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june 2013

america’s book review

9 In This Issue 9 Weighty problems for Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother f

A devilish boss returns in Lauren Weisberger’s latest f

The epic conclusion of Rick Atkinson’s WWII trilogy f f f f f

Ring

with this

In The Engagements, a diamond is forever, but a marriage may not be


paperback picks PENGUIN.COM

Leopard’s Prey

Can’t Stop Believing

Tiger Magic

Kiss the Dead

A serial killer is snatching victims from the French Quarter with pitiless rage and unnatural efficiency. But something else is drawing Remy, a bayou cop and leopard shifter, into the twilight—a beautiful jazz singer bathed in a flood of bloodred neon.

Nevada Britain has just made Cord McMillan an offer he can’t refuse: If he’ll marry her, she’ll sign over a section of property that their families have been fighting over for 100 years. As Nevada spends more time with her husband by necessity, she discovers something unexpected—a love so deep it takes her breath away.

Carly Randal’s car breaks down on the side of the road, and a wild-looking Shifter is the only one to help her. Tiger takes one look at Carly and knows instantly: she will be his mate. As Carly is drawn into his Shifter world, she risks everything she has for that forbidden something she still wants: passionate love.

When a 15-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Anita Blake to find her. She’s faced with something she’s never seen before: an ordinary group of people willing to die to avoid serving a master. But even vampires have monsters that they’re afraid of. And Anita is one of them.

9780515151558 • $7.99

9780425250679 • $7.99

9780425251218 • $7.99

9780515153002 • $7.99

Sweet Talk

Line of Fire

Darkness Unmasked

Ransom River

IRS attorney, Olivia MacKenzie, has stumbled into the middle of Special Agent Grayson Kincaid’s FBI sting operation and reduced it to chaos. She is on the trail of an elaborate Ponzi scheme and the investigation has endangered her life. Together, they make a great team, but they’re also fighting an intense attraction—the one battle they’re bound to lose.

Alan begins to fear that a mesmerizing new patient may be the catalyst that can cause everything he treasures—his marriage, family, friendship, and future—to implode. As the authorities close in, the story hurtles toward a conclusion that will set the stage for the most unexpected of outcomes: the final act of the Alan Gregory saga.

Half-werewolf, half-Aedh Risa Jones believes the only way to save her friend—and lover— is by finding the keys that keep the gates of Hell closed. When Aedh Lucien snatches a key and disappears, Risa is intent on finding him and fighting to the death…

Rory’s return to Ransom River dredges up troubling memories from her childhood that she can no longer ignore. Rory realizes exposing these dark skeletons has connected her to an old case that was never solved, and that bringing the truth to light just might destroy her.

9780451415233 • $7.99

9780451418364 • $9.99

9780451237132 • $7.99

9780451417893 • $7.99

Step into New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh’s explosive and passionate Psy-Changeling world…. A dangerous, volatile rebel, whose hands are stained bloodred. A woman whose very existence has been erased. A love story so dark, it may shatter the world itself. A deadly price that must be paid. The day of reckoning is here. From “the alpha author of paranormal romance” (Booklist) comes the most highly anticipated novel of her career— one that blurs the line between madness and genius, between subjugation and liberation, between the living and the dead. BERKLEY

A Penguin Group (USA) Company

9780425263990 • $25.95


contents

June 2013 w w w. B o o k Pa g e . c o m

features

14

J. Courtney Sullivan

08 Audio Month The Engagements traces the history of diamonds in America through four stories of love and marriage.

Becky Masterman on oral traditions and hearing her characters’ voices

16 Rick Atkinson The acclaimed Liberation Trilogy concludes with the Allied victory

18 Father’s Day Six books for dear ol’ Dad

Meet the author of Revenge Wears Prada

The Apprentices continues a magical Cold War tale

31 Bob Shea Meet the author-illustrator of Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great

columns Lifestyles The Author Enabler Well Read Whodunit Audio Romance Book Clubs cooking

08

21 Fiction

26 NonFiction

top pick:

top pick:

also reviewed:

29 Maile Meloy

04

reviews We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

20 Lauren Weisberger

04 04 05 06 08 10 11 13

Cover photo © iStock.com/mrPliskin

18

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt The Son by Philipp Meyer TransAtlantic by Colum McCann The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani Sparta by Roxana Robinson We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

23

26

Want to know our Top 10 books each month?

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

also reviewed:

Bootstrapper by Mardi Jo Link The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown A Million Years With You by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas The Feud by Dean King Anne Frank: The Biography by Melissa Müller Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

So does Reid!

30 CHILDREN’S top pick:

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

also reviewed:

Twerp by Mark Goldblatt Every Day After by Laura Golden P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia Firecracker by David Iserson Winger by Andrew Smith

29

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3


columns Father’s Day Fun Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff (Workman, $18.95, 336 pages, ISBN 9780761171478) by Scott Bedford is so good it hurts—’cause you know that if your own dad had had this book in his hands, your childhood would have totally rocked. “Chockfull” doesn’t even come close to describing the teeming nature of this tome. The fun photos, cool diagrams, clear instructions and handy cut-out templates run the gamut from wacky home decora-

lifestyles

THE author enabler

by joanna brichetto

by Sam Barry

the vital stream of the natural world. For Tremayne and her husband, redemption came in quitting their careers and the bustle of NYC life and moving to an abandoned RV park in New Mexico, where they learned to live selfsufficiently. If she can make it there (so she proposes), we—her wildly inspired readers—can make it anywhere. Need food, gas, lodging? DIY! Welcome to the Good Life Lab.

Top pick in lifestyles

tions and gadgets (like setting up a Bunk Bed Communicator) to subversively educational science projects (like getting sucked into a Gravity-Defying Black Hole) to zany party ideas (like making Radioactive Sports Drinks). In the end, Made by Dad is about dads (and moms!) and children working on projects together. It’s no accident that the final blueprint in the book is the trump card: instructions for making a card that unfolds over and over, getting longer and longer, until it says, “I Love You This Much.”

Living off the grid

4

The “back to nature” movement of the 1960s has evolved in various ways, but one note of today’s chorus of tree-huggers rings constant: In the 21st century, those who feel dissatisfied with a life cut off from the natural world and choose to do something about it require more ingenuity, more commitment and more willingness to take risks than their hippie forebears did a halfcentury ago. Fortunately, help is at hand. In The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living (Storey, $18.95, 320 pages, ISBN 9781612121017), visionary naturalist and conceptual artist Wendy Jehanara Tremayne presents a unique synthesis of memoir, travelogue, guru-level spiritual wisdom and pragmatic instruction on how to get out of the “waste stream” in which urbanites wallow and re-enter

Michael Largo puts the “best” into this “bestiary”—the medieval bookish art of gathering encyclopedic information about unusual animals into a beautifully illustrated volume. The Big, Bad Book of Beasts: The World’s Most Curious Creatures remains faithful to its alliterative title through its fun alphabetical juxtapositions of creatures as diverse in their size and actual existence as the badger, the bagworm and the banshee, or the caladrius, the camel and the capybara. You’ve never heard of a caladrius or a capybara? Well, once you’ve seen the gloriously old-fashioned illustrations of these critters—from sources ranging from ancient Egyptian sculpture to a Victorian science manual—and once you’ve read the delightfully definitive descriptions, you’ll never forget them, nor will it matter to you that the capybara is real (it’s the world’s largest rodent!), while the caladrius is a creature of Roman myth (a bird who could tell you how close to dying a person was by the way it would sit on that person’s deathbed). When a book is this big and this “bad,” it’s beastly good—for all ages.

THE Big, Bad Book of beasts By Michael Largo

Morrow $18.99, 464 pages ISBN 9780062087454 eBook available

Animals

Practical advice on writing & publishing for aspiring authors

Permission Needed? Dear Author Enabler, I am writing a novel that mentions an organization with a trademarked name. What is the path I need to take to use the name of this organization in my novel? Do I pay a fee? And if so, how much, and where do I go to get their approval? Jeffrey Kozinski Edwardsburg, Michigan Let me state up front that I am not a lawyer, nor have I read your writing. That said, if you are simply mentioning a company in your story in a neutral way, then I do not believe you need to ask for permission. For example, let’s say two of the characters in your novel are meeting at Starbucks, and a third character is working there. In this scenario, you do not need to ask Starbucks for permission to use their name. However, if you are portraying the company in a negative light, I would suggest using a fictional name in place of the real one. For instance, if one of your characters works for the company you name in your novel and the character engages in illegal or negligent activities—or if you portray the company as being poorly managed—you may be risking the ire of the company and its lawyers. They could argue that your book has done damage to their reputation. If you have any doubt at all whether there might be a problem, I suggest you make up a fictional name for the company.

Rewriting History Dear Author Enabler, I’m trying to write a novel about a fictitious romance between two lesser-known historical figures. The problem is that, while they’re from the same country, they lived 150 or so years apart. This was around the late Middle Ages, when both figures were warring with the same enemies, so mashing them together, I feel, is entirely possible. Do you have any advice on how to gracefully reconcile the time gap? Lexi Byrnes Waterloo, Iowa If you write a story in which two historical figures from different centuries are set in the same time

period, you run the risk of driving the readers of historical fiction crazy, which might end up being counterproductive. One solution is to choose to write about one of the two historical figures, set your story in his or her time period and then create a wholly fictional character patterned on the other figure. However, this may not be a satisfying solution for you—perhaps your story is inspired by the very idea of the two historical characters interacting. If this is the case, you might want to think of your novel as alternate historical fiction. In alternate historical fiction, historic events unfold differently than they did in the real world. A well-known, somewhat recent example of alternate historical fiction is Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, in which Charles Lindbergh is elected president of the United States in 1940 and collaborates with Nazi Germany. Another is Stephen King’s 11/22/63, a story about a time traveler who attempts to alter American history by preventing John F. Kennedy’s assassination. You can also simply ignore everything I’ve said so far by breaking the rules of historical fiction (and physics), writing a great story and letting the chips fall where they may. This is creative writing, after all—ultimately, there are no rules.

Following up In the March column, I had an exchange with reader Gail Lipsett about novelist Linwood Barclay’s use of expletives in his book Trust Your Eyes. Reader Larae Graham of Woodbury, Connecticut, wrote in to defend Barclay, and I wanted to share part of her note: “I truly kept wondering if the letter writer and I were considering the same book. Barclay is an outstanding author who is able to define his varied characters through intelligent dialogue. In Trust Your Eyes, he uses an occasional swear word when the character is in a particularly stressful situation, which is normal for any thriller. It is not at all overdone.” Send your questions about writing and publishing to authorenablers@gmail.com.


well read by robert Weibezahl

ARTISTS AND WRITERS UNDER malcolm’s MICROSCOPE Janet Malcolm courts controversy with honesty. The New Yorker writer has had infamous, high-profile legal tangles with at least two of her subjects: former Freud Archives director Jeffrey Masson and true-crime writer Joe McGinniss. Malcolm immerses herself into researching her stories, sometimes spending years with the person she is profiling. When she finally sits down to write about them, she pulls no punches. The much-quoted opening line of The Journalist and the Murderer, her book about McGinniss, may express her own feelings about her profession: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.” Malcolm’s new book, Forty-one False Starts, collects a number of magazine pieces she wrote about artists and writers between 1986 and 2011. Varying greatly in length— her tribute to legendary New Yorker editor William Shawn is a page long,

while a piece on Ingrid Sischy’s reinvention of Artforum magazine clocks in at a languorous 75—these essays bear all of Malcolm’s hallmarks: prickly intelligence, astute observations, crisp prose and a guarded confidence. The book takes its name from its ingenious first piece. As the title implies, it provides 41 rejected attempts at beginning a profile of the artist David Salle, a megastar painter in the 1980s whose reputation had started to wane by the time Malcolm began interviewing him in the early 1990s. A bit of postmodern legerdemain, the masterful article manages to capture the essence of the artist and his art while pretending to never get very far. What makes it work is Malcolm’s talent for looking at the larger canvas, as it were, and also honing in on the telling details that distill her subjects’ fundamental nature. This gift is why she is that rare writer who can convey a visual medium through words.

Malcolm is no less astute when appraising—and reappraising— writers. Virginia Woolf features in a lengthy piece that reconsiders the legacy of the Bloomsbury Group, and particularly Vanessa Bell (who, of course, was a painter as well). In another, she argues that Edith Wharton is erroneously viewed as a realist writer rather than a satirist worthy of the company of Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark and Don DeLillo. Two writers of popular fiction, writing 100 years apart, are subjected to Malcolm’s critical scrutiny, with somewhat surprising results. One is the now mostly forgotten Gene Stratton-Porter, who, at the beginning of the last century, turned out wildly popular romantic sagas with materialism (and proto-fascism) at their heart. The other is Cecily von Ziegesar, whose Gossip Girl series for teens this highbrow critic embraces for its comic subversiveness. In his introduction to Forty-one False Starts, Ian Frazier—another

peerless New Yorker writer—observes, “When a good jolt of defamiliarization knocks the rust off your perceptions, you don’t forget.” After reading Janet Malcolm, we don’t forget. She offers new ways of looking at the old and the unexamined alike, and in doing so makes looking at art an art itself.

forty-one false starts By Janet Malcolm

FSG $27, 320 pages ISBN 9780374157692 eBook available

literary CRITICISM

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columns

Whodunit by Bruce Tierney

Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth Sandpaper is graded by a “grit number”—the lower the number, the rougher the texture (600grit is very fine, 40-grit is quite coarse). By that measurement, Dan Fante’s Point Doom (Harper Perennial, $14.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780062229014) should be accorded a grit number of about negative 10, as it would be a rare case indeed when you would find so many murders, dismemberments and graphic examples of creative torture encased in just 400-odd pages. One-time detective J.D. Fiorella, now at rock bottom, is crawling his way back out of a hole of his own making, inch by painful inch. He attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting daily and manages, through an AA acquaintance, to secure a job selling used cars at a Los Angeles Toyota dealer. Then his life takes a sharp turn for the worse when he discovers his AA friend dead, the body horribly mutilated. Fiorella was once a good detective before alcohol derailed his career, and he was especially adept at vengeance—and now he intends to exact his revenge in a truly Biblical fashion. There is dark humor to be found here amid the violence, and a fair bit of L.A.noir folklore.

Caught in a web When I reviewed Taylor Stevens’ debut novel, I opined, “The Informationist pushes all of my buttons: exotic locales, sassy and competent protagonist, crisp dialogue and nonstop action.” There was no sophomore slump with her second novel, The Innocent, which proved a most worthy successor to the first. Now, canny investigator Vanessa Michael Munroe is back for her third adventure in as many years, The Doll (Crown, $24, 320 pages, ISBN 9780307888785). Things get off to a somewhat inauspicious start, as the first thing Munroe does in the book is get kidnapped. She awakens from a drug-induced coma to find that she is the prisoner of an infamous character known as “The Doll Maker” and that her ticket to survival rests on her delivery of a spunky young actress into the hands of modern-day slavers. It is

a damned-if-you-do, damned-ifyou-don’t situation in which some innocent people will have to be sacrificed so that others may live, and it will test the tensile strength of every fiber of Munroe’s being. If you are a fan of Jack Reacher, Lisbeth Salander or Nina Zero, you need to check out Vanessa Michael Munroe!

No good deed Alafair Burke’s stand-alone novel If You Were Here (Harper, $25.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780062208354) stars impulsive journalist Mc­ Kenna Jordan, who is investigating a budding urban tale of heroism:

It happens in a split second—one moment, a teenage boy is on the subway platform; the next moment, he has fallen onto the tracks and a train is approaching fast. A woman swoops down from the platform, drags the boy to safety and then disappears into the crowd, leaving only mystery in her wake. For Jordan, this would be a puff piece about an anonymous heroine, except for a snippet of trackside video showing that the woman bears a strong resemblance to Jordan’s one-time best friend, who vanished without a trace 10 years back. The police investigation at the time was inconclusive, and it has always stuck in Jordan’s craw that the case was never closed. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that closure is the last thing that some people want—including some people very near and dear to her—and that they are willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to ensure that end. Nicely crafted, plenty of suspense to go around, a couple of unanticipated twists—what’s not to like?

Top pick in mystery Having read virtually everything Jo Nesbø has ever written—except the books that are thus far available only in Norwegian—I eagerly antici-

pate the release of each new Harry Hole novel. The latest mystery featuring the intrepid Oslo cop, The Redeemer, finds our hero oddly at odds with the Salvation Army. It appears that one member is seriously out of step with the organization’s policies, so far out of step as to requisition a murder during one of the Salvation Army’s ubiquitous holiday season musical fundraising events. The victim is something of a ne’er-do-well, a schemer and a scammer, but strictly small-time. Thus, there seems to be no real motive. The witnesses are not helpful either: They portray the shooter as an everyman with no distinguishing features whatsoever. All in all, this is just the sort of case that Harry Hole thrives on. His investigation leads him into the former Yugoslavia, where a murder contract can be secured for pennies on the dollar compared to prices for the same service in the West. Hole pretends to be a potential client, and his infiltration of the murder-for-hire organization turns up information that forces him to re-evaluate everything he thought he knew about the case. It would be helpful, but not crucial, to read the Harry Hole series in order, as allusions are made to earlier events, and also because once you have read one of these novels, you will want to read the others anyway. Note: Kudos to Nesbø’s longtime translator, Don Bartlett, whose sensitive and nuanced work on this series places him in the front ranks of suspense translators.

The Redeemer By Jo Nesbø

Knopf $25.95, 416 pages ISBN 9780307595850 Audio, eBook available

MYSTERY


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7


columns

audio

oral traditions

by sukey howard

by Becky Masterman

THE ART OF ROWING Some of the elements of Ron Irwin’s debut novel, Flat Water Tuesday (Macmillan Audio, $39.99, 11 hours, ISBN 9781427231796)—a working-class kid in an elite New England boarding school, fierce athletic competition, fiercely competitive friendships, a looming tragedy—may seem familiar. But Irwin’s strong, simple prose, ably and convincingly read by Holter Graham, makes this coming-of-age story original and powerful. We meet Rob Carrey as a 30-something documentary filmmaker on the brink of losing the woman he desperately loves. The plotlines segue seamlessly back and forth from present to past, from a loft in Soho where Rob lives when not filming, to the year he spent rowing at Fenton School as one of the oarsmen in the legendary “God

Four,” a team committed to winning, whatever the cost to body and soul. Irwin knows the exhilaration, pain and intensity of rowing (check out his bio), as well as the exhilaration and pain of growing up, finding one’s own identity, finding out what really matters, finding love—and he knows how to put it all together in this truly compelling novel.

FAR MORE THAN FUNNY

8

David Sedaris can make me laugh so hard that I have to pull the car off the road. He can also tell stories that are poignant, a little sad and a little bitter, and there doesn’t seem to be anything that makes him wince or have a cringe moment, from the potential joys of a colonoscopy to befouled Chinese toilets to a mummified human arm in a London taxidermist’s shop. His latest collection of essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (Hachette Audio, $29.98, 6.5 hours, ISBN 9781619696990), is Sedaris­issimo. He’s in top form, observing the world through his unique prism, skewed and skewering at the same time. As always, he narrates the audio with his signature deadpan delivery, his timing as perfect as his affection for the absurd.

Sedaris is not one to shy away from the political or the personal. You’ll have no doubts about how he voted in the last election or how he feels about gay marriage, litterers of the English countryside (he hates them), French dentists (he loves them) . . . or his father.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO How do you make the best better? Easy: You have John le Carré perform his own novel. And he does just that with his latest, A Delicate Truth. This is classic le Carré: elegantly written, Byzantinely plotted, with a hero as appealing as a young George Smiley and set in the present day, where counterterrorism can cloak chilling amorality, duplicity and cover-ups in the guise of righteous patriotism. Enter Toby Bell, rising star in the Foreign Office, private secretary to a flamboyantly ambitious minister running the covert extraordinary rendition of a jihadist arms dealer. But Toby has been left out of the loop, replaced by a “low flyer,” Christopher Probyn, a veteran diplomat and reliable has-been, the epitome of British rectitude, who believes he was part of a successful “mission.” Three years later, when Probyn, now Sir Christopher, is given proof that the mission was a whitewashed disaster, he feels compelled to get at the truth, whatever the consequences. That brings him to Toby, and brings Toby to an agonizing moral choice. Le Carré has an amazing ear for accents and an amazing talent for reproducing them. In this outstanding audio he nimbly switches from posh Brit to lilting Welsh, burred Scots, an Irish brogue, Afrikaner English and Belgian French, never slowing or interfering with the narrative pace.

A DELICATE TRUTH By John le Carré

Penguin Audio $39.95, 11 hours ISBN 9781611761757

MYSTERY

LEGENDS OF LONG AGO: WHY WE LOVE TO LISTEN June is Audio Month, and author Becky Masterman joins the celebration with her thoughts on why listening to a story can be even better than reading one. Everyone knows that the earliest form of storytelling took place around the fire at night—what is called the “oral tradition.” People recounted the legends of their culture so often they would remember every word, and sometimes add things that became part of the legend for later generations. Despite the coming of writing, I think we’re still story listeners at heart. I have three older sisters, and on each of our our “Despite the birthdays mother would coming of tell the legend of our births. writing, I For me, my think we’re mother would always tell still story how she cried listeners at with unhappiheart.” ness when she found out she was pregnant with me at age 40, but then my sisters went shopping for baby clothes and came back with everything pink. And how when I was born my 8-year-old sister said, “Now I have a baby of my very own.” I would laugh because I knew the story always ended with my being loved by my whole family. My husband and I, older and married only eight years ago, don’t have a lot of shared legends, and that makes me a little sad. Yet we do have stories we tell to each other. They are the novels we read. Fred may prefer Preston and Child and I may prefer Lisa Gardner, and that’s a good thing. By recounting the plots to each other while we’re getting ready to eat dinner, we can get twice the stories. Fred follows two books at once, one a hardcover that he reads in the late afternoon, and the other an audio version that he listens to when he takes his 3.5-mile walk every morning in the high desert north of Tucson, Arizona, where we live. As a longtime fan of audiobooks, he was impressed to hear that Judy Kaye, a Tony Award winner and the narrator

of the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries, would be narrating my first novel, Rage Against the Dying. When I had the incredible experience of attending one of the taping sessions for Rage Against the Dying, I heard for the first time my heroine’s voice, which had lived for years only in my head. Besides evoking the particular passion of Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI agent both toughened and traumatized by what she had witnessed during her career, Ms. Kaye had the ability to subtly change her accent so there were distinctions between Brigid, her husband Carlo DiForenza, an Italian philosophy professor who had lived much of his life in the U.S., and Max Coyote, a Native American. When I asked Ms. Kaye how she got Max’s voice so right, she said she had lived for a while in Phoenix, not far from me in Tucson. What fortunate coincidences come together to create our legends. But my favorite comment about the audio version of Rage Against the Dying came from Fred. He was there during all seven drafts of Rage, suffering through and often helping me with plot problems. Then he finally listened to the audio version, one disk a day, on his one-hour walk. He didn’t say anything while he was listening, but after nine days, when he had finished, he said, “It listens even better than it reads.” Becky Masterman is the author of Rage Against the Dying, a mystery featuring a retired FBI agent on the trail of a serial killer.

Rage Against the Dying By Becky Masterman

Macmillan Audio $39.99, 11 hours ISBN 9781427229724

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9


FROM USA TODAY AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

columns

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

DANGEROUS SECRETS

T he fairy tale continues… To free her love He must rescue her from the tower

R omance writing does not get

much better than this!” —People “ loisa James is extraordinary.” —LISA KLEYPAS

E

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A battle for love and survival creates an exciting paranormal tale in Darkness Bred (Forever, $8, 384 pages, ISBN 9781455500147), the second book in the Chimney Rock series by Stella Cameron. Sean Black fell for delicate Elin when they were in other shapes—he a hound, she a small cat. They want to be together forever, as long as they can be sure their bonding won’t adversely affect Sean’s werehound brothers or bring the wrath of Elin’s adoptive mother, the fae Queen, upon their heads. But there are other forces to consider, they realize, when Elin is nearly killed by a vampire. Is this the Queen’s retribution? Or perhaps the repercussion of a secret that Sean has tried to keep from his love? An

expedition to a sinister island and a deadly encounter with a mysterious entity only create more questions, sending Elin on a quest to discover her true origins. Danger continues to stalk the couple as they determine whom to trust. Still, their feelings for each other burn strong and make the need for triumph over their enemies only more imperative. A shivery read.

A SHORT ENGAGEMENT A practical Scottish duke decides it’s time to marry in Once Upon a Tower (Avon, $7.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9780062223876). In 1824, Gowan Stoughton, the very wealthy Duke of Kinross, travels to London in search of a wife. The instant he sees the beautiful and beautifully quiet Lady Edith Gilchrist, he’s enamored, and the next morning he visits her father to arrange a marriage. Though she was ill on the night they met and noticed little about the duke, Edith, an obedient daughter, agrees to the match. All is not happily-ever-after, however. As they become acquainted, Gowan learns that Edie is not as unassuming as he’d thought—for one, she’s an accomplished cel-

list who demands her practice time no matter what. The marriage bed isn’t what either of them had dreamed of, either, and Gowan’s all-work ways and his perfectionist attitude cause further complications. But they find much to admire in each other, and it’s a treat to watch the pair learn to love, listen and compromise. Eloisa James delights again with a story that’s both sophisticated and sweet, featuring layered characters who walk right off the page and into the reader’s heart.

Top pick in romance Susan Mallery’s small town of Fool’s Gold always offers romance and fun, and her latest novel set there, Just One Kiss, provides satisfying portions of both. Single mom Patience McGraw remembers her teenage crush, Justice Garrett, with great fondness, but he’s the one who got away—having disappeared from town years ago, without notice. His return is unexpected, but so is an inheritance that allows Patience to pursue a long-held dream of opening her own coffee shop. As Patience and her daughter get to know Justice, surprising details of his life emerge, but the best news is that he’s establishing a security business in town. Though Patience is hesitant to bring a man into her life, her heart can’t resist. Justice is wary of how he might hurt the lovely Patience and adorable Lillie. When his past returns to haunt him, he thinks it’s time to let the mom and little girl go—but his strong feelings don’t make it easy. An endearing romance and intriguing new characters make Mallery’s latest a must-read.

Just One Kiss By Susan Mallery

HQN $7.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780373777600 Audio, eBook available

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE


book clubs by julie hale

New paperback releases for reading groups

THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD Jami Attenberg’s fourth book, The Middlesteins (Grand Central, $15, 304 pages, ISBN 9781455507207), is a darkly fascinating account of one woman’s battle with overeating. Edie Middlestein has struggled with her weight since childhood and now weighs more than 300 pounds. Diabetic and heading toward late middle age, Edie—who lost her job at a law firm because of her weight—receives more bad news: Richard, her pharmacist husband, is leaving her. Edie’s daughter, Robin, looks after her, although she’s embittered by her duties. Her son, Benny, is married to the gorgeous Rachelle, and their two teens will soon be cel-

ebrating their b’nai mitzvah. Despite surgery and her grandchildren’s forthcoming festivities, Edie continues to indulge, adding friction to an already stressed family environment. Attenberg’s timely, unforgettable story—told from shifting points of view—will strike a chord with readers. This is a well-crafted, provocative novel that’s tailor-made for reading groups and certain to spark spirited discussion.

ON THE ROAD TO STARDOM Lovers of historical fiction will be entranced by The Chaperone (Riverhead, $16, 416 pages, ISBN 9781594631436), Laura Moriarty’s fascinating account of the Wichita housewife who watches over future silent-film star Louise Brooks on her first trip to New York City. The year is 1922. Louise is 15, gorgeous and ambitious when she travels to New York from her home in Kansas to train with a prominent dance company. Accompanying her is 36-year-old Cora Carlisle, a cautious wife and mother—and Louise’s opposite in every way. Louise isn’t thrilled by the presence of her chaperone, yet a bond develops between the two, and

the weeks they pass in each other’s company will be lifechanging for both. Cora has her own closely guarded motivations for traveling to New York, and her story proves to be as compelling as that of her moviestar charge. In the decades that follow their pivotal summer, both Cora and Louise will experience triumph and heartbreak. Moriarty’s contrasting heroines embody the changing times, and their differences lend nuance to this richly rewarding narrative.

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS In her delightful yet cautionary eighth novel, Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver examines the ways in which global warming impacts a fictional corner of Appalachia. Strong-willed Dellarobia Turnbow lives in the rural hamlet of Feathertown, Tennessee, with her husband, Cub, and their two young children. When she spots an incredible assemblage of monarch butterflies on a nearby mountain, she knows she’s seen something special. The locals think she witnessed a miracle, and the incident is soon picked up by the media. A handsome African-American scientist named Ovid Byron arrives to study the butterflies, and what he discovers about them spells bad news for the natural world even as it places Dellarobia at the heart of a conflict that’s both personal and political. Kingsolver’s latest book has weighty issues at its core, yet it never seems heavy-handed, in part because of its charming cast of small-town characters. It’s a timely, penetrating novel that’s at once entertaining and illuminating—a balance Kingsolver seems to achieve almost effortlessly.

Great Beach Reads in paperback

Now in paperback from New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman “I never miss Laura Lippman’s novels.” —Anna Quindlen, New York Times Book Review

From internationally bestselling author Katherine Webb, a spellbinding portrait of the power of love and obsession “Webb’s skillful, urgent writing is impossible to put down and more impossible to forget.” —Booklist

A beautiful debut novel that follows the mysterious story of a priceless violin across five decades, from WWII to Stalinist Russia to the gilded international concert halls of today, and reveals the loss, love, and secrets of the families who owned it.

A riveting coming-of-age tale set on the New Jersey shore “Beach Book Extraordinaire! All the Summer Girls delivered me back to my college summers and the sweet spot between indulging youthful desires and becoming an adult.” —Elin Hilderbrand

Almost Famous meets Sliding Doors in this debut novel of motherhood, music, and 1980s New York “This is a novel of deep sympathy and enormous heart, an impressive debut.” —Christine Sneed, author of the novel Little Known Facts

FLIGHT BEHAVIOR By Barbara Kingsolver

Harper Perennial $16.99, 464 pages ISBN 9780062124272 Audio, eBook available

FICTION

PERFECT FOR BOOK CLUBS @WilliamMorrowPB

@bookclubgirl

William Morrow Paperbacks

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They have nothing in common except one powerful bond: the men they love are fighting in a war a world away from home. Deeply poignant and powerfully compelling, I’ ll Be Seeing You is a remarkable story of two women on the home front who forge an unlikely friendship through letters and find their lives profoundly altered by the other’s unwavering support.

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“A nostalgic 1940s story told in letters between two unforgettable women. A delight!” —Sarah Jio, bestselling author of The Violets of March “Engaging, charming and moving.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review “I devoured this story in one greedy, glorious gulp.” —Marisa de los Santos, bestselling author of Love Walked In

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R Available now!


columns

cooking b y s y b i l P RATT

BRING HOME THE BACON Baconistas rejoice—there’s a new cookbook just for you. Bacon Nation (Workman, $14.95, 320 pages, ISBN 9780761165828) by Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama is a pleasure-packed paean to that irresistible, smoky, sweet, salty, sizzling, sensuous, soul-satisfying ingredient. In 125 recipes, these resourceful chefs, who believe that “everything is better with bacon,” demonstrate that it’s a real gastronomic star and that a little bacon can “turn a dish from blah to beautiful.” Here, dishes you’re probably familiar with—like Osso Buco, Paella, Chicken Tagine, Shrimp Risotto, Mediterranean Seafood Stew, Minestrone, Caponata, Cheese Straws, Stuffed Tomatoes and even Sweet Potato Pancakes— are all enhanced by the addition of bacon. And there are new treasures

to be tried: Pork roast is stuffed with bacon and black mission figs; brussels sprouts are tossed with apples and bacon; and a Downside-Up Apple-Bacon-Pecan Muffin makes a great breakfast treat, as does French Toast Bread Pudding with Bacon and Cinnamon. Every recipe is introduced with a charmingly chatty, informative header note, and the instructions are thorough and thoroughly helpful.

LIGHT MY FIRE Michael Chiarello is a big believer in cooking over live fire—a craft that’s a step up from laid-back grilling and backyard barbeque. He believes that fire not only adds flavor, but also makes any meal more festive, whether a midweek dinner at home or a grand family reunion. To make believers of us all, he’s written Michael Chiarello’s Live Fire: 125 Recipes for Cooking Outdoors (Chronicle, $35, 224 pages, ISBN 9781452101811), with detailed explanations of how to use different kinds of fuel (wood, charcoal, gas), how to use a variety of indoor (you can cook in your fireplace) and outdoor equipment (grill, plancha,

fire pit, hot box and rotisserie), the techniques needed for each, and how to choose what you cook based on where you cook it. On an ordinary Wednesday, make Grilled Mushrooms with Sausages, Onions and Peppers and treat the kids (of any age) to Malted Hot Chocolate with Fire-Toasted Marshmallows. Try Lamb Burgers with Ember-Roasted Onion Purée, or, if you have the time and the crowd to go whole hog, consider a whole lamb or pig on an iron cross.

Top Pick in Cookbooks Pati Jinich left a think tank in Washington, D.C., to devote herself to making and celebrating Mexican food, starring in her own PBS cooking series and becoming the official chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute. And I’m so glad she did. Her debut cookbook, Pati’s Mexican Table, invites you in, explains the ingredients (most are widely available) and shows you how to cook like a Mexican mama. Pati offers not the cheese-drenched, gluey stuff we norteamericanos so often mistake for Mexican, but the simple, healthy, comforting, sensational food that’s served in homes. If you start with salsas and pickles, you’ll have the homemade zingers that add that olé element. Move on to the marvels of Mexican soups, salads, sides, vegetarian dishes and a full range of mains, including lime-marinated Creamy Poblano Mahimahi, Shredded Pork in Ancho-Orange Sauce and a spectacular Mexican Thanksgiving Turkey with chorizo-charged stuffing—and don’t forget the desserts like Sweet Plantain Fritters and Guava Cheesecake. ¡Buen provecho!

PATI’S MEXICAN TABLE By Pati Jinich

HMH $30, 288 pages ISBN 9780547636474 eBook available

MEXICAN

Instead of quoting someone to tell you how good this cookbook is, we think you should try it yourself. SUMMER VEGETABLE AND BACON SOUP Serves 4 to 5

5 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces 1 medium-size onion, diced 2 large carrots, trimmed, peeled, and sliced crosswise into ¼-inch-thick rounds 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped 3 c. low-sodium chicken stock

1 medium-size baking potato, peeled and diced (about 1⅓ c.) 1 small zucchini, trimmed and diced (about 1⅓ c.) 2 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped ½ c. coarsely chopped fresh basil 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Cook the bacon in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat until lightly browned and most of the fat is rendered, 5 to 8 min., stirring often. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, reserving the bacon fat in the pan. 2 Place the pan over medium heat, add the onion, and cook, until the onion has softened and lightly browned, 4 to 5 min. 3 Stir in the carrots and half of the garlic and cook, about 1 min. Add the chicken stock and 2 c. of water. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Then, let the stock mixture simmer, uncovered, until the carrots soften, about 5 min. 4 Add the potato, zucchini, half of the chopped tomatoes, and half of the drained bacon. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Then, let the soup simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are cooked, about 20 min, skimming any fat or foam. 5 While the soup cooks, combine the remaining garlic, chopped tomato, and the basil and olive oil in a blender or a mini food processor and process until smooth. Set aside. 6 When the soup is done, taste, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Remove the soup from the heat and swirl the tomato-basil pistou into the pan. Sprinkle each serving with the remaining pieces of bacon.

EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH BACON workman.com WORKMAN is a registered trademark of Workman Publishing Co., Inc.

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cover story

J. COURTNEY SULLIVAN Interview by amy scribner

A gem of a novel explores the changing course of love and marriage

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“I didn’t want a wedding,” Sullivan admits during a phone call from her Brooklyn apartment, which she shares with her fiancé. “But now I’m having a very traditional wedding. There will be bridesmaids in taffeta.” All the wedding talk is relevant for two reasons: First, her dazzling new novel, The Engagements, is an examination of marriage and the eternal siren call of diamonds. Second, Sullivan got engaged while she was writing the book, so she was researching her book and her nuptials at the same time. While her real-life wedding will take place this summer, Sullivan depicts weddings in many different times and places in her book— showing, as she describes it, how marriage has changed and stayed the same over the past 100 years. Paramedic James and his highschool sweetheart struggle to make ends meet and raise rambunctious boys in 1980s Boston. Parisian Delphine marries her best friend and business partner, only to leave him for a passionate affair with an

THE ENGAGEMENTS

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By J. Courtney Sullivan

Knopf, $26.95, 400 pages ISBN 9780307958716, audio, eBook available

American violinist. Evelyn and Gerald married in the 1920s, when both were grieving the death of Evelyn’s first husband—Gerald’s best friend. Woven throughout the book is the real-life story of Frances Gerety, a Philadelphia copywriter who coined the phrase “A diamond is forever” in the 1940s for De Beers, the South African company that dominates diamond mining. Gerety herself never married, but was a pioneer in the male-dominated advertising industry. In addition to writing one of the most memorable slogans in history, Gerety helped market the essentially meaningless “four C’s” of diamonds—cut, color, clarity and carat weight—as the measurement that millions of brides use to make sure their gem is worthy. “I’ve never written a real person before,” says Sullivan, who worked as a New York Times researcher before writing her first novel in 2009. “I liked [Gerety] so much. The book is done, and I still write with her picture hanging over my desk. I feel compelled to honor her. She was never married or had kids, so not a lot of people were around who knew her.” Sullivan interviewed several of Gerety’s co-workers, neighbors and friends. She spent two years trying to find the annual reports that Gerety’s advertising firm submitted to De Beers, finally locating them packed away in boxes in Gerety’s former home. (The search was well worth the effort. The excerpts Sullivan chose are funny and telling, like the one from a 1948 strategy paper: “We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer’s wife and the mechanic’s sweetheart say, ‘I wish I had what she has.’”) “This book has the most research

MICHAEL LIONSTAR

est-selling author J. Courtney Sullivan never was that little girl who dreamed of her wedding day—and she definitely never thought about having a sparkling diamond engagement ring perched on her hand. When she told a friend she was engaged, her friend’s reply was, “Oh, I can’t wait to see the piece of string around your finger.”

of any book I’ve ever written,” Sullivan says. “I really thought about, ‘Would this character have said this particular word in 1940?’” The character with whom Sullivan says she most closely identifies is Kate, a modern-day mom who is perfectly happy without getting married, thank you very much. Like Sullivan, Kate never dreamed about her own wedding. She struggles to be supportive when her cousin decides to marry his longtime partner and turns into a gay bridezilla obsessed with wedding-day weather reports and snagging the best photographer in town. Kate simply doesn’t get the point. “Deep down, she hated other people’s wedding photos,” Sullivan writes. “She hated the way a bride would raise up her bouquet in victory after saying ‘I do,’ as if she had just accomplished something. She hated that even normal-sized women dieted for their weddings until they looked like bobble-head versions of themselves. She hated all the money thrown into some dark hole, when it could have been put to good use in a million other ways. Every one of her friends got so overwhelmed by the event, as if they were planning the Macy’s Thanks-

giving Day Parade. Now there were even blogs for the stressed-out bride, the reluctant bride, the indie bride. But no one she knew, other than her, had stepped back and asked themselves, Why be a bride at all?” Sullivan admits to spending hours “bingeing on wedding nonsense” and surfing TheKnot.com as she planned her wedding and wrote the novel. And while she came around on taffeta, she still isn’t a fan of diamonds, some of which we now know are “blood diamonds” from war-torn countries. “When I started writing the book, I was pretty anti-diamond,” she says. “I’ve always been sort of against them. My best friend got engaged and she wanted a diamond ring. We were in the store and they were so powerful, especially the older ones that have a story you will never know.” It is those unknown stories—and the surprising ways in which they intertwine throughout the book— that make The Engagements an exhilarating, compulsive read. Sullivan fully inhabits her characters, whether she’s writing about a blue-collar Massachusetts emergency worker or a patrician elderly woman. Her time


The Truth Is Never a s Si mple as I t S eems . as a researcher is obvious on every page, as she deftly spans decades without ever hitting a false note. She hired a researcher to pull important news stories from each decade since 1900 to help infuse each story with reality, so that Evelyn’s reaction to the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby seems just right, and the reference to the 1980s stock market crash frames James’ story accurately. Astonishingly self-assured for a writer in her early 30s, The real-life Sullivan has already expericopywriter enced critical who coined and commercial the slogan success. Her de“A diamond but novel, Commencement, ofis forever” fers an incisive portrait of four plays a unlikely friends key role in who bond at Sullivan’s Smith College (the author’s captivating alma mater) in book. the 1990s. Her follow-up, the family drama Maine, was also a hit with readers and critics. Still, Sullivan says she feels no pressure to keep her name on the top of bestseller lists. For her, it’s always been about the writing. “I’ve been writing fiction—whether it’s published or not—since I was 6 years old,” she says. “I would go up in the attic and write short stories. I know every single day how lucky I am, and it is a challenge to keep loving it as much as when it’s not your full-time job.” Sullivan and her fiancé both work from their one-bedroom apartment—and the fact that they make that arrangement work seems to bode well for their marriage—he running an Internet advertising business while she writes. They spend “a really insane amount” of their time doting on their 2-year-old hound/golden retriever mix. She even cops to recently doing one of those at-home DNA pet tests, the results of which were slightly suspect, as it told them their 55-pound dog was half Chihuahua. As for her own engagement ring, she doesn’t have a diamond on her finger, but she insists not too much should be read into that choice. “I got a sapphire,” she says. “It’s not any sort of political statement— if you’re wearing a gemstone, you’re wearing a gemstone.”

KEEP READERS AWAKE “ FANTASTIC…WILL ALL OVER THE WORLD. ”

“ INTENSE AND GRIPPING. CERTAIN TO BE A SMASH. ” “ FIERY AND MERCILESS...SO BEAUTIFUL IT HURTS. ”

Noa P. Singleton has spent ten years on death row for murder. With six months left before her execution date, an unexpected visitor reawakens Noa’s past—the victim’s mother, who once fought to have Noa executed, now wants to spare her life. Why doesn’t Noa want to be saved?

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interview

rICK atkinson By alden mudge

© sigrid estrada

CAPTURING THE CALAMITOUS TAPESTRY OF WAR

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ulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Atkinson left the Washington Post in 1999 “to raise my game, to become a historian and use the longer lens of history” to write about World War II in Western Europe. He didn’t know that it would be 14 years before he typed the final words of The Guns at Last Light, the brilliant, more-than-worththe-wait final volume of his epic Liberation Trilogy.

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Atkinson did know from the outset that he faced daunting odds. An online search, for example, revealed something like 60,000 books devoted to World War II. The “Green Books,” the surprisingly well-written official U.S. Army history of WWII, run to 117 volumes. And the WWII archives of the Allied nations are seemingly endless. “The U.S. Army records alone—one service, one country—for World War II weigh 17,000 tons,” exclaims Atkinson, a self-described “archive rat,” during a call to the home he shares with his wife of 34 years, in Washington, D.C., abutting Rock Creek Park. But for Atkinson, who was born in Munich in 1952 while his father, a career U.S. Army infantry officer, was serving in the occupation forces, WWII was “a part of the culture, a part of the landscape I grew up in. I think it’s part of my DNA.” Then in the mid-1990s as a journalist, Atkinson “covered the endless successions of 50th-anniversary commemorations”—D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, VE Day—and had two epiphanies. “One was that because this was one of the greatest catastrophes in human history, it was the greatest story of the 20th century, and it was just bottomless. I don’t think you tap out the greatest events in human history. There will be more to write about this forever. The other epiphany I had was that World War II did not start at Omaha Beach for the Americans. There were earlier D-days in Africa and in Sicily and southern Italy. It’s a triptych, and the three panels are Africa, Italy and Western Europe.” Atkinson published An Army at Dawn, the first volume of the Liberation Trilogy, in 2002. Hailed for its narrative power, vivid detail and riveting blend of the human experiences of common soldiers and battlefield commanders alike, it won the Pulitzer Prize for history. It also established the narrative style that would serve Atkinson so well throughout the trilogy. Each volume has a prologue, an epilogue and 12

chapters divided into four parts. “I sort of stumbled on the structure for volume one,” Atkinson explains. “Like a gem cutter, I think, I was trying to understand the structure of the story and how the facets naturally cleave. Then because I wanted to signal that this is really one story and that each volume mirrors the others, I thought having a similar structure would help me accomplish that, if I could do it without it being forced.” WWII was The shared “a part of narrative structure does not the culture, feel at all forced a part of the in The Day of Battle, Atkinlandscape I brilliant grew up in. I son’s account of the think it’s part war in Sicily and of my DNA.” Italy in 194344. Nor in The Guns at Last Light, the new and final volume of the trilogy, which takes readers from D-Day preparations to German surrender. In fact, the exceptionally wellwritten new volume possesses an epic grandeur, draws from a broad range of historical and literary references, mobilizes an astonishing array of little-known detail and illuminates both the strategic and human dramas of all-out warfare in ways that allow it to shine even more brightly than the other panels in the triptych. In the 14 years since he began work on the trilogy, Atkinson’s children have grown into adulthood—his son is a Justice Department lawyer in Washington, and his daughter is a surgical resident in Cincinnati—and Atkinson himself has grown into mastery. The Guns at Last Light should be read not just as a great work of narrative military history, but as an accomplished work of American literature. “By the time we get to the third book,” Atkinson says, deftly sidestepping a question about his literary ambitions, “the war has

metastasized from company-level actions of a few score or a few hundred men in North Africa to Army Groups in which literally millions are fighting one another. It allows a sweep. There’s a tapestry quality to the whole thing. It’s almost as if you’re trying to write the Bayeux Tapestry. It’s just a big, huge, sprawling, awful calamity that you have an opportunity to write about in the grandest terms as a military historian.” Atkinson says he turned down an appointment to West Point after high school because he already knew he wanted to be a writer, and the military academy “was not only all male at the time, it was all engineering. That didn’t play to my strong suit.” He thought he might become a college English professor but left the University of Chicago after earning a master’s degree because he “decided teaching was just too sedentary for me.” He became a journalist instead, and then, 14 years ago, a military historian. “The challenge,” Atkinson says of his craft, “is to take a story that people think they know and about which much has been written—good stuff, too, in many cases—and try to make it fresh, try to make it sound in the reader’s inner ear as if this is a story they haven’t heard before.” To that end, Atkinson first recruits the extraordinary detail gleaned from burrowing deep into the archives, examining not just official records but personal journals, letters and memoirs. Then, like a good novelist, he writes his chapters in dramatic scenes, highlighting the titanic (and petty) clashes of ego among the Allied leadership and the harrowing efforts of troops on the ground. Even more importantly, throughout the trilogy and especially in this

final volume, Atkinson writes with great power about the wrenching human cost of the conflict. “There’s something at play here that’s just so heartbreaking,” he says. “So I try to take this industrialstrength catastrophe that we call World War II and bring it down to an individual level so that the singularity of death—it’s like a snowflake or a fingerprint—comes home to the reader periodically to remind them of what this is really all about.” Atkinson adds, “My feeling is that the true ambition of a narrative historian should be to bring people back from the dead.” To which an avid reader can only say, amen.

The Guns at Last Light

By Rick Atkinson

Holt, $40, 896 pages ISBN 9780805062908, audio, eBook available


PART EPIC O F TEXAS, PART COMING-OF-AGE-STORY, PART UNFLINCHING PORTRAIT OF THE BLOODY PRICE OF POWER, THE SON IS AN UTTERLY TRANSPORTING NOVEL THAT MAPS THE LEGACY OF VIOLENCE IN THE AMERICAN WEST THROUGH THE LIVES OF THE MCCULLOUGHS, AN AMBITIOUS FAMILY AS RESILIENT AND DANGEROUS AS THE LAND THEY CLAIM.

Available wherever books are sold.

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an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


features

father’s day By martin brady

ather’s Day 2013 brings with it memoirs, nostalgia pieces, books on childrearing (specifically from Dad’s POV) and also interesting volumes related to golf ’s singular, imaginative hold on the father-son bond. We can’t review every item that made it over the transom, but here’s a sampler of our favorites.

author of Dad Is Fat (Crown, $25, 288 pages, ISBN 9780385349055) but more tellingly the father of five young children, who, as of this writing, live with him and his “very fertile wife, Jeannie” in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City. Unsurprisingly, Gaffigan’s new book reads like one big extended stand-up routine about family life in general and the challenges of parenting a large brood in particular. Fans of the author’s sharp, dry wit will definitely be amused. The book is peppered with warm, candid photos of Gaffigans young and old.

SEEKING TO UNDERSTAND

AN AMERICAN ICON

SPECIAL TREATS FOR SPECIAL DADS

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In an epic mix of sprawling journalism and personal memoir, veteran magazine writer Stephen Rodrick presents The Magical Stranger: A Son’s Journey into His Father’s Life (Harper, $27.99, 400 pages, ISBN 9780062004765), in which he searches for clues to the mystery of his dad, a U.S. Navy pilot who crashed into the Indian Ocean in 1979 during maneuvers that were part of America’s response to the Iranian hostage crisis of that year. Rodrick, only 13 at the time, here acknowledges the resulting emotional gaps and confusion in his family’s life, and sets out to grapple with his own dysfunction while also investigating his father’s past to gain perspective on the man and on the military lifestyle in general, especially as it affects spouses and children. Rodrick’s approach is nothing if not frank, and at the risk of alienating those he loves, he emerges triumphant, purging some personal demons and seeming to gain a better understanding of what family means. There are some interesting thematic similarities to Rodrick’s work in The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA (Norton, $26.95, 320 pages, ISBN 9780393239805), in which former Newsweek foreign correspondent Scott C. Johnson recounts his curiously peripatetic upbringing and makes an effort to understand his father and his unlikely profession. It wasn’t until he was a teenager that Johnson learned his dad was a CIA agent. Looking back, Johnson recounts the veil of deception that always seemed to shroud his father’s attitudes, demeanor and social activities. Questions remain unanswered for years, yet some clarity emerges right before 9/11,

when son elicits from father an understanding of his notions of patriotism and morality. Later, while working as an international reporter in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, Johnson begins to find parallels in his own work, mainly in its secretive nature and its reliance on a certain kind of trust. With a scope spanning the Cold War and the war on terror, Johnson’s father-son memoir offers a rare glimpse of family, from separation to hard-won reconciliation.

LIFE ON THE LINKS In Loopers: A Caddie’s TwentyYear Golf Odyssey (Crown, $25, 304 pages, ISBN 9780770437183), professional golf caddy turned journalist John Dunn offers an engaging and surprisingly gritty approach to the sport’s literature. Against his father’s wishes, Dunn takes up the life of an itinerant caddy, and this volume essentially covers his episodic, two-decade journey across the U.S. working at golf courses great and small. Dunn makes it inside Augusta National Golf Club, manages to cross paths with celebrities and titans of industry, even travels across the pond to St. Andrews. It’s a gypsy existence that sometimes demands a scrappy persistence and a lot of compromises, yet Dunn’s account makes clear that his “a breed apart” personality is a good match for the vagabond lifestyle, which includes its fair share of fun and adventure. The book comes full circle when Dunn must confront his father’s imminent death from cancer. Closure occurs as the book reaches its poignant end, and golf’s linkage to the relationship between fathers and sons resonates once again.

TWO BIG DADDIES Actor Steve Schirripa has had some great roles. Formerly the

entertainment director of the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, he then parlayed his connections there into both TV and big-screen roles, mainly on “The Sopranos” as Bobby Bacala. Fact is, Schirripa is bigger than life. And while his new book, Big Daddy’s Rules: Raising Daughters Is Tougher Than I Look (Touchstone, $25, 240 pages, ISBN 9781476706344), written with Philip Lerman, definitely has a tonguein-cheek feel to it, the tough-guy approach he espouses to childrearing is heartfelt and refreshingly commonsensical. For Schirripa, it’s about protection—plus it’s his conviction that when parents assert an authoritative stance, kids will push boundaries more reasonably (and hence maybe end up with fewer tattoos!). This is parenting the oldschool way, laced with tales from the trenches and committed advice on how to bring kids through the tough years, including discussion of topics like dating and sex, drinking and drugs, the value of money and hard work, and more. “Today, big families are like waterbed stores; they used to be everywhere, and now they are just weird.” So says popular comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan, the

Finally, there’s John Wayne: The Genuine Article (Insight Editions, $50, 160 pages, ISBN 9781608871162), a coffee-table book suitable for the movie legend’s fans. Wayne was a dad, of course—son Ethan provides the preface here— and certainly was an authoritative film figure who epitomized the rugged American male. Michael Goldman’s text offers a welcome rundown of Duke’s life, from his almost accidental entry into the movies to his iconic rise in celluloid and later status as patriotic figure, with concluding chapters sharing a glimpse into Wayne’s personal moments and memories as a father. The plentiful graphic material includes reproductions of rare personal documents, family photos, letters to and from Hollywood stars and politicians, shooting-script excerpts from various Wayne flicks and other memorabilia.


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reviews WE ARE All COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES

FICTION

sisters beneath the skin Review by Carla Jean Whitley

Rosemary Cooke is, in many ways, an ordinary girl raised in an ordinary family. Her father is a behavioral psychologist who always brings his work home, and her mother is his supportive better half. As the youngest, Rose admires her older brother, Lowell, and is jealous because she thinks he loves her sister, Fern, the most. In fact, Rose thinks everyone would pay more attention to her if Fern weren’t around. But that’s where the Cookes are different from most families. Rose and Fern are their father’s work: Fern is a chimp, being raised as a daughter in a human family. In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, author Karen Joy Fowler (Wit’s End, The Jane Austen Book Club) offers a masterful account of a woman unraveling a tangle of family history, memory and the complex emotions that arise from the way she was raised. As a girl, Rose’s identity was forged against her will, leaving her marked as “monkey girl”—like most siblings, Rose’s movements and attitudes mimicked her sister’s. Rose wanted to know life without Fern. By Karen Joy Fowler Putnam, $26.95, 320 pages And then she did. One summer, Rose was sent to her grandparents’ ISBN 9780399162091, audio, eBook available house while the family moved. When she returned home, Fern had been sent away for good. And Rose quickly discovered life wasn’t as she had expected it would be. “If I’d ever imagined I’d be more important without her constantly distracting everyone, I found quite the opposite,” she says. Years later, Rose is left to explore the balance between memory and fiction. Are her recollections of her sister’s departure and the days preceding it accurate, or has she repressed some events and adjusted those memories with time? Could her parents be trusted after promising to love Fern and Rose just the same, but giving Fern away? Why was her sister forced to leave? Fowler’s extensive research into chimp behavioral studies and her understanding of psychology (like her character’s dad, Fowler’s own father was a behavioral psychologist) show up throughout this thoughtful novel. In the end, readers are left to ponder with Rose perhaps the most important question raised: What makes us human, anyway?

Big Brother By Lionel Shriver

Harper $26.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780061458576 eBook available

LITERARY fiction

How far would you go to rescue a sibling hurtling down the path to self-destruction? That’s the question Lionel Shriver poses in this bighearted novel about a sister’s battle to curb her brother’s epic ­overeating—a story that challenges some of our facile assumptions about weight, body image and the sometimes complicated daily encounter with one of life’s most mundane and sublime activities.

When down-on-his-luck jazz pianist Edison Appaloosa rolls into baggage claim at the Cedar Rapids Airport in an extra-wide wheelchair, his younger sister Pandora Halfdanarson is left nearly speechless. In the four years since she’s last seen him he’s added more than 200 pounds, a weight gain so massive he’s lost three inches of height. Pandora and Edison share the burden of a difficult past, as children of a father who once starred in a now long-forgotten television drama that blurred the boundary between real life and fantasy for both of them. Edison settles in for an extended visit. From the first, his presence provokes conflict with Pandora’s husband, an obsessive cyclist and “nutritional Nazi” who gazes in horror on Edison’s feats of consumption. On the eve of her brother’s departure from Iowa, Pandora, the creator of a wildly successful line of

snarky customized pull-string dolls called Baby Monotonous, decides to abandon her family and move into an apartment with Edison to manage his radical, nearly life-threatening weight loss program. The second half of the novel traces the rocky course of that experiment. As Edison’s weight falls, his self-esteem rises, but Pandora, who has her own tangled relationship with food, must also struggle with the toll her choice of brother over husband and teenage stepchildren exacts on her family. Making effective use of the intimate, almost claustrophobic, settings of her novel, Shriver consistently delivers whip-smart, often witty dialogue and pungent character insights that add powerful momentum to what, at its heart, remains a simple story. Only a writer of Shriver’s talent and courage would attempt a denouement as daring as the one

that plays out over the novel’s final 15 pages. She succeeds by creating something that does much more than tie up plot threads and usher her characters off the stage. Instead, she makes us appreciate anew how profound the emotional and psychological issues of family and food are, deepening our empathy along with our admiration for the unquestionable skill she displays in doing it. —Harvey Freedenberg

You are one of them By Elliott Holt

Penguin Press $26.95, 304 pages ISBN 9781594205286 Audio, eBook available

DEBUT fiction

In 2007, New York magazine lauded Elliott Holt as one of six “literary stars of tomorrow.” Well, tomorrow is finally here, and Holt’s debut novel, You Are One of Them, does not disappoint. Readers are introduced to Sarah Zuckerman and her new neighbor/ soon-to-be-best friend, Jennifer Jones, in late 1980s Washington, D.C. Sarah’s family is cloaked in tragedy (a dead sister, an absentee father, an agoraphobic mother), so it is no wonder that she gravitates to Jennifer, an all-American girl whose family seems to have stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. As Cold War fever rises, both girls decide to write letters to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, requesting peace. Mysteriously, only Jennifer’s letter is received by Andropov—and published in the Russian newspaper Pravda. Jennifer and her family accept the Kremlin’s invitation of a tour of the U.S.S.R., which results in Jennifer’s becoming the Goodwill Ambassador between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. (and a media darling as well). Flash forward about 10 years, and Jennifer is dead after a tragic plane crash. Over the years, the girls’ relationship had deteriorated, yet Sarah struggles with letting go of the memory of her childhood best friend. When a vague email from a woman named Svetlana arrives in Sarah’s inbox, Sarah goes on a mission to Russia, searching for answers about Jennifer’s disappearance. Did

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reviews her family’s plane really go down due to operational malfunctions, or was there an international conspiracy at work? Loosely based on the true story of Samantha Smith (whose own death was rumored to be set in motion by the U.S.S.R.), Jennifer’s tale will leave readers clamoring for the truth. Could her family possibly have defected? Or is Sarah merely obsessed with the loss of a friend that she never fully understood to begin with? Fans of espionage mysteries, the Cold War era and the chilling landscape of Russia will gravitate toward You Are One of Them. —Megan Fishmann

THE SON By Philipp Meyer

Ecco $27.99, 576 pages ISBN 9780062120397 eBook available

LITERARY fiction

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A novel about terse men with guns will inevitably summon comparisons to Hemingway. One set in the South will likewise invoke Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. The Son by Philipp Meyer has its Hemingwayesque motifs; scenes of scalpings and general rapine do recall McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Meanwhile, Meyer’s decision to write using different voices riffs on Faulkner’s stylistic experiments. At times Meyer does seem to be aping these predecessors, but his latest book is no mere homage. This talented young writer—one of the New Yorker’s “20 under 40”—has his own voice, and it owes as much perhaps to Virginia Woolf as to the male American canon. The Son concerns several generations of Texans: Eli McCullough, his son Peter and Peter’s granddaughter Jeanne Anne. Eli’s tale, told in straight narrative, is set before and during the Civil War. Peter’s, told in diary form, centers on the Great War. J.A.’s, told in interior monologue, spans the latter 20th century. The most compelling of these characters is Eli, who watches Comanches murder his family and then is taken captive by them. Years pass, and he becomes accustomed

FICTION to their independent ways, so that even after his so-called liberation (due to his tribe being decimated by smallpox), Eli pines for his adoptive people. Peter’s main struggle is with the Mexicans who once owned the Lone Star State. He witnesses Mexicans being massacred, and when one survivor calls him to account, he must choose between his love for her and his duty to a family who scorns the “wetbacks.” For J.A., the problem is how to carry on the family name in a completely masculinized culture (women, Eli had said, “had no common sense”). She also struggles with her Texan pride, given that her nation, rather than being grateful for the state’s once indispensable oil production (“life as they knew it did not exist without Texas”), treats her kind with chilly Yankee superiority. On top of that, J.A. is a McCullough, and her ancestors’ enemies remember. Meyer writes with grace, if not economy, and always with great sympathy, only occasionally careening into the saccharine. His knowledge of Comanche folkways is admirable, and, unlike Hemingway, he can write convincing women. The novel’s epigraph is from Gibbon, and so its overarching theme is ephemerality—the decline of families shadowed by the decline of empires—a theme evident as well in the title of Meyer’s previous work, American Rust. The Son is a shining second step in a promising career. —Kenneth Champeon

Visit BookPage.com for a Q&A  with Philipp Meyer.

Transatlantic By Colum McCann

Random House $27, 320 pages ISBN 9781400069590 Audio, eBook available

Literary fiction

In his new novel, TransAtlantic, Colum McCann proves once again why he is one of the most acclaimed authors of our time. Like the awardwinning Let the Great World Spin,

TransAtlantic explores the connections between people of different classes and ethnicities, but this time over centuries and between continents. McCann mixes actual historic events with the story of a singular Irish-American family. The interplay between the celebrated (who all happen to be men) and the ordinary (who all happen to be women) is one of the many strengths of this most notable book. TransAtlantic begins with three momentous crossings. Jack Alcock and Teddy Brown, two WWI aviators, set course from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1919 on McCann the first nonstop explores flight across the historical Atlantic Ocean. Almost 75 years events earlier, Frederick through Douglass makes his way to Dublin the lens and Cork, seekof the ing funding for everyday. the abolitionist movement. Jump to the end of the 20th century, and Senator George Mitchell is flying from New York to Belfast to broker the notoriously bitter Northern Ireland peace talks in what became known as the Good Friday Agreements of 1998. These iconic journeys are connected by a series of personal stories starting with Lily Duggan, a young maid in the Dublin home where Douglass is staying. His message of emancipation has a profound effect on her, and she immigrates to the United States. The novel follows her daughter and granddaughter to Canada and then back to Ireland, culminating in the story of Hannah Carson, the last of the Duggans, in the family cottage on the coast of Northern Ireland. The stories are tied together by a letter sent on that first transatlantic flight, though its re-appearance at the story’s denouement is somewhat anticlimactic. McCann is most interested in the details behind the big stories and in the way historical events shape and transform thousands of smaller lives. Douglass’ pursuit of freedom inspires Lily’s departure from Ireland. Alcock and Brown transform a war machine into a mode of international travel. The faith both men hold in the nature of flight is echoed in Mitchell’s tireless work and the seeming paradox of achieving peace

by preparing for war. These kinds of contradictions—holding multiple opposing truths or ideas—are also central to the novel. TransAtlantic is a story of great profundity. Time, events and actions are interwoven in a gorgeous meditation on violence, the quest for peace and the balance between the two. McCann offers the reader new ways of seeing and thinking about historic events and their impact on the present. This is a novel to relish. — L a u r e n B u ff e r d

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton By Elizabeth L. Silver

Crown $25, 320 pages ISBN 9780385347433 Audio, eBook available

DEBUT fiction

Elizabeth L. Silver’s gripping and introspective first novel analyzes capital punishment from the intertwined viewpoints of those involved in a murder trial that took place years before the novel opens. Noa P. Singleton, now 35, has been in the Pennsylvania Institute for Women for a decade, found guilty of killing Sarah Dixon, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. The mystery posed by the author is not whether Noa committed the crime, for she begins her story with: “I know I did it. The state knows I did it, though they never really cared why.” Instead, the book revolves around the “why”—and all the factors, past and present, that eventually led to a tragic and senseless outcome. The main narrative is in Noa’s words—a first-person journal written in the months before her scheduled execution, which she calls X-day. She writes of her mother, who has not visited her in prison, and her non-relationship with her father—a one-night stand whom her mother calls a sperm donor, a man Noa never heard from growing up. She writes of childhood friends, and of the women who surround her on death row, whose stories she knows well. X-day is six months away, when out of the blue Noa is visited by Marlene Dixon, mother of the murder victim and a high-profile Philadelphia lawyer. Marlene claims


FICTION to have had a change of heart—she no longer believes in the death penalty, and is in the process of filing a clemency petition that would reduce Noa’s sentence to life in prison. All Noa has to do is reveal why she committed the crime—something she refused to discuss during the trial, or since. By means of chapters written in Noa’s words and letters written by Marlene Dixon to her deceased daughter, the reader gradually pieces together the puzzle of what happened the day Sarah died. It is an emotion-packed style, similar to that used by Lionel Shriver in her acclaimed novel We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003), as the reader tries to come to grips with how much weight should be given to mitigating circumstances in determining guilt or innocence. —Deborah Donovan

INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE By Maggie O’Farrell

Knopf $25.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780385349406 Audio, eBook available

LITERARY fiction

her track down their father, they are powerless to ignore her call. And so it is that for the first time in years, three adults, who face one another as strangers, find themselves under the same roof, cautiously navigating the familial fault lines. Digging into their parents’ past, the siblings grasp the family’s roots, which send them on a journey back to Ireland. The weather may be cooler in their ancestral homeland, but back on the soil where it all began, it doesn’t take long before the secrets and old grievances that have long been simmering finally come to a boil. O’Farrell captures the fractious dynamics of the Riordan family with such precision and energy that readers will feel they are right in the thick of the squabbles and spats. With prose that is lyrical yet light, she imbues each of her characters with remarkable humanity. Piercing in its insights and deeply absorbing, Instructions for a Heatwave is literary fiction at its very best. —Stephenie Harrison

Cinnamon and Gunpowder By Eli Brown

FSG $26, 336 pages ISBN 9780374123666 Audio, eBook available

HISTORICAL fiction

She’s already written five books and her last novel won the U.K.’s coveted Costa Novel Award, but if Instructions for a Heatwave is any indication, Maggie O’Farrell is not ready to rest on her laurels. Here, O’Farrell returns to the subject that has formed the core of her fiction— families and the secrets that both bind them together and threaten to unravel them—and concocts another spellbinding multigenerational saga that will sweep readers away into another time and another life. It is the summer of 1976, and record temperatures have many Londoners hot under the collar. The Riordan family is thrown into particular upheaval when it is discovered that their patriarch, Robert, has gone missing, having left on a mission to fetch the morning paper, never to return. Only something as serious as their father’s disappearance could bring the three wayward Riordan children back home together, and when their mother, Gretta, begs them to help

An inventive English chef is kidnapped and forced onto the Flying Rose, a pirate ship helmed by a seemingly mad, but striking, female captain. The premise of Eli Brown’s novel Cinnamon and Gunpowder grabs your attention; his witty wordplay and deft characterizations will keep you turning pages. God-fearing Owen Wedgwood is appalled by the brutal seafaring ways of the fiery Hannah Mabbot and her crew, and even more by the ultimatum she hands him: To keep his berth and life, he must please her palate with delectable Sunday suppers using a skeletal kitchen of meager and questionable foodstuffs. The novel is his journal, and Brown bestows a dry-witted and intriguing voice on his narrator. With his employer, Lord Ramsay, dead and his escapes unsuccessful, Wedgwood unwillingly becomes a party to skirmishes against the

vengeful privateer Laroche and heists of British ships stuffed with spoils of the opium and tea trades that dominated the early-19thcentury era in which the novel is set. Mabbot’s hunt for the Brass Fox, an elusive figure whose interests A chef falls may or may not be at odds with hers, under the drives the action. spell of As each Sunday a female looms, the captive pirate in a chef makes do. Mouthwatering rollicking descriptions of his high-seas triumphs suggest adventure. the author himself to be a man of daring appetite. Culinary conversation mingles easily with the vernacular of sailing and Wedgwood’s poignant musings on faith, food and the meaning of life. At the mercy of whatever edibles the crew pillages, Wedgwood manages to create menus to rival a restaurant chef’s. He coaxes braised pheasant, whelks poached in wine lees, sundried tomato puttanesca and even a mango tart glazed with brandy and honey, from his galley. Over these meals, Mabbot and Wedgwood share stories, and a form of trust grows, along with a surprising sympathy. From the English coast through the Sunda Strait to China, Cinnamon and Gunpowder tells a salty tale in the most entertaining sense of the word. Brown spins an adventure story with the weight of history to it, and plenty of absurdity for comic relief. Much is lost and much is gained as this questing narrative reaches its spectacular crescendo.

her both hope and worry. What sort of life will a child born in prison, in a war-torn country, have to look forward to?  Omid is left sitting alone at the kitchen table after his parents’ arrest. He, his siblings and his cousin are raised by their grandparents while their parents serve time for their rebellion. What lessons can children of war learn from their parents’ experiences? In her debut novel, Children of the Jacaranda Tree, author Sahar Delijani attempts to answer these questions while exploring the impact war has on its prisoners and those left safely outside. It’s a story Delijani knows all too well; she was born in prison during the Iran-Iraq conflict. And while both of her parents survived their imprisonment, Delijani’s uncle was one of thousands killed in a mass execution at the war’s end. As the novel pings between the revolution of 1983 and the protests that followed the 2009 election, Delijani contrasts the experiences

—Melissa Brown www.LoriWilde.com

Children of the jaCaRanda tree By Sahar Delijani

Atria $25.99, 288 pages ISBN 9781476709093 Audio, eBook available

debut fiction

It’s 1983, the third year of the Iranian Revolution. Azar and her husband, both political activists, have been captured and are being held separately at Evin Prison. Azar is pregnant, a condition that brings

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reviews of parents and the children who follow in their footsteps decades later. Parents worry for their children as history repeats itself; the offspring come to realize how young and bold their parents were as they embarked on a revolution.  Children of the Jacaranda Tree is a beautifully rendered tale that reads almost like a collection of connected short stories, with characters’ perspectives and histories being unveiled as they intersect with one another. Throughout this thoughtprovoking account, a jacaranda tree stands as a stalwart witness to it all, providing comfort in its consistent presence. —Carla Jean whitley

Sparta By Roxana Robinson

Sarah Crichton/FSG $27, 400 pages ISBN 9780374267704 Audio, eBook available

LITERARY fiction

FICTION really went on over there. Still, we understand why an otherwise comfortable bunch like the Farrells can’t really cope when the chaos of war is dropped suddenly in their midst. We sympathize with Conrad’s girlfriend, Claire, even as we secretly wish she’d run as far from him as she can, even as we know Conrad desperately needs someone in his corner. But we also know that something very bad is going to happen if she stays. Robinson’s sympathy for the deeply messed-up Conrad and his fellow vets is as impressive as her knowledge of their circumstances. How could she know what it’s like to be blown up by an IED? How does she know about the macabre jokes soldiers tell to keep themselves sane? In fact, Robinson interviewed several vets to give her book the verisimilitude it needed. Their stories must have been excruciating to hear, but they needed to be heard. Their stories, or at least Conrad’s story, also deserve to be told. Full of the grief and deep compassion that’s becoming Robinson’s trademark, Sparta is a brilliant, necessary work. —Arlene McKanic

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The only time this reviewer ever screamed back at her television was during an airing of David Rabe’s play Sticks and Bones. The show was about a returning Vietnam vet who’d been blinded in the war. His family was hung up on him sleeping with a prostitute or something else that was so beside the point that it was maddening. Roxana Robinson’s latest, long-awaited novel, Sparta, might make a reader just as mad. Robinson’s previous novel, Cost, was unflinching in its portrayal of the ruination caused by a young man’s drug addiction. Sparta is nearly as devastating. The protagonist is Conrad Farrell, a returning Iraq veteran, who’s come home to his loving, liberal, uppermiddle-class family in upstate New York. Though none of them are as crazy as the family in Sticks and Bones, they too just don’t get it. Not only that, they don’t want to get it, despite their exhortations to Conrad to tell them “everything.” This is especially true of his mom, Lydia, a therapist. She’s a loving and caring mother—with an infuriating tendency to start coming unhinged anytime Conrad even hints at what

We Need New Names By NoViolet Bulawayo

Little, Brown $24.99, 304 pages ISBN 9780316230810 Audio, eBook available

debut fiction

In We Need New Names, 10-yearold Darling and her gang of friends roam their shantytown in ­Zimbabwe with the mischievous spirit of children at play. Whether they are stealing guavas or engaged in one of their made-up neighborhood games, they are argumentative and spirited: Life is a game even in these surroundings. But in her quieter moments, Darling is haunted by her memories of Before—when she lived in a house with her parents, when her father wasn’t working a dangerous job in South Africa, when she was allowed to go to school. Author NoViolet Bulawayo is a fresh voice on the scene, exploring both the dangers and the comforts

of Darling’s African home, and her uneasy assimilation to life in the West. When Darling is sent to live with her aunt in Detroit, her adjustment is slow. America brings her increased opportunities for learning, but her sense of guilt over the country she has left behind also grows. Trips to the mall, cell phones, the perils of Internet porn—Darling navigates a world similar to that of many American teenagers, but her sense of isolation distances her from her new friends. Like so many immigrants before her, Darling is tied to her old country, even as she struggles to adapt to the new. We Need New Names reads like a series of very good linked stories, without the structure and force of a developed novel. Though we sense what Darling has given up by leaving her home, the chapters about her life as a teenage girl in the United States lack singularity. Where We Need New Names breaks new ground is in the depiction of modern-day Zimbabwe from a child’s point of view. Bulawayo, whose writing has been championed by Junot Díaz, excels in capturing the frank voice of the younger Darling, who has a naiveté and an innocence that flourishes in spite of the dangers. Bulawayo’s sensitivity to a child’s experience and her ability to connect that to a larger commentary on contemporary Zimbabwe make her a writer to watch. — L a u r e n B u ff e r d

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls By Anton DiSclafani

Riverhead $27.95, 400 pages ISBN 9781594486401 eBook available

debut fiction

By all appearances, Thea Atwell lives a charmed life. A child of Emathla, Florida, “a stone’s throw” from Gainesville, she rides horses and explores the lush land with her cousin and twin brother, insulated from the Great Depression by her family’s citrus fortune. But in July of 1930, at age 15, Thea

is sent to a year-round camp for girls in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an idyllic enclave where Southern young women go to become ladies. Because as the headmistress says, “Becoming a lady is not simply a thing which happens, like magic . . . becoming a lady is a lesson you must learn.” Turns out Thea has done something very bad, and the Sensual, camp—far away from Florida—is lush and her punishment. surprising, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp this debut for Girls, Anton set in the DiSclafani’s North sensual debut novel, shifts Carolina and forth mountains back from Emathla to is a story to North Carolina, building toward savor. the “series of events” that leads to Thea’s banishment. The story hinges on this mysterious transgression, something so terrible that the Atwells do not send for Thea at Christmas or visit when she falls ill at camp. In spite of this, the headstrong young woman is able to settle into life at Yonahlossee, where she quickly makes a best friend and establishes herself as a top equestrienne. However, home is never far from her mind, even when Thea has grown to like her world of “horses and girls, girls and horses.” Readers who have experienced the joy of riding—the adrenaline of fearless jumping, the pleasure of grooming, the comfort of getting to know a horse—will appreciate the scenes of Thea with her animal. DiSclafani unspools the drama slowly and seductively, tempting the reader with ominous letters from Florida and other hints from Thea’s past. This pace allows the author to dreamily revel in lovely settings— the picturesque camp in the mountains or the wilds of the Atwells’ land in Emathla—but at times the plot feels languid. Still, patient readers will be rewarded with a passionate climax. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a story to savor in the heat of summer. —Eliza Borné

 isit BookPage.com for more V reviews and interviews.


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reviews THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB

NONFICTION

The women of Togethersville R e v i e w b y K e l ly B l e w e t t

There’s just something about the early ’60s: the drinks, the conservatism, the consumerism, the Cold War. And the astronauts. “Mad Men” fans and history buffs alike won’t want to miss a new book about a relatively unexplored aspect of this era: the lives of the astronauts’ wives. NASA encouraged the women to be “thrilled, happy, and proud” of their space-bound men, but really they experienced so much more. We meet the Mercury Seven women in the first chapter of The Astronaut Wives Club, and author Lily Koppel does a nice job of staying close to their stories. By the time you see the women’s faces in the pictures, you’ll feel like you’re a member of the gang. Amazing anecdotes include Annie Glenn’s refusal to visit with Lyndon B. Johnson following the delay of John Glenn’s launch. Unbelievably, NASA tried to get John Glenn (while still loaded in the rocket) to persuade Annie to participate in the impromptu press conference. Glenn let them patch him through in a conference call and then said, “Annie, if you don’t want to visit with him, I’ll back By Lily Koppel you a hundred percent.” Other wives—and marriages—fared worse under Grand Central, $28, 288 pages the awesome weight of instant fame, enormous wealth and death-defying ISBN 9781455503254, audio, eBook available missions. For readers already familiar with the space program, these stories will deepen the portraits of the astronauts, and not always in flattering ways. (Don’t miss the fight between Buzz and Joan Aldrin on their European tour.) The wives faced incredible pressure and often banded together in the midst of it: serving champagne following liftoff, conducting a press conference on the lawn following landing; living in the densely astronaut-populated corner of Texas nicknamed “Togethersville”; suspecting (usually rightly) that their husbands were cheating on them with “a cookie on the cape”; raising their children largely on their own. And while the wives formed lasting bonds, competition and envy also shaped their interactions from the earliest days. As one wife recalled, “We were complete traditionalists: hats, gloves, entertaining machines, eyes glued on husbands’ careers.” Reading The Astronaut Wives Club, you might find yourself shaking your head and thinking, “Could this be real?” It almost feels like a dream, and occasionally like a nightmare. But for these women it was life, complicated and messy, adventurous and emotional. It’s hard to believe no one has already written their story, and this reader is glad Koppel finally did.

bootstrapper By Mardi Jo Link

Knopf $24.95, 272 pages ISBN 9780307596918 Audio, eBook available

memoir

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In the summer of 2005, Mardi Jo Link’s broken-down life bore no resemblance to the happy-go-lucky farm life she’d wished for—and read about—as a girl. Instead, her marriage has just unraveled, her soon-to-be ex-husband is living across the street, her bank account is “practically uninhabited” and her three sons are confused, angry and sad. Flying in the face of such brokenness, however, Link stead-

fastly claims her “sons, the debt, the horses, the dogs, the land, the century-old farmhouse, the garden, the woods, the pasture, and the barn.” Over the course of one harrowing year, Link struggles to keep her family and her farm together any way she can. In Bootstrapper, her riveting recollection of her year of living raggedly, she details not only her family’s descent into the ravages of near-starvation, the loss of beloved farm animals and the necessity of killing their own livestock for food, but also the slow, moment-bymoment ascent into a life marked by the hope of a new spring, the wonders of nature and the miracle of love and passion. At the beginning of the book, she realizes that she and her sons are one step away from losing everything. In fact, just two months after she sets out on this journey alone, her beloved horse,

Major, is hit by a car. As Link cradles his head and watches his life slip slowly away, she feels a devastating loneliness. Yet she also recognizes the “limitless space of the human heart” to hold love and eventually to conquer that loneliness. The lessons her family learns sometimes come at odd times. Once, as Link and her oldest son, Owen, are driving down the road, a wild turkey flies into the car’s windshield. She has him stop the car, not to inspect for damage but to see whether or not the turkey is dead so they can take it home for dinner. Link realizes that she has begun to “look at nature in a brand-new way—as something to eat.” Eventually, glimmers of grace begin to peek through the holes in Link’s ravaged life. At one point she pauses to recount their victories from the past year, which include “standing among prize-winning

zucchinis, looking up at the stars during a winter campfire in the valley, decorating our Christmas tree, triumphing over thundersnow, ordering chickens from a catalog.” She also receives an unexpected call from Pete, the contractor who’s remodeling her house, and launches out on a new life with him. Hilarious, wrenching and heartwarming, Link’s poignant memoir chronicles one woman’s determination to discover meaning and wholeness in the midst of brokenness. It’s almost as if Cheryl Strayed had stayed down on the farm instead of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. —Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

the boys in the boat By Daniel James Brown

Viking $28.95, 432 pages ISBN 9780670025817 Audio, eBook available

history

Joe Rantz ended up in one of the finest eight-man crews ever to make it to the Olympics largely because he needed a janitor’s job to pay for college. After a poverty-stricken, affection-deprived boyhood, he was trying desperately to earn enough money to get through the University of Washington. Earning a spot on the rowing team guaranteed a parttime campus job. So in 1933, he tried out for crew, and in 1936, he and his boatmates won gold in Berlin. Author Daniel James Brown had the good luck to encounter Rantz at the end of his long life. Brown’s interviews with Rantz and, after his death, with his daughter, form the heart of The Boys in the Boat, an inspirational yarn that joins books like Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time as a reminder of how bad it can get and how tough ordinary Americans can be. The 1936 University of Washington crew that beat the Italians and Germans at Hitler’s Olympics was no rich-boy endeavor. Big, strong young men coming of age during the Great Depression, most of them had worked in logging camps, farms, even building the Grand Coulee Dam. Theirs was the Seabiscuit of rowing shells, at a time when rowing’s popularity as a spectator


NONFICTION sport was sky-high. The boys rowed for two men who became legends: head coach Al Ulbrickson and freshman coach Tom Bolles. They worked in tandem with George Pocock, an extraordinary Englishman who revolutionized shell-building and rowing technique—and, along the way, gave Rantz the advice about trust and character that changed his life. Brown weaves the crew’s rollercoaster of ups and downs with the parallel preparations in Germany, where the Nazis temporarily suspended their campaign of terror to convince the world that they weren’t so bad. But ultimately, Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda film Olympia captured a different kind of triumph of the will, as the boat, guided by the flawless strategy of a coxswain of Jewish descent, came from behind to beat the teams they would be fighting on the battlefield in a few years. Rantz had a particularly horrific childhood, marred not only by death and economic hardship, but also by a stepmother who literally threw him out of the house. When he joined the UW crew, he found a true home. “It was when he tried to talk about ‘the boat’ that his words began to falter and tears welled up in his bright eyes,” writes Brown. The “boys” are all gone now; what a sportswriter called their “poem of motion” lives on. —Anne Bartlett

a million years with you By Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

HMH $25, 304 pages ISBN 9780547763958 eBook available

memoir

Known for translating her observations of people and animals into powerful literary prose, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas now studies her own history in the memoir A Million Years With You. Thomas’ story testifies to the value of curiosity. When she was just 18, she dropped out of college to join an anthropological expedition, headed by her father, to the Kalahari Desert, where they would meet with isolated tribes of Bushmen. Oth-

ers have speculated that Thomas’ father, Laurence Marshall, wanted to get reacquainted with his family after his work during World War II resulted in many long separations, but Thomas says there was much more to the experience. “I’m sure we didn’t go [to Africa] merely so that Dad could know us better,” she writes. “We went because he liked wild places.” Her father, perhaps the most influential person in her life, encouraged his daughter to explore wilderness both near and far. Thomas continued to explore and observe, even after marriage and the birth of her two children. She sought research opportunities and continued to travel to Africa, including trips to Uganda and Nigeria during periods of terrifying political unrest in the 1960s, experiences that would deeply shake her. She also wrote about subjects closer to home; her book The Hidden Life of Dogs was a bestseller. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has been described by a close friend as “strong as a snow leopard, tough as Genghis Khan.” In A Million Years With You she also recounts her weaker moments with humor and honesty, including her struggles with alcohol addiction, serious family crises and the realities of aging. Now in her 80s, Thomas retains her lively curiosity about the world. “As has been said,” she writes, “while wandering down the road of life, it helps to look for something more meaningful than oneself, and I’ve never had to look far to find it, from the stars when I look up to the soil when I look down.” —Marianne Peters

the feud By Dean King

Little, Brown $28, 448 pages ISBN 9780316167062 Audio, eBook available

american history

“What!” you gasp with mouth agape. “Another Hatfield-McCoy saga?” Yes, but The Feud attempts to tie up all the loose ends—a monumental task, indeed, since so much of the convoluted story had to be gleaned from second-, thirdand fourth-hand accounts (many

wreathed in family biases), wildly inaccurate newspaper reports and incomplete public records. To bring some semblance of order to this conflict that began at the end of the Civil War and concluded at the turn of the 20th century, author Dean King provides a series of Hatfield and McCoy family-tree charts, each with the relevant names X-ed out as the feud proceeds. These charts serve as graphic representations of how much more effective at assassination the West Virginiabased Hatfields were than their Kentucky-dwelling adversaries. They also kept better records. As King points out, there was no single flashpoint that set off the feud. Nor did it continue at a steady and unrelenting pace. To be sure, some of the animosity stemmed from the fact that the Hatfields fought for the Confederacy and the McCoys for the Union. But there were substantial clashes as well over the ownership of livestock, the conduct of elections and real or perceived personal insults. Whatever the latest affront, both sides were consumed with the concept of getting even. The most romanticized element of the conflict—the relatively brief love affair between Johnse Hatfield and Roseanna McCoy—was, according to King, a fairly inconsequential episode in the overall scheme of things. King also sets this story in a broader historical context. Besides chronicling the feud proper, he describes the emergence of the West Virginia-Kentucky border region as a lumber and coal center and demonstrates how New York newspapers, embroiled in their own rivalry, turned the vendetta into a circulation bonanza. Because it involves dozens of combatants, sympathizers and innocent bystanders over a period of four decades, the story King tells in The Feud is sometimes hard to follow. But from start to finish, the dominant and most distinct figure is—as in previous retellings—the charismatic Devil Anse Hatfield, guerrilla fighter, moonshiner, squirrel hunter, timber baron and fecund patriarch. He persisted relatively unscathed while family and foes were falling all around him and died peacefully of natural causes at the age of 82, long after the smoke had cleared. —Edward Morris

anne frank: the biography By Melissa Müller

Metropolitan $35, 480 pages ISBN 9780805087314 eBook available

biography

Like millions of American children, I read and reread Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, mesmerized by the journal of her two years spent in hiding from the Nazis. Yet the book always remained somewhat cryptic for my young mind: What exactly was an “annex”? Why did Anne and her sister Margot call their father Pim? If Anne was German, why did she live in Holland? Reading Anne Frank: The Biography, then, was something of a revelation. Melissa Müller’s updated biography includes new letters and information not yet public when she originally published it in 1998. She delves into the Franks’ lives before German occupation, painting a portrait of a happy, ordinary family: Otto and Edith Frank were doting parents who sought the best education for their girls. Margot was the studious, pretty older sister. Anne was the tempestuous attention-seeker who loved movies and spending time with her girlfriends. Müller also traces in heartbreaking detail Otto Frank’s increasingly desperate attempts to save his family as the threat of Nazi Germany became clear: first moving to Amsterdam, then seeking to emigrate to the United States, and finally

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reviews stowing away in the back area of his business’ warehouse. Müller wisely doesn’t recount in much detail the Franks’ time in the annex—there simply isn’t much to add to Anne’s thorough diary— choosing instead to analyze Anne’s insightful writing and add context where needed. She also devotes considerable space to the question of who might have told the authorities about the hidden Jews at 263 Prinsengracht. This is, unfortunately, a question that may ultimately go unanswered. Anne Frank has become such a global symbol that it’s easy to forget she was a real girl. Müller’s meticulous research and humane writing remind us that when she should have been exploring her world and coming into her own, the teenage Anne was not allowed to even open a window or move freely for fear of warehouse workers hearing her footsteps. Yet not even nightly air raids and the constant threat of being discovered could break her spirit. “I shall not remain insignificant,” she wrote on April 11, 1944, just months before her family was discovered (Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945). “I shall work in the world for mankind.” —Amy Scribner

revolutionary summer By Joseph J. Ellis

Knopf $26.95, 240 pages ISBN 9780307701220 Audio, eBook available

american history

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Decisions made by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and the Continental Army in New England between May and October of 1776 were crucial to everything that happened later in the American Revolution. Members of those groups were committed to what each understood to be independence—or “the Cause,” as it was called—but there was wide disagreement on what independence actually meant. Though the actions of the Congress were strongly influenced by what the Army did, and vice versa, they were often not in sync. For example, George Washington understood

NONFICTION that the troops he was leading were part of a unified American effort to leave the British Empire even before delegates meeting in Philadelphia had made an official statement to that effect. As Joseph J. Ellis, a master historian of early American history, writes in his magnificent new book Revolutionary Summer, the political and military aspects of the Revolution are “two sides of a single story, which are incomprehensible unless told together.” Ellis tells that story with his characteristic clarity and insight, taking events we think we know about and making them fresh and compelling. By viewing the complex mix of events from many angles, including the decade of decisions that led the colonies to break with Britain and British military strategy when the largest armada to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean reached New York, Ellis shows how close the American Revolution came to not happening. One key difference of perspective between the Congress and the Army was regarding the Army itself. Washington felt keenly that only a standing professional army could defeat the British, who had a huge advantage in numbers and experience; a militia alone would not be enough. Many delegates to the Congress hoped for a diplomatic solution, but, if it came to war, they wanted to win. Yet they opposed a “standing army” as a threat to republican principles. John Adams, as chair of the Board of War and Ordnance, was the vital link between the Congress and the Army, trying to keep both focused on the ultimate goal. Of all the many important roles Adams played in public life, Ellis believes that this was his finest hour. But then, Adams did so much in the Congress. He was to claim in later years, for example, that it was his resolution of May 15, 1776, to replace colonial constitutions with new state constitutions that was the real declaration of independence. His resolution was distinctive in that it rejected British authority but also asserted the need to create state governments to replace discredited British rule. In addition, it was the first time an official document from the Congress implied that the king was an accomplice in the conflict. Jefferson’s declaration came six weeks later. Ellis devotes much attention to the Army’s attempt to defend New

York, where a large segment of the population remained loyal to the crown and did not wish to be defended. Yet there had been little discussion in the Congress about the wisdom of trying to defend the city. And it didn’t help that the Congress ordered Washington to release six of his regiments to support an illconceived plan to capture Quebec. The serious mistake Washington had made in trying to defend New York led to devastating losses and humiliating retreat. The valuable lesson, however, that Washington took from that experience—and it was contrary to all his instincts— was that his goal was not to win the war but instead not to lose it. From the British side, if its military leaders in North America, Richard Howe and William Howe, had prosecuted the war more aggressively, the Continental Army would have been annihilated and the American Revolution would never have gone forward. Instead, they chose to defeat the enemy rather than completely crushing it, and the war continued. The Howe brothers aspired to be diplomats and hoped that they could negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict. In Revolutionary Summer, Ellis, winner of both the Pulitzer Prize (for Founding Brothers) and the National Book Award (for American Sphinx), gives readers an engrossing narrative that skillfully conveys the improvisations of both the Congress and the Army as they sought to achieve independence. This extremely readable book is an authoritative and sophisticated gem that can be enjoyed whether one knows a little or a lot about the American Revolution. —Roger Bishop

the faraway nearby By Rebecca Solnit Viking $25.95, 272 pages ISBN 9780670025961 eBook available

memoir

Elegant and intense, Rebecca Solnit’s award-winning books and essays chart new terrain in history, memoir, philosophy and activism. The Faraway Nearby continues Sol-

nit’s narrative exploration into new forms of nonfiction prose, resembling most closely her 2006 peregrination A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Solnit’s new excursion is gracefully written, accessible and always deeply thoughtful, and should—if there is any justice in the world—win her many new readers. “Empathy is a journey you travel,” Solnit tells us, when you tell stories or listen to them, and when you feel another’s pain as your own. Storytelling is one of the central nodes of Solnit’s new book, which begins with the story of her mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease and leads into a terrible season of near-daily parental emergencies, culminating in Solnit’s own brush with cancer. After her mother is moved into a care facility, Solnit receives a gift—or perhaps, a curse—from her mother’s fruit trees: hundreds and hundreds of ripe and over-ripe apricots that she spreads out over her bedroom floor. Her “inheritance” of the apricots prompts a digression into fairy tales, into enchantments and other impossible tasks, such as Rapunzel spinning straw into gold or the Swan Girl knitting vests for her brothers. Solnit is a spinster in its old meaning, which is to say that she is a weaver of tales. And so this is no conventional memoir, although it is about a difficult relationship between mother and daughter. In The Faraway Nearby, one story always leads to another: Fairy tales turn to a meditation on ice and being cold, to Frankenstein, arctic exploration and a visit to Iceland. A medical crisis brings up the stories of two friends, one who gives birth and one who dies, both prematurely. The theme of radical empathy prompts the conversion stories of Che Guevara and Buddha, of their youthful progression from privilege to revolutionary activism. Solnit’s writing is so beautiful and prescient it can feel like she is whispering in your ear: “Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone.” The solitary writer imagines a space for her solitary reader to inhabit. As we move deeper into The Faraway Nearby, we find that we are not so alone as we thought, that a luminous presence moves before us, weaving a thread that we follow through the labyrinth. —catherine hollis


children’s books

MAILE MELOY INTERVIEW B y LINDA M . CASTELLITTO

Is Children’s Corner just for kids?

WHERE MAGIC AND SCIENCE MEET

M

aile Meloy’s middle grade books mix adventure with historical fiction, scientific curiosity and a hefty dose of thrilling, mysterious magic. They also feature extensive artwork that helps to tell the story, so Meloy’s fans won’t be surprised to learn that she considers herself a visual thinker. In fact, Meloy says in a call from her Los Angeles home, it was her habit of using clip art to organize chapters that sparked the idea for publishing the books as illustrated novels. Her middle grade debut, The Apothecary, came about after two screenwriter friends told her their idea for “a movie about a magical apothecary, set during the Cold War.” They eventually decided it should be done as a novel first, with Meloy as the writer. “They provided a beginning and some general ideas. It was fantastic to have that push. . . . And part of the reason why I used art to organize it was because they’re such visual thinkers, too. Over time, it became a great way to make sure I had the right focus, so I’d make sure I had a title and image to go with each chapter.” The illustrations in her books certainly enhance the story, such as when she wants to “build suspense, or illustrate a samovar or Samoyed dog.” Ian Schoenherr’s artwork is detailed and vibrant, achieving whimsy without being cutesy. Even better, his line work evokes depth and darkness when something scary or sad looms, and it’s just plain fun to turn a page and encounter, say, giant frogs’ eyes calmly contemplating the reader.

THE APPRENTICES

By Maile Meloy

illustrated by Ian Schoenherr, Putnam, $16.99, 432 pages ISBN 9780399162459, eBook available, ages 10 and up

The magic in her books, of course, lends itself well to fantastical artwork, and it also provides her characters with the adventure of their lives. After the events of The Apothecary, Janie, Benjamin and Pip have been scattered to the far corners of the world at the beginning of The Apprentices. The year is 1954, two years since they’ve all been together. They’re all dealing with often exciting, sometimes disturbing new realities: Janie has returned to America, where she’s diving into the intellectual challenges at a New England boarding school . . . but a jealous roommate and her sinister father just might upend everything. Benjamin and his father are working together in the midst of war in the Vietnam jungle, and Pip is swanning about Europe enjoying his new TV-star status. Despite their geographical separation (and lots of hazy memories), they find new, strange ways to communicate and eventually start making their way back to each other as they become embroiled in a race against time to maintain world peace (and perhaps foil a few bad guys along the way). Readers will pick up some fascinating historical information, too, and they’ll be intrigued to encounter kids who sometimes know more than adults, scientists who believe in magic and birds that might not be just birds. Meloy, who has also published four books for adults, all critically lauded, says she didn’t have to make a concerted effort to change her writing for younger readers. “I did say to myself at one point, I have the Invasion of Nanking in a children’s book—what am I doing?” she says with a laugh. “But I feel like kids do deal with big issues, so that was really the only thing where I decided to tone down the description a bit.” She explains that Janie, who narrates the books, “is writing as an adult, and everything is how she experienced it at 14, so that determined the register, and she can explain things she knows now

Nope. but didn’t know at 14. Plus, she’s an intelligent kid.” This isn’t the first time Meloy has worked on stories for children. After graduating from Harvard in the mid1990s, she moved out to L.A. and worked in what she describes as a “funny little corner of Disney, where they did direct-to-DVD animation of things like sequels to big movies, and fairy-tale-based projects. It was great storytelling training . . . really smart people telling universal stories about love and loss and home.” Considering her successful career thus far, it’s safe to say she took that training to heart. The Apothecary and The Apprentices have at their heart a group of characters that readers care deeply about, judging by the wonderful letters Meloy’s young fans send her. She says, “You don’t get that when writing books for adults. You don’t get letters with illustrations in the margins, or pleas for a sequel. So that’s really fun.” Meloy also loves that the covers for both books are gender neutral. “When writing novels for grownups, I’d get a cover design and say that no guy will ever pick up this book, and they’d say men don’t read novels. It made me so sad,”she recalls. “With these books, they’re told by a girl, boys have a major part in it, they’re adventures. . . . I’ve really found a lot of the kids that connect to it are boys.” Mother-daughter book groups are particular fans, too. Boys, girls, young, old: If readers loved The Apothecary, they’ll be thrilled to get their hands on The Apprentices—and to learn that Meloy is now writing a third book about Janie and her cohorts. We can’t share too many details, but she did reveal that Book 3 begins soon after Book 2, and there will be plenty of magic. Let the anticipation begin!

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children’s books THE MOON AND MORE

reviews

Dreams as big as the sea Review by Norah Piehl

It’s the summer between high school graduation and the start of college, and Emaline longs for a transformative summer, the kind she imagines many tourists encounter when they visit her small beachfront community of Colby, North Carolina. But it seems hard to have that kind of wild, crazy and carefree summer when her days are filled with handing out towels and checking in renters for the several properties managed by her family’s realty company. Just when Emaline is convinced that this summer will be just like every other—except for her impending departure to a nearby state university at summer’s end—everything changes. She and her longtime boyfriend, Luke, have hit a rough patch in their relationship. Her birth father—with whom Emaline had a cordial relationship up until a recent betrayal— shows up in Colby with Emaline’s 10-year-old half brother, Benji, in tow. And one of the summer renters, Theo, who is in town from New York to By Sarah Dessen assist with a documentary film project, seems to offer Emaline the kind of Viking, $19.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780670785605, eBook available different, glamorous, romantic summer she thought she always wanted. Ages 12 and up Sarah Dessen is an expert at depicting young women on the verge of big changes, either in their family lives or in their romantic relationships. She also excels at tying story to place, in this case the fictional community of Colby, which has been the setting for several of her novels (readers will appreciate cameo appearances by several of Dessen’s previous characters here). In Emaline’s story, this link between setting and character is particularly strong, as she gradually realizes that she can discover her own identity apart from the place that has always defined her. The Moon and More is the perfect summer read, full of steamy days, romantic nights and life-changing possibilities.

twerp By Mark Goldblatt

Random House $16.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780375971426 Audio, eBook available Ages 9 to 12

middle grade

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Julian Twerski is not a bad guy. Really. That whole incident with Danley Dimple? That was a fluke. He didn’t mean for the kid to get hurt. It’s not worth going over again. Yet, as part of his punishment, Julian has to write about it for his English teacher. From the start, he has trouble explaining the “Danley Dimple thing” and feels the need first to describe his life, his friendships— who he is. So begins Mark Goldblatt’s Twerp, an exploration of life as a 12-year-old in New York City in 1969, in the closing days of sixth grade. We learn about the dangers of playing Cyrano for your best friend, finding out you might not be the fastest kid at P.S. 23 and making

your own fireworks (with disastrous results). In fact, Julian will tell you just about anything you want to know—except for the one thing he’s supposed to be writing about. By the time he actually gets around to explaining what happened with Danley Dimple, we understand Julian, and we sympathize. So drawn are we into Julian’s world, it’s sometimes hard to remember that an adult wrote this book. A wonderfully touching story that’s hard to put down, Twerp will appeal to readers of all ages. —J e n n i f e r B r u e r K i t c h e l

every day after By Laura Golden

Delacorte $15.99, 224 pages ISBN 9780385743266 eBook available Ages 9 to 12

middle grade

In 1932, the same year Lizzie Hawkins turns 12, the Great Depres-

sion has hunkered down in Bittersweet, Alabama. No longer able to provide for his family or cover the mounting mortgage payments, Lizzie’s father disappeared and has yet to return, while her mother has become depressed, withdrawn and even mute. In Laura Golden’s tender debut novel, inspired by her grandparents’ experiences during the same time period, it’s up to Lizzie to run the family home, take care of her mother and avoid suspicion—or end up in an orphanage. Golden shows the blessings of community and the burdens of gossip in a small town as the girl manages at first to keep her family secrets private. The ruse becomes difficult when best friend Ben, who also recently lost his father, makes Lizzie see that she’s not the only one facing tragedy. And jealous Erin, a bully reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Nellie Oleson, has her heart set on ruining Lizzie. Ever determined, Lizzie learns not only to accept life’s lemons, but also make lemonade with them—something her father espoused but never practiced. From her desire to catch the local legendary one-eyed catfish to her love of Goo Goo Clusters, Lizzie’s

stubborn yet resourceful spirit shines through in Golden’s splendid Southern storytelling. Perhaps guided by her mother’s favorite proverbs, which also serve as chapter headings, the girl comes up with an ingenious plan that may keep what’s left of her family together and help her fellow down-and-out townsfolk in the process. Readers will adore Lizzie’s tale, which certainly lives up to her town’s name. — ANGELA LEE P ER

P.s. be eleven By Rita WilliamsGarcia

Amistad $16.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780061938627 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12

middle grade

When we last saw them, sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern were leaving Oakland after spending the summer with their mother. Now, in Rita Williams-Garcia’s P.S. Be Eleven, the sequel to the Newbery Honorwinning One Crazy Summer, we catch up with the Gaither sisters as they return to Brooklyn in 1968 and are reunited with Pa and Big Ma. It doesn’t take long for the life lessons the sisters learned from their mother and the Black Panthers to clash mightily with the views of their grandmother, who wants to avoid creating a “grand Negro spectacle.” The oldest girl, Delphine, must find a way to live as her mother would want, while still respecting Pa and Big Ma, and keeping Vonetta and Fern out of trouble. This balancing act becomes difficult very quickly. Soon after they arrive home, the sisters learn that their father is getting married. Vonetta and Fern love Miss Marva Hendricks right away, but Delphine wants to keep her distance. Adding to their struggle is Uncle Darnell, who returns home from the Vietnam War and lives with Pa, Big Ma and the girls as he fights his own internal battles. During all this, the girls stay in contact with their mother through letters—Delphine pouring out her heart, and her mother always ending her letters with a reminder to “Be Eleven.” P.S. Be Eleven is a worthy suc-


reviews cessor to the unforgettable One Crazy Summer. The writing is just as powerful, and the story includes a convincing snapshot of the era, encompassing everything from the Civil Rights movement and Richard Nixon’s presidency to the beginnings of The Jackson 5. The story allows the girls to grow—learning new things, testing their ideals and discovering their true relationships with their mother and father, grandmother and many others. WilliamsGarcia’s story offers a magnificent window into everyday life during the late 1960s and should not be missed. — KEVIN DELECKI

firecracker By David Iserson

Razorbill $17.99, 336 pages ISBN 9781595143709 eBook available Ages 12 and up

teen

Astrid Krieger has pretty much everything she needs to be happy: a rocket ship prototype on her parents’ estate to live in, good looks, money to burn and a grandfather who both loves her and can be counted on to bail her out of a jam (even the kinds of jams that require diplomatic immunity). So she’s more than a little upset when her latest shenanigan lands her in—horror of horrors—public school. Not that she had a choice in the matter; her expulsion from the Bristol Academy sealed the deal. Astrid may be a Firecracker, but she’s no match for the kids at Cadorette High. Author David Iserson’s writing background is in film and television (“SNL,” “New Girl”), and his debut novel benefits from his ability to frame a comic scene for maximum laughs. When Astrid makes two very left-of-popular friends, her observations of one’s birthday party—which includes her sort-of-boyfriend’s attempt to get the nonexistent crowd dancing to an iPod full of French horn music—are priceless: “It was a depressing party. I’m sure there have been memorial services for school buses crashing into puppy stores with more celebration.” Astrid has some lessons to learn about life, love, school dances, fake

meet  BOB SHEA

friends and the penalties for arson, but for every touching moment there are big laughs, foul language and new, strange characters to meet. If there’s a lot to keep track of, it’s all smart, fantastical fun. Firecracker will start your summer reading off with—it has to be said—a bang. —Heather Seggel

winger By Andrew Smith

Illustrated by Sam Bosma Simon & Schuster $16.99, 448 pages ISBN 9781442444928 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up

teen

A reader looking to pigeonhole Winger into a traditional genre category may be in for a surprise. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny sports story set at a boarding school, but it’s also a serious look at the many different forms of love—and a subtle metanarrative about the process of telling a story. Ryan Dean West is an anomaly at his preppy boarding school—he’s 14 and already a junior—when his involvement in a petty crime forces his transfer from the boys’ dorm to Opportunity Hall, a bare-bones, prison-like residence for troublesome students. Despite this inauspicious start, Ryan Dean is determined that this will be the year he reinvents himself. As he gears up for rugby season, dodges an intimidating new roommate, navigates girl trouble and develops a growing friendship with a gay teammate, Ryan Dean relates his story in a combination of bar graphs, line graphs, cartoon panels and imagined conversations with himself. But something sinister lurks under the hilarious antics of the rugby team, and when Ryan Dean is finally confronted with a situation he can’t laugh about, he finds that nothing in his familiar box of narrative tricks is enough to describe it. Reminiscent of Looking for Alaska, Winger packs a punch that will leave readers rethinking their assumptions about humor, friendship and the nature of storytelling—and about the broad range of emotions of which teenage boys are capable. —J i l l R a t z a n

UNICORN THINKS HE’S PRETTY GREAT Bob Shea got his start as a graphic designer at Comedy Central and went on to create characters and animation for Nick Jr. and PBS Kids. He has written and illustrated more than a dozen children’s books, including the popular Dinosaur Vs. series. His latest book, UNICORN THINKS HE’S PRETTY GREAT (Hyperion, $15.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9781423159520), features a disgruntled goat who’s annoyed with a flashy new acquaintance. Shea lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.

31


WORDNOOK

By the editors of Merriam-Webster

IT’S ALL IN THE GAME Dear Editor: Recently, at a social event, a friend of mine complained that I had left her in the lurch. After we got the situation straightened out, we wondered about the word lurch. What does it mean in the phrase in the lurch? M. Q. Rutland, Vermont The word lurch as used in the phrase in the lurch comes from a French game called lourche. The game dates to before the 17th century and was similar to modern backgammon. When a lourche player’s score fell behind that of an opponent, the losing player was said to be left in the lurch. Later, left in the lurch was used in other games to describe the state of a player far behind in the score. In games, the noun lurch now means a decisive defeat in which an opponent wins by more than double the defeated player’s score. In cribbage, it specifically applies to a win where the loser pegs less than 31 holes to an opponent’s winning 61.

The concept of losing by a wide margin and with virtually no hope of recovering lends itself readily to the familiar extended use of in the lurch to mean “in a vulnerable or unassisted position.” Lurch has also had some use as a verb meaning “to leave in the lurch,” but such usage now occurs only rarely.

COUCH POTATO Dear Editor: I attended a party recently at which canapés were served as hors d’oeuvres. I looked canapé up later in my dictionary and found that the word comes from the Latin for “mosquito net.” How did we get from mosquito nets to cheese on crackers? G. N. Del Rio, Texas A mosquito was called konops in ancient Greek, and a couch hung with curtains for protection against mosquitoes was a konopion. This word was borrowed by the Romans as conopeum and eventually made its way from Medieval Latin, where it was found in the form canopeum,

into Middle English as canope and French as canape. The English and French have always seen things differently. While the English attached the name to the covering curtain, and spelled it canopy, the French attached it to the couch it covered. Later, a piece of bread or toast topped with some savory food was thought to resemble a couch or sofa, and the French canapé gained a new meaning. As with so many words for food, English borrowed the appetizer and the name canapé from the French.

THE PROPHET’S LAMENT Dear Editor: I’ve seen the word jeremiad used more than once lately and was wondering if you might tell me where it came from and what it means. P. L. Tucson, Arizona The word jeremiad comes from the name of the Biblical prophet ­Jeremiah, a reformer and the author of the Old Testament book that bears his name. Living from about

650 B.C., he was intimately involved in the political and religious events of his time. He witnessed the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and the exile of many Judeans to Babylonia. From the beginning of his prophetic career, Jeremiah’s messages were condemnations of his people for their false worship and social injustice. He continually called upon people to quit their evil ways, to give up their idols and false gods, and to honor their covenant with Yahweh. The prophet also rebuked his ruler and fellow countrymen for not submitting to the yoke of the Babylonians. From the name of this prophet we get the word jeremiad, which means “a prolonged lamentation or complaint” and “a cautionary or angry harangue.” The English word comes directly from the synonymous French noun jeremiade.

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BookPage June 2013