’re entitled to an end-of-summer indulgence. My new guilty pleasure is When Life Gives You Lululemons (Simon & Schuster Audio, 10 hours), Lauren Weisberger’s delicious return to the characters from her 2003 bestseller, The Devil Wears Prada. This time, Emily Charlton, the brash, sassy former assistant to fashion editor Miranda Priestly, is front and center and mired among the ultra-rich, appearance-obsessed 30-something moms of Green-
READ BY ARI FLIAKOS “The best spy novel I’ve ever read that wasn’t written by John le Carré.”—Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly, on The Tourist
READ BY SASKIA MAARLEVELD “Tension mounts at a blistering pace while Ryan dazzles!” —Mary Kubica
READ BY CLARE CORBETT “An absorbing thriller with a great twist.” —Kristin Hannah
The stunning epic fantasy inspired by the author’s Moroccan heritage about a poor girl who must become the body double of a princess of a ruthless empire.
AVAILABLE FROM 4
wich, Connecticut. Though Emily hightailed it from NYC to LA to be a celebrity image consultant, she ended up, to her chagrin, living with her old pal Miriam. But Emily’s talents are sorely needed when Karolina, a former Slavic supermodel falsely and devastatingly accused of a DUI, is banished to Greenwich by her husband, a successful junior senator with eyes on the presidency and a new wife to go with it. Having learned revenge from the “Devil” herself, Emily is in her element, so sit back and enjoy the satisfying details of the takedown. Laura Benanti gives a fabulous performance that even Miranda would approve of.
READ BY RASHA ZAMAMIRI
AUDIO BY SUKEY HOWARD
What makes Zoje Stage’s suspense-filled thriller, Baby Teeth (Macmillan Audio, 11 hours), the creepiest debut of the season? Let me count the ways . . . first, there’s Hanna, a pretty, preternaturally precocious 7-year-old. She adores her father, Alex, a handsome Swedish architect, but abhors her mother, Suzette, whom she torments and would truly like to murder. Suzette, anguished and unnerved by Hanna’s increasingly menacing behavior, swings wildly from blaming herself for Hanna’s behavior to wanting Hanna out of the house. Hanna refuses to talk,
though there’s nothing physically wrong with her, yet Stage lets us in on her inner thoughts, as well as Suzette’s, while they play out this tantalizingly taut mother-daughter drama from hell. In alternating chapters, Gabra Zackman gives them perfectly crafted voices, plus a light Swedish cadence for the evermore mystified and mortified Alex. Suzette is a woman on the edge, and Hanna is a little girl reveling in an evil she barely comprehends.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO Four years ago, Dr. Mona HannaAttisha was in the right place at the right time, and more importantly, she was the right person. A brilliant, totally committed pediatrician with a passion for social justice inherited from her Iraqi immigrant parents, Dr. Mona was the director of a pediatric residency program in Flint, Michigan. In 2014, to save money, the state government switched the city’s water source from Lake Huron to the corrosively polluted Flint River. The resulting water had a horrendously high lead level that can cause permanent cognitive impairment to young children. Dr. Mona swung into action in an attempt to protect Flint’s kids, who are mostly underprivileged African-Americans. In What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance and Hope in an American City (Random House Audio, 11 hours), she recounts her fight to scientifically document the truth, and then deliver that truth to power. Compelling and ultimately optimistic, it’s made more moving by Dr. Mona’s reading. You can hear her frustrations, her fears and the indomitable ferocity of a woman fighting for what she knows is right.
THE HOLD LIST Each month, BookPage editors share special reading lists—our personal favorites, old and new.
BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FINALIST A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR NPR, Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, Southern Living, and more
The awkward hilarity of high school
“A stunning literary work.”
Ah, August. The month marked by last-ditch efforts to make the most of the lingering summer sunshine and the abundance of back-to-school sales, which are sure to bring back memories of gossiping by the lockers and stressing about gym class. Pick up one of these humorous novels if you’re looking to relive some of that teen drama from a safe distance.
ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell
[A] deeply moving… portrait of a marriage.
Take a trip back to 1986 in this winning story of first love and finding your way. Eleanor is the bumbling new kid in her 10th-grade class, but when she meets Park on the bus, the two begin to reluctantly bond over mixtapes, comic books and their mutual disdain for their town of Omaha, Nebraska. Laugh-out-loud funny and all too real, this novel is a must for anyone who felt like a high school misfit.
—The New York Times Book Review
PREP by Curtis Sittenfeld Sittenfeld’s debut novel takes readers into the privileged world of Ault, an elite New England boarding school. We meet 14-year-old Midwestern scholarship student Lee Fiora on move-in day and follow her through her entire high school experience as she attempts to shed the vestiges of her blue-collar upbringing and join the wealthy, shiny-haired ranks of her classmates.
NOTEWORTHY by Riley Redgate Private school drama is notorious, but it’s got nothing on the theater kid drama found at performing arts high schools. When Jordan Sun gets rejected from the school musical because of her low singing voice, she adopts an alternate persona à la She’s the Man. Disguised as a boy, Jordan lands a tenor spot with the all-boy a capella group, and hilarious high jinks ensue.
New in Paperback
THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE by Patrick Ness Did you ever feel like an outsider during your teen years? Like everyone was clearly destined for great things except for you? Mikey knows that feeling, especially considering he’s the only kid in his supernaturally charged high school who isn’t “chosen” to save the world from apocalyptic doom. If you’re perpetually on a “Buffy” rewatch, this one’s for you.
SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli Sixteen-year-old Simon Spier has a pretty solid life. He’s decently popular at school, and he’s got a group of best friends that he does everything with, but no one really knows him. He’s got a big secret: He’s gay. But when he forgets to log out of his email on a school computer, some punk leaks Simon’s confession to the entire student body, turning his life upside down. But don’t worry, there’s a happy—and romantic!—ending.
A sweet read that will leave you craving more.” —Bustle
“If you loved The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,
Pieces of Happiness... should be on your reading list.” —Good Housekeeping (UK)
Read excerpts, print reading group guides, find original essays and more at ReadingGroupCenter.com
WHODUNIT BY BRUCE TIERNEY
Can you tell who the good guys are?
“A suspenseful and warmly engaging coming-of-age story.” —JOYCE CAROL OATES
“A brave new talent.” —CHANG-RAE LEE
“A thrilling, deep, fun, intense look at sex and faith.” —DARIN STRAUSS
“Blair Hurley is a gorgeous writer.” —ANITA SHREVE
W. W. Norton & Company
Independent publishers since 1923 www.wwnorton.com
Picture a counterculture movement that neatly splits the ideological difference between Occupy and Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult responsible for the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, and you’ll have a good idea of the Massive Brigade, which plays a central role in Olen Steinhauer’s latest thriller, The Middleman (Minotaur, $27.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9781250036179). The organization started out as a nonviolent yet combative group against social injustice, but now they have become weaponized and are targeted by the FBI. But before the FBI can step in, leader Martin Bishop vanishes, taking with him 400-odd followers. Things escalate to a shootout—a bloodbath, actually—with the apparent “good guys” seizing the day. But the story is a long way from over, and it proceeds at a more frenetic pace than spy stories of old, largely because of the strange times we find ourselves in now, when right is wrong and lies are truth. Steinhauer masterfully taps into that vein of uncertainty and disaffectedness.
STRIP DOWN TO THE TRUTH If you like a liberal dose of humor in your suspense fiction, then look no further than David Gordon’s clever new caper, The Bouncer (Mysterious Press, $26, 272 pages, ISBN 9780802128003). The protagonist, Joe Brody, is a bouncer at a gentleman’s club owned by Gio Caprisi, whom Joe has known since his Catholic school days and who is deeply connected with the Mafia. Joe has been at the other end of a bouncer’s baton himself, having been kicked out of Harvard some years back, and he is always up for a bit of petty (or grand) larceny, should the right opportunity present itself. Meanwhile, FBI agent Donna Zamora mans the terrorist phone-tip line at bureau headquar-
ters, though she would strongly prefer to be out in the field. Are she and Joe going to meet? Oh, yes. And will the sparks fly? Yes again. Initially, there is not a lot of trust between the pair, as Zamora arrests Joe as part of a citywide terrorism sweep. Joe’s time in the holding cell affords him a golden opportunity for a bit of larceny, so the possibility of a big score could outweigh the need to save the country from terrorism.
into question. That said, she is an engaging character who is worthy of her central place in this fine new series.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
Dr. Siri Paiboun, everyone’s favorite spirit-channeling, semiretired Laotian coroner and sleuth, returns for the 13th book of Colin Cotterill’s critically acclaimed series, Don’t Eat Me (Soho Crime, $26.95, 304 pages, ISBN 9781616959401). The Bouncer has “film adaptation” Grisly and hilarious in equal measure, not unlike the 1980s written all over it. Vientiane milieu in which it is set, IF MEMORY SERVES ME the narrative alternates between Caz Frear’s Sweet Little Lies two parallel storylines. Under cover of darkness, Dr. Siri smug(Harper, $26.99, 352 pages, ISBN gles an expensive and rather huge 9780062823199) has been generating a lot of buzz (it’s even been movie camera across the Mekong River from Thailand. His ambitious optioned for TV by Carnival Films, the producer of “Downton Abbey”), plan is to create an epic Laotian film version of Tolstoy’s War and and with good reason: It is one of Peace—never mind that he has the best debuts I’ve read in some never written a screenplay, never time. The story starts with a flashback to 1998, when young Cat Kinoperated a movie camera, has sella is on holiday with her family in no access to professional actors Ireland. A glamorous young womand must secure permission from an, Maryanne Doyle, goes missing the notoriously repressive govunder mysterious circumstances, ernment. Meanwhile, a skeleton and Cat cannot shake a nagging turns up at the base of the Vicsuspicion about her father’s hand tory Arch, a monument to those in the disappearance. Fast forward who died in the struggle for Laos’ 20-odd years, and Cat is now a deindependence from France. This tective constable with the London skeleton, that of a young woman, police. While investigating a murappears to have been munched der, Cat receives a strange phone upon by animals, possibly while its call that suggests a link between owner was still alive. All the usual the present-day homicide and the supporting characters are presdisappearance of Maryanne. Is it ent and accounted for, including a coincidence that Cat’s father still Dr. Siri’s wife, Madame Daeng, runs a pub not far from the site of who takes no guff from anyone, the murder? Or is Cat conflating particularly Dr. Siri. It is helpful memories of her childhood with but not entirely necessary to read the too-easy coincidence of her the series in order; by the time you estranged father’s proximity to this have accomplished that, hopefully latest case? Cat is a bit of a troubled installment number 14 will have soul, which may call her judgment hit bookshelves.
B Y S U S A N N A H F E LT S
BY SYBIL PRATT
The fancy feline home Live with a cat? Rejigger your home environment to make kitty as content as possible with Engineering for Cats: Better the Life of Your Pet with 10 Cat-Approved Projects (Workman, $14.95, 288 pages, ISBN 9780761189909). Author, aerospace engineer and cat dad Mac Delaney applies his expertise to the book’s 10 DIY projects, each a response to a
of each featured cocktail recipe. These spectacular drinks incorporate Mlynarczyk’s various consommés, shrubs, syrups, foams and infusions, such as a rhubarb Pimm’s. On the slightly simpler side, I love her recipe for Old Fashioned Stock Ice Cubes. (How about watermelon, mint and basil on a hot summer day?) This is not a book for the timid or lazy home-drinker— rather, it’s an inventive, thorough, extreme sports-style guide to the art of the modern cocktail.
Beef-less burgers Last month in this column, I reviewed A Burger to Believe In by Chris Kronner, a meat lover’s guide to the perfect burger, and this month I want to let you in on the meatless side of burger mania. In Superiority Burger Cookbook (Norton, $29.95, 224 pages, ISBN 9780393253986), Brooks Headley, the chef and owner of Superiority Burger, offers up the recipes that have given this diminutive
TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES
common problem such as, “Cats enjoy destroying your upholstered belongings.” I adore the geeky, good-natured humor with which this book is written. In his how-to for building a scratching post, Delaney writes, “I know I said before that I am no expert in aesthetics, but the tan shag carpet that comes on almost every store-bought scratching post is atrocious.” This book is clever, but it is also a totally usable guide to feline-friendly home props. If you’re planning on opening a kitty café—a trend on the rise!—you need to pick up a de-shedding brush and a copy of this book.
CHEERS TO YOUR HEALTH In Clean + Dirty Drinking: 100+ Recipes for Making Delicious Elixirs, With or Without Booze (Chronicle, $19.95, 216 pages, ISBN 9781452163819), California mixologist Gabriella Mlynarczyk does something that seems borderline revolutionary: She includes both a boozy and booze-free version
Move over, hygge. Now there’s something . . . drunker? From another Nordic country comes another strategy for happier, healthier living, only this one swaps candles for cocktails—or your booze of choice—consumed in your skivvies. The Finnish concept of kalsarikänni—chilling at home while drinking in your underwear—is explored in Miska Rantanen’s Pantsdrunk (Harper Design, $19.99, 176 pages, ISBN 9780062855893), which heralds said pastime as an “authentic, total, and true relaxation.” Pantsdrunk is “the antithesis of posing, performing, or pretense: one does not post atmospheric images on Instagram while pantsdrunk.” I admit: I was certain this book, this very idea, was nothing but a killer spoof. Then I did a little internet digging—pantsless, of course, with an Aperol spritz at the ready. Apparently, pantsdrunk is legit in the eyes of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Rantanen goes all out on the subject with “preferred nibbles when pantsdrunk” (prosciutto!), a “Social Media + Pantsdrunk Hierarchy of Needs” and, my personal favorite, “The Top 100 Excuses for Pantsdrunk.” (Number 15: “I’ve never been this old before.”) If there were ever a book desperately needed during a particular cultural moment, it is Pantsdrunk.
New York City restaurant its huge reputation. The book contains a roster of recipes that range from the revered Superiority Burger— composed of sautéed onion, red quinoa, toasted fennel seeds and other vegetarian ingredients—and other inventive sandwiches to a Bitter Greens with Grapefruit salad, Re-Toasted Corn Chips and Halloumi cheese, vegetable dishes such as Roasted Orange Sweet Potato with Olive-Raisin Chutney, soups and sweets, plus pantry staples like Pickled Golden Raisins and Polenta Planks—all vegetarian vittles with verve.
END OF SUMMER DAYS Summer is winding down, and the best way to banish those back-to-reality blahs might be a foray into the great outdoors for meals cooked on a campfire and eaten under the stars. There’s a special magic to this kind of getaway and to making your fire-kissed fête flawlessly feasible. Camping experts Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson provide the know-how for making that happen in their delightfully illustrated The Campout Cookbook (Artisan, $19.95, 224 pages, ISBN 9781579657994). Clever and charming, Hanel and Stevenson cover it all—their 75 delicious dish-
es include many makeaheads, from trail snacks and flask fortifications to marvelous morning treats and spectacular suppers ending in more than just the traditional s’mores. The how-tos of setting up your campsite are included, plus a definitive packing list and advice on avoiding “backcountry bungles.” Get out there and enjoy the bliss of being a happy camper.
TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS Are we in need of another cooking bible to add to the ever-growing stack of culinary scripture? Indeed, for The Kitchen Shortcut Bible: More Than 200 Recipes to Make Real Food Real Fast (Little, Brown, $30, 352 pages, ISBN 9780316509718) is full of revelations, and I’m a true believer. A little jaded after decades of cooking and looking at cookbooks, I’m truly impressed by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough’s new book. They have written lots of cookbooks over the years, but here they’ve gathered more than recipes—these are creative approaches, even attitudinal changes, to preparing food faster and more conveniently with standard kitchen tools and ingredients, all while enhancing flavor. It’s the holy grail for anyone who wants to put a home-cooked meal on the table almost every night. Check out the Colander Pasta recipes, which use the hot pasta water as a cooking agent; a new trick for simple and savory One-Pan Skewer Suppers; an elegant No-Watch Standing Rib Roast; five kinds of miraculous, no-stir Microwave Risottos and much more. Tips, notes and sidebars add a steady stream of inspiration and information guaranteed to dispel dinnertime doldrums.
from Perennial “A chillingly good read that will stay with you long after you close the book.” —BookPage
“[A] wicked debut thriller . . . you’ll relish every diabolical turn.” —People
“A lighthearted Mission Impossible for feisty senior citizens bent on social justice.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Thrillingly tense and twisty, a great read.” —B. A. Paris, bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors
“A haunting tale of nostalgia and lost chances that is full of last-minute surprises.” —Kirkus Reviews
Discover great authors, exclusive offers, and more at hc.com
WELL READ BY ROBERT WEIBEZAHL
Are you reading this? “Do you, my reader, read with less attention and perhaps even less memory for what you have read?” Maryanne Wolf asks in her timely and important new book, Reader, Come Home (Harper, $24.99, 272 pages, ISBN 9780062388780). “Are you less able to find the same enveloping pleasure you once derived from your former reading self?” Welcome to reading in the digital age, when the endless barrage of information—presented in smaller and smaller bites and increasingly read on screens rather than the page—is changing our fundamental relationship to the written word. Indeed, Wolf, a neuroscientist specializing in reading and language development, asserts that technology is literally altering the way we take in and process information as our brains become rewired. And this evolutionary adaptation may not be a good thing. Borrowing from the literary tradition of Marcel Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke and Italo Calvino, Wolf fashions Reader, Come Home as a series of letters to us, her fellow readers. She dispenses the science quickly and relatively painlessly for the nonscientific among us, explaining the rudiments of how the brain fashions the circuitry for reading in each individual (unlike with the development of language, there is no genetic blueprint for reading). Research shows that this “brain wiring” is changing in a new generation raised on smart phones and tablets. Wolf persuasively argues that these changes could have a profound and, in her view, detrimental impact on society. At the heart of the problem are the differences between information, knowledge and wisdom: The first is everywhere we look; the second requires retention and processing; and the third and most elusive comes from deep reading
and contemplation. Wisdom allows us to “enter a totally invisible, personal realm . . . where we can contemplate all manner of human existence and ponder a universe whose real mysteries dwarf any of our imagination.” Nowadays, even the most devoted readers will probably cotton toward skimming and cherry-picking the essence from much of their reading. What will be the consequences of this? Wolf suggests that we are already feeling them in a world where civil discourse and considering differing points of view has given way to a reduction of complex issues into snippets. There is a prescriptive aspect to Reader, Come Home, as Wolf explores options for building what she calls a “bi-literate” brain in the next generation. Yet, even for readers without young children, her message offers a clarion call: “There are many things that would be lost if we slowly lost the cognitive patience to immerse ourselves in the worlds created by books and the lives and feelings of the ‘friends’ who inhabit them. . . . What will happen to young readers who never meet Nowadays, and begin to even the understand most devoted the thoughts and feelings of readers will probably skim someone really different? What their reading. will happen to older readers who begin to lose touch with the feeling of empathy for people outside their ken or kin? It is a formula for unwitting ignorance, fear and misunderstanding, that can lead to the belligerent forms of intolerance that are the opposite of America’s original goals for its citizens of many cultures.” If you love deep reading and the ways it has enriched your life and our world, Reader, Come Home is essential, arriving at a crucial juncture in history.
BOOK CLUBS BY JULIE HALE
New in paperback Adam Gopnik, bestselling author of Paris to the Moon (2000) and a staff writer at The New Yorker, looks back on his years as an up-andcomer in the lively memoir At the Strangers’ Gate: Arrivals in New York (Vintage, $16, 272 pages, ISBN 9781400075744). In 1980, 23-yearold Gopnik lands in the Big Apple accompanied by Martha Parker,
who will soon become his wife. The couple lives in a tiny apartment as Gopnik holds down various jobs and embarks on a publishing career, with stints at GQ and Knopf. Gopnik’s account of these ambition-fueled days provides a window into a bygone time, as he shares anecdotes involving the era’s great movers and shakers (Jeff Koons, Richard Avedon and art critic Robert Hughes, among others) and brings the art scene to vivid life. The narrative also becomes a tribute to home and family as the Gopniks settle into the rhythms of the city. Gopnik’s prose is, as ever, a pleasure to experience. This is a vibrant memoir from one of America’s most versatile and insightful writers.
FALL OF A MEDIA EMPIRE In Dunbar (Hogarth, $16, 256 pages, ISBN 9781101904305)—another impressive entry in Hogarth Press’ series of updated takes on Shakespeare’s plays—acclaimed author Edward St. Aubyn has a go at King Lear. His update includes characters with contemporary names, but he retains the play’s chief themes and plotlines. In the grip of old age, Henry Dunbar passes control of his powerful media company to his greedy daughters, Abby and Megan. His beloved youngest daughter, Florence, lives
in Wyoming, out of range of any domestic drama. Confined to a sanitarium in England, Dunbar hatches a plan to break out. He escapes into the surrounding countryside, but he’s soon pursued by his elder daughters, who fear he’ll derail an important meeting concerning the family’s fortunes. St. Aubyn, author of the Patrick Melrose novels, is a perceptive chronicler of family dynamics. His timely interpretation of Shakespeare is at once an addicting story of wealth and ambition and a sharply realized study of human nature. The Bard himself would applaud St. Aubyn’s achievement.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS Chosen as a top book of 2017 by the New York Times and Time, New People (Riverhead, $16, 256 pages, ISBN 9780399573149) by Danzy Senna is a penetrating novel about race and relationships. Khalil and Maria—both biracial, well-educated and successful—are living the good life in Brooklyn. They’re the focus of a documentary about mixed-race couples, and they’re planning a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard. But as the big day approaches, Maria finds herself infatuated with someone new—an African-American poet whom she scarcely knows. Maria’s growing preoccupation leads to an incident with the poet’s white neighbor who mistakes Maria for a Spanish-speaking babysitter, an error that jeopardizes Maria’s future even as it forces her to come to grips with her past. This is Senna’s third novel, and she skillfully explores the nature of identity while probing the foibles of the human heart.
Fresh Book Club Reads
for your summer THE LOCKSMITH’S DAUGHTER by Karen Brooks This intriguing historical novel tells the unforgettable story of Queen Elizabeth’s daring, ruthless spymaster and his female protégée.
SUNBURN by Laura Lippman “Sunburn is [a] dark, gleaming noir gem. Read it.” —Gillian Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author
THE DAISY CHILDREN by Sofia Grant Inspired by true events, Sofia Grant’s moving new novel is a story of hope, healing, and the discovery of truth.
UNDER A DARK SKY by Lori Rader-Day “Lori Rader-Day is a modern-day Agatha Christie: her mysteries are taut, her characters are real and larger than life, and her plots are relentlessly surprising.” —Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author
William Morrow Book Club Girl
ROMANCE B Y C H R I S T I E R I D G WAY
Start your engines A motorcycle club finds a new calling in To Have and to Harley (Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9781492667957) by Regina Cole. Trey Harding always believed he’d been abandoned as a baby. Raised in foster care, he managed to find a surrogate family with the Iron Shadows biker gang. But his life takes an unexpected
turn when his biological mother tracks him down and tells him that he was kidnapped, not abandoned, and that she’s been looking for him ever since. Scrambling to conceal his lifestyle, Trey tells his mother that he’s a wedding planner and ends up being drafted into planning his newfound sister’s upcoming nuptials with maid of honor Bethany Jernigan. The other bikers are soon drawn into the preparations, and it’s highly entertaining to watch them try to recommend menus, favors and a bridal wardrobe. Bethany finds a true protector in Trey as she grapples with her own family issues, which adds a tender note to this sexy and sweetly funny romantic comedy.
evaporate Lilah’s distrust of the man who broke her heart. As they tentatively explore a new relationship, the more mature pair finds themselves looking at the past with clearer eyes. They’re more honest about what they want for the future, too, even as conflicts concerning the balance of love and livelihoods arise. Hockey talk, more than one steamy scene, and a hero and heroine who have a genuine respect as well as a fiery passion for each other make this romance an allaround winner.
TOP PICK IN ROMANCE
A journey to the Scottish Highlands provides the backdrop for The Duke Buys a Bride (Avon, $7.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780062463647) by Sophie Jordan. While traveling to a newly inherited property, Marcus Weatherton comes upon a wife auction. Appalled by the practice and by the ugly fate that appears in store for the bride on offer, he pays for her, then assures her that she can be the housekeeper at his far-off estate. Alyse Bell is out of options BACK INTO THE RINK but not without hope. She leaves Readers love a second-chance her small village with the stranger, romance, and Helena Hunting’s certain she can survive this caThe Good Luck Charm (Forlamity as she has so many others. ever, $14.99, 352 pages, ISBN Along the way, the pair forges an 9781538760147) delivers delightful- unlikely friendship and tries to ignore their wild attraction. As he ly on its tried-and-tested premise. Professional hockey hopeful Ethan comes to admire the intriguing Alyse, Marcus learns more about Kase broke up with his best friend and high school sweetheart, Lilah himself and what he wants from Smith, because he was convinced life. A road romance is all about putting two seemingly disparate that she would be held back by his people together—the fun is in their high-profile sports career. Now she’s a nurse at the local hospital, discovering that they are not so and he’s returned to their homedifferent after all. Readers will root town after being traded to a new for Marcus and Alyse to reach their team. Sparks fly between them destination and their true hearts’ once more, but the heat doesn’t desires.
By Crystal Hana Kim
Morrow, $26.99, 432 pages ISBN 9780062645173, audio, eBook available
© GABRIANNA DACKO
For fans of: Lisa See, Amy Tan, Toni Morrison and Jesmyn Ward. First line: “Kyunghwan and I met where the farm fields ended and our refugee village began.” The book: In war-torn Korea, Haemi and Kyunghwan find love in a refugee village, but honor and duty take precedence when a wealthy man begins courting the spirited Haemi. The author: Winner of the PEN America’s Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, Crystal Hana Kim is a contributing editor for Apogee Journal and lives in Brooklyn. Read it for: Lyrical prose that offers an unflinching look at motherhood and the aftermath of American imperialism.
By Zoje Stage
St. Martin’s, $26.99, 320 pages ISBN 9781250170750, audio, eBook available
For fans of: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver and movies
FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE By Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Doubleday, $26.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780385542722, audio, eBook available
For fans of: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. First line: “She sits in a plastic chair in front of a brick wall, slouching.” The book: Two coming-of-age stories—that of rich city girl Chula and her maid, Petrona—overlap during Colombia’s violent 1990s. The author: A Bogotá native, Ingrid Rojas Contreras and her family fled to Los Angeles when she was 14. She now writes for HuffPost and NPR, and teaches writing to immigrant high schoolers in San Francisco. Read it for: A first-hand glimpse into the plight of vulnerable Colombian children in the recent past.
© SHANNON CARPENTER
THE SHORTEST WAY HOME By Miriam Parker
Dutton, $26, 320 pages ISBN 9781524741860, audio, eBook available
For fans of: Camille Perri, Elin Hilderbrand and Stephanie Danler. First line: “I would have never predicted that a winery could change my life.” The book: A business school graduate lands a coveted New York investment job, but her heart is set on a path less traveled (quite literally) in the wine country. The author: Miriam Parker has worked in publishing for more than 17 years and is currently an associate publisher at Ecco. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog, Leopold Bloom. Read it for: The love of wine, and the inspiring tale of taking chances and dreaming of a life more rewarding than a nine-to-five job. © NAOMI WOODIS
IF YOU LEAVE ME
like The Babadook, The Bad Seed and The Ring. First line: “Maybe the machine could see the words she never spoke.” The book: Upscale parents grapple with an inexplicable and unremitting evil—in the form of their 7-year-old daughter. The author: Zoje Stage is a former filmmaker and screenwriter who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Read it for: One more book to talk you out of procreating. © JEREMIAH BARBER
© NINA SUBIN
ecome a fan from the very beginning, as these six outstanding new novelists make their debuts with deeply emotional narratives peopled with tremendous characters that will leave you aching for more.
First line: “I was sitting on a bench at the beach when Frank told me I’d dropped my keys.” The book: After the death of her boyfriend, 20-something Holly finds solitude and hope at the seaside in Brighton, in particular through a new friendship with an elderly, retired magician. The author: The author of the poetry collection Curious Hands: 24 Hours in Soho, S.K. Perry was long-listed for London’s youth poet laureate in 2013. Read it for: A sense of comfort, and for a reading experience as soothing and cathartic as ocean waves lapping at your toes. © JOY VON TIEDEMANN
Six new authors you need to know
LET ME BE LIKE WATER By S.K. Perry
Melville House, $16.99, 224 pages ISBN 9781612197265, eBook available
For fans of: Mitch Albom, Anne Tyler and Rachel Khong.
BROTHER By David Chariandy
Bloomsbury, $22, 192 pages ISBN 9781635572049, audio, eBook available
For fans of: Zadie Smith, Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid, Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn. First line: “Once he showed me his place in the sky.” The book: The lives of two Canadian brothers are forever changed after a violent shooting draws additional police scrutiny to their neighborhood. The author: David Chariandy grew up in the same Toronto public housing as the family in Brother. He currently teaches English at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He has been previously published in his native Canada (the critically acclaimed novel Soucouyant), but this is his first novel to be published in the United States. Read it for: A poignant and timely look at community, family and race in a setting that will be new to many American readers. Find full reviews of these debuts on BookPage.com.
A natural way of storytelling
hen Delia Owens was growing up in Thomasville, Georgia, her mother encouraged her to venture deep into the wilderness, saying, “Go way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”
Owens took that advice to heart. After college, she headed to Africa and lived in the wild for decades while studying lions, brown hyenas and elephants in their natural habitats. Over the years, she’s co-authored several memoirs about her experiences, including the international bestseller Cry of the Kalahari. Now this wildlife scientist and award-winning nature writer has turned to fiction, penning what she calls a “socio-biological thriller” with a titular nod to her mother’s early wisdom, Where the Crawdads Sing. Set in the coastal swamps of North Carolina from the 1950s through 1970, Owens’ richly atmospheric debut centers on Kya Clark, who was abandoned by her family as a girl and is now surviving in the wild. Locals know her as the barefoot “Marsh Girl.” Even though Owens’ fictional setting is worlds apart from the remote areas of Botswana and Zambia that she once called home, the experience influenced her tale. “One of the things that interested
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING
By Delia Owens
Putnam, $26, 384 pages ISBN 9780735219090, audio, eBook available
me most about the animals I was studying is that they live in very strong female social groups,” Owens says, speaking by phone from her current home in the mountains of northern Idaho. She began to wonder, what would happen to a young woman deprived of a pack? “I was living in isolation,” she explains. “I became determined to write a novel that would explore how isolation affects people, especially a woman, and also how all of those instinctual behaviors I was seeing around me would play into the story.” A North Carolina setting made sense to this Georgia-born naturalist since its moderate climate would offer plenty of food for foraging. “I wanted this story to be believable.” A favorite book also helped inspire her literary pursuit: A Sand County Almanac, a classic collection of natural history essays by Aldo Leopold. When Owens frequently recommended the book to friends, however, they complained that it lacked a story. Their reactions led her to a pivotal conclusion: “Wouldn’t it be great to write a book that had a strong storyline but also nature writing?” Because Owens had her novel’s ending in mind from the start, she began writing from the end, working backward, describing the writing process as “a big word puzzle―a 50,000-word puzzle.” An avid equestrian, Owens adds, “Writing nonfiction is like riding inside the corral, round and round inside the fence, while writing fiction is like taking off at a gait. You just go and see where [you end up], and if you don’t like it, you can make another turn and do something different. “So I loved it,” she says. “I could kick my horse and go.” At first Owens wrote chronologically, but she soon found herself with a good third of the story
devoted solely to Kya’s childhood. Deciding that “there needed to be a bomb under the sofa that [signals that] something more happens in this book,” she began to interweave past and present, addressing both Kya’s childhood and the book’s murder in alternating chapters. “It was a bear,” she says of the rewriting, noting that she often set her alarm for 4:30 a.m. to give herself time to write before tackling other duties, and worked on and off on the project for about a decade. Owens knows a thing or two about bears. Now living in a remote valley, she “Wouldn’t it be mentions that she’s spotted great to write a mother and a book that cub in the last few days. Elk had a strong often wander storyline but near her back also nature deck, and writing?” bears track across the hottub cover. “I just love it,” she says. “It’s where I feel like I belong.” She shares these many acres with her ex-husband, Mark Owens, although they live in separate houses. The pair met years ago while studying at the University of Georgia, then headed to Africa. “We were great research partners and great friends, and we had a great working relationship for years and years. I think the stress of living there finally got the best of us.” A question that ends up being central for Kya also remains an ongoing dilemma for her creator. As Owens writes: “How much do you trade to defeat loneliness?” She admits to sometimes feeling lonely in her beloved Idaho home, acknowledging that her lifelong
© DAWN MARIE TUCKER
INTERVIEW BY ALICE CARY
adventures have required sacrifice. “I realized my mother was right. You don’t really see wildlife, you don’t really understand nature until you get far away from man. And I learned that was my life. It is my life still.” She based Kya’s struggles on an undeniable fact: “Survival of the wild can be very aggressive and intense,” she says. “And we still have those genes, and we will never understand who we are until we understand the genes that we have from those eons ago. This whole book is about trying to understand why we behave the way we do.” In the end, Where the Crawdads Sing is about female empowerment. Before abandoning her, Kya’s mother taught her a valuable lesson, saying, “That’s what sisters and girlfriends are all about. Sticking together even in the mud, ’specially in mud.” That lesson remains close to Owens’ heart. She dedicated her novel to three of her childhood friends who remain close, two of whom happen to be visiting her in Idaho at the time of this interview. “They’re here now,” Owens says, her voice filled with what sounds like a schoolgirl’s joy. “You know,” she muses, “we all end up in the mud, and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve supported each other after all these years.”
A perfectly fractured American family
aula Saunders has been working on some of the material in her wrenching debut novel since she was in graduate school some 30 years ago.
“It was like following little fires around the hills,” Saunders says of her long composition process during a call to her home among the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains. “I followed whatever I could find to make it work. Not blindly, but consciously.” Set in Rapid City, South Dakota, in the 1960s, The Distance Home tells the story of psychological trauma in a seemingly normal, working-class Midwestern family. Al and Eve marry young and live for a while in his parents’ basement before striking out on their own and starting a family. Al, a cattle trader, is away from home for long stretches of time, and when he returns he vents his frustrations, sometimes brutally, on their oldest child, Leon, a sweet, remarkably sensitive boy and a gifted ballet dancer. René, their daughter, is the golden child. She is lively, successful in school and is also a talented dancer. She develops a deepening sense of how unjustly her brother is being treated and the damage being done to him. Jayne, the youngest, is so young that she
THE DISTANCE HOME
By Paula Saunders
Random House, $27, 304 pages ISBN 9780525508748, audio, eBook available
seems to escape most, but not all, of the trauma. The novel begins quietly, but in the end is profoundly moving. Like her character René, Saunders grew up in Rapid City and studied ballet. She later danced as an apprentice with the Harkness Ballet in New York. So, is The Distance Home autobiographical? “That’s such an interesting question,” Saunders says. “For me it is an autobiographical novel. But for a lot of other people involved, maybe it wouldn’t seem so. I think the invention in the novel comes from trying to draw out a relationship that I have an impression of. I have a deep love and concern for each of these characters, and of course they reflect my family circumstances. I had a brother who passed away early from liver failure, and I have a very dear sister who is still here. A big part of the material for me was trying to understand it and see it more clearly. So I created the circumstances that make sense to me, given the character of the people I knew and the eventualities that occurred.” Asked about her understanding of the tragic figure of Leon, Saunders says, “There are people who can accept the rules of culture, adapt to them and become good at them, even though the rules often have a raw, jagged edge that is hurtful to others and yourself. But there are people who for one reason or another can’t acquire the rules or find them unacceptable. They suffer in a hidden way. Their feelings lead to some kind of alcoholism or drug addiction because they haven’t found an acceptable way in the culture to express themselves. That’s what I think about the tragedy of Leon. There are people who are very tender and very hurt by our culture. Most people can adapt, but some people can’t.” A singular pleasure of the novel is Saunders’ depiction of the land-
scape around Rapid City. “That physical landscape is very much a part of me. I have just loved it. As a child you completely soak in all the things that surround you.” But it is a morally complicated geography as well. Subtly, but quite deliberately, Saunders names some of the worst sites of Native American massacres. And some of her minor characters are obvious in their dislike of Indians. “Well, the book is a lot about inequality and unfairness,” she explains. “And it’s also about violence. There’s violence that “There are happens in people who the book all are very tender the time. To and very hurt me, there’s by our culture. no greater violence in this Most people country than can adapt, but the genocide of the American some people Indians. It’s a can’t.” horrific thing that we carry with us, that we never acknowledge or apologize for. We just keep consuming and moving to take for ourselves what isn’t necessarily ours, without any thought of who we’re leaving behind. That’s important to me, and that’s why there’s a parallel drawn between Leon and Native Americans.” Saunders and her husband, George (who published his own debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, last year), are longtime practitioners of Buddhism. She says this helped her in working with emotionally fraught material. “Without that practice, without that kind of new way of looking at it, without cultivating that kind of understanding, I don’t think I could have written it.”
© CHLOE AFTEL
INTERVIEW BY ALDEN MUDGE
Saunders wrote much of the book on a repurposed dining room table from Home Depot in a tiny room in their house outside of Oneonta, New York. To escape the winters of the Northeast, they later bought a house in California. That’s where she finished working on the novel. “I wish I could say I was writing in a little closet,” she says, laughing. “But I have a dream writing space. We’re up in the redwoods. It’s large. It has windows on three sides, one looking over a vast vista. It’s very calm. I can’t describe how much I love this space.” Saunders thought she had finished the novel, written then in first person, and sent it to her former teacher Toni Morrison to read. “I hate to claim this, because it’s like wearing clothes that are too big, but I sent it to my great mentor. She read it, and she is not, let us say, reticent with her critique. I was a bit taken aback. I had to go and rethink the main character. I realized that if I moved that character into third person, I had the key to the character. So I went back and wrote the whole book again in third person. That took about a year and a half.” After so much time, the publication of this novel “is really satisfying,” Saunders says. “To have this novel accepted and put forward so that other people can read it and appreciate or understand it in their own way also feels like a big blessing to me.”
BEHIND THE BOOK BY LING MA
© LILIANE CALFEE
Going to work while the world ends
first started writing Severance around the time I realized I was going to lose my job, although I did not know that I was working on a novel. The company I worked for was downsizing and consolidating their West Coast and Midwest offices. As a result, many employees in the Midwest office would be let go, some who had been there their entire careers, spanning several decades. Most colleagues felt like they had been screwed over by management. As we came to the office day in and day out, the low morale in the work environment was palpable. I needed to figure out what I was going to do, but instead of applying to other jobs and taking interviews, all it seemed that I could do was write stories. In those final weeks of my job, I wrote more fiction than I had in years. Since some of our tasks were drying up, I would write those stories at the office. Taking a break during lunch hour, I would walk around through downtown, drinking iced coffee and eating pastries. Buoyed by sugar and caffeine, plot ideas and character details would come to me. All around me, people went about their days, using their lunch breaks to window shop, to take dentist appointments, to go to the gym. One of the pieces I worked on was an apocalyptic short story. Writing anything apocalyptic just
By Ling Ma
FSG, $26, 304 pages ISBN 9780374261597, eBook available
seemed fun—the destructive glee of toppling office buildings, of disrupting everyone’s routines, of crushing clamshell containers of sad desk salads. My target was all of these things and none of these things. My target was the larger system, the capitalist power structures that enabled all of this. The authorial power that a writer gets to wield is irresistible, especially to someone (like me) who does not have a lot of power. Originally, the story was written in the first-person plural—one collective voice that embodied all of these disgruntled employees. But one voice kept breaking out from the rest of the pack, and that was the voice of Candace Chen, who eventually became the protagonist of Severance. I knew her job right away. She worked in New York, as a production coordinator for the manufacturing of Bibles, which was all taking place in China and other Asian countries. It became clear that the apocalyptic story was really a meditation on work, of its routines and its conciliatory satisfactions in the age of globalism. When I first interviewed at the company, a VP had perceptively mentioned to me, “I think you’re qualified for this position, but you’re going to get bored in two years.” He said he would recommend me for the job, but that I might reconsider my options after two years. Around the time of the corporate downsizing, I had been working at the same job going on three years. I wondered, what kept me working there? This is a question that many of my friends also asked of themselves, about why they still stuck at their jobs. I think writing the novel was also a way of trying to answer that question. As I wrote, I found inspiration by
reading the works of Kafka, everything from his short stories to his journals, in which he complained about how a job disrupted his writing. Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, about an English butler, always seemed like the ultimate office novel to me. The TV shows I watched were at heart narratives about work: “The Sopranos,” “The X-Files” and “Mad Men.” I’ve always maintained that I learned how to plot by watching eight seasons of “Mad Men,” the The feeling way that the was one of storylines were liberation, organized and maybe more by thematic layering that feeling comes during than a string of causal events. apocalyptic, I didn’t write chaotic times. the novel in any particular order, simply jumping to whichever scene felt the most urgent at the time, and organizing the novel around those guideposts. As for my job, the closer the end date neared, the emptier the office became. Some employees found new positions at other companies and left, while others made the move to another branch office. All the rules flew out the window. Going to work was a surreal experience. I have this memory, set during those final days, of coming into the office at nine in the morning and being handed a plastic flute of champagne and a donut. There was no one watching us. The feeling was despair, but also one of giddiness. The feeling was one of
liberation, and maybe that feeling comes during apocalyptic, chaotic times. After my last day at the company, I took my severance and got on unemployment. I called it my arts fellowship. I continued working on the novel. However, in order to secure more funding, I ended up applying to MFA programs and was accepted by Cornell University. I moved to the remote town of Ithaca, New York, and spent the next four years steadily working on Severance. During the summers, I established a writing routine that was very similar to my office routine: I would begin writing at nine in the morning, take a long lunch break and then resume writing until six in the evening. It serves me still. Ling Ma teaches at the University of Chicago, and her work has appeared in Granta, Playboy, the Chicago Reader and elsewhere. Her debut novel, Severance, is an end-of-theworld tale that transforms the mundane into a creeping horror, as a millennial daughter of Chinese immigrants watches nearly everyone around her fall to an epidemic: a spreading fever that leaves its victims in a zombie-like state, repeating the day-to-day tasks of their former lives. Visit BookPage.com to read a review of Severance.
EDUCATION BY ANGELA LEEPER
Connecting the dots of education
ducation doesn’t happen in a bubble. These five new books highlight important connections between education and history, business, entrepreneurship, safety and democracy.
In The Lost Education of Horace Tate (New Press, $32.99, 448 pages, ISBN 9781620971055), Emory University professor Vanessa Siddle Walker shows how black educators played hidden yet significant roles in the civil rights movement. Walker focuses on Horace Tate, a Georgia educator who fought for equality across the state and throughout the South. This detailed account traces Tate’s path from college student to high school principal to president of the black-affiliated Georgia Teacher and Educator Association (GT&EA). Along the way, Tate learned to be an effective leader in a system controlled by white people.
Refusing to apply for a job at the superintendent’s back door or to accept discarded textbooks from the white school, he was an ardent and vocal champion for justice. But Tate and other black educators realized that stealth could be more effective and less dangerous. For instance, when Southern educators risked losing their jobs by contributing to the NAACP, they funneled funds instead through the GT&EA. As readers discover Tate’s place in history, they’ll also enjoy reading about Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. DuBois and other activists portrayed in rarely seen moments.
EMPOWERING GIRLS Why do many girls start out naturally brilliant in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), only to have their imag-
ination and talent conditioned out of them by society and education? In VentureGirls: Raising Girls to Be Tomorrow’s Leaders (Harper, $16.99, 400 pages, ISBN 9780062697554), Cristal Glangchai addresses how to turn this national dilemma into a victory. An engineer, nanoscientist, professor and entrepreneur, Glangchai is also the founder of VentureLab, a nonprofit that helps children, particularly girls, develop STEM and entrepreneurial skills. After describing challenges and attitudes that create barriers for girls and women, such as the notion that only men are natural leaders and media stereotypes
that depict girls as passive princesses, Glangchai explains why entrepreneurial skills are the key to closing the female empowerment gap. She thoughtfully clarifies that entrepreneurship is not simply the notion of starting businesses but rather a combination of character traits, from persistence to empathy and resourcefulness, that can aid in achieving success. With an emphasis on curiosity, play and grit, Glangchai offers advice, pertinent research, stories of accomplishment and activities to inspire the next generation of girls.
THE BUSINESS OF EDUCATION Drawing on the work of W. Edwards Deming, Andrea Gabor tackles the seemingly unwieldy topic of education reform. Gabor, a business journalist and former editor at
U.S. News & World Report, frames the discussion as a business story as she explores how schools, like corporations, are complex social systems and living communities. In After the Education Wars: How Smart Schools Upend the Business of Reform (New Press, $27.99, 192 pages, ISBN 9781620971994), her goal is to understand what makes long-term education reform work. Using examples from schools in New York City, Massachusetts and Leander, Texas, the author’s frank narrative describes how these successful reforms began as small grassroots movements that relied on participation and collaboration among teachers, students, and the community. Conversely, she looks at unsuccessful developments, particularly charter-school organizations and a reliance on standardized testing and rote learning, which, she contends, create hostility towards teachers and increase segregation. The key, Gabor concludes, is a radical departure from a one-size-fits-all approach to traditional education and re-establishing a connection between education and democracy.
TAKING A STAND When a 19-year-old began firing an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, 2018, David Hogg (class of 2018), his sister, Lauren Hogg (class of 2021), and many classmates first assumed the sounds were part of an active-shooter drill. For students
born after Columbine and 9/11, the threat of school shootings and mass murders has become a disturbingly common occurrence. But just a few minutes after the perpetrator’s first gunshots, 17 students and faculty were dead and over a dozen more wounded. In #NEVERAGAIN: A New Generation Draws the Line (Random House, $10, 176 pages, ISBN 9781984801838), David and Lauren Hogg alternate describing the traumatic events of that day and how collective anger, grief and need for immediate change ignited the student-led movement for gun control reform. Their no-holdsbarred account details the hatred from extremists that surfaced after the students went public and the young activists’ commitment to speaking up for themselves when the adults around them would not. This slim but powerful and strategic manifesto is a wake-up call to end gun violence.
SUPREME EDUCATION Segregation, prayer in schools, strip searches, required education for undocumented immigrants, corporal punishment and transgender bathrooms—these are just some of the pivotal issues in K-12 education that have been brought before the Supreme Court. Justin Driver, a former high school teacher and an award-winning constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, examines the intersection between two of the country’s most venerable institutions in The Schoolhouse Gate (Pantheon, $35, 576 pages, ISBN 9781101871652). Following an overview of the court’s few interactions with public education before World War II, Driver focuses on decisive court cases involving students’ rights since then. As he delves into free expression, school discipline, criminal procedure, religion and the shifting meaning of equal protection, the author looks at the various perspectives of each case and its impact today. Driver’s added personal commentary pushes readers to consider the kind of nation reflected in these cases and the one they want for future generations.
PARENTING BY AMY SCRIBNER
There is no handbook, but these come close
et’s be real: Parenting fails happen, and meltdowns and mistakes are par for the course. This set of parenting books offers fresh solutions and insights into what makes your kids tick—and how to handle the most trying of situations.
We’ll start with the good news: Children are supposed to misbehave sometimes! And you’re supposed to let them! In The Good News About Bad Behavior (PublicAffairs, $28, 288 pages, ISBN 9781610398381), journalist and mom Katherine Reynolds Lewis dives into neuroscience research and interviews with dozens of families. She concludes that “[w]hen adults crack down on bad behavior they undermine the development of the very traits that children need to become self-disciplined and productive members of society.” That’s not to say that Lewis advocates letting children run wild in the streets. But she argues that by undermining children’s ability to learn to regulate their own behavior, we are raising a generation of kids in chaos. We are so disengaged (how many times a day do you mindlessly pick up your phone?) and so tightly scheduled that we are forgetting to let children learn to control their own choices and make mistakes. Find ways to engage with your children, set firm limits and routines, and watch your children thrive as their perfectly imperfect selves.
PARENTING IN FEAR It was an impulsive decision that would haunt her: Kim Brooks ran into a store to pick up one item, leaving her 4-year-old son Felix happily playing in the car. In the few minutes she was gone, a bystander filmed her unaccompanied son and called the police. Small Animals (Flatiron, $26.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9781250089557) is Brooks’ recollection of the months that followed when she was unsure what the consequences would be
for her and her family. But Small Animals is more than a memoir: It is a call to action for all of us to quit the judgmental parenting Olympics. Brooks talks to Lenore Skenazy, who rose to infamy in 2008 when she wrote a piece about letting her 9-year-old son take the New York subway by himself. Skenazy founded the “free-range kids” movement and fights against the belief that our kids are in constant danger. A certain amount of freedom is important to growing independent children, Brooks argues, but we are so mired in fear of failing—of kidnapping, of injury, of not raising
trial and error to get to that point. “When we first realize something different is going on with our child, most if not all of us feel overwhelmed with one big question: What now?” Reber writes. “Many of us are relying on word-of-mouth referrals and hours-long Internet searches for things we don’t even have the language for. We’re pioneers without a map, let alone a destination. And this lack of clarity about how to move forward adds an incredibly stressful layer to our already tapped-out lives.” With empathy and been-theredone-that confidence, Reber outlines 18 concrete and achievable
the next president of the United States—that it’s hard to let go.
changes (what she calls “tilts”) to transform the way you approach parenting. From letting go of what others think to practicing relentless self-care and identifying your child’s stress triggers, Reber offers rock-solid steps that will shift your family dynamic.
EMBRACING THE OFFBEAT Many parents worry about their child not fitting in and being different from the pack. In Differently Wired (Workman, $26.95, 288 pages, ISBN 9781523502127), Deborah Reber tries to shift the paradigm of how we think about kids with neurodifferences such as ADHD and autism. Reber and her husband found themselves at a loss when their son, Asher, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and disruptive behavioral disorder. He bounced from one elementary school to another because teachers didn’t know how to handle him. Reber finally chose to home-school, but it took several painful years of
PLAY TIME The Design of Childhood (Bloomsbury, $30, 416 pages, ISBN 9781632866356) is a fascinating look at how our surroundings shape our childhoods, both today and in the past. Architecture historian Alexandra Lange traces how changing views on raising children has impacted the way we build schools and playgrounds, the toys we buy and the cities we build. “Our built environment is making kids less healthy, less indepen-
dent and less imaginative,” she writes. “What those hungry brains require is freedom.” Consider the block. The universal, simple children’s toy has been reimagined endless times over the years: Think Legos, Duplo, Minecraft. “To understand what children can do,” Lange writes, “you need to give them tools and experiences that are open-ended, fungible: worlds of their own making.” Lange applies the same logic to other elements of a child’s life: Playgrounds should offer challenges and options. Planned communities should include communal spaces, access to mass transit and short commutes that support family time. This is a fascinating look at the world from a pint-size perspective.
THE RIGHT WORDS When I picked up Now Say This (TarcherPerigee, $16, 352 pages, ISBN 9780143130345) by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright, the subtitle seemed a little lofty: “The Right Words to Solve Every Parenting Dilemma.” Really? This book will tell me the right thing to say to a petulant toddler or a tired fifth-grader? As it turns out, though, these women really know their stuff, and they offer priceless tools to work with your child without losing your mind. Turgeon, a psychotherapist, and Wright, an early childhood expert, base their advice on this simple but effective model: prepare, attune, limit set, problem solve. For example, you need to leave the park, but your toddler is not on board. You prepare (let the child know these are the last few swings), attune (acknowledge the child doesn’t want to go because he’s having so much fun), limit set (explain it’s time to go because dinner is ready) and problem solve (offer to carry him or let him walk). This approach requires patience and practice, but then, isn’t that what parenting is all about?
The beating heart of the matter
amas Davis cares deeply about the integrity of animals’ lives. She is also a butcher. In her beautifully written memoir, Killing It, Davis makes it clear that these two aspects of her life can peacefully coexist. Davis’ lucid, striking prose recounts a life-altering journey that began when, directionless and brokenhearted, she booked a flight to France with the last of her funds to spend seven weeks learning how to be a butcher in Gascony.
I met up with Davis at an airy coffee shop in Portland, Oregon, where she now runs the Portland Meat Collective, a school where Davis and various chefs and butchers teach classes about responsible meat consumption. Using animals sourced from local and trustworthy farmers dedicated to raising animals humanely, the collective instructs the curious on slaughter, butchery and cooking practices. But the road to the Portland Meat Collective was a crooked one for Davis. Growing up in rural Oregon, Davis regularly went hunting and fishing with her father and grandfather, both avid outdoorsmen. “I wasn’t squeamish about dead fish or guts or plucking feathers from ducks,” she says. “It was just a part of how I thought about the world.” In her teens, however, the hunting and fishing fell by the wayside, and she eventually became a magazine editor and entered a long-term relationship with the man she
By Camas Davis
Penguin Press, $27, 352 pages ISBN 9781101980071, audio, eBook available
thought she would marry. “In my late 20s, early 30s, I was very orthodox. I worked for magazines, that was what I did, that was my career. I was going to do it forever.” And then it all fell apart. After leaving her relationship, she lost her job as a magazine editor in Portland. Davis was despondent, but she also realized that she was now free to do whatever she wanted, and what she truly longed for was authenticity—not to just write about the genuine article, but to live it. It was then that she decided to return to her childhood connection to land, life and death by exploring butchery. “I’ve sort of been fascinated with it for years, as a food writer,” she says. “I was always very excited to work on stories about butchers or about chefs who did butchery, or even just a cut of meat. For some reason, that subject matter felt like it had more of a story than a tomato—which is not true. A tomato has as much of an interesting story as anything else. But I guess the story of the tomato is much more accessible, and I’m always the person that’s like, ‘I want the inaccessible story.’” Staying with Kate Hill—an American living in France who hosts travelers on gastronomic journeys—on her compound in Gascony, Davis ventured out to find the inaccessible. She went to work for the Chapolard family on their farm, and it was with them that she found something she felt was truly authentic. The Chapolards raise their own pigs on grain they grow themselves, and they own a nearby co-op slaughterhouse. The family gathers together to butcher the animals, and they turn every part of the pigs into hams, loins and the more obscure delicacies that Amer-
icans balk at: head cheese, blood sausage, trotters. They then sell the products at market. Davis was enamored with their practices, but she doesn’t romanticize it. “There’s so much about the disappearance of the agrarian way in modern times. It’s now becoming this myth, this caricature,” she says. “There’s definitely this sort of nostalgic ideal of what a butcher is.” Davis makes it clear that there’s not much about butchery that is charming. “I really struggle with that in “I think, the work that generally, I do. I never we’re weirdly want to give afraid of food.” the impression that any of this is easy—that it’s easy to kill an animal, or that it’s easy to raise good meat, or that it’s easy to sell the whole animal.” But Davis is committed to bringing meat to the table that comes from animals that lived good lives and died as humanely as possible. It’s a serious matter, and Davis is a serious, deeply curious woman who is driven to poke at what others find unappealing. Like pig brains, for example. In Killing It, Davis reflects upon the brain from a pig’s skull that she’s just cleaved open: “So much of what we do is in the service of keeping opposing ideas at bay inside ourselves. Isn’t this what we’re doing when we eat meat without taking part in the process that brings it to our tables, without ever being required to stare back at the animal that made that meat possible?” To take part in this process is to grapple with a uniquely American wariness of food, in particular raw meat. “I think, generally, we’re
© CHERYL JUETTEN
I N T E R V I E W B Y L I LY M c L E M O R E
weirdly afraid of food [in America]. We’re afraid of what it will do to us, we’re afraid of how to use it in the kitchen, we’re afraid of where it comes from. And yet, we don’t really do anything about that fear.” Davis doesn’t shy away from that fear; she seeks it out and confronts it. She begins her memoir by recounting a pig slaughter, watching the life drain out of a 700-pound sow. “There’s a lot of assumptions we make about what that moment [of death] is like,” Davis explains, “and some of those assumptions are correct. It can be gruesome. It can be like horribly haphazard. It can be mechanized and scary. But it doesn’t have to be.” Davis surmises that a large part of Americans’ unease toward meat is ultimately wrapped up in the big fear: death. Davis wants to inspect that fear, handle it and understand the whole bloody mess of it. “Everything I’m writing about in this book about [the] death of animals for food is really just a larger metaphor for how we think about death in general, and the ways in which we hide all of that.” When asked about her favorite cut of meat, Davis’ answer comes as no surprise. “I tend to like the cuts that no one else likes. . . . They tend to be cuts that you have to cook for a long time or smoke or grill on indirect heat. The complex cuts.” In that same spirit, Killing It puts uncomfortable, complex truths out on the table, no matter what they are, and digs in.
GRAPHIC NOVELS & MEMOIRS BY LINDA M. CASTELLITTO
Draw me a story
aspects of the story open to readers’ imaginations. It’s scary stuff.
e reach for graphic novels and memoirs because we treasure the experience of art plus story, of exploring a world of finely crafted illustrations that convey multitudes. Each of these four new comic books is a treat for the eye and balm for the brain, thanks to a heady mix of perspectives and representations of life in all its scary, funny, illuminating, weird, joyful glory. Fans of Nicole J. Georges’ Lambda Award-winning graphic memoir, Calling Dr. Laura, will be thrilled she’s returned to form with Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home (Mariner, $17.95, 328 pages, ISBN 9780544577831). The book opens with a pooch’s 15th birthday party, where the dog lunges at two children. Initially, it seems “bad dog” is an accurate moniker, but as Georges winds back through time, it’s clear there’s more to the story. Teenage Georges adopted Beija as a gift for her then-boyfriend. When he left, the dog stayed, and Beija remains the author’s companion into adulthood. Their relationship is not without its (many) challenges: Beija is fearful and reactionary, and she gets in fights at the dog park. But then again, Georges chooses homes filled with noisy strangers and lets Beija offleash at said park. Via flashbacks, Georges introduces her loving but neglectful mother and macho stepfather, and as loneliness and anger become the author’s constant cohorts, the impetus for dubious choices becomes clearer. Happily, as a young adult, Georges finds her queer feminist vegan identity, learns to practice self-expression through art and thus becomes a better pack leader for Beija. Fetch does have the occasional crowded page and inelegant transition, which can make for a bumpy read. But overall, the art is wonderful, and the story is engaging
and heartwarming. It’s a moving chronicle of triumph over difficult beginnings and the struggle to find people, a place and pets that feel like home.
SURREALISM IN THE SKY Julian Hanshaw’s Cloud Hotel (Top Shelf, $19.99, 176 pages, ISBN 9781603094252) is a beautifully rendered and engrossingly weird work of autobiographical fiction inspired by the UFO that Hanshaw and his family encountered when he was a boy in Hertfordshire, England. Hanshaw’s titular hotel, a colossal, light-beaming rectangle with lots of rooms inside, is a place for kids who have gone missing in the woods. Remco is one of the lucky ones: Upon his return from his first journey to the sky, his beloved grandfather finds him in the woods. As pages turn and the hotel shifts and changes, Remco discovers he’s the only child who can move between the hotel and his regular life. Readers will wonder whether that’s a good thing as Hanshaw masterfully builds suspense and foreboding, prompting questions like: Where and when is the hotel? Who are the children? Is any of this real? Curious readers who like a trippy, absorbing story with touching family moments and a wondrous depiction of another reality will enjoy Cloud Hotel. And fans of Hanshaw’s previous work—like Tim Ginger, which was short-listed for the British Comics Award and
the Los Angeles Times Book Prize— will be ready to check right in.
MOVING MADCAPPERY About Betty’s Boob (Archaia, $29.99, 192 pages, ISBN 9781684151646) by Vero Cazot and Julie Rocheleau is a nearly wordless sequential narrative, but Betty’s voice surges off the page. When we first meet Betty, she howls with post-op fear and rage as she demands to be given back her just-removed left breast. She attempts to return to life as usual, gift-boxed synthetic breast in hand, but is frustrated at every turn—by a boss who insists all employees have two breasts (it’s in the contract!), a boyfriend who rejects her and a woman who tries to bite the apple that serves as a poignant yet functional prosthetic. This surreal
History and mystery, horror and grief, ghosts and memories all collide in Idle Days (First Second, $19.99, 272 pages, ISBN 9781626724587), a darkly dramatic, occasionally explosive tale written by Thomas Desaulniers-Brousseau and illustrated by Simon Leclerc. In Canada during World War II, Jerome is a military deserter hiding at his grandfather Maurice’s remote forest cabin. Jerome is angry about the war, restless in his isolation—and soon he becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to the people who lived in the cabin before his grandfather. Rumors of murder and suicide capture his attention as battlefield From Fetch. © Nicole J. Georges. Reproduced by permission of HMH. bloodshed haunts his dreams. He’s also mourning the story has cleverness and wit sprinrecent death of his father and striv- kled throughout, like the store that ing to elude capture, but “Wanted” sells “luxury breasts since 1973,” posters and radio broadcasts ensome of which cost “8008” euros. sure the war cannot be ignored. Ultimately, Betty strikes out on her Leclerc’s liberal use of black, red own, and through a sequence of and orange evokes fiery warmth, delightfully wild events featuring while his skillfully drawn, violent dancing, costumes, wigs and a daztableaux convey the horror and zling array of pasties, she finds acfear in Jerome’s memory and ceptance and a new identity within imagination. Idle Days’ title plays a boisterous burlesque troupe. on the aphorism, “Idle hands are The artwork is vibrant and kinetthe devil’s playthings,” and to be ic, and its depiction of goings-on sure, such days build to Jerome’s both fantastical and reality-bound reckoning with the past, accepis detailed and eminently appealtance of the present and a hint of ing. About Betty’s Boob is an inwhat might lie in the future. It’s an spiring, entertaining story of pain and grief transformed into joyful absorbing amalgam of imagery and story that’s far from wordy, as self-acceptance—societal expectaillustration-only pages leave many tions be damned.
T PI OP CK
of one woman’s struggles in a country that is rife with them. —J E F F V A S I S H T A
THE MASTERPIECE THREE THINGS ABOUT ELSIE
Little mysteries of a long life REVIEW BY CARLA JEAN WHITLEY
Florence isn’t sure what she would do without her lifelong best friend, Elsie. They’ve known each other since childhood, and now Elsie keeps 84-year-old Florence company at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. But right this moment Florence is alone. She’s fallen in her flat, and she’s waiting for someone to notice. While she waits, Florence reflects on her friend and their latest shenanigans. In Three Things About Elsie, Joanna Cannon (The Trouble with Goats and Sheep) intersperses Florence’s moments alone on her floor with recent Cherry Tree adventures and her recollections of days long gone. A new resident has moved into the home, and Florence is By Joanna Cannon convinced he’s the man who killed Elsie’s sister 60 years earlier—but Scribner, $26, 384 pages he also appears to be the man whose burial they watched many years ISBN 9781501187384, audio, eBook available ago after he drowned. The ladies and a fellow resident, Jack, set out on a mission to uncover the man’s true identity. Their adventures are POPULAR FICTION amusing and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. But there are serious moments, too. As the friends examine their pasts, Florence begins to recall moments she had forgotten—or perhaps blocked out. But her friends stand beside her through it. “You can’t define yourself by a single moment,” Jack reminds Florence. “That moment doesn’t make you who you are.” “Then what does?” Florence asks. “Oh, Florence. Everything else,” he says. “Everything else.” Cannon’s novel is a heartwarming meditation on friendship and the way people we love shape us for the rest of our days.
THIS MOURNABLE BODY By Tsitsi Dangarembga
Graywolf $16, 304 pages ISBN 9781555978129 Audio, eBook available WORLD FICTION
Writing an entire novel in the second person is quite an undertaking and often results in a claustrophobic read. But the construct works well in This Mournable Body with the reintroduction of Tambudzai Sigauke, a character who first appeared in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s debut novel, Nervous Conditions (1988). It’s clear that Tambudzai’s life has unraveled in the intervening years. She’s now middle-aged, single, living in a hostel without much money and desperately scheming
ways to move up the social ladder. At one point she considers trying to date one of her landlady’s sons. She views every other woman around her disparagingly and as competition. But it’s not just Tambudzai who gives women a hard time in this novel—it’s Zimbabwe itself. An attractive woman is sexually harassed by the passengers on a bus. A man who lives in Tambudzai’s hostel is a serial philanderer. And many of the female characters desire validation from men. In the midst of this, Tambudzai emerges as an unreliable narrator struggling with deeply entrenched issues. She goes to a club, where she mistakes a white woman for an ex-boss and verbally abuses her. She gets drunk and ends up unconscious in the street. After securing a job as a biology teacher (a position for which she is not qualified), she is fired after she
beats a student. But Tambudzai rallies two-thirds of the way through her story, as she is taken in by her family and given a job at a glamorous ecotourism business by her former boss. But when she is outshone by the receptionist, Tambudzai teeters once again on the brink of self-destruction. At times This Mournable Body is a difficult read. Tambudzai is a complex character, bitter and not particularly likable, with inner demons that threaten to derail her. But this is what makes the novel compelling—it’s unpredictable, and you can’t help but feel that Tambudzai is always about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Couple this with the complexity of Zimbabwe—political uncertainty, economic instability and a society that seems ready to attack itself—and Dangarembga has written an unflinching account
By Fiona Davis
Dutton $26, 368 pages ISBN 9781524742959 Audio, eBook available HISTORICAL FICTION
Fiona Davis has established herself as a master of historical settings and fictional recollections of those worlds. Her debut, The Dollhouse, pulled readers into a long-kept secret at New York City’s Barbizon Hotel for Women. Davis’ sophomore effort, The Address, explored Manhattan’s Dakota apartment building and the lives lived there, separated by a century. And with The Masterpiece, Davis shows yet again that New York’s historic structures are apt settings for intrigue. Grand Central Terminal once served not only as a temple of travel but also as the home for the Grand Central School of Art, where (mostly male) artists lived bohemian lives with the prestigious school at their center. In Davis’ story, a sole female teacher, Clara Darden, struggles to make her way as an artist in a decisively male-dominated world. She sees some success as an illustrator, but there’s no trace of Clara after 1931. Some 35 years later, the terminal is no longer the architectural masterpiece it once was. After her divorce, single mother Virginia Clay finds temporary work at Grand Central’s information booth. The job begins as a way to stay afloat, but when Virginia stumbles upon the art school, abandoned in 1944, she becomes obsessed with both learning its history and saving the transportation hub in which it resides. Davis expertly switches between the lives of Clara and Virginia, weaving their struggles for independence and security with Grand Central’s history. Readers will be drawn into the lives of these re-
reviews markable women—and, alongside Virginia, into the mystery of what happened to Clara. —CARLA JEAN WHITLEY
THE THIRD HOTEL By Laura van den Berg FSG $26, 224 pages ISBN 9780374168353 eBook available LITERARY FICTION
How well can one know oneself? Laura van den Berg’s eerie yet compelling second novel, The Third Hotel, explores this question with a clanging loneliness, like a wrench falling down an elevator shaft. Clare, troubled and newly widowed, travels to Havana, Cuba, for a horror film festival that her late husband had planned to attend. From the onset, everything is strange, creating a bleak space between Clare and the reader. Just when the reader starts to question Clare’s reliability as a narrator, Clare spots Richard, her dead husband, in the streets of Havana. She follows him and spies on him for several days, but she’s less like a devastated lover who can’t believe her eyes and more like a cool and distant voyeur. She follows him to a resort (or is it a mental health facility?), where they have a literal post-mortem on their relationship that leaves Clare grappling with the reality of her role in their marriage. A major theme of this slim novel is mystery: the nature of Richard’s hit-and-run death; the contents of a simple package he left behind; the actuality of the man Clare is following in Havana. Did she find Richard, or someone who looks like Richard, or is she just imagining him altogether? All the alternatives seem equally plausible through van den Berg’s adeptly disorienting storytelling. An equally important theme is the undead, whether it be Richard, zombies in the festival’s films or inescapable memories that dig their way to the surface. Clare is so aloof that it’s hard to
FICTION picture her ever connecting with Richard in the past, though van den Berg supplies occasional flashbacks that reveal their somewhat joyous union. A little slow to start, the pace picks up in the second half as clues planted by the author come full circle. The Third Hotel is a chilly, thought-provoking study of loss, loneliness and life after death. —LESLIE HINSON
overtures and dalliances, she finds herself alternately attracted to and angered by none other than the big-box developer, Elliot. Readers with a sweet tooth and a passion for dogs are sure to enjoy The Late Bloomers’ Club. It’s a charming tale of life in a small town populated by good people struggling to make ends meet and refusing to relinquish the pastoral beauty of their rural hometown. —KAREN ANN CULLOTTA
THE LATE BLOOMERS’ CLUB By Louise Miller
Pamela Dorman $26, 336 pages ISBN 9781101981238 Audio, eBook available POPULAR FICTION
Considering that author Louise Miller (The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living) is a Boston-based pastry chef, it should come as no surprise that her second novel, The Late Bloomers’ Club, includes a recipe for Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Icing. The heroine of Miller’s second novel, Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner, makes her living serving up comfort food to locals and visitors alike in a small town in rural Vermont that finds itself at the crossroads of preserving tradition and embracing economic development. Peppered with a cast of characters that includes Nora’s younger sister Kit, Kit’s significant other (both aspiring filmmakers) and an assortment of working-class heroes, the novel unfolds after the town’s beloved “cake lady,” Peggy Johnson, dies in a car crash. Peggy, whose property is targeted for a big-box development, has left behind a will designating Nora as the beneficiary of her estate—a gesture that proves both a boon and a burden to the cash-strapped Nora, who soon finds herself torn between loyalty to the residents of Guthrie and the prospect of financial freedom. As Nora navigates between searching for Peggy’s lost dog, Freckles, who fled after the crash, and sidestepping her ex-husband’s
RUST & STARDUST By T. Greenwood
St. Martin’s $26.99, 368 pages ISBN 9781250164193 Audio, eBook available COMING OF AGE
All Sally Horner wanted was to fit in with the cool girls at school. What she got instead was two years of harrowing captivity at the hands of a sexual predator. Author T. Greenwood recounts Sally’s real-life plight in Rust & Stardust, a shocking crime novel about the famous real-life 1948 abduction that inspired Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and the film that followed. Eleven-year-old Sally’s effort to make friends goes awry when the other girls tell her she must steal something from a local pharmacy. When she does, she’s immediately caught by Frank LaSalle, a man who purports to be an FBI agent and threatens to arrest her if she doesn’t do as he says. Sally believes LaSalle intends to take her before a judge, and LaSalle in turn poses as the father of one of the other girls and convinces Sally’s mother to allow her to accompany his family to Atlantic City for a weeklong vacation. So begins nearly two years of lies and torment as LaSalle absconds with Sally, traveling from state to state in an effort to elude the law. As the novel is told in large part through Sally’s youthful perspective, it is easy to see how she is so easily duped by an adult who professes to be first an officer of the
law and later her long-lost father. Readers will sympathize with Sally’s tragic plight while being revolted by LaSalle’s predatory instinct as he sexually exploits her. Greenwood reportedly spent more than two years researching Sally’s abduction and years drafting Rust & Stardust. The result is an unflinching portrait of a vile criminal and his helpless victim. What is perhaps just as vivid is how sexual predators today continue to mirror the exact methods LaSalle used to usurp Sally’s will—and body—with empty promises, gifts and eventually threats. —G. ROBERT FRAZIER
BABY, YOU’RE GONNA BE MINE By Kevin Wilson
Ecco $26.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780062450524 Audio, eBook available SHORT STORIES
Tolstoy would have approved: In the short story collection Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine, Kevin Wilson (The Family Fang) finds an impressively wide-ranging assortment of punishments to make 10 different families uniquely unhappy. Yet it’s a thrill to read these stories, proving yet again that even bleak material can be exciting in the hands of a great storyteller. A summary of the tales in this collection might make you think the book is depressing overall. “A Visit” features an adult daughter returning to her childhood home after an intruder assaults her 82-year-old mother. In “A Signal to the Faithful,” an altar boy faints during church services. A couple’s 8-month-old son disappears in “The Lost Baby.” And in the book’s grisliest and best story, “Wildfire Johnny,” a man finds an ivory-handled razor that allows him to travel 24 hours back in time whenever he uses it to cut his own throat. Children fare especially poorly in these often-macabre tales, all of them set in and around Tennessee. Among the suffering children are the siblings in “Scroll Through the
FICTION Weapons” who live in squalor and whose mother has been arrested for stabbing her husband with a kebab skewer. What makes Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine moving rather than lurid is Wilson’s compassion for his characters and his beautiful writing. He has a gift for heartbreaking detail, as when he mentions a box marked “Winter Coats” that contains the possessions of a grieving mother’s dead child. Despite the bleakness of these stories, there are glimmers of hope, or at least determination, as when one character says he’ll do what he can to “protect us from anything that tried to convince us that we would not live forever in happiness.” It’s a wise sentiment from a nuanced book. —MICHAEL MAGRAS
HOW TO BE FAMOUS By Caitlin Moran
Harper $26.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780062433770 Audio, eBook available COMIC FICTION
him with the power of her prose. Once she’s resigned to do this, things start to happen quickly for Dolly, and she must learn to deal with fame and infamy while also reaching out for the only person she’s really trying to touch. How to Be Famous lives or dies based on Moran’s ability to render Dolly as an enchanting, vulnerable and hilarious guide through the mid-1990s London music scene, and Dolly’s charm immediately jumps off the page. Dolly is at once bitingly witty and achingly open, not just to the reader but also to the world she’s trying to find her place in, and it sets a tone that makes you both root for her and anticipate her next misadventure. That might be enough to carry the novel on its own, but Moran doesn’t stop there. Her ambition, like Dolly’s, is to weave into this tale a kind of feminist manifesto that tackles love and sex, as well as the fine line between girlhood and womanhood. She succeeds throughout but keeps you waiting for the final, unforgettable exclamation point at the book’s hysterical climax. —MATTHEW JACKSON
Caitlin Moran has a gift—in both short- and long-form writing, in both fiction and nonfiction—that hits like magic when it lands in the lap of the right reader. It’s a rare, mesmerizing talent to simultaneously move a reader and make them laugh so hard they risk falling out of their chair. In How to Be Famous, Moran’s follow-up to How to Build a Girl, she works that magic again. Moran reunites readers with Johanna Morrigan, a teenager from the Midlands of England who moves to London to further her music journalism career as Dolly Wilde. Once there, she is swept up in a world of rock stars, comedians, parties and in particular John Kite, a newly famous musician with whom she is madly in love. Though they’re close, her love is not returned at first, and through a series of adventures Dolly becomes convinced that the way to draw John closer to her is to write her own way to stardom and seduce
THE LINE THAT HELD US By David Joy
Putnam $27, 272 pages ISBN 9780399574221 Audio, eBook available THRILLER
and each new lie spirals out of control. Joy presents Darl Moody, a stereotypical Southern-by-thegrace-of-God country boy, whose hunting expedition in the backwoods of North Carolina goes Blood is awry when he spilled and shoots and kills Carol Brewer, revenge is another local inevitable yokel who was in David scavenging Joy’s darkly the forest for ginseng. Realengrossing izing what he’s third novel. done and not wanting to risk facing the law, Darl enlists the aid of lifelong best friend Calvin Hooper to secretly bury Carol’s body. After Carol’s brother, Dwayne, discovers his brother is missing, it’s only a matter of time before he uncovers the truth. Of course, Dwayne has his own sense of justice—one that doesn’t involve the police—and neither Darl nor Calvin can escape his wrath. Calvin, meanwhile, wrestles with his sense of loyalty to Darl and his guilty conscience. The law ultimately gets into the fray, but far too late to keep the impending violence at bay and the body count from stacking up. Joy has been heralded for his ability to craft a powerful sense of place in his previous novels (Where All Light Tends to Go and The Weight of This World). He does so again in The Line That Held Us, bringing the Appalachian region and lifestyle to life. But it is his unforgettable characters and their moral dilemmas that will stay with you in the end.
The plot of David Joy’s third novel, The Line That Held Us, is simple: A man accidentally kills an—G. ROBERT FRAZIER other man and tries to cover it up with the help of a friend, while the THE SHAKESPEARE REQUIREMENT murdered man’s brother seeks vengeance on them. The complexity of By Julie the novel comes in Joy’s evocative Schumacher language, his unforgettable charDoubleday acters and how he weaves themes $25.95, 320 pages of family, friendship and justice ISBN 9780385542340 eBook available throughout this darkly engrossing Southern crime noir. SATIRICAL FICTION The novel’s bleak chain of events evokes memories of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Fargo, in which one ill-adPoor Jason Fitger. In Dear vised decision leads to another, Committee Members, Julie Schum-
acher’s hilarious 2014 novel, Fitger is a tenured professor of English at the second-rate Payne University, where he has a dingy office by the bathroom, writes sardonic letters of recommendation and gripes about the school’s political in-fighting. Life isn’t much better in The Shakespeare Requirement, Schumacher’s entertaining follow-up. Fitger is now the department chair, to the faculty’s dismay. That’s not his only problem: The university has renovated Willard Hall, but only for the Economics department, which now enjoys hot-and-cold water fountains and an espresso bar. English is stuck in the dilapidated lower floors, where Fitger has a “barbarically hot” office with “fossilized apple cores” under his desk and wasps in the windows. That isn’t indignity enough for Roland Gladwell, the Economics chair. He wants to get rid of the English department entirely, so he convinces Phil Hinckler, dean of the university and Fitger’s ex-wife’s boyfriend, to let him chair a quality-assessment program that he hopes will help achieve his goal. One of the ways English can survive is by submitting an acceptable Statement of Vision. This, too, poses problems, as the proposed statement eliminates the requirement that all students take a Shakespeare course, a change that infuriates the department’s Shakespeare scholar and becomes a cause célèbre among the student body. The novel includes many colorful characters, among them Fitger’s assistant, Fran, who’d much rather be an animal behavior consultant, and Angela Vackray, a freshman who gets into trouble with a boy from her Bible study. Schumacher’s humor can be broad—a centenary celebration is called “One Hundred Years of Payne”—but the book has more laugh-out-loud lines than most novels, and she wields cutting remarks that are as sharp as ever. The Shakespeare Requirement is a bitter delight, perhaps, but a delight nonetheless. —MICHAEL MAGRAS
T PI OP CK
phorical.” Tangier will ultimately become a model of how the U.S. handles rising sea levels for cities and communities up and down the Eastern Seaboard. —BECKY LIBOUREL DIAMOND
The damage done REVIEW BY ALICE CARY
Dopesick is no doubt the hardest book that award-winning journalist Beth Macy (Truevine, Factory Man) has written, and it left this reviewer in tears. Macy spent six years following families affected by the opioid epidemic in and around her adopted hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, and she begins by noting that several interviewees died before this book was published. It’s a heart-wrenching and thorough treatise on the national crisis that everyone knows about, but few deeply understand. Macy addresses a wealth of complex issues in her engaging, spitfire prose, such as the difficulties of rehab and disagreements about the benefits of 12-step programs versus medication-assisted treatment. Macy is a masterful storyteller, and Dopesick is full of unforgettable stories, including those of policemen, caregivers, prosecutors and a By Beth Macy dope dealer named Ronnie Jones. Little, Brown, $28, 384 pages Macy traces the origins of the crisis, which was perpetuated by ISBN 9780316551243, audio, eBook available Purdue Pharma, a company owned by one of the richest families in America. Purdue went from “selling earwax remover and laxatives SOCIAL SCIENCE to the most lucrative drug in the world”—prescription opioids they claimed were not addictive. As one Virginia lawyer aptly notes, “the victims were getting jail time instead of the people who caused it.” Dopesick is dedicated to the memory of 10 opioid victims. Their stories and those of their surviving families form the heart of this book. There’s Jesse Bolstridge, a 19-year-old high school football star, and “blond and breezy” 21-year-old Scott Roth, who “looked like one of the Backstreet Boys.” Macy herself wasn’t immune to the heartache, admitting that there “were times that journalistic boundaries blurred,” especially when it came to the lively and likable young mother Tess Henry, whom Macy interviewed during drives to Henry’s Narcotics Anonymous meetings for several months. There are no easy fixes, of course. Macy writes, “America’s approach to its opioid problem is to rely on Battle of Dunkirk strategies—leaving the fight to well-meaning citizens, in their fishing vessels and private boats—when what’s really needed to win the war is a full-on Normandy Invasion.” It’s indeed time to storm the beaches, and Dopesick is a moving, must-read analysis of a national crisis.
CHESAPEAKE REQUIEM By Earl Swift
Dey Street $28.99, 448 pages ISBN 9780062661395 Audio, eBook available ENVIRONMENT
Scientists are finding that climate change has many ramifications, including stronger storms, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels. It is this last factor that is directly impacting tiny Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia. Predicted to succumb to
rising tides within 50 years, the island will likely become America’s first climate change victim, forcing its longtime residents to abandon their beloved home. In Chesapeake Requiem, journalist Earl Swift recounts his experiences living on Tangier for a year, tracing its history, getting a firsthand look at the environmental impact on the island and discovering what makes the islanders tick. Tangier is just 1.3 square miles, and an area in the northernmost tip of the island has already largely disappeared. As Swift notes, “the lower Chesapeake’s relative sea level rise—the one-two punch of water coming up and land going down—is among the highest on
earth.” As a result, “the island is slumping, actually subsiding into the earth’s crust.” With a history that dates back to the 17th century, Tangier’s residents are a tight-knit community of hardworking, resilient individuals, most of them devout Christians. Their main source of income is crabbing, an expertise that has evolved over the past two centuries. So there is much at stake for them if the island disappears—not only their homes but their lifestyles and livelihoods, too. Swift details both the joys and difficulties of life on Tangier, coming to the realization that its sinking situation makes it “an island both literal and meta-
NINETY-NINE GLIMPSES OF PRINCESS MARGARET By Craig Brown
FSG $28, 432 pages ISBN 9780374906047 Audio, eBook available BIOGRAPHY
It’s all in good fun for an American to wake up early for Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding or to binge-watch “The Crown.” But it doesn’t seem like it’s very much fun to be a royal, especially on a hot summer’s day while wearing pantyhose. Before Fergie and Diana, Princess Margaret was the original unhappy princess. Margaret was Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister, the more glamorous and mischievous of the pair, whose love for Group Captain Peter Townsend was so cruelly thwarted. In Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret, award-winning journalist Craig Brown offers an acerbic biography of the starcrossed princess, one that is hilarious and bittersweet in turns. The chief biographical events of Margaret’s life—her doomed affair with Townsend, her unhappy marriage to Tony Snowden, her taste for bohemia and louche ’70s vacations on the Caribbean island of Mustique—are told with a postmodern flair. All of these stories have been told countless times already, and Brown rather brilliantly parses the different accounts for what they tell us about the teller. Brown considers all the angles of many apocryphal stories, especially the ribald ones. All of this makes for a surprisingly substantial page-turner. Brown’s gift for satire is tempered with a genuinely humane portrayal of the emptiness of the princess’s life. Yes, she was a ruthless snob and an
NONFICTION appalling dinner guest, but what else? If she became a caricature of herself in later life, it was—as Brown suggests—because her act mirrored the ridiculous behavior of her aristocratic groupies. Brown’s book is highly recommended for all American royal-watchers. —CATHERINE HOLLIS
THE CUT OUT GIRL By Bart van Es
Penguin Press $28, 304 pages ISBN 9780735222243 eBook available MEMOIR
century—with its liberal outlook and high-tech industries—with the far more rural and traditional Netherlands of the 1940s. He also notes the country’s complicated role in the Holocaust: While the Dutch were often heroic in their efforts to hide or transport Jews, they were also frighteningly efficient in turning Jews in to Nazi authorities. And though Lien isn’t named as a co-author, her own voice and the story of her survival, not just of the war but also of the decades afterward, come through clearly.
the title of your new book? Q: What’s
Q: Describe the book in one sentence.
one thing everyone should know about Yuba City, Q: What’s California?
—SARAH McCRAW CROW
THE DEATH OF TRUTH By Michiko Kakutani
“I had always known that my grandparents sheltered Jewish children during the German occupation of the Netherlands,” Bart van Es writes in The Cut Out Girl. Growing up, van Es remembers hearing of a girl named Lien, who was taken in by his grandparents and hidden from the Nazis. She eventually became a member of the family, until a never-discussed rift severed the connection. In 2014, the senior member of van Es’ family died, setting him on a quest to find out what happened to Lien. To tell this story, the Dutch-born van Es, who teaches Renaissance literature at the University of Oxford, alternates between the present and World War II. The narration of the war years has a novelistic feel and takes on the viewpoint of Lien as a child. This method works well to convey the trauma Lien felt after losing her parents. She was shuttled from town to town and family to family without explanation, and she endured deprivation and abuse. The present-day sections of the book describe van Es’ meetings with the 80-year-old Lien, his retracing of her hiding places and his research, which fills the gaps in her memory. The book also makes wonderful use of Lien’s childhood poesy book (a kind of autograph book) and family photos and mementos. Van Es sets scenes well, contrasting the Netherlands of the 21st
meet GUY BRANUM
Tim Duggan $22, 208 pages ISBN 9780525574828 Audio, eBook available
are three books that influenced you as a young Q: What reader?
When Michiko Kakutani ended her tenure of nearly 35 years as a Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic with the New York Times in July 2017, she announced her intention to “focus on longer pieces about politics and culture.” If The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, her fiery takedown of the culture of lies personified by the presidency of Donald Trump is any indication, her voice soon may become as influential in the world of politics as it was in literary culture. Kakutani covers ground that will be painfully familiar to regular readers of her former paper or the Washington Post. Unlike conventional political commentators, however, she digs deeper to seek out the “roots of falsehood in the Trump era.” It’s here that her immersion in literature provides a fresh perspective on our current dilemma: Kakutani lays some portion of the blame on postmodernism, with its “philosophical repudiation of objectivity,” expressed most clearly in the work of Jacques Derrida and other deconstructionists, who posited that there was “no such thing as truth.”
your proudest accomplishment? Q: What’s
What three things would you want with you on a desert Q: island?
Q: Words to live by? MY LIFE AS A GODDESS In the hilarious and poignant My Life as a Goddess: A Memoir Through (Un)Popular Culture (Atria, $26, 288 pages, ISBN 9781501170225), comedian Guy Branum finds humor and inspiration in his search for belonging. Branum’s delightful stories cover everything from the truth about Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the real meaning of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Branum is an accomplished TV writer, podcast host and host of the very funny “Talk Show the Game Show” on truTV.
Ness, has become an American myth. In Scarface and the Untouchable, the latest narrative of their convergence—which played out primarily on the streets of Prohibition-era Chicago—Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz go into great detail to present the day-to-day realities that made this law-versus-lawless conflict so colorful, violent and headline-grabbing. Both Capone and Ness were the sons of immigrants, and both were equally animated by ambition. Capone showed his viciousness and enterprise early, while Ness was a late bloomer who took time out for college before drifting into law enforcement. But Ness’ childhood fascination with Sherlock Holmes foretold an enthusiasm for evidence gathering and “the chase.” After he became famous, Ness assumed Sherlockian importance of his own by serving as the model for the cartoon crime buster Dick Tracy. —HARVEY FREEDENBERG In spite of creating a bootlegging empire and ordering a string FLY GIRLS of murders, Capone was finally convicted and jailed for mere tax By Keith O’Brien evasion. Ness did his part to bring HMH / Eamon Dolan down Capone by relentlessly raid$28, 352 pages ing his breweries, thus eroding his ISBN 9781328876645 economic base. Although the two Audio, eBook available never had a face-to-face confronHISTORY tation, Ness was on hand to help escort Capone to prison. The repeal of Prohibition did little to dismantle the criminal organizations like Capone’s that it brought into The thrills of air racing, so popbeing. It did, however, coincide ular in the 1920s and ’30s, are now with the end of Capone’s career. mostly forgotten, along with the names of the aviators who risked — P R I S C I L L A K I P P Straight-shooter Ness would move on to clean up the Cleveland, Ohio, their lives for huge crowds, threepolice department and, two years foot trophies and, of course, the SCARFACE AND THE UNTOUCHABLE after his death, come to life again cash prizes. Lost with them was the as the central figure in the televistory of the “Powder Puffs,” women By Max Allan who defied the time’s rampant genCollins and A. Brad sion crime series “The Untouchables.” der discrimination and triumphed Schwartz The scholarship displayed in in (or plummeted from) the sky. Morrow Scarface and the Untouchable is Of these pioneer breakers of the $29.99, 736 pages extraordinary, probing deeply into ultimate glass ceiling, perhaps only ISBN 9780062441942 the activities, interrelationships one name has stayed familiar: the Audio, eBook available and mindsets of the many princibeloved and doomed Amelia EarTRUE CRIME pal characters. Publicity-seeking hart. Keith O’Brien’s spectacularly Capone is especially well-drawn. detailed Fly Girls: How Five Daring The collision of celebrated mob- The graft-ridden but vibrant city of Women Defied All Odds and Made ster Al “Scarface” Capone and his Chicago achieves character status Aviation History changes all that, larger-than-life nemesis, Prohibias well. re-creating a world that can still tion agent Eliot “The Untouchable” inspire us today. —EDWARD MORRIS Though Trump likely isn’t familiar with these literary theories, Kakutani argues that, in coining terms like “fake news” and “alternative facts,” his allies are cynically employing the same notion of subjectivity to advance their political agenda. Aided by the right-wing media and highly effective Russian internet trolls, they’ve capitalized on America’s increasing tribalism and skepticism of traditional sources of expertise, employing “language as a tool to disseminate distrust and discord.” As she envisions the inevitable post-Trump era, Kakutani is not optimistic. If there’s any hope of recovering from this relentless onslaught of falsehood, it will only come about through the efforts of an engaged citizenry, insistent on respect for our institutions and, above all, for the truth. Some of the critical information to fuel that engagement can be found in these pages.
Meet Louise Thaden, a married mother of two; Ruth Elder, a beautiful Alabama divorcée; Ruth Nichols, a woman unhappily born into wealth; and Florence Klingensmith, whose promising aviation career ended in tragedy. True resisters, they were empowered by their recently gained right to vote and inspired by aviation’s rising popularity. Charles Lindbergh’s recent solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1927 was an achievement that begged for a female challenger, and it had one soon enough. O’Brien keeps a sharp eye on the planes as well. The flimsily built early aircraft regularly lost their wings, shed their wheels and exploded in flames, sometimes miraculously leaving their pilots alive and eager to fly again. Men found financial support—and better planes—much easier to come by than women, who routinely faced reporters asking why they weren’t at home cooking dinner. Elder and Klingensmith tried to dodge the husband question, while Earhart allowed her husband, prominent New York publisher George P. Putnam, to be her relentless PR man who “probably saved her from becoming a nice old maid.” The women of aviation were “friendly enemies,” competing for speed and distance records while supporting each other on the ground and in the air. Known collectively as the Ninety Nines, they encouraged young women to aim high. As Earhart said, a woman’s place “is wherever her individual aptitude places her.”
MAEVE IN AMERICA By Maeve Higgins Penguin $16, 256 pages ISBN 9780143130161 eBook available HUMOR
You don’t have to get far into Maeve in America, a volume of essays by Irish-born comedian Maeve Higgins, to start laughing. The book’s dedication, to the author’s seven nieces and nephews, reads: “You think I am your aunt, but really I am your mother.” The 15 essays in this wonderful collection recount Higgins’ adventures—and misadventures—as she goes about “the endlessly tricky business of being a regular human being.” Higgins plunges into her life in New York, where she’s lived for several years. She reflects on parties, Manhattan summers and the differences in small talk in Ireland and America. Dogs also merit an essay. “Rescue animals are prized possessions in New York,” Higgins tells us. “It seems the older and sicker your animal is, the richer and greater you are.” Higgins’ essays sparkle with humor and wry observations. But as she puts it, “[t]he sliver of shared space between comedy and tragedy is one that fascinates me.” And so Higgins lets us see into the shadows—of her life and perhaps our own. She speaks of “the lowness of loneliness” and how it sneaks up at unexpected moments. She explores the terrain of friendships and failures, and writes about immigration, past and present. In an essay entitled “Are You My Husband?” Higgins speculates on the qualities of the perfect mate. “I want him to be funny but also stable, maybe like a successful ophthalmologist who crosses his own eyes when he tells you to follow his pen.” We can wish Higgins good luck in her quest for a mate, and savor our own good luck that she has followed her pen. —DEBORAH HOPKINSON
We all scream for Fear Street
illions of readers delight in R.L. Stine’s delightfully sinister, subversive world, whether they’re teens experiencing his spooky stories for the first time, millennials for whom his books figure prominently in their misty memories of 1990s childhoods or anyone who’s checked out his hilariously weird Twitter feed.
Sure, he’s the acclaimed author of more than 350 books—including the uber-popular Goosebumps series—that feature kids and teens in all kinds of spooky situations. But he’s also a grandfather who started writing picture books (two so far, with Marc Brown, the creator of Arthur) in hopes of making a literary connection with his grandson. There’s still hope that Dylan, who’s only 4, will read Stine’s books one day, but there’s perhaps not so much hope for Matt, Dylan’s father and Stine’s 30-something son, who has never read a single one of his father’s novels. “He bragged about it in the New York Times . . . even though he was the right age for Goosebumps and everything,” Stine says during a call to his Manhattan home. “That’s how you get Dad! He knew it would make me crazy.” Stine doesn’t dwell on it, probably because he got the last laugh: “I wrote a Fear Street book about him called Goodnight Kiss . It’s a vampire novel, and the main
RETURN TO FEAR STREET: YOU MAY NOW KILL THE BRIDE
By R.L. Stine
HarperTeen, $9.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780062694256, audio, eBook available
character is based on him. . . . In the very last paragraph, he gets bitten on the neck!” On the flip side, Stine’s wife, Jane, has read every word of every book, thanks to her role as his editor and life partner since 1969. Obviously, the two have a good thing going: Stine published his first teen horror novel, Blind Date, in 1986 and now has over 350 million books in print worldwide that are beloved by readers of all ages. His new book, the highly anticipated “I think Return to horror’s funny. Fear Street: It’s part of the You May Now Kill the Bride, appeal for kicks off the me.” revival of his Fear Street series, which has lain dormant for 20 years. For those new to the Fear Street series, here’s a quick rundown: The books are set in the fictional town of Shadyside, and the teens who live there encounter all sorts of paranormal, murderous and generally terrifying goings-on. Fear Street is named after the Fear family, who have experienced years of strange and spine-chilling misery. The deliciously creepy You May Now Kill the Bride is centered on two Fear family weddings, one in 1923 and one in the present day. In both eras, there are two sisters: One is a happy soon-to-be wife, while the other hides her interest in the dark arts. Mystery, betrayal and twisty family ties combine in a suspenseful tale that explores whether a family’s gruesome past is destined to poison their present. Stine says You May Now Kill the Bride “may be the best book I’ve written in a long time. For one thing, it’s two time periods, and it all ties beautifully together. At first it’s confusing—you can’t really fig-
ure it out. I like this one.” And with a title that so blatantly subverts the classic wedding-vow line, readers know You May Now Kill the Bride will be as funny as it is thrilling. Devoted Stine readers won’t be surprised that this horror-humor combo is central to his writing. In fact, Stine wrote humor books for kids and created teen humor magazine Bananas in the 1970s and ’80s, before creating Fear Street. “I think horror’s funny,” Stine says. “It’s part of the appeal for me.” The author clearly delights in eliciting opposing emotions: “You know when you sneak up on someone and say ‘Boo!’—first, they jump, then they’re scared, and then they laugh. Horror and humor are so close together.” Stine has clearly had a prolific and varied writing career outside of Fear Street. He says that his prolific output is all about planning ahead, rather than waiting for inspiration to strike. “When I start to write a book, I know everything that’s going to happen. I do all the thinking in the outline, all the twists and all chapter endings,” he says. “For me, it just makes the writing so much easier. “The writers who go into a school, do an assembly and say to write from the heart, write your passion, write what you know . . . the kids who listen to them will never write a word,” he says. “I’ve written 350 books, and not one has come from my heart, not a single one. It’s true! They’re all written to entertain people, for people to enjoy and have fun. But you don’t have to write from the heart.” That sort of pragmatism and drive may come easier to some
© DAN NELKEN
INTERVIEW BY LINDA M. CASTELLITTO
than others, he concedes, although he’s been this way for as long as he can remember. “[Writing] is the only thing I’m good at . . . and it’s the only thing I wanted to do from when I was 9 years old.” Telling stories may have been Stine’s destiny, but ironically, the Goosebumps series—with more than 60 titles, plus multiple spinoff series and a TV show—was never part of his plan. “I have terrible instincts!” he says. “My wife and her business partner at Parachute Press said no one’s ever done a scary series for 7- to 12-year-olds, and we should try it. I said no way. I didn’t want to mess up Fear Street. Can you imagine? They kept after me, so I said alright, if I can think of a good name for the series, we can try two or three. Here it is, 25 years later!” In addition to writing hundreds of scary tales, Stine’s been taking his brand of delightfully sinister entertainment on the road for years, speaking to school groups and fans of all ages. “I’m so lucky I can go out and talk to people,” he says, adding, “In Green Bay, Wisconsin, we had 1,800 kids come, fourth- and fifth-graders. They filled the auditorium, three balconies, all kids. I got them all screaming at once. It was a great, great sound. The teachers hated it! It was really fun.”
I AM STILL ALIVE
If you ask me, there’s no better time to read a good old-fashioned survival story than at the height of summer, when long, lazy days and warm nights might make readers long for some heart-pounding humans-versus-wilderness drama. Kate Alice Marshall’s I Am Still Alive certainly fits the bill, though there’s really nothing old-fashioned about it, since its themes and structures are boldly contemporary. The novel’s first half is divided into alternating sections titled “Before” and “After,” as 16-year-old Jess Cooper recounts how and why she came to live in a remote area of Canada with her estranged father, and how she’s been surviving in the days since his sudden murder and the destruction of everything that had been keeping her small family alive in this beautiful but unforgiving place. By Kate Alice Marshall By the time these two timelines merge midway through the novel, Viking, $17.99, 336 pages readers are bound to be thoroughly invested in Jess’ survival, made ISBN 9780425290989, eBook available even more harrowing due to a painful disability that forces Jess to work Ages 12 and up twice as hard—and be at least twice as smart—as someone with two fully functioning legs. I Am Still Alive is full of the kinds of backcounFICTION try details that will intrigue fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet and its ilk, from finding and killing food to making shelter, and there’s plenty of high-stakes conflict with humans and animals alike. But Marshall’s thrilling tale is also a deeply moving story Visit BookPage.com to read about coming to terms with imperfections (both in oneself and in otha Q&A with Kate Alice Marshall. ers) and about finding true resourcefulness and inner strength.
By Katie Henry
Katherine Tegen $17.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780062698872 Audio, eBook available Ages 13 and up FICTION
starred review, on The Black Witch
Survival and reinvention REVIEW BY NORAH PIEHL
“Rich, diverse, Potter-worthy.”
★ “A rich alternative universe.”
T PI OP CK
YA CAN’T MISS
“Heretics are usually true believers. The only thing more dangerous than someone who doesn’t care about the rules is someone who does—and wants to break them anyway.” So begins 16-year-old Michael’s introduction to a secret underground club at St. Clare’s—his exclusive new Catholic school— known as Heretics Anonymous. Michael’s career-driven father has recently uprooted the family yet again—thus breaking his promise
6/26/18 6:27 PM
to Michael and his younger sister, Sophia—and has insisted on sending Michael to St. Clare’s for his junior year. As an avowed atheist, Michael has a bumpy start at the school as he tries to navigate Catholic traditions, but he fits in well with the other misfits in the club: a Jewish kid, a Wiccan and a girl named Lucy who wants to become a Catholic priest. At first, Heretics Anonymous meetings serve as a place for the teens to complain about St. Clare’s restrictive rules. But at Michael’s urging, the club begins to take on an activist role. The Heretics secretly interrupt the annual abstinence assembly with a video that contains facts about sexual health, and later they encourage their fellow students to creatively interpret the school’s dress code. The Heretics’ high jinks provide Michael with a distraction from his home life: His father is perpetually away on business, and when he is
home, he and Michael are constantly at odds, and his mother’s attempts to keep her family together grate on Michael. In the meantime, the Heretics attend their share of awkward teen parties, and Michael and Lucy begin to act on their simmering attraction to one another. But soon the club starts to get out of hand. At what point do the Heretics’ protests do more harm than good? And has Michael been drawing the wrong conclusions about his father all along? Debut author Katie Henry writes with a deep respect for the religious beliefs her characters simultaneously adore and eschew. Lucy’s devotion to a tradition that will never meet her expectations is particularly sensitively drawn. Pick up this funny yet thoughtful young adult novel if you’re ready to question your own assumptions about family, friendship and faith. —J I L L R A T Z A N
BACK TO SCHOOL BY JULIE HALE
Ready, set, it’s time for school
he end of summer signals the start of something big: a new school year! To get little readers ready for what lies ahead, try one of these five picture books that capture the infectious energy of the back-to-school season and offer loads of encouragement, inspiration and fun. Coaxing anxious students into the classroom proves to be a challenge in Mae’s First Day of School (Abrams, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9781419723254, ages 3 to 7) by Kate Berube. Mae is less than excited about the start of school. She crawls under the bed and tells her parents, “I’M. NOT. GOING.” When
shapes,” but nobody—not even Miss Orb, the spider teacher— takes note of new student Heidi. A stick insect with a narrow physique, Heidi blends right in with the scenery. Author Aura Parker tells the story of this adorable, overlooked insect in her ingeniously illustrated Twig (Simon &
From All Are Welcome. Illustration © Suzanne Kaufman. Book design by Martha Rago.
Mae finally leaves the house and arrives at school, she hides in the branches of a tree outside. But she isn’t alone: Rosie, another anxious pupil, soon perches beside her, and the pair commiserates over a cookie. “What if no one will play with me?” Rosie says. “Or what if I have to read—I don’t know how!” A surprise visitor to the girls’ hideout helps them realize that together they can brave the day. Berube’s endearing illustrations of the two fretful students and their most feared classroom scenarios strike a chord. This charming book is the perfect remedy for first-day fears.
Schuster, $17.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9781534424685, ages 4 to 8). When a student named Scarlett mistakes Heidi for a stick and tries to use her in a craft project, Heidi finally speaks up and becomes the center of attention as Miss Orb and the other bugs work to make her feel welcome. Because she’s tall and thin, Heidi—no longer shy—can help with all kinds of activities, and her school year gets off to a promising start. Teeming with bustling bug activity, this sweet story
provides plenty of back-to-class inspiration.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS If your kids are heading to class for the first time this year, Priscilla Burris’ Hello School! (Nancy Paulsen, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780399172021, ages 3 to 5) is the perfect read to prep them for the big day. From meeting their new teacher to finding the right cubbyhole and painting in art class, the kids in this appealing book gradually become accustomed to life in the classroom. Important lessons like learning how to listen and share (especially at snack time!) reinforce this gentle story of what it’s like to be a new student. With friends to meet, letters of the alphabet to learn and songs to sing, the first day turns out to be “the best day ever!” Burris’ expressive illustrations capture a sense of wonder as the youngsters make discoveries about their new environment. This light-hearted look at the classroom routine can help readers establish expectations for the year ahead.
FEELING AT EASE Alexandra Penfold celebrates diversity in the uplifting All Are Welcome (Knopf, $17.99, 44 pages, ISBN 9780525579649, ages 4 to 8). In this bright, inviting book, the
school semester kicks off right, with an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality in which a diverse set of pupils from many different cultural backgrounds feel at ease: “In our classroom safe and sound. Fears are lost and hope is found. Raise your hand, we’ll go around. All are welcome here.” Using rhymed stanzas throughout, Penfold details the students’ day, from music class, where they play a variety of instruments, to lunch and more. This is an inspiring tale that showcases a group of youngsters— each with individual talents and traits, as made clear by Suzanne Kaufman’s irresistible illustrations—who are united by their differences. It’s a simple story that offers a big back-to-school boost.
A GALAXY FAR AWAY Set on the planet of Boborp, Best Frints at Skrool (Roaring Brook, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9781626728714, ages 4 to7) features the pair of extraterrestrial pals from author and illustrator Antoinette Portis’ Best Frints in the Whole Universe. This time, Omek and Yelfred are ready to tackle the school year together—until a newcomer arrives. The best friends blast into a classroom filled with colorful aliens, but during recess, Yelfred finds a new friend named Q-B, and Omek feels left out in the cold. The trio squabbles and gets into trouble at lunchtime, but they soon discover that three friends can have more fun together than two. Portis’ playful space creatures and creative vocabulary—“skrool” for school; “skreecher” for teacher— add to the book’s out-of-this-world attraction. There’s no better way to usher in a new school year than this laugh-out-loud tale of life in an intergalactic classroom.
FIND YOUR NICHE Bug School is “abuzz with hundreds of shiny, scurrying
reviews T PI OP CK
THE ROUGH PATCH
Growing a new friendship REVIEW BY JULIE DANIELSON
Evan, a bright orange anthropomorphic fox in gardening overalls, and his dog are constant companions. They enjoy many hobbies, but more than anything else, the best friends love to work together in Evan’s garden. One moment they are relishing their time outdoors in their lush garden space; the next, Evan’s dog has passed away. Evan is devastated. With his best friend gone and grief at the wheel, Evan loses his passion for gardening. In fact, he destroys his plants and tears angrily at the ground with a hoe. Weeds soon take over, but this is fine with Evan, as he wants the barren earth to reflect how he feels inside. But By Brian Lies when a pumpkin begins to grow in his yard—despite all the weeds— Greenwillow, $17.99, 40 pages Evan’s heart expands, and he begins to carefully tend to it. When Evan’s ISBN 9780062671271, audio available pumpkin grows large and wins third place at the county fair, he turns Ages 4 to 8 down the grand prize—a free puppy. But after bravely taking a peek inside the pen, he’s soon driving home with a new furry friend. PICTURE BOOK With tender restraint (the dog’s death is handled well, with merely six words and a poignant, but not graphic, image), author and illustrator Brian Lies has crafted a deeply felt story of new hope and healing after loss, one that altogether avoids excessive sentimentality. The pacing is flawless, and the emotions are never forced. Lies’ eloquently rendered illustrations play with light and shadow on full-bleed spreads that invite readers into Evan’s grief and his eventual journey from sorrow to newfound happiness. Understated yet powerful, The Rough Patch is a story that stays with you.
ADRIAN SIMCOX DOES NOT HAVE A HORSE By Marcy Campbell Illustrated by Corinna Luyken Dial $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780735230378 eBook available Ages 3 to 5 PICTURE BOOK
We don’t know much about Adrian Simcox, except that he is messy, poor and absolutely doesn’t own a horse. At least, that’s according to his assertive classmate Chloe. Convinced that Adrian has been lying about his pet horse, Chloe loudly attempts to sway other students to adopt her opinion. It takes an evening walk and an accidentally on-purpose encounter (contrived by Chloe’s mom) at Adrian’s small home for Chloe to take the first steps toward friendship. Earnestly written by Marcy
Campbell, Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse is a creative and honest look at compassion. Campbell puts us inside Chloe’s mind, where her journey toward kindness is real and intimate. Chloe’s mother proves a clever teacher, gently encouraging Chloe to look deeper. Another artful lesson comes in Adrian’s open-hearted bravery as he takes the first steps toward forgiveness. Corinna Luyken illustrates with precision and grace. Detailed, expressive faces and Chloe’s orderly house stand in contrast to the lavish gardens that burst across the page when Adrian imagines his horse. Hidden in the foliage are the rough outlines of the horse, so beautifully and artistically rendered that they are easily missed. Look carefully; they are worth finding. School curricula that focus on acceptance and compassion will benefit from incorporating this story, which reminds all readers
to look at others with empathy, because they may find a friend. —J I L L L O R E N Z I N I
CAT WISHES By Calista Brill
Illustrated by Kenard Pak HMH $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780544610552 eBook available Ages 4 to 7
We all need a little make-believe sometimes, and in Cat Wishes, author Calista Brill teams up with artist Kenard Park to create a fairy tale fit for feline lovers everywhere. The story begins with a hungry cat who wishes for something to eat. The cat soon finds a tasty-looking snake who offers the cat three wishes in exchange for sparing his life. “No such thing as a wish,” declares the cat. “Sure of that, are
you?” asks the snake. And so the skeptical cat finds himself making wishes anyway. He would certainly love a fish. And then, when it begins to rain, a house with “a roasty, toasty fireplace” would be very nice. And most of all, in the lonely, shadowy night, a friend would certainly come in handy. All of these wishes are fulfilled. There’s a sweet twist to Brill’s tale. The cat discovers he’s not the only creature who has benefited from the snake’s three wishes. Just as the cat wishes for a friend, a girl appears, claiming that she made a wish for a friend, too. Cat is an endearing hero whose adventures are never too scary for young readers. With Pak’s gentle pastel illustrations and Brill’s simple message, Cat Wishes is a lovely bedtime story that will also delight toddlers exploring the magic of friendship. —DEBORAH HOPKINSON
NIGHTBOOKS By J.A. White
Katherine Tegen $16.99, 304 pages ISBN 9780062560087 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12 MIDDLE GRADE
From the author of the Thickety series comes this chilling tale of sneaky witches and captured children. Late one night, a boy named Alex heads out into the darkened hallways of his apartment building. His objective is to get to the basement and destroy his “nightbooks” in the furnace. He calls them this because he has spent countless hours recording his scariest nightmares and spooky stories in their pages. Alex prizes his imagination, but it’s also the thing that sets him apart from his peers. And when you’re a kid, being different isn’t always a good thing. Alex hopes that destroying his stories will help him fit in, but what he doesn’t expect is a detour that will lead him into the heart of the scariest story he’s ever faced. Captured by a witch, Alex must
CHILDREN’S tell her a scary story each night, and these stories provide an extra layer of fun and thrills, while never venturing so dark in tone as to be too intense for younger readers. At its core, J.A. White’s Nightbooks is a testament to the power of storytelling and friendship. The steady development of Alex’s friendship with his fellow captives is touching and well-paced, and the multifaceted characterization of the villain is refreshing. With a good blend of fast-paced fantasy and poignant emotion, Nightbooks is sure to please almost any reader, and it might even give them a few tips on how to craft their own stories along the way. —HANNAH LAMB
meet STEPHANIE ROTH SISSON
world shows us how even the most mundane things can be revelatory. A hymn to inquisitiveness, independent thinking and experiential learning in an age of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” Toaff’s Way should be required reading. —J O N L I T T L E
ILLEGAL By Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin Illustrated by Giovanni Rigano
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky $19.99, 127 pages ISBN 9781492662143 eBook available Ages 10 to 14 MIDDLE GRADE
TOAFF’S WAY By Cynthia Voigt
Knopf $16.99, 272 pages ISBN 9781524765361 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12 MIDDLE GRADE
When facing the deep mysteries of life, many cling to beliefs they’ve acquired secondhand, but not Toaff, the precocious gray squirrel at the heart of Newbery Medalist Cynthia Voigt’s absorbing new novel, Toaff’s Way. Why do dogs bark? Why do gray and red squirrels fear and hate one another? Brimming with questions and unbridled energy, Toaff bounds into the world to seek his answers firsthand. Whether Toaff is learning the language of dogs or delighting in the songs that human mothers sing to their babies, every day brings a new revelation. On his journey, Toaff learns that the fears that keep most of his peers huddled in their dens are largely illusory. Of course, Toaff’s insatiable curiosity lands him in some rather tight spots, and more often than not, it also makes an outcast of him. But in the end, his curiosity and genuine openness allow him to wiggle out of danger. Both intriguing and enlightening, Voigt’s squirrel-eye view of the
We’ve all heard news reports about refugees fleeing their homes for any number of reasons in search of a better life. And for most of us, once the news report ends, so do our thoughts about their lives. But Illegal does something special—it forces readers to stop and consider the humanity of the people who are so often portrayed as mere statistics. Twelve-year-old Ebo is determined to make it out of his poor village in Ghana. His older sister and brother have already fled, so Ebo decides to slip away and risk everything to cross the Sahara Desert and the unforgiving sea in hopes of making it to Europe. More of Ebo’s history is revealed through flashbacks as the narrative jumps between his current situation— floating helplessly on a slowly deflating life raft—and the pivotal moments of his life in Ghana. With Illegal, writers Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) and Andrew Donkin—along with award-winning illustrator Giovanni Rigano—have created a gripping account of a 21st-century refugee’s experience. This vivid, powerful graphic novel, drawn from original interviews with undocumented immigrants, asks the reader to take in someone else’s plight, and then leaves them with a new sense of empathy, understanding and compassion. —J U S T I N B A R I S I C H
SPRING AFTER SPRING Stephanie Roth Sisson beautifully profiles conservationist Rachel Carson in Spring After Spring (Roaring Brook, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9781626728196, ages 4 to 8). Sisson has illustrated over 60 children’s books and is the author and illustrator of Star Stuff, a biography of cosmologist Carl Sagan.
Book reviews, Author interviews