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january 2014

america’s book review

next great book





NEW BOOKS featuring



discover your

u o Y w e N Year •

E.L. Doctorow Gary Shteyngart Ian Rankin Chang-rae Lee Martha Grimes




2 01

From the author of The Secret Life of Bees the tale of two women on a stirring quest for freedom

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m


paperback picks PENGUIN.COM

Dream Eyes

Empire and Honor

After the Storm

The Last Man on Earth

Sent by a friend to help Gwen Frazier with the death of her friend and mentor, psychic investigator Judson Coppersmith arrives. His attraction to Gwen is primal, but there are secrets he must keep, even as their investigation draws them into decades of deception and into the paranormal fires of a desire too strong to resist…

The U.S. made a secret deal with Reinhard Gehlen, head of the German intelligence’s Soviet section. Only a handful of people know about the deal. If word gets out, all hell will break loose—and the U.S. will lose some of its most valuable intelligence sources. It is up to Lieutenant Frade and company to keep them safe.

A beautiful stranger has arrived to picturesque Kentucky Lake—desperate, breathless, and on the run from a dark past closing in on her and the younger siblings she has vowed to protect. Donovan must now draw on every resource at his disposal—if he wants to save a woman and the children who may prove to be his destiny.

When a hot promotion pops up, both Zack and Madelyn are on the list for the position. As the two square off, they discover that being heated rivals in the office makes for scorching bed play behind closed doors. Will Madelyn’s steamy, secret affair make her compromise her ideals—or worse, lose her heart?

9780515154085 • $7.99

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Enemy of Mine

Boots Under Her Bed


Hope Flames

Taskforce operator Pike Logan and his partner, Jennifer Cahill, must hunt down an assassin following a trail that becomes more perilous at every turn. And they must deal with terrorist organizations, independent killers, and shaky allies to uncover the biggest threat of all: an American citizen hiding a secret that just may destroy everything, including the Taskforce.

From acclaimed authors Jodi Thomas, Jo Goodman, Kaki Warner, and Alison Kent comes a collection of four all-new novellas featuring the rugged men of the West and the women who want them…

LAPD cop Scott James and Maggie, a German shepherd who survived two tours in Afghanistan, both have PTSD and are each other’s last chance. And they’re about to investigate the one case no one wants them to touch: identifying the men who murdered Scott’s partner. But what they find could ultimately break them both.

Setting up her veterinary practice in the town she once called home, Emma Burnett is on her own and loving it until a series of local breakins leaves her vulnerable. Emma seeks help from the first man to spark her desire in years. And now they’re giving each other something they thought they’d lost forever…hope.

9780425264690 • $15.00

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From New York Times bestselling author Karen White A brand-new novel in the southern gothic Tradd Street series Melanie Middleton is only going through the motions of living since refusing Jack’s marriage proposal. She misses him desperately, but her broken heart is the least of her problems. Despite an insistence that she can raise their child alone, Melanie is completely unprepared for motherhood, and she struggles to complete renovations on her house on Tradd Street before the baby arrives. When Melanie is roused one night by the sound of a ghostly infant crying, she chooses to ignore it. She simply does not have the energy to deal with one more crisis. That is, until the remains of a newborn buried in an old christening gown are found hidden in the foundation of her house. As the hauntings on Tradd Street slowly become more violent, Melanie decides to find out what caused the baby’s untimely death, uncovering the love, loss, and betrayal that color the house’s history—and threaten her claim of ownership. But can she seek Jack’s help without risking her heart? For in revealing the secrets of the past, Melanie also awakens the malevolent presence that has tried to keep the truth hidden for decades.…


9780451240590 • $15.00


January 2014 B o o k Pa g e . c o m



13 Alex Myers

Sue Monk Kidd

A plantation owner’s daughter and her slave hope for a liberated future in the new novel from the author of The Secret Life of Bees.

A revolutionary ancestor’s legacy

13 Mireille Guiliano Meet the author of French Women Don’t Get Facelifts

16 E.L. Doctorow

Cover image © Cover photo © Roland Scarpa

How to read Andrew’s Brain

18 New year, new you A fresh start for everyone

27 Scott stossel

reviews 20 Fiction

top pick:

The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton

also reviewed:

Confronting anxiety head on

29 laurie halse anderson Bearing the burden of PTSD

31 baby picture books Little ones take wing

31 mike austin Meet the author-illustrator of Junkyard

Perfect by Rachel Joyce Motherland by Maria Hummel On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee The Way of All Fish by Martha Grimes Belle Cora by Phillip Margulies The Exiles Return by Elisabeth de Waal

26 NonFiction

top pick:

The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel by Magdalena Zyzak Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker Before I Burn by Gaute Heivoll A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart

also reviewed:

Unremarried Widow by Artis Henderson The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey

columns 04 05 06 09 10 10 12 12

romance library reads whodunit book clubs cooking lifestyles WEll read audio

A New Year's Resolution We Can Help You Keep!


For the Benefit of Those Who See by Rosemary Mahoney My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel

28 Teen


top pick:

top pick:

also reviewed:

also reviewed:

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The True Adventures of Nicolo Zen by Nicholas Christopher Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

The Sittin’ Up by Sheila P. Moses

Catching Kisses by Amy Gibson A Hundred Horses by Sarah Lean The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone by Tony Abbott

a m e r i c a’ s b o o k r e v i e w PUBLISHER


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children’s books

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Roger Bishop

Managing EDITOR


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Associate editor


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associate Editor

AD communications

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romance b y c h r i s t i e r i d g way

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Love among the spirits


Lori Wilde invites you back to Cupid, Texas, where love is only a heartbeat away…

But he’s puzzled that her children don’t look like her and wonders why the “widow” seems so skittish about kisses and other marital pleasures. Still, he falls for her, and they become a family through adventure and hardship. Hetty wants to confess her true identity to Karl, but it’s not just the fate of the children on the line—so is her love. Fast paced and full of heart.

Top pick in romance

Contemporary Romance Author

Candis Terry When friends become lovers... it can lead to disaster or... r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

the sweetest mistake.


San Francisco during the roaring ’20s comes to vivid life in Bitter Spirits (Berkley, $7.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9780425269572) by Jenn Bennett. Aida Palmer is a spirit medium who performs around the country. When she’s summoned after hours to the speakeasy where she’s currently engaged, she’s not expecting to meet attractive bootlegger Winter Magnusson—or the ghost following him around. Winter’s in desperate straits. Not only can he suddenly see and attract ghosts, but he’s also been poisoned. Thanks to Aida, he

recovers from the latter, but Winter knows he’s still in danger—and at risk of falling for the beautiful and independent Aida. Together, they try to figure out who might be out to harm him, exploring the corners of Chinatown and encountering some of its mysterious inhabitants. There’s danger all around, and the two bump up against it more than once in this action-packed tale. The time period and setting are depicted superbly; Winter and Aida are smart yet vulnerable; and the story offers both shivers and steam.

A long journey to love A young beauty is forced to make a desperate choice in Joan Johnston’s Western historical, Montana Bride (Dell, $7.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9780345527486). Hetty Wentworth is traveling westward on the Oregon Trail in the company of a mail-order bride, her two children and the manservant of the groom-to-be, when an accident befalls the meantempered fiancée, leaving a daughter and son orphaned and penniless. The servant suggests that Hetty take the identity of the woman his employer is expecting to marry. The deception will save the children, and Hetty—an orphan herself—vows to be a good wife to the man she’ll meet in the Montana Territory. Karl Norwood can’t believe his luck when he sees his breathtaking intended.

Taut suspense and tender romance come together in Jill Sorenson’s Badlands. At a political event during her father’s presidential campaign, single mother Penny Sandoval, her 5-year-old son, Cruz, and their bodyguard, Owen Jackson, are abducted and driven to the California desert to await the ransom demand. Terrified for herself and her child, Penny clings to the fact that Owen—whom she trusts and is secretly attracted to—is by her side. Then she learns that the leader of the kidnappers is none other than Owen’s older brother, who doesn’t appear to have much affection for the younger man. When opportunity presents itself, Penny and Cruz escape. Desperate to help the woman he longs for and the boy he adores, Owen manages to get free as well. What follows is a desperate flight through barren terrain that brings Penny and Owen closer together— and closer to confessing their feelings for each other. Will they survive to act upon them? Owen may see himself as a tarnished man, but he’s a remarkable hero, and readers will be rooting for him to get the good woman he’s dreamed of for so long.

badlands By Jill Sorenson

HQN $7.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780373778348 eBook available

romantic suspense

Selected from nominations made by library staff across the country, here are the 10 books that librarians can’t wait to share with readers in January.

The complication they don’t want…


The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley Delacorte, $24, ISBN 9780385344050

Precocious 11-year-old detective Flavia de Luce gets to the bottom of a murder at her local train station in her sixth adventure.

The passion they desperately need…

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Knopf, $24.95, ISBN 9780307958846 In 1929, Cora Blake joins a group of “Gold Star Mothers” who are sent on a government-sponsored trip to visit the graves of their sons who died in France in World War I. BookPage review on page 24.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

St. Martin’s, $25.99, ISBN 9781250019806 A trip to a summer resort full of quirky, oddball guests is transformative for a widow and her daughter in Allen’s magical and heartwarming fifth novel.

Debut author

delivers a captivating love story, filled with exciting adventures and sweeping romance.

The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin

Harper, $26.99, ISBN 9780062196248 The final novel in Maupin’s landmark Tales of the City series finds 92-year-old landlady Anna Madrigal embarking on the road trip of a lifetime. On sale January 21.

A Highly Unlikely Scenario by Rachel Cantor

Melville House, $16.95, ISBN 9781612192642 This offbeat debut is set in a near-future where fast-food chains are king—and Neetsa Pizza employee Leonard starts getting calls from someone who claims to be Marco Polo.

THE Wind is Not a river by Brian Payton

Ecco, $26.99, ISBN 9780062279972 In this gripping novel from one of Canada’s most acclaimed writers, a husband and wife separated by World War II struggle to be reunited. BookPage review on page 20.

Orfeo by Richard Powers

Norton, $26.95, ISBN 9780393240825 The National Book Award-winning author of The Echo Maker bases his new novel on the myth of Orpheus. On sale January 20.

The Kept by James Scott

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart

Random House, $27, ISBN 9780679643753 Acclaimed novelist Shteyngart tells the story of his own life in a hilarious but unflinching memoir that reveals the good, bad and ugly. BookPage review on page 26.

The First True Lie by Marina Mander

Hogarth, $13, ISBN 9780770436858 After Luca wakes one morning to find his mother dead, he and his cat Blue retreat into a world of imagination to avoid their reality. LibraryReads is a recommendation program that highlights librarians’ favorite books published this month. For more information, visit

Available now

in print and ebook.

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Harper, $25.99, ISBN 9780062236739 This striking debut novel is set during a bleak 1897 winter in upstate New York, where a woman and her son go on a quest for revenge against the men who killed their family.





r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

A captivating novel of mystery, medicine, and murder…



—The New York Times Book Review on The Anatomist’s Apprentice, 1st in the series

Kensington Publishing Corp. America’s Independent Publisher Begin reading at

by Bruce Tierney

Hummingbird on their heels Dick Wolf’s first novel, The Intercept, introduced Agent Jeremy Fisk of the NYPD anti-terror Intelligence Division. It was a story that played out on a global scale, with cameo appearances from Osama and Obama, among others. Now Fisk returns in a second gripping adventure, The Execution (Morrow, $27.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780062064851). It’s United Nations week in New York City. Luminaries from around the world converge for a week of speechifying and behind-closed-doors deal-making, a situation that makes for heightened security among every faction of the policing agencies. The recently elected president of Mexico will be on hand for the opening ceremonies, and hot on his trail is La Chuparosa (the Hummingbird), a shadowy assassin named for his calling card, a hummingbird image skillfully carved into the skin of his victims. Mexican Detective Cecilia Garza investigates one such murder in Nuevo Laredo early in the book, and she is soon apprised of a similar one in New York City being investigated by Fisk. Garza’s and Fisk’s investigative styles could not be more different, and when they inevitably meet, they clash at every turn. Each is operating with a separate agenda, and each is determined to include the other only on a need-to-know basis. And in the meantime, lives hang in the balance. Wolf has moved from strength to strength, from his early success as the creator of TV’s “Law & Order” to his more recent incarnation as novelist. Not to be missed!

To clear his name

“Densely plotted...we await— indeed we demand—the sequel.”


It’s amazing the changes that can take place in one’s life over the course of 10 days. For David Loogan, it meant splitting up with his fiancée, embarking on a new relationship with an intriguing and somewhat mysterious stranger, falling in love with said stranger and then finding himself the primary suspect in her brutal murder. The Last Dead Girl (Amy Einhorn, $26.95, 416 pages, ISBN 9780399157967), the prequel to Harry Dolan’s critically acclaimed Bad Things Happen, plucks an ordinary guy from an

ordinary life and draws him into an amateur investigation of his lover’s death, an investigation discouraged in no uncertain terms by the cop assigned to the murder. As is often the case where the protagonist is not a trained professional, the investigation suffers from some misdirection. In all fairness, Loogan does a better job getting from point A to point B than his counterpart on the police force. The result is a tense and involving tale, with quite a number of surprises along the way.

Repent, or else It’s 1919. World War I has been over for the better part of a year, but in Germany the aftereffects linger on, nowhere more so than in the city of Breslau, the setting of Marek Krajewski’s atmospheric Phantoms of Breslau (Melville International Crime, $25.95, 288 pages, ISBN 9781612192727). Investigator Eberhard Mock, appearing here in his third outing, suffers more than most from his war experiences. He is plagued with recurring nightmares that keep him awake to the point of being zombie-like by day, unless he self-medicates with alcohol and unsavory encounters with the very prostitutes he is supposed to be investigating. So he’s not pleased when asked to solve a lurid mass murder with homosexual overtones and an accompanying note saying that Mock must repent and apologize or another such slaughter will take place. Problem is, Mock has no idea what he is supposed to apologize for—and a plethora of misdeeds over the years to choose from. Easily one of the most original protagonists of recent (or distant) memory, Mock is by turns amusing and poignant, insightful and cringe-worthy. He moves in a vividly portrayed milieu, and if he is often one step behind the villain, he keeps one step ahead of the reader, which

is endlessly entertaining. This is the first Mock book I’ve read, and it won’t be the last.

Top pick in mystery Like his fictional Yankee counterpart Harry Bosch, Detective Inspector John Rebus cannot seem to stay retired. We thought we had seen the last of Ian Rankin’s beloved cop in 2007’s Exit Music, and indeed Rankin started a new series featuring Internal Affairs cop Malcolm Fox shortly thereafter. But in 2012, Rebus returned as a cold case investigator, and it took him next to no time to run afoul of Malcolm Fox. They are as different as champagne and shampoo, but strained though their relationship may be, they play well off one another, and the reader’s sympathies are tugged this way and that between them. In their latest reluctant collaboration, Saints of the Shadow Bible, Rebus and Fox investigate the possible links between a modern-day murder and the deadly shenanigans of a rogue police force some 30 years ago—the same police force in which Rebus developed his well-deserved reputation for playing fast and loose with the letter of the law. The question is: Can Rebus take part in an honest in-depth investigation without awakening the skeletons in his closet, thereby risking not only his job but his freedom as well? Rankin is in his usual fine form as an author who invariably makes a mystery reviewer’s job a true delight!


Little, Brown $26, 400 pages ISBN 9780316224550 Audio, eBook available


r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

THIS YEAR, TREAT YOURSELF to an exceptional reading experience.

“Compelling and powerfully written.... An eloquent and affecting testament to the triumph of brains and hard work over circumstance, of a childhood dream realized through extraordinary will and dedication.”

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Astonishingly powerful....

A haunting...hopeful...glimpse of the possibility of redemption and the resilience of the human spirit.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times, “10 Favorite Books”


“Exquisite.”—Chicago Tribune “Wise and unforgettable. Dear Life is a wondrous gift; a reminder of why Munro’s work endures.” —The Boston Globe

“Beautifully poetic.” —Daily Express

“His books have had a life enhancing impact on millions of people” —The Times (London)

“Deeply affecting.” —Sydney Morning News

“The best thing McCall Smith has written so far.... He is a virtuoso storyteller.”

“Astonishing.... Vampires in the

Lemon Grove stands out as Russell’s best book…with prose so alive it practically backflips off the page.” —San Francisco Chronicle

—The Scotsman

“Extraordinary.... The most

exceptional book about grief I’ve ever read.... As unsparing as they come, but also defiantly flooded with light.”

—Cheryl Strayed, The New York Times Book Review

“Delightful.”—USA Today “A hopeful, loving novel chronicling lives shaped by good deeds, small favors, and honest counsel.” —The Daily Beast

“A remarkable page-turner.” —Chicago Tribune, “Editor’s Choice”

Plan Your New Year’s Reading List at


Now In Paperback and eBook


New paperback releases for reading groups

WASHED ASHORE Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being (Penguin, $16, 432 pages, ISBN 9780143124870) is a stirring novel about the power of stories and the sense of connection they provide. Ruth, a writer living on an island in British Columbia, comes across an old lunchbox on the beach one day. The lunchbox, which has clearly logged many miles, contains letters and a journal belonging to a Tokyo teenager named Nao. Fascinated by the journal, Ruth learns that Nao, driven to despair by loneliness, plans to kill herself. Ozeki skillfully develops tandem narratives, shifting from British

book clubs by julie hale

is trapped in human form and unable to access his magic gifts, which include the power to turn himself into fire. Although their dispositions are poles apart and they come from different countries, Chava and Ahmad become allies as they adapt to life in America. But their greatest challenge is the strange demonic power that threatens both their destinies. In this innovative take on the traditional immigrant story, Wecker brings old New York to vivid life. She wields her own special kind of magic in this remarkable debut.


ODD COUPLE A masterful mix of fact and fantasy, Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni (Harper Perennial, $15.99, 512 pages, ISBN 9780062110848) is set in Manhattan at the end of the 19th century. Chava is a female clay figure—or golem—from Poland who was given life by a rabbi involved in kabbalistic rituals. When Chava finds herself stranded in New York City after a long sea voyage, she is overwhelmed and confused. She eventually meets a kindred spirit— Ahmad, a jinni created from fire in Syria, who was imprisoned in a flask and freed in New York City. Ahmad

Life After Life

In the dark and dangerous days of World War I, a daring young woman will risk her life to find her destiny “Fans of Downton Abbey will devour this novel!” —Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Call Me Zelda

A haunting and skillfully told debut novel “Good, scary fun, packed with emotional nuance.” —Kirkus Reviews

A mesmerizing tale of high drama, forbidden love, and families fighting to hold on to what they have All of the upstairs/downstairs drama of the best Downton Abbey episodes.

The poignant, coming-of-age tale from New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard is now a major motion picture “Joyce Maynard is in top-notch form with Labor Day.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author

By Kate Atkinson

Back Bay $18, 560 pages ISBN 9780316176491

historical fiction



William Morrow Paperbacks

Book Club Girl

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Columbia to Tokyo and presenting a vivid portrait of Nao’s unhappy life. Her father, a failed businessman, attempts suicide, while Nao herself is physically abused by bullying classmates. The story she recounts in her journal—of her daily existence and the history of her family in Japan—causes ripples in Ruth’s own life, changing her in unexpected ways. Written with compassion and insight, this masterful narrative displays Ozeki’s many gifts. Her command of history and understanding of the human heart are among the book’s numerous pleasures.

The captivating Life After Life is a bit of a departure for Kate Atkinson, who is best known as a mystery writer. The novel’s heroine, Ursula Todd, is born into a privileged British family in 1910. Her fate is a curious one: When she dies, she is born all over again. A number of accidents occur at various points in her life (drowning, a fall from a roof ), all of which lead to her demise and the incredible opportunity to start life anew. Each version of Ursula’s life gives her character new dimension and fleshes out the story of her family, including her fastidious mother, Sylvie, and her adoring father, Hugh. Atkinson skillfully weaves historical events into the narrative. The London Blitz, during which Ursula serves on a rescue squad, is recounted in all its horror, and an encounter with Hitler gives Ursula the chance to influence the course of history. Atkinson writes with perfect poise, creating an entirely convincing narrative. With this cleverly speculative work of fiction, she proves there’s nothing she can’t do as a novelist.

New Year, New in Paperback!

©Par. Pics.






b y s y b i l P RATT

by joanna brichetto

Spruce up your home

Let it snow When the temperature plummets, Tammy Donroe Inman takes shelter in her toasty kitchen and cooks up a winter storm of desserts. For her, the shorter, darker days mean it’s time to warm up house and hearth with comforting sweets made with Mother Nature’s cold weather bounty. Not into fussy holiday baking and elaborate concoctions, Inman has put together a satisfying collection of cakes, cookies, crisps, curds and compotes, pies and puddings, frostings and fondues, syrups, shortbreads and more in Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home

though Little Meals, Salads and Sides, Platefuls, Meals to Share and more, all with excellent, detailed directions. The dishes Copeland sends our way are vibrant and inviting, with layers of texture and flavor—worth staying home for, whatever kind of ’vore you are. I couldn’t resist the Glazed Winter Vegetable Medley with Chestnuts and Caper Berries, the Roasted Broccoli, Kale, and Chickpeas with Ricotta or the Kimchi Pancakes with Soy Dipping Sauce. Go for it, experiment and feel good about your own health and the health of the planet.

Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home (Artisan, $37.50, 400 pages, ISBN 9781579655365) begins with what could be considered an exercise in obviousness: “Look around you. If you’re at home, chances are you see room for improvement.” Whether this is the understatement of the year or a mere nudge to mindfully edit existing décor, author Julie Carlson of has us covered. Literally, with ideas on how to cover everything from sofas to walls (even books), and figuratively, with advice on how to deal with remodels or

Top pick in lifestyles

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

Top Pick in Cookbooks


(Running Press, $30, 280 pages, ISBN 9780762445370), her debut cookbook. I really like cookbooks that are arranged by ingredients, as this one is. If you come home with a large bag of crispy apples, pretty pears or seasonal citrus like grapefruits, Meyer lemons or kumquats, you can flip to the appropriate chapter and choose from a tempting array of easy-to-follow recipes. Just try a simple, custardy Pear Cranberry Clafouti or an elegant Chocolate Pomegranate Pavlova. We all know about carrot cakes, but Inman introduces us to tempting tubers and roots like Parsnip Spice Cupcakes, Norwegian Potato Crêpes and moist Butternut Squash Cake. It’s a perfect time to sweeten winter with Wintersweet.

Mostly Vegetarian In this “New Year, New You” season, many of us think about taking up a meatless diet, or a more meatless diet. If that’s on your resolution list, be sure to take a look at Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite (Chronicle, $35, 288 pages, ISBN 9781452109732). Author Sarah Cope­land says that “this book is here to exalt vegetarianism in pursuit of the delicious, not the dogmatic.” And exalt she does, organizing more than 140 recipes and 60 eatoff-the-page photos into practical categories, from Breakfast & Brunch

Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise, two veteran chefs, trendsetters and cookbook authors, boldly call their latest Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors. And it is, but it’s also a joyous celebration of American fusion, that marvelous, melting-pot mélange of all the disparate ingredients, flavors and dishes that successive waves of immigrants have brought to this new culinary world. Start your foray with Avocado, Radish, and Sunflower Seed Dip, with a touch of thyme. Before you serve the Flank Steak Roll-Ups in Pomegranate Marinade with a side of Sweet and Sour Leeks, bring out a bowl of Cuban Whitefish Chowder with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes, and for a finish with a flourish, there’s American Cookie and Berry Trifle with Muscat Sabayon. It’s a new year. Be bold—cook your way through this friendly, chatty book, chock-a-block with fascinating sidebars on ingredients and food history. How fortunate we are to live, cook and eat in this multiethnic country and to have Hoffman and Wise to take us into its exuberant heart.

bold By Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise

Workman $19.95, 416 pages ISBN 9780761139614 eBook available


a few inspirational designer quotes and a controlled avalanche of crisp photographs. This is part wish-book, part cautionary tale, perfect for helping you make decisions about your own space: Will you really love jelly-bean green kitchen cabinets, or would you prefer a mossy shade? Don’t try this one at home—someone already did, and gazing at the photograph should help you make up your mind.

new construction, as well as small do-overs and spruce-ups. The book is a “start-to-finish field guide to creating your own domestic sanctuary.” Photographs of 12 model houses will inspire readers, along with “hardworking” kitchen and bathroom user guides, and a chapter on DIY design ideas that are as simple as repurposing things we likely have on hand: tin cans, empty jars and clipboards, for example. “The Remodelista 100,” a buyer’s guide to “all-time favorite everyday objects”—from a Chemex coffeemaker to a Slack Dry Mop to Libeco linen—also includes brief histories, making the guide as fun to read as it is useful for shopping.

Get color creative Color has a surprising power— perhaps even the most power of any design element in a home. And, if you’ve ever flipped through a color selector or Pantone chart, you know that trying to find just the right one can be a daunting process. In House Beautiful Color: The Perfect Shade for Every Room (Hearst, $40, 336 pages, ISBN 9781588169792), author Lisa Cregan and the editors of House Beautiful magazine present 10 basic colors (and variations) one at a time, and in a format that explores modern vs. traditional palettes, where to use each (floors, walls, accents, themes), intriguing thoughts on the personalities and histories of colors,

Pull up a chair—one that’s comfy and slipcovered or a sleek slipper chair (two of the entries in this book)—and settle in for an entertaining browse through 100 classics from the history of home décor. In with the Old: Classic Décor from A to Z, by design historian and “darling of the blogosphere” Jennifer Boles, allots two pages per entry, just enough for a bit of history (like the fact that the slightly kitschy sunburst clock you like at Target had regal roots in Louis XIV, the Sun King, long before it morphed into a geometrical Art Deco icon), gossip and, best of all, advice on using whatever it is in your own home, from acrylic (with a Lucite waterfall table I covet madly) to zebra print. Mostly culled from the 1930s to 1960s, this stuff, real or knockoff, still makes its way to thrift stores and antique malls, sometimes getting modified into new versions, which means ordinary folk can justify purchases by placing them in historical context. You need not be familiar with either the designer names dropped or the time periods mentioned to enjoy the book—just appreciative of what’s gorgeous, useful and fun.

IN WITH THE OLD By Jennifer Boles

Potter Style $34.95, 272 pages ISBN 9780385345163 eBook available


Return to THE INN at EAGLE HILL with Bestselling Author

SUZANNE WOODS FISHER Twenty-year-old Bethany Schrock is restless.

Her love life has derailed, her faith hangs by a thread, and she is spending the incredibly hot summer days wading through a lifetime’s accumulation of junk at the home of five ancient Amish sisters. About the only thing that holds her interest is the spirited and dangerously handsome Jimmy Fisher— and he seems bent on irritating her to no end.

Bestselling author


delivers her trademark twists, turns, and tender romance in this delightful and exciting visit to the deceptively quiet community of Stoney Ridge.

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well read


by robert Weibezahl

by sukey howard

Curse of the creative

New year, old you

The genius writer as self-destructing alcoholic is a cliché, but as with all clichés, it originates in truth. Faulkner, Dylan Thomas, Poe, Dorothy Parker, Anne Sexton—it gets to be a very long list once you begin compiling. In The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, Olivia Laing offers a singular amalgam of biography, memoir, travelogue and literary criticism as she deftly refracts the lives and works of six writers through the prism of their alcohol dependence. The all-male, all-American lineup comprises F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman and Raymond Carver, a grouping with some surprising interconnections that help give shape to the book. The trip referenced in the title is both a metaphor and an actual journey. The trip to Echo Spring, Laing reminds us, is how Brick describes his across-the-bedroom visits to the liquor cabinet in Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. But Laing also embarks here on a literal sojourn of her own, one that takes her from New York to New Orleans to Key West to Port Angeles, Washington—and some points in between—in search of a personal connection to these writers. Laing is a perceptive critic and elegant stylist, strongest when exploring the life and work of Williams, for whom she displays a special affinity, and quite sensitive to the complexities of Cheever, Fitzgerald and Berryman, as well. Her readings of Williams’ most famous plays, of Cheever’s stories (most notably “The Swimmer”) and of Berryman’s The Dream Songs are fresh and insightful. She seems least sympathetic to Hemingway and Carver, overall, arguably the most “manly” among the six writers. Little by little, Laing reveals that the impetus for this book about writers and drinking grew out of her own childhood and an incident involving her mother’s alcoholic lover. The book is not particularly confessional, though, and she uses these personal elements merely as a springboard for larger ruminations on the origins and consequences of these writers’ own battles with alcohol. Not insignificantly, she delves into these men’s relationships with their often absent and/or suicidal fathers and their strong, control-

Listening to an audiobook while doing something else is a great way to multitask, and it’s especially satisfying if you get a little bit smarter and more informed while doing it. So, I suggest you start the new year off by listening to The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease (Random House Audio, $45, 15 hours, ISBN 9780307990068) by Daniel E. Lieberman, a renowned professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard. Steadfastly narrated by Sean Runnette, the book is an exciting, comprehensible and somewhat alarming journey into our origins, into how we came to have the bodies we have, and a provoca-

ling and sometimes emotionally distant mothers—subtext that lurks in much of their work. Laing never comes to an overarching, all-illuminating conclusion about drinking and the individual tragedies of these writers’ lives. Perhaps such a conclusion is impossible to reach. She gets closest when, mining words from one of Berryman’s poems, she writes, “Hunger, liquor, need, piece, wrote. A sense was building in me that there was a hidden relationship between the two strategies of writing and drinking and that both had to do with a feeling that something precious had gone to pieces, and a desire at once to mend it—to give it fitness and shape, in Cheever’s phrase—and to deny that it was so.” Sadly, Laing doesn’t explore the broader question of why America has produced more than its fair share of alcohol-soaked writers. As an Englishwoman, Laing does bring an outsider’s vantage point to the American destinations, although it is worth noting that none of these distinctive locales is “typically” American, if such a place could be said to exist. Except for Carver— whose work is so imbedded in the landscape Laing encounters in the Pacific Northwest—and to a lesser extent with Williams’ New Orleans, the connections between the places she visits, addiction and the literary oeuvres seem a bit tenuous at times. Still, despite some gaps, the itinerary does give a pleasing structure to the book. Laing is an intelligent and congenial literary tour guide, and The Trip to Echo Spring is a journey well worth taking.

the trip to echo spring By Olivia Laing

Picador $26, 352 pages ISBN 9781250039569 eBook available


ground running and gets herself, and Lynley, totally entangled in an increasingly complex miasma of kidnapping, murder, betrayal and jealousy. The scene shifts back and forth from London to the wonderful walled city of Lucca in Tuscany, with Havers careening out of control on a risky rampage to save her friends. It’s a long tale, with un po’ too much Italian dialogue, but if you’re a fan, you’ll be there to the very end, waiting expectantly for the next installment.

Top pick in audio

tive look at how our history, with its major transformations, influences our well-being. Cultural evolution, which moves more rapidly now than biological evolution, has created environmental conditions that our Stone-Age bodies are not always in sync with. This fosters obesity and several chronic “mismatch” diseases, like osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, where symptoms, not causes, are treated, leading to a pernicious feedback loop. Can we fix it? Maybe. As Lieberman says, your “body’s past was molded by the survival of the fitter,” its “future depends on how you use it.”

All’s well . . . Elizabeth George’s latest, Just One Evil Act (Penguin Audio, $39.95, 28.5 hours, ISBN 9781611761993), read by Davina Porter, is billed as “a Lynley novel,” but this time it’s Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers—smoking too much, eating too much, dressing in her inimitable style with high-top sneaks, baggy pants and message-bearing Tshirts—who’s on center stage. When Barbara’s neighbor and dear friend, Taymullah Azhar, a Pakistani microbiologist, discovers that Hadiyyah, his beloved 9-year-old daughter, has been whisked away by her beautiful, capricious mother, whom he never actually married, he’s devastated. Havers, without regard for her own position at Scotland Yard, hits the

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s extraordinary, best-selling novel, with its coincidences and reversals of fortune, has been called Dickensian by practically every reviewer. It’s that and also a grandly plotted bildungs­ roman that moves from New York to Las Vegas to Amsterdam, all brilliantly evoked, and back. The tale follows its narrator, Theo Decker, 13 years old when we first meet him, for the next 14 years, through dislocation and loss, always searching for a place for himself within a world full of moral ambiguity. The story also follows the fate of “The Goldfinch,” the small, eponymous masterpiece painted in 1654 that becomes Theo’s talisman, passion and burden, as well as the conduit of Tartt’s meditation on the transcendent immortality of beauty and the transience of life. I read the book before I listened to this fabulous audio version, and the ears have it. Narrator David Pittu is superb, giving every character—especially Boris, Theo’s infectiously charming, Russian-accented, druggy, vodka-swigging, lifelong buddy—the perfect voice.

the goldfinch By Donna Tartt

Little, Brown $45, 32.5 hours ISBN 9781600247118

literary fiction


Behind the Book E s s ay b y A l e x M y e r s

A trail-blazing ancestor


here were many things I liked about my Grandmother Puffer’s home: cartoons on television, Cheerios for breakfast and all manner of ancestral relics. But the best treasures were her stories.

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

would you describe the book Q: How  in one sentence?

ou explain that being bien dans sa peau (comfortable in Q: Yone’s skin) is the best plan for aging. What are some small steps women can take to begin achieving that outlook?


Every April, on Patriot’s Day, we’d Deborah. And I counseled myself: go to see the re-enactment of the This is Deborah’s story, not your battles of Lexington and Concord, story. I wanted to let her character and, once back at my grandmother’s emerge fully, without bearing the house, I could count on her to tell imprint of my own. Yet, so often as I our ancestor Deborah’s story. “Can wrote, I thought—she would have you imagine? She so wanted to join worried about using the bathroom the army that she . . . she would have ran away and put glowed when on men’s clothes. someone called I guess she had her “young man” watched boys . . . just like me. her age go off to There were many be soldiers and times when I felt wanted a chance that point of to serve. But can contact through you imagine?” the page. I could. I was 6 There were, or 7 or 8, a little however, just girl. But even then as many spots ALEX MYERS I knew that wasn’t where our stories exactly who or what I was. And I diverged. I wish I could have had could imagine Deborah quite well. Deborah turn west at the end of the I could picture how her skirts and novel; I would have liked nothing apron and lace cap must have felt: better than for her to continue living just like the tights and dress and as a man and to find a little farm pinafore my mother made me wear out in the new Ohio territory, even to birthday parties. I absolutely if that meant living the rest of her knew that Deborah, from her spinlife alone. That’s what I would have ning wheel, had looked at boys in wanted to do. But that isn’t what her town marching off with the milishe did. She went home, to an aunt tia the same way that I looked at my and uncle and to a place that she’d brother when he went racing out the missed. She went home and married door to play with BB guns, while my and had children and became Debofriends brought over Barbies. And I rah again—something I could never was certain that, if the Revolutionimagine doing. Yet, if she had not . . . ary War started up again, it wouldn’t I wouldn’t be able to write her story. take me but half a minute to pull on Born in Paris, Maine, Alex Myers was raised as a some britches and join the army. girl (Alice). He came out as transgender at 17 and That said, it wasn’t until I was 17 earned degrees from Harvard and Brown before years old that I figured out I was studying fiction writing. Revolutionary is the story transgender—to finally say that I of his ancestor, Deborah Samson Gannett, who was a man and would live the rest masqueraded as a man in order to join the Contiof my life as one. I remember that nental Army and fight the British. Myers teaches English at St. George’s School in Washington, D.C., it felt hard: difficult to explain to where he lives with his wife and two cats. people, tough to imagine exactly how I would manage all the legal and personal details. It was unspeakably Revolutionary nice to have Deborah’s story there, By Alex Myers waiting for me. What a comfort to Simon & Schuster know that someone had done this $26, 320 pages before, had crossed this line—done ISBN 9781451663327 it in 1782, well before gender identity eBook available was a concept—and had family that was still proud of her to this day. historical FICTION When I sat down to write Revolutionary, I read my grandmother’s volume of family genealogy and then Alfred Young’s history of


ou say the U.S. is a “youth-obsessed” culture. What’s the biggest Q: Yattitude adjustment Americans should make about aging?

re there pieces of advice in your book that you find particuQ: Alarly difficult to follow?

Q: W  hat’s your #1 resolution for the New Year?

Former chief executive of Veuve Clicquot, Mireille Guiliano introduced American readers to the benefits of the French lifestyle in the bestseller French Women Don’t Get Fat. She returns with a look at French strategies toward aging in her new book, French Women Don’t Get Facelifts (Grand Central, $25, 272 pages, ISBN 9781455524112). Guiliano lives in New York City with her husband, Edward, but makes “frequent trips” home to France.

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cover story

sue monk kidd

Taking flight on the wings of history


t took Sue Monk Kidd four years to write her sweeping new novel, The Invention of Wings. When the book was finally finished, the last thing she wanted to think about was starting a new project, so she and her husband took a getaway river cruise from Berlin to Prague.

“My husband’s from Mississippi, so [river cruising] is his favorite thing to do,” Kidd says by phone in her slow Southern drawl. “But it’s very hard to turn off the writer brain. I tell myself I’m not looking for an idea. Please, Sue, no ideas.” But while she was traveling in Europe, she toured a concentration camp. “It was an overwhelmingly emotional experience for me,” she recalls. “I felt a couple of writer antennae go up, and I thought, oh no! Tap those down. It’s important to have fallow time.” Kidd certainly deserves downtime after finishing her latest novel, which is based on a pair of real-life abolitionist sisters who lived in 19th-century Charleston. Writing about real people—albeit in fiction—was a demanding task. “It’s certainly a challenge to write from a place where history and imagination intersect, as I found out,” Kidd says. “It became part of my challenge: I wanted to do them justice and have their history all there. At the same time, I’m a novelist. I’m not a historian, I’m not a biographer. I had to serve the story first.” An exquisitely told tale of loss and

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The Invention of Wings


By Sue Monk Kidd

Viking, $27.95, 384 pages ISBN 9780670024780, audio, eBook available


triumph, The Invention of Wings is based on the real lives of Sarah and Angelina (Nina) Grimké, unconventional women who broke from their high-society family to fight against slavery and for women’s rights. Kidd first learned about these radical but largely forgotten sisters at an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Sarah is plain but smart, and she realizes from a young age that her dream of becoming a “It’s certainly lawyer like a challenge to her father is impossible; write from a society judged place where her success simply on history and whether she imagination could avoid intersect, as I spinsterhood. Angelina is found out.” beautiful and could have her choice of Charleston bachelors, but like her older sister, she has no interest in traditional roles. When Sarah turns 11, her mother gives her a 10-year-old slave as a gift. Even at that age, Sarah knows she shouldn’t own Hetty, or “Handful” as everyone in the house calls her. Handful’s mother makes Sarah secretly promise that she’ll free Handful as soon as she can. In many ways, Sarah spends the rest of her life trying to keep that promise: Sarah and Handful become friends, and Sarah breaks the law by teaching her to read and write. The book follows their complicated friendship over more than three decades, as well as the attempts by all three women to make their way in a world that has already defined their path. While historical records mention that Sarah Grimké had a slave, there is not much more known about her. This is where Kidd let her imagination go. “Historical accuracy mattered a great deal to me,” she says. “I used it as scaffolding. I followed the truth as close as I possibly could, but I also invented a lot to bring them

alive on the page. I went to their house [in Charleston]. I walked up and down the streets I thought they’d have walked. When I saw the stairway leading up to the upper floors, I could picture Sarah walking down. I could picture Handful sitting on one of the steps.” In the end, it was easier for Kidd to fully realize Handful on the page. “Handful came alive much more easily than Sarah did,” she says. “That was a surprise to me. I tried to write her in third person, but it just didn’t work—she wanted to talk! She didn’t come with that heavy historical script that I had to be faithful to with Sarah and Nina. I could just let go.” Kidd, who was raised in Georgia and remembers seeing the Ku Klux Klan in her hometown, says she relied on “voices from my childhood” to write from Handful’s viewpoint. “I think you have to love your characters, and I just loved her,” Kidd says. “She started talking and talking and talking. I could not keep up with her. There was this unleashing of a character’s voice. I came of age in the ’60s—one of those baby boomers. I remember so much of that whole Civil Rights time—it was the background I lived in. It made a mark on me. Their voices stayed with me—the musicality and some of their expressions.” After growing up in the prefeminist South, Kidd was drawn to explorations of a woman’s place in


interview by amy scribner

society. This theme runs through much of her work, including her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees (2002), and its follow-up, The Mermaid Chair (2005). Kidd realized tremendous success with both: Millions of copies of her novels are in print in nearly 40 languages. In some ways, she still sounds amazed by that success. “It’s been such a surprising part of my life,” she says. “The Secret Life of Bees—I don’t think I’ve ever been more floored by anything. It took a while to wrap my head around it. It seemed like the success belonged to someone else. Did I really deserve all that? But mostly, to be honest, it’s been pure gratitude that someone wants to read my work and that you’re able to get your

You are part of something truly amazing. Written by Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Illustrated by New York Times bestselling author of On the Night You Were Born

Nancy Tillman

This retelling of the creation story combines lyrical text along with remarkable illustrations to bring the story to life for readers young and old. Watch the video trailer!

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stories into the world. “I felt some pressure after The Secret Life of Bees to produce something beyond myself. But I’d do it again, believe me! It’s been a wonderful and wondrous experience, but it’s not a pure experience. It has its nuances.” Kidd isn’t the only writer in her family. Her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, also caught the writing bug. “I sort of knew when she was young that she was a writer—she had all the little signs,” Kidd says with a hint of pride in her voice. “She reminded me of myself. She’d graduated from college, and I was turning 50. She was really searching for what she was going to do with her life, and the truth was, I was, too. I was trying to find the courage to write fiction. I told her later, ‘I knew you were a writer! But I didn’t want to step in there and influence that.’ She had to come to that herself.” During their search, mother and daughter traveled together to ancient sites in Greece and France. They chronicled their explorations in Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story (2009), which Kidd counts as one of her favorite writing experiences. After becoming empty nesters, Kidd and her husband moved from Charleston to the Florida coast, downsizing from two homes to one. “You get to a certain place in life and want to simplify,” she says. “We finally took Thoreau’s advice and simplified.” Judging by the breathtaking photos she regularly Tweets of the ocean view from her home, it’s a wonder she ever gets any work done. “It’s kind of muse-like; it’s beautiful,” she says. “Beauty is good for the soul. I open the study door, and the rhythm of the waves in the room is soothing. But I get so immersed that I disappear in my work.” A self-proclaimed introvert, Kidd is preparing to emerge from her cocoon to promote The Invention of Wings. A planned two-month tour will include stops at libraries and bookstores in 19 states., with a Canadian tour also on the horizon. “I love my solitude, and I love my anonymity,” she says. “But it’s great meeting my readers. I need that. I retreated into the world of the 19th century for four years. I told my friend I felt like I was living in a cave in Afghanistan! I’m eager to start a conversation with the reader.”



E.L. Doctorow by Alden mudge

Gasper tringale

Picking ‘Andrew’s Brain’


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cclaimed author E.L. Doctorow suggests a variety of ways to think about the form and movement of his short, swift, emotionally absorbing, intellectually troubling and often disconcertingly funny 12th novel, Andrew’s Brain.


“Think of it as an Installation,” he writes in answer to an emailed question. “This book has a special coded way of working. It comes back on itself with its circulation of images or leitmotifs. Everything in Andrew’s Brain gives light to everything else.” This is true and helpful, to a point. The “Andrew” of the novel’s title is a cognitive scientist disclosing his life story from an undisclosed location to someone—psychiatrist? prison interrogator? Our guesses about the identity of Andrew’s interlocutor evolve as the novel proceeds. Andrew’s story is at least in part about the depth of suffering he experiences following traumatic losses he blames on his own haplessness. Doctorow says the novel grew from his “recollection of a man I knew years ago who accidentally killed his own child.” But in telling his story, the captivating but unreliable Andrew invents and evades. “This is a book that doesn’t make a distinction between what might be real and what might not be real,” Doctorow says. Moving forward, Andrew’s story loops repeatedly in widening gyres through his emotional and intellectual concerns: the wily inventiveness of the human mind; a wife lost, a daughter almost inadvertently given away; the significance of Mark Twain as, writes Doctorow, “the writer whom we like to think of as the carrier of our national soul”; and a sort of abashed fascination with sexual acrobatics, to name just a few of the motifs that recur throughout the novel. So? Repeating images and themes. OK. But “an Installation”? “I was afraid you were going to ask me about that,” Doctorow says, laughing, during a phone call that reaches him the morning after he has received the National Book Awards 2013 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In his acceptance speech, Doctorow facetiously congratulated the “shortlisted content providers” of this year’s National Book Awards winners and questioned the meaning of the rise of the worldwide “overbrain,” his term for the Internet.

A similar question pulses through this novel. Andrew, the cognitive scientist, wonders what will happen when biological processes can account for consciousness, when our experience of the human mind can be replicated by a computer. Why does this question recur with such urgency in the novel? Doctorow, who turns 83 years old in January, responds in an email: “The neuroscientists who accept the materiality of mind—that is, who regard the soul as a fiction—don’t know yet how the brain becomes the mind—how the three pound neuro-electric system in our skulls produces our subjective life, A cognitive our feelings, our thoughts. scientist There are tests the people buildboundaries of ing computers emulate consciousness to the brain and in Doctorow’s who believe in theory that a thoughtcomputer can provoking be achieved that has connew novel. sciousness. I’m not talking Hollywood movies here. If that ever happens, as Andrew assures us, it’s the end of the mythic world we’ve lived in since the Bronze Age. The end of the Bible and all the stories we’ve told ourselves until now. How can that not interest me, or you, or anybody? The impact of that would be equivalent to the planetary disasters of global warming, overpopulation or another giant asteroid blowing us to smithereens.” Later, in the follow-up call, Doctorow returns to the discussion of the narrative shape and movement of Andrew’s Brain. “Do you know the music of Steve Reich or Philip Glass? It’s phase music in which the music doesn’t proceed in a linear organization but as chords or musical statements that slowly, gradually change. Very often music has been an inspiration to me. In the process of writing it’s a felt thing, sort of visceral. One of the ways I think of

writing is staying on the nerve of a book. And if you go off the nerve everything gets flat and dead.” Thus Andrew’s Brain includes beautiful, nerve-tingling, riffing passages of prose, about which Doctorow says, “I’ve always been aware of the rhythm of sentences and the possible music in them. Which might drive me to a certain unconscious extent. I’m not sure. I grew up in a very musical family. My mother was a wonderful pianist and my father [was also musical] and my older brother formed a swing band when he was 16. I wasn’t particularly good at learning to play the piano; in fact when I announced to the family that I didn’t want to take lessons anymore, nobody objected. But somewhere or another surrounded by all this music, which I loved, the idea of music and language elided, so the sound of words and the rhythm of sentences has always been important to me.” It is also a musical reference that introduces the final, explosive sequence of the novel. Andrew’s ex-wife is remarried to an opera singer who at one point encounters Andrew while dressed for the role of Boris Godunov, a pretender czar about to be overthrown by another pretender. Andrew considers the deceptions of a thinking brain, the mind’s ability to pretend itself into any situation, Andrew’s own inventive mind included. Then he tells his interlocutor a story that is in the same instant sharply funny and deeply anguished about a pretender he has known, a former resident of the White House. In other Doctorow novels, his characters exist within an American social and political context. The same seems to be true in Andrew’s Brain. In fact, the novel’s final chapters cast a backward light and rearrange what we think we know about Andrew and what he has

experienced. Does this mean that Doctorow, like Andrew’s frequently invoked Mark Twain, has written a book about the national soul? Doctorow laughs. “The trouble with a question like this is that if an astute reader has creative interpretive ideas, he looks to the author for the certification of these ideas. But I’m the last person in the world to certify your reading. Really what happens is when you finish writing a book, you rely on other people to tell you what you’ve done. So I have to duck that question and say if you see that, if you feel that, more power to you.” Doctorow can affably duck the question, but he can’t avoid the fact that he’s written a remarkable, provocative novel that readers will want to return to again and again.

Andrew’s Brain

By E.L. Doctorow

Random House, $26, 224 pages ISBN 9781400068814, audio, eBook available


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Brené Brown, bestselling author of Daring Greatly


@gretchenrubin @gretchenrubin @gretchenrubin



r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

put this book down.” this book down.” putput this book down.” “Rubin shows how of toQuiet add joy and Susan Cain, bestselling author Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet harmony to your home life. I couldn’t put this book down.” SusanRubin’s Cain, bestselling author of approach Quiet “Gretchen inventive approach “Gretchen Rubin’s inventive “Gretchen Rubin’s inventive approach to creating a happier home life islifeaslife creating a happier home is as to to creating a happier home is as inspiring as itas is it informative…A soulful inspiring as is informative…A soulful inspiring isit informative…A soulful “Gretchen Rubin’s inventive approach and and enlightening guide for happinessand enlightening guide happinessenlightening guide forfor happinessto creating a happier home life is as seekers of allofstripes.” seekers of all stripes.” seekers all stripes.” inspiring as it is informative…A soulful Cheryl Strayed, bestselling author of Wild Cheryl Strayed, bestselling author of Wild Cheryl Strayed, bestselling author of Wild and enlightening guide for happinessseekers of all stripes.” Strayed, bestselling author of more Wild “Happier at Home has brought more “Cheryl Happier at Home brought “Happier at Home hashas brought more joy into myinto life. It’s aIt’s rare book that It’s a rare book joyjoy into mymy a rare book thatthat inspires personal change and and takes inspires personal change and takes inspires personal change takes “Happier at Home has brought more you you onyou aon rollicking adventure through on a rollicking adventure through a rollicking adventure through joy into my life. It’s a rare book that history and and into theinto minds of great history and minds of great history into thethe minds of great inspires personal change and takes thinkers. I’m grateful for Gretchen thinkers. grateful Gretchen thinkers. I’mI’m grateful forfor Gretchen you on a rollicking adventure through Rubin’s work.” Rubin’s work.” Rubin’s work.” history and intoauthor the minds of great Brené Brown, bestselling of Brené Brown, bestselling author Brené Brown, bestselling author of of thinkers. I’m grateful for Gretchen Daring Greatly Daring Greatly Daring Greatly Rubin’s work.”



Becoming the best you


hether you’ve resolved to live healthier, nurture your inner creativity, curb your addiction to hand-held devices or communicate more effectively, chances are you could use a little help. Let the wisdom contained in these six new books expertly guide you to New Year’s resolution success in 2014. small move, big change By Caroline L. Arnold

Viking $27.95, 272 pages ISBN 9780670015344 eBook available


a short guide to a long life By David B. Agus, M.D.

Simon & Schuster $17.95, 208 pages ISBN 9781476730950 Audio, eBook available

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healthy living


In Small Move, Big Change, Caroline Arnold introduces the “microresolution,” a pint-sized action that leads to long-term gain in the areas of losing weight and becoming kinder, more organized, fiscally solvent and more. Since you’re advised to work on only two microresolutions at a time, the adjustment to each new habit has time to sink in before you move on to the next. Framing goals in positive language helps, too. Arnold’s attempts to stop speed-eating finally bore fruit when she quit harping on her bad habit, resolving instead to “savor” each meal. The idea of breaking a task into smaller units isn’t new, but Arnold’s intent is to help readers see the futility of merely resolving to “be nicer” (nicer than who?), and instead live that goal with small, structured actions, like complimenting your spouse at least once a day. Not only are these small projects relatively easy, but they seem fun as well, since each one has to be tailored to your own schedule, habits and idiosyncrasies or it will likely fail. If there’s a habit you’ve been pushing against without a breakthrough, check out Small Move, Big Change. Reading it may be one of the last macroresolutions you ever make. —Heather Seggel

In A Short Guide to a Long Life, David B. Agus, author of The End of Illness and a prominent oncologist and biomedical researcher, distills his rules for living wisely into three sections—What to Do, What to Avoid and Doctor’s Orders—that contain a total of 65 ways to use preventive measures to achieve a better, healthier, longer life. While that number may sound daunting, readers are likely following some of the rules already, such as “Grow a Garden,” “Cohabitate” or “Smile.” More challenging suggestions include “Find Out What Exercise or Activity You’re Bad at and Focus on It.” Agus’ reasoning: This challenges the body and brain, thus strengthening them—and it might turn out to be fun, too. The doctor also offers food for thought via his take on vitamins (he’s not a proponent and recommends getting nutrients from food instead) and the importance of sussing out chronic inflammation through, say, better dental hygiene, taking a baby aspirin and a statin, and wearing comfortable shoes. Ultimately, while readers will have heard some of these rules before, perhaps even from their own mothers—“Strengthen Your Core and Maintain Good Posture” sounds a lot like “stand up straight!”—Agus

explains how and why adhering to these edicts will work. The truly motivated will appreciate the “Doctor’s Orders” section, which contains health-centric to-do lists organized by decade, plus top 10 lists covering everything from causes of death to useful websites. Throughout, Agus emphasizes the importance of being informed about one’s own health via exams, tests, measurements and even using devices and/or apps to track personal data over time. —Linda Castellitto

painting your way out of a corner By Barbara Diane Barry

Tarcher/Penguin $18.95, 208 pages ISBN 9780399163357 eBook available


Painting Your Way Out of a Corner delivers on its promise of “a new twist on journaling with brushstrokes instead of words.” Like its written counterpart, a painting journal can offer stress relief, along with avenues for personal growth, inspiration and healing. This concise how-to manual for expressing yourself in watercolors also offers a scholarly exploration of the unconscious mind and its relationship to the creative process. An artist and art educator in New York City, Barbara Diane Barry has drawn on many years of research and practice. She adheres to the Jungian theory of a “collective consciousness,” and this rich reservoir, she explains, combined with our

own individual experiences and sense memories, provides a huge image “library” within our brains. Barry’s “unplanned painting” method evolved as she faced her own creative or emotional “corners.” Seeking a means of a combating her inner critic and alleviating the fears that sometimes stymied her work, she tried out various media, ultimately discovering the “looseness, flow, and sense of play” she was seeking in the fluidity of watercolor paints. As she points out, the results are fresh, spontaneous and sometimes surprising. Painting Your Way Out of a Corner offers plenty of starter exercises, step-by-step guidance and many of Barry’s own journal paintings as examples and inspiration. —Linda Stankard

Younger Next week By Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.

Harlequin $16.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780373892839 eBook available

healthy living

Much of the advice in Younger Next Week is of the tried-and-true variety. If you want to look healthy and, perhaps more importantly, feel good, pulling all-nighters and eating a whole pizza at one sitting are not going to cut it. More water, less couch time, better sleep, a few blueberries and more attention to your real-life social network are all part of the plan here. But Younger Next Week has a secret weapon: author Elisa Zied. Zied has provided health and fitness commentary on a slew of morning shows and knows her subject inside and out. It’s impressive that she can make truisms that we all know, yet seldom act upon, sound both accessible and fun. When trying to beat a craving, she advises stocking the house with healthy alternatives before the urge strikes: “Deciding whether to give in to a craving or satisfy it during the craving is like trying to draft a prenuptial agreement while in flagrante delicto.” The book is peppered with delicious recipes (White bean and kale soup? Definitely making that!), easy exercise suggestions and

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU the most important things, this is a book that will encourage you to slow down and refashion your life. The 12 chapters, designed to be read oneper-month, bear titles like “Choose What Matters” and “Remember Life Is Precious.” Stafford’s message couldn’t be more timely and is at once convincing and encouraging.

—Heather Seggel

Anyone who’s ever thought, “Why didn’t I speak up?” or, conversely, “I can’t believe I said that!” will benefit from Carl Alasko’s Say This, Not That: A Foolproof Guide to Effective Interpersonal Communication. With this new book, the psychothera­pist and author of the dramatically named Emotional Bullshit wants to help readers dial down the drama at home, at work and wherever well-stated, welltimed statements could help turn a potentially negative situation into a positive, even productive, one. Drawing from 25 years of experience, Alasko acknowledges that while knowing why we react a certain way is important, knowing what to say in the moment is even more useful. He wants to help readers “carefully choose words and . . . adopt nonthreatening gestures” that lead to better communication. The book’s six sections—Dating, Long-Term Relationships, Parenting, Friendships, Workplace and Everyday Situations—contain scenarios and scripts. Alasko has an accessible, to-the-point writing style, and possible responses, reminders (“Be strategic”) and insight (“There’s no negotiating with authentic . . . passive-aggressive behavior. The only strategy is to avoid any form of dependence.”) will boost preparedness and confidence, whether dealing with a chronically late carpooler, a financially oblivious partner or a gossipy neighbor. Alasko believes “Saying the most effective words in the right moment is a skill that can be learned,” and with his guidance, it’s absolutely do-able.

hands free mama By Rachel Macy Stafford

Zondervan $15.99, 240 pages ISBN 9780310338130 Audio, eBook available


Rachel Macy Stafford lost two years of her children’s lives—not because she was deathly ill or away on a trip around the world, but because she was living distracted, struggling to find the energy to walk up her stairs at night, much less spend meaningful time with the small ones she loved most. To top it off, she was addicted to her phone and checked it compulsively. Sound familiar? Stafford had what she calls her “breakdown break-through” moment while on a run and came home to scrawl a sort of manifesto on the back on envelope. Part of it reads, “Turn off the music in the car. Sit next to your child as she plays. Lie in bed with her after you say goodnight.” Such was the beginning of Stafford’s dramatic reorientation. Activities she used to regard as time wasters became, in her new economy, treasures she dubbed “Sunset Moments.” And now this “Hands Free Mama” (so named because she’s no longer chained to her devices) is calling others to join her. If you feel like life is moving too fast and you are missing out on

— K e l ly B l e w e t t

Say This, Not That By Carl Alasko, Ph.D.

Tarcher/Penguin $15.95, 240 pages ISBN 9781585429325 eBook available


—Linda Castellitto

—The Wall Street Journal

There’s a revoluTion in aging going on that will fundamentally change your life. It is about how you move, including the “Sacred 25” exercises that are the greatest driver of positive change in your body. It is about how you eat, from avoiding food with solid fats and added sugars to skipping the supplements. And the payoff is amazing: newfound energy, strength, health, and weight loss.

This is The how-To Book of ThaT revoluTion. “Clear, concise, well-balanced nutritious diet plan. Realistic exercise . . . an easy-to-read volume with loads of timely, science-based information.” —Madelyn Fernstrom, Diet and Nutrition Editor, TODAY and • And don’t Forget the Million-Copy Bestsellers r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

“­ stressipes,” quick tips and to-dos to keep you on track. The diet portion of the plan is surprisingly liberal, emphasizing whole grains and fresh fruit and veggies, but also making room for russet potatoes, lean beef, milk, eggs and treats in moderation. Zied gets bonus points for not demonizing any single food item. Sidebars labeled “Do It or Ditch It” look at artificial sweeteners, processed meats and other ingredients known to pose health risks. She lays out the evidence but acknowledges that virtually anything is OK as long as you limit your indulgences and enjoy them to the fullest. The ideas laid out in Younger Next Week take just seven days to implement, but they’re the kind of changes you will likely want to stick with for the long haul.

“Chock-full of easy recipes, meal plans, and exercise diagrams.”

WORKMAN is a registered trademark of Workman Publishing Co., Inc.


reviews The Wind Is Not a River


On the Alaskan war front Review by Melissa Brown

Losing a loved one to the chaos of war would be devastating enough, but lingering doubt as to whether a husband were alive or dead could slowly consume a wife. Especially if her last words to him were an ultimatum: Choose his reporting work, or her. In The Wind Is Not a River, Helen and John Easley find themselves caught in the upheaval of World War II, separated emotionally and physically by the lengths to which he will go for a story. John poses as a lieutenant to sneak into the Japanese-occupied Aleutian Islands, hoping to report about this little-known theatre of the war—which the Americans would prefer the press keep quiet about. His plane goes down on the island of Attu as the novel opens, and instantly the reader is thrust into his fight for survival. The weather is unrelenting and unstable, the only food available is what he and the crash’s only other survivor, young airman Karl, can catch and kill, and discovery by Japanese soldiers is a daily threat. By Brian Payton Helen, at home with her guilt and her ill father, eventually can take the Ecco, $26.99, 320 pages waiting no longer. She, too, lies her way north to Alaska, joining a troupe ISBN 9780062279972, eBook available of USO Swingettes, in a passionate effort to find John. Canadian writer Brian Payton deftly juxtaposes Helen’s and John’s HISTORICAL FICTION separate struggles to stay alive and sane against forces that would render them otherwise. Set against a meticulously described Alaskan setting, each harrowing or quietly painful minute is portrayed in realistic detail. John’s ordeal proves miraculous and heartbreaking, told in passages that are sometimes difficult to read due to their intensity of rawness or sorrow. The book arcs poetically across the distance between Helen and John, drawing out the separation that they (and the reader) can hardly bear.

Perfect By Rachel Joyce

Random House $25, 400 pages ISBN 9780812993301 Audio, eBook available

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

popular fiction


Rachel Joyce’s masterful second novel, Perfect, explores how one event can unravel a life. Byron Hemmings is an ordinary British schoolboy in 1972. He’s not the most sociable child, but Byron has a best friend in James Lowe. Like many adolescents, he’s got a curious mind. And so, when James reads in a newspaper that two seconds will be added to time, Byron becomes fixated on how, when and what the ramifications might be. And then one morning, as his mother drives him and his sister to school, Byron sees his watch pause. In those two seconds everything

changes for Byron. Byron has witnessed an accident that no one around him, including his mother Diana, seems to have noticed. After careful deliberation, Byron mentions the accident to his mother and releases himself from the torment of carrying the secret— only to pass that torment, and then some, along to her. Byron’s story is juxtaposed, often in alternating chapters, with the present-day experiences of a man named Jim, a former psychiatric patient who has been forced to make his way in the world after his residential facility closes. His obsessivecompulsive disorder and an unwillingness to discuss his past make it hard for some people to understand him. It isn’t immediately clear what ties the story of an 11-year-old boy to the parallel narrative of a 55-yearold former psychiatric patient, other than geography. But as their stories unfold, they begin to intertwine in surprising, heartbreaking ways. Thanks to Joyce’s skilled character development and storytelling, read-

ers will find it easy to lose themselves in this emotional tale. — C a r l a J e a n Wh i t l e y

Motherland By Maria Hummel

Counterpoint $26, 400 pages ISBN 9781619022379

Historical FICTION

it in the end—if not as heavily as their Jewish counterparts. The Kappus family has already gone through heartbreak: Liesl and Frank are recently married after the death of Frank’s first wife (in childbirth with their third son). When Frank is drafted into medical military service, Liesl is left alone to care for his three sons during the last months of WWII, with the front growing ever closer and food and resources becoming more scarce. Hummel gathered her raw material from the life of her grandfather, reflected in letters written during the war and discovered in an attic wall. Just as Londoners suffered under the Blitz, German citizens spent the last year of the war living as no human being should, amid the horrors of daily air raids and the loss of those they loved. Hummel somehow manages, without sensationalism, to drive home the humanity and suffering of the people who are frequently considered only as the enemy. Like its characters, Motherland displays little awareness of the Jewish experience, a fact that may trouble some readers. In her afterword, Hummel argues that omission was necessary in order to present her characters’ lives authentically, asking “What did [German citizens] know and when did they know it?” Perhaps only now is the world ready to offer understanding. Without canceling out our sympathy for those targeted by the Nazis, this humane and compelling story may extend it to those who (often unwittingly) assisted in some of humanity’s worst crimes—and who themselves got flicked by the tail of the beast. —Maude McDaniel

On Such a Full Sea By Chang-rae Lee

Sometimes life presents you with a slate of bad choices—though some are braver than others. In Motherland, Maria Hummel, author of several novels and a former Stegner Fellow in poetry, enters relatively unfamiliar literary territory to tell the story of one so-called Mitläufer family: German citizens who would never have personally countenanced the terrible abuses that Jews suffered, but nonetheless went along with the Nazi regime. They paid for

Riverhead $27.95, 368 pages ISBN 9781594486104 Audio, eBook available

literary fiction

Chang-rae Lee’s fifth novel, set in a troubled America more than a century hence, marks a significant departure from his previous work, much of which has been rooted in his Korean heritage. In offering the

Hot new fiction you’ll want to talk about!



by Barbara Claypole White

With haunting prose and deft psychological insight, Averil Dean spins a chilling story that explores the dark corners of obsession, love, pain and revenge.

A poignant story of hope, healing and the solace two strangers find in mending each other’s broken worlds from RWA® Golden Quill Award-winner Barbara Claypole White.


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Debut author Teri Wilson delivers a fun, flirty twist of Jane Austen’s modern classic, Pride and Prejudice.

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

reviews quest narrative of a 16-year-old girl named Fan, he poses some disturbing questions about what a country that’s willing to tolerate an increasing gap between rich and poor might someday resemble. Fan leaves the settlement of B-Mor, inhabited by the descendants of Chinese workers imported to provide manual labor, where she works as a diver in the fish-farming operation that’s at the heart of its economy. She’s searching for her boyfriend Reg, who disappeared after it was discovered that he’s free of the gene that causes cancer, the disease that eventually kills most of the inhabitants of B-Mor. With little to guide her, Fan must make her way across the open counties, an area where outlaws prey on the powerless and mere survival is an accomplishment. At the apex of the economic hierarchy and insulated from this chaos are the Charters, affluent knowledge workers who live in secure communities where even their prosperity isn’t sufficient to shield them from a pervasive anxiety.

Romance Warm up

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fiction While there’s high tension at the outset of Fan’s journey, the story’s momentum flags somewhat about midway through the novel, when she arrives in Seneca, a Charter village. She eventually finds herself in the home of Oliver, a wealthy medical researcher, and what drama remains flows from the question of whether she will abandon her search for Reg, not whether she will survive to find him. Lee makes a studied effort not to fill in the blanks when it comes to describing the disturbing economic and cultural landscape of this world. But because the social stratification and lack of upward mobility of his imagined society feel more like extensions of current trends than radical departures, they’re all the more chilling. The story is told through a first-person plural narrator, the unnamed inhabitants of the B-Mor settlement—an unusual choice that enhances the mythic quality of Fan’s story. Lee’s prose is sumptuous and at times discursive, and for that reason, this is a novel that demands the reader’s full engagement. The rewards for that commitment are considerable; On Such a Full Sea is an elegiac and often unsettling glimpse of a future that could be closer than we’d like to think. —Harvey Freedenberg

The Way of All Fish By Martha Grimes

Scribner $26.99, 352 pages ISBN 9781476723952 eBook available

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

satirical mystery


sued by her former agent, L. Bass Hess, who will stop at nothing to ruin Cindy. While the lawsuit doesn’t have much basis (Cindy fired Bass long before he represented her most recent novel), it could drain her of all her time, energy and finances. Enter hit men/amateur literary critics Candy and Karl, who first made their appearance in Foul Matter. Readers unfamiliar with that story might initially be put off by the speed with which Grimes dives back into its world. But it doesn’t take long to be amused by these Mafioso men, whose mission is not to snuff out Hess but to drive him to the point of insanity. Still, The Way of All Fish isn’t just a takedown of a money-grubbing bad guy. It’s a clever romp from the Florida Everglades through the galleries in Soho all the way to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Whether Grimes is concocting hilarious scenes featuring the stoner crowd of novice writers, alligator wrestlers and junkyard managers that Cindy happens to befriend, or characterizing nitpicky authors analyzing every minute detail of their contracts (including the font size!), this novel is a madcap mystery packed with delight. Perhaps what’s most enjoyable is the author’s rampant criticism of the stereotypical days of publishing, when two-martinis lunches were the norm. “All of this lunchtime drinking,” Grimes ponders. “How did people manage to work?” — M e g a n F i shm a n n

Belle Cora By Phillip Margulies Doubleday $28.95, 608 pages ISBN 9780385532761 eBook available


Martha Grimes—an official Grand Master crime writer—has returned. After the author was “let go” from her longtime publisher, Knopf, she responded with a best-selling novel, Foul Matter (2003), that tackled (and tore apart) the publishing industry. Now in a sequel, The Way of All Fish, Grimes continues to eviscerate the rapidly changing publishing world with her quick wit and colorful cast of characters. The Way of All Fish opens with novelist Cindy Sella having a very bad year. She’s paralyzed by debilitating writer’s block and is being

From the gritty, hardscrabble streets of early 19th-century Manhattan, to the brazen brothels and barrooms of Gold Rush-era San Francisco, readers will find author Phillip Margulies’ rollicking debut novel Belle Cora as exquisitely seductive as its enigmatic heroine. Disguised as a memoir, Belle Cora is actually an ornately constructed family saga tucked within a framework of well-researched 19th-cen-

tury historical anecdotes. In a clever twist on the rags-to-riches formula, Margulies’ novel is a riches-to-ragsto-riches tale that opens with the upper-middle-class, 12-year-old Arabella Godwin enjoying a privileged life that is marred only by her tubercular mother’s lingering illness. But while her mother’s passing This is grievous, her beloved father’s rollicking sudden and historical mysterious death is what proves novel is as devastating, as exquisitely Arabella and her seductive youngest brother, the rapscallion as its Lewis, are soon courtesan exiled by their maternal grandheroine. parents to a farm owned by relatives in upstate New York. Readers who cherished every gentle word of their Laura Ingalls Wilder collections might recognize the daily rhythm of American agrarian life here—the cramped farmhouse, the communal pig slaughter, the one-room schoolhouse—but be forewarned: Margulies’ dark depiction has none of the pastoral wholesomeness of Little House on the Prairie. When Arabella finally frees herself from these physically and mentally abusive relatives to follow Lewis to the city, her escape does not, alas, end happily. Once in New York, Arabella discovers that her brother’s violent temper has landed him in jail. Desperate, destitute and determined to raise the money needed to free Lewis, Arabella throws off her Puritanical upbringing to become a high-class prostitute. Neither sexy nor sentimental, Margulies’ depiction of the madams and girls immersed in the world’s oldest profession is grim and hopeless, despite the promise of wealth, glittering gowns and attention from legions of rich, famous and, above all, hypocritical men. Weaving an evocative tale in a nonlinear, flashback-style narrative, Belle Cora will captivate readers from start to finish, evoking a bittersweet blend of compassion and contempt for a heroine who defies tradition, and often pays a heavy price. —Karen Ann Cullotta

fiction The Exiles Return By Elisabeth de Waal Picador $26, 336 pages ISBN 9781250045782 eBook available

world fiction

— L a u r e n B u ff e r d

V isit for a Q&A with Edmund de Waal.

The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel By Magdalena Zyzak

Holt $25, 288 pages ISBN 9780805095104 eBook available


who married a goat and the looming specter of World War II. Zyzak, who came to the U.S. from her native Poland to attend university in 2002, has a remarkable gift for prose. She regularly crafts phrases that feel simultaneously fresh and familiar—like her claim that Barnabas’ mother died of “acute incomprehension.” The story’s quirkiness is unapologetically front-and-center, but eccentricity is not Zyzak’s main goal. Instead, she makes us feel for this quixotic young adventurer and the community of oddballs around him. With a fascinating blend of literary deftness and Marxian (Groucho, not Karl) zaniness, Zyzak has delivered an absurdist page-turner that’s also thoroughly human and moving. —Matthew Jackson

Mercy Snow By Tiffany Baker

Grand Central $26, 336 pages ISBN 9781455512737 Audio, eBook available


A good debut novel can deliver a compelling story, well-formed characters, interesting dialogue and a solid thematic punch—but a great debut novel also introduces an unforgettable voice. With The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel, Magdalena Zyzak has done all of the above, creating a modern folktale that’s both delightfully strange and remarkably sensitive. Zyzak’s titular hero is a simple swineherd in the fictional Eastern European nation of Scalvusia who, in his own mind, is a legend in the making. Barnabas finds his reflection so remarkable that it actually hurts to turn away from it. He finds the fact that he’s failed at every job he’s ever had to be proof not that he’s inept, but that his mind is filled with thoughts too lofty for manual labor. Most importantly, though, Barnabas is in love with the beautiful gypsy Roosha, who is unfortunately living in the home of one of the richest men in town. Determined to win his beloved, Barnabas saddles his noble steed Wilhelm and sets off on a series of attempts at romance that never end well. Meanwhile he must deal with, among other things, a murder investigation, a mad priest, a man

if the townspeople are as unforgiving as the winter they are suffering through. One night, a bus returning from a high school field trip is run off the road by a reckless driver, killing a local girl. The authorities immediately blame Zeke, but Mercy knows that her brother is innocent and is determined to clear him of the accusation. June, on the other hand, is resolute in her mission to blame the girl’s death on Zeke. In June, Baker has created a complex character: doting mother, dutiful wife who possesses a cold heart and an animalistic need to protect her family at any cost. However, June has never met a force as implacable as Mercy. The two are equally determined to protect their loved ones, but their separate quests for truth also open wounds and long-buried secrets from the past. Baker is an expert in placing the reader into the souls of her characters. Readers will be eager to see what’s next from this talented writer. —Elisabeth Atwood

Before I Burn By Gaute Heivoll

Tiffany Baker, whose debut, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, was a bestseller, proves with her third book that she is a novelist with staying power. Mercy Snow is the story of two disparate families in a small New Hampshire town, irrevocably linked because of a murky history and a present-day tragedy. In the town of Titan Falls, the citizens and its one lingering industry, the paper mill, are on the brink of financial ruin. The McAllister family has owned the mill for several generations. June McAllister, wife of the mill owner and undisputed first lady in her community, lives her life as one would expect: head of the sewing circle, best dressed, front row in church every Sunday. Young Mercy Snow has returned to the family homestead with her rebellious brother, Zeke, and younger sister, Hannah. The siblings are gypsies with just a rusty RV and a few dollar bills to their name when they arrive to lay claim to their family’s land, and Baker’s most powerful prose comes in her depictions of the Snows’ poverty. They are literally starving, and it seems as

Translated by Don Bartlett Graywolf $26, 336 pages ISBN 9781555976613 eBook available


Norwegian author Gaute Heivoll’s remarkable amalgam of mystery and memoir revolves around a series of arson fires set in a small village in southern Norway during May and June of 1978. The reader learns the identity of the arsonist quite early in Before I Burn, but it becomes apparent that what really intrigues the author is those affected by the fires—not only the families whose barns and simple homes were reduced to ashes, but also the family of the arsonist. Heivoll was born in the very village where the fires took place, barely two months before the first one erupted. Throughout his childhood he had heard the stories—as the family car slowly passed “the pyromaniac’s house,” or when his father pointed out the barn that burned down “when you were christened.” Some 30 years later, the

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

When Edmund de Waal began to research the history of his family, he had no idea that he was embarking on a journey that would take him five years to complete and would encompass several continents. His exploration of the wealthy Ephrussis family became the subject of the award-winning memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes. As part of his research, de Waal’s father handed him a stack of manuscripts belonging to Edmund’s grandmother, Elisabeth de Waal, including the novel The Exiles Return, which is now being published for the first time. Elisabeth Ephrussis de Waal was born into an exceptionally privileged family in turn-of-the-century Vienna. She studied philosophy and economics and was also a gifted poet. Living in Paris and then London, she traveled to Vienna weeks after the German invasion of 1938 to save her parents and was able to bring her father to England. After the war, she returned to Vienna to discover what had happened to her family and their belongings, a quest that kept her working for justice for more than a decade. Set in Vienna in the early 1950s, The Exiles Return is less a novel than a series of tightly written overlapping portraits of exiles coming to terms with a radically changed landscape. Jewish scientist Professor Kuno Adler has been living in America, safely, albeit unhappily, with his corsetiere wife. He goes back, not just to Vienna, but to the laboratory where he once worked, insisting they owe him his previous job. Despite lingering anti-Semitism, Vienna is his home, and he is eager to reclaim it. Most poignant is the arrival of Resi, the brooding teenage daughter of a Viennese princess. Raised in America, Resi is sent back to Vienna to stay with relatives, and, like a Henry James heroine, her innocence is no match for European experience, made all the more desperate in the postwar economy. But

it is postwar Vienna that is de Waal’s greatest character, a city trying to rebuild in a totally altered world after terrible devastation. The Exiles Return explores identity, loss, departure and perhaps the greater pain of return. Though none of these characters are a direct portrait of their creator, each one carries a fragment of her experience. The clear, almost spare writing leaves plenty of space in which to imagine the powerful emotions at play in this quietly devastating novel.


reviews stories began to gnaw at his psyche, and Heivoll realized he had to delve into the lingering memories of those still alive to try and piece together the puzzle. By means of interviews, diaries and letters from the arsonist during his years of imprisonment, Heivoll gradually constructs a model of what might have happened during those tense weeks, when residents sat silently on their doorsteps all night hoping to catch the arsonist—described only as tall, thin and probably young by one victim, who glimpsed him through the smoke engulfing her kitchen. Readers of Scandinavian mysteries from authors like Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbø or Karin Fossum will surely enjoy Heivoll’s superb sense of place and his depiction of this isolated village, surrounded by forest but still lit almost all night in the middle of summer. Like Fossum, he writes from the viewpoint of all connected to the fires, including the arsonist, adding to the reader’s understanding. And readers of the quiet, piercing prose of Per Petterson, like the acclaimed Out Stealing Horses (2007), will especially appreciate Heivoll’s spare, emotional telling of this life-changing episode. —Deborah Donovan

A Star for Mrs. Blake By April Smith

Knopf $24.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780307958846 eBook available

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

HIstorical FICTION


April Smith, creator of the popular Detective Ana Grey novels, makes a change of pace with A Star for Mrs. Blake. This moving and surprising novel is the account of a Gold Star Mother’s sojourn to the fields of Verdun where her only son was killed, along with so many other young men, during World War I. The reader would expect such a story to be moving, but what’s surprising is the toughness that Smith gives to her characters, especially Cora Blake, the Gold Star Mother. But why shouldn’t she be tough? When we first meet her, it’s during a freezing cold Depression-era Maine winter. Her parents are dead, her son is dead and she’s raising her

fiction motherless nieces. She and the girls are saved from penury when she gets a job in a sardine cannery that she must walk to because there’s no more gas to fuel the bus. Somehow, she’s managed to survive: She even has a suitor. Then, the letter comes, inviting her to visit the grave of her son in France. She decides to look forward to her voyage the way her seafaring parents looked forward to their trips around the world. Cora’s sojourn puts her in more modest company, however. She becomes part of a group that includes an Irish housekeeper, a Jewish chicken farmer’s wife, a socialite and, almost, an African-American seamstress. The near inclusion of Mrs. Russell is our first reminder that, Depression and fallout from World War I aside, things aren’t quite right in America. Still, most of the folks Cora meets are delightful company, including her minders, the plucky nurse Lily Barnett and the upstanding, infinitely patient and cheerful Lt. Hammond. Cora also strikes up a friendship with journalist Griffin Reed. Disfigured in the war, he’s a morphine addict who’s being kept by the artist who helped design the mask that conceals his wounds. But as entertaining as the trip is, Smith, a lucid writer with a detective’s eye for detail, doesn’t let us forget the painful event that launched her heroine’s journey. Reed’s shattered face, rows of gravestones on a field, live ordnance found too near to a picnic area—all remind the reader of the grotesque wastefulness of the war that began a century ago. Through Cora Blake’s story, Smith explores the experience of some of the good, ordinary and resourceful people who were caught up in it. — ARLENE M c KANIC

Radiance of tomorrow By Ishmael Beah

Sarah Crichton Books $25, 256 pages ISBN 9780374246020 Audio, eBook available


The gentle, folktale-like narrative style of Ishmael Beah’s compelling debut novel, Radiance of Tomorrow, belies the endemic injustice

Apple Tree Yard

and brutality in the story it tells. The Sierra Leone-born Beah, now living in the U.S., first shared his country’s dark reality with A Long Way Gone, a memoir of his violent experiences as a child soldier during its harrowing civil war. For his first work of fiction, Beah again takes readers to his West African homeland with the story of a rural village, ravaged and abandoned during the war, attempting an uneasy rebirth. The first to return to Imperi are three elders, who honor the unidentifiable dead by burying their bones. Soon others begin to come back and repopulate the town, including two teachers, Bockarie and BenjaThe author of min, both idealthe bestseller ists who believe in the future A Long despite the ugly Way Gone past they have witnessed. A presents a former child soaring work soldier, simply called the Coloof fiction. nel, becomes the “Man in Charge” of a group of damaged orphans like himself, including a repentant boy once forced to amputate the hands of the innocent. At first the town enjoys a degree of success in getting back on its feet, but everything changes when a foreign-owned mining company returns to extract the rich vein of rutile from the earth. The exploitation of the land and the cheap, expendable labor force drawn from the native population devastates the town, the mining company paying little heed to local traditions. Each successive tragedy—a polluted water source, the rapes of local girls, the unrecorded deaths of workers in industrial accidents—further tears the fabric of Imperi. Still, the elders hold onto a diminishing hope. Beah writes with a quiet confidence that borrows much from the oral tradition in which he was raised. His arresting style also bears a debt to an earlier generation of post-colonial writers such as Chinua Achebe. The last few chapters, when Bockarie and his family leave Imperi and try their luck in the capital city of Freetown, are less successful than the rest of the book—hurried and a bit overstuffed with incident—but Radiance of Tomorrow is an impressive fiction debut by a talented writer with a singular tale to tell.

When you are a rational human being, with free will and agency, is there any such thing as a point of no return? That’s the question Yvonne Carmichael finds herself asking after she’s charged with murder in this dark, intense, wholly engrossing British import, Apple Tree Yard. A well-known London scientist, Yvonne has spent her life on the straight-and-narrow: successful career, two grown children, happy if ho-hum marriage. (“The reason he ambles into the kitchen and asks for his car keys is not that he is incapable of locating them himself; it is to remind me that after many years of marriage, he still loves me,” she muses during their morning routine.) Then Yvonne meets a mysterious man while walking back to her office after a routine meeting, and begins an affair. She starts making dicey choices, including a public tryst in an alleyway called Apple Tree Yard with thousands of commuters walking by just a few feet away. Later that night, Yvonne is the victim of a savage sexual assault, and soon suspects her attacker is stalking her. Going to the authorities would risk uncovering her affair, so she enlists her lover to help scare off the attacker. But things go horribly wrong, and suddenly this woman who has played by the rules all her life finds herself judged by a wholly different standard. Novelist and journalist Louise Doughty is a masterful writer, improbably making Yvonne a sympathetic, insightful character even as she is cheating, lying and generally making the worst possible life choices. Doughty also perfectly captures the quiet details of domestic life, the erotic charge of a high-stakes affair, the crackling drama of a courtroom. She dispatches the notion that we are masters of our own fate, chillingly illustrating how quickly we can derail our own lives.

—Robert Weibezahl

— Am y S c r i b n e r

By Louise Doughty

Sarah Crichton Books $26, 336 pages ISBN 9780374105679 Audio, eBook available


The Rosie Project Graeme Simsion [Simon & Schuster] 9781476729084 $24

A Reader’s Book of Days Tom Nissley [Norton] 9780393239621 $24.95

In the Hands of a Baker The Culinary Institute of America [Wiley] 9780470587850 $29.99 pb

The Coastal Table Karen Covey [Union Park Press] 9781934598108 $29.95 pb

Acts Passed at a First Congress of the United States of America 1789 George Washington [Andrews McMeel] 9781449448387 $75

King and Maxwell David Baldacci [Grand Central] 9781455521319 $28

The Quest Nelson DeMille [Center Street] 9781455576425 $26

Where Were You? Gus Russo and Harry Moses [Lyons Press] 9780762794560 $29.95

Margot Jillian Cantor [Riverhead] 9781594486432 $16 pb

A Tangle of Knots Lisa Graff [Philomel] 9780399255175 $16.99


Music : The Definitive Visual History DK [DK] 9781465414366 $50

When It Snows Richard Collingridge [Feiwel & Friends] 9781250028310 $16.99

E. B. White on Dogs Edited by Martha White [Tilbury House] 9780884483410 $22.95

Dreams of Duneland Kenneth J. Schoon [Quarry Books] 9780253007896 $30

No Better Time Molly Knight Raskin [Da Capo Press] 9780306821660 $25.99

The Devil’s Cormorant: A Natural History Richard J. King [University Press of New England] 9781611682250 $29.95

Humans of New York Brandon Stanton [St. Martin’s] 9781250038821 $29.99

Snowflakes Fall Patricia MacLachlan [Random House Books for Young Readers] 9780385376938 $17.99

The Snatchabook Helen Docherty [Sourcebooks Jabberwocky] 9781402290824 $16.99

The Kissing Hand Audrey Penn [Tanglewood] 9781933718002 $17.95

Loss of Innocence Richard North Patterson [Quercus Publishing] 9781623650926 $26.95

Star Wars: Jedi Academy Jeffrey Brown [Scholastic] 9780545505178 $12.99

With a Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah Amy Ehrlich [Candlewick] 9780763643959 $29.99

How to Love Katie Cotugno [Balzer + Bray] 9780062216359 $17.99






NONFICTION The Secret Rooms By Catherine Bailey

little failure

From Russia, with love (& tears) REVIEW BY A l d e n M u d g e

Near the end of his entrancing and unsparing memoir, Gary Shteyngart —author of three exuberant, award-winning novels—writes, “On so many occasions in my novels I have approached a certain truth only to turn away from it, only to point my finger and laugh at it and then scurry back to safety. In this book, I promised myself I would not point the finger. My laughter would be intermittent. There would be no safety.” Shteyngart—being Shteyngart—cannot not be funny. In one example drawn at random from Little Failure, he introduces his Grandmother Polya, with whom he is parked after school every day while his parents work (and whose TV he hopes will provide him with new story ideas for entertaining his classmates, who would otherwise despise the slight, poorly dressed Russian immigrant boy): “Behind every great Russian child, there is a Russian grandmother who acts as chef de cuisine, bodyguard, personal shopper, and PR agent.” He begins another chapter: “The By Gary Shteyngart next year I get the present every boy wants. A circumcision.” Random House, $27, 368 pages But the flip side of this sharp sense of humor—an inheritance from ISBN 9780679643753, eBook available his traumatized Russian Jewish family, he says—is rage. A sweet, sickly, incredibly bright only child born in Leningrad in 1972, Shteyngart became memoir a “kind of tuning fork for my parents’ fears, disappointments, and alienation.” Those fears and disappointments ripened when the family left Russia and came eventually to Queens, New York. Shteyngart’s vividly recounted immigrant’s tale tells a parallel story of family dysfunction and a growing self-hatred that, during his years at Oberlin College, manifested in out-of-control behavior that earned him the nickname Scary Gary and, later, led him to regrettable cruelties visited upon people who tried to help him. Little Failure is also an account of Shteyngart’s growth as a writer. At important junctures in his life, his ability to write helped him overcome his social awkwardness to gain appreciative attention from his peers. “There is nothing as joyful as writing, even when the writing is twisted and full of . . . the self-hate that makes writing not only possible but necessary,” he says at one point. His need to succeed as a writer led Shteyngart at long last to enter psychotherapy, and the result, as the final chapters show, was transformative. Few writers have written about the soul-scorching experiences of their lives with such wit and ferocity as Shteyngart does in Little Failure. There is certainly no scurrying to safety here.

Unremarried Widow

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

By Artis Henderson


Simon & Schuster $25, 256 pages ISBN 9781451649284 eBook available


Unremarried Widow describes the heart-rending love affair between the author and her military husband, Miles, who died in a horrific helicopter crash while serving overseas. It’s obviously a sad story, and Artis Henderson wisely chooses not to tell it in chronological order. Her narrative begins in the early days of their marriage, then lurches forward to the accident, then back to their meet-

ing, and then even further back to an airplane crash that killed her father. This time travel illuminates the ways in which certain events are forever with us, shaping how we deal with what comes next—and how what comes next will, in turn, shape our perception of what happened before. Henderson is a bright and ambitious young coed when she meets Miles in a bar. She longs to live abroad and become a writer, but instead she falls for Miles and follows him wherever the U.S. government sends him. She finds herself living on or near military bases, seeking temporary jobs that barely satisfy her. Time is simply something to fill until her lover returns. As a former Army wife myself, I was thoroughly convinced by Henderson’s description of military partnership. The military community can feel at once comforting and suffocating, espe-

cially for women, who are always on the sidelines. When Miles finally does deploy, Henderson makes a break from on-post military life and moves back to Florida with her mom. While she finds a certain kind of rhythm there, in crucial ways she is unsupported when her worst fears become reality. Henderson is an author unafraid to tackle big issues like love and identity, yet the book rarely feels heavy-handed because we arrive at these topics through her very personal story. Unremarried Widow is an unflinching, honest and raw book that will likely evoke a strong emotional reaction from the reader. It certainly did from me. If you like true love stories (even tragic ones) and good writing, give this book a try. Just be ready to break out the tissues. — KELLY B LEWETT

Penguin $16, 512 pages ISBN 9780143124733 eBook available


Historian Catherine Bailey was all set to write a book about the impact of World War I on the people who lived on the Duke of Rutland’s huge estate in the Midlands of England. As part of her research, she delved into the family archives at the duke’s stately home, Belvoir Castle—and found another story that makes the fictional shenanigans at Downton Abbey look like a tea party. Bailey noticed an oddity: There was a gap in the papers of the 9th Duke, John, covering a crucial period of his wartime military service. More digging revealed two similar gaps. John was an odd duck, by nature an obsessive collector. The missing papers could not be happenstance. Was he hiding something? He was indeed. The Secret Rooms is Bailey’s gripping account of her quest to unravel the mystery. It’s an astonishing story that uncovers the dark side of the aristocracy at a time when dukes were still rich and powerful but were facing the decline of their fortunes. Impelled by family hatred and greed, John’s parents— Henry, the 8th Duke, and his wife, Violet—stopped at nothing to stem that decline: financial fraud, lies, subversion of the legal, military and medical systems, sexual coercion and cover-ups. Their guilt-ridden son managed to destroy much of the evidence before his death in the castle’s “secret rooms.” But Bailey doggedly pursues the truth. She finds an expert to crack the code John used in his letters. She interviews aged servants. She mines other aristocrats’ archives, finds Violet’s unburned letters and pores over the memoir by John’s sister, the once-famous Lady Diana Manners. The ugly secrets are revealed. The Secret Rooms is a fabulous read. Bailey ably alternates chapters between her own search and her findings about what John was trying to conceal. A family tree, a map of the estate and floor plans of Belvoir

NONFICTION help us follow along. Only a few people emerge with reputation intact— Lady Diana, for one. John himself is ultimately a tragic figure who paid quite a price for his “noble” family’s survival at the top of the heap. — ANNE B ARTLETT

My Age of Anxiety By Scott Stossel

Knopf $27.95, 416 pages ISBN 9780307269874 Audio, eBook available


For the Benefit of Those Who See By Rosemary Mahoney

—Henry L. Carrigan Jr.



scott stossel By alison hood

Worried sick


hough he’s a highly regarded journalist, Scott Stossel has long endured an affliction that was hidden from many of his closest associates: near-crippling anxiety. In My Age of Anxiety, a narrative that’s both deeply personal and wide-ranging, he examines the history and treatment of this common disorder.

It took much courage for you to write this personal account of your inner life: What do you hope your book will accomplish? I hope this book will provide readers with a deeper understanding of the condition, and of both the scientific and cultural contexts in which it exists. Especially for people struggling with anxiety, I hope the book can provide a modicum of solace—the recognition that they are not alone. I also hope people find it entertaining and possibly somewhat hopeful, despite my trawling through some dark places. By all outside appearances, you’re the capable and confident editor of The Atlantic. Do you think many of your colleagues will be surprised to read about your struggles with anxiety? Some of them already definitely have been. (As advance copies of the book circulate around the office, I’ve had a parade of colleagues in my office telling me they’d like to give me a hug. Which is nice and also a little uncomfortable.) And I suspect I will continue to be greeted with surprised reactions from professional acquaintances. The book’s section on drugs is sure to be controversial. What are your thoughts about Big Pharma’s response? I don’t yet have any sense of how Big Pharma will respond. But I’m definitely not anti-drug. (How could I be when I take medications myself !) In fact, I’d say I’m guardedly pro-pharma—drugs are the best or only solution for many people. I just think we need to be cognizant of the medical risks and societal risks. We should view drugs with both skepticism and hope. You make many references to the caring and support of your spouse, Susanna. How are you able to maintain relationships

with family and friends given your admittedly narcissistic focus on yourself and your condition? In some ways, my inward focus on my anxiety makes me a worse husband/father/son/friend than I otherwise would be. Susanna has sometimes had to carry an unfairly heavy load. But I would like to think my anxiety has also enlarged my capacity for empathy and made me more conscientious and effective in some areas of my life (even as it has clearly made me less effective in others). How would you describe the fiscal impact of anxiety—on families, workers and businesses, as well as the healthcare system? By some measures the impact is huge. Missed days of work due to anxiety disorders (and depression) cost the U.S. economy upward of $50 billion annually. And anxiety is a leading cause of visits to doctors’ offices (which may actually help the economy, but is still not a good thing). Clinical anxiety can place a large fiscal burden on families—it can contribute to unemployment, alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as general distress. You state that your lifelong struggle with anxiety might be a “source of strength” and a “bestower of certain blessings.” Can you explain how so? Anxiety, when it’s not debilitating, can bring with it certain gifts: a heightened awareness of your environment; more sensitive social antennae; a general prudence about risk-taking; a spur toward achievement. The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard believed that the greater the anxiety, the greater the opportunity for growth. I think there’s definitely something to that—though when my anxiety is at its worst I’d trade away the opportunity for growth in exchange for the anxiety dissipating.

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

According to author Rosemary Mahoney, “the United States has the lowest rate of blindness in the world,” yet Americans fear blindness more than any other handicap. As she concedes in her riveting glance into the world of the blind, she was among those who palpably feared a world of darkness. Yet, in her compulsively readable account, For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind, Mahoney reveals that the blind often embrace their affliction rather than wallowing in self-pity or searching for sympathy. Mahoney (Down the Nile) travels to India to teach in a school for the blind run by Sabriye Tenberken, founder of Braille Without Borders. She admits that she chose the school because she had developed a strong curiosity about blindness and that “she wanted to meet blind people, to spend time with them, to get to know them . . . to see how they live in their world, and how they navigate.” What she discovers is that the blind don’t let their sightlessness stand in the way of living their lives. Many of the students feel lucky to be blind, because, as they tell her, if “we were not blind, we would still be sitting in our countries only helping at home and doing nothing.” The blind individuals with whom she lives and works are “strong and happy and very capable . . . they’ve accepted their blindness; it can’t stand in their way.” Mahoney’s beautifully written narrative opens our eyes to the experience of blindness and offers fresh insight into human resilience and the way we view the world.

The American people are, it seems, a fretful and anxious lot. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. [These] disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.” A lack of treatment is not the issue for Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, who chronicles his jumpy and jittery journey through life in My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. “I have since the age of about two been a twitchy bundle of phobias, fears, and neuroses. And I have, since the age of ten, tried in various ways to overcome my anxiety,” he writes. In his quest for relief, Stossel has tried a passel of therapies, drugs and alcohol, with little effect (“Here’s what worked: nothing.”). His current therapist, Dr. W., has advocated facing down these mental disturbances head on, and Stossel admits that perhaps writing this book could be “empowering and anxiety reducing.” Years in the writing and impressively researched, My Age of Anxiety rigorously examines the “riddle” of anxiety, delving into the history of the disorder and its permutations (i.e., depression, performance anxiety, separation anxiety). He cites the thoughts of teachers, medical experts and philosophers through the ages, from Hippocrates to Spinoza to Freud. Along the way, he embellishes his reporting with accounts of his personal trials (many of which are imbued with dark humor). Stossel’s final chapter on “Redemption and Resilience” is especially poignant. For while the author realizes that the book’s focus might be viewed as narcissistic, he also hopes that divulging his “unhealed wound” might just be “a source of strength and a bestower of certain blessings.”

Little, Brown $27, 304 pages ISBN 9780316043427 eBook available



reviews The Impossible Knife of Memory


Daughter of war Review by Jill Ratzan

After four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and an injury that ended his military career, veteran Andy Kincaid “could turn into a werewolf even when the moon wasn’t full,” according to his daughter Hayley, a high school senior. Hayley and Andy have just returned to Andy’s hometown after several years on the road, with Andy driving trucks in an attempt to chase away his demons and Hayley home-schooling herself from the front seat. Now Hayley is attending high school for the first time, theoretically to prepare for college. But she’s not entirely sold on the idea of classrooms and homework, let alone college applications. What’s the point, she wonders, of trying to build a future when she’s constantly rescuing her father from drowning in his past? Between checking to see if Andy has gone to work that day (or even if he’s gotten out of bed to take a shower) and attempting to manage her own sense of constant panic, Hayley appreciates being aloof. But she can’t By Laurie Halse Anderson help becoming friends with her neighbor Gracie, and then becoming Viking, $18.99, 400 pages more than friends with attractive but enigmatic Finn. And just as Hayley ISBN 9780670012091, audio, eBook available and Finn are sorting out their feelings for each other, Andy’s former girlAges 12 and up friend Trish—whom Hayley hates for a reason that no one else knows— comes back to town. FICTION Margaret A. Edwards Award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter, as with rape in Speak and anorexia in Wintergirls. In The Impossible Knife of Memory, she applies her considerable talent for writing intense, authentic narratives to the timely and moving topic of a teen coping with a parent’s post-traumatic stress disorder. And like Speak, The Impossible Knife of Memory interlaces its serious content with threads of dark humor. (For example, Hayley’s high school is, according to her, populated exclusively by zombies and freaks, interacting with each other according to a well-defined and completely absurd social order.) Longtime Anderson fans won’t be disappointed, and readers newly discovering her work will understand why she’s earned a reputation as one of the most honest authors writing for teens today.

The True Adventures of Nicolo Zen

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

By Nicholas Christopher


Knopf $17.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780375867385 eBook available Ages 12 and up

Historical fiction

The True Adventures of Nicolo Zen is the survival story of an orphaned boy who learns to rise above tragedy, poverty and urban evils using only his cleverness, his sense of justice and the mysterious powers of his magical clarinet. In the year 1714, Nicolo’s village is stricken by a vicious outbreak of malaria, and the plague quickly claims his entire family. Alone at 14, Nicolo deserts his disease-ridden home for Venice, taking with him only one item—his enchanted, ivory

clarinet. He hopes for nothing more than survival as a beggar, but he quickly learns that he can collect far more coins by playing his clarinet and relying on his cunning. Nicolo is soon dressing up in girls’ clothes, mimicking his deceased sisters’ mannerisms and trying to convince the maestro of the local girls’ orphanage orchestra—Master Antonio Vivaldi, Venice’s greatest musician— of both his musical talent and his feigned gender. He gradually learns to better wield his charmed instrument, which transforms him into a musical prodigy and the subject of much attention, praise and jealousy. Fate takes Nicolo to the doorstep of Massimo Magnifico, a magician who can explain the supernatural ability of his clarinet. And once they talk, Nicolo’s life is never the same. Author Nicholas Christopher’s debut YA novel envelopes the reader in a world where anything—be it tragic, beatific or mystic—can happen to anyone. — J u s t i n B a r i s i ch

Roomies By Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Little, Brown $18, 288 pages ISBN 9780316217491 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up


Here’s a neat trick: a dual-authored story about two prospective college roommates who never meet over the course of the novel. Roomies tells Elizabeth (“E.B.”) and Lauren’s stories through the emails they send during their last summers at home. For E.B., the move is crosscountry, away from her single mom and soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, and toward the gay dad who abandoned her after coming out. Lauren is just moving across the San Francisco Bay, but her family is so large it’s like leaving a small island nation. She

really wanted a single room for just this reason. The emails between the girls offer a gentle contrast between how we present ourselves online versus who we are IRL, and how much we try to read into correspondence when there’s nothing else to consult for clues. E.B. and Lauren are both going through changes common during the last summer before college, but they sometimes fail to empathize with one another because their surface differences seem so vast. Before they even lay eyes on one another, the girls come close to opting out of the shared dorm. Roomies is a bittersweet and hopeful story of change. —Heather Seggel

When I Was the Greatest By Jason Reynolds Atheneum $17.99, 240 pages ISBN 9781442459472 eBook available Ages 12 and up


Life is tough in Allen “Ali” Brooks’ Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. His mother works two jobs just to make ends meet. His father, who’s served time in prison, hustles on the streets and lives in his car, but ultimately wants to take care of his children. And Ali can’t always rely on his best friend, Noodles, a secret comic book geek with an anger management problem. Nicknamed for the former champion heavyweight boxer, 15-year-old Ali fights the tempting violence and risky opportunities around him by throwing practice punches in the shower and in the neighborhood ring. He tries to stay out of trouble, but how can he and Noodles resist an invitation to one of Brooklyn’s most exclusive parties? When a misunderstanding involving Noodles’ older brother, who has Tourette syndrome, leads to an altercation, Ali jumps in, swinging real punches. In Ali’s biggest battle yet, many lives are at risk, and he begins to question his friendship with Noodles. Despite his gritty surroundings, Ali’s humor lends an endearing vulnerability and hopefulness that can’t help but touch the rest of the

q&a neighborhood. Although he doesn’t seek the spotlight like his namesake, Ali fights to uphold his beliefs. As his world expands, he notices just how hard his family and friends are fighting, too. Jason Reynolds’ debut effort is indeed great, and readers should expect more greatness from this stunning new author. —Angela Leeper

Laurie Halse ANDERSON By Jill Ratzan

The unflinching truth


n The Impossible Knife of Memory, author Laurie Halse Anderson demonstrates yet again her ability to define new directions for the YA “problem novel” genre. Teenager Hayley and her father, who suffers from PTSD, live with a past that threatens to swallow their future.

No One Else Can Have You By Kathleen Hale

HarperTeen $17.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780062211194 eBook available Ages 14 and up


—Diane Colson

In Notes from Underground, Dostoyevsky said that sarcasm was “usually the last refuge of modest and chastesouled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.” To that I would add that sarcasm is a tool of the powerless, an excellent blade to carry when life is beating you up. Teenagers understand this better than adults. They’ve just figured out the absurdities and hypocrisies of our world, and much of their sense of humor revolves around that. Hayley’s high school has replaced its gym and library “If things teachers with like . . . PTSD unpaid aides. It holds reguupset adults lar lockdown like me, what drills, and its classrooms do they feel are equipped like to the with window blinds teens who meant to are trapped deflect school shooters. Are by them?” these features intended to reflect the priorities of contemporary high schools? I don’t know that they reflect the priorities of high schools today, but they reflect the reality in many schools. I continue to be amazed at America’s unwillingness to fund schools properly, to make them safe and to reduce class size. Children are born curious, but our education system sometimes seems hell-bent on destroying that curiosity instead of nurturing it. Hayley’s friends and teachers encourage her to think about her future, but she has no particular plans. Did you have a firm direction in mind for yourself right after high school or did you, like

Hayley, have no idea what you would do after graduation? I had no clue what I was doing or where I was going. I spent my senior year in high school as a foreign exchange student, living on a pig farm in Denmark. When I came back to the States, I worked a dead-end job just long enough to realize that I needed an education. I found a job milking cows on a dairy farm and went to community college. I never thought I’d be an author; I just wanted to be educated enough so that I didn’t have to shovel manure the rest of my life. Hayley knows a lot about American history and is constantly courting trouble by challenging her history teacher’s simplistic explanations. You’ve written several historical fiction novels for teens and tweens, including Fever 1793, Chains and Forge. Is there any particular historical event that you’d risk detention in order to explain correctly? This is one of the best questions of all time! I’d risk detention and expulsion if I could explain the history of slavery in America. Our aversion to discussing our nation’s original sin perpetuates racism and damages all of us. Your books have garnered significant critical praise, including a Printz Honor in 2000 for Speak and the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 2009 for your body of work as a whole. How has this recognition influenced your writing, your career or your life in general? It’s been an incredible validation and an unexpected gift. I never thought Speak would be published, much less open the door to this wonderful life. I am a very grateful and lucky girl.

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Ruth Fried’s mutilated body is found hanging from a willow tree in the middle of a cornfield. The small town of Friendship, Wisconsin, handles this horrific crime like it handles everything else: It politely tidies things up and moves on. With Ruth’s death, Kippy Bushman has lost the one person who could see past the superficial politeness endemic to Friendship. When Kippy receives Ruth’s nearly illegible diary, she learns some shocking secrets about her best friend. But the sheriff, who commands a fleet of police cars emblazoned with smiley faces, is pointedly uninterested in Kippy’s revelations. He has pinned the murder on Ruth’s hell-raiser boyfriend, Colt. Case closed. Friendship is rich with oddballs, both charming and otherwise. Kippy’s father has raised her alone since her mother died, guiding her with a loving stream of psychobabble. Ruth’s older brother, Davey, has returned from military service overseas and is inflamed with PTSD. Page-turning tension and cynical humor fuse as Kippy teams up with Davey to find Ruth’s killer. The vivid Wisconsin setting, serving as a stanchion of ordinary life, is continually violated by Kippy’s offhand revelations of unresolved violence, including her own bizarre past. Author Kathleen Hale’s first novel combines Hitchcockian eeriness, the quirky humor of Carl Hiaasen and the bruising romance of a “True Blood” episode.

The title of your new book, The Impossible Knife of Memory, is quite striking. Why compare memory to a knife? Not all memories are nice. The main character’s father is plagued by horrific battlefield memories. His PTSD rules the life of his family to such an extent that his daughter tries to push away her childhood memories, even the good ones, because it hurts so much to think about the life they had before her father’s spirit was broken. Memories can cut both ways. What draws you to tackle intense subject matter like rape in Speak and PTSD in Impossible Knife? I write about things that make me angry and confused. I don’t have to look far to find topics. If things like rape, anorexia and PTSD upset adults like me, what do they feel like to the teens who are trapped by them? That’s what I want to write about. Why do you think teens need to read about these topics? It’s not about what they need to read. It’s what they want to read. They know that life is tough and confusing and unforgiving. They want books that will give them insight into what’s coming. And— just like adults (who are flocking to YA books like never before)—they want to be entertained. I try to write books that give them exactly what they are hungry for. Like in your other realistic fiction for teens, the difficult issues in The Impossible Knife of Memory are balanced by black humor. For example, Hayley’s high school places her in an ironic early morning “lunch” period and is (according to her) populated primarily by student zombies. Why is it important to include humor alongside such serious subject matter?


reviews The Sittin’ Up


To honor and remember Review by Angela leeper

In The Sittin’ Up, author Sheila P. Moses returns to Rich Square, North Carolina, made famous by her National Book Award finalist and Coretta Scott King Honor book, The Legend of Buddy Bush. In Moses’ charming, ever-thoughtful new novel, one death in the summer of 1940 has the power to transform an entire town. Twelve-year-old Bean (nicknamed for his close friendship with skinnyas-a-pole Martha Rose) narrates the events that occur after his adopted grandfather, 100-year-old Mr. Bro. Wiley, the last of the region’s former slaves, takes his final breath. Wiley, a gentle, loving man who offered guidance to his community, was respected by both blacks and whites alike and surely deserves a “sittin’ up,” or wake, like no other. Although the Depression has hit Bean’s sharecropping family and neighbors hard, the boy’s folksy vernacular describes By Sheila P. Moses the rich foods, colorful characters and revered traditions that still shape Putnam, $16.99, 240 pages the Low Meadows. Just as the tears fall, so does the rain, bringing with it ISBN 9780399257230, eBook available a threat of flood that could destroy Bean’s entire town. The boy strives to Ages 10 and up prove that he’s old enough not only to participate in the sittin’ up, but also to step up as a man and help save his family. MIDDLE GRADE While most African-American children’s literature focuses on either slavery or the Civil Rights movement, Moses gives middle grade readers a glimpse of a time when slavery was recent enough to weigh heavily on the minds and hearts of African Americans, yet a more equitable future was also imaginable. Bean sees how many whites still mistreat the black townsfolk and how sharecropping is a looser form of slavery; nevertheless, he knows that an education will help him achieve his dream of becoming a doctor. Moses’ masterful storytelling shows how Wiley’s death could be the key that helps unite this community.

Catching Kisses By Amy Gibson

Illustrated by Maria van Lieshout Feiwel & Friends $16.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780312376475 Ages 3 to 6

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picture book


Good things happen when author Amy Gibson kisses and tells. “Everyday, everywhere, kisses are flying,” she writes in Catching Kisses, an endearing tribute to the transfer of love that occurs with one simple act: the blowing of kisses through the air from one person to another. With gently flowing text, Gibson puts all five senses to work to describe what a kiss can do. We can hear some kisses “SMACK!” like bubble gum. They can smell of ginger and cinnamon, as well as fresh bread and hot chocolate. We can see them zig and zag “through taxis and buses and streams of bicycles.” When they touch us, they can tickle, especially those as “velvet as peach

fuzz.” And Gibson knows how to put captivating figurative language to work, such as when she writes that kisses are as “soft as lamb’s wool, but strong as steel.” Maria van Lieshout’s digital illustrations, rendered on a cool, blue-themed palette with attractive splashes of reds and yellows, take readers on a trip around the country—from seaside towns to deep forests to Main Street. Popular landmarks lend specificity to many spreads, such as Times Square, the Washington Monument, the Golden Gate Bridge and more. Blowing kisses isn’t only for starryeyed couples. There are mothers with newborns, children with their caretakers, mama cats licking their kittens and lots more. It all adds up to a comforting story, one that would make an excellent bedtime read for the youngest of children. After all, kisses might be invisible, but they’re real. And “once a kiss is given . . . it can never be taken away.” Soothing and solacing words, perfect for sharing just before tucking in at night. And sealing with a kiss. —J u l i e D a n i e l s o n

A Hundred Horses By Sarah Lean

Katherine Tegen $16.99, 224 pages ISBN 9780062122292 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12

middle grade

During school vacation, Nell is sent to stay with her aunt Liv and her two little cousins (along with some chickens, ducks and Maggie the pig) at Lemon Cottage. On the day Nell arrives, a mysterious girl on a magnificent black and white horse nearly runs her down. The mystery girl also steals Nell’s prized possession: a mechanical music box with a carousel and 16 horses, made by her dad before he abandoned the family and ran off to the lights of Las Vegas. According to Aunt Liv, the horse must be one of the 99 horses that used to live next door. But those horses are boarded elsewhere now and soon will be sold at auction.

Nell begins to form a tenuous friendship with the mystery girl, a runaway named Angel, and Belle, the beautiful horse Angel tries to keep and protect. While riding together on Belle in the moonlight, Angel tells Nell a magical tale of 100 horses. Is Angel spinning a fable or trying to reach out for help? In A Hundred Horses, a lyrical story of friendship and community, author Sarah Lean has crafted a perfect story for young readers who love horses and magic. —Deborah Hopkinson

The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone By Tony Abbott

Katherine Tegen $16.99, 432 pages ISBN 9780062194473 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12

middle grade

It all started with an email—an email that Wade and Darrell, stepbrothers and best friends who are as different as possible, were never meant to read. It was a coded email addressed to Wade’s father, written by Wade’s Uncle Henry shortly before he died under very mysterious circumstances. In The Forbidden Stone, the first book in Tony Abbott’s Copernicus Legacy series, Wade and Darrell—along with Wade’s father, Darrell’s cousin Lily and Lily’s friend Becca—travel to Germany to attend Henry’s funeral. However, once they arrive, they are drawn into a frantic race to uncover secrets guarded for hundreds of years. But they are not running this race alone. A dangerous organization will stop at nothing to uncover the mysterious relics first. Wade, Darrell, Lily and Becca must stay one step ahead, solving mysteries, cracking codes and piecing together puzzles, many of which date back more than 500 years. They must travel throughout Europe and then the world, into places well known and forgotten, and follow the path that Nicholas Copernicus set for them, in order to gain the first of 12 artifacts. Intricately written, meticulously researched and full of wit and humor, The Forbidden Stone is a thrilling start to what will surely become a must-read series. —Kevin Delecki

BabIES By robin smith

Baby, look at you now


hether it’s a baby shower or a sip-and-see (for you non-Southerners out there, it’s a gathering where an infant is adored), there is nothing I love more than holding a baby. In lieu of a real baby, I have to settle for books about babies. Lucky for me, there are some adorable new ones to add to my collection.

spring babies Il Sung Na’s A Book of Babies (Knopf, $15.99, 24 pages, ISBN 9780385752909) is as bright and sweet as its cover, which features a very yellow chick on a rich green background. Spring has come, and all sorts of babies are born. A new duckling explores the world, noticing other animals along the way. Very young readers will learn about these babies: Some have siblings, some have none, some can walk, some have fur and so on. Na’s colorful illustrations, filled with rainbows that pop

in unexpected and welcome places (leaves, a lion’s mane, a seahorse’s pouch), are perfect for this dreamy story. Each loving animal family is shown taking care of its young offspring, reassuring young readers about how families care for their own babies. Textured papers, some used as background and others in collage, add depth and interest. In the end, this is a go-to-sleep book, the very best sort of book for babies and their tired parents.

Baby BROTHER One of the biggest challenges for new families is the birth of a second or third baby, especially when there is a toddler waiting suspiciously in the wings. DinoBaby (Bloomsbury, $14.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9781619631519), written by Mark Sperring and illustrated by Sam Lloyd, is unabashed in its message about how a toddler needs to behave with a new baby in the house. Opening with an obviously pregnant dinosaur mother, this rhyming and rhythmic story directly addresses a wide-eyed dino-sister who wants to do the right thing for her new little brother. The right thing to do is be quiet when the baby is sleeping, share and be gentle and polite. Adults might like the message, but kids will stay for the humorous, bright cartoon illustrations. They’ll laugh at the father wearing a tie and the dino-baby wrapped in a cuddly blankie. Keep these books in mind when that next baby shower invitation arrives in the mail.

the title of your Q: What’s new book?

would you describe Q: How the book?

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

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

Q: Who was your childhood hero?

Q: What books did you enjoy as a child?

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

Q: What message would you like to send to children?

JunkyArd Mike Austin spent his childhood turning piles of junk into rocket ships and treehouses. In his new picture book, Junkyard (Beach Lane, $16.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9781442459625), two robots clean up junk by chowing down. Austin lives in Hawaii with his wife and their two kids.

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Melissa Guion’s newest offering, Baby Penguins Love Their Mama! (Philomel, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780399163654), is one of those books that kids and parents will both love. A mama penguin is busy taking care of her very large family. Between swimming lessons on Monday and squawking on Saturday, it’s no wonder Mama has to take a nap on Sunday. The pencil-and-watercolor illustrations are the stars here— while Mama is playing the role of a modern overscheduled parent, the roly-poly babies are busy making something that Mama doesn’t notice. Follow the pictures and you will discover that these babies know a thing or two about appreciation. When Mama worries about the day when her babies grow up and can do things on their own, the babies assure her that she will always be their Mama. Their heart-shaped present is sure to warm Mama’s heart— and yours.

meet Mike Austin



B y t h e e d i t o r s o f M e r r i a m - W e bs t e r

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING Dear Editor: A while back, my sister sent me candles for a birthday present. It happens that I live near the headquarters of a well-known candle company. When I next spoke to my sister, she remarked that sending me candles was like carrying coals to Newcastle. While I understood what she meant, I had never heard this expression before. Can you tell me anything about it? W. L. Hatfield, Massachusetts Carrying coals to Newcastle is an old expression that means to bring something to a place that already has it in abundance. By extension, a person who is accused of carrying coals to Newcastle is thought to be wasting his or her time on some pointless or unnecessary activity. Newcastle is an ancient city in the great coal-mining region of England. Anyone who literally “carried coals to Newcastle” would of course be foolishly wasting time and effort. The saying is first recorded in the


writing of the English dramatist Thomas Heywood in 1606, but it is believed to date back a century or two earlier.

JUMPING THE GUN Dear Editor: Could you explain the origin of the expression to go off half-cocked? G. W. Ogden, Utah There is a literal sense and a figurative sense for the term half-cocked. Literally speaking, half-cocked is used to describe the condition of a gun that is at halfcock, the position of the hammer of a firearm when about half retracted and held by a catch called the sear. In this position, the hammer cannot be operated by a pull on the trigger, and thus the gun cannot fire. At least, such is the theory. In fact, it is not unknown for a gun to go off at the half-cock position, and fire before the shooter intends. From this literal meaning developed the figurative use of halfcocked, meaning “lacking adequate

preparation or forethought.” A person who goes off half-cocked is usually in a highly agitated or excited state in which common sense does not prevail. Interestingly enough, the first known printed use of the extended sense of to go off half-cocked was recorded in Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States for January 31, 1833, in which a Congressman remarked, “the gentleman from Maryland has gone off half-cocked.” Unlike some other expressions that draw on everyday life but after a time lose popularity, this phrase is still in common use.

OUTRANKED Dear Editor: Could you tell me what the jack in a deck of cards represents? The king and queen seem straightforward, but the jack baffles me. M. C. St. Paul, Minnesota It’s easy to be confused about the jack’s position and purpose within the ranks of playing cards today,

since his colorful apparel makes him look like a prince. He really isn’t, though, historically. Jack at one time meant “a man of the common people” as well as “an impertinent or rude fellow.” The name then acquired a more general sense of “man.” It has also been used as a form of address much like pal, buddy or guy. The more recent uses of jack for a laborer, servant, attendant, lumberjack or sailor, and even (in Australia) for a policeman, come closest to the meaning that directly relates to our everyday deck of cards: “a playing card carrying the figure of a servant or soldier and usually ranking below the queen.” The history of royalty in the face cards can be traced back to 13thand 14th-century Europe, at the time of the later Crusades when gifts from the East, including ornate hand-painted cards, became popular with the nobility.

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BookPage January 2014  
BookPage January 2014  

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