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Message in a Lunchbox In Ruth Ozeki’s powerful novel, the ocean delivers an intriguing gift
THE SECRETS OF HAPPY FAMILIES Must-read advice for enriching your home life
Jodi Picoult’s gripping portrait of evil and forgiveness
new mysteries take readers around the world
paperback picks p p PENGUIN.COM
The Conquest of Lady Cassandra
The Heart of a Hero
War clouds are looming, and a ruthless espionage agent has spotted an opportunity to give the German Empire an edge in the coming conflict. It’s up to Isaac Bell to figure out who he is, what he’s up to, and stop him. But Bell may already be too late.
Ever since Rebecca James lost her partner in a fatal accident, patches of her memory have been missing. And until she can recall those final, tragic moments, she can’t move on. But remembering the past might mean a future without the man she loves.
9780425259290 • $9.99
9780425263334 • $7.99
Lady Cassandra Vernham defied convention when she refused to marry the man who had compromised her. As the seductive Viscount Ambury and the scandalous beauty are drawn together, the passion that flares between them will illuminate shocking secrets that will change both their lives forever.
The last thing Julia needs is a man with a hero complex, especially one as handsome and imposing as Nicholas. Strange things have been happening to Julia—and it’s Nicholas who keeps coming to her rescue. When Nicholas is suddenly the one in trouble, Julia realizes she’ll do anything to help the man who’s stolen her heart.
9780515151114 • $7.99
9780515153200 • $7.99
The Mistress Memoirs
The Last Grave
Quincy’s beloved sister-in-law Loni is gravely ill and only Quincy can save her—by marrying Ceara. How can he pass up any attempt to restore Loni to health? He could be making the worst mistake of his life—or starting a miraculous journey toward enough love to last forever.
Mels Carmichael gets the shock of her life when a man stumbles in front of her car outside the local cemetery. After the accident she soon discovers they’re in over their heads with his past—and passion. With a soul on the line, and Mels’s heart at risk, what in Heaven—or in Hell—will it take to save them both?
Caught in a deadly game between Colin and his former lover, Kate struggles to resist his virile charm. She knows he is a born heartbreaker and unreliable rogue. Should she believe him when he whispers that, for her, he will change his sinful ways?
Samantha’s latest case is the murder of a local historian named Winona Lightfoot. Strange clues take Samantha to the Santa Cruz Mountains, a place teeming with witches and black magic. That’s when Samantha has a premonition: Something is coming. Something evil.
9780451239488 • $7.99
9780451414793 • $7.99
9780451415325 • $7.99
9780451239570 • $7.99
“The launch of a brilliant new mystery series.” —Gillian Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Gone Girl
1845: New York City forms its first police force. The Great Potato Famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever. “New York has inspired lots of terrific thrillers, but I’ve just stumbled on one of the worthiest successors [to Caleb Carr’s The Alienist] yet.” —NPR’s Fresh Air
A Penguin Group (USA) Company
9780425261255 • $16
MarCH 2013 w w w. b o o k Pa g e . c o m
EDWarD KElsEy MoorE A debut novelist captures the voices of three longtime friends
In her new novel, A Tale for the Time Being, the critically acclaimed author has her own part to play.
CHrisTa ParraVani A twin copes with the loss of her sister
WoMEn’s HisTory MonTH Great women who blazed new trails
EasTEr rEaDinG True tales of second chances
bruCE fEilEr sPoTliGHT: insPiraTional fiCTion Stories of the heart’s hope for redemption
rainboW roWEll The joys and tragedies of young love
28 WoMEn’s HisTory for CHilDrEn Heroines to inspire the next generation
reviews 18 fiCTion
Benediction by Kent Haruf
Meet the author of The Secrets of Happy Families
Cover illustration © iStock.com/il67
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates Mary Coin by Marisa Silver Middle C by William H. Gass Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid Fever by Mary Beth Keane The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood
Meet the author-illustrator of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
columns 04 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 10
lifEsTylEs THE auTHor EnablEr booK forTunEs roManCE WHoDuniT CooKinG booK Clubs auDio WEll rEaD
With or Without You by Domenica Ruta ALSO REVIEWED: Between Man and Beast by Monte Reel Shouting Won’t Help by Katherine Bouton The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg Born on a Mountaintop by Bob Thompson Gun Guys by Dan Baum Coolidge by Amity Shlaes Hope Against Hope by Sarah Carr Out of Order by Sandra Day O’Connor Sticks and Stones by Emily Bazelon
Michael A. Zibart
Lynn L. Green
ASSOCIATE EDITOR Kate Pritchard
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Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner ALSO REVIEWED: The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland The Center of Everything by Linda Urban Hold Fast by Blue Balliett The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door by Karen Finneyfrock How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
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THE author enabler
by joanna brichetto
by Sam Barry
REVIVING YOUR CLOSETS “After a certain age women and their clothes just don’t get along anymore,” begins The Wardrobe Wakeup: Your Guide to Looking Fabulous at Any Age (Running Press, $23, 288 pages, ISBN 9780762445844). Many of us over the age of 40 find that our lives and bodies evolve quicker than the contents of our closets, but we don’t quite know what to do about it. This guide, by fashion editor and beauty expert Lois Joy Johnson, shares “hundreds of body-enhancing,
closet-reviving, and money-saving tricks” aimed at changing the way we think about what we wear. Readers can approach it in three basic ways: to reinvigorate what’s already in the closet; to “look contemporary but not silly” and “dress for comfort without giving up fashion”; and to start over after a big life change (new job, divorce, weight change, etc.). Johnson is helped by supermodel Cheryl Tiegs (who wrote the foreword) and 18 “extraordinary women” in the arts, fashion and beauty industries, each of whom appears in outfits from her own closet to illustrate a particular principle or suggestion. For those of us on tight budgets, the style-for-less shopping guide (from Ann Taylor to Walmart) is especially helpful.
WEDDING DAY DIY
Vintage Wedding Style: More Than 25 Simple Projects and Endless Inspiration for Designing Your Big Day (Chronicle, $30, 208 pages, ISBN 9781452102092) is for couples with an eye for “something old” and a vision of an unforgettably unique celebration. Author and wedding stylist Elizabeth Demos shows how easy and fun it can be to layer old and new by bringing antique and vintage pieces to any (or every) aspect of a wedding. She explores 12 broad themes—from a fabulous Gatsby revival to “Flea Market Charm”—shared from 12 actual weddings. Within each are DIY how-tos and scrumptious photos of projects with details large and
small. Basically, almost anything goes, especially when used with suggested “editing skills,” and with tips that help couples “navigate common problems such as out-of-the-way locations, weather concerns, and budget.” Hundreds of “styling ideas” and photos vastly outnumber the designated DIY projects, and altogether they make up a real wish-book of wedding inspiration. Readers should expect sudden urges to visit thrift stores, yard sales and antique malls. The 25 projects are rated by difficulty and timing (as in, “when to start”), and include sweet touches like vintage map votive candles, muslin favor bags, faux forced flowering branches, jute-wrapped jars, giant letters (you’ll see . . .) and wood-block flower centerpieces.
TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES The Beautiful Edible Garden by Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner combines aesthetic sensibility and literally down-to-earth pragmatism with insight and ingenuity. Who knew that a plot full of weeds and scrubby trees could so readily be transformed into a garden of earthly delights just a few steps away from the kitchen, and just a few more easy and thoughtful steps away from an arrangement for the dining room? Whether your yard is big or small, out back or in front, or limited to a few containers on a balcony, you can “pursue food production and beauty together” and “form meaningful spaces that have the power to both ground and uplift.” And here’s the kicker: With a bit of planning, all this useful beauty can flow from season to season the whole year ’round.
THE BEAUTIFUL EDIBLE GARDEN By Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner Ten Speed $19.99, 220 pages ISBN 9781607742333 eBook available
Practical advice on writing & publishing for aspiring authors
COMING UP SHORT Dear Author Enabler, Within the last three months, I’ve written about 40 short stories (flash fiction—less than 1,000 words). Twenty have been published so far in online literary “zines.” My question is, what now? I know a collection would be a hard sell since I haven’t written a best-selling novel. What about an anthology or an agent? Marian Brooks King of Prussia, Pennsylvania A collection of short stories is harder to sell than a novel, but then, it isn’t easy to sell any first fiction because editors are unwilling to take risks on unknown authors. There is, however, a path to getting published. Submit your best individual stories to established magazines and literary journals. Your credibility is enhanced if your work is already published. Also, submit to short story competitions—awards can build both your confidence and your reputation. Next, submit to one of the smaller publishing houses, which are often more open to printing lesser-known authors. Attend writer conferences and workshops, meet some insiders and work at finding an agent who believes in your work.
GOING IT ALONE Dear Author Enabler, I have a good story (according to a local published author) based on real individuals, but after two years have hit a wall on finding enough historical details to complete the story (circa 1906-1915). I could create a storyline of what might have occurred, but I’m sure the real story is more interesting. How would I find a “history detective” with a track record in historical nonfiction to collaborate with? Ann Tallmadge, Ohio Many writers feel daunted by the research involved in a project, and sometimes collaboration is the answer. But in this case, and in most cases, I think it makes more sense to dig in and do the research yourself, or take advantage of a novelist’s power and make up your own reality. It may seem both correct and easier to engage another person in your project, but if you do, how are
you going to pay them? Who will be the author of the book? And why are you shying away from the role you volunteered for: author? There is no absolute right or wrong answer here, but my gut tells me that you should dive in and finish this project on your own. Most of the best books are written by one person. Embrace your passion and see where it goes.
CONTENT WARNING Dear Author Enabler, I recently read Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay. The plot involved a mentally ill man who witnesses a murder while browsing the web. I would love to know the outcome of the story but cannot because it is so filled with smut as to be unreadable. My question is, why? A capable author should be able to make his characters come alive without filthy language. If this is something that will not be changed, is it possible to rate books in the same way we do movies, to better enable readers to make more informed choices? Gail Lipsett Newton, New Hampshire We live in a country that allows free speech to a degree unparalleled elsewhere in the world. While this right is central to the strength of our great nation, it also means that readers may encounter writing they find offensive. My advice is, don’t buy anything else written by this author and don’t recommend his writing. However, you must accept that many readers will disagree with you. Certainly that is the case with Linwood Barclay, who is a very popular and respected writer. As far as ratings go, I believe that there are many readily available ways to determine if a book will be offensive to your sensibilities. My favorite is to stand in a bookstore or library and read a few pages; I can usually tell if a book will work for me. Also, I like to check with readers whose opinions I value, as well as booksellers and librarians. And of course you can always read reviews from trusted sources such as BookPage. Send your questions about writing and publishing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book FortuneS by eliza borné
Our crystal ball predicts your next great read Reader name: Colleen Hometown: Plano, TX Favorite genre: Literary fiction Favorite books: The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey), The Language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh), Tell the Wolves I’m Home (Carol Rifka Brunt). Colleen wrote in with a sentiment that many readers will recognize: “I’m always at a loss when I finish a wonderful book,” she told me. “It typically takes me months to come upon another of that caliber.” It does sometimes feel like we’ll never find a book as good as the last one we finished, doesn’t it? Fortunately, there are many books out there that satisfy Colleen’s criteria for great literary fiction: “The language and writing are so important . . . there needs to be a rich depth to it to hold my attention.” But then, she writes, “What a delight to be immersed in the world the author is creating.” One novel that I think will especially appeal to a fan of The Snow Child—a magical story with a breathtaking Alaska setting—is Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, described in BookPage as an “exhilarating, remarkably inventive amalgam of the real and the fantastic.” Russell’s Florida Everglades are just as vivid as Ivey’s Last Frontier, and I know Colleen will enjoy fully immersing herself in this swampy world. When it was published in the summer of 2012, Tell the Wolves I’m Home received glowing praise in our pages. Reviewer Stephenie Harrison wrote: “Exploring the very bones of life—love, loss and family—this compassionate and vital novel will rivet readers until the very end, when all but the stoniest will be moved to tears.” Likewise, readers will enjoy falling under the spell of another debut author, Karen Thompson Walker, and her young
narrator in The Age of Miracles. This lyrical and poignant coming-of-age story hinges on an event that sounds like something out of science fiction, though Walker makes it seem perfectly plausible—the slowing of the earth’s daily rotation. Finally, one of my favorite books of recent months—one that will surely appeal to a fan of The Language of Flowers—is Y by Marjorie Celona, a debut novel about a baby abandoned at a YMCA. Celona alternates between the story of the child and of her birth mother. Told with vivid and poetic descriptions, Y is an exploration of the concepts of family and home.
New York Times bestselling author
returns to Blackberry Island with the story of three very different women whose friendship will change the course of their lives.
Reader name: Pam Hometown: Birmingham, AL Favorite genres: Mysteries and thrillers Favorite books: Gone Girl and Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn), A Killing in the Hills (Julia Keller), Defending Jacob (William Landay), The Lifeboat (Charlotte Rogan). I suspect that Pam is not alone in wanting books that can live up to Gillian Flynn’s dark and twisted stories! After all, Gone Girl was far and away the #1 book of 2012, according to BookPage readers. One staff favorite is Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross, in which a husband who fantasizes about his wife’s death sees his guilty nightmare come true. Like Gone Girl, this novel has an unusual structure and many gasp-worthy moments that will keep you turning pages as fast as you possibly can. The Good Father by Noah Hawley is a natural pick for readers who enjoyed Defending Jacob. In both novels, the narrator is a father who is unable to believe that his son committed murder—though in this case, the son is an adult, and the victim is a prominent presidential candidate. This is a harrowing and heartbreaking story. Finally, I relish a good courtroom scene—and it’s even better if you’re not quite sure which outcome to root for. Like The Lifeboat, Midwives by Chris Bohjalian is filled with questions surrounding the cost of human life, and it is sure to incite passionate discussion in a reading group. For a chance at your own book fortune, email email@example.com with your name, hometown and your favorite genre(s), author(s) and book(s).
Discover Book Club ideas for the Blackberry Island series at www.BlackberryIsland.com.
“A well-written story of healing, letting go and making room in your heart for hope.” —USA TODAY on Barefoot Season
Available now! 5
THE ARGENEAUS ARE BACK…
romance b y c h r i s t i e r i d g way
N E W YO R K T I M E S A N D U S A TO DAY B E S T S E L L I N G AU T H O R
LYNSAY SANDS A kiss doesn’t mean eternity… or does it?
This vampire is ready to claim his mate… but the green-eyed beauty is resisting her fate…
Undercover loveRS Reunited lovers face danger and desire in Catherine Mann’s riveting Free Fall (Sourcebooks, $6.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9781402274961). When undercover Interpol agent Stella Carson is kidnapped while posing as one of a group of students visiting East Africa, Jose “Cuervo” James, an Air Force pararescueman (think Navy SEAL with additional medic skills), is sent in as part of the liberation team. But the attempt goes awry and the pair must hide out while awaiting a second try at extraction. Feelings flare between Jose and Stella, but the passionate fire can’t eliminate what stands between them: Jose’s certainty that his own childhood makes him a bad bet as a family man. Other ominous plot
threads come together to uncover old secrets and reveal a betrayal that Jose and Stella might not survive. An expert blend of raw emotion and suspenseful thrills.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
“A wickedly delicious romp—inventive, sexy, and fun!” —ANGELA KNIGHT
“Clever, steamy…a deliciously wicked sense of humor thatreaders will gobble up.” —KATIE MACALISTER
“Take a bite into fresh, fun vampire comedy—read Lynsay Sands.” —CARLY PHILLIPS
W W W. LY N S A Y S A N D S . N E T
Win free prizes, get exclusive content, Visit us on Facebook and Twitter Also available as eBooks. and more — scan with a QR App now! Check out AvonImpulse.com for exciting digital-first publications. Or text AVON to READIT (732348)
Adventure, sizzling sex and scary creatures abound in Cynthia Garner’s return to her paranormal milieu, Heart of the Demon (Forever, $7.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780446585132). Half-chameleon demon enforcer Finn Evnissyen makes a literal bargain with the devil: He will gain independence from his devilish employer if he infiltrates a rogue group of preternaturals (vampires, werewolves, shifters, demons and fey) determined to take over the human world. Unbeknownst to him, fey Keira O’Brien has been blackmailed into doing much the same thing. Finn and Keira were lovers in the past and the attraction still runs strong, but now they’re each dismayed to find that the other is loyal—or so they think— to this dangerous organization. Still, their close proximity results in new romantic sparks, and they become enthusiastic, if distrustful, lovers. When the truth of their involvement
with the bad guys comes to light, they have still more peril in the way of a happy ending. Will they manage to stop the rogues or will they lose their lives? Fast-paced action and imaginative world-building will entertain enthusiasts of supernatural romance.
TOP PICK IN ROMANCE Julia London delivers a charming fish-out-of-water story in The Last Debutante, set in 1811. When Daria Babcock travels to Scotland from West Sussex, England, on a visit to her grandmother, the last thing she expects is to be kidnapped by the powerful laird of a Highland clan. But Jamie Campbell is sure he has good reason; he believes Daria’s grandmother stole a thousand pounds from his uncle, and he will take the girl as ransom until the money is repaid. Daria’s confinement in Jamie’s medieval-looking castle is not as harrowing as she feared. Not only does she find the countryside beautiful, but she begins to chip away at the Campbell family’s suspicion toward her. Jamie himself is fascinated by Daria’s grace and good humor under the circumstances, and soon they are falling for each other. But the laird isn’t free to marry whomever he wishes, and he’s torn between his heart and his duty toward the clan. Jamie is still wrestling with his choice when Daria’s friends and family arrive to secure her release—and a devastating scandal is revealed, further making romance between the pair impossible. This is a tender story peopled with memorable secondary characters and two culture-crossed lovers worth rooting for.
The Last Debutante By Julia London
Pocket $7.99, 368 pages ISBN 9781439175484 Audio, eBook available
Whodunit by Bruce Tierney
A new voice in Swedish suspense
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
well-oiled investigative unit. Note: There is a case to be made for reading the Erik Winter novels in order, as once you read one, you’ll be back for the others, guaranteed. But don’t let that stop you from starting with this one!
REVENGE BY ANY MEANS Fifty pages into Erin Kelly’s superlative tale of revenge upon revenge, I found myself thinking: “Wow, folks who devour Sophie Hannah’s books are going to be over the moon about this one!” It’s not that the writing styles are derivative of one another, but rather both authors draw from a long tradition of English parlo(u)r mysteries that date back at least to Daphne du Maurier. Spanning three generations, The Burning Air (Pamela Dorman, $26.95, 336 pages, ISBN 9780670026722) tells the story of an obsessive mother who wants only the best for her child, and the retribution she is willing to exact when her efforts are stymied. I read enough mysteries that I quite often see the twist coming, sometimes many pages before the setup for the Big Reveal. This time, I was totally blindsided, to my dismay and—it must be said—to my delight. Even the good guys (and gals) in this story hide hampers full of dirty laundry, and in the end, some of those secrets will accompany their bearers to the grave. Taut, suspenseful and wickedly engaging, The Burning
Air is one of the best mysteries to come out of England in recent memory.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY Leighton Gage’s series featuring Brazilian Federal Police Inspector Mario Silva is a perennial personal favorite. Well-written police procedurals set in an exotic location . . . what’s not to like? Think of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct transplanted to Brasília, and you wouldn’t be far off, although Gage’s stories exhibit a somewhat more serious bent. His latest, Perfect Hatred, finds Silva looking into a particularly nasty suicide bombing, in which a live infant was used to hide the shrapnel bomb in a baby carriage. He won’t be looking into it for long, though, because on the heels of one disaster inevitably comes another: this time, the assassination of a wildly popular, albeit polarizing, politician in front of an audience of several hundred thousand admirers. There is no question regarding the identity of the shooter, who is killed immediately after firing the fatal shot. Video of the scene adds a troubling detail, however. Another gun was drawn, seemingly in anticipation of the event, begging the question of whether a conspiracy was in play. When the second gunman turns up murdered in a nearby hospital, it becomes painfully evident that the “straightforward” assassination investigation is about to become considerably less straightforward. Perfect Hatred is hands down the first “do not miss” mystery of 2013!
“For an enjoyable cozy mystery and lots of new recipes, readers need look no further.” —Mystery News
lvet Cup Ve c e ak
If you need additional persuasion to read mysteries from the Land of the Midnight Sun, look no further than suspense veteran Åke Edwardson, whose Room No. 10 (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 464 pages, ISBN 9781451608526) is his seventh critically acclaimed police procedural featuring Chief Inspector Erik Winter. This time out, Winter investigates the suspicious death of a young woman found hanged in a tatty hotel room. The whole scene is more than a bit weird: The girl’s hand and forearm are covered in white enamel paint; the note she left behind is somewhat cryptic; and the chair from which she supposedly jumped to her death bears no indication of having been stood upon. A troubling set of circumstances, to be sure. The case resonates for
Winter for another reason, however. Early in his career, he investigated a missing-persons case in the same hotel—a case that was never solved. On a whim he decides to see what room was involved. Naturally, it was Room No. 10. Coincidence, or a bizarre connection that spans decades? As always, Edwardson spins a wonderfully convoluted tale populated with a cast that has grown together over the years into a
Fans of international mysteries, queue up! Two new Swedish suspense thrillers lead off this month’s selections, followed by an eerie English tale of revenge and a taut police procedural set in Brazil. First up, a debut novel—Alexander Söderberg’s The Andalucian Friend (Crown, $26, 464 pages, ISBN 9780770436056), a tale of cutthroat mob bosses and the extraordinary lengths to which they will go to oneup one another. Unwittingly (and unwillingly) at the center of the action is Sophie, a nurse and single mom whose charitable instincts toward her patient—the leader of a crime ring—could wind up costing her the thing she values most in life: her teenage son. Told largely in flashback, the story takes place to a great degree in Sweden, but the electrifying final chapters are set in Spain’s Costa del Sol, culminating in a car/motorcycle gunfight that just begs for a film adaptation. Söderberg writes exceptionally welldrawn and sympathetic characters, demonstrates an easy familiarity with diverse European locales, and has the chops to move a story along with the best of them. All in all, The Andalucian Friend is yet one more compelling reason to read Scandinavian suspense novels, some of the finest in the genre today.
By Leighton Gage
Soho Crime $25, 320 pages ISBN 9781616951764 eBook available
COME MEET & GET A TREAT FROM JOANNE! Visit kensingtonbooks.com/ joannefluke for tour details.
On Sale 2.26.13
Grow What You Eat Cook What You Grow “From soil to sandwich, a true pleasure to read.” —Dan Barber, chef, Blue Hill restaurant and Blue Hill at Stone Barns
cooking b y s y b i l P RATT
THE DELICIOUS LIFE OF PIE Pies: Sweet and Savory (DK, $25, 352 pages, ISBN 9781465402035) —that’s as straightforward as a title can be, and author Caroline Bretherton, pie practitioner par excellence, offers equally straightforward instructions for a fabulous, international array of more than 230 pies and tarts. An illustrated recipe planner organizes the recipes by pie type—top-crust, double-crust, cobblers and crumbles (yes, there are super savory varieties like Beef and Red Wine Cobbler and Fish Crumble made with salmon and shrimp), individual pies and tarts, en croûtes and layered pies, quiches and more. And the recipes within each chapter are arranged by key ingredient. If
rean kolbi, Masala Fish Burgers, Maine Lobster Rolls, Mexican Rajas con Queso, Saigon Shrimp Ceviche, Shashlik with Tzatziki or a creamy, vitamin-packed Strawberry Coconut Smoothie, join the street food revolution by sampling some of the more than 125 recipes included here in the privacy of your own kitchen. That way you can slurp up a Nashville-invented Hot Southern Mess or a fusion-inspired Kimchee Quesadilla with impunity and utter delight.
TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS
IT’S TWO BOOKS IN ONE as America’s foremost authorities on organic gardening show how to grow what you eat, and cook what you grow. Includes 120 extraordinary recipes for enjoying the vegetables and fruits of your labor, plus a complete gardening guide to raising everything from the best tomatoes to Tuscan kale to berries for a pie. Full-color photographs & illustrations throughout
workman.com • fourseasonfarm.com
WORKMAN is a registered trademark of Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
you’re a little leery about making pie dough, head for “In Praise of Pie Dough” first, where you’ll be treated to detailed, step-by-step directions for every kind of dough, including quick puff pastry, cookie crust and crumble topping, and shown how to bake blind, line a tart pan and make great decorative edges and tops. From Almond and Peach Tart and Apple and Camembert Tartlets to Venison Wellingtons and Zucchini and Feta Pie, there’s a baked delight for every occasion—and that’s not pie in the sky!
MEALS ON WHEELS Food trucks are “in” and fast becoming indispensable. The ubiquitous hot dog and pretzel vendors of the recent past have morphed into an American street food phenomenon that rivals the exotic sidewalk fare found in the farflung corners of the globe. If you’re already an aficionado of this new movable feast, James Cunningham’s Eat St.: Recipes from the Tastiest, Messiest, and Most Irresistible Food Trucks (Pintail, $20, 304 pages, ISBN 9780143187486), a tie-in to the Cooking Channel’s popular show “Eat St.,” is a great way to spend more time in this trendy urban foodscape. If you’re not surrounded by vividly painted trucks serving up Ko-
Charleston is a top dining destination, but to the Lee brothers, devotees and chroniclers of Charleston’s cuisine, it’s a “food town, pure and simple,” not a “foodie” town. And in their latest culinary collaboration, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, they make that distinction clear. Charleston’s food culture has flourished and evolved for more than two centuries. Good food, even great food, isn’t “trendy” here, it’s an integral and celebrated part of Lowcountry life. The brothers L revel in their town’s food history and its vibrant contemporary food scene, and they celebrate it with a collection of 100 eminently doable recipes, inspired by local fishermen and farmers, by famed Charleston institutions past and present (check out the Cheese Spread from the hallowed Henry’s) and by dishes discovered in old cookbooks and memoirs. Fabulous photos, fascinating intros and header notes, and shared slices of history put Charleston’s culinary charms—from drinks to desserts—in loving context and make the Lee brothers’ homage the next best thing to being there.
THE LEE BROS. CHARLESTON KITCHEN By Matt Lee and Ted Lee
Clarkson Potter $35, 240 pages ISBN 9780307889737 eBook available
book clubs by julie hale
New paperback releases for reading groups
ALBRIGHT’S JOURNEY In her fascinating memoir, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 19371948 (Harper Perennial, 480 pages, $15.99, ISBN 9780062030344), Madeleine Albright looks back at her childhood, the discovery of her Jewish ancestry and a Europe torn by conflict. Albright was born in Prague in 1937. Her father, Joseph Korbel, was a diplomat who managed to move the family to England before the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia. It was only after she was tapped by Bill Clinton to become America’s first female secretary of state in 1997 that Albright learned a deeply
hidden family secret: Though she was raised as a Roman Catholic, her family was Jewish and more than 20 of her relatives, including three of her grandparents, died in the Holocaust. That revelation, she writes, “provided the impetus for this book,” which combines her family’s story of life in exile with the events that shook her home country during and after World War II. Filled with intriguing insights into a crucial era that shaped her life, Albright’s memoir is historical yet intimate.
A REFUGEE’S STRUGGLE The Book of Jonas (Plume, $16, 272 pages, ISBN 9780452298972), Stephen Dau’s impressive debut novel, tells the touching story of a young Muslim boy who tries to adjust to life in the United States. Adopted by an American couple after his family is killed in the Middle East, 15-year-old Jonas is faced with big changes, from high school to a budding romance. Meanwhile, memories of the past haunt him, including the disappearance of Christopher Henderson, the American soldier who saved his life back home. When Jonas is introduced to Rose, Christopher’s mother, he meets a grieving parent who’s
determined to speak out on behalf of families with children in the military. But their encounter brings a terrible truth to light, teaching Jonas important lessons about life during wartime. Dau writes in an unembellished style that suits the starkness of his subject matter, yet there’s a warmth to his portrayal of Jonas and a deep emotional quality to the novel overall. Dau’s sense of craftsmanship is clear throughout. This is a remarkably mature first novel from a promising writer.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS Funny, compassionate and deeply perceptive regarding matters of the human heart, Nell Freudenberger’s latest novel, The Newlyweds (Vintage, $15.95, 352 pages, ISBN 9780307388971), is a delight from start to finish. Amina Mazid, a 24-year-old woman from Bangla desh, relocates to Rochester, New York, to marry George, a man she met on an online dating site. The opportunity to embark on a new life in America is alluring to Amina, whose parents also stand to benefit from her marriage. George loves the fact that Amina is clear-headed and straightforward—someone who knows what she wants and doesn’t waste time. But, despite their fortuitous meeting, both George and Amina have ties to the past that prevent them from moving forward. When Amina goes back to Bangladesh, her return puts their relationship to the test. Freudenberger has created complex, believable characters whose inner lives ring true. This timely novel is a poignant exploration of the clash of different cultures and the nature of contemporary romance.
The Newlyweds By Nell Freudenberger
Vintage $15.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780307388971
Fresh Reads for Spring An unforgettable story about the enduring power of love and family
“The Secret of the Nightingale Palace delightfully expands the route of the American roadtrip novel. Old-fashioned in the best of ways.” — Michael Lowenthal, author of The Paternity Test and Charity Girl Reading group favorite Susan McBride’s most unforgettable novel to date “Seamlessly toggling between decades, McBride delivers a poignant pageturner with flawed but lovable characters.” —Publishers Weekly
New from Jamie M. Saul, author of the critically acclaimed Light of Day “A beautifully rendered, psychologically astute novel about the risks—and joys—of love and loving.” —Shelf Awareness
From the internationally bestselling author of The Bronze Horseman Before everything, there was Gina from Belpasso who came to Boston’s Freedom Docks to find a new and better life and met Harry Barrington who was searching for his.
PERFECT FOR READING GROUPS @WilliamMorrowPB
William Morrow Paperbacks
Book Club Girl
by sukey howard
by robert Weibezahl
into the TUNNEL OF LOVE The Last Girlfriend on Earth (Hachette Audio, $24.98, 3.5 hours, ISBN 9781619693135), Simon Rich’s latest collection of short stories about love, sex, commitment and control, is wonderfully funny, insistently clever and light and heavy at the same time. The lightness comes when you grin and laugh as Rich sets up wickedly witty situations— Mother Theresa, Hitler, Zeus and Santa Claus make cameos; an unused condom tells his life story; and God doesn’t finish creating the earth because his girlfriend demands more attention. However, underneath it all, Rich is talking about the perils of passion, the slings and arrows of love and courtship (though that seems an old-fashioned term for what goes on here), and the messier side of messing around.
These are very short short stories, some seemingly just dashed off. But short can be far more difficult than long, and Rich knows how to dissect the bumpy, obstacle-ridden course of love with quick, sure, acerbic strokes. As he reads his stories in his distinctive, youthful voice, you can’t help but hope that his understanding of boy meets girl, gets girl, loses girl comes more from observation than personal experience.
You’d think that with the third season of “Downton Abbey” rolling along, another “Upstairs, Downstairs”-esque saga would be overkill. Yet listening to Habits of the House (Macmillan Audio, $34.99, 9 hours, ISBN 9781427228918), the first installment of Fay Weldon’s new Edwardian-era trilogy, is more like allowing yourself to polish off a pint of Häagen Dazs Belgian chocolate, an indulgence and slightly guilty pleasure—but this one without the calories. So, settle in for a good, entertaining comedy of manners as Katherine Kellgren reads with all the appropriate accents. On the morning of October 24, 1899, the Earl of Dilberne, a gambling buddy of the
Prince of Wales, and his beautiful, socially prominent wife, still in London though the season has ended, discover they’re on the brink of financial ruin. The easiest way out is to find a wealthy wife for their dilettante son, their suffragette daughter not being marriage material. Enter Minnie O’Brien, a Chicago meatpacking heiress, and her gauche but likable mother, located by a coalition of willing downstairs servants. What ensues has charm, humor and interesting historical detail. There’ll be another helping served up soon.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO Alice Munro, now 81 and surely one of the most revered short story writers living, says that Dear Life, her new collection, will be her last. Let’s hope not. How Munro does what she so eloquently and elegantly does is elusive. You get so caught up in her narratives that you have to go back again and again (and that’s a pleasure) to try and figure out how she can capture so much in each story, how the contours of an entire life can be conjured up, how the flick of a sentence can imply possibility or tragedy, how she moves seamlessly back and forth in time. Most of the stories here (and in much of her writing) are set in small, rural Canadian towns not unlike the one Munro grew up in. And the last four pieces are autobiographical, perhaps the closest thing to memoir she’ll allow. They show us Munro as a child and young woman and let us see how her own memories and distance from events shape her telling of them. Two accomplished narrators, Kimberly Farr and Arthur Morey, make this audio version a gem.
DEAR LIFE By Alice Munro Random House Audio $40, 10 hours ISBN 9780307939364
Two writers strike up an epistolary friendship Most collections of literary letters are published posthumously and, more often than not, include just the one-sided narrative of a single writer. So, Here and Now: Letters, 2008-2011 is doubly notable: a three-year correspondence between two living writers—Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee and acclaimed American novelist Paul Auster. Soon after the two men met in 2008, Coetzee proposed that they become literary “pen pals,” communicating by the decidedly old-fashioned Eavesdrop means of on a dazzling writing letters. conversation This engaging collection is the between result. “I have been two of thinking about today’s most friendships,” celebrated Coetzee aptly begins the first literary letter, and it is minds: J.M. indeed a kind Coetzee and of friendship develPaul Auster. that ops over the course of the correspondence. Essentially of the same generation (Coetzee is seven years older), the South African and the American share much common ground despite their cultural disparity. Hence, there is opinionated discussion, if little disagreement, when the men touch on political issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or America’s global profile during the Bush years. These topics, though, provide the jumping-off points for philosophical musings on a host of other concerns, both literary and everyday—very often sports and movies. The dialogue is wide-reaching— from a consideration of the writings of Jacques Derrida and whether a writer’s mother tongue shapes his work, to the pleasures of watching Roger Federer play tennis in his prime, to the future of the printed book. There is talk of Samuel Beckett (a writer both men count as a major influence) and Kafka, of whether there are any contemporary poets producing important work (Auster says yes, Coetzee is not so sure), and a bit of dishing about such high-profile writers as Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen. World
Cup soccer, the charms of manual typewriters and the films of William Wyler are given equal space alongside more weighty concerns. All of which comes together to convey a very appealing, human portrait of these two writers. The letters of Coetzee, a famously private man, tend to be a little “deeper” in content, while Auster’s are more anecdotal and marked by a familiarity that perhaps reflects a particularly American kind of openness. From Auster we get far more personal details, for instance, including glimpses into his life with his wife, the writer Siri Hustvedt, and her family. He recounts stories of interesting characters and situations he encounters in his day-to-day life in New York City. Coetzee, on the other hand, barely mentions his own wife, and unlike Auster, rarely looks back to the details of his childhood (and disappointingly, says little about his South African homeland or even his adopted country of Australia). Still, despite Coetzee’s opaqueness, we come to know him a little better by book’s end, thanks in no small part to Auster’s ability to draw him out on the page. Some familiarity with the writers’ work might enrich the experience of reading these letters, but it is not a requirement for enjoying the congenial back-and-forth. Reading Here and Now is akin to eavesdropping on a dazzling, extended dinner conversation between two intelligent and substantive minds (think a more literary, paper-and-ink My Dinner with André). If it inspires you to pick up the novels of Coetzee and Auster, all the better.
here and now By Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee Viking $27.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780670026661 eBook available
EDWARD KELSEY Moore by linda m. castellitTo
First-time author CELEBRATES a 40-YEAR BOND
ntering midlife is often associated with trying something new, from skydiving to a new hair color to the ever-popular sports car. For debut novelist Edward Kelsey Moore—already an accomplished professional cellist and college professor—writing was that something new.
“I didn’t complete my first short story until after I turned 40,” Moore (who is now 52) tells BookPage from his home in Chicago, where he lives with his longtime partner. “It was one of those midlife things. I thought, I’m not going to be happy until I write. I wanted to all along, but had another creative outlet I really loved and focused on. Finally, I just said . . . I’ll enter the local NPR station’s yearly short-story contest, write one story, and that will fix the urge.” But despite years of experience on stage and in a classroom, Moore wasn’t quite ready to put his writing out in front of people, and he let the deadline pass. Then came a twist of (or gentle nudge from) fate: He was hired by the NPR station, WBEZ, to play in a string quartet during the awards event for the very same short-story competition. “I was sitting there playing Mozart and being reminded that I chickened out,” Moore recalls. Sufficiently chastened, he entered the contest the following year—and won. “That was the start of it all,” he says. Several more published short stories followed, and then, a novel: The Supremes at Earl’s All-YouCan-Eat, published this month by Knopf. Moore says working with Knopf has been “a lovely surprise . . . and I have a lovely agent! What a wonderful position to be in.” It’s a vantage point that’s enhanced by the passage of time: “When I was 25 or 30, I couldn’t have enjoyed this the way I am now. I would’ve been so self-conscious. But you get to a certain point where you can say, this is just good—you don’t have to qualify it or put any weirdness into it.” That’s true of his cello playing, too, Moore says. “I was probably a better technician 25 years ago, but I didn’t allow myself to relax or take any sort of risks. . . . Now I have a lot more freedom emotionally, and knowledge the world won’t end if I make mistakes. Certainly if I’d set out to be a writer first, it would’ve brought the same anxiety. I took a long, long road to adulthood.” The author’s current, more
expansive approach to life inhabits every person and encounter—some quotidian, some dramatic, some madcap—in The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, set in fictional Plainview, Indiana, from the 1960s to the 2000s. Via the 40-year friendship of Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean (nicknamed “the Supremes” in their teens), Moore makes a convincing case for being open enough to take emotional risks, whether befriending people who see the world differently, speaking your mind even if it’s scary or daring to fall in love. He also does an excellent job giving voice to a sizable array of characters, most of whom “I wanted to are women. write about Moore says he didn’t set out women who to write in the were like the female voice women I knew, and didn’t even realize it who were might be seen smart and as unusual. “It interesting and wasn’t until Knopf bought not foolish.” the novel that anyone mentioned it. I simply never thought about it,” he says. “Maybe if I weren’t a black man or a gay man I wouldn’t feel this way, but I spent a fair amount of my youth trying to get away from the notion that anybody should look at the world a certain way. I think once you let go of that, it becomes a lot easier to empathize with people and see there’s really not that much difference between what someone feels . . . whether it’s a person with 10 times as much money or another set of genitalia.” Similarly, Moore says, “I wasn’t trying to make the book specific to a black experience, or anything other than who I thought these women were. When I first wrote it, they weren’t even all black—I didn’t think that was the most important thing about them, by any means.” “That whole ‘strong black woman’
thing brings in a bunch of stereotypes I didn’t want to write about; it tends to conjure up this sassy, smart-talking TV reality-show woman,” he says of the trope that some find offensive. “It was very important to me that I not contribute to what I feel is often a popular culture that demeans women in general and black women in particular. I wanted to write about women who were like the women I knew, who were smart and interesting and not foolish.” Moore has been lucky to know women like the Supremes. Odette enjoys her food, speaks her mind and is the de facto leader of the trio. Clarice leans toward superficial, but her friends draw out her inner empathy. And preternaturally beautiful Barbara Jean survived a difficult childhood and now struggles with new sorrow and long-held regret. The centerpiece of the novel is one year in the lives of the three friends, but flashbacks told from various points of view reveal mileposts along the women’s journeys, both individual and intertwined. There’s also plenty of hilarity in The Supremes at Earl’s All-YouCan-Eat, whether in the guise of a faux psychic; an astoundingly hypocritical church deacon; a series of unfortunate events at an elaborate wedding; or a vegetarian dog (the only one in southern Indiana). Throughout, everyone circles back to Earl’s, where Moore conjures up the events, sounds and scents of the diner with writerly ease. His charming, skillful evocation of the small-town life of Plainfield and its cleverly crafted history will make readers curious about (or nostalgic for) Indiana, where Moore grew up and regularly visits.
Soon, though, he’ll be visiting other countries on an international book tour, where he’ll get practice stepping into the spotlight without his cello. “I was surprised at the feeling of nakedness in writing fiction. Every weird little thing coming out of your imagination, you have to own up to it. As a [cello] performer, you can blame Beethoven or the instrument; they serve as a shield.” Ultimately, though, Moore says, “People are going to tell me what kind of book I’ve written, and that’s the way it should be. I wrote what I wanted to write, and what others think about it, what it means to them, is up to them.” Spoken like a true adult—and an author.
The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat
By Edward Kelsey Moore
Knopf, $24.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780307959928, audio, eBook available
ruth ozeki interview by alden mudge
Blurring the line between truth and fiction in a time-bending novel
“I’ve never had the temerity to think that,” Ozeki says during a call that reaches her while she is in transit from Toronto, where she has been visiting her in-laws, to her home nestled amongst 20 acres of rainforest on Cortes Island, British Columbia. “A body needs four limbs. And a head,” she notes, laughing. “Now that I have three novels and two films that I’m proud of, I am beginning to think, wow, maybe before I die it will be possible to have something that could be called a body.” But asked then to characterize the common concerns that link one book to another, Ozeki demurs. “I wouldn’t ever want to approach it from the outside like that. What’s important to me is the integrity of the book I’m currently writing. Maybe the notion of a body of work is something that’s applied afterward by other people.” Good point. But Ozeki’s widely praised first and second novels—My Year of Meats (1998) and All Over Creation (2003)—do share common threads with A Tale for the Time Being, Ozeki’s best and most adventurous novel to date. First there is a common flare of vivid storytelling. And, as a very close second, all of her novels delve provocatively into history, raise concerns about the fate not just of her human characters
A Tale for the Time Being
By Ruth Ozeki
Viking, $28.95, 432 pages ISBN 9780670026630, audio, eBook available
but of the Earth itself, and play with profound philosophical questions. As the title of the new book suggests, one of the questions Ozeki explores here is what it means to live in the present. The book began in her imagination, she says, when the voice of a young girl spoke the words that are now the opening lines of the novel: “Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being.” Nao (pronounced Now) is the sweet, chatty, troubled Japanese teenager whose diary washes up on the shores of Cortes Island sometime after an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011. “Nao was persistent and she was distinctive and she just kept showing up and saying the most outrageous things,” Ozeki says of the origins of the novel. “And I was intrigued by this idea of a ‘time being’ and this idea that we are all time beings, that time is our medium.” Over the course of the book, Nao becomes a fully realized character in part because Ozeki is well acquainted with Japanese culture. She grew up in New Haven, the daughter of a Japanese mother and an American father. After college she worked and attended graduate school in Japan and, later, traveled back and forth to Tokyo while directing documentarystyle programs for a Japanese company. She and her husband, Oliver Kellhammer, a Canadian land artist and writer, returned to Tokyo during the composition of this novel to get a feel for the city’s Akihabara Electric Town, the flashy shopping district where her character Nao hangs out in a somewhat creepy maids café writing in her diary and fending off unwanted advances from inept nerds. “The voice and character of Nao
ith her superb third novel about to arrive in bookstores, does Ruth Ozeki think of herself as creating a body of work, an oeuvre, so to speak?
were never a problem,” Ozeki says. “But I knew that Nao needed a reader. In some ways this book is also about the relationship between a writer and a reader. I auditioned four or five characters for the role of reader and wrote complete drafts of the book. I tried all sorts of different people.” None of them worked. Then after the 2011 tsunami, Ozeki returned to an early story telling impulse she had first rejected. “I’ve always had this semiautobiographical relationship with some of my characters,” she says, “and Oliver and I were talking about this one day, and he said, you need to step out from behind the veil of fiction and be in your book.” So the character who discovers and reads Nao’s diary; the character who worries and frets about Nao as the teenager describes her suicidal father, her 104-year-old great-grandmother Jiko, and her own despairing thoughts about her life; the char-
acter who meditates on the riddle of Nao’s ultimate fate is a version of Ruth Ozeki herself. “We’re living in a time when the membrane between fiction and nonfiction is quite permeable,” Ozeki says, explaining her audacious narrative choice. “The distinctions are falling away, and I think that’s because of the Internet. Everyone has an avatar now, or multiple avatars. We’re always fictionalizing ourselves and everyone understands this now. Every person we talk to brings out a different facet of ourselves. In this case, the Ruth who stepped forward was drawn out by Nao’s particular voice.” But the choice to put a version of herself in the novel had implications for others around her, especially her husband. “I said to Oliver, well, if I’m going to be in the book you have to be in the book, too. He said that’s a good plot experiment. Go for it. Now he’s a little nervous. His concern
about the Oliver character is that I’ve made him smarter than he is,” she says, laughing. Like her character Ruth, Ozeki is a Zen Buddhist, and the concepts of her practice permeate, unobtrusively, the novel. Ozeki was ordained as a Zen priest in June 2010. She is associated with the Brooklyn Zen Center, and spends part of each year in New York City, where she has maintained an apartment in the East Village for more than 20 years. “I started practicing Zen seriously when my father died, when things were really falling apart in my life. I got more and more serious about it as I was taking care of my mother when she had Alzheimer’s. When she died I thought a lot about succes“I was sion. We don’t have children, intrigued so in a way, I by . . . this don’t have a future. I’d been idea that we practicing are all time Zen and I just beings, that realized I want to be a part time is our of a lineage, a medium.” tradition, and help keep the practice alive and flourishing in the world. So I decided to ordain.” Ruth’s and Nao’s separate but interconnected lives play out against a background of large-scale human suffering—the tsunami, 9/11 and the legacies of World War II. “That’s certainly my experience of my life,” Ozeki says, “that there are these huge catastrophic events, one after the other. Each one is seismic and each shifts the ground on which we stand. My feeling is that fiction is where we process this. It’s where I try to make some sense of these kinds of events. Otherwise it’s just one damned thing after another.” Yet, strangely enough, there is nothing particularly bleak about Ozeki’s novel. Part of that is due to her sly, often Zen-like sense of humor. “There’s almost a slapstick quality to Zen humor. It’s disarming. Literally. Because the whole point of Zen is to take away your armament, to sort of make you put down your defensive weapons. And feel things.” And that happens to be an apt description of the impact of A Tale for the Time Being, a novel that is both disarming and likely to leave readers feeling its emotional impact for a long time to come.
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Coping with the loss of a MIRROR IMAGE
hrista and Cara Parravani were identical twins, inseparable images of one another. They stare out from the cover of Her, Christa Parravani’s haunting new memoir, Cara looking down and Christa looking grimly into the camera. Cara died in 2006, not long after the photo was taken, a brutal rape having driven her to depression and a spiraling drug addiction.
Her is about Cara’s unraveling, but it is also a recollection of their complicated, intertwined life from birth: their unhappy parents, artistic talents, bad choices in men. Their parents broke up when they were very young, and on visits with their father, he would have them chant, “Mom is a witch. Mom should die. Mom is an evil bitch.” Cara was a promising writer, and Christa a photographer. Their art tethered them as they went out into the world, rooming together as freshmen at Bard College, where they mixed their favorite children’s books in with textbooks on their dorm room shelf. They both got married too young, and struggled to share their twin with someone else. “His marriage to me was all she’d said it would be,” Parravani writes. “She called whenever she liked. She showed up whenever she liked. She still had me, like he never could.” Then came the rape—although it was Cara who was assaulted, the event was a turning point in both their lives. Cara began using heroin and attempting suicide, checking in and out of rehab centers and mental hospitals. Her husband, unable to
By Christa Parravani
Holt, $26, 320 pages, ISBN 9780805096538 Audio, eBook available
cope, let their home disintegrate. On a flight to one rehab stint, Cara used wine to wash down a drug for panic attacks, falling over in the baggage terminal and chipping a tooth. Research shows that when a twin dies, the odds are high the other will follow shortly. Parravani writes about the numb years after her sister’s death, and how she slowly, slowly began rebuilding a life without her mirror image. She divorced and remarried, living now in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Anthony Swofford, and their young daughter. To write the story, Parravani, an accomplished photographer, relied on her own recollections and those of her mother, as well as journals Cara left behind. “One weekend at my mother’s house, I was trying to write the rape scene. I was failing miserably because I didn’t have the adequate words,” Parravani recalls. “I was looking through Cara’s closet for clothes to take home, and found a Tupperware container under her bed.” Inside was a notebook in which Cara recalled her rape on a warm October afternoon in a park, where she was walking her dog. When she came home from the attack, she told her husband not to touch her. “I’m evidence,” she said. “I put my own loving care into it,” Parravani says of writing about the rape. “One of the things she wanted was for me to understand what happened to her that day. I did that for her by editing that piece.” It was one episode in a harrowing writing process. “It was incredibly difficult,” Parravani says. “I felt that, in order to write the best book I could, I needed to go into the hardest moments. Because it’s my first book, I was learning to write and I had to throw it away and relive it again and again. The magical thing was when I
thought I couldn’t go on, Cara would have something to say [in her journals].” Although Cara was the writer in the family, Parravani found solace in writing Her. Her husband, author of the Gulf War memoir Jarhead, encouraged her to write her story. Being married to another writer is “truly, truly wonderful,” Parravani says. “It’s not necessarily that we’re ‘a writing team.’ It’s not “This book the fantasy I had in high offers proof school. It’s of my love, just very which she was nice for me to have Tony constantly with me in questioning.” my life at this time. He’s been a real partner to me in the truest sense of the word and prepared me for this.” And what would her twin think of Her? “I think at first Cara would be very jealous,” Parravani says with a laugh. “Aside from that petty, sisterly competition, I think she’d be surprised I was able to reflect on her that way. This book offers proof of my love, which she was constantly questioning. She hated herself. It was that simple. Her rape had eroded her self-confidence.
By amy scribner
She didn’t like the way she looked— physically and otherwise. It was a constant battle to convince Cara she was worthy.” Parravani’s self-assured, unflinching writing belies her status as novice author. She writes candidly about life before and after her twin’s death. “Her feet were bare, hidden beneath the closed lid of the coffin,” Parravani writes. “Her skin was taut and her rose rouge wouldn’t blend. Blush sat on the tops of her cheeks in powdery circles. The worry line on her forehead had been erased by the magic plumping effect of embalming fluid. She would have been pleased to know that death had made her younger.” “I’ve been waiting a long time to be able to talk about this,” Parravani says. “Now that I’ve finished the book, in some ways I feel my active relationship with her has ended. I’m actually excited. I want people to know who my sister was. I want people to know my sister had a truly beautiful spirit. She was the kindest person I’ve ever known.” Parravani has a photo of Cara hanging in her dining room, and talks about her often with her 16-month-old, Josephine. “I don’t want my daughter to be haunted by the idea of her mother’s sister,” she explains. “I happily point to Aunt Cara.”
women’s history By heather seggel
FORGING NEW PATHS FOR WOMEN EVERYWHERE
popular bumper sticker theorizes that well-behaved women rarely make history. While it’s true that sometimes swimming against the current is the only way to get where you’re headed, three new books show women making history in a variety of ways, from globetrotting, to taking on mysterious jobs, to smashing through political barriers—even if their behavior was sometimes less than ladylike.
In 1889, Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days was hot stuff. So hot, in fact, that two New York publications sent female reporters on trips around the world to try and beat fictional character Phileas Fogg’s time. Matthew Goodman’s Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World (Ballantine, $28, 480 pages, ISBN 9780345527264) recreates the race and shows how it shaped the women’s lives afterward. It’s also a dazzling tour of the world at a time when travel routes were just opening up; a look at sensationalist journalism and pop culture in pre-Kardashian America; and a testimony to how hard women had to fight to get work and achieve respect as journalists. Bly perfected the art of traveling light for the sake of convenience, then went on a shopping spree in Singapore, after which she was saddled with a cantankerous monkey she named McGinty. Bisland, who agreed to race against Bly with less than one day’s notice, didn’t like the publicity that came with the challenge and squirmed at being hauled in rickshaws and sedan chairs, but she was otherwise a fearless competitor who continued to travel for the rest of her life. Their stories should inspire both writers and travelers today: If you finish this without laying out your own version of Nellie Bly’s one-bag, no-hassles travel case, don’t complain the next time you’re dinged $25 for an extra suitcase. She was vastly ahead of her time.
The Girls of Atomic City (Touchstone, $27, 400 pages, ISBN 9781451617528) details a story that seems impossible yet was true. Author Denise Kiernan brings a novelist’s voice to her thoroughly researched look at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a small city that housed 75,000 people, used as much power as New York City, yet didn’t exist on any
map. During World War II, numerous women were recruited to work in Oak Ridge but were never told what their jobs were; each job was isolated from the others so a complete picture couldn’t be formed. All they knew was that they were working to help bring a swift end to the war. By the time anyone had figured it out, Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been decimated and the war was over. The story of the town is impressive and occasionally funny: Women disembarking from cars for the first time sank to their knees in mud, since there were no sidewalks built, and one resident persuaded a worker to make her contraband biscuit tins from scrap metal so as to avoid the cafeteria’s sub-par chow. There was camaraderie among the workers, yet everyone felt ambivalent about what they created and how it was ultimately used. Kiernan gives
no easy answers, but the stories of the women will resonate with readers. If someone offered you double what you’re making now, would you jump on a train with no further information? That took guts.
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HIGHEST CALLING It’s great to look back and find undiscovered stories in our past, but the experiences of those who are still with us have much to offer as we go forward. Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice (Walker, $26, 336 pages, ISBN 9780802779649) is Mary Robinson’s memoir. The first female president of Ireland and former U.N. high commissioner for human rights traces her political roots back to an early and radical questioning of her Catholic upbringing. Continually working and fighting for full inclusion on behalf of the poor and marginalized, she became a vocal opponent of U.S. President George W. Bush’s policies in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. When journalists questioned her outspoken stance and willingness to jeopardize her U.N. job, she writes, “I replied that this was the job; it was better to do the job than try to keep it.” Robinson is unsparing about mistakes she’s made in her political career, and unfailingly gracious and grateful to her friends and family in these pages, which puts her tougher stances in perspective. A critical thinker and fine writer, her life story is a pleasure to read, and one that will certainly inspire generations of leaders to come.
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EASTER READING B y k e l ly b l e w e t t
Transformative ACCOUNTS of faith and redemption
or five writers from varied points on the Christian spectrum, God transforms dramatic circumstances into spiritual gain. From moving across the country to facing death itself, these authors amply illustrate that resurrection stories—far from being a thing of the past—are happening all around us.
LIFE-CHANGING SURGERY For Steve Sjogren, author of Heaven’s Lessons: Ten Things I Learned About God When I Died (Thomas Nelson, $15.99, 176 pages, ISBN 9781400204311), a neardeath experience in 2000 led to an unexpected destination in his faith. Sjogren’s story is a humbling one. While pastoring a megachurch in Cincinnati, he went in for a standard hospital surgery that went horribly wrong. On the operating table, God told him that from now on he would “walk with a limp.” Following the surgery, Sjogren lost his position at the church, faced severely diminished health and was forced to re-examine some of the fundamental things he believed about God. He’s divided this book into 10 resulting lessons. “Though my experience with God in my near death experience was life changing, what followed it was depressing to me,” he writes. “If there is an option for a fast route, it seems I still always end up being placed on the l-o-n-g way forward.” This book offers readers the opportunity to benefit from Sjogren’s journey and to see how God turned a tragedy into a transformation. Sjogren, ever the pastor, is quick to provide applications of the book’s lessons to the reader’s life.
A PARENT’S STRUGGLE
In Beautiful Nate (Howard Books, $22.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9781451678512) Dennis Mansfield explores how his son’s drug addiction forced him to confront unwelcome truths about evangelicalism. Even though Mansfield tried to raise his son “by the book,” relying on experts like James Dobson, his boy still repeatedly rebelled and ultimately— in his 20s—died after an adverse drug reaction. Mansfield, a former Focus on the Family employee and lobbyist, loves Reagan, rhetoric
and his family. His passions come through clearly, as does his pain. As Nate faced prison and life beyond, his father describes a softer side of their relationship: impromptu visits, staying up all night to watch movies and (most movingly) writing a novel the pair jointly penned during Nate’s incarceration. To his father, Nate was a follower of Jesus Christ forever torn by competing desires. While Beautiful Nate is certainly a sad story, Mansfield is consistently grateful for his son and the lessons learned about faith, parenting and
evangelical nonfiction, the landmarks may seem unsurprising—giving up idols, addressing old wounds, seeking sexual purity. Yet Delvaux’s way of addressing these topics gives this slim book both gravity and purpose. When discussing idols, for instance, Delvaux shares his own former insistence that the details of his life be in order, right down to his junk mail. He realized that grasping toward perfection was ultimately idolatrous. As he reveals his own story, readers are gently guided to consider their own. A movie fan,
life. He writes, “My hope is that you found [this] to be a poignant account of the realization that . . . things often turn out very wrong— and yet can turn out eternally right.” This is a good book for parents of faith who want to heal imperfect circumstances through the mercy of a perfect God.
Delvaux situates many of his lessons within the context of popular films. A small book that leaves a big impression, Landmarks tells how one man was transformed by embracing the principles he’d been teaching his whole life.
NEW DIRECTIONS In Landmarks: Turning Points on Your Journey Toward God (B&H, $14.99, 208 pages, ISBN 9781433679223) author Bill Delvaux describes a series of unexplainable choices that yielded satisfying results. He left a ministry position for teaching, and left his teaching position to write and speak about faith. A thoughtful writer, Delvaux was asked by a colleague to explain how his spiritual journey developed through these counterintuitive decisions. Delvaux responds that though he never knew he was going in the right direction, his Heavenly Father provided certain “landmarks” along the way. For frequent readers of
HEALING JOURNEY For spiritual seeker and standout writer Beverly Donofrio (author of the memoir Riding in Cars With Boys) the pursuit of faith led to life in a small Mexican town replete with margaritas at sunset, yoga and plenty of time for writing. Yet Donofrio, a Catholic, felt herself drifting from God. Committed to rededicating herself, she planned an ambitious tour of monasteries around the country. Then a man broke into her apartment and raped her at knifepoint. In her new book, Astonished: A Story of Evil, Blessings, Grace, and Solace (Viking, $25.95, 240 pages, ISBN 9780670025756), Donofrio ponders the significance of the timing. What does the rape reveal about God? How do trials
figure into God’s plan for our lives? What does it mean to heal and grow? Donofrio spends much of the next year completing her monastery tour and offering tentative answers to these questions and more. A nontraditional thinker who accepts parts of the “Jesus myth” and rejects other parts, Donofrio’s journey around the country and into her inner life is compelling material beautifully written. Perpetually humble, searching, honest and wry, Donofrio is a fine companion for a spiritual journey.
THINGS UNSEEN Jack Perkins, best known as a longtime reporter for NBC News, left a successful journalism career to move to a remote island in Maine. In Finding Moosewood, Finding God (Zondervan, $22.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9780310318255) Perkins traces the spiritual lessons he learned, recounts favorite stories from his journalism days and offers a wholly appealing personal glimpse into his family life. In the wilds of Maine—reading the journals of Thoreau and following his spiritual impulses—Perkins’ personal journey with God truly begins. By rejecting the consumerist culture of Los Angeles, Perkins and his wife Mary Jo find what seems to be an incomparable happiness in island living and creative pursuits. Both read voraciously and explore their new home with enthusiasm. By embracing the blessings of God—in a sunset, in the view of the water at night, in spotting a passing lobster boat—the couple begins to appreciate His divine character. This fresh and invigorating story will help the reader appreciate her own life and, better yet, feel that anything is possible. While these books vary in points of view, trials faced and solutions suggested, they share a common belief that God is in the midst of our circumstances. This divine God who resurrects new life from death is, they agree, more real than the world before our eyes. As Perkins writes in one of his poems: “Henceforth this is my plan: / Believe much more in what I can’t see, / Much less in what I can.”
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THE sECrETs of HaPPy faMiliEs Bruce Feiler is the author of ﬁve bestsellers, including Walking the Bible and The Council of Dads, and a columnist for the New York Times on family life. His new book, THE sECrETs of HaPPy faMiliEs (Morrow, $25.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9780061778735), offers practical and sometimes surprising ideas for strengthening family bonds. Feiler lives in Brooklyn with his wife Linda and their twin daughters.
d BRISTOL PARK BOOKS
FICTION The Accursed By Joyce Carol Oates
The beauty of everyday moments Review by harvey freedenberg
Nine years after the publication of his last novel, Kent Haruf returns with the final volume of what is likely to be thought of, along with its predecessor Eventide and 1999’s Plainsong, as the Holt Trilogy. Whether he’s portraying life in this small town on Colorado’s high plains or the complex inner lives of his outwardly simple characters, Haruf brings to this latest story the same empathy and insight that have marked his earlier novels. Benediction unfolds over the course of a summer that measures out the final days of Dad Lewis, the septuagenarian owner of Holt’s hardware store. Outwardly he’s resigned to his fate, but his last months are dogged by regrets over nearly four decades of estrangement from his gay son and memories of his handling of an employee’s embezzlement that had tragic consequences. Though he’s not religious “in any orthodox way,” Dad’s life is governed by a strict moral code that simultaneously inspires acts of sternness and enormous generosity. His naturally taciturn character By Kent Haruf becomes even more so as his cancer advances, so that when his powerful Knopf, $25.95, 272 pages emotions bubble to the surface the effect is even more impressive. ISBN 9780307959881, audio, eBook available Haruf has created a memorable group of supporting characters to complement Dad and his immediate family—his daughter and his patient, loving wife of 55 years. The most distinctive is Reverend Rob Lyle, who’s been exiled to Holt from Denver after coming to the defense of a gay minister. His compassion is matched only by a candor in his preaching that reveals a self-destructive streak. Alene Johnson, the middle-aged daughter of a Lewis family friend, mourns a long-ago affair with a married man that marked the melancholy end of her search for love. Alice, an 8-year-old who lives with her grandmother, the Lewises’ next-door neighbor, learns some early lessons about life and death from watching Dad’s decline. Bred in the harsh beauty of the rugged Colorado landscape, the lives of these characters possess an admirable stoic quality. There’s no manufactured drama in this novel, and that’s of a piece with Haruf’s previous books. The mastery he displays in this simple, quiet story, and in all his fiction, lies in portraying what one character thinks of as “the little dramas, the routine moments,” what he calls the “precious ordinary.” That Haruf can bring those moments to life with such precision and beauty is ample reason to savor his work.
The Storyteller By Jodi Picoult
Atria $28.99, 480 pages ISBN 9781439102763 Audio, eBook available
Jodi Picoult, in her 19 previous provocative, plot-driven novels, has tackled a broad spectrum of timely social issues—from child abuse and capital punishment to organ donation and Asperger’s syndrome. In The Storyteller, her latest, she weaves together two parallel stories from the darkest hours of the Holocaust. The link between these two stories is Sage Singer, a young, non-practicing Jewish woman in a small New Hampshire town. Sage is a loner—her father died suddenly when she was 19, her mother suc-
cumbed to cancer three years later, and she sustained significant facial scarring in an auto accident. Single, and a talented baker, she works the night shift at a local boutique bakery. Sage’s grandmother, Minka, lives at an assisted living facility nearby. Though they are close, Minka has never shared the story of her childhood in Poland—even when Sage asked about the numbers tattooed on her grandmother’s forearm. Sage attends a weekly grief support group, and she bonds with the newest member, Josef Weber, a 90-year-old widower. Josef is beloved in town as a teacher, coach and volunteer. But one day he unexpectedly confesses that he was an SS officer at Auschwitz, and that he now wants to die—and would like Sage to help him do so. Sage is stunned, but after a long discussion of his involvement in the Hitler Youth movement, and subsequent advancement to the SS, she begins to believe him. At the same time, she finally convinces Minka
that it is time to tell her story of her life in Poland, and the horrors she faced—first in the Ghetto, then in two concentration camps before being rescued from Auschwitz in 1945. Picoult deftly juxtaposes these two stories, which unfold along parallel lines: that of the German boy, “raised with scruples,” who by some “toxic cocktail of cells and schooling” became a participant in mass genocide; and her own grandmother’s harrowing memories of family members dying from starvation, and her tenuous survival in the camps, where “death had become part of the landscape.” She explores, along with the reader, the perhaps unanswerable questions of who has the power to forgive—and are there some acts which are simply unforgiveable? The Storyteller is another thought-provoking novel from Picoult. Sadly, it is also one that is still timely, as episodes of genocide still occur today, and are somehow still ignored. —Deborah Donovan
Ecco $27.99, 688 pages ISBN 9780062231703 eBook available
Joyce Carol Oates must have had a ball writing The Accursed. This long (more than 600 pages), nutty tome covers a fractious year in the life of the Princeton upper crust in the early 20th century. Why Oates would bring such woe upon the place where she has happily lived and worked for years is anyone’s guess, but the result is tremendous fun. The misfortunes that bedevil the Slades, Burrs and other mucketymucks during that year of 19051906 seem to have been prompted by a lynching that draws forth the powers of darkness from a shadowy, scabrous netherworld called the Bog Kingdom. The first of these denizens of the dark to arrive in Princeton is Axson Mayte, who seduces a virginal Slade girl at the very moment of her marriage to a West Point graduate. It’s worse than “Downton Abbey”! Mayte is followed by a Count Gneist, who seems to be some sort of vampire and seduces one of the Slade girl’s relatives. Then, there’s the devilish Countess who almost seduces— wait for it—Woodrow Wilson, who at the time was the president of Princeton U. Besides Wilson, there’s a nice sprinkling of historical characters throughout this novel, and Oates despises all of them. This reader is certain the only reason she doesn’t flat-out kill Wilson or have him dragged down to the Bog Kingdom is because, well, she couldn’t quite get away with that. Teddy Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, Upton Sinclair, Jack London and Mark Twain (and his noisome cigars) are portrayed with an almost gleeful viciousness, for these ghastly men and their fictional counterparts represent the very worst aspects of misogyny and patriarchy. Even those hearty socialists, London and Sinclair, think nothing of trampling or dismissing their women, and a goodly number of the fictional patriarchs are down-
fiCTion right homicidal, not only toward their simpering, suffering wives, but their little children, too. These overheated, intertwined stories are narrated by an elderly chap who was one of those little children who just managed to escape with his life. Though the narrator is speaking from the perspective of 1984, he sounds peculiarly Jamesian; when he mentions television near the book’s end the reader is actually startled. Speaking of the book’s end, it’s so preposterous and over the top that the reader has to be impressed. But how else could Oates finish this tale? It’s bad enough, she seems to say, that Wilson went on to become the president of the United States. She had to make amends. Anyone who takes on The Accursed should settle in for a long, bumpy, screwy, improbable but engrossing ride. —arlene mckanic
Visit BookPage.com for a Q&A with Joyce Carol Oates.
Mary Coin by Marisa silver
Blue Rider Press $26.95, 336 pages ISBN 9780399160707 eBook available
From acclaimed short story writer and former Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist Marisa Silver comes her latest (and perhaps most astounding) work, Mary Coin. This exquisitely written novel, Silver’s third, re-imagines the life of Dorothea Lange, the famous Depression-era photographer who shot the iconic “Migrant Mother” photograph in 1936. Silver’s tale weaves in and out of the life of not just the photographer but also her subject, binding these two women together in more ways than one. Silver follows the lives of three pivotal characters: Mary, the migrant mother; Vera Dare (a pseudonym for Lange); and Walker Dodge, a present-day history professor whose focus is less on his troubles within his family and more on the mystery of his family’s legacy after
the death of his reticent father. Silver effortlessly takes her readers from the desolate fruit orchards of Northern California to the eclectic hills of San Francisco, capturing the excess of America’s wealth before the Great Depression struck the country. Stoic Mary is a mother of seven fighting to feed her kids on the impossibly low salary of a migrant worker; Vera, a once polio-stricken artist, struggles with her philandering husband, her physical handicap and her ability to balance being both a mother and a artist. Readers will find themselves drawn to both women, despite the massive economic bridge that separates them, and will want to research the photographer and subject to see how closely Silver hewed to the truth of their intertwined lives. Fans of historical fiction will not be disappointed. —megan fiShmann
MiDDlE C by William H. Gass Knopf $28.95, 416 pages ISBN 9780307701633 eBook available
William H. Gass, acclaimed author of The Tunnel, spent 20 years composing his latest, Middle C, and it shows. An exploration of the multiple identities we humans cultivate, it tells the story of displaced Austrian music professor Joseph Skizzen from birth to middle age, probing his fears and faults, his obsessions and his dreams. Except he isn’t Austrian. And he isn’t a music professor—not really. Despite the goatee and affected accent, he’s only ever lived in London and Ohio. And he teaches classes, but his credentials are utter fiction. Living with his elderly mother in a declining mansion that the college owns, Joseph’s life is built on fibs—an odd attempt to follow in his father’s footsteps. For before Joey was born, Rudi Skizzen turned his family into makeshift Jews, changed their names and moved them from Austria to Britain to “escape” the Nazis. After the war, he drained their Jewish blood, named them again and promptly abandoned them. Joey
Skizzen’s life becomes an attempt to understand his father’s crime against his family, even as he constructs Gass’ longhis own fake self. He probes awaited Rudi’s sin, in novel is a part, by curatmodern-day ing a “museum” of humanity’s classic. crimes against humanity. From his secret perch in the mansion’s attic, surrounded by news clippings of cruelty, he gazes upon his mother’s beautiful garden and tends a stubborn sentence he’s composing (and recomposing) on mankind’s ugliness. The story travels back and forth between Professor Skizzen’s present and his youth, revealing his quirks, his charms, his own crimes and the tender heart that belies his domineering pessimism. Gass writes in a style readers will either love or hate: If you love wordplay, you will revel here; if you do not, run far, far away. Dense but dexterous, the language is absolutely packed with surprises. Very, very funny, the book is also sad, laying Joey’s almost quaint innocence in bed right alongside the adult Joseph’s darkness. Highly original—it’s doubtful any other teen character this year will bumble his way into a love triangle with rival spinster librarians—Gass’ tome satisfies on multiple levels while leaving certain questions unanswered. A showcase of 88-year-old Gass’ skill, Middle C is literature at its finest.
When Kwaku Sai drops dead from a massive heart attack, he is living in Ghana with his second wife. His four children are scattered all over the world: His oldest son Olu is a doctor in Massachusetts and youngest daughter Somayina is a student at Yale. Twins Kehinde and Taiwo are in London and New York respectively. His ex-wife Fola has settled in Ghana as well, after staying in the United States long enough to get the youngest into college. At first, the fortunes of the Sai family appear to hinge on a single incident, a race-based injustice in their adopted home. Originally from Ghana, Kwaku was a surgeon at a prestigious Boston hospital when he was asked to perform an emergency operation on an elderly white woman from an affluent family of longtime hospital donors. When the operation was unsuccessful, Kwaku was fired, leading him to abandon both his family and his career. Concerned about her ability to continue the education of all the children and struggling with her
What happens in Scotland
when two complete strangers fall madly, deeply in love? “Clever and funny, charming and romantic . . . A fabulous storyteller!” New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean
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GHana MusT Go by Taiye selasi
Penguin Press $25.95, 336 pages ISBN 9781594204494 eBook available
Novelist Taiye Selasi coined the word Afropolitanism eight years ago to refer to educated, multilingual, multiethnic Africans living around the globe. In her ambitious debut, Ghana Must Go, she brings us into the world of bright, urban professionals, raised in the United States, but with roots in Africa.
She Woke Up Married A lively debut romantic adventure about a wedding that neither the bride nor the groom remembers “A delightful historical romance.” —NIGHT OWL REVIEWS
reviews own depression, Fola sends the twins back to her half-brother in Nigeria, with truly horrifying results. Olu’s fear of becoming like his father seeps into his own marriage. Somayina, just a baby when her father left, is at loose ends, having to mourn a man she never really knew. “Ghana must go” is a Nigerian phrase from the early 1980s, when millions of Ghanaians fled to Nigeria due to political upheaval. Though the novel does not concern itself overtly with politics, both Kwaku and Fola came to America because of the violence and lack of professional opportunity. For all their cultural sophistication, the Sai children wonder if their lives as perennial outsiders made it impossible for them to feel at home anywhere. Because there is so much dramatic tension in the novel, the structure of flashbacks can be confusing and some of the richer conflicts lose their impact. Still, Ghana Must Go is an engaging novel about the children of upwardly mobile African immigrants and the price they pay for being disconnected from their mother country. —lauren bufferd
a THousanD ParDons by Jonathan Dee
Random House $26, 224 pages ISBN 9780812993219 Audio, eBook available
fiCTion while intoxicated. He’s disbarred and checked into rehab, and Helen, a stay-at-home mom, has to find a way to support her family. She gets a job at a struggling public relations firm in New York City and discovers an untapped talent: She can turn the tide of a PR nightmare by making men apologize. By ’fessing up, the men are in charge of their own narratives. One conversation Helen has with a client—an executive at a grocery store chain—underscores her intuitive philosophy. The grocery store is in deep trouble when a young mother claims she bought a bunch of bananas stuffed with razor blades. Naturally, the manager is indignant; he thinks the mom planted the razors. But Helen implores him to apologize: “If you keep denying what they believe, that just strengthens their suspicion. You’re already guilty in their minds.” If the man owns the accusations, then he’s the one “making the choices that drive the story from that point forward,” Helen says. This is because the public’s “ultimate desire is to forgive.” The story also follows Ben as he attempts to rebuild his life, the Armsteads’ daughter as she attempts to rebel and a movie star in need of Helen’s services. However, Dee is at his amusing and clever best when he hones in on Helen and her no-nonsense approach to public relations (and personal survival). Readers will root for her success and evaluate how their own opinions have been shaped by some astute public relations. —eliza borné
Americans follow a familiar script when a powerful man falls from grace. We’re shocked, though news of such-and-such tweeting his private parts or engaging in an affair may secretly fill us with glee—especially when he’s forced to confess after a strategy of “deny, deny, deny.” Is it human nature to relish watching the train wreck of a public collapse? In Jonathan Dee’s A Thousand Pardons, his first novel since 2010’s The Privileges (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), we see another side of this story. It is human nature to forgive—if only the transgressors will let us. Helen Armstead finds herself in a sticky situation after Ben, her corporate-lawyer husband, is accused of sexual assault and driving
Visit BookPage.com for a Q&A with Jonathan Dee.
THE DEMonoloGisT by andrew Pyper
Simon & Schuster $25, 304 pages ISBN 9781451697414 Audio, eBook available
Looking at the premise of Andrew Pyper’s sixth novel, The Demonologist, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re about to crack open
another Da Vinci Code imitator, a sensationalistic voyage of carefully placed clues, perfectly timed cliffhangers and impossible revelations. Don’t fall for it. In these pages, Pyper has done something more. Though it’s certainly a solid thriller with plenty of page-turning power, The Demonologist is at its heart a painfully human drama about loss, redemption and belief. David Ullman is a prestigious professor specializing in biblical literature and tales of demons, and one of the world’s foremost experts on John Milton’s epic poem of heaven and hell, Paradise Lost. Though religious literature is his specialty, David doesn’t A gripping believe a word human of it. His interdrama with est is unshakably academic, the pacing until a woman of a thriller, visits his office with a strange Andrew Pyper’s latest proposition. Just days later, novel is a tragedy strikes, surprisingly and David finds himself battling weighty dark forces and page-turner. a ticking clock in a desperate effort to get his daughter Tess back. Along the way everything he thinks he knows about demons will be challenged, and everything he’s sure of in the world will be tested. With its dark mysteries and race against time, The Demonologist has all the trappings of a supernatural thriller, and has already been optioned for film. The “man forced to save his daughter” plot is nothing new, nor is the “skeptic encounters shattering revelations” plot, but in combining them Pyper finds something special. Though he never loses the taut quality of his tale, he allows his characters to take center stage, giving the book a remarkably intimate feeling that many other thrillers of its kind lack. Readers of hardcore thrillers with supernatural overtones will find there’s a lot of fun to be had between the covers of The Demonologist, but those in the mood for something a little meatier will be satisfied as well. This is a surprisingly weighty page-turner. —matthew jackSon
DrEaMs anD sHaDoWs by C. robert Cargill
Harper Voyager $24.99, 448 pages ISBN 9780062190420 Audio, eBook available
In Dreams and Shadows, a boy and his djinn try to save a doomed child from the faerie court that stole and raised him. In doing so, they receive a lesson in the nature of the world and of the supernatural that one of them, at least, couldn’t begin to anticipate. The debut novel of film critic and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill, Dreams and Shadows is the most existential, world-weary of faerie tales. Cargill’s myth-making is unrelentingly dark in tone, more Mignola (Hellboy) than Gaiman (American Gods, Coraline, etc.). In his world, silver linings are fool’s gold, and happy endings are more the stuff of fantasy than nixies, boggarts and their kin ever could be. This tone is established from the beginning with a prologue so dark that, by the time 8-year-old Colby Stephens extracts a wish from a stranger to “show [him] everything supernatural,” the reader knows that nothing heartwarming this way comes. As the destinies of two children—Ewan, a human child, and Knocks, the changeling who takes his place—become intertwined with that of Colby and his djinn companion, portents pile up as quickly as the supernatural cast of characters expands. Fortunately, a dark read doesn’t mean a bad one. Cargill’s worldbuilding is methodical and consistent. The pace is brisk, the plotting assured. Though his take on the nature of faerie is not really new or inspired, it is deliberate and codified in a way that yields a satisfyingly focused vision of a fantasy staple. Though remarkably diverse in form and comportment, the fae of Dreams and Shadows share one trait: Each is a walking (or crawling or flying or swimming) embodiment of the moral from the fable “The Frog and the Scorpion”—for good or ill, each fae behaves as its nature demands. As for the supposed mystery and inscrutability of the fae? In
spotlight this world, it stems less from innate complexity than from the stubbornness of our attempts to ascribe human motivations to their behaviors. All in all, it’s a persuasive vision of what makes faerie tick that in turn provides a convincing, fascinating backdrop for Cargill’s foray into contemporary fantasy. As a result, Dreams and Shadows is a potent introduction to a world where the wondrous is rarely wonderful, the best intentions are guaranteed to roam farthest astray, and the reader is destined to keep turning the pages until the (somewhat) bitter end. —Michael Burgin
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising ASIA By Mohsin Hamid
Riverhead $26.95, 240 pages ISBN 9781594487293 Audio, eBook available
Mohsin Hamid’s ambitious novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, puts a new spin on the selfhelp book, a genre known for its glib pronouncements and superficial imperatives (Get an Education! Learn from a Master!), and offers a piercing look at the economic realities of developing countries by tracking a young man’s rise from poverty to wealth. An unnamed protagonist is born in a small village in an unidentified Asian country. After his family moves to the city, he begins to attend school. He proves to be clever and resourceful, though it is matters of chance such as birth order and gender that allow him to continue his education. He begins his steady climb up the ladder of success, first as a DVD delivery boy and gradually branching out into a business of his own, overcoming poverty, corruption and violence. At the same time, a pretty girl in the neighborhood also negotiates a climb to the top. Their paths cross several times in the novel and they anchor one another, each providing a reflection of how far they’ve come and what has been discarded along the way. In his previous novels Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, both set in the author’s
INSPIRATIONal fiction B y m e l i ss a b r o w n
Journeys to Joy, contentment and renewal
t its best and most engaging, Christian fiction wrestles with issues of belief in a way that resonates with the reader, encouraging self-reflection and growth. These three novels present life in full, shining a light on its heartaches but also its opportunities for redemption and renewal. The truths the characters in each story learn, oftentimes painfully, can be applied to readers’ own journeys of faith.
In The Sky Beneath My Feet (Thomas Nelson, $15.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9781595545459), Lisa Samson introduces us to Beth, a mother of two teenage sons and wife of a men’s pastor at a stereotypical megachurch. Beth’s first-person narration, filled with questions and stream-ofconsciousness shifts that at times resemble journal entries, indicates that all is not well. Beth is looking for more and not finding it. Her husband Rick is, too, but he’s decided to spend his one-month sabbatical from church duties holed up in the shed behind their house waiting to hear from God, rather than go on the beach vacation that Beth envisioned. Left alone to navigate the challenging lives of her sons and her own heart’s questions, Beth struggles to reconcile who she was with who she is. As in her novels Quaker Summer and Embrace Me, Samson assembles a motley cast of supporting characters for Beth to interact with on the way to finding God and herself again. I alternated between laughing and cringing at Beth’s onslaught of unexpected encounters: from watching an eccentric artist neighbor use Rick as her muse for a church mural, to joining up with peace marchers, to rescuing a girl from a drug overdose in an innercity halfway house. Besides entertaining the reader, Samson does an excellent job of relating the feeling of being stuck in place with the wheels spinning—something both believers and nonbelievers can relate to. As the novel draws to a close, Rick and Beth find themselves where they were desperately seeking to be, though it wasn’t achieved through their efforts after all.
Southern charm Denise Hildreth Jones’ Secrets Over Sweet Tea (Tyndale, $13.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9781414366845) revels in its Southern setting of Franklin, Tennessee. Much like her
popular Savannah from Savannah series, this book is peppered with endearments and occasional outlandish “Southernisms” that will make anyone who’s spent time in the South—including this native Alabamian—feel welcome. Southern charm aside, the pain Jones’ three main characters are dealing with is real and universal. Grace, an early morning news anchor, is devastated by her broken marriage. Zach, a divorce lawyer, has lost direction and meaning in his life—and risks losing his twin daughters and wife because of his costly attempts to fill those voids. And Scarlett Jo, the lively pastor’s wife who loves to get up close and personal with everyone she meets, seems like the most open book of them all, until her secret surfaces at last. Jones unfurls each person’s story one piece at a time, revealing the fractures in her characters’ lives, the friendships they build and the steps they must take to reclaim their hearts. As an author’s note attests, Secrets Over Sweet Tea grew out of a time of great pain and a journey to healing in Jones’ personal life. Her characters’ lives are not neatly sewn up or perfectly polished (as is too often the case with inspirational fiction), another reason to appreciate this redeeming story.
Changed by grace One Sunday (Howard, $14.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9781451664768) by Carrie Gerlach Cecil also has a Southern setting—and is also partly drawn from the author’s experience. The story’s broken protagonist, L.A. socialite Alice Ferguson, is struggling to adjust to life
in Nashville following a one-night stand with a Southern doctor that results in pregnancy. Agreeing to have Burton’s child, and to move in with the good doctor, uproots Alice from a lifestyle of drinking, drugging and reporting on celebrity exploits via her online tabloid, Trashville. With her new husband on call more often than not, Alice turns to her neighbor Tim, a former pro football player
turned pastor. Boredom and a hunger for his wife LeChelle’s fried chicken are her initial reasons for striking up a friendship with this conservative couple, but it becomes something more. Eventually she accepts Tim’s invitation to church, and we learn more about Alice’s past, via flashbacks, as she alternately smirks at and soaks up the worship service. Cecil writes in a fast-paced style that cuts from scene to scene like a movie, rifling through the fragmented memories of her displaced protagonist and bringing them into focus. (Her previous novel, Emily’s Reasons Why Not, became an ABC television series.) Pop-culture references abound, and Alice’s biting commentary is always at the ready. At times, the snark is a bit much, but as Alice sifts through her past, she starts to respond to the pain she’s bottled up and lets her façade slip. Cecil writes movingly about believing and trusting in God in prose that will touch the reader as the message sinks deep into Alice’s heart. This is a riveting story of profound change.
reviews hometown of Lahore, Pakistan, Hamid’s protagonists were also young men, struggling with social and religious changes, as well as their engagement with the West. The scope of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is wider, looking at the opportunities wrought by global economic development with a critical, and sometimes brutally honest, eye. Hamid’s use of the secondperson voice draws the reader close but allows him to shift perspective, offering objective details about the city or speculating about the effects of a low-protein diet on a teenage boy with a night job. The real delight of the novel is that beneath the blustery chapter headings, despite the relentlessly upwardly mobile rise of the narrator, lies a tender and romantic story of two people eventually finding happiness not based on their income. Perhaps being rich in love beats wealth in the end. —lauren bufferd
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fEVEr by Mary beth Keane
Scribner $26, 320 pages ISBN 9781451693416 eBook available
fiCTion to life beyond the historical account, like the wonderfully drawn friends and fellow immigrant-occupants of her 33rd Street tenement building. Most prominent among them is her lover and companion of nearly 30 years, Alfred Breihof. Their relationship is Mary’s thread to the world as she is whisked away and isolated, in truly Kafkaesque fashion, on North Brother Island in the middle of the East River. And it is the thread running wildly through the narrative, threatening always to tangle or to snap. It’s a faltering, ultimately tragic love story that leaves just the narrowest gap for the light of hope—hope that a strong woman, who bravely refused to concede her inalienable rights but who could never shake the love of a hapless cad, could in the end find some peace within herself. The history lesson alone is worthwhile: the rich portrait of New York City during the early 20th century, an era of sweeping change. Its class divisions and immigrant life, its awkwardly young public health awareness, its teeming growth, all create a veracious space in which Keane’s characters move. Their dilemmas are never easy and their decisions are often questionable, making for a read that is as morally challenging as it is quickly paced. Fans of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will find stirring parallels in Fever. Ultimately, this is a story that provokes a deeper understanding of the tenuous relationship between love, personal liberty and the common good. — w . S . ly o n
Fever tells the torrid tale of the life of Mary Mallon, an Irish-American immigrant who became the first known healthy carrier of the pathogen that causes typhoid fever, and the only one to be imprisoned long-term for her condition. She is better known to American history as the infamous “Typhoid Mary.” But readers will feel compelled to qualify that epithet after finishing Mary Beth Keane’s sympathetic portrayal of this woman scorned by circumstance. Keane credits Judith Walzer Leavitt’s book Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public’s Health as her “starting point and . . . touchstone” during the four years she spent writing the novel. Thankfully, Keane takes a few liberties that bring Mary
THE TElEPorTaTion aCCiDEnT by ned beauman
Bloomsbury $25, 368 pages ISBN 9781620400227 eBook available
British author Ned Beauman follows up his award-winning debut, Boxer, Beetle, with a novel equally bizarre, original and satisfying. The Teleportation Accident, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize, is the story of set designer Egon Loeser. We meet Egon in early
1930s Berlin. Hitler is beginning his climb to power and the nation grows more bellicose by the day, but Egon is apolitical to the point of obtuseness. He is concerned solely with his pursuit of the sultry Adele Hitler (no relation), a young woman whose charms have been widely sampled—Egon being the exception. Egon’s other obsession is Adriano Lavicini, a Renaissance set designer whose attempt to create a teleportation device for the stage resulted in a tragedy that may or may not have been In his second abetted by the novel, British devil. Egon author Ned searches fruitBeauman lessly for Adele takes the sort in Paris and then Los Anof risks that where writers under geles, he becomes 30 should a reluctant member of the take, but expat Gerrarely do. man community. He also bumbles his way into a murder investigation at CalTech, where a secret weapon, an actual teleportation device, is under development. Egon’s two great loves—Adele and himself—are the driving forces of the novel. Egon is weak, banal and so solipsistic he should be royalty. In his indifference to the world beyond him, he is a monster. It won’t take much reading before you realize that, given the choice, you’d prefer to eat dinner at Hannibal Lecter’s while Humbert Humbert babysits your teenage daughter than spend an evening in Egon’s insipid company. Yet it works because the author, a special talent, pulls it off with style and without apology. The Cambridge-educated Beauman lives in Istanbul and is the owner of a wonderfully spare website. He takes the sort of risks that writers under 30 should take, but rarely do. In his two novels—the first dealt with bugs, eugenics, a weak, repressed homosexual and an utterly revolting young boxer—he has yet to introduce one character wholly worthy of admiration, a feat that makes his works simultaneously fascinating, repelling and totally worthwhile.
It’s 1919, and Vivien has spent 13 years mourning the loss of her life’s love. The last time she saw David, her married lover, was when he left her bed the morning of the San Francisco earthquake. She has spent the years since wondering whether he perished or is, by some miracle, alive but battling a case of amnesia. To cope with her grief, Vivien helps others with theirs through her work as an obituary writer. The grieving come to her with broken hearts and memories of their loved ones. Over tea, toast and a comforting cup of broth, they share the stories of those they’ve lost. Vivien brings them to life once more through the written word. It’s 1961, and Claire feels trapped in her marriage. Peter is a fine husband, though not particularly attentive. At some point, something snapped in Claire, and she found herself in bed with a married man— and Peter caught her there. Now she’s pregnant, unsure of whose child she’s bearing and feeling more isolated than ever. Will Peter forgive her? Does she even want him to? It isn’t immediately clear how the two tales in Ann Hood’s new novel, The Obituary Writer, intersect, but parallels are evident. Vivien and Claire face individual challenges and quests for meaning in their lives as well as in their romantic relationships. Their compelling stories push the reader forward, to discover both how their lives may intertwine and how each resolves the unanswered questions in her relationships. Along the way, Hood, whose previous books include a memoir, Comfort, and a bestselling novel, The Knitting Circle, sensitively explores the complicated web of emotions associated with love, marriage, motherhood and the myriad expectations all women encounter.
—carla jean whitley
THE obiTuary WriTEr by ann Hood
Norton $26.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780393081428 Audio, eBook available
NONFICTION Shouting Won’t Help By Katherine Bouton
With or Without You
The mother she left behind Review by catherine hollis
As daughters, do we become echoes of our mothers and grandmothers? And if our mothers failed us as role models, are we doomed to fail in the same way? These are the haunting central questions of With or Without You by Domenica Ruta, lifting it above other recent examples of the dysfunctional “mommy and me” memoir. Nikki grows up working class in Danvers, Massachusetts, in a rickety house on the river she shares with her mother, Kathi, and her Sicilian grandmother. Kathi is a drug user and dealer with pretensions toward art, a mother who would keep her daughter home from school to watch the Godfather trilogy on TV. The opening sequence of the book sets up the mother-daughter dynamic beautifully: Kathi drags her young daughter along while she bashes in the windshield of another woman’s car. “Don’t look at Mummy right now, OK?” Kathi asks. But Nikki does look. What she sees and experiences as a child—drugs, By Domenica Ruta abuse, neglect—she learns to repress. It didn’t happen. This is how she Spiegel & Grau, $25, 224 pages survives: by compulsively cleaning her mother’s house, organizing its ISBN 9780812993240, audio, eBook available chaos and blotting out the adults cutting lines of drugs on the coffee table. Kathi’s aspirations for her daughter eventually provide an escape hatch: scholarships to boarding school, a liberal arts college and an MFA program. But cutting ties with her toxic mother doesn’t free Nikki from Kathi’s echoing influence. It’s only after freeing herself from her own alcoholism that Nikki—now Domenica—begins to remember and process her childhood. Memory is as central a theme as mothers in With or Without You. The storyline is episodic, flashing back and forth between scenes and characters and timelines. This can feel awkward in the early pages until Ruta’s method becomes clear: In sobriety, her memories of childhood and Kathi emerge in fragments. Because it acknowledges these gaps in memory, this memoir feels honest, like it has hit a bedrock truth—that we both love and hate our mothers, and that this ambivalence lingers long after we’ve left them. “Write me a letter,” Kathi asks her daughter. In this stunning new memoir, Domenica Ruta writes a love letter to the woman she had to leave behind in order to live.
Between Man and Beast By Monte Reel
Doubleday $26.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780385534222 eBook available
One can have the benefits of a first-class education these days and still be oblivious to the name and exploits of the Victorian-era explorer Paul Du Chaillu. He was the man who plunged into the jungles of Gabon, West Africa, in 1856 and, three years later, brought back—first to America, then to England—the skins and stories of a theretofore legendary creature: the gorilla. Those unfamiliar with the man would do well to pick up a copy of Between Man and Beast, Monte Reel’s new book about Du Chaillu’s life and
adventures in pursuit of this fierce creature. Returning from his travels the same year Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species, Du Chaillu’s own origins were murky—and remain so today. He was probably born on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, the illegitimate son of a French father and a mixed-race mother. While still in his teens, he came under the care of an American missionary in Gabon, who taught him English and eventually helped him get a job teaching French at a seminary in New York. During his tenure there he wrote a series of newspaper articles about his time in Africa. The articles eventually attracted the attention of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, which agreed to sponsor his 1856 expedition. Du Chaillu’s written account of his travels—buttressed by the physical evidence supporting it—quickly became a bestseller in England
and catapulted the author into the center of scientific and religious debates about man’s relationship, if any, to other primates. It also exposed his shortcomings as a scientific observer, deficiencies which he was determined to mend by leading a second expedition into the same harsh territory. Although Du Chaillu’s checkered life story is the bedrock of this book, Reel builds upon it fascinating sketches of England’s leading intellectuals, explorers and freelance eccentrics of the day, detailing not only their personal achievements but their professional jealousies as well. And he has plenty of tales about how “gorilla mania” saturated English culture via the publicity attending Du Chaillu’s discoveries. Through it all, Du Chaillu stands as a sincere, endlessly curious but often naïve witness to the human folly that surrounds him. —Edward Morris
Sarah Crichton/FSG $26, 288 pages ISBN 9780374263041 eBook available
When Sergeant Vince Carter bellowed, “I can’t hear you!” to Private Gomer Pyle in the ’60s TV show “Gomer Pyle,” he wasn’t admitting that he was hard of hearing but making fun of Gomer’s hard-headedness. Today, however, “forty-eight million Americans, or 17 percent of the population, have some degree of hearing loss,” writes Katherine Bouton. “Nearly one in five people, across all age groups, has trouble understanding speech, and many cannot hear certain sounds at all.” When she was 30, Bouton, former senior editor at the New York Times, joined this group of Americans when she suddenly lost her hearing in one ear. In Shouting Won’t Help, her deeply poignant book that is part memoir and part scientific study, she compellingly chronicles her own struggles with admitting and accepting the severity of her hearing loss. When she first experienced the roar of silence in her left ear, she ignored it; 10 years later, her hearing loss was serious enough to affect her daily life, and by the time she turned 60 she was functionally deaf. Although Bouton searched for a clue to her sensorineural hearing loss, caused by a defect in the hair cells, doctors could not isolate a cause for the defect, and she slowly and reluctantly started to adjust to her hearing loss. Using her own experience as a starting point, Bouton explores the mechanics of hearing and the numerous ways it can be impaired; the causes of hearing loss, such as noise in restaurants, concerts, subways, airports; and the various conditions (heart disease, dementia, depression) associated with hearing loss. Bouton eventually had a cochlear implant placed in her left ear and now uses a hearing aid in the other ear, and she explores the advantages and the limitations of each technology. Each chapter also features short profiles of individuals, ranging from musicians and composers to nurses and medical
reviews publishers, who share their own experiences with a variety of levels of hearing loss and their attempts to come to terms with such loss. Carefully researched and elegantly written, Bouton’s page-turning book issues a loud and clear call to find solutions to this disability that affects more people every day. —Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
The Still Point of the Turning World By Emily Rapp
Penguin Press $25.95, 272 pages ISBN 9781594205125 eBook available
NONFICTION is no less important for being hers alone. She sees that Ronan himself is precious, a whole person whom she loves, not for his future achievements, but for who he is now. Rapp writes, “We made him, we loved him, end of story. . . . I reminded myself that unconditional love asks nothing back; being Ronan’s mom was my giant, painful opportunity to learn this. What I was being asked to do felt both entirely instinctive and completely impossible . . . to love my child without limits or expectations.” Emily Rapp’s willingness to share these philosophical, emotional and practical issues makes this book particularly helpful for parents facing similar struggles. However, all parents would benefit from the reminder to love their children for who they are, not who we hope they will become. —Marianne Peters
In her memoir, The Still Point of the Turning World, Emily Rapp steps into the very center of the horror all parents dread: the death of a child. She doesn’t document her son Ronan’s death from Tay-Sachs disease symptom by symptom, but she maps the progress of her own sorrow as she seeks to accept his fate. As she cares for a baby who is slowly, inexorably dying, she finds counsel in the words of poets, writers, spiritual leaders and philosophers who have faced the unthinkable and survived more or less intact. Rapp is truthful, which makes her story both wrenching and refreshing to read. She shares no platitudes or explanations—just the raw emotions of parents whose child would, as Rapp describes, “gradually regress into a vegetative state within the span of one year. . . . This slow fade would progress to his likely death before the age of three.” She faces the big questions head on: Will she meet Ronan in the afterlife? Does his small life matter at all? But she also faces the mundane struggles: Should she and her husband prolong his life with a feeding tube or other interventions? Does it matter what they feed him? What kind of therapy will keep him comfortable? Grief, Rapp learns, is neither predictable nor logical. Seeking answers from C.S. Lewis, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, as well as Buddhism, Christianity and other sources, she recognizes that her own intensely personal experience
Lean In By Sheryl Sandberg
Knopf $24.95, 240 pages ISBN 9780385349949 Audio, eBook available
“The blunt truth is that men still run the world.” A baker’s dozen years into the 21st century, despite all the strides women have made toward equality (and despite being half the population), the female gender remains starkly underrepresented in leadership roles. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a rallying cry for both genders to continue the hard work of previous generations toward a more equitable division of voice, power and leadership. Currently the chief operating officer at Facebook, Sandberg also had a high-intensity position at Google when her first child was born, and she fully recognizes the hurdles involved, and the balancing act required, when a woman has a career and a family. After a brief three months “off,” she recalls the heartache of separating from her newborn: “I was returning to a job I loved, but as I pulled the car out of the driveway to head to the office for
my first full day back, I felt tightness in my chest and tears started to flow down my cheeks.” But she heralds both Google and Facebook as progressive, flexible companies, and believes that other industries, seeing the success of these familyfriendly models, are following suit. Improvements in technology that allow work to be done from anywhere with an Internet connection are also changing the way companies think about office hours and working from home. Men’s roles are evolving, too, which Sandberg celebrates. “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world,” she writes. She admits that a perfect 50/50 division of labor at home is not an easy accomplishment, but she unabashedly credits her husband’s willingness to be an equal partner as they tackle life and career challenges together as being essential to her peace of mind and success. Told with candor and filled with a mix of anecdote and annotated fact, Lean In inspires women to find their passion, pursue it with gusto and “lean in” to leadership roles in the workplace and the world. “Women should be able to pursue professional success and personal fulfillment—and freely choose one, or the other, or both,” she says. And with chapters such as “The Myth of Doing It All,” “Seek and Speak Your Truth” and “Make Your Partner a Real Partner,” she lays out a practical, tangible (but flexible!) framework for making that possible. —Linda Stankard
Born on a Mountaintop By Bob Thompson
Crown $27, 384 pages ISBN 9780307720894 eBook available
When I say “Davy Crockett,” what do you see? A man in a coonskin cap? The vaguely Taco Bell-ish profile of the Alamo? Or—be honest— did you sing “Davy, DAY-vy Crockett, king of the wild frontier”? You’re
forgiven; the song is very catchy, and the guy was a legend, about whom surprisingly little is actually known. In Born on a Mountaintop, author Bob Thompson tries to find the real man behind the myths, but soon discovers that almost every “fact” about Crockett is either the subject of contentious debate or flat-out wrong. Thompson’s research was inspired by his daughter, who heard “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” in the car and began parsing the lyrics for details. Many biographies combined fact (he was a three-term congressman who advocated for the poor) with folklore (readers may be shocked to discover he could not, in fact, grin a bear into submission)—a tradition Crockett himself encouraged, seamlessly blending celebrity into his political career. So Thompson takes to the road to seek what truths may be found. In Tennessee he sees many places Crockett might have lived, only a few of which are provable as the real deal. At the Alamo, he finds that the debate is not resolved over whether Crockett was executed as a prisoner of war or went down, guns blazing, with bodies at his feet. A darkly fascinating aspect of Crockett’s legacy is the “Crockett almanacs,” books similar to a farmer’s almanac that combined practical information with tall tales. They were written by East Coast pulp writers, who portrayed Crockett as a racist, chauvinist monster, which got big laughs circa 1839. Later these books were mistaken for real folklore from the oral tradition, which further clouds our view of a man who actually preferred to be called “David.” This is not to say the book is grim—far from it. The roadside attractions on Thompson’s journey often make a tossed salad of Crockett, Daniel Boone and Paul Bunyan. And watching Thompson and his wife struggle to separate fact from fiction in the “Ballad,” then explain the difference between them to a four-year-old, is a hoot; they end up having to read aloud, “at her insistence,” an entire biography of Andrew Jackson to establish historical context. There’s a fun look at the Disney miniseries that launched a million coonskin caps onto the heads of kids worldwide and made Fess Parker a household name. But Born on a Mountaintop also gives us a look at fame and image in preFacebook America and finds that,
nonfiCTion while the cogs moved more slowly, the machine itself was much the same as the one we know today. —heather Seggel
Gun Guys by Dan baum
Knopf $26.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780307595416 Audio, eBook available
In a postscript to Gun Guys written after the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School (and after his manuscript had gone to galleys), Dan Baum offers “three modest suggestions” for improving gun safety. These suggestions—good (and mandatory) safety training for anyone who owns a gun; holding gun owners criminally liable for crimes committed with guns stolen from their houses; and better background checks—will surprise no one who has read all the way through this well-written, thought-provoking and often humorous account of his road trip through America’s gun culture. Baum, a progressive Democrat who describes himself as “a stoopshouldered, bald-headed, middleaged Jew in pleated pants and glasses,” has been a gun enthusiast and collector since he was young. As such, he felt he was a gun guy who didn’t really belong to the country’s gun culture. So in 2009, just after President Obama moved into the White House (and set off a gun-buying frenzy), Baum set out to explore that culture. He stopped at gun shops and gun shows across the country, and talked with all manner of gun enthusiasts, a victim of gun violence and even a reformed gangbanger who had shot and killed a rival. He visited both NRA headquarters and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. As an experiment, he openly wore a handgun into a Home Depot, an Apple store and a Whole Foods store in his hometown of Boulder, Colorado (and was surprised and a bit disappointed that no one reacted). Later he applied for a concealed carry permit, then observed the rather counterintuitive psychological effects that carrying a concealed weapon had on him.
Because he is curious and observant and because he straddles a sort of invisible line (not in favor of gun bans, but appalled by the Second Amendment absolutists of the NRA and their blatant fear-mongering), Baum is an excellent companion on this road trip. Part of his project is to find data about what works and what does not work in efforts to reduce gun violence. Even those who favor a complete ban on guns like the AR-15 should read the chapter “The iGun,” which goes a long way toward explaining the appeal and versatility of the weapon and the not-so-implausible arguments of those who believe they should be able to own one. In fact, Gun Guys is the sort of readable, informationrich book that could change minds and help bridge the huge national divide over guns. Let’s hope it finds the readership it deserves. —alden mudge
CooliDGE by amity shlaes
Harper $35, 576 pages ISBN 9780061967559 Audio, eBook available
When Warren G. Harding died in office in 1923, in the midst of scandalous behavior by some members of his administration, his relatively little-known vice president, Calvin Coolidge, assumed the presidency. With a strong commitment to service and the dignity of the office and a core belief that less government was better, he restored trust and confidence. Coolidge went on to win a landslide victory in the 1924 presidential race. Many of his fellow Republicans wanted him to run again in 1928 and thought he could have won easily. As president, he focused intensely on control of the federal budget, and his notable achievements included lowering the federal debt significantly and leaving budget surpluses while at the same time reducing the top income tax rate by half, and bringing unemployment down to three percent. He vetoed most spending bills, including those that would have benefited such groups
as World War I veterans and farmers. Amity Shlaes is right on target when, in her enlightening biography Coolidge, she calls him “our great refrainer.” At the same time, the country’s economy grew strongly, and when Coolidge left office the federal government was smaller than it had been when he became president in 1923. Despite these accomplishments, Coolidge is usually not ranked among our best presidents. One of the primary reasons is that shortly after he left office, the stock market crashed in October 1929, and the country began to descend into the Great Depression. Indeed, some readers may be surprised to learn that, as one of his closest aides recalled, Coolidge had seen economic disaster ahead but believed it was wrong to do anything about it. Shlaes, author of the bestsellers The Forgotten Man and The Greedy Hand, guides us through Coolidge’s life, from his childhood in Vermont through a political career that lasted most of his adult life, beginning in 1898, when he was elected as a local councilman, until he left the White House in 1929. Along the way he served as a mayor, Massachusetts state senator and governor, where his leadership in dealing with the Boston police strike of 1919 brought him national attention. Shlaes’ detailed description of that event shows how Coolidge, in defense of the law, broke the strike and restored public order. Although the striking policemen did lose their jobs, Coolidge tried to find other positions for them—but not as policemen, and not in Boston. Coolidge’s response to the greatest national emergency of his presidency perhaps demonstrates most dramatically his beliefs about the national government’s limited role in such a situation. During the disastrous Mississippi River flood of 1927, Coolidge did not think it was appropriate for a U.S. president to go into governors’ territory. He established and tested a policy position for the federal government: rescue operations, yes; reconstruction, no. He believed the latter should be the responsibility of the states. Coolidge did have his commerce secretary, Herbert Hoover, who had extensive experience with relief work, head an effort to help, but Coolidge himself did not visit the afflicted areas, and when his own New England suffered the same
kind of natural disaster later, he also refused to go. Readers will appreciate a glimpse into Coolidge’s personal life as well. Shlaes tells us about the importance of Coolidge’s wife, Grace, in his work and his political career. It was an attraction of opposites: He was a man of few words, while she was outgoing, but both had wide-ranging interests and shared a belief in the importance of family. They were devastated when one of their two sons, Calvin Jr., died during their time in the White House. Toward the end of his life, Coolidge spoke about the “importance of the obvious.” For him, that included his core beliefs: the importance of perseverance, property rights, contracts, civility to one’s opponents, silence, smaller government, trust, certainty, respect for faith, federalism and thrift. Probably his best-known public statement was, “The chief business of America is business.” But, Shlaes points out, there was a counterweight to business, as he articulated later in
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reviews the same speech: “The chief ideal of America is idealism.” In this detailed and illuminating biography, Shlaes helps us to better understand Calvin Coolidge and his era, and makes a strong case that he deserves to be more highly regarded by historians. —roger bishop
Hope Against Hope By Sarah Carr
Bloomsbury $27, 336 pages ISBN 9781608194902 eBook available
At the time of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans, like many large cities in the U.S., had been mired for years in a school system broken by financial woes, inner-city crime, student discipline problems and low graduation rates. When Katrina flooded most of the schools, it offered the city the chance to reinvent its crumbling educational system, essentially starting with a clean slate. Most of the city’s schools were taken over by the Recovery School District (a statewide district created in 2003 with the intention of turning around troubled schools), which applied radical new strategies to education, including handing many schools over to charter operators. Sarah Carr examines how well the experiment has worked in her new book, Hope Against Hope. The veteran journalist explores how the charter schools attempt to bring a fresh approach to a school system that has decayed over the decades. What Carr discovers is that while the schools are brand new, all the other factors affecting the education system remain the same: children living in poverty; dysfunctional families; gang and drug problems. What makes Hope Against Hope more than a dry sociological study is Carr’s decision to view the situation through the eyes of three people with a stake in the outcome: a principal, a teacher and a student. This approach humanizes the story, and places Hope Against Hope in the same class as other groundbreaking books such as Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities and Alex Kotlowitz’s
NONFICTION There Are No Children Here. The three protagonists in Hope Against Hope are Mary Laurie, principal of O. Perry Walker High School; Aidan Kelly, a teacher at SCI Academy; and Geraldlynn Stewart, a 14-year-old student at KIPP Renaissance High School. What all three soon discover is that reinvention doesn’t necessarily translate into renaissance. There are plenty of struggles. Laurie, an AfricanAmerican woman who has spent her whole life in New Orleans, witnesses current and former students killed in gang crossfire. Kelly, a young, white Ivy League graduate, slowly loses his innocence and enthusiasm. Stewart, a bright African-American girl with college aspirations, finds it hard to focus on school when she sees crime on her neighborhood streets and a lack of discipline in her classroom. But as the book’s title suggests, there is hope here: Despite the challenges they face, Laurie, Kelly and Stewart carry on. Just as the overhaul of the New Orleans school system is no quick fix, the principal, teacher and student are intent on succeeding against all odds, no matter how hard the struggle, or how long it may take. —J o h n T. S l a n i a
Out of Order By Sandra Day O’Connor
Random House $26, 256 pages ISBN 9780812993929 Audio, eBook available
the first woman to ascend to its bench. Now invested with 25 years of experience and a passion for the court’s history, her book is aimed at readers who, like her at one time, might never have hoped to get closer to the court than its marble steps. We learn of how justices were once expected to log hundreds of miles on horseback each year to hear cases in other courts around the country. We hear about notable court cases and discover how they affected the course of American history. We meet great oral advocates and charismatic judges, and we get an inside view of judicial humor and the rituals that permeate the court. Though close followers of the court will be familiar with much of this material, O’Connor provides tidbits of trivia that may surprise even the winner of your local law school’s fantasy Supreme Court league. Who knew that Justice Rutledge could not attend the August 1790 session because he was incapacitated by gout? It is worth noting what this book is not. It does not provide any commentary on contemporary judicial debates, nor is it colored by O’Connor’s opinions. Indeed, the book’s tone is such that the reader may sometimes forget that the author is a person who lived the history she’s writing about. But what Out of Order does do is provide a clear, informative and entertaining lesson in history and civics. Those searching for a fundamental understanding of the Supreme Court will do well to turn to this volume. —J o h n C . w i l l i a m s
Sticks and Stones By Emily Bazelon
Since her retirement from the Supreme Court in 2006, Sandra Day O’Connor has given prominent support to the improvement of civics education, with special focus on the role of the judiciary in American government. Out of Order is fully in keeping with that mission. With a brisk pace and a conversational style, Justice O’Connor’s book succeeds in giving the reader an accessible view of how the court works and how it has changed over time. Out of Order opens with a vignette about O’Connor’s first trip to the Supreme Court as a “simple tourist,” decades before she became
Random House $27, 400 pages ISBN 9780812992809 Audio, eBook available
When Monique McClain entered seventh grade in Middletown, Connecticut, she encountered taunts, slurs and insults and eventually physical aggression from her classmates. In the eighth grade in upstate New York, Jacob Lasher endured physical and verbal attacks for over
a year because he is gay. In a highly publicized case, Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old student at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, committed suicide after enduring online and in-person taunts and physical attacks at the hands of several of her fellow students, including Flannery Mullins, who later faced criminal charges in Prince’s death. In her absorbing book, Sticks and Stones, Slate’s senior editor Emily Bazelon captivatingly narrates the stories of McClain, Lasher and Mullins in an attempt to reveal the various ways that bullying affects the victims, the bullies, the families and the communities involved in such cases. She points out that bullies taunt and attack others because they feel that their behavior will elevate their social status, either by distancing themselves from a former friend they now see as a loser or by impressing members of an in-crowd. “How can families and schools dismantle that kind of informal reward system?” she asks. More importantly, “How can you convince kids that they can do well by doing good?” Bullying comes in all shapes and sizes, but it must satisfy three criteria, as Bazelon explains: “It has to be verbal or physical aggression that is repeated over time and that involves a power differential—one or more children lording their status over another.” She also offers profiles of five types of bullies: the bully in training; the kid who acts like a bully, not out malice but because he’s clueless; the kid who is both a bully and a victim; popular bullies whose subtle taunts create insecurities in victims; and the Facebook bully. In the era of social media, when taunts and bullying can become more insidious and damaging, Bazelon thoughtfully urges a fresh consideration of the nature and definition of bullying. We must not overreact, and we must be careful to “separate bullying from teenage conflict that is not actually bullying—from drama.” In a courageous conclusion—courageous because it is idealistic and contrary to popular opinion—Bazelon advocates overcoming bullying by instilling character and empathy in our children, teaching them to see that people’s feelings are more important than status and that kindness should be a value that overrides all others. —Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
younG loVE anD forTunE’s fools
omeo and Juliet is often the first Shakespearean play students read, partially because it’s one of his easier works to grasp (though your average eighth grader may find that hard to believe), but also because the star-crossed lovers are so young: Juliet is 13, and Romeo is not much older. But can young readers really get it? Author Rainbow Rowell, former newspaper columnist and current copywriter for a design firm in Omaha, wasn’t a romantic as a teenager. “I think probably my path has been to become more of a romantic,” Rowell laughs. However, she still believes that every young love story is a variation of Romeo and Juliet. “When you’re that age,” Rowell tells me over the phone in soft, measured words, “you have maybe the greatest capacity [for love]. You feel love with your whole body. You can be consumed by it in a way that you’re not when you’re older, and yet you don’t have anything to offer the other person. You don’t even belong to yourself yet. . . . You can’t make any promises.” So why would Rowell write a love story—such as her new novel, Eleanor & Park, the story of two teen misfits falling in love in 1986—if she believes young love is destined for heartbreak? A different question is posed in Eleanor and Park’s English class, but the answer is the same: “Why has Romeo and Juliet survived for four hundred years?” Skeptical, ferocious Eleanor dismisses the play as “Shakespeare making fun of love,” but Park ventures a guess: “Because
ElEanor & ParK
by rainbow rowell
St. Martin’s grifﬁn, $18.99, 320 pages ISBN 9781250012579, audio, eBook available Ages 13 and up
people want to remember what it’s like to be young? And in love?” Eleanor is the new girl at school, and her shock of red hair and weird clothes make her an easy target for her classmates’ derision. Park is a Korean-American punk rocker who offers her a seat on the bus—albeit scornfully, at first. Aided by comic books and ’80s mix tapes, the two begin to bond. Revealed through segments written from alternating perspectives, their tenuous friendship explodes into a first love that is romantic but never romanticized, complete with awkward moments and misconceptions. The interchanging voices expose Eleanor and Park’s intimate, raw emotions. Their love doesn’t defy stars or make the moon envious. It is reticent and tentative, but also immersive and thrilling—and therefore heartbreakingly familiar. “True love can conquer all,” says Rowell. “I do think they’re truly in love. That’s the tragedy of being them. They’re too young. They don’t have anything.” The breathless first moments of love, such as the tenderness of holding hands for the first time, have a submerging effect on the reader. These moments often go on for several pages, conveying all the precious flutters of a “first.” “The first time I held someone’s hand, it was like stars going off. Not stars—bombs, maybe,” Rowell says. “I’m not going to speed past these feelings. I’m going to let these two characters really think about them the way you do when they happen to you. You’re not just like, ‘Oh, he held my hand,’ and then you move on. In the moment, you’re dazed. You’re reeling.” Eleanor and Park come from starkly different backgrounds, but their respective concepts of relationships are greatly influenced by the adult world around them. Eleanor’s cynicism, in a reflection of Rowell’s own difficult childhood, stems from a terrifying home life, where love
rainboW roWEll interview by cat acree
Is Children’s Corner just for kids? Nope.
is temporary and the threat of her stepfather steadily darkens as the narrative progresses. Park, on the other hand, is overwhelmed and intimidated by the intensity of his parents’ love. “As a teenager, you kind of want your parents’ relationship to be invisible,” says Rowell. “You want your parents to move into the background—like it’s your turn.” Rowell wishes she had “had something that intense at that age,” but her own love story warrants mentioning. In seventh grade, during her “yucky years” with a bad stepdad, she found refuge in a group of “nerdy guys” who played Dungeons & Dragons and loved comic books, guys who helped shape the character of Park. One of them ended up becoming her husband after they graduated from college; they’ve been married now for 14 years and have two boys, ages 4 and 8. “I believe really strongly that men are good,” Rowell says. “There are men who want love and who care and are sensitive to the same degree as women, just differently. . . . I hope when girls read [this novel], they believe that there are guys like Park out there.” Eleanor & Park, much like Romeo and Juliet, should be read twice: once in youth, before that first love, and again after experiencing love’s ability to transform and consume. After all, as Rowell says, “You get beginnings when you’re 17, not endings.” It is that same optimistic spirit that suffuses Eleanor & Park and makes it a celebration of all the joys and sorrows of young love.
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WOMEN’S history By alice cary
We can do it: BRAVE women who made a difference
eed a lift? You’ll feel inspired after reading about five women who accomplished big things, all subjects of engaging new picture book biographies aimed at young elementary school students.
A voice that roared When a steamship pulls into the New York City harbor in 1903, a surprise is on board. So begins Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 (Balzer + Bray, $17.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780061804427). And never fear if a story about a strike doesn’t sound exciting; believe me, it is—especially in the hands of writer Michelle Markel. She begins by explaining: “The surprise is dirt poor, just five feet tall, and hardly speaks a word of English. Her name is Clara Lemlich. This girl’s got grit, and she’s going to prove it. Look out, New York!” Instead of going to school, Clara joins other young women working long hours sewing in a factory under harsh conditions. Markel writes: “Clara smolders with anger, not just for herself, but for all the factory girls, working like slaves. This was not the America she’d imagined.” Thus the stage is set for Clara to lead the largest walkout of women workers in U.S. history. Enriching this tale of might and right are fabulous illustrations by Caldecott Honor-winning artist Melissa Sweet, whose use of fabric and stitching within her art reminds readers that they’re reading about garment workers. In one wonderful spread, she creates an overhead shot of hundreds of tiny heads hunched over their sewing machines, while the adjacent page shows a timecard with notations of low pay and fines for being late. Sweet and Markel’s collaboration brings this strike to life in an immensely appealing way.
Reach for the stars
Henrietta Leavitt made an important contribution to astronomy, and Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9781416958192) does a great job of explaining her role in a way that young readers can easily grasp. Robert Burleigh writes: “In an astronomy class, she was one of the very few woman students. But Henrietta wanted to follow what she
loved, wherever it took her.” Leavitt’s journey took her to the Harvard College Observatory, where she and other women worked as “human computers” who counted stars for 30 cents an hour. Studying stars became Leavitt’s life work, and thanks to a phenomenon she noticed, she helped scientists calculate how far away certain stars are. Burleigh’s lively text brings her discovery to life, while Raúl Colón’s illustrations are not only gorgeous, but inventively luminescent, filled with swirling cosmos, colorful stars and reminders of great astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo. This well-rounded portrait contains a nicely detailed afterword that includes a glossary and resources for additional information.
A daring doctor Young Elizabeth Blackwell didn’t like the sight of blood, and was horrified when one teacher brought in a bull’s eyeball to show students how eyes work. These are the sorts of engaging details that Tanya Lee Stone includes in her lively biography, Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell (Holt, $16.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780805090482). When Elizabeth was 24, an ill friend lamented that she would love to have a woman doctor, and that Elizabeth would be perfect for the job. That suggestion changed Elizabeth’s life, and she wouldn’t take no for an answer once she decided to attend medical school. She first had to face 28 “no”s before finally getting a “yes” from New York’s Geneva Medical School. There, the male students ridiculed her, but she had the last laugh, graduating first in her class in 1849. Stone repeatedly reminds readers that Blackwell’s hardships are unimaginable in today’s world, where more than half of the medical students in the U.S. are women. Adding to the book’s appeal are whimsical, energetic illustrations by another Caldecott Honor-winning artist, Marjorie Priceman, whose style here brings to mind Ludwig Bemelmans and his famed Madeline
books. This dynamic biography is sure to speak to a wide range of young readers.
Take this book, please! My, how the world has changed. Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children (HMH, $16.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780547471051) describes a time when children weren’t allowed inside libraries. A young woman from Maine became one of the leading forces of change, a pioneer in her position as head of the children’s rooms in the New York Public Library system, beginning in 1906. Jan Pinborough’s biography unfolds in storybook fashion, with the title serving as an often repeated refrain. Miss Moore allowed children to borrow books, and she got rid of the “SILENCE” signs that hung in many libraries. When the New York Public Library opened its doors in 1911, Moore had designed a warm, welcoming children’s room brimming with the best books she could find, child-size furniture and art by the likes of N.C. Wyeth. Pinborough brings this literary crusader to life, explaining that upon retirement, Moore hit the road in an effort to improve libraries across the country. Debby Atwell’s folk-inspired art perfectly suits this story of a little girl whose big ideas helped change how children live and learn. Atwell’s final tableau, showing Miss Moore setting off across America as the countryside spreads before her, is particularly charming. No doubt
Miss Moore herself would give this book quite the stamp of approval!
A Literary Nurse Older students will be mesmerized by Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women (Walker, $16.99, 48 pages, ISBN 9780802796684). Award-winning writer Kathleen Krull focuses on a life-changing slice of Louisa May Alcott’s life, when she headed to Washington, D.C., to act as a Civil War nurse. Krull paints a rich historical portrait of both Louisa and the desperate times, infusing her text with quotes from Alcott’s own account of her experiences, Hospital Sketches. Krull describes the extraordinary difficulties Louisa experienced while traveling from New England to Washington, and Louisa’s jubilation on the night she looked out her window and saw African Americans celebrating the ratification of the Emancipation Proclamation. Carlyn Beccia’s illustrations are equally radiant with historical details, showing Louisa’s long hair reaching down to her ankles, the broad expanse of Pennsylvania Avenue, the unfinished Capitol Building without its dome and the lush countryside around Washington as Louisa ran up and down its hills. The impact of Louisa’s experiences stayed with her forever, leading directly to her success as a writer. While much has already been written about this famous author, Louisa May’s Battle is a fascinating contribution to the canon.
SAVE THE CANDY FOR YOURSELF Encourage reading this Easter with books that educate and entertain.
A WORLD OF IDEAS: SEE ALL THERE IS TO KNOW
© 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization. LEGO, the LEGO logo, the Brick and Knob configurations and the Mini-doll are trademarks of the LEGO Group. © 2013 The LEGO Group. Produced by DK Publishing under license from the LEGO Group.
children’s books Maggot Moon
Never underestimate a unique mind Review by cat acree
The young adult genre can be as repetitive as it is inventive, so the popularity of the dystopian YA subgenre guarantees some familiar storylines. It seems unfair, then, to classify Sally Gardner’s new novel, Maggot Moon, as dystopian YA, as it defies comparison to all of its shelfmates. Rather than looking ahead to a bleak future, Gardner imagines what the 1950s would have been like if the Allies had lost World War II. In the Motherland, “impurities” are “rubbed out,” citizens snitch or starve, and sheep have the best chance for survival. Fifteen-year-old Standish Treadwell is no sheep. He is dyslexic (like the author)—“Can’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright”—and therefore an impurity, an easy target both at school and in the Motherland. His dyslexia, however, is more a power than a hindrance. It keeps his eyes up and his ears open, and through his wry, incisive and original voice, he creates a narrative that is not quite linear, resembling instead By Sally Gardner the colorful mind of a daydreamer. Candlewick, $16.99, 288 pages Standish escapes his circumstances by retreating into his one remainISBN 9780763665531, audio available ing vestige of independence, his imagination. He and his best friend Ages 12 and up Hector dream of the free world, “Croca-Colas” and Cadillacs. They build a rocket ship to take them to Juniper, an imagined utopian planet with a name that feels within the realm of possibility, yet is obviously unobtainable. They are not alone in their dreams of reaching the stars, as the Motherland takes strides each day to be the first nation to land a man on the moon. When Hector and his family are taken away just before the moon launch, Standish finds himself uniquely positioned to risk all and unveil the Motherland’s elaborate ruse to its citizens and the rest of the world. He is the wolf among the sheep. In Maggot Moon, hope lies in truth. This is a small victory, but an achievable one, especially for a clear-eyed boy driven by friendship.
rator gives the history of the fictional town of Bunning. During a fierce storm in 1847, Captain Cornelius Bunning rammed his donuts onto the spokes of the ship’s wheel, thus creating the first donut holes. He later used the beams of his ship to build a schoolhouse in the town. “Hole”-some puns and legends abound in Bunning’s honor. Dealing with her grandmother’s death is not the only big adjustment in Ruby’s life. When classmate Nero DeNiro (who’s as outlandish as his name) takes an interest in Ruby, she must reconcile her relationship with her longtime best friend and her feelings of first love. In a bittersweet ending, Ruby discovers that her grandmother’s death has given her a new appreciation of the world around her. The only holes in this charming story are the ones served up in this donut-obsessed town. —Angela Leeper
Hold Fast By Blue Balliett
Scholastic $17.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780545299886 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12
The Menagerie By Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland
HarperCollins $16.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780060780647 eBook available Ages 8 to 12
Imagine having the coolest pets in town. The absolute coolest pets. Then imagine not being able to tell anyone about them. This is what Zoe Kahn has to go through every day. In The Menagerie, the first book in a new series by sisters Tui and Kari Sutherland, Zoe and her family are the latest in a centuriesold line who secretly protect a collection of mythical creatures— dragons, kelpies, mermaids, woolly mammoths and more. When six baby griffins escape, though, the safety of the Menagerie is suddenly
in jeopardy. Logan Wilde is new in town, having moved to Xanadu, Wyoming, with his dad after his mom sent a postcard letting them know she was never coming back home. He knows the names of a few kids in his class, but none of them bother to talk to him. One day, after noticing that Zoe was worried about a missing pet, Logan goes home, and finds something hiding under his bed. After attempting to return the animal, Logan quickly realizes that he has a much larger role to play in the survival of the Menagerie. Perfect for fans of Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series, The Menagerie is a promising start to what looks to be an exciting new series. It features strong male and female characters, an engrossing plot and a maddeningly wonderful cliffhanger ending. Told with humor, compassion, tension and honesty, The Menagerie immerses readers in Zoe and Logan’s world and will make them wish there was a zoo of mythical creatures hidden in their town as well. —Kevin Delecki
The Center of Everything By Linda Urban
HMH $15.99, 208 pages ISBN 9780547763484 eBook available Ages 9 and up
Is it destiny when 12-year-old Ruby is named the Bunning Day Essay Girl and chosen to deliver a rousing speech at her New Hampshire hometown parade? In Linda Urban’s thoughtful novel, The Center of Everything, Ruby keeps looking for signs like these that her wish will come true and she’ll be able to go back in time and be with her grandmother Gigi on the day she died. Maybe then she will understand the final word Gigi uttered that day. Despite the weighty topic of Ruby’s mourning, this story also produces plenty of smiles as a delightful nar-
Early Pearl is very much her father’s daughter, an 11-year-old fascinated with words and puzzles. That interest might help her unravel the mystery of her father’s disappearance and reunite their family of four. Early’s father, Dash, worked in the Chicago Public Library. Hoping to provide a better home for his family, he began working after hours, cataloguing books for resale. It all seemed innocent, but things aren’t always what they seem. After Dash vanishes from a wintry Chicago steet, people break into the family’s apartment, stealing everything they have left: every book, every dollar, every feeling of safety. With no place to go, mom Summer takes Early and her brother Jubie to a shelter. Living in a shelter is scary at first; there’s no privacy and there are lines for everything from brushing your teeth to using the telephone. Jubie gets sick, Early has to go to a new
meet sTEPHan PasTis SuSAN YOuNg
rEViEWs school where she is singled out as a shelter kid, and her father is still missing. Things are looking bleak until Early sets her mind to figuring out what happened to Dash by deciphering the clues in his notebook. Using text from Langston Hughes’ The Book of Rhythms, best-selling author Blue Balliett orchestrates a captivating mystery. Woven into the story are bits of history and philosophy, mathematical puzzles and most importantly, compassion for others. Dash taught his family to hold fast to dreams; Balliett shows readers that shelters are full of people who need a dream to hold fast to, just like the rest of us. —heather bruSh
anything at first because I wanted to see how long those words could hang in the air. Best friend. Best friend. Best friend.” Readers will like Celia and pull for her to learn that being true to herself is the sweetest revenge of all. —heather Seggel
HoW To lEaD a lifE of CriME by Kirsten Miller
Razorbill $18.99, 358 pages ISBN 9781595145185 eBook available Ages 14 and up
THE sWEET rEVEnGE of CElia Door by Karen finneyfrock
Viking $16.99, 272 pages ISBN 9780670012756 eBook available Ages 12 and up
At just 14 years old, Celia Door has turned Dark. Not goth or emo, but withdrawn into herself, clad in black and focused solely on getting back at the kids who pushed her over the edge. Befriending a cool new guy at school helps to broaden her horizons, but when he gets entangled in her scheme, it looks like she might lose everything. Will The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door be worth it? Author Karen Finneyfrock works magic on the page here. We get glimpses of the real Celia, an earnest, slightly nerdy poet, and we can see she’s not cut out for vengeance or darkness. Flashbacks to her mistreatment by classmates are unsparing, though, and it’s easy to understand why she wants so badly to even the score. Celia’s parents are divorcing and think her acting out is a response to them, which leaves her even more alone. New BFF Drake is a delight, just finding his way in the world and looking for order amid the chaos. His reliance on a kooky self-help book to aid in his coming-out process is both hilarious and poignant. When Celia sticks up for Drake and he drops to one knee and proposes friendship, she thinks: “I didn’t say
I love a good boarding school novel. Kirsten Miller’s Mandel Academy is different—and far more disturbing—than any other fictional boarding school I’ve come across. The main character, Flick, dubs the school “Hogwarts for hustlers,” and the course catalog reads like a series of ugly jokes. “Mining the Masses: Big Profits from Little People” and “Let Them Eat Cake: Exploiting America’s Obesity Epidemic” are just two of the courses at this school that also teaches the fine arts of hacking, blackmail and assassination. Flick, a skillful pickpocket, is a “legacy kid,” the son of a Mandel alumnus. But Flick enrolls in the academy not because he aspires to be like his dad but because he longs to take him down and expose his secret, murderous history. As Flick rises to the top of the class, he discovers just how sinister the academy is. When his “one good thing,” his girlfriend Joi, winds up at the academy, too, she shows him that there may be another option, one that will keep Flick alive while maintaining his moral integrity, one that will turn Mandel upside down. In How to Lead a Life of Crime, Miller has created a gruesome school environment, one in which ambition turns bloodthirsty and loyalties are tested. Along the way, she raises significant questions about the origins of evil, the capability of the individual and the distribution of wealth and power. Readers might not want to enroll in the Mandel Academy, but their time spent there will certainly make them think. —norah Piehl
TiMMy failurE: MisTaKEs WErE MaDE A self-taught artist, Stephan Pastis is the creator of the popular comic strip Pearls Before Swine, which appears in more than 600 newspapers. His ﬁrst children’s book, TiMMy failurE: MisTaKEs WErE MaDE (Candlewick, $14.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9780763660505), features the hilariously inept “founder, president and CEO” of the Total Failure, Inc. detective agency. Pastis lives in northern California.
By the editors of Merriam-Webster
LIKE THE PLAGUE Dear Editor, Having often been called a pest by my older siblings growing up, I wonder where the word pest comes from. Can you tell me? K. M. Tempe, Arizona While pest may now refer to something that is just a nuisance, it once meant something far more serious. In the 16th century, when English borrowed peste, it was the French word for “plague.” Although it could be used for any epidemic disease, it customarily referred to bubonic plague. Pest had not been in English long before it was being used for anything destructive or troublesome. While the French peste has retained all of its original force, the English word can be applied to things that are only mildly irritating.
NUTS TO YOU Dear Editor, Can you explain why we use peanut gallery to describe a group
or an individual whose opinion is unimportant? B. N. Seattle, Washington Peanut gallery originally described the section of seats in the upper balcony of a theater, and it is still often used in that sense. This literal use of the term dates back to 19th-century slang. These seats were the farthest from the stage and the least expensive seats in the house. In many theaters, peanuts and popcorn were sold only to the people in the cheapest seats, and this practice earned the upper balcony the name peanut gallery. The audience members in the peanut gallery were generally poorer than those sitting up front. Social judgments being what they were, the people in the peanut gallery were considered unsophisticated in matters of artistic appreciation, and their opinion regarding the show was not held in high regard. So the term peanut gallery came to be associated with any group whose opinion is being disparaged.
HAND IN GLOVE Dear Editor, Which is correct, run the gauntlet or run the gantlet? O. L. Mason, Texas Gauntlet and gantlet are both correct. There is, in fact, more than one gauntlet in English, but the two spelling variants are not etymologically distinct. The older gauntlet was borrowed from French in the 15th century. Its literal meaning in French is “little glove,” and it originally described a protective glove worn with medieval armor. The phrases throw down the gauntlet and pick up the gauntlet arose from the medieval custom of throwing down a glove to issue a challenge. The phrase run the gauntlet has a more complex history. It refers to a form of military punishment in which a prisoner was made to pass between two rows of men armed with clubs or other weapons. The original name for such a punishment in English was gantlope, a
derivative of the Swedish gatlopp, from gata, “road,” and lop, “course.” Gauntlet came to be used in place of gantlope through the process of folk etymology—that is, the substitution of a familiar word for an unfamiliar one. The earliest examples showing gauntlet used in this way are from the 17th century. Gantlet was one of several spelling variants, used for both the “glove” sense and the “punishment” sense of gauntlet. It seems to have gained prominence in the U.S. during the 19th century, when our own dictionaries recognized it, for reasons which are not at all clear. British dictionaries have never recognized the distinction, and gantlet has long since dropped out of use as a spelling variant in British English. In American English, mistaken notions about its correctness have assured its continued use, though the more common spelling is gauntlet.
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