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AMERICA’S BOOK REVIEW

FEBRUARY 2018

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K R I S T I N

HANNAH The Great Alone and its story of a family in deep and dangerous turmoil, set in the wilds of Alaska, will inspire as it breaks your heart.

AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE Tayari Jones on injustice and love

LOVE & LIAISONS

5 favorite relationship guides for romance and happiness


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FEBRUARY 2018

A M E R I C A’ S B O O K R E V I E W

15 features

book reviews

12

20 FICTION

JASMINE GUILLORY

t o p p i c k : Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Meet the author of The Wedding Date

13

24 NONFICTION

RELATIONSHIPS

t o p p i c k : Heart Berries

Matters of the heart, solved

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by Terese Marie Mailhot

KRISTIN HANNAH The author of The Nightingale returns

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27 TEEN

t o p p i c k : A Land of Permanent Goodbyes

TAYARI JONES

by Atia Abawi

A marriage haunted by injustice

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MAGGIE O’FARRELL

30 CHILDREN’S

t o p p i c k : The Journey of Little Charlie

by Christopher Paul Curtis

One woman, seven brushes with death

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we want to hear from you!

BLACK HISTORY MONTH What it means to be black in America today

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WOMEN OF WORLD WAR II Historical fiction on the homefront

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11

LESLIE CONNOR A young boy finds his voice

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20

HOLLY HOBBIE Meet the author-illustrator of Elmore

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columns 4 4 5 5

WELL READ LIFESTYLES THE HOLD LIST COOKING

6 8 9 11

AUDIO WHODUNIT BOOK CLUBS ROMANCE

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Cover photo credit Kevin Lynch

EDITORIAL POLICY

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Sukey Howard

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CHILDREN’S BOOKS

BookPage is a selection guide for new books. Our editors evaluate OPERATIONS DIRECTOR Elizabeth Grace Herbert and select for review the best books published in a variety of categories. ADVERTISING OPERATIONS BookPage is editorially independent; only books we highly recommend Sada Stipe are featured. MARKETING

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WELL READ

LIFESTYLES

BY ROBERT WEIBEZAHL

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

Write what you know

Clutter conquest

Fans of Zadie Smith’s novels may be less familiar with her forays into nonfiction, which often take the form of essays for The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. Feel Free (Penguin Press, $28, 464 pages, ISBN 9781594206252) collects some of these recent essays, along with book reviews and lectures, into a generous volume that shares the breadth and depth of this thoughtful writer’s curiosity. The title is a playful pun: Smith is expressing the freedom that essay writing grants a writer, but she is also granting the reader his or her own freedom. Feel free to disagree with anything or everything I say, Smith suggests. That’s the whole point of writing and reading. Like-minded readers will find little to excoriate here, though. Smith is not only a penetrating and candid writer, she is also embracing. Reading these pieces can feel like a pleasant dinner conversation with a smart, open-minded friend. That is not to say that Smith is never a provocateur. On the contrary, she doesn’t always toe the narrow line or adhere to what one might assume would be the views of a Cambridge-educated, liberal woman who grew up on the margins of London poverty with a black, immigrant mother and white, working-class father. It is the very complexity of her background, in fact, that allows Smith to imbue her writing with its prismatic combination of intellect and emotion. A sharply honed piece such as “Some Notes on Attunement,” wherein Smith ponders her journey from being a pitiable Joni Mitchell-hater to worshipping at the altar of that pop genius, displays the full measure of her talents. In it, she takes detours into Wordsworth’s poetry and the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, combined with fleeting

One of the struggles I face when it comes to decluttering is a discomfort with tossing stuff in the trash: The idea of adding more junk to a landfill leaves me queasy. I also harbor extreme emotional attachment to too many objects. Help! Thankfully, Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici, authors of New Minimalism (Sasquatch, $24.95, 208 pages, ISBN 9781632171320), know where I’m

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glimpses into her childhood and marriage. In a mere 16 pages, Smith manages to express not only the process by which we find our own path through the cultural landscape but also what she calls “the inconsistency of identity, of personality.” This inconsistency, and the need to make sense of it, fuels much of Smith’s writing. Her subjects are catholic. Despite protests that she is merely a layman, she writes expertly when commenting on contemporary art as well as when she’s pondering pop culture (the comedy duo Key and Peele are a favorite subject, and she even ventures into the world of Justin Bieber’s celebrity). She lends her critical eye to Facebook and to photographs of Billie Holiday, then surveys the political landscape, considering the root causes of Brexit and the everyday realities of climate change. Smith admits to feeling most comfortable in her knowledge of the novel, and expectedly, some of the most perceptive writing Taken as a concerns both whole, Feel her own fiction Free is about and the work of others. “I identity. think to appreciate fiction fully it helps to conceive of a space that allows for the writer’s experience and the reader’s simultaneously,” she writes in an essay on Philip Roth that, like many of the essays in this book, offers subtle insight into her own work. “That sounds like an impossible identity, but literature, for me, is precisely the ambivalent space in which impossible identities are made possible, both for authors and their characters.” Identity is Smith’s watchword, in both her fiction and in essays. Taken as a whole, Feel Free is about identity, played out through the complicated mess we call culture, art and life.

coming from. They’ve helped their clients cultivate a sense of lagom, a Swedish concept that means “enough,” while creating space in home and mind. The first objective is to profoundly question the received values that encourage us to consume and own more. Fortin and Quilici’s approach then begins with four archetypes for states of being—Connected, Practical, Energetic and Frugal—and ends with 12 design principles that work for everyone. Some of their advice may feel familiar, but the overall combination of psychology and design smarts serves as both balm and inspiration: I truly feel ready to rethink my home and possessions.

KID COLLECTOR The great outdoors is full of curiosities for all ages—but especially for kids, as gathering small specimens can help them feel connected to the earth. But what becomes of those feathers, rocks, shells and leaves once you arrive back home? Too often they end up on the floor or in the laundry, having been secreted away in pants and coat pockets. In Natural History Collector: Hunt, Discover, Learn! (Quarry, $19.99, 128 pages, ISBN 9781631593673, ages 8 to 12), Michael Sanchez provides actionable ways for children to first locate and learn about the natural world’s

treasures, then clean, preserve and present their collections. There’s a nice blend of information—descriptions and photos of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock, plus a guide to animal tracks and the dirt on fossils—and display projects such as a shadow box made from a pizza box. Interviews with a few experts, such as the curator of biology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, round out the study of collecting. This is an excellent book for nature-loving parents to share with their children.

TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES Perhaps the best-known brand in the modern nuptial industrial complex, The Knot serves up all things wedding through just about every media platform known to bride. The newest addition to their lineup is The Knot Yours Truly (Clarkson Potter, $25, 240 pages, ISBN 9781101906477), a fetching collection of real weddings grouped by style: bohemian, classic, eclectic, glam, modern, romantic and rustic. The goal isn’t to slot your big day neatly into one of these categories, but to explore and imagine while carefully considering who you two are as a couple. Really into film, for example? You might find inspiration from Lori and Jonathan, whose wedding took design cues from their favorite Wes Anderson movies. This guide also features an assortment of craft projects for the couple that wants to go the extra step in personalizing their big day. My favorite? WedLibs, to be composed on a paper fan, providing both heat relief and pre- or post-ceremony diversion for guests at an outdoor affair.


COOKING

THE HOLD LIST Each month, BookPage editors share special reading lists—our personal favorites, old and new.

Five first dates There’s no better month than February to dip a toe into the wonderful world of romance—and trust us, there is a lot more to it than the bodice-rippers of yore (don’t worry, those are still going strong if that’s what you’re into). We rounded up five books that will appeal to very different reading tastes—but all have a happily ever after at their core.

LORD OF SCOUNDRELS by Loretta Chase

BY SYBIL PRATT

Simple sophistication Everyone knows that pasta needs accompaniment, and just about everyone can make a quick sauce—or at least open a jar of the stuff. But when it comes to making a sauce to dress up a sautéed chicken breast or to add some zing to vegetable sides, all too many of us think it’s above our usual kitchen paygrade and better left to a trained chef. Lorilynn Bauer and Ramin Ganeshram’s The Art of the

You can’t go wrong with one of the most beloved and recommended romances of all time. Chase’s “Beauty and the Beast”-inspired Regency love story breathes life into time-honored tropes—the intelligent but inexperienced heroine and the tormented bad boy—with wit and emotional complexity.

HATE TO WANT YOU by Alisha Rai Be warned—Rai’s novels are addicting roller-coaster rides that will rob you of sleep and possibly make you cry. But once the dust clears and you catch your breath, you’ll look back in awe at a book that explores mental illness and strained parent-child relationships while also setting up arcs for an entire series. Plus, the love scenes are so hot that in any other book, they would be accomplishment enough.

A LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT by Meredith Duran A darker take on historical romance, Duran’s novel employs some very soapy elements (a wicked politician with amnesia has a sudden change of heart!) and dives into them with utmost seriousness, using backstory and biting dialogue to bring color to what could have been a very blackand-white story. Instead, it’s an unexpected tale of two damaged souls who find themselves falling in love not despite their ruthlessness, but because of it.

BURN FOR ME by Ilona Andrews Paranormal romance can seem like the most out-there of all romance genres (yes, there are many books starring shape-shifters and vampires), but it’s where readers who want powerful, complicated heroines should undoubtedly start. The Hidden Legacy series has inventive world building and crackling humor on every page, along with an indomitable private eye trying her best not to give into the temptation of a superhot, superdangerous billionaire with magical powers.

PROMISE NOT TO TELL by Jayne Ann Krentz Krentz is a master at building compelling puzzles around a central couple, and Promise Not to Tell is the love story of two complicated and noble people in the midst of an investigation into the terrifying cult they both survived. You know those mysteries that have great plots but couldn’t care less about any of their female characters? Books like Promise Not to Tell are the antidote.

Perfect Sauce (Page Street, $21.99, 192 pages, ISBN 9781624145049) is a game changer, a reliable guide that can turn you into a super saucer. In it you’ll find 75 recipes, each with foolproof instructions, divided into sauces for poultry, fish, meat, veggies, dipping and dessert, plus a Sauce Table that shows you which sauces can do double or triple duty. A divine Coconut Cream and Turmeric Sauce pairs perfectly with chicken or can be spooned over a baked fish fillet. Miso Brown Butter Sauce is simple to make and enhances everything except dessert. Go forth and sauce—your meals will be a little lusher and a lot more vivid.

BEYOND PAD THAI Hawker Fare (Ecco/Anthony Bourdain, $39.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780062656094) is James Syhabout’s homage to his Isan Thai and Lao heritage, his immigrant parents and the food his mother cooked. Don’t know much about Isan (the northeastern region of Thailand) or Lao food? No worries. Syhabout, the chef and owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Commis, takes us with him as he reflects on teaching himself to cook the food of his childhood by taking trips to the “motherland,” partaking in tutorials with his Thai mother and delving into his own

memory. To dive into this intriguing cuisine, unaltered for American taste buds, Syhabout suggests that you build a pantry (a shopping list is included) and learn to make sticky rice and padaek, a Lao fish sauce, before you consider the recipes. I’d start with the more familiar, like redolent Fried Lemongrass Marinated Beefsteak or aromatic Fried Chicken with Charred Chile Jam, then onward to the more daring.

TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS I was charmed by the title of JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls’ debut cookbook, Between Harlem and Heaven (Flatiron, $37.50, 272 pages, ISBN 9781250108715), but a bit puzzled by its subtitle: “Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day.” Grits with bamboo shoots? No way—Johnson, a brilliant chef, and Smalls, a restaurateur and Tony and Grammy award-winning opera singer, are both stars of the flourishing Harlem culinary scene. In this book, they offer their fascinating take on the heritage food that reflects the extent of the African diaspora, intricately crisscrossed with a story of Asian influence. This is food with authentic soul, made with spices that can be traced from India to West Africa and Barbados to the American South, brushed with contemporary creativity and burnished with the finesse of a classically trained chef. Try the Cinnamon-Scented Fried Guinea Hen, put West African Peanut Sauce (aka the Mother Africa sauce) on everything, serve up elegant Curry-Crusted Cod with comforting Hominy Stew, and you’ll delight in dining on food with a rich cultural history.

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columns

Audiobooks You’ll Love

from Macmillan Audio

READ BY JULIA WHELAN “A tour de force.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

READ BY REBECCA SOLER “The buzz for this debut is deafening.” —Booklist, starred review

READ BY THE AUTHOR and includes material recorded in front of a live audience

READ BY SCOTT SHEPHERD “Hart proves his reputation as an Edgar Award–winning wordsmith is well-deserved.” —Library Journal READ BY STEPHEN SHANAHAN, narrator of Jane Harper’s The Dry, an AudioFile Earphones award winner

READ BY JULIA WHELAN “A complex story that will appeal to fans of slow-burn psychological thrillers.” —AudioFile

LISTEN TO EXCERPTS AT UNABRIDGEDACCESS.COM 6

AUDIO BY SUKEY HOWARD

High-tech action Though we never know his name, we have an idea of what makes the bomber tick before we even feel the shock waves from the first explosion in Thomas Perry’s latest standalone thriller, The Bomb Maker (HighBridge Audio, 10.5 hours), read by Joe Barrett in his deliciously Humphrey Bogart-inflected voice. This bomb maker likes to beguile and outsmart, to trick his quarry into self-destructive acts of bravery.

ing when the image keeps reappearing. Is Nora dissociating, turning into a contemporary sibyl or losing her mind? Scared, worried about her beloved 6-year-old daughter and unable to talk to her increasingly distant husband, Nora turns to a kind, empathetic psychiatrist who helps her confront the abuse that has ravaged her psyche And he seems intent on wiping out and her soul. We take the grueling, the LAPD bomb squad. After one of revelatory journey with her and his clever devices kills 14 members pray she’ll make it through in one of the squad, they turn to former sane piece. Cassandra Campbell’s Captain Dick Stahl, who reluctantly performance adds depth and takes the lead on the case. From nuance to each character and each his first day on the job, he and his memory. team are in the thick of it, preTOP PICK IN AUDIO venting one disaster after another while trying to anticipate what More gossipy than “Page Six,” might come next. To call this book J. Randy Taraborrelli’s latest ceaction-packed is an understatelebrity biography, Jackie, Janet & ment, though Dick does somehow Lee (Macmillan Audio, 20 hours), find time for a steamy affair with a compellingly narrated by Ann gorgeous sergeant. Perry includes Marie Lee, brings you up close and enough insider info about bomb personal with the ever fascinating, technology to make you feel like an superrich and superpowerful clan honorary squad member. of Janet Auchincloss and two of her daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy FINDING COURAGE Onassis and Lee Radziwill. The The Night Child (Blackstone Au- outlines of this family saga are part dio, 7 hours), Anna Quinn’s affectof our shared American history— ing debut novel, has the pace and the lives of Jackie and Lee, as well pull of a good domestic thriller. But as their family’s, have been docuwe’re not dealing with a murder or mented in news stories, countless even the threat of one in this book. magazine features and books. Yet The suspense and tension are all Taraborrelli’s intimate style makes you feel like a fly on those elegant contained in Nora Brown’s deeply disturbing past, which is suddenly walls as he unfurls his behind-thetrying to surface and threatening scenes take on this famous family’s to pull Nora back to her childhood story, this time with much emphasis on Janet Auchincloss’ formiand the dark secret buried there. Just before Thanksgiving, as Nora dable role in her daughters’ lives. is leaving the classroom where she Though I started listening with a teaches high school English, she jaded ear, I found myself mesmersees the hovering image of a pretty, ized by the intriguing, intricate details of the trials and tragedies in blond little girl’s face. Which is weird, but it’s even more frightenthese women’s lives.


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columns

WHODUNIT BY BRUCE TIERNEY

Chilling new cases to dive into on a long winter’s night “The sun was going down behind the Big Burger when the alligator came flying in the drivethrough window. . . . The manager hung his head. ‘Not again.’ ” When the opening paragraph reads like this, it’s a fair bet that the next several hundred pages will be equally strange and hilarious, and that the writer responsible for it all is Tim Dorsey. The Pope of Palm Beach (Morrow, $26.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780062429254) is Dorsey’s 21st book to feature the beloved Serge A. Storms, a psychologically unbalanced—yet exceptionally charismatic—vigilante whose moral compass doesn’t always, shall we say, point toward true north. As this installment kicks off in the Florida Keys, Serge and his perpetually stoned sidekick, Coleman, embark on a mad romp through Florida’s history and popular culture, all the while dispens-

ing justice whenever they deem it necessary. A particularly amusing (and disturbing) vignette features a Martin Shkreli-esque pharmaceutical magnate who gets his just desserts after unfairly upping (by several thousand percent) the price of a medication needed to save infants from a deadly protozoa infection. Plotting is secondary (or

insightful and demented—and the world needs more of that.

SERIAL THRILLS Meg Gardiner is back with the second installment of her critically acclaimed UNSUB series, Into the Black Nowhere (Dutton, $26, 368 pages, ISBN 9781101985557), featuring Caitlin Hendrix—a San

TOP PICK IN MYSTERY tertiary) to the zany characters and screamingly funny moments here, but don’t let that put you off. Dorsey is one of a kind—in equal parts

Francisco-based detective turned FBI profiler. Newly arrived to the bureau, Caitlin walks the fine line between trying to stand out and trying to blend in—the typical rookie dilemma. But her talents are put to the test when she is tasked with identifying and apprehending the Saturday Night Killer, a serial murderer responsible for five abductions and subsequent killings. The bodies are artistically arranged, surrounded with photos of other dead and missing women in similar poses. This story is reportedly based on the Ted Bundy killings, which baffled law enforcement for years—but should you try to draw too close a comparison between art and life, Gardiner includes a couple of twists to confound you.

A KILLER INHERITANCE Horses feel shame. Goats discipline their kids. Rats regret bad choices. Peter Wohlleben, author of hugely successful The Hidden Life of Trees, explores the inner life of all living things from ticks and fruit flies to wild boar and reindeer.

Pick Up Your Copy Today!

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already served time for a different homicide, and a small amount of preliminary investigation suggests she was embezzling company funds to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of eight or nine years. On top of everything else, she was set to inherit a cool million dollars from the murder victim. But hey, this is a mystery, right? So of course, not everything will be as cut and dried as it looks at the outset.

After sustaining two case-related gunshot wounds, defense attorney Dismas Hardy has pretty much decided to give murder cases a pass. But with a certain amount of trepidation, he decides to provide a defense for former client Abby Jarvis, accused of murdering her boss by means of a rather arcane poison. Not coincidentally, Poison (Atria, $26.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9781501115707) is also the title of John Lescroart’s 17th Dismas Hardy novel. Abby’s defense has some difficulties from the get-go: She’s

England, 1920: Both the country and Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Ian Rutledge are recovering from the devastation of World War I. Rutledge was forced to execute a soldier for insubordination in France, and now he carries that guilt with him along with a fair amount of shell shock—unless he really is seeing the ghost of that soldier. Whatever the case, Charles Todd’s latest thriller, The Gate Keeper (Morrow, $26.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9780062678713), offers insight into the nature of war and how its effects linger long after the armistice has been signed. Rutledge finds himself at loose ends after his sister’s wedding and decides to take an aimless drive somewhere outside London. On a deserted country road, he happens upon a stopped car, a man lying dead in the roadway—and a woman with blood on her hands. As Rutledge is vastly more experienced than the local constabulary, it is only natural that he spearhead the investigation, which he does with his usual dogged determination and panache. But then there is another murder, and another; the only connection seems to be the small, intricately carved wooden animals found near the scene of each crime. Readers can’t ask for more than Todd’s masterful plotting, terrific characters and one of the finest protagonists in modern suspense.


BOOK CLUBS BY JULIE HALE

New in paperback George Saunders, a master practitioner of the short story, delivers an extraordinary first novel with Lincoln in the Bardo (Random House, $17, 368 pages, ISBN 9780812985405). In 1862, with the Civil War under way, President Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, Willie, succumbs to typhoid fever. He is buried in a cemetery

in Georgetown, where Lincoln, wild with loss, goes to be with his son. Saunders uses history as the springboard for the rest of Willie’s story, which takes place in the bardo—a sort of limbo where the young boy coexists with ghosts who aren’t quite ready to leave the world behind. Willie’s experiences in the transitory spiritual realm stand in contrast to the goings-on of material reality, from Lincoln’s grief to the unfolding war that is sundering the nation. Even as he plumbs the nature of a father’s sorrow, Saunders brings a sense of playfulness to the ghostly proceedings. Winner of the Man Booker Prize, his narrative draws upon elements of history and fabulism. It’s a daring novel that defies easy classification.

WELCOME TO NEW YORK Historical-fiction buffs will happily surrender to Francis Spufford’s sweeping debut novel, Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York (Scribner, $17, 320 pages, ISBN 9781501163883), a spirited narrative set in the 18th century. Richard Smith, 24 years old, arrives in New York from London and proceeds to cause a stir. He ruffles the feathers of Lovell, a marketeer in Golden Hill (where the financial district now stands), to whom he proffers a bill for 1,000 pounds sterling. Over dinner, he offends Lovell’s lovely

daughter, Tabitha. Believed to be a papist, Richard is chased by a gang through the unsavory quarters of the city. When he’s rescued by Septimus Oakeshott, a government official, Richard becomes caught up in New York’s political turmoil. Meanwhile, the real purpose of his arrival in America remains a mystery—one that’s central to the novel. Writing in the dialect of the time, Spufford constructs a narrative with plot twists aplenty and an overall tone of good humor. This rousing novel is a rewarding adventure from start to finish.

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Fiction, Colson Whitehead’s hypnotic novel The Underground Railroad (Anchor, $16.95, 336 pages, ISBN 9780345804327) tells the story of Cora, a young slave on a Georgia plantation who’s determined to make her way to freedom. When she learns of the Underground Railroad from Caesar, a new slave from Virginia, she teams up with him to escape the plantation and find a new home. Whitehead fantastically portrays the Underground Railroad as a functioning mode of transport, with engineers and miles of tracks under the earth. As they travel the railroad, pursued by slave hunters, Cora and Caesar make their way across the South in a dangerous quest for freedom. Whitehead’s visionary narrative includes the stories of Cora’s mother, Mabel, as well as Ethel, who provides sanctuary along the way. Rich in detail and assured in its historical conceit, this is a beautifully wrought speculative tale that’s destined to become a classic.

Fresh Book Club Reads

for the New Year A PIECE OF THE WORLD by Christina Baker Kline “An evocative, beautifully written, exquisitely researched historical novel that will both teach and enthrall the reader.” —Bestselling author Kristin Hannah

THE ATOMIC CITY GIRLS by Janet Beard Perfect for fans of Lilac Girls. “A fascinating and compelling novel about a little known piece of WWII history.” —Maggie Leffler, bestselling author

THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE by Jessica Shattuck “The Women in the Castle stands tall among the literature that reveals new truths about one of history’s most tragic eras.” —USA Today

THE WEIGHT OF AN INFINITE SKY by Carrie La Seur An evocative and atmospheric novel of family, home, love, and responsibility inspired by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

 @Morrow_PB

 @bookclubgirl

 William Morrow  Book Club Girl

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“Readers won’t want to put down this highly recommended title.” —Library Journal, starred review

“[Camp] is renowned as a storyteller who touches the hearts of her readers time and time again.” —RT Book Reviews

“Sexy, pulse-pounding adventure.” —Jaci Burton, New York Times bestselling author on The Best Kind of Trouble

Available in print and ebook.

www.HQNBooks.com

“Fossen creates sexy cowboys and fast-moving plots that will take your breath away.” — Lori Wilde, New York Times bestselling author


columns (HQN, $7.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780373789962). When a frightened woman arrives at Alex Moreland’s home, desperately seeking his overworked twin brother’s investigative services, Alex doesn’t hesitate to step in. The beauty claims to have amnesia, and he instinctively believes her. For her protection, Alex takes her to his icking the perfect romance novel is never more noble family’s London home for safekeeping, knowing the madcap daunting than during the month of February. No one wants to read a dud on Valentine’s Day, Morelands won’t blink an eye. And they don’t, instead helping so open up one of these romances for a love story that Alex and Sabrina—the name is on a locket she wears—unravel the satisfies. mystery. As they consider clues and A scrappy mechanic finds herself hat hacker Roarke Brennan has come up with theories, the pair caught off guard by a workplace gathered a team to exact revenge can’t deny their instant, intense romance in When the Stars Come for his brother’s murder, but he’s attraction, and before long they’ve Out (St. Martin’s, $7.99, 320 pages, dismayed when Wren Lee insists on fallen into bed together. But what ISBN 9781250131287) by Laura joining the crew—he’s known her about the ring she carries? And SaTrentham. After escaping a traufor years and has tried to suppress brina’s frightening, hazy memories matic past, Willa Brown feels safely hidden away in Cottonbloom, Mississippi. Working at the Abbott Brothers Garage is perfect—except for her inconvenient crush on Jackson Abbott. But he doesn’t seem to see her as more the complicated feelings he has for of what might have been a wedding than an employee—until the day her. But Wren has her own reasons ceremony? Their adventures conhe senses she might be preparing to get in the game, including the tinue as true answers elude them, to leave. Nothing means more to crush she has on Roarke. To find but it’s all part of the romantic Jackson than his 1968 Mustang out the buyer and seller of a comfun. Love must win out—Alex and GT, but the idea of Willa leaving puter program that allows access to Sabrina are a charming pair and turns his world upside down. A kiss people’s confidential information, deserve their happy ending. only intensifies things for the pair, Wren pretends to be interested in DEADLY CONNECTIONS yet they are reluctant to disturb a rich and dangerous man. This a partnership that works so well Murder brings a wealthy busicharade drives Roarke to finally under the hood of a car. But then a act on his feelings for Wren, and nessman and an intrepid investistray dog enters the mix, and Willa gator together in Beyond Danger the sparks between the two flare. realizes that between her new pet Roarke didn’t think Wren was inter- (Zebra, $7.99, 384 pages, ISBN and a burgeoning relationship, 9781420143171) by Kat Martin. ested in his renegade lifestyle, but she’s unable to think about leaving she is determined to show Roarke Furious about his father’s latest affair, Beau Reese travels to the older town. Jackson is determined to that he’s not getting rid of her anyhelp her, but it will take trust on time soon. With danger everywhere man’s Texas home, only to find both sides to open their hearts. and their anonymity at risk of behim stabbed in the heart. As Beau ing blown at any moment, will they stands over the body, private deWhen the Stars Come Out is a tective Cassidy Jones arrives at the survive to find a future? Erickson’s tender and sexy small-town tale of scene. It looks bad for Beau, who’s blossoming love. start to her Wired & Dangerous holding the murder weapon, but series is an unusual and exciting ZERO TO 60 work of romantic suspense. Cassidy doesn’t believe he’s guilty. The suspense is edgy and the She had been hired to determine romance is hot in Megan Erickson’s LOST AND FOUND who was stalking the older Reese, so she turns her talents to helping Zero Hour (Forever, $7.99, 320 Love arrives unexpectedly in pages, ISBN 9781538743881). White Candace Camp’s His Sinful Touch Beau find the killer. A former race

Love conquers all

P

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

car driver and now a co-owner of a billion-dollar corporation, Beau already knows his father had many enemies due to his shady business dealings. While working alongside Cassidy as they dig into his dad’s most recent transactions, Beau begins to admire and rely on her. Their attraction runs deep, but Beau has lost at love in the past, and he isn’t willing to give it another try. However, when Cassidy’s life—and then his own—is threatened, the two cannot turn away from the passion between them. Filled with suspense, action and sizzling scenes, the pages of this book practically turn themselves.

TOP PICK IN ROMANCE A duke’s illegitimate son seeks revenge in Lorraine Heath’s first book in her new Sins for All Seasons series, Beyond Scandal and Desire (Avon, $7.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780062676009). After being handed over to a commoner as an infant, Mick Trewlove found a makeshift family and built a successful business yet was always painfully aware of the noble father who abandoned him. When the duke refuses to acknowledge him after a series of letters, Mick wants revenge. He decides to financially ruin his father’s heir and even destroy the reputation of the woman said heir intends to marry. But then he meets the intended, the innocent and kind Lady Aslyn Hastings. Soon, he’s lost his heart to her and she feels the same, despite his lower status. But can they overcome the class distinctions that could keep them forever apart? Aslyn is sure of it—until she learns of Mick’s initial goal. Is she truly loved or just a pawn in his revenge plot? Clever twists and turns complicate their path to a happy future, making Beyond Scandal and Desire a thoroughly delicious and romantic read.

11


meet JASMINE GUILLORY

A local girl comes home to face the cowboy from her past—and finally claim her future…

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

Q: Describe the book in one sentence.

the worst thing someone Q: What’s can do on a date?

Q: What’s your favorite romantic comedy?

TEXAS-SIZED TROUBLE

Q: What was your inspiration for Alexa in The Wedding Date?

USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR

DELORES

FOSSEN

Q: Can love conquer all, even long-distance?

THE WEDDING DATE

“Fossen wrangles up surefire tales of stalwart cowboys, hopeful hearts, and enduring love.” —New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde

DeloresFossen.com • www.HQNBooks.com

12 17_461_BookPage_TexasSizedTrouble.indd 1

hich celebrity would you pick to be your plus-one at a Q: W wedding?

11/30/17 11:56 AM

When Alexa Monroe finds herself trapped in a hotel elevator with the alarmingly handsome Drew Nichols, she has the perfect icebreaker­—fancy cheese and crackers. When the doors finally open, she’s agreed to be his date to his ex’s wedding. Jasmine Guillory brings wit and heart to The Wedding Date (Berkley, $15, 320 pages, ISBN 9780399587665) as two successful professionals navigate love, long-distance romance and the always perilous text message argument.


features

RELATIONSHIPS B Y T H E E D I T O R S O F B O O K PA G E

What’s love got to do with it?

alcohol abuse, and are looking for practical, experience-based advice from a professional psychotherapist. he month of Valentine’s Day has arrived, and Between the covers: Daphne de whether you’re in a committed relationship, Marneffe tackles the cliche of the looking for love or happily single, we’ve got a midlife crisis in its many forms. Using examples from her practice, few books you may want to have on your nightstand. she illustrates how to cope with feelings of isolation, desire, longing HORMONAL and distress, offering a necessary point—whether single, taken or guide for those who wish to heal navigating online dating territoBy Martie Haselton and grow in their relationships. Little, Brown ry—where all you can do is laugh. $28, 288 pages Best advice for the lovelorn: If Between the covers: Combining ISBN 9780316369213 you’re feeling left out of the fun biting satire with gleeful absurthat young people supposedly are dity, this is a relentlessly funny, The perfect bipartisan exploration of America’s having—the excitement of falling Valentine’s in love, the freedom from caring for presidents that judges each as Day read for: children and elders—perhaps it’s a potential partner. Check out a Heterosexual women interested time to start an affair with underfearless exposé of John Tyler (who in understanding how their standing (and loving) your flawed was obviously a swamp monster) hormones help them choose self. and a timeline of struggles with our potential dates—or any woman Strangest tidbit: A discussion of who’s ever been pissed off by a guy greatest foe—Canada. the differences between terms like calling her “hormonal.” Best advice for the lovelorn: You “polyamory,” “swinging” and somecan have a meet cute with RichBetween the covers: The world’s thing called “sexual anarchy” might leading researcher of ovulatory cy- ard Nixon by doing the following: leave you wanting—and maybe “Identify the sketchiest nearby cles offers insight into the hidden intelligence of women’s hormones. location. . . . Go there, take out your or maybe not daring—to research their meanings further. wallet, and start visibly counting It’s heavy on the science, so it can your money. When someone hits Choice quote: “Occupying the panbe dry, but knowledge is powerful. optic position of a therapist who Best advice for the lovelorn: Sexu- you on the back of the head with a sap, that’s Richard Nixon!” sees people at all phases of life, I ally active Soay sheep in Scotland sometimes have the Ghost of MarStrangest tidbit: If you want to get are often sick and succumb to the riage Future impulse to tell women into taxidermy in order to impress elements, while those less driven in their thirties, who currently feel Teddy Roosevelt, you have to first to reproduce remain healthy. Sex is hounded by their partner’s sexual murder an animal and then be dangerous, Haselton writes, so stay demands, that in a decade or two cleared by a jury of its peers. Only home with your Wi-Fi. they might be hankering for more then you may proceed with the Strangest tidbit: Only primates, attention, not less.” taxidermy. bats and elephant shrews have Choice quote: “Did you know that menstrual periods. Choice quote: “[W]e are not under over time, people grow to look THE LOVE GAP more and more like their favorstrict hormonal control, locked in ite pastime? That is why the very By Jenna Birch the sway of ‘heat,’ weakened by handsome young Dwight D. EisenGrand Central Life & Style the loss of blood, or depleted as $26, 304 pages our fertility fades. Still, when we do hower gradually grew to resemble a ISBN 9781478920045 golf ball.” feel these ancient forces stirring in

T

rhythm with our hormonal cycles, we can tap into a uniquely feminine power.”

HOTTEST HEADS OF STATE By J.D. Dobson and Kate Dobson Holt $19.99, 240 pages ISBN 9781250139689

The perfect Valentine’s Day read for: Those who have reached a

THE ROUGH PATCH By Daphne de Marneffe

Scribner $26.99, 368 pages ISBN 9781501118913

The perfect Valentine’s Day read for: Married couples and middle-aged singles who are struggling with parenting, finances, aging, loss of libido or drug and

The perfect Valentine’s Day read for: Heterosexual millennial women who are well educated, successful, confident, independent—and really frustrated that they can’t get a guy to commit. Between the covers: Health and lifestyle journalist Jenna Birch gets to the bottom of this major modern dating problem with her theory of the Love Gap, which she defines as “the reason men don’t always pursue the women they claim to want;

frequently, women like you.” Best advice for the lovelorn: “The exact love that you want is out there. But it takes patience, growth, tenacity, investment, discernment, a dash of timing, and just the right chemistry.” Strangest tidbit: “I’m also here to tell you that men have pertinent needs that may overwrite the qualities they desire in a partner.” Sometimes logic really does go out the window. Choice quote: “A relationship with the ‘right’ person should excite you with its potential for growth. A ‘right’ commitment should feel like it expands your possibilities in life, instead of shrinks them.”

THE KISS Edited by Brian Turner

Norton $24.95, 240 pages ISBN 9780393635263

The perfect Valentine’s Day read for: The literature-loving romantic in your life. Between the covers: Across cultures and time, the kiss has always been there. In this collection, a diverse assemblage of writers contribute their own unique takes on that singular act and all that it can mean. Best advice for the lovelorn: There are billions of humans out there, and anything you’re feeling has been felt before, many times over. You’re not alone out there—even if you’re single. We’re all connected by something as simple as a kiss. Strangest tidbit: Who knew a kiss could mean so many different things? It can be loving, sad, a goodbye or a hello—or even ambiguous. The full spectrum of human emotions can be pinned on a kiss. Choice quote: “She will reach out, bridging the abyss between any two humans, and offer this kiss, this true gift, this brief meeting of spheres, and you’ll feel like a balloon being inflated, and believe quite suddenly in the possibility of grace.”(Excerpt from Steven Church’s “Kiss, Bounce, Grace.”)

13


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equal parts character study and mystery.” —Entertainment Weekly’s “The Must List: Top 10 Things We Love This Week”

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ANCHOR


cover story

KRISTIN HANNAH

Coming of age in the wilds of Alaska

K

ristin Hannah has known for 20 years that she wanted to write a book set in Alaska­—and that she wanted to use a haunting and powerful title inspired by a favorite poem: The Great Alone.

In the meantime, she wrote more than 20 other novels, including her 2015 runaway bestseller, The Nightingale, a novel about two sisters in German-occupied France during World War II. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the blockbuster success of The Nightingale made it a hard act to follow. “It did kind of mess with my mind,” Hannah admits, speaking on the phone from her home near Seattle. “You feel an immense pressure to follow it up.” Determined to write something completely different, she says, “I decided—clearly after too much wine—to write a domestic thriller.” The book was set in current-day Alaska. Hannah wrote for about a year and a half, only to come to a terrible conclusion: Her manuscript wasn’t working. “I had already thrown everything I could think of at it, and I had failed,” Hannah says. It was a heartbreaking realization, but as much as she loves thrillers, “I realized that I wasn’t ultimately interested in what happened. I’m much more interested in why things happen and who people are. Not only was the book not good

THE GREAT ALONE

By Kristin Hannah

St. Martin’s, $28.99, 448 pages ISBN 9780312577230, audio, eBook available

CONTEMPORARY FICTION

enough to follow The Nightingale, it wasn’t good enough to be a book with my name on it.” Fortunately, there were a few shreds of hope to be salvaged: the Alaskan setting, which Hannah says “is just as special in its own way as World War II France,” and a cast of characters she liked. So she created a new story for the Allbright family, who in 1974 move off the grid to the fictional town of Kaneq, located near Homer, Alaska. They are propelled by their survivalist father, Ernt, a Vietnam vet with post-traumatic stress disorder who has inherited a cabin from an old army buddy. The isolation becomes a pressure cooker for his demons, with tragic results for his wife, Cora, and their 14-year-old daughter, Leni, the book’s narrator. Once Hannah wrote an opening scene from Leni’s viewpoint, she immediately knew that “this is a girl worth following.” After 18 more months of writing, she had crafted a new—and very different—novel. “It’s a much more intense read than I’ve done before,” Hannah concludes. “It’s very much about this girl coming of age in an incredibly dangerous environment, both inside her home and outside of it. I think I was able to bring to the reader a vision of Alaska that is different than what they’ve read before.” The setting provides a mesmerizing look at the difficulties that face a homesteading family. Upon their arrival in Alaska, the Allbrights are warned by Large Marge, one of the book’s many marvelous characters, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” The Allbrights make a multitude of mistakes, which translate into page-turning, riveting, wee-hours of-the-night reading. Leni, a whipsmart, book-loving girl, becomes a

rugged Alaskan outdoorswoman, forced to make agonizing decisions about the domestic violence that overtakes her family. It’s clear that Alaska is embedded deep in the author’s heart, a special connection that began with her own family’s odyssey. When she was 8 years old, Hannah’s father loaded the family into a VW bus and traveled through 16 states, landing in the Pacific Northwest. “He said we were looking for home,” Hannah recalls, “and we’ll know it when we see it. It was about 100 degrees in that bus, and all I remember is my mom and Hannah dad saying, offers readers ‘Will you stop “a vision of reading your Alaska that is book and look different than at the scenery?’ ” what they’ve From this read before.” journey blossomed Hannah’s interest in Alaska, and she started spending summers there, once working in a fish processing plant, an especially grueling summer job. “You don’t sleep for hours and hours on end,” she says. “It was gross.” The book’s title, which Hannah held onto for so long, also comes from her father. It pays homage to poet Robert W. Service’s nickname for Alaska, from a poem called “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”: “Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear, / And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear . . .” During childhood camping trips, Hannah’s father used to recite Service’s poems to her and her siblings, who

© KEVIN LYNCH

INTERVIEW BY ALICE CARY

learned them by heart and later passed them on to their children. Hannah’s mother inspired her as well and, in fact, launched her career. When she became terminally ill during Hannah’s last year of law school, Hannah’s mother invited her daughter to collaborate on a novel. She also predicted that her daughter would become a novelist, a notion that struck Hannah as absurd at the time. “It’s taken me a long time to find my stride as a writer,” Hannah says. “The biggest part of that is finding my voice, and what I have to say. And it’s pretty clear that it’s about ordinary women banding together or on their own, fighting in extraordinary circumstances in an extraordinary time, and finding a way to both survive and thrive.” As Hannah wrote The Nightingale, she pondered whether she would have risked her life to save a stranger in the circumstances that her characters faced. With The Great Alone, she contemplated a different essential question. “I kept asking myself, ‘Could I survive here?’ ” she says. “And I can say with absolute certainty that I probably could not be an Alaskan pioneer. For me, interestingly enough, it’s not the weather and it’s not the dark. I think it’s the hard work and no reading time.”

15


features

TAYARI JONES

One couple against the system

T

ayari Jones’ first name is a Swahili word that means “she is prepared.” It’s a powerful declaration that holds true, as the groundwork for Jones’ moving, emotionally complex new novel, An American Marriage, can be traced to seven years ago.

But it truly all began in Jones’ closet, where she wrote her first novel, Leaving Atlanta (2002), on a manual typewriter during her time in grad school. “It wasn’t like an empty closet that I made into an office. It was my closet!” Jones exclaims during a call that reaches her in Las Vegas, where she has a yearlong fellowship at the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I never had any trouble writing in that closet, because with your first book, you’re like a cup that is full to the top and overflowing onto the page.” Jones tells this story to explain why she can write anywhere: in Brooklyn, where she usually lives; in Atlanta, where she grew up and where her mother still lives; at Rutgers University–Newark, where she teaches writing as a founding member of its MFA program; or at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard, where, during another fellowship in 2011, she felt the need to research the mass incarceration of black men, which would eventually

AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE

By Tayari Jones

Algonquin, $26.95, 320 pages ISBN 9781616201340, audio, eBook available

LITERARY FICTION

16

form the backstory of An American Marriage. “The word in my head was ‘bigger,’ ” Jones says. “Most of my books are about the family, the way people interact. But I felt I needed to write about big issues, and mass incarceration has always been nibbling at the edges of my mind because of its collateral effects. So on this fellowship, I read and read and read and read. I learned all kinds of statistics that would blow your mind. But this did not engage me as a storyteller. . . . So I went home to talk to my mama in Atlanta. And when I was in the mall there, I heard this couple arguing. She said, ‘Roy, you know you wouldn’t have waited on me for seven years.’ And he said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, because this wouldn’t have happened to you in the first place.’ I know I have a novel when I’m intrigued by two people’s conflict and when I feel they both have a point.” On its surface, An American Marriage tells the story of the marriage of Roy Hamilton and Celestial Davenport. Roy is a poor, ambitious boy from small-town Louisiana. Celestial is from Atlanta’s black upper class. When the two first meet, he is going to Morehouse College and she to Spelman. They are introduced by her “bonedeep” friend and lifelong neighbor Andre, who becomes the third leg of this story. Celestial and Roy connect again in New York, where she is an exceptionally talented art student and he is a rising business consultant. The two marry, and a year and a half into their marriage, he takes her home to Louisiana to visit his parents. While staying at a local motel, Roy is arrested for rape. Readers will have little doubt of his innocence, but he is convicted and sent to prison. The exchange of letters between Roy and Celestial while he is in prison

is heart-rending. After five years, Roy is released, and the remainder of the novel is a wrenching portrayal of the love, anger and moral dilemmas—the collateral damage— these characters are left with as a result of injustice. “All of these characters are trying to figure out the extent to which they are allowed to be self-interested in the face of this larger cultural crisis,” Jones explains. “In many ways, it is a question of modern African-American life. What is the balance between your desires and your responsibilities? “It is a question For Celestial of modern to say, ‘I want happiAfricanness’ when American her husband life. What is is a hosthe balance tage of the state is very between your desires and your different from a novel responsibilities?” where the wife seeking happiness is at home, bored, and her husband is a stockbroker.” Like any good novel, An American Marriage lives in its particular details. Jones presents readers with a richly evocative cultural moment, and each of her characters has a complicated past that raises as many questions about life as it answers. Especially compelling are her depictions of black urban professional life in Atlanta. “I’ve lived a lot of places since

© NINA SUBIN

INTERVIEW BY ALDEN MUDGE

I finished college in 1991,” Jones says. “But I haven’t lived long enough in those places to feel I have enough authority to write about them. I need to know the layers of a place. Atlanta is my hometown, and I know all its layers. Furthermore, it is important to me as a Southern writer to write about the modern urban South. When I tell people in Brooklyn that I’m from Georgia, they act like I got there on the Underground Railroad. They have no concept of the modern South.” Readers of An American Marriage will discover a bold, big Southern story to match its ambitious title. “I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” Jones says. “And I have accepted that my niche is this quiet space. I’ve never been one of those writers who says writing is the hardest job in the world. Look at the jobs my grandparents had. Can I really say a job I’m able to do in my pajamas is the hardest job in the world? This is not a quiet title. And this is not a quiet story. I was a little intimidated by claiming this title for myself. But this novel caused me to challenge myself. I feel really good about it now.”


Sometimes the littlest bodies hold the biggest hearts, and the quietest voices speak the loudest.

“HEART-WRENCHING . . . A N I M P O R TA N T A N D T I M E LY B O O K ” —Booklist

“A N A S TO N I S H I N G DEBUT NOVEL” —Publishers Weekly

“A A POWERFUL EXERCISE IN E M PAT H Y A N D PERSPECTIVE” —Kirkus Kirkus Reviews

KNOPF RHIANNONNAVIN.COM

A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.


features

MAGGIE O’FARRELL

A reluctant memoirist finds her voice

E

lements of Maggie O’Farrell’s life have inspired her writing, but it is only now—after publishing seven novels and birthing three children—that she has found the courage to tell the full story.

Provocative and profound, O’Farrell’s memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death, is a meditation on the many miraculous moments in her life when she stared down death and lived to tell the tale. From almost drowning off the coast of England (and then again in Africa) to escaping the clutches of a serial strangler, the book—and O’Farrell’s life—is chockablock with scenes highlighting the fragility and tenuousness of life. It is her most personal book to date, and yet it is also a book she never intended to write. “I never, ever thought I would write a memoir,” the Northern Irish author confides during a call to her home in Edinburgh, Scotland. “It felt sort of an impossibility to me. . . . I used to always kind of joke that I was about as likely to write a memoir as I was to become an acrobat. Of course, if you’ve read the book, you realize how impossible it would be for me to be an acrobat!” O’Farrell is referring to the collateral damage from what is perhaps

I AM, I AM, I AM

By Maggie O’Farrell

Knopf, $25.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780525520221, audio, eBook available

MEMOIR

18

her most serious near-death experience: As a child, she contracted encephalitis, which confined her to bed for nearly two years. Doctors offered grave predictions, including life confined to a wheelchair and even death. Instead, O’Farrell defied all odds, not only pulling through but also regaining the ability to walk unassisted and to hold a pen. Decades later, although she still retains physical limitations that place a career in acrobatics well out of reach, she has largely perfected the art of hiding the remnants of her illness. She began practicing this at the age of 13, when her family moved from Wales to Scotland. She recalls thinking at the time, “I can reinvent myself, I can be somebody else. I don’t have to be the girl who was disabled in a wheelchair. I can just become a girl who’s a bit rubbish at sport, who falls over a bit and drops stuff. A bit of a klutz.” And so her past became secret, even from close friends. Therefore, a memoir in which she reflects on her most vulnerable moments seems a paradoxical choice. She agrees, admitting that she has “much more ambivalence about the book because of how exposing it is.” However, she says, “I have always felt that you don’t necessarily choose the books; the books choose you.” With a laugh, she recalls how her unintentional memoir crept into being: “I’ve always kept diaries . . . and in the back I write longer pieces. And this book—the memoir— just sort of rose up out of these notebooks. I had written a third of it before I really admitted to myself that I was actually writing a book!” She was so stunned by this revelation that when O’Farrell finally told her agent what she was working on and they drew up her contract, she initially refused all monetary advances on the manuscript in case she changed her

mind and decided not to publish it. In order for the contract to be made legal, she agreed to accept £1, but says, “Even up until a week before publication, I was waking up at night thinking, ‘Should I just say it’s all off?’ ” Despite her reservations, a force greater than fear kept pushing O’Farrell to write: Her middle child, Astrid, was born with chronic eczema and experiences episodes of anaphylactic crisis that take her to the emergency room with frightening frequency. Though far from the traditional “I was about as bedtime tales, O’Farrell’s stolikely to write ries have prova memoir as I en helpful to was to become her daughter in coming to an acrobat.” terms with her own struggles. “One of the jobs of being a parent is you have to metabolize what they’re going through and hand it back to them in a form that they can understand,” O’Farrell says. “I found myself very challenged as a mother, trying to explain to a 3- or a 4-year-old why it is they were in so much pain, why it is they were in an ambulance or an ICU. The only thing I found that really helped her in those situations was telling her stories.” Just like her mother did as a girl, Astrid “lives with a lot of restrictions,” O’Farrell explains. “But it’s really, really important to me to impart the message to her that even though she has parameters which she needs to live within . . . she has to live the biggest and the best life that she possibly can. Always and every day. So I will be the first mum to shout, ‘Yeah, climb that tree! Go

© MURDO MACLEOD

INTERVIEW BY STEPHENIE HARRISON

higher! Jump in that cold water! Just do it, do it!’ And she is.” It is for this reason that O’Farrell ultimately views I Am, I Am, I Am as life-affirming. “I think there is something very universal about the near-death experience. I think we’ve all had them, whether we admit it to ourselves or not. And I think those moments change us. I think we come back from them different—altered—and it makes us newly conscious about why we want to come back, why we want to carry on living and also what we stand to lose had we lost that fight. . . . For me the book is about life. The life lived around those moments.” As we wrap up our conversation, O’Farrell is interrupted by a stampede of footsteps, swiftly followed by a chorus of giggles. Her children have arrived home from school and are clamoring for her attention. We end our call because, after all, there are trees to be climbed and cold water to be jumped into, and no one knows better than O’Farrell and her family how lucky they are to be able to do just that. “I definitely think of myself as incredibly lucky, not unlucky at all,” O’Farrell says. “What I hope people will take away from the book is just the fact that I nearly died, but actually, I didn’t. We didn’t. We’re all still here.”


BLACK HISTORY MONTH BY VANESSA WILLOUGHBY

The many forms of a freedom fighter

A

merica may have abolished Jim Crow laws, but prejudice is a clever shapeshifter. Certainly, the black experience is not solely defined by injustices inflicted by white America. Regardless, the black experience in this country cannot be discussed without the ever-looming menace of racism and the complementary institution of white supremacy. These four recent releases offer a nuanced spectrum of views on what it means to be black in America.

For many Americans who believed in the concept of “colorblindness,” the election of Donald Trump abruptly shattered the myth of a post-racial America. Yet for many minorities, the unapologetic racism and bigotry that helped elect Trump served as a reminder that the institution of white supremacy is alive and thriving. At a young age, Patrisse Khan-Cullors learned that blackness functioned as a target and watched as racism chipped away at the humanity of her loved ones. Yet KhanCullors, who co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, found strength within the unconditional love she held for her family, which provided a refuge from the dehumanization tactics of white supremacy. The title of her memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist (St. Martin’s, $24.99, 272 pages, ISBN 9781250171085), co-authored with asha bandele, references the labeling of Black Lives Matter as a terrorist movement by conservative media outlets, politicians and government officials. According to a report leaked by Foreign Policy, the FBI’s counterterrorism division determined that “black identity extremists” were a violent group of domestic terrorists. Activists such as Khan-Cullors cite this assessment as an example of dog-whistle politics. For those under the banner of white supremacy, it’s deemed radical to say that black lives matter—because black people are rarely seen as human.

HARD TO SAY Talking about race in America can feel like chatting with a mouth full of thorns. Even for the

white Americans who vow to be allies, talking about race is taboo: If you’re not racist, then why are you noticing skin color in the first place? Equal parts an excavation of personal history and a piece of sharp political commentary, author Ijeoma Oluo inhabits a narrative tone that is neither condescending

complicit. So You Want to Talk About Race argues that with the right tools, discussions about race in America can serve as bridges rather than battlefields.

nor coddling in So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal Press, $27, 256 pages, ISBN 9781580056779). Racism in America can take the form of so much more than the “N” word, and here Oluo astutely dismantles issues such as police brutality, cultural appropriation and microaggressions, and the pervasive, poisonous power of racism and white supremacy. Balancing the intimacy of a memoirist with the dedication of an investigative journalist, Oluo recognizes that her offerings are a starting point. The work required to effectively battle racism can begin with conversation, but if these principles are not put into consistent practice, then lasting change has little chance. Systemic racism benefits from silence just as much as it thrives under white liberals who refuse to check their privilege—those who assume that proximity to their black friend, love interest or neighbor proves that they are not

Island resident and neighborhood fixture, was caught on video. The footage shows white New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo wrestling Garner to the ground and using what appears to be an illegal chokehold. Garner struggles, uttering those infamous last words, “I can’t breathe.” The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide. Regardless, a grand jury chose not to indict Pantaleo on a charge of murder. In I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street (Spiegel & Grau, $28, 336 pages, ISBN 9780812988840), a carefully constructed and researched portrait of Garner, Rolling Stone staff writer and author Matt Taibbi utilizes the tragedy to hold a mirror to the degrading, demoralizing and crippling manifestations of American racism. I Can’t Breathe not only examines the wide-reaching effects of racism but also specifically breaks down how the ideas of “law and order” contribute to a

FINAL WORDS In 2014, the killing of 43-yearold Eric Garner, a black Staten

system of racist, predatory policing. Although Taibbi recognizes that Garner had his flaws, he pushes beyond them to compile a rich, nuanced depiction of a devoted family man who became yet another victim of bad luck, unforgiving environmental circumstances and the racially fueled injustices of the country’s police forces. I Can’t Breathe demands readers ask: Who are the police really intended to protect?

AMERICAN GLORY When we think of the black renaissance, we typically conjure images of bustling Harlem streets and flashy zoot suits alongside the black excellence of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. We may even think of Chicago and its cultural icons such as author Richard Wright and playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Memoirist and reporter Mark Whitaker’s Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance (Simon & Schuster, $30, 432 pages, ISBN 9781501122392) is a thoroughly researched celebration of the black community and culture in Pittsburgh from the 1920s through the 1950s. Pittsburgh’s black residents, Whitaker argues, offered cultural contributions that significantly shaped black history—and the nation. With the diligence of a seasoned anthropologist, Whitaker spotlights the city’s stunning feats of black achievement and resilience through the lens of his extensive cast of influencers and icons. While some of the names may be unfamiliar, each subject’s narrative is a nuanced portrayal meant to challenge our country’s often narrow, dismissive version of black history. Cultural heavyweights such as boxer Joe Louis are treated as historical catalysts rather than extraordinary oddities. Black history, as evident in the cultural renaissance of Pittsburgh, is not defined by oppression. Despite the setbacks of systemic racism and discrimination, black excellence flourishes regardless of the white gaze.

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reviews My mother before me

BRASS

REVIEW BY LAUREN BUFFERD

—IAN SCHWARTZ

Xhenet Aliu’s bright and brash debut novel bursts forth with fearless wit and a take-no-prisoners attitude. While the story’s reluctant mothers and delinquent dads may be familiar, this is not a voice you’ve heard before. Set in the mid-1990s in the depressed industrial town of Waterbury, Connecticut—the brass manufacturing capital of the United States, which attracted Eastern European immigrants in the 1980s and ’90s— Brass tells the story of Elsie, a waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner. Despite vague intentions to become a dental technician, Elsie is swept off her feet by a brooding Albanian cook, Bashkim, and soon becomes pregnant. Bashkim has a wife in Albania and a batch of mysterious investBy Xhenet Aliu ments that fail to provide financial stability. Although he encourages Random House, $27, 304 pages Elsie to have the child, his increasing volatility and plans to return to ISBN 9780399590245, eBook available Albania make him an unlikely marriage prospect, and Elsie raises their daughter, Luljeta (Lulu), on her own. FAMILY SAGA Seventeen years later, Lulu receives a rejection letter from NYU and is suspended from high school for fighting on the same day. A lifetime rule-follower, Lulu figures that playing by the book hasn’t helped her much. When Lulu discovers that some of her father’s relatives are still in the area, she decides to seek out the family she’s never met. Mother and daughter tell their stories in a series of alternating chapters, and both women share the self-deprecating wit of survivors. Elsie’s disintegrating relationship with Bashkim is juxtaposed with her gradual inclusion in Waterbury’s Albanian community (you won’t know whether to laugh or cry at her description of the world’s most depressing baby shower), while Lulu corrals a young man to help her get to Texas, where her father is rumored to live. Exploring similar themes to Aliu’s short story collection, Domesticated Wild Things (winner of the 2012 Prairie Schooner Book Prize), Brass is a unique twist on a mother-daughter story as well as an immigrant’s tale, with reflections on abandonment, dreams, disappointment and the kind of resilience it takes to endure, despite all odds.

THE PHILOSOPHER’S FLIGHT By Tom Miller

Simon & Schuster $26, 432 pages ISBN 9781476778150 Audio, eBook available FANTASY

Part thriller, part romance, part coming-of-age fantasy, The Philosopher’s Flight by debut novelist Tom Miller has already set a high bar for any book vying to be the most entertaining novel of 2018. In this alternate history, the United States has just entered World War I, and the science behind unaided human flight, known as empirical philosophy, is as contro-

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versial as ever. Much of that fuss comes from the fact that, with rare exceptions, only women can fly. Anti-philosophy activists, known as Trenchers, are gaining traction, and extremists on both sides have participated in riots, attacks and even assassinations. Into this whirlwind leaps Robert Weekes, an 18-year-old Montanan who lives with his mother, the legendary Major Emmeline Weekes, philosopher, war hero and vigilante. Robert, one of the few men capable of flight, dreams of following in his mother’s footsteps and joining the U.S. Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service, an elite, women-only group of philosophers who swoop onto battlefields under heavy fire to fly the dead and wounded to safety.

and Robert draw the attention of a fanatical anti-philosophy group, with deadly consequences. The wild and soaring The Philosopher’s Flight is as fun a read as you’ll come across. Miller appears to have left room for more at the story’s end; let’s hope this is the start of a new series.

When a daring rescue after a deadly Trencher attack makes him a minor hero, Robert wins a scholarship to Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school, to study empirical philosophy. After a chilly welcome, Robert pushes his flying to new—and reckless—levels to win the respect of the Radcliffe women. He improves so rapidly that his absurd dream of Rescue and Evac is within grasp, especially after a sparkling performance at the General’s Cup, the annual flying competition showcasing the best of the college philosophers. His future becomes less certain when he meets and falls for Danielle Hardin, a bitter war veteran disillusioned by her service at Gallipoli. When the outspoken philosopher takes on the Trenchers, she

WHITE HOUSES By Amy Bloom

Random House $27, 240 pages ISBN 9780812995664 Audio, eBook available HISTORICAL FICTION

The latest novel from Amy Bloom (Lucky Us) is an achingly beautiful love story that unfolds through the eyes of Lorena Hickok, known as Hick, a great journalist and author who lived in the White House with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as “her very special friend.” They were lovers, which was understood by family, the White House staff and even President Roosevelt. Hick, who grew up amid poverty and abuse in South Dakota, stands by Eleanor’s side at events for many years, though she is cut out of most pictures. Like many relationships that are relegated to the shadows, Hick and Eleanor’s love exists in many incarnations over the decades. They part and come back together time and time again, sometimes as lovers, sometimes seeking the solace of familiarity, always trying to know each other completely. Bloom brings incredible dimension to her historical figures, especially the wise and savvy Hick, who is apt to quote Emily Dickinson, Samuel Johnson or Shakespeare. Hick’s relationship with FDR is rendered with remarkable clarity, as she watches him give passionate speeches to inspire a nation during wartime, and as his withering body, ravaged by polio, is carried up the stairs at bedtime. Hick knows that Eleanor will never leave him, and despite her respect for the man, her jealousy can never be resolved.


FICTION White Houses is so gorgeously written that some passages need to be read more than once, or perhaps aloud, to fully appreciate their craftsmanship. A Roosevelt cousin describes Hick as erudite. To call this novel the same would be an understatement. —LESLIE HINSON

Visit BookPage.com to read a Behind the Book essay from Amy Bloom.

THE FRIEND By Sigrid Nunez

Riverhead $25, 224 pages ISBN 9780735219441 Audio, eBook available LITERARY FICTION

Despite weighing in at little more than 200 pages, Sigrid Nunez’s new novel sure is heavy. Brilliant but informal, sad yet laugh-out-loud funny, The Friend is a digressive bumblebee of a novel that alights on aging, death, the waning power of literature and the strength of friendship. It’s a book of fragments that questions what it means to be human. When a middle-aged New York City writing professor—unnamed, as are all human characters in the book—loses her longtime mentor and friend to suicide, she floats through her days in a bubble of stunned grief. Then her friend’s latest wife—now widow—known as “number three,” asks the narrator to take Apollo, her husband’s massive, aged Great Dane. Even though her apartment building does not allow dogs (and it would be impossible to hide one that’s large enough for children to ride on), she agrees. Apollo is also grieving, spending his days waiting forlornly at the door and his nights howling out his anguish. Slowly, their uneasy coexistence becomes an intense, exclusive partnership that alarms the narrator’s friends. “Oh,” says a woman she meets at a party, “you’re the one who’s in love with a dog.” Her friends worry she will be homeless—booted from her rent-controlled apartment, a

spotlight

WOMEN OF WORLD WAR II BY JULIE HALE

Stories from the homefront and beyond

I

s there anything better than the tension and tremendous heart of a rousing wartime tale, especially when it recounts the experiences of courageous heroes? Through globetrotting stories of loyalty and love, three new historical novels deliver an unforgettable look at the sacrifices of women during World War II.

In her fast-paced blend of fact and fiction, The Atomic City Girls (Morrow, $15.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780062666710), Janet Beard uses the viewpoints of a diffuse group of characters to create an impressively realized portrait of life in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the makeshift city where uranium for the atomic bomb was secretly generated during the war. Eighteen-year-old June Walker is excited and nervous about working at Oak Ridge, but she doesn’t know what to make of Cici Roberts, her gorgeous, flirtatious dormitory roommate. Between tedious shifts monitoring big machines and evening dances where they blow off steam, the two girls form a friendship. Like nearly everyone else in the city, they’re kept in the dark about the purpose of their work. Joe Brewer, an African-American man who’s part of a labor gang at Oak Ridge, adds another layer to the novel, as he works to send money home to his family. Providing an outsider’s perspective is Sam Cantor, a Jewish scientist from the Bronx. June—hoping to learn the secrets behind Oak Ridge—begins a romance with Sam, who has the shocking answers she needs. A native of East Tennessee, Beard brings a sure grasp of the region’s past to the narrative and infuses her central characters with a Southern sensibility that’s pronounced but never parody. In this compelling novel, she distills the essence of an era.

A TALE OF TWO SISTERS White Chrysanthemum (Putnam, $26, 320 pages, ISBN

9780735214439), Mary Lynn Bracht’s assured, atmospheric debut, takes place in 1940s Korea during the Japanese occupation. Hana is a haenyeo, or sea woman—a female diver who catches fish in the ocean. Hana learned the trade from her mother, and she uses her earnings to help her

family make ends meet. One day, during a dive, a Japanese soldier appears on the shore. When she tries to protect her younger sister, Emi, from the man, Hana is captured and taken to Manchuria, where she’s made to work as a comfort woman for the Japanese. Decades later, Emi comes to Seoul to try to locate Hana and to join in the protests near the Japanese embassy in memory of women enslaved as prostitutes during the war. Emi has long been haunted by Hana’s disappearance and hopes to finally discover the rest of her sister’s story. Bracht, an author of Korean descent, has produced a psychologically acute, emotionally resonant novel. She skillfully develops separate plots for the sisters and, with remarkable depth, portrays both the oppression of daily life during the occupation and the haunting aftereffects of the experience. Rich with historical detail, White Chrysanthemum is a com-

pelling and important account of civilian women’s lives during wartime.

RIDING THE TIDES OF WAR Sara Ackerman delivers a dramatic saga of motherhood, loss and the possibility of renewal in Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers (Mira, $15.99, 400 pages, ISBN 9780778319214). In Hawaii, as the war effort ramps up, Violet Iverson struggles to make sense of her husband’s disappearance. Rumors about his fate are on the rise, and some locals believe he is working for the Japanese. The one person who might have answers is Violet’s daughter, Ella, but no amount of coaxing will make her talk about what she has seen. It seems she’s been scared into silence. Joining forces with her female friends, Violet starts a pie stand near Camp Tarawa—an undertaking that gives the enlisted men a taste of home. When the women are accused of spying, Sergeant Stone, a bold marine, lends a helping hand. Violet soon finds herself in the grip of a strong attraction, but she faces the possibility of another loss when Stone leaves for Iwo Jima. With a sensitive touch and an instinct for authenticity, Ackerman depicts the fraught nature of wartime relationships. The letters Violet receives from Stone are filled with a sense of yearning, and her devotion to him as he risks his life is palpable. Born and raised in Hawaii, Ackerman mixes romance, suspense and history into a bittersweet story of cinematic proportions.

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Winter Wonders

NEW PAPERBACKS TO KEEP YOU WARM “What a joy to find a book that is both PROPULSIVE and PERFECTLY COMPOSED.” —Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest

“A DELIGHTFULLY RETRO read . . . a warmhearted romp.” —USA Today

reviews very real possibility the narrator ignores. But woman and dog have an inner journey to make, swimming upstream against their grief and puzzlement in an attempt to understand why their friend abandoned them. Nunez’s seventh novel is small yet rich. Replete with limpid asides on writing, writers and what it means to be a person of words in an increasingly emoji world, The Friend will appeal in particular to fans of postmodern authors such as David Markson. Talented as she is, Nunez should be better known among readers. If you’re already a fan, this beautiful, spare work will not disappoint. If you aren’t, this relevant novel is the perfect introduction. —IAN SCHWARTZ

SONG OF A CAPTIVE BIRD By Jasmin Darznik

“EMOTIONALLY CHARGED and TAUTLY PLOTTED . . . a stunning example of psychological suspense.” —Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go and I See You

“Can be compared (with no fear of hyperbole) to STEPHEN KING and JO NESBØ.” —la Repubblica

    @HARPERPERENNIAL Discover great authors, exclusive offers, and more at hc.com

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Ballantine $27, 416 pages ISBN 9780399182310 eBook available WORLD FICTION

If poetry is emotion rendered incendiary, then Forugh Farrokhzad was made of fire. For the sin of revolutionary frankness in a time of deep, patriarchal conservatism, Iran’s modernist icon suffered greatly—accused of immorality, forbidden from seeing her child, even confined for a time to an “asylum.” Decades after her death in 1967, she continued to pay a price—the hard-line Islamist government that eventually took over Iran would go on to ban much of her work. A printing press that refused to stop publishing her poems was burned to the ground. Forugh’s life—short, tragic but marked by poetic genius—forms the basis for Jasmin Darznik’s vivid first novel. Iranian-born Darznik traces Forugh’s tumultuous 32 years and, through them, the story of midcentury Persian society. Effectively a fictionalized biography, Song of a Captive Bird is an unsparing account of the necessity and consequences of speaking out.

FICTION From the book’s opening scene—a brutal account of Forugh’s subjection to a so-called “virginity test”—the novel details the myriad ways in which a young female poet attempting to pierce the heart of a male-led art form is made to suffer indignities for her audacity. At first ignored, then condemned, then made a public spectacle for her poems, in particular those in which she explores themes of desire and sexuality, Forugh’s story is as relevant today as it was during her lifetime. Writing from a place of deep reverence for her central character, Darznik crafts a sensory experience, an Iran whose sights and sounds and scents feel neither superficial nor trivially exotic. The result is a well-honed novel about the meaning of rebellion—what happens when a poet of singular talent decides “that it’s shame, not sin, that’s unholy.” —OMAR EL AKKAD

THE QUEEN OF HEARTS By Kimmery Martin Berkley $26, 352 pages ISBN 9780399585050 eBook available POPULAR FICTION

Zadie and Emma have been best friends for years, ever since they were randomly paired as summer camp roommates. They supported each other throughout the grueling years of medical training, and every high and low since. Now they’re both successful physicians in Charlotte, North Carolina, keeping each other sane as they juggle careers and family. Zadie is outgoing and energetic, with four kids and a thriving career as a cardiologist. Emma is reserved and private, an emergency room doctor who fiercely guards her friendship with Zadie. “Ours was a friendship forged when we were young, the kind that endures no matter what because losing it would be like losing an aspect of your own personality: your sense of humor or your ability


FICTION to empathize,” Emma says. “You wouldn’t be the same person with­ out your friend as your external hard drive. I know, because for quite a while I thought I would lose her.” When a child dies while in Emma’s care, the tragedy rocks their close-knit community. While the friends are still reeling, an unwelcome figure from their past reappears. Nick Xenokostas, who served as chief resident while Zadie and Emma were in medical school, takes a job at Emma’s practice. Nick and Zadie had an affair while he supervised her as a student, and he broke her heart. This ancient history is dredged back up when Zadie discovers Emma’s role in the breakup, and is unsure whether she can forgive her. Kimmery Martin’s excellent debut novel serves up an irresistible mix of romance, ER drama, friendship and betrayal. Martin, a physician herself, writes in a clear and lively way, flashing between the friends and between present day and their exhausting but exhilarating medical school years. In her hands, dramatic hospital scenes and routine kitchen conversations are equally compelling. —AMY SCRIBNER

ASYMMETRY By Lisa Halliday

Simon & Schuster $26, 288 pages ISBN 9781501166761 Audio, eBook available LITERARY FICTION

Asymmetry, Whiting Award winner Lisa Halliday’s debut, is a pair of novellas with a unique narrative shift. What begins as the story of a 25-year-old editorial assistant in early-2000s New York turns into the tale of an Iraqi-American economist detained at Heathrow on his way to Iraqi Kurdistan. In Folly, the opening novella, Ezra Blazer, a novelist in his 70s who suffers from many ailments, passes on his knowledge of books and music to Alice, an editorial assistant with whom he is having

an affair. In her spare time, Alice writes about “War. Dictatorships. World affairs.” In Madness, the second novella, economist Amar Ala Jaafari experiences firsthand the war and dictatorships that Alice writes about, especially during flashbacks to war-torn Iraq and when he encounters the casual racism of border control agents. The first section of Asymmetry feels sketchy, but the novel gains considerable momentum in Madness. The prose becomes poetic and precise, as when Halliday writes that the bustle in Heathrow “had a kind of prolonged regularity to it, like a jazz improvisation that, for all its deviations, never loses its beat.” Both novellas deal with insecurity and death, and Halliday draws connections between the two seemingly disparate stories in many ways. For example, in Madness, Amar refers to Saul Bellow’s line from Humboldt’s Gift: “Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything.” The same reference appears in Folly. In a third and final section, wherein the two novellas come together, Ezra tells an interviewer, “We have very little choice other than to spend our waking hours trying to sort out and make sense of the perennial pandemonium.” Asymmetry is a thoughtful look at many forms of disorder and the eternal struggle to reconcile them. —MICHAEL MAGRAS

ONLY KILLERS AND THIEVES By Paul Howarth

Harper $26.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780062690968 Audio, eBook available HISTORICAL FICTION

The story of a frontier family’s murder by a tribe of native peoples and the ensuing quest for vengeance has been written before. It’s a staple of many Western novels. What sets Only Killers and Thieves apart is its locale: not the late 19th-century American West but the untamed wilderness of the Australian outback.

The novel begins innocently enough, with teen brothers Billy and Tommy McBride on a hunting expedition. Debut novelist Paul Howarth entrenches readers in the scene and its grim mood from the opening sentence: “They stalked the ruined scrubland, searching for something to kill.” Later, when the boys discover their parents slain and their young sister, Mary, barely clinging to life, they must swallow their father’s pride and seek help from his nemesis, a deeply racist land baron called John Sullivan. While Sullivan’s doctor and wife tend to Mary, the teens accompany Sullivan and a posse of Native Queensland police to rout the aboriginal Kurrong tribe believed to be responsible for the McBride murders. Consumed by hate and a lust for revenge, Billy embraces Sullivan’s view of superiority over the land’s native inhabitants, even as the more sensitive Tommy questions everything. Only Killers and Thieves is brutally violent and shocking, from its depiction of racial bias to its savage realism, but at its heart, it is a coming-of-age novel. Howarth includes many parallels to the novel’s Old West counterparts: a family trying to tame the land and create a livelihood for themselves amid a harsh, unforgiving climate; a rival landowner who threatens to control them at every turn; and the constant threat of attack by the region’s indigenous population. Howarth manages to infuse the old tropes with a depth of emotion and moral complication that will stay with readers long after closing the book. —G. ROBERT FRAZIER

SADNESS IS A WHITE BIRD By Moriel Rothman-Zecher

Atria $26, 288 pages ISBN 9781501176265 Audio, eBook available COMING OF AGE

American readers may not be familiar with the conflicting loyalties some Israeli combatants

feel regarding their government’s policies; sometimes Israelis go so far as to enlist in the army and then refuse to serve. But Sadness Is a White Bird, a lyrical debut by a rising literary star, may change that. The novel tells the story of a very young soldier who is driven to his breaking point when his friendship with Palestinian twins interferes with the expectations of country and family. The novel begins in a jail cell just days after the narrator’s 19th birthday. Two years ago, Jonathan’s family moved to Israel, where he completed high school and readied himself for mandatory army service. As a committed Zionist, Jonathan’s ideals were shaped by his grandfather’s childhood in wartorn Salonica, Greece, and his later involvement in the early militias that led to Israeli statehood after World War II. But after meeting two Palestinian students at the University of Haifa—Laith and his sister, Nimreen—Jonathan’s hard-won perspective begins to change. His new ideals are tested when his unit is called on to protect a new settlement from protesters. Before that day, Laith, Nimreen and Jonathan formed an inseparable trio, hitchhiking cross-country, hanging out in seaside cafes and spending more than one pot-fueled night on the beach. The friendship has an erotic edge; Jonathan finds himself attracted to both of the siblings, as much a physical attraction as a meeting of the minds fueled by the sharing of ideas, memories and poetry. The novel itself is written as a passionate letter to Laith from the imprisoned Jonathan, and is peppered with lyrics and phrases from notable Palestinian poets and filled with the urgency of a young man trying to understand where he stands. Informed by author Moriel Rothman-Zecher’s background in Arabic literature and social activism, both of which add passion and integrity to the story, Sadness Is a White Bird is part comingof-age tale and part unblinking observation of a political situation that continues to defy solutions, treaties or agreements. —LAUREN BUFFERD

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reviews

NONFICTION

T PI OP CK

WHEN MONTEZUMA MET CORTÉS By Matthew Restall

HEART BERRIES

Reflecting on a haunted past

Ecco $35, 560 pages ISBN 9780062427267 Audio, eBook available HISTORY

REVIEW BY CATHERINE HOLLIS

This stunning, poetic memoir from Terese Marie Mailhot burns like hot coal. I read it in a single feverish session, completely absorbed and transported by Mailhot’s powerful and original voice. Mailhot’s story— which extends from an impoverished childhood on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia through foster care, teenage motherhood and mental illness—could seem a painful litany of misfortune were it not for the transformative alchemy of her art. Sherman Alexie, in his introduction to this memoir, calls Heart Berries “an Iliad for the indigenous,” and recognizes Mailhot as a striking new voice in First Nation writing. The strength of her writing comes from Mailhot’s fearless embrace of emotional darkness and in her depiction of the psychic cost of living in a white man’s world. For example, after Mailhot’s mother has an intense epistolary love affair By Terese Marie Mailhot with convicted murderer Salvador Agron, her words and memories Counterpoint, $23, 160 pages ISBN 9781619023345, audio, eBook available are used by the musician Paul Simon for his musical The Capeman, in which her character is reduced to an “Indian hippie chick.” Mailhot MEMOIR herself falls in precipitous love with her writing teacher, a passion that initially lands her in a mental ward. Although diagnosed with bipolar II, post-traumatic stress disorder and an eating disorder, Mailhot links her illness to something she calls “Indian sick,” which is as historical as it is individual. There is “something feminine and ancestral” in her illness, which requires an acknowledgment of the generational trauma of First Nation people. Storytelling, Mailhot feels, is a first step toward healing both the individual and her people. Situating her physical and psychic pain in context with a multigenerational focus, Mailhot crafts an intensely moving story about mothers and what they pass down to their children.

THE MONK OF MOKHA By Dave Eggers

Knopf $28.95, 352 pages ISBN 9781101947319 Audio, eBook available BIOGRAPHY

If something called the American dream is still alive, it’s personified by the protagonist of the captivating The Monk of Mokha, Dave Eggers’ latest work of narrative nonfiction. In it, Eggers marshals the storytelling talent he displayed in Zeitoun, his 2009 account of a Syrian-American family devastated by Hurricane Katrina and inane bureaucracy, to explore the story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a young Yemeni American who must

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In the traditional story of the conquest of Mexico, as told by the conquistadors themselves, the brilliant strategist Hernando Cortés and a small, valiant band of Spanish conquistadors marched into the capital of the Aztec empire, Tenochtitlan (where Mexico City now stands), on November 8, 1519. They were met by a weak and fearful Montezuma, who almost immediately surrendered his empire to the Spaniards. Montezuma was later stoned to death by his own people, and a war broke out in which the Spaniards were soon victorious. That a small band of conquistadors could defeat a massive army of Mesoamerican warriors proved the superiority of Western culture. For the next 500 years, the epic tale was embellished, streamlined and repeated so often that it assumed the aura of truth. In his brilliant deep dive into the warning, he left for Yemen amid history and scholarship about this overcome civil war, terrorism and U.S. drone strikes, the attacks of famous episode, Matthew Restall his own inexperience and selfdoubt to pursue his singular vision Houthi rebels and the constant contests almost every assertion of entrepreneurial success in the threat of terrorism from al-Qaida in in the traditional account of the the Arabian Peninsula. specialty coffee business. conquest of the Aztec empire. In the final third of The Monk In 2013, while employed as a Restall is emphatic and witty in of Mokha, Eggers, who has been doorman at a posh apartment his argument that Montezuma did building in San Francisco, 25-year- a finalist for both the National not surrender; the assumption that old Alkhanshali, who’d already Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, he did was the result of ignorance describes Alkhanshali’s harrowing demonstrated his superior salesabout the subtleties of the native journey back to America, carrying man skills by dealing everything language. Restall credibly argues suitcases packed with coffee beans that as the shrewd leader of a very from Banana Republic clothing to Hondas, hatched a plan to revive whose quality he hopes will secure advanced civilization, Montezuma the coffee business in his ancestral both his business’s future and the was neither weak nor fearful. Nor prosperity of his farmer clients. It’s was Cortés particularly brilliant, homeland. Eggers explains that although Ethiopia lays claim to the a nail-biting account, with each as his earlier career shows, and he checkpoint and interrogation pos- was less in control of his comrades discovery of the coffee fruit, the first beans were brewed in Yemen, ing a new peril. than he claimed. The conquistagiving birth to the coffee known as Propelled by its engaging main dors also benefited immensely character and his improbable de“arabica.” from internal rivalries among the Alkhanshali’s audacious business termination, The Monk of Mokha, Aztecs and other Mesoamericans, for all its foreign elements, is at its model involved the promotion of and the catastrophic spread of heart a satisfying, old-fashioned the direct trading of rare coffee disease. varietals to premium roasters. American success story. Through diligent research, Ignoring a State Department travel — H A R V E Y F R E E D E N B E R G Restall presents readers with a


Rodeo Queen 101

Vast Midnight

www.iuniverse.com 978-1-5320-2903-5 Paperback | $13.99 978-1-5320-2902-8 Ebook | $3.99

www.authorhouse.com 978-1-5049-8599-4 Paperback | $16.95 978-1-5049-8598-7 Ebook | $3.99

Rodeo Queen 101 combines expertise with personal stories to provide step-by-step direction for future rodeo queens and their families interested in competing locally and nationally.

A young, naïve woman named Madeline was accused of murdering her husband. Although innocent, she’s been harboring a deep, dark secret.

Raven in the Forest of Illusion

A Dream, Shadows and Fulfillment

www.trafford.com 978-1-4120-3786-0 Paperback | $25.35 978-1-4122-0282-4 Ebook | $9.99

www.xlibris.com 978-1-5245-6548-0 Hardback | $29.99 978-1-5245-6547-3 Paperback | $19.99 978-1-5245-6659-3 Ebook | $3.99

Anne T. Reason

Leah SkyBird

Raven, young Native American woman, forced to employ secret ceremonial rites when the evil embodiment of the two-thousand-year-old-man invades and threatens her sacred ancestral forest.

Helena White

Henry Bretton

A Dream, Shadows and Fulfillment shares Henry Bretton’s autobiography and reflects some of the major milestones in his life.

Rekindled

Too Much Blood

www.authorhouse.com 978-1-5049-1123-8 Hardback | $35.99 978-1-5049-1124-5 Paperback | $14.95 978-1-5049-1122-1 Ebook | $7.99

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Teresa Irizarry

A Toni Day Mystery Jane Bennett Munro

Roger Williams must overcome colony opposition and rely on support from Algonquin people to rekindle a new way to live and govern with ancient origins.

A notorious local attorney is found dead in his Mercedes in the middle of a snowy interstate. Pathologist Toni Day is on the case once again.

Murder under the Microscope

Wild Blue Ponders

Jane Bennett Munro

www.iuniverse.com 978-1-4502-9862-9 Paperback | $23.95 978-1-4502-9861-2 Ebook | $5.99 A stubborn pathologist must rely on more than her microscope as she delves into a web of deception. Her freedom and her life are at stake.

War Max Blue

www.iuniverse.com 978-1-5320-2549-5 Hardback | $39.99 978-1-5320-2551-8 Paperback | $28.99 978-1-5320-2550-1 Ebook | $3.99 This anthology offers the best of the best of Max Blue’s twelve novels, offering forty-seven select chapters centering on the theme of war.

Gathering No Moss

Memoir of a reluctant world traveler Don Feeney www.iuniverse.com 978-1-4917-3487-2 Hardback | $33.95 978-1-4917-3486-5 Paperback | $23.95 978-1-4917-3488-9 Ebook | $6.99 Don Feeney has lived and played on six continents, and shares a lifetime of unique travels in pursuit of work, love, adventure, insightfulness and spirituality.

Exile from Jamestown

Arnie Zimbelman

www.iuniverse.com 978-0-5958-0911-0 Hardback | $22.95 978-0-5953-4898-5 Paperback | $12.95 978-0-5957-9615-1 Ebook | $3.99 Pocahontas, Powhatan, Captain John Smith—these historic figures along with other characters play a part in this fictional account of America’s beginnings at Jamestown.

REMARKABLE BOOKS TO ENJOY AGAIN AND AGAIN. ORDER YOURS TODAY!


reviews fascinating view of Montezuma, mounting a convincing argument that Cortés’ self-serving accounts and the traditional narrative are almost surely false. —ALDEN MUDGE

YOUNG CHINA By Zak Dychtwald St. Martin’s $25.99, 304 pages ISBN 9781250078810 eBook available SOCIOLOGY

If your view of youth in China involves drab clothing and groupthink, it’s time to come into the 21st century. And it would take quite a long march to find a better guide than Zak Dychtwald’s Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World. Dychtwald, in his 20s himself, has lived and traveled extensively in China, and his first book is an entertaining and instructive exploration of the Chinese generation born after 1990. Want to immerse yourself in a foreign culture? Take a cue from Dychtwald, who first leaves Hong Kong for “the real China” speaking “no meaningful Chinese” and brimming with garnered advice such as, “Don’t let the prostitutes steal your internal organs.” With admirable determination, he learns to speak fluent Mandarin, lives with Chinese roommates and survives multiple awkward situations. Along the way, Dychtwald develops insights about everything from the obscure (the hugely popular “double-eyelid” cosmetic surgery, which creates a more “Western-shaped” eye) to the well known (China’s now abolished one-child policy) to the inevitable (sex). He discovers that contemporary young people in China and the United States have essentially identical dreams. But the journey to this point is a fascinating story, and Young China tells it well.

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—KEITH HERRELL

NONFICTION A FALSE REPORT By T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong

Crown $28, 304 pages ISBN 9781524759933 Audio, eBook available TRUE CRIME

really make up for the years lost and anguish endured. —ANNE BARTLETT

—ALICE CARY

THE MILK LADY OF BANGALORE By Shoba Narayan Algonquin $24.95, 272 pages ISBN 9781616206154 eBook available TRAVEL

In a Seattle suburb in 2008, an 18-year-old girl woke up to find a stranger with a knife in her apartment bedroom. He bound, blindfolded and gagged her, then raped her and photographed the assault. After he left, she reported the rape to the Lynnwood, Washington, police. They didn’t believe her. They thought Marie had invented the story to get attention and charged her with making a false report. Two years later in Colorado, the same man raped another woman. Then another. And another. Luckily, the detectives there believed the victims and investigated aggressively. But the harm was done: A serial rapist was at large because the Lynnwood police had failed to do their job properly. It’s a horrifying story, but not a unique one. In A False Report, an expansion of their Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” journalists T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong posit that centuries of bias against women’s rape allegations continue to infect the U.S. legal system. Much progress has occurred, but not enough and not everywhere. Miller and Armstrong delve deeply into serial rapist Marc Patrick O’Leary’s crimes and the investigation that eventually caught him, weaving together Marie’s traumatic experience and the meticulous work of two female detectives and their colleagues that ultimately put O’Leary in prison—and humiliated the Lynnwood police. After years of depression and drifting, Marie was exonerated. The cops, foster parents and former friends who had refused to believe her apologized, and she went on to a better life. But nothing could

Milk is my way of reconnecting with the patch of earth that I call home.”

“It’s true that at first I laughed at drinking cow urine but feed me a good story and I can believe anything,” writes author Shoba Narayan. Indeed, she feeds readers a good story in her udderly delightful The Milk Lady of Bangalore. When Narayan, her husband and their two daughters moved from New York City back to the couple’s native India, Narayan was no doubt looking for something to write about. She found it right in the elevator of her new apartment building: a cow riding up to the third floor for a housewarming ceremony, led by its owner, Sarala, a woman who sold raw milk. Hindus consider cows sacred, and India has what Narayan calls a “cow obsession.” Soon this obsession rubs off on her, turning her into “an evangelist for fresh cow’s milk.” Sarala led the author straight into a herd of often funny and always fascinating bovine adventures, including drinking cow urine (supposedly a curative), mixing a cow dung-yogurt concoction as fertilizer, falling in love with a red cow with “eyes the size of oval macaroons” and even briefly owning a cow before donating it to Sarala. There’s plenty of heart and soul in this book as Narayan takes readers on a unique tour of her Indian neighborhood, where there’s never a dull moment. Narayan is an astute observer, particularly of herself, noting: “The reason I want to buy milk from a cow is because I am trying to recapture the simple times of my childhood, particularly after the intricate dance that I have undertaken for the last twenty years as an immigrant in America.

Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Shoba Narayan.

HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE YOU MAKE By John Leland

Sarah Crichton $26, 256 pages ISBN 9780374168186 Audio, eBook available AGING

In 2015, John Leland wrote a series of articles for the New York Times that examined the conditions and outlooks of three men and three women who, at that time, were between the ages of 87 and 92. He’s now chronicled that experience in Happiness Is a Choice You Make. The common denominator of old age, Leland found, is a more or less graceful acceptance of the inevitable, not just of escalating physical limitations but of the awareness that each day may be one’s last and, thus, should be savored for what it has to offer. Even those who complained they were tired of living were not in despair. They had their days and moments of joy: Fred reveled in memories of his times as a sharp-dressed manabout-town. Helen, after losing her husband, discovered a second love and a reason to go on in Howie, a wheelchair-bound fellow resident in her nursing home. John, nearly blind and bereft of his longtime lover, listened to opera for inspiration or squinted at a video of his favorite musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. “[O]ld age is a concept largely defined by the people who have never lived it,” Leland observes. “We do ourselves a big favor not to be scared of growing old, but to embrace the mixed bag that the years have to offer, however severe the losses.” —EDWARD MORRIS


T PI OP CK

TEEN

YA CAN’T MISS

PICKS

A LAND OF PERMANENT GOODBYES

OF THE

MONTH

Look for the helpers REVIEW BY DIANE COLSON

By Atia Abawi

Philomel, $17.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780399546839, eBook available Ages 12 and up FICTION

DOWN AND ACROSS By Arvin Ahmadi

Viking $17.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780425289877 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up FICTION

Sixteen-year-old Saaket Ferdowsi—but please call him Scott— lacks grit. So while his parents are visiting family in Iran, he hops on a bus to Washington, D.C., in order to visit a Georgetown professor who’s just won the MacArthur Genius Grant for her research on grit. But the friends he makes along the way—Trent, an aspiring U.S. senator, and Fiona, a crossword aficionado—teach him more about “sticktoitiveness” than he ever could have expected. Arvin Ahmadi’s charming debut, Down and Across, brings a strong new voice to teen literature. Scott’s uncertainty, and his panic over that

Only Tareq, his little sister and his father are left after a bomb destroys their home and kills the rest of their close-knit family. In the wake of this unbearable loss, the three plan to leave Syria for the dream of asylum in Europe. The journey is terrible from the start, with desperate refugees packing into overcrowded camps in unsympathetic cities. From Turkey, Tareq decides their best chance is to cross the Aegean Sea, which requires giving all their money to unscrupulous smugglers. This arrangement, along with the dangers of the sea and hostile attacks by the Turkish Coast Guard, is enough to drain Tareq of his humanity. But when his family arrives in Greece, he makes the fortuitous acquaintance of an American volunteer, who encourages him with words from Mr. Rogers: “Look for the helpers.” Destiny acts as the omniscient narrator of A Land of Permanent Goodbyes, granting insight into the hearts of the characters and a broader overview of the refugee experience. As author Atia Abawi artfully illustrates, refugees are created by circumstances that can happen anywhere. A perfect companion novel to Alan Gratz’s Refugee, this humanizing, often harrowing and sometimes transcendent novel fosters compassion and understanding. uncertainty, will resonate with high school readers faced with the impossible task of figuring out what they want to do with their lives. The supporting characters’ efforts to juggle their own aspirations with their unique baggage will feel equally familiar. Most of all, Scott’s spontaneous trip—and the lessons he learns about grit along the way—will likely help young readers relieve their own anxiety about the next steps in their lives.

anticipated books of the year. Fortunately, this is one of those cases where the hype is justified. Readers, especially those with a fondness for dark fairy tales, won’t want to miss this brilliant combination of realistic fiction and fantasy. Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother, Ella, have spent years living as nomads; they never seem to be able to outrun their bad luck or avoid the obsessive fans of the hard-to-find fairy-tale collection Tales from the Hinterland, written — S A R A H W E B E R by Alice’s grandmother, whom she’s never met. But when Alice’s mom is mysteriously kidnapped, Alice THE HAZEL WOOD and her classmate (and die-hard Hinterland fan) Finch set off to By Melissa Albert find her in the supernatural Hazel Flatiron Wood. Along the way, the two $16.99, 368 pages encounter dangerous situations ISBN 9781250147905 and memorable—and sometimes Audio, eBook available terrifying—characters. Ages 14 and up Readers may wish they could FANTASY get their hands on an elusive copy of Tales from the Hinterland, and they’ll be more than happy to stay up late to accompany Alice on her perilous journey. It’s no exaggeration to say that The Hazel Wood is one of the most —NORAH PIEHL

“You’ll want to savor this romance!” —#1 New York Times bestselling author Erin Watt

The no-longer-secret stories of queer teens throughout the ages.

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out-of-this-galaxy adventure!” — #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas

Misfits. Thieves. Outlaws. Saving the galaxy isn’t a job for heroes.

It’s a job for

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children’s

LESLIE CONNOR

Speak up: A child’s truth matters

L

eslie Connor has never shied away from tackling tough topics in her books for young readers—including issues that seem strictly grown-up, such as incarceration, depression and economic instability. Integrating such real-world problems into her fiction requires a deep understanding of a child’s point of view. “My sense with middle grade books is that life is really being done to these kids—the adults are in charge,” Connor says during a call to her home in Connecticut. “But maybe for that reason, [kids] can sort of deal with it. You only know what you know. . . . You don’t fully know what’s wrong, and so you cope with what’s there.” Connor is the author of several books for middle schoolers and teens, and has even authored a picture book. In her latest novel, The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, Mason Buttle is doing his best to cope. Ever since Mason lost his mom and grandpa six years ago, his grandma and uncle haven’t had as much energy to maintain their “crumbledown” farmhouse, and the beautiful family apple orchard has been gradually sold off to developers. Mason’s biggest tragedy, though, was the death of his best friend, Benny, in an accident for which he fears he is blamed by

THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE

By Leslie Connor

Katherine Tegen, $16.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780062491435, eBook available Ages 8 to 12

MIDDLE GRADE

Benny’s dads—and by police investigator Lieutenant Baird. Mason desperately wants to tell the truth about what happened that day in the tree house, but his brain doesn’t work like most people’s; when he tries to tell a story, his mind gets all tangled up. “My story is mixed,” he says. “Some things are past things. Some are right now.” He has trouble with reading and writing, too. Mason knows he’s not stupid—despite what his bullying neighbor might say—but how can he make other people believe the truth that’s in his heart? Even though it’s firmly grounded in a child’s hopeful perspective, The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle could’ve been a dark, heavy tale. Fortunately, it is lightened by Mason’s distinctive, honest voice. Mason is buoyed by the important people in his life, including his grandma, who’s always happy to make him banana milkshakes; Ms. Blinny, the school social worker who introduces him to new technology that helps him overcome his fear of storytelling; and his new friend Calvin Chumsky. Calvin and Mason are opposites in many ways, but their individual skills and different ways of viewing the world balance one another perfectly. “Calvin and Mason both have something to offer each other. I think that can happen for real,” Connor says. “I remember hearing two kids playing on the beach, and one of them knew the physics about waves and everything, and the other one was just pretending to dive with sea monsters—seeing and understanding the world in two totally different ways, but being friends regardless.” Connor also views her novel as participating in the “No Child Left Inside” movement, which encourages environmental education for

children; while Calvin may be perfectly happy to play indoors and work on his tablet, Mason only comes into his own and thrives when he’s outdoors. “I do feel that a lot of kids could be learning more or better outside, because it just suits them better,” Connor says. “It is who they are.” Mason and Calvin’s complementary talents are most on display when they solve problems “A lot of and tackle kids could challenges tobe learning gether, whethmore or better er that means outsmarting outside. . . . It neighborhood is who they bullies or are.” transforming the crumbledown’s derelict root cellar into a cozy hideaway inspired by the prehistoric caves of Lascaux in France. Sanctuaries are important in Connor’s novel, whether it’s a tree house, an underground den or the safe haven of Ms. Blinny’s office. “I was constantly making those types of spaces for myself,” Connor says of her own childhood. “There were always kids building forts and linking them together. I love that sense of building things and creating spaces, and I know that these days, kids mostly are doing that only at the computer. I sense a little bit of a loss there; building things with your hands is really important. I think we’re all fort-builders at heart.” Now, Connor says, she creates her “forts” by building worlds

© J.F. CONNOR

INTERVIEW BY NORAH PIEHL

and characters in her novels. Along with everything else that’s happening in this rich, rewarding story of friendship, loyalty, justice and new beginnings, it’s also a wonderful dog novel. Mason absolutely adores Moonie Drinker, the dog next door (who happens to belong to Mason’s nemesis), and Moonie loves Mason right back. Mason’s bond with Moonie Drinker—along with his intimate knowledge of the family apple orchard and his facility for building things with his hands—helps Mason gain confidence and courage when he needs it most. Connor, who has three rescue dogs of her own, modeled Moonie Drinker after her dog Atticus: “He’s just a really happy dog. Dogs are just like people, in that they come with different personalities—serious, moody—and he’s just a really happy dog. He seems to know when to offer comfort, too.” Moonie Drinker, Calvin and Mason will remain in readers’ hearts long after they finish The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle. Even Connor admits that she’s particularly fond of her protagonist: “He’s very close to my heart somehow.” Readers lucky enough to get to know Mason will certainly feel the same.

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reviews T PI OP CK

CHILDREN’S

THE JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE

A long way to freedom REVIEW BY LORI K. JOYCE

Two-time Newbery Medal-winning author Christopher Paul Curtis’ latest middle grade novel, a coming-of-age tale set in 1858, will resonate with readers for its timeless themes of justice, self-awareness and questions of right and wrong. Little Charlie Bobo’s family are white sharecroppers for the Tanner plantation. It’s a meager existence, so Charlie’s father tries a few side hustles to earn more money, including joining the Tanner’s overseer and slave catcher, an unremittingly mean and clever man, in a scheme. However, Charlie’s father dies before he can complete his part of the bargain, and the overseer makes 12-year-old Charlie take his father’s place. At first Charlie is excited to be traveling to Detroit to break up what By Christopher Paul Curtis the overseer explains is a gang of thieves who stole thousands of Scholastic, $16.99, 256 pages dollars from the Tanners. On the trip, Charlie carefully observes the ISBN 9780545156660, audio, eBook available overseer and eventually comes to several troubling conclusions about Ages 9 to 13 their mission. Charlie is further conflicted when he realizes one of the “stolen goods” is a boy not too different from himself. Without any MIDDLE GRADE guidance, Charlie must make several grown-up decisions of his own. The historical accuracy of The Journey of Little Charlie educates readers on the efforts to capture runaway slaves and the fortitude of those who journeyed north to freedom. In this tale set in the past, modern parallels abound, offering a clear gateway for discussions that are painfully important today. As Curtis writes in his author’s note, the leap taken by Charlie is “[a] step that is available to all of us.”

great choice for classrooms. The anthropomorphized letters, composed with energetic lines, relish By Judy Sierra their freedom as they march, happy Illustrated by Eric to be free from the book’s spine. AuComstock thor Judy Sierra amps up the madPaula Wiseman cap fun with a palindrome family $17.99, 40 pages reunion and an onomatopoeia ISBN 9781481480048 marching band. With a palette of eBook available teals, greens and oranges, illustrator Ages 4 to 8 Eric Comstock keeps the spreads PICTURE BOOK balanced and never too cluttered, an impressive feat in a book with so In this sneak peek inside the much going on. A glossary closes lively world of the dictionary, we out the book for those left wondering at the meaning of “lexicon” meet words that are exceedingly bored and long for liberation. They and “synonym,” as well as “garboil” and “sackbut,” which make their break free from Noah Webster’s dictionary and march throughout own delightful appearances in the the land of Hollyword. parade. In the end, Noah orders all the With bustling energy, this orthographic adventure celebrates the letters back into their tome, but when he runs into Roget and his basic components of any elementhesaurus, we are left wondering if tary school language arts curriculum—verbs, conjunctions, interjec- a sequel is in the works. Logophiles tions, contractions, homophones, will be thrilled. antonyms and more—making it a —J U L I E D A N I E L S O N

THE GREAT DICTIONARY CAPER

30

KATE, WHO TAMED THE WIND By Liz Garton Scanlon

Illustrated by Lee White Schwartz & Wade $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9781101934791 Ages 4 to 8 PICTURE BOOK

From its first page, Kate, Who Tamed the Wind might seem like a fairy tale about to unfold. There is a folk-art feel to the painting of a bearded man pedaling to his creaky house on the windswept top of a steep hill. But this clever collaboration between author Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrator Lee White is actually a delightfully original exploration of the role of trees in the environment, perfectly calibrated for children. We soon see that the man in the house has bigger problems than a steep bike ride. The wind never

lets up! It makes his shutters bang, knocks his teacup off the table and blows his hat—and his words— right out the door. “What to do?” Enter a little girl called Kate from the tiny town below. Kate brings back the man’s hat, along with a wagonload of saplings. The saplings are planted, and they grow into trees as the old man’s beard gradually turns white. Kate gets older, too, and one day she returns for a celebratory tea party under the shade of the sheltering trees near the quiet house on top of the now-green hill. The fictional story is accompanied by an informative author’s note, “More About Marvelous Trees,” which provides background on the role of trees in the earth’s ecosystem as well as internet resources for budding environmentalists. This is the perfect choice for tree huggers of all ages. —DEBORAH HOPKINSON

IF I HAD A HORSE By Gianna Marino Roaring Brook $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9781626729087 Ages 4 to 8 PICTURE BOOK

In a book illustrated entirely in silhouette and written in the conditional tense, we meet a young girl who longs to have her own horse. She dreams of meeting one, shy like her, and befriending, taming and riding him. Her horse would be strong and gentle, and together, the girl imagines, they would conquer anything. Author-illustrator Gianna Marino uses cool teals, purples and blues in expansive, border-free spreads (no borders could possibly corral this young girl’s big desires), balanced by the warm reds and yellows of the setting sun. The choice to convey all the action in silhouette is a fitting one for a book about a goal not yet met, as if we’re seeing the incomplete details of a dream. Movement propels the turn of each page; the girl’s hair and horse’s mane fly in the wind as she imagines how she would ride free if


CHILDREN’S her wish were granted. Comics fans and young readers Marino’s tone is both gentle who experience the world more and fierce as the girl imagines the intensely than their peers will love person she could become and this one. —DIANE COLSON what her moral character could be (strong, brave, curious and fearless) if she had her beloved horse by her THE HEART AND MIND OF side. It’s 40 pages of a girl’s most FRANCES PAULEY fervent wish, dreamy and wistful. By April Stevens Horse lovers will be especially rapt. —J U L I E D A N I E L S O N

STANLEY WILL PROBABLY BE FINE By Sally J. Pla

Illustrated by Steve Wolfhard HarperCollins $16.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780062445797 eBook available Ages 8 to 12

Schwartz & Wade $16.99, 208 pages ISBN 9781524720612 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12

meet  HOLLY HOBBIE

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

would you describe Q: How  the book?

has been the biggest influence on your work? Q: Who 

MIDDLE GRADE

Eleven-year-old Frances has taken to calling herself “Figgrotten.” A “natural observer” whose hero is anthropologist Margaret Mead, Figgrotten feels most herself MIDDLE GRADE when she’s all alone, perched high atop the rocks behind her house, In Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, conducting an experiment that the new novel by Sally J. Pla, Stanrequires feeding crows. ley is fine, as long as he’s nestled After a hurtful, hateful disagreein the reassuring quiet of his room ment, Figgrotten vows to never with a stack of comics. Alas, he’s again speak to her fashionable, forced to leave his cocoon for the popular sister, Christinia, who is chaos of middle school, where his mortified by her sister’s oddball best friend, Joon, is distancing him- ways, her unkempt hair and her self in favor of more adventurous too-small coat. friends. School is often too much Figgrotten’s world collapses sensory stimulation for Stanley, when her 83-year-old bus driver leading to humiliating breakdowns. dies. Alvin Turkson was her ShakeThen Stanley and Joon learn of a speare-loving, Gandhi-quoting Trivia Quest to be held in downbest friend. Adding to Figgrotten’s town San Diego. Participants solve misery is the new kid in class, a a series of clues using their comics shy, smart boy named James who expertise, and the winners earn seems to be favored by Figgrotten’s VIP passes to Comics Fest, a dream beloved teacher Mr. Stanley. Figcome true for Stanley and Joon. grotten eventually learns to naviStanley, with his encyclopedic gate this tricky terrain, to deal with knowledge of comics, should be her grief, to make peace with her an ace partner—but only if he can sister and James, and to even find a brave the noise and crowds of the new friend. She discovers that she downtown scene. “could hang on to who she was and Stanley is an engaging narrastill be part of the world, which she tor, ruefully aware of the ways his could now feel tugging at her.” personal challenges thwart his Author April Stevens’ carefully successful navigation of middle crafted, beautiful prose imbues school. The Trivia Quest allows this tightly plotted, engrossing tale him to make tentative steps toward with weighty themes that never adapting, even as he would desfeel heavy-handed or preachy. The perately love to hide in his room. Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley Stanley’s friendship with a homesings out heartfelt truths about Steschooled girl, who is dealing with vens’ quirky and genuine characher own poignant circumstances, ters, who will resonate deeply with allows him to develop a kinship lucky readers. —ALICE CARY with another outlier.

was your favorite subject in school? Why? Q: What 

was your childhood hero? Q: Who 

books did you enjoy as a child? Q: What 

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

Q: What message would you like to send to young readers?

ELMORE The author of 11 acclaimed Toot & Puddle picture books, Holly Hobbie has shared her art with fans for more than 40 years. Prepare for your heart to be stolen by the lovable, lonely porcupine in Hobbie’s new book, Elmore (Random House, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9781524718633, ages 3 to 7). Hobbie lives with her husband in Massachusetts.

31


BookPage February 2018  

Book reviews, Author interviews

BookPage February 2018  

Book reviews, Author interviews