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AMERICA’S BOOK REVIEW

MARCH 2017

THE IDIOT

Coming-of-age meets love story in Elif Batuman’s joyful debut

THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS The riveting real-life tale of a hermit in hiding

THIS LAND

Jack Spencer captures the heart of America

GEORGE

SAUNDERS

The short fiction master turns to the novel in Lincoln in the Bardo, a wholly original take on the haunting power of grief and love


Great Books The Paradigm Prophecies

A Professor and CEO True Story

Reflections for Healing Richard Francis Moore

A fascinating Journey to Success Richard T. Cheng

www.trafford.com 978-1-4907-7496-1 | Hardback | $23.99 978-1-4907-7528-9 | Paperback | $13.99 978-1-4907-7495-4 | E-book | $3.99

www.xlibris.com 978-1-5245-3540-7 | Hardback | $22.99 978-1-5245-3539-1 | Paperback | $15.99 978-1-5245-3538-4 | E-book | $2.99

Amidst ever changing paradigms, the book addresses themes of healing, renewal, inspiration, and gratitude to caregivers and all those who seek healthy solutions.

Richard T. Cheng shares the true story of how he overcame great odds and transformed from a struggling immigrant to million-dollar CEO and esteemed professor.

Let’s Fly

The Glass Ship

Greg Grant

Martin Simons

www.xlibris.com.au 978-1-5035-0632-9 | Paperback | $16.12 978-1-5035-0631-2 | E-book | $4.99

www.xlibris.com.au 978-1-5144-4449-8 | Paperback | $24.19 978-1-5144-4448-1 | E-book | $4.99

Let’s Fly was written by Greg Grant, a disabled man. The poems tell that disabled people can do the same things as everyone else.

Peter, a stodgy schoolmaster abandoned by his bored partner, seeks life- changing adventure, finds it and a new love in the air flying advanced gliders.

The Success Process Handbook

Party Girl Nurse's Journey

A Thinking Persons Guide To Interpersonal Relationships Tony Fielek www.xlibris.com 978-1-4931-2552-4 | Hardback | $15.99 978-1-4931-2551-7 | Paperback | $12.99 978-1-4931-2553-1 | E-book | $3.99 The Success Process Handbook: a detailed program to find and influence key people important to your success in social career and personal relationships.

Cities at Sea

Barbara Stevens www.authorhouse.co.uk 978-1-5144-8743-3 | Hardback | $29.99 978-1-5144-8742-6 | Paperback | $19.99 978-1-5144-8741-9 | E-book | $3.99 Everything was almost perfect until her family entered the drug world. Their lives changed and she became stronger with God’s help and mercy.

Crimes of Faith

Martin Simons

Anah Jochebed

www.xlibris.com.au 978-1-5144-4445-0 | Paperback | $24.19 978-1-5144-4444-3 | E-book | $4.99

www.trafford.com 978-1-4907-0975-8 | Paperback | $18.70

In a future millennium, great cities have moved onto the sea. Sal hopes for change. She and her city are fundamentally altered by a geneticist.

The Adventures of Fred the Fly and Some of his Friends Joe Carr

www.xlibrispublishing.co.uk 978-1-5144-6223-2 | Hardback | $24.95 978-1-5144-6225-6 | Paperback | $18.29 978-1-5144-6224-9 | E-book | $4.99 Follow a mischievous fly whose exploits bring him near a jug of cream and the top garden. He will teach youngsters important lessons.

Crimes of Faith written by Anah Jochebed is filled with a stream-ofconsciousness prose discussing themes of faith, tyranny, wisdom and inner strength, among others.

The Adventures of Fred the Fly

And His Homecoming Party Joe Carr www.xlibrispublishing.co.uk 978-1-5144-4780-2 | Hardback | $24.95 978-1-5144-4781-9 | Paperback | $18.29 978-1-5144-4782-6 | E-book | $4.99

Finally returning home, Fred the Fly is surprised when his journey becomes the talk of the garden. Little did he know what surprises await him!


contents

MARCH 2017

columns 04 04 05 06 08 09 10 10

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Well Read Audio The Hold List Whodunit Romance Book Clubs Cooking Lifestyles

The long wait for prize-winning short story writer George Saunders’ debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is finally over. Cover image © Chloe Aftel

book reviews 16 FICTION

by Elif Batuman

Short stories Jack Spencer Christian suspense Michael Finkel Nature Jack Cheng

meet the author 31

Marilyn in Manhattan by Elizabeth Winder Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison Havana by Mark Kurlansky Dodge City by Tom Clavin The New Old Me by Meredith Maran Bleaker House by Nell Stevens Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

t o p p i c k : The Idiot

features 11 12 21 23 25 29

on the cover

Rachel Isadora

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline Celine by Peter Heller The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant Ill Will by Dan Chaon Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar˘ The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo Exit West by Mohsin Hamid The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel The Underworld by Kevin Canty

27 TEEN

t o p p i c k : The Inexplicable Logic

of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham The Shadows We Know by Heart by Jennifer Park Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lövestam Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

22 NONFICTION

t o p p i c k : The Stranger in the

30 CHILDREN’S

t o p p i c k : Triangle

Woods by Michael Finkel

The Novel of the Century by David Bellos Traveling with Ghosts by Shannon Leone Fowler The Girl at the Baggage Claim by Gish Jen Martin Luther by Lyndal Roper

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EDITOR

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PUBLISHER Michael A. Zibart

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columns

WELL READ

AUDIO

BY ROBERT WEIBEZAHL

BY SUKEY HOWARD

Notes from the past

Scorched earth

For one of America’s great writers, Joan Didion has often left her many fans hungry for more. Over a 54-year literary career, she has published a mere 14 books, which more often than not have been concise in length, as deftly pared as her spare, elegant prose. Didion’s latest offering, South and West (Knopf, $21, 160 pages, ISBN 9781524732790), is not new writing, although it is material that the public has never before seen. Including excerpts from notebooks she kept in the 1970s while researching articles that never came to fruition, this slim volume offers a window into Didion’s working methods. It also reveals the extent to which Didion’s brilliance as an observer and as a prose stylist exists from the moment she first puts pen to paper. The lion’s share of the book is comprised of Didion’s “Notes on the South,” written during a trip to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama the writer took with the idea that it might become the basis for a magazine article. In a passage clearly added with hindsight, Didion writes, “I could never precisely name what impelled me to spend time in the South during the summer of 1970. . . . I had only some dim and unformed sense, a sense which struck me now and then, and which I could not explain coherently, that for some years the South and particularly the Gulf Coast had been for America what people were still saying California was, and what California seemed to me not to be: the future, the secret source of malevolent and benevolent energy, the psychic center.” Didion lived briefly in the South as a young girl, when her father was stationed there during World War II, but hers is, and always will be, a Western sensibility. Her observations of Southern life, with

“You lied. Luke lied. Be at the funeral.” That brief note from Luke’s father brings Aaron Falk, now a federal agent in Melbourne, back to the small Australian farming town of Kiewarra, where it hasn’t rained for two years. Tempers have become as combustible as the brittle leaves crackling under the cruel sun that glowers over Jane Harper’s debut thriller, The Dry (Macmillan Audio, 9.5 hours), narrated by Ste-

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its languid, conservative sense of history, are offered with the cool detachment that marks her work, that understated sense of irony that conveys as much in what is not said as in what is expressed. The small-town South she encounters is still a largely segregated one, where roadside souvenir stands sell beach towels imprinted with the Confederate flag, and the best places to feel the pulse of public sentiment is the local diner or beauty parlor. Didion, near invisible, never confrontational, filters it all through her prismatic lens. This ’70s South seems propelled not toward the future, though, but fixed in the past, or in a present that is totally comfortable being defined by the past. Didion has stumbled upon an alien world, and on more than one occasion resists the urge to leave. Less alien, but no less discomfiting, are Didion’s “California Notes.” Significantly briefer than the dispatches from the South, these are notes taken when she Didion’s was planning brilliance as on covering the Patty an observer Hearst trial for and as a Rolling Stone. Herself a prose stylist member of an exists from “old Califorthe moment nia” family— she first puts albeit without pen to paper. the Hearst wealth—Didion feels a connection to the heiress and her peculiarly California story. “I am at home in the West,” she jots down. “I am easy here in a way that I am not easy in other places.” South and West is an archival treasure. It may have limited appeal for those not familiar with Didion’s literary output, but it is essential reading for those of us who admire the work of this peerless chronicler of America’s collective anxiety.

phen Shanahan in a strong, evocative Aussie accent. The funeral is for Luke Hadler, Aaron’s boyhood best friend, who murdered his wife and young son before taking his own life. Or so it seems. And where does the “lie” fit in? Harper deftly weaves two strands of revelations together, moving the plot seamlessly from now to then and back, from the time when Aaron was accused of murdering a teenage girl, to the growing possibility that Luke and his family were massacred by someone else. Film rights to this chilling tale have been optioned by Reese Witherspoon.

MÉNAGE À TROIS Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes (Macmillan Audio, 11 hours), read by a foursome of excellent performers, is this season’s hottest domestic thriller. It’s told in the voices of two women: Louise, an attractive, blond 30-something divorced mother, and Adele, the gorgeous, charming, wealthy, obsessive (to put it mildly) wife of David, a brilliant psychiatrist. Louise seems to be a reliable narrator, while Adele fills the requisite bill of the unreliable one. Louise and David meet accidentally in a bar, and have some drinks and a snog before she realizes that he’s her new boss at a psychiatric clinic. Adele, who somehow knows everything her adored husband does,

arranges to bump into Louise and establish a clandestine friendship. So begins a skillfully choreographed pas de trois that ends with a wow of a double-twisted finale. Inklings of impending doom are cleverly woven in, as is Adele and David’s backstory. I have to add a non-spoiler warning: A tad, or more, of suspension of disbelief is necessary to savor this story. But by the time you reach that point in the tale, you’ll be so involved you may not even be aware that you need it.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO Most of us brushed up against existentialism in college or a bit before, and we certainly know the names Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, though their lengthy oeuvres might not be at our fingertips. Do they still matter? Sarah Bakewell’s answer is a resounding yes. And her lucid, brilliant evocation of how they and their group lived and loved and laughed and argued, At the Exis­ tentialist Café (Audible, 16 hours), narrated by Antonia Beamish, is fascinating and intensely relevant. Bakewell explores existentialist ideas, as well as those of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers (major 20th-century philosophers whose works were integral to existentialist thinking), and places the rise of this intellectual movement in the brutal context of Europe in the 1930s and ’40s. The basic questions of how to live, how to be free and how to engage with political reality— questions the Paris café-dwelling existentialists wrestled with—hover over our daily lives again. Listen, be entertained and look at our world with freshly curious eyes.


THE HOLD LIST

Top book club picks for

March

In this new feature, BookPage ­editors share curated lists of the best books—old and new—on a variety of subjects. Feed your TBR!

For fans of Nordic Noir

Women in the world

MARKED FOR REVENGE

It’s Women’s History Month, but you can venture beyond the nonfiction shelves and still find inspiring stories about real-life women who’ve made their mark. Here are five of our favorite novels about historical figures who blazed new trails for women.

The second in a trilogy of fast-paced, high-stakes thrillers featuring the brilliant, enigmatic prosecutor, Jana Berzelius.

Emelie Schepp

CIRCLING THE SUN by Paula McLain An aviation pioneer, successful horse trainer and famed memoirist, Beryl Markham was an iconoclastic independent. McLain tracks her subject from her childhood in Kenya to a love triangle with Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton (of Out of Africa fame) to her famed solo flight across the Atlantic in her 30s. McLain’s novel is a sweeping historical epic about a singular woman’s drive to take charge of her own destiny.

SAINT MAZIE by Jami Attenberg By day, Mazie Phillips-Gordon sold tickets at the Venice Theater in Depression-era New York. By night, she roamed the streets, handing out necessities and calling ambulances for the homeless and hungry. She became known as Saint Mazie, the Queen of the Bowery. Attenberg takes a patchwork approach to Mazie’s story, interspersing fictional diary entries with invented first-person testimonials from her friends. Sharp and earthy, but with a tender appreciation for beauty and a dedication to her fellow man, Attenberg’s Mazie is a delight and an inspiration.

For fans of heartfelt tearjerkers

THE CHOICES WE MAKE Karma Brown

An extraordinary story that explores the intricate dynamics of friendship, parenthood and the risks we take to make our dreams come true.

For fans of unforgettable historical fiction

REMARKABLE CREATURES by Tracy Chevalier

THE ORPHAN’S TALE Pam Jenoff

In Regency England, most women were confined to making good marriages and pretty needlepoint. But Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot were more interested in something else—prehistoric fossils. Chevalier’s graceful, touching novel is as interested in the women’s scientific discoveries as it is in their growing, cross-generational friendship.

A powerful novel set in a traveling circus during World War II introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival.

MARGARET THE FIRST by Danielle Dutton Margaret Cavendish, one of the inventors of science fiction and one of the first successful female authors of the modern age, was unabashedly ambitious and wildly eccentric. Dutton’s novel is as individual and colorful as the woman it portrays, mixing excerpts of Cavendish’s striking writing with sharp observations on the privileged but limited life of an aristocratic woman who happened to be a literary genius.

For fans of police procedurals

FIELD OF GRAVES J.T. Ellison

EMPRESS by Shan Sa The life and personality of Wu Zetian, China’s first and only female emperor, are the subject of passionate debate. Was she a power-mad monster? A clever woman who took hold of the only chance she had to determine her fate? A proto-feminist icon? Sa’s novel is a vivid exploration of Wu’s life and a complex portrait of a woman who has fascinated historians for centuries.

All of Nashville is on edge with a serial killer on the loose, and it’s a race against the clock to find the killer before he claims yet another victim.

Do we have a story for you!

BookClubbish.com

@BookClubbish

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2017-01-20 1:10 PM


columns

WHODUNIT BY BRUCE TIERNEY

Black sun rising over Tokyo

SAVE PAPER Subscribe to the digitial edition! available for Kindle and Nook

One of my favorite things about this job is bringing a new writer to the attention of readers, and it is particularly true in the case of Nicolás Obregón, whose debut novel, Blue Light Yokohama (Minotaur, $25.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9781250110480), is set in my home of a dozen years, metro Tokyo. Obregón balances the key compo-

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is a sensitive yet action-packed novel of conflict both on international and interpersonal levels as Jack and Caitlin’s goals become more and more polarized with each passing day. Lenin’s Roller Coaster is the third book of the Jack McColl series, and there is a case to be made for reading the other two before jumping into this one, because either way, if you read one, you will read all.

TOP PICK IN MYSTERY nents of modern detective fiction seamlessly: a damaged hero, the requisite layer of urban grittiness, a possible love interest, a taunting serial killer and a series of frustrating, misleading clues. The killings bear an eerie resemblance to earlier unsolved murders in Tokyo; the hearts are ripped from the victims, and crude, sooty drawings of the sun are left at the scene. The Black Sun Killer, as the press quickly dubs him, is proving more of an embarrassment to the police department with each passing day, and pressure is put on the investigators to make some progress in the case. But with pressure comes mistakes, and when one is dealing with a serial killer, mistakes can be deadly. Obregón’s descriptions of Tokyo are spot-on as he leads the reader through the city in search of an exceptionally clever and elusive killer. Blue Light Yokohama is nicely done for a first book; it’s nicely done, period.

A HORSE THROAT

BOOKPAGE.COM

Bradshaw, the central character of Stephen Dobyns’ Saratoga ­Payback (Blue Rider, $27, 368 pages, ISBN 9780399576577). Charlie has had his PI license revoked, so any clandestine investigation he might undertake carries with it the risk of prosecution. However, there is a good chance that the deceased party, a man of ill repute in Sarato-

It is beyond annoying when you wake up at 3:35 a.m., realizing that you have not put out the garbage for early morning pickup. But imagine stumbling out with your garbage to discover a fresh corpse on your front walk, its throat slit ear to ear. This discovery raises a long line of red flags in the mind of disgraced private detective Charlie

ga, was on his way to see Charlie, which merits his murder a bit of a look-see. His death may also be tied to the recent high-profile kidnapping of a racehorse from the stable of an equestrian socialite that Charlie is also looking into. Then there are more murders, and Charlie begins to believe he may be among the killer’s intended victims. Dobyns has created a lasting and well-loved character in Charlie Bradshaw, and longtime fans will be happy to meet an old favorite and find him in top form once again.

TO RUSSIA, WITH LOVE Agent Jack McColl is trying (with little success) to balance a relationship and his duties as a British spy in David Downing’s latest thriller, Lenin’s Roller Coaster (Soho Crime, $27.95, 336 pages, ISBN 9781616956042). World War I continues unabated in Europe, and the Bolshevik Revolution is beginning to come into its own in Russia. McColl’s lover, progressive journalist Caitlin Hanley, knows beyond a doubt that Mother Russia is where she belongs and that she must be on hand as history is made—if she can figure out how to get there. McColl can help, but should he? All of Downing’s books thus far have had recurring themes of love tested and affected by war, and this one is no exception. This

On the eve of one of the bloodiest battles of World War I, a ragtag group of British officers gathers for one last drink before returning to the front of the Battle of the ­Somme. Over the course of the evening, the officers discover one thing they have in common: a love for a fairly new invention, the motorcar. They make a solemn vow to meet after the war and stage a motorcar rally from Paris to the French Riviera, not so much a race as it would be a joint affirmation of survival. Five of the seven beat the odds and live through the Somme. After the war, the survivors set off from Paris, each in his own motorcar, heading southward to the sea. And then the inexplicable accidents begin. One by one, the ex-officers succumb to suspicious causes of death. Enter Inspector Ian Rutledge, protagonist of the atmospheric mystery series penned by the mother-and-son writing team known as Charles Todd. Rutledge’s latest adventure, Racing the Devil (Morrow, $26.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780062386212), finds the Inspector in fine fettle, ably assisted by his right-hand man, the ghost of soldier Hamish MacLeod, who exists only in Rutledge’s battle-scarred memory. Can Rutledge identify and apprehend the killer before yet another of the S ­ omme survivors meets an untimely death? Great pacing and a compelling story make this a delight for fans of history and mystery alike.


Blackmailed into abducting an American heiress, Rafe Angelito soon finds himself trapped in paradise with a woman who’s nothing he expects… and everything he desires. But when he uncovers her own dark secret, Rafe realizes he’s made a critical mistake— one that could cost him everything.

BRYNN KELLY

columns Loving and learning Three women discover new versions of themselves as well as romance in A Million Little Things (Mira, $15.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780778326939), part of Susan Mallery’s Mischief Bay series. Zoe Saldivar is dissatisfied with her single life. She needs a big change, but what to do? Her best friend, young mother Jen Beldon, offers no help. Jen is obsessed with her toddler,

neglecting her health and her husband, and although she knows her marriage is suffering, she feels powerless to make adjustments. Her own mother, widow Pam Eiland, tries to gently point out the problem, but that causes trouble between mother and daughter. Meanwhile, new romantic possibilities arise for both Pam and Zoe. Complications come fast on the heels of kisses, however, and soon all three women are forced to re-examine who they are and what they want. Readers will find new friends in these sympathetic heroines and root for them to solve their very believable problems.

UNDERSEA PASSION “Sexual tension, mystery, and danger crackle off every page!” —New York Times bestselling author Laura Kaye

Pick up your copy today! www.HQNBooks.com

Both adventure and romance sizzle in Cherry Adair’s Storm­ chaser (St. Martin’s, $7.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9781250016348). With pride, family and fortune on the line, Jonah Cutter hires acclaimed marine archaeologist Dr. Calista West for his latest underwater salvage project. There’s treasure off the coast of Greece—perhaps a bounty beyond measure if Jonah’s suspicions are true—and he needs the beautiful doctor to help him prove it. Calista comes aboard his ship with goals of her own, however. She’s there to aid her brotherin-law in getting revenge on the

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

2017-01-09 5:37 PM

Cutters by scooping this prize from their hands. But she couldn’t have foreseen her wild attraction to handsome Jonah, and the fire between them is mutual. As they explore the mysteries of the Mediterranean Sea, their passion explodes. When a menace threatens their lives, can the two find a way to save themselves and find a way to forever? Adair’s latest is filled with fast-paced, imaginative fun.

TOP PICK IN ROMANCE In Meredith Duran’s A Lady’s Code of Misconduct (Pocket, $7.99, 400 pages, ISBN 9781501139024), political intrigue drives a captivating historical romance. Crispin Burke, a member of Parliament, awakens after a devastating head injury to find he’s lost five years of his memory and gained a wife—a rich wife named Jane. But as he struggles to learn about this stranger and their relationship, he discovers that during those lost years he was ruthless and manipulative, supporting laws and colleagues for financial gain and power, not for good. News about his marriage is no better—Jane tells him they married for convenience and not for love. None of this sits well with Crispin, and as he traces back through his life, he comes to a better understanding of his family and of his failings. In doing so, he falls for his lovely wife, whom he knows will prove a perfect partner in life and love—if they can survive the danger that stalks them. This Regency romance, part of the Rules for the Reckless series, is a smart love story, peopled with complex and absorbing characters.


BOOK CLUBS BY JULIE HALE

A father’s tragic legacy Named one of the top novels of 2016 by Time and Newsday, Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone (Back Bay, $15.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780316261333) traces the influence of one man’s mental illness on the members of his family. In London, during the 1960s, Margaret is set to marry John when she learns of his chronic depression. Should she follow through with the

wedding or call it off? Her decision to wed John is, in the end, a fateful one—a choice that has repercussions for the three children they raise together. Michael, their eldest, is a music lover with a delicate spirit; Celia, their resourceful daughter, is a social worker; and Alec, their determined, principled younger son, is a journalist. Over the years, as depression hounds both John and Michael, the clan struggles to stay together. Narrated by all five family members, Haslett’s novel is a searing portrait of a household founded on love but haunted by illness. Luminous prose, authentic characterizations and compassionate treatment of sensitive subject matter make this an absorbing family chronicle.

A YEAR ON THE BRINK Nominated for the Man Booker Prize, Sunjeev Sahota’s haunting novel The Year of the Runaways (Vintage, $16.95, 512 pages, ISBN 9781101911884) follows four young immigrants as they make their way from India to England. Raised as an “untouchable,” Tochi arrives in England anticipating a better life, only to experience prejudice. Avtar, his housemate, sells a kidney to get out of India and dreams of earning a decent living. His girlfriend, Lakhpreet, has high hopes for their

future. Her brother, Randeep, sets up a marriage with a British woman named Narinder in order to stay in England. Randeep finds himself falling for Narinder, but she keeps him at arm’s length. The novel chronicles a memorable year in their lives—a time when they struggle to adapt to new customs and make ends meet. Sahota is a writer of great emotional acuity who makes the reader care about his characters. He offers a nuanced account of the immigrant experience, capturing the anxiety, doubt and loneliness that come with assimilation.

Book Club Must Reads for March

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

The Drifter

by Christine Lennon “Part campus novel, part coming-ofage story, The Drifter by Christine Lennon is a compelling and thoughtful debut about how the past can press against the present, and haunt it…” — Bestselling author Edan Lepucki

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS Set in 1914, Helen Simonson’s The Summer Before the War (Random House, $17, 512 pages, ISBN 9780812983203) is a beautifully rendered tale of Edwardian England. Hugh Grange, a medical student, is staying with his Aunt Agatha in the seaside village of Rye. Agatha flouts convention by supporting the selection of a female Latin instructor for Rye’s grammar school. The teacher, Beatrice Nash, is liberal-minded and independent, with ambitions of being a writer. Signaling the approach of the social changes that will soon transform England, Beatrice’s engagement as a teacher causes something of a stir in Rye. Hugh forms a friendship with her—a bond that blossoms despite the shadow of the coming war. This appealing period novel is richly detailed and sharply incisive. Against a backdrop of dramatic cultural upheaval, Simonson presents an unforgettable portrait of Rye, its inhabitants and its longheld customs, blending history and romance into an irresistible mix.

Lost Along the Way by Erin Duffy

A fresh, funny, and insightful novel about what it really means to be “friends forever” from the acclaimed author of Bond Girl and On the Rocks.

All Summer Long

by Dorothea Benton Frank

Filled with her trademark wit, poignant themes, and rich characters, the perennial New York Times bestselling author returns with a sensational novel that follows the travels of one couple through a tumultuous summer.

@Morrow_PB

@bookclubgirl

William Morrow

Book Club Girl

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columns

COOKING

Winning the weekend A few years ago, after Anthony Bourdain’s infamous trashing of brunch, I almost gave it up. But that only lasted a New York minute. The leisurely lure of this quintessential fusion meal, which can shift from coffee to cocktails and back again, was too tempting. Now we have Joy the Baker Over Easy (Potter, $27.50, 256 pages, ISBN 9780385345750), Joy Wil-

son’s ballad to brunch that sings of colorful combos of sweet and savory, from Fluffy Scrambled Eggs cooked in clarified butter and pecan-flecked Praline Bacon to crustless Spaghetti Quiche and Fried Chicken and Maple Waffle Sandwiches. You can then move on to Blueberry-Pistachio Tabbouleh, Baked Brown-Butter Banana Bread Doughnuts and delicate Lemon Poppy Seed Palmiers. Wilson, aka Joy the Baker, includes salads, sides and a selection of midday drinkables—spicy Micheladas; an elegant, prosecco-spiked Aperol Spritz; or Frothy, Milky, At-Home Mochas. Wilson is an expert in making home-cooked brunch into a joyous, relaxing respite from the relentless quotidian crunch.

INDIA BY WAY OF NYC Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brook­ lyn (Ten Speed, $24.99, 224 pages, ISBN 9781607747345), Chitra Agrawal’s debut cookbook, opens up the wonderful world of South Indian home cooking. Lighter than the usual North Indian restaurant fare, this cuisine relies on grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and unique spice mixtures to create complex flavors and some serious heat. Agrawal comes from a long line of strict vegetarians and learned to cook what her mother, aunts and grandmother cooked. She then started experimenting

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LIFESTYLES

BY SYBIL PRATT

with these traditional dishes from Bangalore, using seasonal produce from local farms and adapting ingredients to suit her bustling life in New York City, where she opened Brooklyn Delhi, a company that produces acclaimed, small-batch achaars, or Indian pickled condiments. From breakfast treats and sensational snacks to salads, stir-fries and soups, Agrawal’s fresh vegetarian recipes are doable, delectable and truly vibrant.

TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS Melissa Clark, celebrated New York Times food writer and cookbook author, wants us to get creative in the kitchen, to get away from the humdrum tyranny of serving the “proper” dinnertime trio of a protein and two sides and get with a new way of cooking dinner. Clark is a proponent of using fabulous ingredients that were once seen as exotic but are now easily available components of our ever-expanding food culture. Each of the more than 250 recipes in Dinner: Changing the Game (Potter, $35, 400 pages, ISBN 9780553448238) is a brightly seasoned one-pot, one-bowl dinner. You can add a salad or some crusty bread or just stick with the solo sensation. Clark offers a list of spices and sauces she uses in many of these exciting dishes, such as crispy skinned Sumac Chicken with Plums or Slow-Roasted Tuna with Harissa and Olives. But you can turn out Spicy Stir-Fried Cumin Lamb, Garlicky Calamari or a vegetable-topped Quinoa Egg Bowl without any unusual ingredients. With Clark as mentor, the dinner game has changed—and you’re the winner.

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

Crafting a career Looking to promote the artists and crafters whose creations she carried in her shop, writer and photographer Erin Austen Abbott began sharing “Studio Stories” on her Instagram feed. With How to Make It (Chronicle, $24.95, 212 pages, ISBN 9781452150017), she expands on that series, photographing 25 artisans and business owners across the country in

natural light in their workspaces. Each profile features a short Q&A, a “Day in the Life” breakdown, a how-to for a related project—homemade wood butter, a block-printed scarf, a fringed greeting card, a hand-cut leather coin purse—and, in a clever addition, great Spotify fodder with a list of “Inspiring Songs from the Studio.” The projects are within reach for those of us who aren’t professional artists, and Abbott’s interviews are studded with sound advice from the trenches. It’s like the ultimate coffee date with your favorite creative mentor, times 25. “We have so much to learn from one another as we follow our creative paths,” Abbott writes. “Let’s all be in this together.”

A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN It’s a dream of mine to build a tiny house in my backyard: a writing space for me, a place for occasional guests to crash. So I nearly gasped at She Sheds (Cool Springs Press, $25, 176 pages, ISBN 9781591866770) by Erika Kotite, which makes my vision seem awfully attainable. Here are real women’s one-room getaways, each with its own unique purpose. You’ll ooh and ahh over them all: a restored garden shed constructed with recycled materials, a contractor-built jewelry studio, a “new”

shed built entirely from parts salvaged from other buildings and everything in between. Practical tips abound, from decisions about foundation and flooring to laying brick and painting. For each shed, the total build time and final cost are detailed, and many come in well under $10,000. You can also go the shed kit route, and Kotite provides advice on that as well. This is a fabulous resource and a dreamy look-book.

TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES Life seems a little—or a lot— more sensual and refined with things like edible flower-infused water, salt-preserved herbs, blooming butter and scented geranium sugar around. If you follow the lead of Harvest (Ten Speed, $22, 224 pages, ISBN 9780399578335) by Bay Area landscape designers Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis, you can whip up these and other pleasures from plants grown in your own backyard. Organizing the selected plants by their growing season— either early, mid or late—the authors suggest a brilliant array of ways to alchemize their various parts. Roots, fruits, leaves and seeds become salads, scrubs, skin treatments and dyes. And if you can’t cultivate chinotto oranges or finger limes or pineapple guava? Never fear; there’s a handy substitution chart for each project, so you’re bound to find a plant that will provide what you need. New gardeners may feel a bit intimidated, but seasoned green thumbs will love these fresh ideas. And really, we can all pull off an aromatic rosemary smudge stick or dried herbs for sprinkling into dishes.


spotlight

SHORT STORIES BY HORACE McLEVEE

Fleeting connections

J

unot Díaz once wrote that short stories “strike like life and end with its merciless abruptness as well.” Three new collections offer moments of insight and escape, only to zip away, as ephemeral as life itself. Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, was born in Vietnam and came to the United States with his family as a refugee in 1975. Dedicated to “all refugees, everywhere,” The Refugees (Grove, $25, 224 pages, ISBN 9780802126399) is a selection of nine stories from Nguyen’s 20 years of writing. Set within California’s Vietnamese community or in Vietnam, these tales display an extraordinary range of perspectives stretched between two worlds, as parents and children grapple with memories that comfort or haunt. A ghostwriter’s dead brother returns as a ghost, dripping wet, but their mother seems to be expecting this surprise guest. An aging couple in an arranged marriage struggle as the husband’s dementia causes him to call his wife by another woman’s name. We all find ourselves between cultures, and Nguyen considers these boundaries with an empathetic and often humorous eye.

COMMON THREADS National Book Award finalist Jim Shepard’s (The Book of Aron) keen interest in time and historical detail take center stage in his fifth collection, The World to Come (Knopf, $25.95, 272 pages, ISBN 9781524731809). These 10 stories make vast jumps, from a snapshot of 1600 B.C. Crete to a modern-day parable about the American health care system. Per-

One woman’s journey to finding the happiness she’s long been missing…

haps the most evocative stories here are epistolary—an anxiety-inducing account of an ill-fated arctic exploration and the poignant, immersive title story about a woman’s double life on the American frontier. Though these tales vary wildly in temporal setting, a thread of quiet isolation coupled with a longing for connection binds these characters together. For masterfully crafted historical fiction, there are few contemporary authors who can rival Shepard.

BEAUTY IN SQUALOR Following her brilliant breakout novel, Eileen (2015), Ottessa Moshfegh proves her remarkable prowess once again with Homesick for Another World (Penguin Press, $26, 304 pages, ISBN 9780399562884). This dark collection arrives on a current of unease, each story focusing on people filled with a seemingly hopeless desire for connection: A broken man pines for the manager of a videogame café, a woman hates her unhinged boyfriend but lacks the will to leave him, an English teacher spends her summers strung out in a dying town. In blunt, unflinching prose, Moshfegh reveals her characters’ deepest anxieties and perversities without judgment or sympathy. Spiking her stories with pitchdark humor, Moshfegh adeptly captures what it means to be alone; if you’ve ever felt homesick while sitting in your own living room, this book is for you.

Read it now in paperback. A new journey begins April 18 in the next Sullivan’s Crossing novel.

BookClubbish.com RobynCarr.com

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2017-01-27 2:30 PM


features

JACK SPENCER INTERVIEW BY ALDEN MUDGE

Seeing what America really is

W

hen Jack Spencer began the 13-year, 80,000-mile odyssey that would result in his ravishing book of photographs of the American landscape, he was in a very bad mood. “It was the jingoistic, flag-waving, let’s-go-bomb-everybody stuff after 9/11 that was excruciating for me,” Spencer says during a call to his 8,000 square foot studio “right in dead center Nashville,” where he has lived for the last 28 years. “I was absolutely and totally against going into Iraq, and I thought America was going nuts. The terrorists had accomplished what they wanted to, which was to throw us off our base. I had a show in Sun Valley, and I decided to drive there, take my 4x5 Polaroid camera and just take off. I drove this gigantic loop across America, 9,000 miles in a six-week period. I was a little bit on the bitter side. But I wanted to photograph the land and try to get some bead on what America really was.” In the ensuing years, Spencer’s mood has mellowed. “It’s been a transitional journey,” he says, in a gravelly, Southern-accented voice that reminds one of Waylon Jennings. “I was making a collection of images that were about an awareness of this land that we live in, this planet we live on, actually. It’s deeper than just America. We live on this beautiful planet, and we take it for granted.”

THIS LAND

By Jack Spencer

University of Texas Press, $45, 284 pages ISBN 9781477311899

PHOTOGRAPHY

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Spencer’s route to this book and to a remarkably successful career as a fine art photographer has been circuitous. He was born in Mississippi in the early 1950s but grew up “mostly in Louisiana.” Sounding somewhat mystified, he notes that he has always been interested in art, in making things, even though no one in his family had a similar interest. So Spencer went to Louisiana Tech “for about a year and a half,” majored in art, “but mostly learned how to drink beer.” He Spencer’s dropped out photographs and headed west to work of vast as a musiAmerican cian. Then in landscapes the 1980s he returned to and iconic the South, wildlife are Mississippi beautiful at first, and, and strangely with renewed eyes, “dove inspiring. head first into photography and worked really hard at it,” with the result that his first book of photographs, Native Soil, made a big splash. “Basically, I taught myself photography,” he says. “I tell people all the time that I don’t understand why people go to school for four years to learn how to be a photographer because I can pretty much teach you everything you need to know in about 15 minutes. It’s a fairly simple process that really has nothing to do with the mechanics of it. It’s just about seeing, getting what you’re seeing and what you’re feeling. It’s a very strange process. “Any kind of artwork asks questions of the artist in every step of the process. The piece itself lays out the guidelines. As an artist, I just pay attention to what the piece is asking of me. Of course, this is not a conscious thing. It could bet-

5 HORSES 2005, Montana

ter be described as a sort of trancelike process, though that is not a very good description. But it is the best way for me to describe it. The work reaches its own conclusions.” Well, yes. A great photograph is not about technicalities; it’s about vision. But that vision has to be supported by technical proficiency. So the gorgeous photographs in the new collection This Land have been carefully, digitally rendered according to Spencer’s artistic intuition. “I think I’m more influenced by painters than I am by photographers,” Spencer explains. “In this [book, I think] one can see Rothko, Hopper, Bierstadt and others if you look closely enough. But you’re unlikely to see many photographic influences. As an artist, I’ve never really liked the literal. I don’t care for the perfect exposure. I don’t allow my camera to do my work for me. Ansel Adams talked about the negative as the score, and then he goes into the darkroom and interprets that score. I see it the same way. Whenever I make an exposure, it’s just the starting point for me.” Thus, the 150 or so stunning photographs in the book often evoke mixed feelings about life and about America. “It’s certainly not a Hallmark card presentation of America,” Spencer admits. “There is a certain kind of loneliness and desolation in some of the photographs.” But his photographs of vast American landscapes and iconic wildlife are beautiful and strangely inspiring.

Notably, This Land has very few photographs of people. “The people in the photographs are relatively anonymous,” Spencer acknowledges. “As well they should be—because the book is not really about Americans. It’s trying to explore what America means to Americans.” Spencer says he has lost track of how many forays he made into the American countryside for this book. In a succession of Denali SUVs he refers to as his mobile living room, he traveled through all lower 48 states, deliberately avoiding the interstates. “I kind of equate it to fishing,” he says. “Some days you catch way past your limit. Some days you don’t even get a nibble.” Spencer caught enough past his limit that he believes he could fill three books of photographs. For Spencer and his editors at the University of Texas Press, deciding what to include was excruciating. Spencer also says that his travels left him unsurprised by Donald Trump’s electoral victory, but he worries what it might mean for the land. “I knew that this is a beautiful country, but I didn’t know how deeply beautiful this country is. There are plenty of things that can be done to make money. You don’t have to despoil beautiful landscapes just to get some oil. In some ways that’s the point of this book, to say to people go out and take a look at this beautiful land, this beautiful planet we live on. People need to pay attention.”


From the international bestselling author of

The Kommandant’s Girl

PAM JENOFF TH E ORPHAN ’S TAL E

The Nightingale meets

Water for Elephants in this powerful novel of friendship and survival of two extraordinary women set in a traveling circus during World War II.

“Secrets, lies, treachery, and passion… I read this novel in a headlong rush.” —Christina Baker Kline,

#1 New York Times bestselling author of

Orphan Train

www.BookClubbish.com

Available now! 13


cover story

GEORGE SAUNDERS

Lincoln behind the veil

G

eorge Saunders, the prize-winning short story writer, waited a long time before he showed the beginnings of his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, to his wife, writer Paula Redick.

“She reads my stuff and knows where on the emotional spectrum it lies. So if I do something clever, she’ll go, yeah, yeah, it’s clever. Or she might say, you typed this, you really typed this!” Saunders says, laughing, during an early morning call that reaches him near Monterey, California. Saunders teaches in the esteemed writing program at Syracuse University, and for much of the year, the couple lives outside of Oneonta, New York, where Saunders writes in a converted toolshed that is just far enough from the house to “send a message about what my priorities are.” A light spring-semester teaching schedule, the desire to escape snowbelt winters and the success of his remarkable short stories (which earned him a MacArthur “genius” fellowship) led the couple recently to buy a winter place in California. At the time of his conversation with BookPage, their daughters, age 26 and 28 and also writers, were visiting. “We’ve been married a long time,” Saunders continues, “and—I’m never trying to phone it

LINCOLN IN THE BARDO

By George Saunders

Random House, $28, 368 pages ISBN 9780812995343, audio, eBook available

LITERARY FICTION

14

in; but sometimes you can inadvertently phone it in—and she knows when that’s happening.” That wasn’t her impression of the new book. “She was like, this is really good. All I needed to know was that she was on board, and it was worth polishing.” Lincoln in the Bardo is good. In fact, astonishingly good. Yes, it is strange—part ghost story, part historical novel, maybe a little sci-fi-ish—but in the end, it’s an incredibly inventive and deeply moving book that often reads like an epic, elegiac poem. Saunders says he applied the same standards to this novel as he does to his short stories: “Be efficient and brisk and do whatever you’re trying to do as quickly as you can.” Cross this novel’s threshold and a reader will be entranced, magnetized by the beauty of its language and the brilliance of its conception. “During the Bill Clinton administration we were up in D.C.,” Saunders says of the initial impulse behind the novel. “We drove by Oak Hill Cemetery, and my wife’s cousin pointed out that Lincoln’s son Willie had been temporarily housed in one of the crypts there. And then she offhandedly added that the newspapers of the day reported that Lincoln had gone to the crypt on several occasions to hold the body. I had this idea of Lincoln with his son’s body across his lap on a dark night, kind of like the Pieta. I wondered what were the mechanics of him leaving the White House, why would he do that, and then why would he stop? That was really interesting to me.” But for many years, Saunders felt the story was beyond his capabilities. “I was like a mountain climber who every day walks by a mountain and goes, nah, no, can’t do it.” Later, in his early 50s, Saunders decided to give it a try. “I’d never written a novel before. I kind of liked the idea of being the defiant short

story guy who was getting more attention than is normal for stories. But this idea just kept coming up and sitting on my porch and going, OK, I’m here and I want you to take care of me. You can only walk away from that so many times.” Still, there was the problem of writing about Lincoln. Saunders, who was born in Texas, jokes that he has “almost a fashion interest in the Civil War. I love the look of it and the idea that it happened a relatively short time ago. And of course this “Lincoln? last election Sheesh! I kind of showed might as well that the war write a novel is still being fought.” Over about Jesus. the past 20 years, “as a It’s just so hobbyist,” he daunting.” has wandered the Lincoln/ Civil War section of any bookstore he’s been in, and his research for the novel has benefited from an impressive collection of Civil War books and documents donated to Syracuse by conservative journalist and presidential speechwriter William Safire. “But I thought, Lincoln? Sheesh! I might as well write a novel about Jesus. It’s just so daunting. You don’t want to be disrespectful and you also don’t want to rehash the same old clichés.” Saunders resolved his Lincoln issue by limiting the number of occasions Lincoln is actually present in the novel. And even when present, Lincoln is revealed through the eyes of others—which has the eerie

© DAVID CROSBY

INTERVIEW BY ALDEN MUDGE

effect of making his grief over the death of his 11-year-old son—and his increasing distress over the growing carnage of the Civil War— even more palpable. Most of the novel’s action takes place in Oak Hill Cemetery on a single night at the end of February in 1862. The story is narrated by a weird and raucous medley of voices. Saunders says that in making the audiobook, he discovered that there are 166 different personalities in the novel. These voices also include a beguiling weave of quotations from actual and invented historians describing—in conflicting accounts—the Lincolns’ growing alarm during a February 1862 White House party while Willie lies upstairs dying. For most of the novel, there are three main narrators, and at some point a reader will likely become skeptical about them. They seem stuck between life and whatever comes next, the transitional place that Tibetan Buddhists call “the bardo.” Saunders was raised Catholic, but he and his wife have practiced Buddhism for many, many years. “I was really happy to be writing this book because I felt the things it is about are the things I am thinking about: one’s own mortality and the question of how you persevere with a loving heart in the face of


the harshness of the world,” he says. Later he adds, “The notion of the bardo is not fake to me. I think in some ways my whole life has been spent trying to get into some relation with death. . . . I love the idea that there are people who are trying to get a little behind the veil. And there’s evidence from really advanced spiritual people that the end is not the end.” Saunders is quick to add that he tries “not to have too many thematic thoughts because I don’t want to derail the story with simplistic answers.” Instead, his entry into prose has to do with sound. In revising his fiction he says he is “trying to make the sound distinctive, which in turn makes the sense more precise.” The sounds—the voices—of Lincoln in the Bardo are indeed distinctive, often funny, sometimes bawdy, despite the fact that the novel is about death and grief, good and evil, the nature of human existence. “I really love writing contemporary voices, or imitations of contemporary voices. This book was a struggle because I usually go out of my way to be funny and funny in a contemporary way. Wondering how I would be funny in a 19th-century way was a constraint I really enjoyed. In writing, the use of humor at its highest level is trying to mimic the comic nature of the universe. We’re trying to imitate the mind of God, and the mind of God doesn’t work like a human mind. You have to remember that the universe runs on its own timer.” Summing up, Saunders says, “I didn’t want to write a historical novel. I find myself averse to anything pro forma. I didn’t want a reader to [think], oh, I see, he’s going to milk the juice out of the night Lincoln went to the grave. “The trick was to find the means to shake it up a bit. Going back to it after a few months away, I think, wow, it’s a strange book. A little deformed. But it’s deformed because it’s trying to get to the emotional core more directly. This book was kind of a weird blurt. I can stand behind that because I know it’s efficient and I know that its heart is in the right place.”

LILAC GIRLS THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY

FOR READERS WHO DEVOURED AND

“There’s so much happening in Chilbury: intrigue, romance and an unforgettable cast of characters who aren’t always as they appear.” —M A RT H A H A L L K E L LY , New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls S TA RT R E A D I N G AT R E A D I T F O RWA R D . C O M / C H I L B U RY

Crown

15


reviews T PI OP CK

FICTION

THE IDIOT

Perfect imperfections REVIEW BY BECKY OHLSEN

Human relationships are tricky: They’re built on communication, which relies on language. And language, of course, is unreliable. This is the frustrating truth at the heart of The Idiot, Elif Batuman’s debut novel. Batuman, a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2010 (and author of the 2010 essay collection The Possessed), says her novel is semi-autobiographical. Like its heroine, she was born and raised in New Jersey to Turkish immigrant parents. The two also share a fascination with language, which is evident on every page. The Idiot is part coming-of-age, part love story. It’s steeped in travel and in the devastating power of words—or, more precisely, the general By Elif Batuman inadequacy of words when it comes to truly getting close to other Penguin Press, $27, 432 pages people. ISBN 9781594205613, audio, eBook available Our narrator, Selin, is about to start her freshman year at Harvard in the mid-’90s. Quiet and awkward, Selin observes her surroundings DEBUT FICTION with an unfiltered blend of wonder and deadpan humor. Her running commentary is a pure delight. She’s at once hilarious, self-deprecating and painfully accurate—and free of the conventions of thought that can make the inner life of a college student seem so ordinary. Basically, she’s odd in the best way. Meeting a professor in his office one day when she has a terrible cold, Selin silently ponders the similarities between a book and a box of tissue: “[B]oth consisted of slips of white paper in a cardboard case,” she notes. But one of the two—ironically, given the setting—has zero utility if all you want is to blow your nose. “These were the kinds of things I thought about all the time, even though they were neither pleasant nor useful,” she adds. “I had no idea what you were supposed to be thinking about.” Part of the novel’s joy comes from Selin’s encounters with others, from her snippy roommate and her intense classmate Svetlana (with whom she travels to Paris) to Ivan, the enigmatic Hungarian she falls for in Russian class and follows to Budapest. Batuman is especially great at illustrating the torment of love. But nearly all of her characters’ efforts to achieve mutual understanding are Visit BookPage.com to read imperfect—which, for the reader, turns out to be perfect indeed. a Q&A with Elif Batuman.

A PIECE OF THE WORLD By Christina Baker Kline Morrow $27.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780062356260 Audio, eBook available

HISTORICAL FICTION

Some works of art are so iconic that the viewer can’t help but wonder about the backstory. Take, for example, “Christina’s World,” painted by Andrew Wyeth in 1948 and inspired by a woman named Christina Olson. The painting shows a young woman with her back to the viewer, lying

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in a vast field and looking up at a ­weather-beaten house and its smaller outbuildings. Though we can’t see her face, we get the impression that she’s yearning for something. Christina Baker Kline’s superb new novel chronicles the constricted life of the woman Wyeth made famous. The Christina in Kline’s book used to yearn for things, but poverty and disability made her aware early on that some of the pleasures of life were not to be hers. We first meet her as a young child, on her sickbed. Yet, despite her challenges, the young Christina is smart, stubborn, resourceful and even physically brave. But bad luck, bad timing, other people’s bad decisions or bad faith shrink

her life down to the old house and the plot of land it stands on. Alone in the house with her younger brother, her life is year after year of drudgery. Then Wyeth shows up and takes one of her upstairs rooms as a studio. In case you’re wondering, no, Wyeth and Christina don’t fall in love and run away together. Wyeth’s most famous painting is deceptive; the real Christina was old enough to be his mother. What is forged between them is a tender connection and understanding. The beauty of Kline’s writing and her grasp of her characters is such that at first you want to sink into this book like a warm bath. But she doesn’t allow her reader to get too comfortable. Christina is not

a woman who accepts her disappointments with saintly forbearance. She is bitter, disappointed and occasionally spiteful. But the good-natured and talented young painter does not pity her—he sees her humanity. Gentle and profound, A Piece of the World shows the healing power of simple, unexpected friendship. —ARLENE MCKANIC

CELINE By Peter Heller

Knopf $25.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780451493897 Audio, eBook available

MYSTERY

Celine is nearly 70. She’s an elegant woman with an excellent education and a mastery of her native French. She enjoys a quiet life with her husband, Pete—he cooks, she sculpts. Sometimes she calls her grown son on the phone and mildly lectures him about his love life. Oh, and Celine is also a private detective, once recruited by the FBI, and she occasionally takes a case that requires her and Pete to pack up their tracking equipment and cameras and take off across the globe to solve a mystery that’s been alluding traditional law enforcement. In those cases, Celine’s weapons training comes in handy. The mystery at the heart of this story revolves around a young woman, Gabriela, whose father, a charismatic and complicated nature photographer, disappeared mysteriously when she was young. When Celine and Pete take her case, they find themselves traveling to Yellowstone National Park. They dress like hunters and frequent small diners, talking to locals and trying to unravel a case that’s long since been declared closed, inadvertently triggering the attention of powerful people who want to keep it that way. In Celine, author Peter Heller tells an excellent story and creates a mystery that’s gripping and ultimately satisfying. He’s a master at describing the wonder and beauty


FICTION of the natural world and at making setting and community an integral part of his stories. But even more noteworthy is his understanding of human frailties and the triumph of family relationships—Celine’s relationships with both Pete and her son are flawed but still loving and beautiful, and her relationship to herself as she ages is honest, illuminating and, ultimately, inspiring. Celine is packed with details— there are bear attacks, a gold-digging nurse, an emphysemic sharpshooter and senior citizens who live in a camper van—but every bit feels authentic and true. All the elements move the story along; for the reader, nothing is wasted and every moment is made to be savored and enjoyed. —C A R R I E R O L LWA G E N

THE HEARTS OF MEN By Nickolas Butler Ecco $26.99, 400 pages ISBN 9780062469687 Audio, eBook available

FAMILY SAGA

What does it really mean to be a good man? That’s the challenging question posed by Nickolas Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) in The Hearts of Men, an earnest exploration of the best and worst of male behavior, set against the backdrop of that quintessential laboratory for shaping it: the Boy Scouts. Beginning in 1962 and spanning 60 years, most of the action of Butler’s novel takes place at Camp Chippewa, a Boy Scout summer camp in Wisconsin’s north woods. In two generations, a world that emphasizes the value of knot-tying and compass reading gives way to the age of iPads and social media. Wilbur Whiteside is the autocratic Scoutmaster who leads the camp for decades until he’s succeeded by former camper Nelson Doughty, who is aware of the profound contrast between the generous and instructive Wilbur and his own abusive father. When it comes to the Boy Scouts, Butler isn’t interested in explor-

ing the controversy surrounding an organization one character dismisses as “a dogged fraternity of paramilitary Young Republicans desperately clinging to some nineteenth-century notion of goodness in a modern world,” but he does imply there’s an enduring benefit to its ethos. Several of the characters, including Wilbur and Nelson, fight in wars that range from World War I to Afghanistan, and whether their conduct is cowardly or heroic, Butler suggests that the experience profoundly shapes the way they live the rest of their lives. He’s perceptive enough to recognize that only a tiny minority of men will see combat, but that most will be tested in other ways that reveal character. Novelist Jonathan Evison described Shotgun Lovesongs as a “good old-fashioned novel,” and that’s an equally fitting description of The Hearts of Men. Butler doesn’t make it hard to tell the admirable men from the ones who badly misbehave, but his role models aren’t lacking complexity or flaws. Writing without irony, in a style that brings to mind writers like Andre Dubus III and Tom Perrotta, Butler, who grew up and still lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, displays an intuitive feel for the values of his characters. He’s portrayed them with compassion in this kindhearted, affecting novel. —HARVEY FREEDENBERG

THE DARK FLOOD RISES By Margaret Drabble

FSG $26, 336 pages ISBN 9780374134952 Audio, eBook available

LITERARY FICTION

Margaret Drabble’s first novels, published in the 1960s, were brightly told tales about clever women venturing into academia or extramarital affairs. By the ’80s, her fiction had shifted to wide-angle views of intellectual communities in contemporary London or Cambridge, usually peopled by mid-career women. Drabble’s characters have continued to age along with

her, and she brings her attention (and her wit) to the quality of aging as experienced by a group of friends approaching their 80s in her latest novel (her 19th!), The Dark Flood Rises. Feisty Fran Stubbs is at the center of this mordant and thought-provoking work. Still independent and living alone, she is employed by a nonprofit researching senior-living accommodations. She delivers home-cooked meals to her mostly homebound ex-husband, Claude, and worries about her two adult children, Christopher and Poppet. Also in her orbit are old friends pursuing different solutions to retirement: Scholarly rake Bennet and his younger partner Ivor live a comfortable expat existence in the Canary Islands, and Josephine, a former neighbor from when both women were young mothers, now lives in a planned community for retired academics. There is not much plot in The Dark Flood Rises. Friends meet, have drinks, exchange gossip. There are accidents, hospital stays, reminiscences and two funerals, one expected, the other a surprise. Fran stays on the go, crisscrossing England in her mostly reliable car, at her happiest when spending the night in a comfortable room in a mid-level hotel chain. If she ponders anything, it’s how she can best ensure a good death for herself and her loved ones. Behind this web of aging and personal relationships, looming environmental and political disasters threaten to transform the only England she has ever known. 
In one of Josephine’s adult-ed classes, the students discuss the possibility of a Late Style— the form or manner an artist’s work takes late in life. Though one might think resolution and clarity best reflect the aged creative mind, an equal argument can be made for tenacity, intractability and a certain comfort with contradiction, all of which are found in this novel. More witty than morbid, The Dark Flood Rises may not be for everyone, but this wise assessment of aging by one of England’s most respected writers deserves our readerly attention. —LAUREN BUFFERD

HARMLESS LIKE YOU By Rowan Hisayo Buchanan Norton $24.95, 320 pages ISBN 9781324000747 Audio, eBook available

DEBUT FICTION

When we meet Yuki and Jay, the protagonists of Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s sad, well-written debut novel, things aren’t going so well. We first see Yuki in the ’60s, when she’s a teenager. The daughter of expatriate Japanese parents, she is adrift. Having spent most of her life in New York, she feels neither truly American nor Japanese. She moves in with a schoolmate when her parents return to Japan, then bounces from one bad situation to another; she only knows she wants to be an artist and is failing at it. In 2016, Jay, who owns an art gallery, has just become a father. He is unprepared for fatherhood; his ancient hairless cat is more real to him than his daughter. His own father has just died, and he has to find his father’s widow, who lives in Berlin. Yes, Jay’s father’s widow is Yuki. And yes, she is Jay’s mother and he hasn’t seen her since he was a toddler. Buchanan’s skill in bringing her characters to life is superb. Yuki joins the growing list of female protagonists who are believable, relatable but not likable. As a teenager she is tragically gormless. The contempt shown her by her school friend/roommate; her years of abuse from Lou, the shiftless poet manqué she moves in with; and her lack of success as an artist—these slights harden her, and she’s almost as mean to her saintly husband, Edison, as Lou was to her. Finally, the desperate Yuki leaves him and their son and flees to the city where ruined artists go to sort themselves out. Freaked out by the twin shocks of Edison’s death and first-time parenthood, Jay is still capable of a trenchant sense of humor and perspective. He knows that leaving his wife with an infant and booking to Europe with a 17-year-old cat is

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reviews ridiculous. The reader doesn’t lose hope in him. Buchanan interrogates the ways pain is paid forward, how one generation repeats the foibles of another so inexorably that they seem inherited through the genes. She also wants the reader to know that the messes, like so many autosomal recessive disorders, are at least partially fixable. Harmless Like You is a lovely debut. —ARLENE MCKANIC

IN THE NAME OF THE FAMILY By Sarah Dunant Random House $28, 448 pages ISBN 9780812996975 Audio, eBook available

HISTORICAL FICTION

Lies, corruption, treachery, lust, infidelity, greed—all the elements present in Sarah Dunant’s bestselling novels set in the tumultuous years of the Italian Renaissance are somehow magnified in her latest, the continuation of her astute dissection of the lives of the Borgia family, which she began with 2014’s Blood and Beauty. It’s the winter of 1501-1502 when In the Name of the Family opens: Rodrigo Borgia is firmly ensconced in the Vatican as Pope Alexander VI, who openly “uses his illegitimate children as weapons to carve a new dynastic block of power.” Cesare, his eldest son, is systematically directing his army of mercenaries in their march northward as they overtake the small city-states of Tuscany, breaking long-standing alliances and killing at will those he once supported. His sister Lucrezia is traveling north to Ferrara to marry Alfonso d’Este, the son of the Duke of Ferrara—a marriage forged merely to solidify Borgia dominance in Tuscany, where Cesare’s ultimate goal is the acquisition of Florence itself. Characters surrounding this Borgia triumvirate include Niccolò Machiavelli, who is appointed Undersecretary to Florence’s Council, and serves as envoy to Rome. He’s portrayed by Dunant as a

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FICTION thoughtful observer of the political maneuvers made by Cesare and the pope—observations thought to lead to his signature work, The Prince, completed in 1513 after both of his subjects have died. Machiavelli is witness to many of Cesare’s “thuggish acts,” but also perceives his virtue, “that shimmering slippery work that mixes strength, vitality and skill in equal measures.” Lucrezia, too, is given sympathetic treatment by Dunant, who focuses on her manipulation by her father and brother, leading to three arranged marriages by the time she turns 22. The pressure on her to bear male heirs is a constant source of worry, complicated by the ever-present threat of disease and the dangers of childbirth. Dunant’s meticulously researched portrayal of these iconic characters and the violent, conspiracy-filled times in which they lived is a captivating piece of historical fiction. Both entertaining and enlightening, it’s sure to be welcomed by her many readers. —DEBORAH DONOVAN

ILL WILL By Dan Chaon

Ballantine $28, 480 pages ISBN 9780345476043 Audio, eBook available

THRILLER

No one who has read Dan Chaon’s fiction will be surprised to learn that Ill Will, his new novel, is relentlessly bleak. It’s a murder mystery and a literary thriller, a multilayered nonlinear narrative and a psychological portrait of the dark side of human nature. You’ll lose track of the number of deaths, but you’ll remember the daring storytelling and the skillful treatment of characters who live with repressed memories. If you’re Dustin Tillman, a 41-year-old Cleveland psychologist, widower and father of two teenage sons, then you’ve got horrific memories to repress. When Dustin was 13, his parents and an

aunt and uncle were murdered on the eve of a camping trip. A Pulitzer-nominated photograph of Dustin running from the scene with his twin cousins, Kate and Wave, became famous. The murder was blamed on Dustin’s adopted older brother, Rusty, in part because of Dustin’s testimony; he claimed that Rusty had engaged in satanic rituals involving baby rabbits, a doll and a candlelit pentagram. Now, 27 years after the murder, DNA evidence exonerates Rusty, who has always proclaimed his innocence and contended that Dustin’s testimony was based on faulty recollection. Rusty’s re-emergence is only one of the factors that complicate Dustin’s life. In addition to his wife’s death and his younger son’s growing heroin addiction, Dustin has a patient, a Cleveland police officer put on leave for a “psychological difficulty,” who recruits Dustin to help solve a series of murders of college-age men who have drowned on dates that follow a pattern. And the next date to fit the pattern is coming up. Throughout Ill Will, Chaon plays with the novel form: second-person narration, emails, shifting perspectives, emojis and, most radically, parallel columns of prose that show concurrent thoughts and episodes in characters’ lives. The result could have been style for style’s sake, but, in Chaon’s capable hands, the novel is a brilliant depiction of mental illness. Not a pretty picture, but masterfully painted. —MICHAEL MAGRAS

SPACEMAN OF BOHEMIA By Jaroslav Kalfar˘ Little, Brown $26, 288 pages ISBN 9780316273435 eBook available

SCIENCE FICTION

When a comet drive-by leaves a cloud of purple dust in space, altering the familiar view from Earth, the collective response of the nations, of course, is to reach

it: to explore, collect, research. The Czechs rocket a man to the Chopra cloud first, sending professor of astrophysics Jakub Procházka as their first astronaut. Thus Space­ man of Bohemia begins with a proud achievement for a country so battered by the machinations of others, now making momentous history of its own. Several weeks after Jakub’s solitary launch, a (possibly imaginary) memory-probing space spider appears aboard the JanHus1 space shuttle. The spider, whom Jakub names Hanuš after a medieval astronomical clock maker from Prague, probes his thoughts and eats his Nutella in his own scientific exploration to learn about “humanry.” Jakub unearths his childhood fears surrounding the fall of the Communist Party, who his father informed for, and memories: his move to Prague with his grandparents to start anew, his chance first meeting with wife Lenka over whiskey and sausages, their consuming love affair. Now, however, they are estranged, literally, by space and time, and maybe something more permanent. As Jakub travels farther into the depths of space, he reminisces and philosophizes with Hanuš. Themes of freedom, death, the fleetingness of life, violence, oppression, lust and love, revenge, legacy and fear link together the memories along his life’s path, from his youth through his university years and the now fateful decision to become the Spaceman of Bohemia. Set in a not-so-distant 2018, the first novel by Czech-American author Jaroslav Kalfar˘ defies neat categorization. It is both an adoring ode to and an insider’s critique of the land of Bohemia, chronicling its past subjugations and future possibilities. It’s irreverent and thoughtful, tragic and comic, deadpan and poignant. Writing outside his native tongue, the author creates vivid, occasionally disturbing vignettes. Spaceman Jakub’s rhetorical questions do become tedious at points in the novel; at times, his wonderings overwhelm, making it hard for the reader to digest one round before Kalfar˘ moves on to other musings.


FICTION Though the narrative seems to come full circle, it felt slightly unfinished, abruptly truncated. These caveats, and my personal arachnophobia aside, Spaceman of Bohe­ mia entertains and enlightens. —MELISSA BROWN

THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW By Susan Perabo Simon & Schuster $25.99, 352 pages ISBN 9781476761466 eBook available

FICTION

New from the acclaimed author of Before I Go

“A treat… Fans of Jojo Moyes… will rejoice.”

girl, was down the hall.” Once Lisa is taken, Meredith begins envisioning Lisa trapped in a dark, cold apartment with her abductor and abuser. The visions soon morph as Meredith grows desperate to reach Lisa before it’s too late. She retreats into her own mind, searching for clues that might lead her to Lisa. The second novel from writer Susan Perabo (best known for her short stories) is wrenching, a dark yet beautifully told story of family, fear and grief. In the end, the question isn’t whether Meredith can save her classmate, but whether the Olivers can save Meredith.

—Booklist

—AMY SCRIBNER

Meredith Oliver is the girl who got left behind. A normal teenager semi-successfully navigating the shark-infested waters of middle school, she is in a sandwich shop when the most popular girl in school is kidnapped at gunpoint. “Get up,” the man says to Lisa Bellow, who dutifully follows him out the door. Meredith, frozen with fear, doesn’t even see the man’s face or car. Meredith is sure Lisa doesn’t know her, even though they’ve gone to school together since elementary school and their lockers are next to each other. The most contact they’ve had in recent years was when Lisa directed Meredith— in true mean-girl style—to sit differently on her cafeteria chair so her butt didn’t hang over the edge. The Oliver family has already seen its share of tragedy—older son Evan was a promising baseball player until an errant fly ball ended his dreams. Their parents, Claire and Mark, stagger under the weight of the kidnapping, simultaneously thrilled that Meredith was spared by the kidnapper and guilty that another girl is likely gone forever. “No, she didn’t care one bit who Lisa Bellow was; the only important thing about Lisa Bellow, to Claire, was that she, not Meredith, was the girl who was taken. Certainly it would be better if she were found alive, better for Meredith, but all that really mattered was that Meredith was alive. Meredith was safe. Meredith, her baby, her baby

EXIT WEST By Mohsin Hamid Riverhead $26, 240 pages ISNB 9780735212176 Audio, eBook available

WORLD FICTION

The novels of Mohsin Hamid (How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia) range from conventionally structured stories to fiction disguised as self-help manuals. In his fourth novel, Exit West, Hamid explores the worldwide refugee crisis using simple, almost allegorical language spiced with an unexpected dose of speculative fiction. The novel follows a young couple who join a wave of migrants as their city collapses into violence. But in Hamid’s imagined world, there are doorways that lead from one city to another and allow people (mostly dark skinned) to emerge magically in other countries (mostly Western), much to the consternation of the (mostly light skinned) resident population. Like all of Hamid’s novels, Exit West is a love story, but one that exists within the structure of a moral thriller. Bold and curious Nadia meets the quieter, more restrained Saeed in night class while the unnamed country where they reside teeters on the brink of a civil war. Their attraction is immediate, and their path to intimacy is made

COLLEEN OAKLEY

“The story of three wounded souls denied the human touch they desire, expertly conceived with all the warmth and affection of an enormous bear hug.” —Steven Rowley, national bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus

“A witty, inventive, and bittersweet story of a reclusive young woman forced to venture into the world where complex medical issues become tangled with longings of the heart.” —Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

SimonandSchuster.com /GalleryBooks

@GalleryBooks

/ColleenOakley

@OakleyColleen

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reviews

FICTION

more intoxicating by the dangers around them. At first, their relationship is like many other young couples’; they listen to music, sit in cafes and smoke a little weed. But when Saeed’s mother is hit by a stray bullet, the couple decides to move in together. They also begin to heed the rumors about doors that serve as portals from one country to another. Making the ultimate decision to leave their homeland, and paying a middleman a hefty sum, Saeed and Nadia are led to a door that takes them to a refugee camp on a Greek Island. Later doors lead to a private room in an abandoned mansion outside London and then a windswept coast in Marin County, California. Each move tests the couple’s stamina and courage, and although they are dependent on one another for survival, the ties that bind them grow weaker with every transition. Exit West is political without being didactic and romantic without being maudlin. The storytelling is stripped down to essentials; though the novel is epic in scope and geography, it is only 240 pages. Hamid masterfully handles the shifts from the symbolic to the real, the unnamed to the specific. Exit West is a richly imaginative work with a firm grip on what is happening to someone somewhere right this minute.

distinction born of necessity rather than choice. Indeed, with the village’s sons, brothers, husbands and lovers heading off to join the war effort, Chilbury is virtually absent of men. For the women they have left behind, the emotional burdens to be borne include the lonely widow Mrs. Tilling’s fears for the safety of her only son; village beauty Venetia Winthrop’s illicit romance with an enigmatic artist; intrepid musical prodigy Kitty’s ill-fated attempts to gain attention; and the haunted Jewish refugee Silvie’s harboring of a family secret. While the poignant narratives that unfold in each letter and journal entry are imbued with the struggles of a town reeling from the ravages of yet another war, the bleakness is tempered by romance, mystery and even crime—in particular, a daring act of deception performed by Miss Edwina Paltry, a conniving member of the Winthrops’ household staff. Readers will be delighted to hear that the television rights to this splendid novel have already been optioned by Carnival TV—the production company behind “Downton Abbey.” With The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, Ryan has crafted a riveting debut novel that is certain to resonate with readers on both sides of the pond.

—LAUREN BUFFERD

—KAREN ANN CULLOTTA

THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR By Jennifer Ryan Crown $26, 384 pages ISBN 9781101906750 Audio, eBook available

DEBUT FICTION

THE ROANOKE GIRLS By Amy Engel

Crown $25, 288 pages ISBN 9781101906668 Audio, eBook available

THRILLER

cousin Allegra brings Lane back to her privileged grandparents and the summer fling she never quite got over, forcing her to deal with the dark things in her past while searching for her lost cousin. Based on those first few, perfectly capable pages, a reader may believe they know how The Roanoke Girls will end. But Engel drops a wicked twist in the first 35 pages— in the middle of a paragraph on the middle of the page—and lets it sit like a coiled snake. It’s a twist that most authors would save for the last chapter, and from that point on, The Roanoke Girls becomes a thrilling mystery and a satisfyingly gothic portrait of Middle America. But Engel is also interested in the things that break people and how they try to put themselves back together again. She deepens the typical tropes of the small-town mystery genre, using every sheltered country boy and fading matriarch to illustrate how people can silently, slowly shatter. Lane’s high school sweetheart is as damaged as she is, and the pair cleaves to each other with a jagged-edged desperation before tearing themselves instinctively away. It’s a painfully human, rough-hewn romance, and Engel balances it beautifully against Lane’s investigation into the fate of her cousin. Both threads braid together as the novel circles the mystery at its heart and The Roa­ noke Girls transforms into a dark fable of trauma and acceptance about damaged people accepting their crooked parts and using them to move forward. —SAVANNA WALKER

THE UNDERWORLD By Kevin Canty

Despite its pastoral title, Jennifer Ryan’s compelling and exquisitely wrought World War II-era novel is far removed from the stereotypical cozy British village story. Rooted in the bucolic countryside of Kent, the novel is told in a series of letters and journal entries penned by an eclectic cast of characters, all of whom are members of their village’s first ladies’ choir—a musical

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The Roanoke Girls lulled me into a false sense of security. The first chapters ably introduce Roanoke, a sprawling farmhouse in the middle of rural Kansas, and family black sheep Lane Roanoke, who returns to her family’s ancestral home years after a traumatic summer sent her running as fast as she could in the opposite direction. The disappearance of her

Norton $24.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780393293050 Audio, eBook available

LITERARY FICTION

It may not be your biggest fear, but it’s probably in the top five: being buried alive. As a rule, we

don’t really celebrate our miners much while they’re around, but when a disaster happens, we’re all over them: the movie The 33, about the San José Mine disaster in Chile; the folk song “The Ballad of Springhill,” about the 1958 Nova Scotia cave-in; the Bee Gees’ first pop hit, “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” about an imaginary tragedy; Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John.” Inspired by the notorious Sunshine Mine fire of 1972, novelist Kevin Canty’s The Underworld imagines life in the town from shortly before the disaster to right around the time the real healing begins. Somehow it seems particularly appropriate for this book to come along at a point in our national history when miners and their livelihoods are often near the center of public debate. Mining is not glamorous work, but Canty drills beneath the surface stereotype to uncover a rich vein of subterranean complexity. David Wright, the book’s primary protagonist among a vivid ensemble cast, comes from a mining family that feels the impact of the disaster keenly. Like many from the company town, he’s ambivalent about his home, but he’s taking his first tentative steps to break its gravitational bonds, distinguishing him from most of his peers. It would be easy—and wrong—to portray him as either victor or victim, and Canty does here what he did so well in earlier novels such as Winslow in Love and Everything: He plants himself at the corner of Human and Hero and describes what he sees, a journalist of the soul. Canty’s publisher cites Russell Banks and Richard Ford as his esteemed literary antecedents, but Canty’s care with prose recalls Raymond Carver, and his empathy for the common man extends a bloodline that reaches back to the likes of John Steinbeck and William Saroyan. Like his New Yorker colleague John McPhee, Canty has a gift for turning the commonplace into the extraordinary by asking the right questions and allowing the truth to unfold. —T H A N E T I E R N E Y


spotlight WHITE TEARS By Hari Kunzru

Knopf $26.95, 288 pages ISBN 9780451493699 eBook available

LITERARY FICTION

Hari Kunzru’s fifth novel, White Tears, is a time-bending mystery that focuses on America’s struggles with race and the blues music that grew out of those struggles. Seth runs a recording studio in New York City with his best friend, Carter, who is an heir to a billion-dollar family fortune. On a walk around the city, Seth unintentionally records a chess player’s victory chants as he passes by. Upon hearing the playback, Carter becomes obsessed with the recording. While Seth only remembers hearing a snippet of song, the recording reveals five full verses. Carter pairs the vocal with a blues guitar track and tries to sell it as a long-lost recording from the 1920s by Charlie Shaw, a name he made up. When an elderly record collector forcibly pursues the offer, Seth starts to realize that he has stumbled upon a force much larger than coincidence alone. Charlie Shaw was not just someone Carter made up; he was someone trying to find Carter. When the nefarious history of Carter’s family business is revealed, Seth makes a pilgrimage to the South with Carter’s sister to piece together a ghost story and hopefully repay the family debts that have manifested as Charlie Shaw. Kunzru’s insight into the world of audio production is as impressive as his knowledge of early-20th-century blues artists. He tackles issues such as white privilege through characters that are often less than likable and juxtaposes them with the racial violence of previous decades. Navigating time and landscape in a way that is subtly disorienting, the novel is instantly engrossing and a definite must-read.

CHRISTIAN SUSPENSE BY BETH BULOW

Upended lives, clinging to faith

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aith, desperation and mystery intersect in these novels of inspirational suspense. The faith of these characters is pushed to the limit—while the answers they seek could shake the foundation of all they believe to be true.

If the survival of another person is on the line, would you be able to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own? This challenge of selflessness is at the root of Samuel Parker’s riveting debut, Purgatory Road (Revell, $14.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9780800727338). Couple Jack and Laura head into the desert to escape the bright lights of Vegas for the day. Expecting a happy reprieve, they instead become stranded and are near death when they’re rescued by a desert hermit. Their rescue soon takes a bewildering turn, however, when the hermit won’t let them return to safety. Interwoven with the couple’s story is a terrifying encounter between a teenage runaway and a desert-town maniac, driven to heinous acts by an outside force, something seemingly held at bay by the very hermit who rescued Jack and Laura. As the two stories converge, the couple realizes that this is more than a desert rescue—it’s a battle between good and evil. The resilience of Jack and Laura will have readers cheering as this dark thriller reaches its culmination. Though some violent scenes could bother sensitive readers, the convincing struggle between supernatural forces proceeds at a tense and breathless pace. Not for the faint of heart, Purgatory Road is a compelling story that suspense fans are sure to love.

AN IRISH TWIST Because You’re Mine (Thomas Nelson, $12.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9780718083809), bestselling author Colleen Coble’s latest novel, takes readers to picturesque Charleston, South Carolina, where Irish singer Alanna, a rising star in the world of Celtic music, has

sought refuge. Her husband Liam was killed in a fiery car explosion, and Liam’s father is demanding custody of her unborn baby. To escape, Alanna accepts a marriage of convenience with her band manager, Barry, who’s from a wealthy Charleston family. Complicating matters is the open hostility other band members feel toward Barry, as well as the fact that Jesse, Liam’s best friend,

clues that suggest her recently deceased father might have been living a secret life beyond his respected role as an officer with London’s Metropolitan Police. Though her questions about her father’s accidental death are clearly not welcome, Gillian feels there is more to the story than what his longtime partner at the department is telling her. Adding fuel to an already volatile situation, Gillian meets her dashing new neighbor, Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Despite their instant attraction, as the mysteries surrounding her father’s death deepen, she can’t help but wonder if anyone’s motives toward her are truly pure. Byrd’s award-winning survived the accident that killed Daughters of Hampshire novels Liam. When menacing events are unique in that they put the start happening at the opulent but focus on women who are viewed decaying mansion that’s home to with disdain by high society. her new husband’s family, Alanna Though she moves in aristocratic delves further into the mystery of circles at times, Gillian is a woman Liam’s death. who works to support herself. Alanna’s love for Liam is both (Byrd includes fascinating details touching and heart-rending as about the complexity of Gillian’s she navigates her new life without tasks as a master seamstress.) The him. Despite a bit of predictability, benevolent legacy of Gillian’s dethe strength of the atmospheric ceased mother, an actress devoted setting and a romance with a to the care of orphans used and divine touch carry the story with discarded by the London theater ease. The nod to Celtic music adds scene, packs an emotional punch. a beautiful layer to this suspenseGillian’s reliance on faith, her ful tale of love lost and found. determination to believe the best about her father and her poignant HER FATHER’S DAUGHTER connection with her mother’s The third entry in Sandra Byrd’s ministry add a genuine spiritual Daughters of Hampshire series element to the story. portrays the life of Gillian Young, Still, suspense stays front and a prospering middle-class woman center as Gillian undertakes a in Victorian England. In A Lady harrowing mission of danger and in Disguise (Howard, $15.99, 384 disguise to find her father’s killer. pages, ISBN 9781476717937), The vivid historical details and Gillian, an up-and-coming seam- thrilling plot make A Lady in Dis­ stress for ladies of the aristocracy guise a perfect choice for readers and a costume designer for a of both historical romance and famous London theater, uncovers romantic suspense.

—LESLIE HINSON

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reviews

NONFICTION TRAVELING WITH GHOSTS

T PI OP CK

WW

By Shannon Leone Fowler

THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS

The secrets of a secluded life REVIEW BY ALICE CARY

If you’re a fan of Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, you might like The Stranger in the Woods even better. Once you start, in fact, you’ll likely have a hard time putting down Michael Finkel’s fascinating new book. For decades, cottages on North Pond in Central Maine had been broken into, with food, flashlights, clothes, books and many other items stolen. In April 2013 a Maine game warden set a high-tech surveillance trap at a camp that had been repeatedly burglarized. The trap worked, and the mysterious culprit was finally arrested: 47-year-old Christopher Knight. This “North Pond Hermit” had been living in a carefully camouflaged tent for 27 years, since the spring day in 1986 when the then20-year-old abruptly left his job with a security company, drove his car into the backwoods of Maine and abandoned it. (Knight’s expertise By Michael Finkel with alarm systems proved particularly helpful during his more than Knopf, $25.95, 224 pages 1,000 burglaries to stockpile food and supplies.) Even Knight wasn’t ISBN 9781101875681, audio, eBook available exactly sure why he abandoned both his family and society so suddenNATURE ly, except to say that he felt like a “square peg.” Finkel, a journalist and author of True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, heard about Knight’s arrest and wrote to the jailed hermit. Surprisingly Knight wrote back. They exchanged several letters, and when Knight stopped writing, Finkel flew from his Montana home to visit the inmate in person. During the course of their visits, Finkel managed to elicit details about the life of the man he calls the “most solitary known person in all of human history.” Finkel’s account artfully blends the details of Knight’s childhood, how he survived in the woods, his legal proceedings and his eventual uneasy return to society, along with informative descriptions of various hermits throughout history and their motivations. Well researched and compassionate, The Stranger in the Woods is a thought-provoking account that will make you thankful for your next hot meal and warm bed, especially on a stormy, bone-chilling night.

THE NOVEL OF THE CENTURY By David Bellos

FSG $27, 336 pages ISBN 9780374223236 Audio, eBook available

LITERATURE

You made it through the 1,000plus pages of the epic historical novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo? Congratulations—and in celebration, treat yourself to this enjoyable guide to how it was written, published and received. Without a sprawling plot or a cast of characters best kept track of by writing the names on a large wall banner, The Novel of the Cen­

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tury: The Extraordinary Adven­ ture of Les Misérables checks in at a more modest 300-plus pages. But author David Bellos’ feat is worthy of admiration, too, whether you’re a serious Francophile or just crave a good read peppered with cocktail party-ready factoids. Does the book live up to the hype of the title? Well, consider that Hugo wrote his quintessentially French novel (which inspired the eponymous musical) while in exile on the Channel Island of Guernsey, or that its publication in Brussels meant that printers were at the whim of unreliable thrice-weekly boat service ferrying Hugo’s dispatches, constantly worrying that pirated (figuratively if not literally) versions would be leaked to the public and spoil the novel’s muchhyped release. As for the publish-

ing deal that led to the book, Bellos makes the case that after 155 years it remains the biggest in history (at 240,000 francs cash, or about $3.8 million today) because of its limited eight-year term. While Hugo famously had his “digressions” in Les Misérables, with all you ever wanted to know about the Paris sewer system and more, Bellos has his “Interludes:” chapters on how the characters got their names, or the history behind France’s various revolutions, uprisings and insurrections. And yes, he’d still have a book if they were cut out, but it wouldn’t be as good. Bellos has impeccable academic credentials, but he never talks down to the reader. From manuscript to musical, The Novel of the Century delivers on its promise. —KEITH HERRELL

Simon & Schuster $26, 304 pages ISBN 9781501107795 Audio, eBook available

MEMOIR

Grief, grit, love, loss, world travel and the deadly sting of a box jellyfish all have a place in Shannon Leone Fowler’s intensely personal and appealing memoir, Traveling with Ghosts. Bring along a world map, set aside everything you know about healing from heartbreaking loss, and have yourself an unforgettable read. In 1999, Fowler was a 24-year-old Californian backpacker captivated by the sea, traveling, teaching scuba diving and training to become a marine biologist when she fell in love with Australian Sean Reilly in Barcelona. After working apart all over the world, they reunited and became engaged in China, where Reilly was teaching and Fowler was on break from studying the endangered Australian sea lion. To celebrate their future together, they visited an island off southeastern Thailand, Ko Pha Ngan—where there were no warnings about the box jellyfish in the waters near their cabana. One fatal encounter changed everything. Feeling cruelly betrayed by the sea she planned to make her life’s work, newly pregnant and unhinged by grief, Fowler headed for war-torn Eastern Europe and then Israel. Traveling alone through Poland, Hungary, Bosnia, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, Fowler kept her memories close while observing how survivors coped. In Sarajevo, the shell of their blasted National Library became a symbol of resilience. Poland, she wrote, “taught me—that real tragedies don’t need to be redeemed, they need to be remembered.” In Israel, she witnessed war’s carnage everywhere, while life (and war) went on. Four months later, Fowler could face the sea again, but it would


NONFICTION be another eight months before she could bring herself to touch it. Almost 15 years later, box jellyfish warnings in Thailand are still rare and the deaths still under-reported. But due to global warming, she warns, the most venomous marine life on the planet is spreading as water temperatures rise. —PRISCILLA KIPP

THE GIRL AT THE BAGGAGE CLAIM By Gish Jen

Knopf $26.95, 336 pages ISBN 9781101947821 eBook available

But her pen name is “Gish Jen,” a choice that deliberately stakes out her individual identity as an author. Jen holds up a comprehensive and scholarly mirror to both worldviews—and be warned: Her mirror is honest, and at times provocative. Her intent, however, is not merely to explain their differences. Instead, Jen promotes a new worldview, an “ambidependence” that recognizes the values of interdependence while still nourishing the creativity that arises from individuality. The Girl at the Baggage Claim is the first step toward bridging the gap. —DEBORAH MASON

CULTURE

MARTIN LUTHER Since before Marco Polo published his account of adventures in Central Asia and China, the West has been fascinated by the East and vice versa. However, the fascination has also been accompanied by confusion on both sides. Why, an American might ask, are Koreans so dominated by familial desires, whereas a Korean might ask with equal bewilderment how an American could justify fulfilling a personal dream, even if it meant flouting parental wishes. In her latest book, The Girl at the Baggage Claim, Gish Jen explores the gap between the interdependent East and the individualistic West. Jen, the author of four novels, a collection of short stories and the acclaimed Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self, is well suited to this task. Born in Scarsdale, New York, to Chinese immigrants, every aspect of her life has been shaped by the cultural values both of her parents and of the America in which she was raised. Indeed, even her name is a blending of her two cultures. Jen has a variety of names, reflecting her different relationships: She has a Chinese name, Ren Bilan, and an American name, Lillian Jen; names that reflect her marital status (Gish O’Connor, Lillian O’Connor); and names that reflect confusion about her name (Jen Gish, and the incorrectly pronounced “Geesh Jen”).

By Lyndal Roper

Random House $40, 576 pages ISBN 9780812996197 Audio, eBook available

BIOGRAPHY

Martin Luther was an unlikely revolutionary. When he posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517 (as the story goes, although Luther himself never referred to it), he was 33 years old, had been a monk for 12 years and had published very little. Yet within two months, the theses were known all over Germany and read by both clergy and laity. Luther’s propositions challenged the Catholic Church on major theological beliefs and practices and questioned papal power. Whether they were attached to the church door or not, the theses sparked the Protestant Reformation and radically changed Christianity. As we enter the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, Oxford historian Lyndal Roper explores the life and times of Luther in her absorbing and provocative Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet. An authority on early modern Germany, Roper gives us a compelling and nuanced portrait of a person

q&a

MICHAEL FINKEL BY ALICE CARY

A hermit’s path

T

hrough a series of personal interviews, journalist Michael Finkel uncovered the story behind Christopher Knight’s elusive 27-year existence in the Maine woods.

You write in The Stranger in the Woods that news of Knight’s capture in 2013 immediately “grabbed” you. Why did you identify with his story of living as a hermit? One of the things I like to do most in life is spend time in the wilderness. Another great love is reading. Christopher Knight seemed to have both passions on an exponentially grander scale. I couldn’t help but be gripped by his life story. You wrote to Knight in jail from your home in Montana. Were you flabbergasted when he wrote back? Strangely, I wasn’t. Knight’s story—or at least the bit of it reported in the Maine daily papers—resonated with me so strongly that I had this odd sense we were fated to communicate. Knight wrote you five letters, then stopped. So you took a wild chance and flew to Maine to try to visit him in jail. What did you think the odds were of Knight allowing you to visit? I’ve been a journalist for more than a quarter-century, and one of the things I’ve learned is that it’s always best to show up in person. So I did. And Knight, despite long odds, agreed to meet with me. What most surprised you about Knight during your first visit? Did subsequent visits get any easier? I was most surprised by Knight’s wonderfully poetic way of speaking and his dry sense of humor. But he was not easy to spend time with—he put up with me but was never happy to see me—and the visits never really got any easier. Still, Knight accepted every one of my nine visits to the jail. Knight’s story is ultimately very sad. From your description, he seems highly intelligent and simply unable to fit in with society. Do you think he will ever return to the woods or wishes he could? I am certain that Knight wishes he could return to the woods. But I have a feeling he will not go back, at least not so intensely. I can envision him living in a small shack on his family’s land. But I believe that for the rest of his life, he will pine for his campsite on Little North Pond, his personal Eden. Knight once told you he wants to return and let hypothermia claim his life. Do you still worry that he might do this? Yes. Every psychologist I spoke with about Knight’s case said that suicide is a distinct possibility. He lives by his own rules, and if he gets to a point where he feels that he has no other path to freedom other than suicide, he may opt for it. I certainly hope he will not choose this exit, but my worry remains, and probably always will. Are you concerned that some readers of your book might be tempted to go to Knight’s hometown to try to catch a glimpse of him, or speak with him—both actions that he would despise? I believe that one of the reasons Knight shared his story with me was specifically to prevent others from asking. Anybody reading this story who concludes that it would be a good idea to try and disturb Knight is making a grave and cruel error.

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reviews greatly influenced by his environment. Luther was courageous in stating his deeply held beliefs and well understood he would be labeled a heretic and likely become a martyr. He was a brilliant writer but also a vicious man and often a difficult friend, even to those close to him. Although an intellectual and scholar, he mistrusted “reason, the whore,” as he called it. His anti-Semitism was propagated by many of his supporters but went much further than many were prepared to go. Why did Luther prevail when other reform leaders did not? Among the most important reasons was his ability to write well and communicate his thinking to the public. He also understood the critical importance of printing. For example, in 1518, by the time he was ordered to stop publication of his first work in German for a wide public audience, he ensured that it was already on sale. “His use of print was tactically brilliant,” Roper writes. “No one had previously used print to such devastating effect.” Perhaps above all, Luther was a realist. “Time and time again, though he might rail against them and insult them . . . Luther would in the end always align himself with the [civil] authorities.” Roper’s great skill in interpreting Luther’s personal and public lives and explaining controversial theological subjects within their historical context makes this biography both enlightening and entertaining. —ROGER BISHOP

After a Stroke Strikes by Charles W. Kegley and Debra J. Kegley $15 paperback • $4.99 e-book available on Amazon

“Christ’s healing power courses through this inspiring and informative book.” —Dr. Jan Love, Dean, Candler School of Theology

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NONFICTION MARILYN IN MANHATTAN By Elizabeth Winder

Flatiron $27.99, 304 pages ISBN 9781250064967 eBook available

BIOGRAPHY

fish) and ultimately negotiates a contract with her studio that gives her story, director and cinematographer approval—plus the highest salary of any actress at that time. With a magical year behind her, Monroe heads west, ready to give her dramatic all to a new film, Bus Stop, and what will prove to be the finest role of her career. —EDWARD MORRIS

Marilyn Monroe suffered so much emotional pain throughout her life—from abused child to tormented movie star—one can only hope that 1955, the year she spent in New York, was as euphoric and productive as Elizabeth Winder portrays it in Marilyn in Manhat­ tan: Her Year of Joy. At war with her studio over the frothy movies it forced on her, Monroe and fashion photographer Milton Greene came to New York in December 1954 to set up a production company that would give the actress enough clout to choose her own roles. Monroe also wanted to immerse herself in the city’s artistic ferment and, above all else, to study at Lee Strasberg’s fabled Actors Studio, then the incubator of such radiant talents as Marlon Brando, Eli Wallach, Shelley Winters and Lou Gossett Jr. All of this she achieved. The author bases her gossipy chronicle on having sifted through all the major Monroe-related biographies, filmed interviews about her, newspaper and magazine accounts and hundreds of photographs taken during the year in question. The effect of this accumulated minutiae is to put the reader at Monroe’s elbow as she nightclubs with Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Frank Sinatra, swills champagne in bed and sits timidly at the back of the classroom as Strasberg pontificates to his more confident young lions. The artsy crowd virtually swoons over Monroe. She enthralls the likes of Truman Capote and Carson McCullers, columnists Elsa Maxwell and Earl Wilson and even Strasberg himself, as well as the normally imperious Sir Laurence Olivier. She begins dating Arthur Miller (who emerges as something of a cold

DEAR FRIEND, FROM MY LIFE I WRITE TO YOU IN YOUR LIFE By Yiyun Li

Random House $27, 224 pages ISBN 9780399589096 eBook available

MEMOIR

By just about any measure, writer Yiyun Li has had a remarkable life. Born and raised in Beijing before China’s explosion of prosperity (her family had no phone until she was in college), Li had a talent in science that brought her to the U.S. for graduate studies in immunology, but she shifted her focus to writing and attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. By age 37 she’d won multiple writing awards, including a MacArthur “genius” fellowship, and had a full life in California. Yet she recently spent two years in and out of hospitals for depression. She wrote Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, her first nonfiction work, during this difficult period. This unconventional memoir tucks glimpses of Li’s youth in Beijing, her narcissistic mother, her quiet father and childhood friends into a variety of meditations on writing and writers. These eight essays consider essential questions: Why write? Why read? Why live? She considers the letters and journals of Elizabeth Bowen, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Philip Larkin, Ivan Turgenev and others, and she writes tenderly of her own friendship with the Irish writer William Trevor. At times, this book feels like a quiet conversation with a wise

friend who says confounding things. Still, Li’s writing is lovely, graceful yet plainspoken, and I underlined many passages, like this one: “Some days, going from one book to another, preoccupied with thoughts that were of no importance, I would feel a rare moment of serenity: all that could not be solved in my life was merely a trifle as long as I kept it at a distance. Between that suspended life and myself were these dead people and imagined characters. One could spend one’s days among them as a child arranges a circle of stuffed animals when the darkness of night closes in.” —SARAH MCCRAW CROW

ROBERT LOWELL, SETTING THE RIVER ON FIRE By Kay Redfield Jamison

Knopf $29.95, 560 pages ISBN 9780307700278 eBook available

MEMOIR

Robert Lowell’s poetic imagination emerged from the extremes of New England’s weather, its frozen winters and fiery summers. Similarly, his temperament reflected the seasonal extremes of “passivity and wildness” in the depression and mania that afflicted him throughout his life. Scion of an old New England family with a history of mental illness, Lowell was able to transform his illness into art, becoming one of the 20th century’s most significant American poets. In her new book, Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind, brings her medical and personal experience of bipolar disorder to bear on the entwining of Lowell’s poetry and psychology. Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character is a compelling and intuitive account of his life and poetry against the backdrop of repeated hospitalizations for mania. Much of Lowell’s ­poetry— including important poems like


NONFICTION “For the Union Dead” and the collection Life Studies—emerged from a fertile “hypomanic” state, when an elevated mood and quickened mind helped the poems spill out onto the page. As Jamison discusses, many other artists have shared this combination of genius, creativity and illness. But Jamison, who received unprecedented access to Lowell’s medical records, doesn’t glamorize or trivialize the experience of mania or the havoc it caused Lowell’s family and friends. The poet’s nearly annual hospitalizations were finally slowed late in the 1960s, after lithium was introduced as a treatment for bipolar disorder. The medication gave him a stability he’d never experienced before. But would the same medication have altered his poetry had it been available sooner? Jamison has been studying the complex relationship between brain chemistry and creativity throughout her career; in Lowell, she has found her ideal subject. —CATHERINE HOLLIS

HAVANA By Mark Kurlansky Bloomsbury $26, 272 pages ISBN 9781632863911 Audio, eBook available

TRAVEL

Subtropical Delirium. As befits such a kaleidoscopic city, the book covers a little of everything: history, music, literature, food, interesting characters, personal reminiscences. One fun feature is a series of recipes of famous dishes (chicken with sour oranges) and drinks (use Havana Club light dry rum for your mojito). Kurlansky emphasizes throughout that one strong element of Havana’s distinctive style is the African influence that began with the tragedy of slavery, which lasted until 1886. Havana’s rich and seminal music, dance and literature are an amalgam of Spanish and African traditions. And sadly, its recurrent violence and political instability are in part the legacy of slavery’s social distortions. Kurlansky is even-handed about the impact of the Castro government. Yes, he says, Cuba is a repressive police state, but Havana was a place of genuine experimentation in the early revolutionary years. Since the collapse of its Soviet support system, he writes, it has been reverting more to its norm. Before 1960, that norm included omnipresent U.S. investors and tourists. Americans always adored Havana’s film-noir tone, which Kurlansky describes as “ornate but disheveled, somewhat like an unshaven man in a tattered tuxedo.” Will they return now? We’ll see. —ANNE BARTLETT

DODGE CITY Oh, the streets of Havana: the sound of live music heard through big open windows. Spanish spoken so fast, with so many dropped letters. The rotting grandeur. Irreverent jokes, nicknames, arguments. Constant talk, talk, talk—Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca called the people of Havana the ­hablaneros, the talkers. Havana is sui generis and addictive, and Mark Kurlansky really gets it, as much as any foreigner can. The prolific author has been visiting Cuba’s capital for more than 30 years as a journalist. Now, at a time when U.S.-Cuban relations appear to be in a thaw, he has captured its transcultural essence in Havana: A

By Tom Clavin

St. Martin’s $29.99, 400 pages ISBN 9781250071484 Audio, eBook available

HISTORY

Tales of the Old West seem to improve with age, as award-winning historian Tom Clavin (The Heart of Everything That Is) demonstrates in his lively new book, Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the Amer­ ican West. Revisiting the capital of

spotlight

NATURE BY HENRY L. CARRIGAN JR.

Troubled waters

T

he vastness and untamed energy of oceans, seas and lakes both fascinate and frighten us. Two new books explore our complex relationships with iconic American bodies of water.

In his vivid The Gulf: The teaches us that nature is most Making of an American Sea generous whenever we respect its (Liveright, $29.95, 608 pages, sovereignty. ISBN 9780871408662), UniverECOLOGICAL THREATS sity of Florida historian Jack E. The Great Lakes span 94,000 Davis narrates the history of the square miles and provide 20 perGulf of Mexico from its origins cent of the world’s supply of fresh in the Pleistocene epoch and its water. Yet, as flourishing award-winaboriginal ning journalist cultures—still Dan Egan evident in buripoints out in al and ceremoThe Death nial mounds. and Life of Davis traces the Great various eras Lakes (Norton, of exploration $27.95, 384 and conquest pages, ISBN by Spanish, 9780393246438), these inland British and French explorers, the development of towns on the Gulf seas face challenges unimagas tourist destinations in the 19th inable when explorer Jean Nicolet first paddled across Lake Huron and early 20th centuries, and oil in the 17th century. At that time, booms and ecological catastrothe Great Lakes were isolated phes of the late 20th century. from the Atlantic, unreachable Along the way, we meet figures by boat not only because of who shaped the history of the their unnavigable shorelines but Gulf: ethnologist Frank Hamilalso because of the challenges ton Cushing, who explored the of crossing waterfalls. With the ancient mounds; 16th-century construction of the St. Lawrence Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; and Randy Wayne Seaway, begun in 1955, ships gained what Egan calls a “front White, the fishing guide (and bestselling author) whose promo- door” to the lakes, turning cities tion of the tarpon lured hundreds like Chicago into inland ports. By the mid-20th century, of anglers to the Gulf Coast. industrial and municipal polluThough Gulf waters once tion created dead zones in the teemed with “crabs, shrimp, and lakes. While the passage of the curious jumping fish called the mullet,” by the mid-20th century, Clean Water Act in 1972 prompted some recovery, the law didn’t the thirst for development had prevent ships from dumping disastrous consequences. In the contaminated ballast. Egan 1960s, many scientists recomchronicles the ways that such mended eradicating mangroves, pollution has decimated native which prevent erosion, in order fish populations, created toxic to build condominiums closalgae outbreaks and introduced er to the water. When beaches the DNA of non-native species began to erode, communities into the lakes. In this compelling built seawalls, which actually account, Egan issues a clarion worsened the problem. As Davis call for re-imagining the future of demonstrates in this absorbing the Great Lakes. narrative, the history of the Gulf

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reviews the wild frontier, Clavin focuses on Dodge City’s heyday—the 1870s and 1880s—and brings into sharp focus stories that long ago acquired the sepia tone of antiquity. Established as a military settlement, Dodge City developed into a frisky cowtown with a bustling stockyard and railroad terminus. Set on the plains in southwestern Kansas, it was an inevitable stop for buffalo hunters, businessmen, miners, guns-for-hire, cowpokes and other folks traveling westward. Dodge City, Clavin says, “came to symbolize both the American West and a nation seeking to fulfill its manifest destiny.” Because it attracted gunslingers of every breed (Dirty Sock Jack, Cold Chuck Johnny and Dynamite Sam, to name a few), extra-vigilant lawmen were needed to keep the peace. Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp were tailor-made for the task. Clavin’s storytelling skills shine as he chronicles the personal histories of the now-mythical pair, tracing the years of their reign in the West and providing an intriguing look at their comradeship. He delivers plenty of quick-draw drama—with appearances from Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James and others—in detailed accounts of the shootouts and duels that were the order of the day. Clavin’s bold narrative of life in a nation still coming of age provides a shot of good old-fashioned escapism. Dodge City “was a reservoir of tall tales,” he says, “yet many of the facts are equally if not more fascinating.” This rip-roarin’ read proves he’s right. —J U L I E H A L E

THE NEW OLD ME By Meredith Maran

Blue Rider $27, 304 pages ISBN 9780399574139 Audio, eBook available

MEMOIR

Meredith Maran had been married to the woman of her dreams,

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NONFICTION living in a gentrifying Oakland, California, neighborhood and making a decent living as an author (of more than a dozen books) and freelance writer. But when her marriage slowly turned toxic and she suffered other personal and financial setbacks, Maran opted for the mother of all do-overs—moving to Los Angeles and taking a job at a clothing company where, at age 60, she became both employee and honorary mom to her younger co-workers. The New Old Me: My Late-Life Reinvention offers a bracing look at the joys and challenges of starting over as an older woman. Maran starts out couch-surfing in L.A. and struggling to connect, but her writing career has given her a rich network of contacts that she mines like a pro for companionship and wise counsel. Once a fervent political activist, she now spends time in La-La Land supplementing companywide workout days with personal training sessions and exploring the world of nips, tucks and waxing fore and aft. Despite her hopes for reconciliation with her wife, their marriage ends in divorce and Maran begins exploring the world of online dating. The copywriting job she moves south for borders on L.A. cliché, from nude weigh-ins with body-fat calipers to the rocket science employed to estimate driving distance from the office to anywhere else in town. These are some of the book’s funniest scenes, but the friends she makes at work become part of her tribe as well. The observations here are sharp and witty; used to living under “the whip of freelance insecurity,” Maran awkwardly relaxes into a far better funded existence. No longer struggling to build a family, career or marriage, she delights in the freedom to have more fun, noting, “I’m not building anything anymore, except bone density if I’m lucky.” The New Old Me is a smart, funny testament to the value of friendships old and new, and the ways they help us adapt to the inevitability of change.

Writing is hard. Just ask Nell Stevens, a 27-year-old British graduate student working toward her MFA in fiction at Boston University. As part of the program, she receives a three-month fellowship to travel anywhere in the world to practice her craft, and to the surprise of her advisor, she chooses the sparsely populated Falkland Islands. Located in the South Atlantic Ocean near Antarctica, the frigid islands offer Stevens the isolation she needs to concentrate on her Dickensian novel—which, like her life, features a young English academic who travels to the Falklands. Stevens arrives at Bleaker Island, a small world of rock, sea and sky, and promptly puts on an extra pair of socks. In Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World, Stevens offers a quirky and engaging account of what happens next. Surrounded by a colony of penguins, a beached whale carcass, caracara birds and a herd of sheep, she spends hours writing in a sunroom so thoroughly transparent she feels part of the weather. She plans her day down to the number of almonds she can eat each morning and the number of words she’ll produce each afternoon. Despite her rigid plan, the act of writing proves as unpredictable and brutal as the weather. Her isolation compels her to ponder the process of composing. How does one make something beautiful from a string of words and longings, from memories and imaginings and, more practically, from computers and books and piles of almonds? Eventually departing the island with a book— though one very different from her original plan—Nell offers a captivating portrait of the creative life.

What is the next step in human evolution? Will human beings become cyborgs, implanted with chips that enable us to control our environment? Or will humans, in their never-ending quest for perfection, become gods, erasing the human altogether? In his provocative and lively new study, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, author of the 2015 bestseller Sapiens, asks challenging questions about the future of humanity and the longstanding belief that places humans at the center of the universe (humanism). In the first section of the book, Harari examines the relationships between humans and animals, contending that if we want to understand how super-intelligent cyborgs might treat humans, we should examine how humans treat their less intelligent animal cousins. He then proceeds to explore how humans elevated themselves to the center of the universe, developing a humanist creed that continues to have both liberating and oppressive consequences (economic prosperity, democratic institutions, wars, poverty). In a final section, Harari looks at the next stage of human development, or demise, by asking how humanity’s search for “immortality, bliss, and divinity shake the foundations of our belief in humanity.” Harari refuses the role of prophet, but he does contend that Homo sapiens will disappear once technology gives us the ability to re-engineer human minds. Thought-provoking and enlightening, Harari’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of our species.

—HEATHER SEGGEL

— K E L LY B L E W E T T

—HENRY L. CARRIGAN JR.

BLEAKER HOUSE By Nell Stevens

Doubleday $25.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780385541558 Audio, eBook available

TRAVEL

HOMO DEUS By Yuval Noah Harari

Harper $35, 464 pages ISBN 9780062464316 eBook available

SCIENCE


T PI OP CK

TEEN

THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE

Relationships bound up in love REVIEW BY JUSTIN BARISICH

Set in the modern-day border town of El Paso, Texas, The Inexplica­ ble Logic of My Life boldly shows the resilient humanity of three high school seniors—sharing their confusions, heartbreaks and thoughtfulness—as they grow to learn that “normal” is a term with far more than one definition. Salvador is the caring, adopted, white son of an unmarried M ­ exicanAmerican man—a famous artist who is openly gay in a Southern town. Samantha is the sassy and smart Mexican-American girl from down the street whom Sal has loved as a sister for as long as he can remember. But Sam’s mother drinks too much, falls in love with the wrong kind of men and fights viciously with her daughter nearly every day. Fito is the gay kid at school who’s determined to graduate, save enough money to go to college and move away. He’s one of the smartest, kindest and hardest working kids at school, but he has never realized it because his drug-adBy Benjamin Alire Sáenz dicted mother and abusive family would never let him believe it. Clarion, $17.99, 464 pages As life toys with Sal, Sam and Fito throughout their senior year, they ISBN 9780544586505, audio, eBook available learn to lean on one another, pick up the pieces and face the world Ages 12 and up. again—and that just might be enough for them to make it through and FICTION build a “normal” that’s all their own. Following his multiple award-winning Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s fifth YA novel is yet another outstanding work of literature in a lauded career. In this noble portrait of a group of friends and their questioning minds, Sáenz has crafted characters so memorable that they’ll remain with you—and inspire Visit BookPage.com to read a you—for a lifetime. Q&A with Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

FROGKISSER! By Garth Nix

Scholastic $18.99, 384 pages ISBN 9781338052084 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up

FANTASY

Princess Anya has problems: Her sister, Morven, is devastated by the transformation of handsome Prince Denholm into a frog; her evil stepstepfather (yes, you read that right), Duke Rikard, is becoming a more evil and powerful sorcerer by the day; and it’s recently become quite clear that Rikard wants Anya dead. All Anya wants is to stay in her library and read about magic, but her unbreakable sister-promise to restore Prince

Denholm to human form leads to an increasingly complicated Quest. Through the woods surrounding Trallonia, farther than she has ever traveled, Anya journeys with Ardent, a faithful royal dog; Shrub, a would-be thief transformed into a newt; and Smoothie, a river otter transformed into a girl. Anya’s list of tasks—and people to un-transform—grows, and Rikard is hot on their trail. Anya started out wanting to return to her solitary library as soon as possible, but the Quest opens her eyes to the deeper responsibilities of being a princess and, more importantly, a leader. A master of creating beloved fantasy worlds, Garth Nix turns to the funny, whimsical and self-aware style less common in recent children’s fantasy. Shot through with the tone of adventurous fairy-tale riffs such as The Princess Bride, this novel is a rollicking breath of fresh

air and a return to fantasy with room for fun and mischief. —ANNIE METCALF

DREAMLAND BURNING By Jennifer Latham

Little, Brown $18.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780316384933 eBook available Ages 12 and up

HISTORICAL FICTION

In 1921, a rash argument over a pretty girl propels 17-year-old Will Tillman into a hotbed of racial tension in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As he begins to understand what Jim Crow really means, he faces difficult decisions between what is expected and what is right. Nearly 100 years later, 17-year-old Rowan

Chase discovers a skeleton under the floorboards of her family’s backhouse. As she investigates the murder, she learns firsthand that history isn’t entirely in the past. The author of Scarlett Undercover, Jennifer Latham doesn’t shy away from the hard truth in her new historical novel, Dreamland Burning. The two protagonists take parallel journeys as they unwittingly step outside their lives of relative privilege and open their eyes to the grim realities of their respective societies. And what makes these characters so special is that they’re nothing special. Rowan and Will and their friends, even more richly developed in Will’s chapters than Rowan’s, are honest renderings of young people experiencing and navigating injustice for the first time. Dreamland Burning is a critical look at race relations today, bringing to light the abuses we often pretend disappeared with Jim Crow, but that we must face headon if we want to continue moving forward as a society. Latham’s prose will captivate readers from start to finish as she moves seamlessly back and forth between Will’s difficult coming of age and Rowan’s discovery of what history left behind. —SARAH WEBER

THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART By Jennifer Park Simon Pulse $17.99, 304 pages ISBN 9781481463515 eBook available Ages 12 and up

FANTASY

Preacher’s daughter (dresses modestly, doesn’t date, never goes to parties) is the only identity Leah Roberts has—in public, anyway. But when she sneaks out to the woods behind her house, she can be her true self: a girl who’s grieving over a tragedy that splintered her family 10 years ago. And in these woods, she watches a family of fantastic creatures who officially don’t exist. They’re large, vaguely humanoid, covered in hair and known in legend as Bigfoot or Sasquatch.

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Introducing

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MONTHLY

reviews One night a newcomer arrives with the Bigfoot family—a young man who’s surprisingly close to being human. As Leah finds herself drawn to this mysterious stranger, the outside world shifts, too: Her brother’s best friend starts making romantic overtures toward her, and her mother’s perpetually odd behavior becomes stranger than usual. As details of her family’s dark history are slowly revealed, Leah finds herself in a place where the past and the present, humans and non-humans, love and loss coexist . . . and sometimes violently clash. Part supernatural romance, part mystery and part contemporary realism, The Shadows We Know by Heart blends the psychological suspense of Stephanie Kuehn’s Charm & Strange with traditional legends of Bigfoot, adding a flavor of “Beauty and the Beast” along the way. —J I L L R A T Z A N

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By Sara Lövestam Flatiron $17.99, 320 pages ISBN 9781250095237 eBook available Ages 12 and up

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FICTION

Swedish author Sara Lövestam’s first novel to be published in the U.S. captures contemporary teen life and the world of 1940s Sweden, filtered through the universal language of music. In this tale of two eras, aspiring musician Steffi Herra, age 15, keeps a jazz-infused fugue in her head as a defense against meangirl bullies. After a chance encounter with Alvar, an elderly jazz bassist, Steffi soon becomes a regular visitor at his nursing home. While listening to classical jazz forms the basis of their relationship, Steffi also receives rich human and historical perspectives about life in neutral Sweden during World War II. As Alvar recounts the tale of his journey to Stockholm at 17, Steffi discovers the impetus she needs to pursue her own dreams of attending a prestigious music

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TEEN academy in Stockholm. Musicians will respond with glee to the authentic musical references, and non-musicians will enjoy the realistic and loving portrait of a young girl pursuing her passion. Wonderful Feels Like This offers grace notes on cross-generational companionship and the pursuit of a dream, whatever the era. —LORI K. JOYCE

GOODBYE DAYS By Jeff Zentner

Crown $17.99, 416 pages ISBN 9780553524062 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up

FICTION

It was just another late summer day before the start of senior year at Nashville’s Academy for the Arts. Carver was eager to meet up with his best friends Mars, Blake and Eli to celebrate their end-of-­ summer traditions. So he sent Mars a text: “Where are you guys? Text me back.” And in an instant, his friends’ lives were over—and Carver’s was destroyed. After all three boys are killed in a car accident caused, in all likelihood, by Mars’ attempt to text Carver a response, Carver is left with little but a series of increasingly scary panic attacks. Eli’s twin sister despises him, Mars’ powerful father threatens to press charges, and even his new friendship with Eli’s girlfriend is far from uncomplicated. When Blake’s grandma suggests that Carver join her in a “goodbye day” to share their memories of Blake, Carver wonders whether this might be an opportunity for healing or just a route to more pain. Carver is an aspiring author, so storytelling plays a central role in his grief and recovery. Morris Award-winning author Jeff Zent­ ner, a talented musician and songwriter, suffuses his new novel with all kinds of art forms, from Eli’s music to Mars’ illustrations to Blake’s zany but brave form of comedy. Fans of Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places will find much to

ponder in Goodbye Days’ sensitive exploration of loss and strong sense of place. —NORAH PIEHL

THE HATE U GIVE By Angie Thomas Balzer + Bray $17.99, 464 pages ISBN 9780062498533 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up

FICTION

When Starr was 12, her parents taught her the facts of life. Her mother explained the mysteries of sex, while her father instructed her on how African Americans behave if stopped by police. Four years later, Starr remembers her father’s words when she and her childhood friend, Khalil, are pulled over. But when Khalil makes an innocent move, the policeman shoots. Starr watches in horror as Khalil dies in the street. The media picks up the story, depicting Khalil as a gang member and drug dealer. Starr, who attends a prestigious, predominantly white high school, is repulsed by the sensationalism and initially tries to deny her involvement. But she learns that such silence grants free reign to racist justifications for violent policing of her tight-knit black community. Starr’s life is rife with contradictions. Her neighborhood friends live in a world where violent death is a real threat, while her wealthier school friends view Khalil’s death as an excuse to skip school. Starr’s father is a former gang leader who is dedicated to improving their community, while her uncle is a police detective who lives in a safer neighborhood. In her debut novel, Angie Thomas breathes life into the incidents that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement, with nuanced characters and complex subplots. Like Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down, the novel explores the ambiguity of perspective, but in this case, it’s always from Starr’s deeply personal viewpoint. —DIANE COLSON


children’s

JACK CHENG

Finding our place in the universe

J

ack Cheng’s all-time favorite book is The Little Prince, the beloved classic in which a pilot who has crashed in the desert encounters a young interplanetary traveler. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that Cheng’s inventive middle grade debut, See You in the Cosmos, concerns an 11-yearold traveler named Alex Petroski who is making a recording that he hopes extraterrestrials will hear. Cheng came up with the idea several Thanksgivings ago while hanging out in his younger brother’s room. He spotted a Carl Sagan book that reminded him of the Golden Record that Sagan helped create, containing images and sounds intended to portray life on Earth to extraterrestrials, which was launched aboard two NASA Voyager spacecraft in 1977. “The next morning I woke up and had this idea for a story about a boy and his dog, and trying to launch a rocket into space,” Cheng recalls, speaking from his home in Detroit. “It immediately started to take on a life of its own.” His character Alex idolizes Sagan so much that his dog is named after the astronomer. The pair board a train from their Colorado home to travel to a rocket festival in New Mexico, where Alex hopes to launch his own vessel into space. Meanwhile, he’s recording his thoughts on his golden iPod,

SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS

By Jack Cheng

Dial, $16.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780399186370, audio, eBook available Ages 10 and up

MIDDLE GRADE

transcripts of which comprise the novel’s chapters. Alex is also in search of his father (who died when Alex was 3 but whom he suspects may still be alive), and so he travels in some unexpected directions, ending up in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. One reason that Alex is able to embark on his journey is that his mother has “quiet days” in bed. She’s eventually hospitalized for schizophrenia, an illness that Cheng portrays compassionately without making it a focus. Along the way, Alex stumbles upon many discoveries, including a half-sister named Terra, whose existence was equally surprising to the author. “When I started that chapter, the door opens and Terra was there,” says Cheng. “That magical surprise of finding a new character or having your characters see something completely different from what you’re expecting—that’s one of the reasons I keep writing.” The 33-year-old’s path to becoming a writer has involved its own share of twists and turns. Born in Shanghai, he moved at age 5 to Detroit, where his father was earning a master’s degree in engineering. As a young immigrant, Cheng didn’t speak English and had a different name: Yuan. He remembers picking his English name because he loved playing cards and was familiar with the letter J on the jacks. As Cheng reminisces about those early days in America, two of the first things he mentions are a dog and rockets—both major features of his novel. For a while his family lived in a mansion-like home whose elderly owner had a golden retriever. Cheng also remembers being mystified by the pictures of toy rockets he saw on certain cereal boxes, and describes trying to build rockets out of the cereal, not under-

standing that the toys were something to be sent away for. Cheng loved to draw and later became adept at Photoshop. He majored in communication studies at the University of Michigan, then worked in advertising in New York, first as an art director and later as a copywriter. Eventually he and two partners started their own design studio, building websites and apps for startups and other companies. During this time he started journaling, which evolved into writing an adult novel, These “There’s Days, which always examines relationships a sense and technoloof finding gy through the yourself lens of a young Midwesterner between working in two worlds.” New York. He funded that novel through Kickstarter, an experience that taught Cheng a lot about publishing and also put him in touch with his agent. “During that process I realized that I loved writing so much more than my day job,” Cheng says, “and that it was something that I would be willing to move back to Michigan and live in my parents’ basement in order to keep doing.” He did move back to his home state but, happily, never had to live in his parents’ basement. During this transition period he also took a Greyhound bus from L.A. to Detroit, commemorating a journey that his father had taken when he first came to the U.S. (a few months before Cheng and his mother arrived). “That actual bus ride was very uneventful; I just slept most of the way,” Cheng admits. “But I

WESLEY VERHOEVE

INTERVIEW BY ALICE CARY

think some of the themes of that trip—trying to get to know family and trying to understand my dad’s experience, and also just being around the Southwest—in hindsight those were huge influences on See You in the Cosmos.” However, Cheng wasn’t ready to write a book about Asian-American identity. “Maybe that’s just an aspect of my own life that I wasn’t fully ready to explore,” he concedes, saying he may tackle the issue in future novels. In a nod to Cheng’s immigrant heritage, however, Alex is half Filipino. “My Chinese heritage is something that I’ve been exploring more of in the past few years,” Cheng continues. “The whole question of figuring out where and what home is—I think that’s a very Asian-American question. I think it’s also very American in general; if we go back enough generations, we’re all immigrant families. There’s always a sense of finding yourself between two worlds. Alex is very much finding himself between this world—his life with his mother—and the world of not really knowing his father.” Cheng still has one piece of unfinished business concerning See You in the Cosmos. “One thing I’m a little embarrassed about is I have never actually launched a model rocket,” he says. “As research for the book I bought one, but it’s still sitting in my closet. I think that on the day the book comes out, I’m going to try and do a little launch.”

29


reviews T PI OP CK

CHILDREN’S

Shapes square off

TRIANGLE

REVIEW BY JULIE DANIELSON

Triangle lives in a world of triangles. His home is a triangle-shaped mound of rock. The door to his home is triangle-shaped. All of the rocks around him are triangle-shaped, too—small, medium and big triangles. Triangle’s friend, Square, lives in a square-shaped rock with a square-shaped door and small, medium and big square-shaped rocks all around. Triangle heads that way one day to play “a sneaky trick” on his friend. Knowing Square is afraid of snakes, Triangle stands by his door and hisses. When Square figures out it’s Triangle, he chases him to his home—and gets stuck in Triangle’s doorway. (Remember that triangle-shaped door? A square on two legs can’t quite navigate that, can he?) But as stuck Square blocks the door, Triangle becomes scared. By Mac Barnett Turns out he’s afraid of the dark. “Now I have played a sneaky trick on Illustrated by Jon Klassen you,” Square says, saying with glee that this was his plan all along. Candlewick, $15.99, 48 pages “But do you really believe him?” asks the narrator, deliciously, on the ISBN 9780763696030, ages 5 to 9 final page. PICTURE BOOK This is funny stuff and, as to be expected from Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, delightfully off-kilter. The bit where Square can’t get through Triangle’s door is slapstick physical comedy at its best, and the book’s entire premise taps into the sense of mischief, one-upping and questions of trust that occur on playgrounds daily. (On a more basic level, preschoolers learning shapes will be thrilled to have such a funny book on hand.) As always with Klassen, so much is in the eyes, and the eyes of Triangle and Square go a long way in communicating abundant character. In a Q&A that accompanied the advance review copy, Klassen talks about how the very placement of Triangle’s eyes implies shiftiness, given that they are lower on his face. Square’s eye placement is right in the middle—more balanced, more dependable. But we readers have two more books ahead of us (this is the first in a planned trilogy), so luckily, we’ll learn a lot more about the characters’ shifty (or were they?) intentions. Illustration copyright © 2017 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

WE LOVE YOU, ROSIE! By Cynthia Rylant Illustrated by Linda Davick Beach Lane $17.99, 48 pages ISBN 9781442465114 eBook available Ages 3 to 7

PICTURE BOOK

It’s harder than it looks to craft an endearing tale of two kids and their adorable dog while subtly teaching beginning reading skills and spatial concepts. But in this colorful and lively collaboration, two award-winning creators manage it—just as easily as dachshund Rosie plays and runs all day. The large-format picture book is divided into sections, following the

30

daily life of two unnamed African-American children and their very, very long dog, Rosie. Mini chapters offer early readers lots of visual references for rhythm and word repetition. At the same time, the text contrasts opposites, such as lost and found, or good and bad. Linda Davick’s bright, sparkling palette is the perfect complement to Cynthia Rylant’s sweet, assured text. In “Rosie In and Out,” we see Rosie eagerly begging to come inside, then desperately throwing herself at a window to be let out to chase a rabbit. Then readers are treated to a hilarious illustration of Rosie stuck in and out of her heart-emblazoned doghouse. We Love You, Rosie! is a joyful chronicle of childhood, family and the pleasure of sharing love with a pet. A perfect book for preschool-

ers and young readers alike, this simple but evocative celebration is bound to become a family favorite. —DEBORAH HOPKINSON

a recurring nightmare, which she hopes to interpret with help from Kaori. Kaori is psychic and, along with her little sister Gen, knows that something is terribly, terribly wrong. In Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly, these four tweens— some friends, some enemies, some strangers—come together under unexpected circumstances. On his way to visit Kaori for a psychic reading, Virgil has an unpleasant run-in with Chet, which results in his backpack, complete with guinea pig Gulliver, being thrown to the bottom of an abandoned well. After climbing down to reach Gulliver, Virgil realizes that he is trapped, and no one knows where he is. Through a series of coincidences, some new friendships and just a bit of luck, things in the universe come together to bring hope to the boy trapped in the well. Folklore, fairy tales, astrology, mysticism and dreams all mingle together to create a wonderful, fantastical and unique world. It’s impossible to identify the perfect reader for this story, because there is so much for every reader contained within. —KEVIN DELECKI

THE GOLDFISH BOY By Lisa Thompson Scholastic $16.99, 320 pages ISBN 9781338053920 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12

MIDDLE GRADE

HELLO, UNIVERSE By Erin Entrada Kelly

Greenwillow $16.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780062414151 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12

MIDDLE GRADE

Chet is a big, mean bully who likes to spend his time harassing Virgil. Virgil is shy—painfully shy— but desperately wants to catch the attention of Valencia. Valencia is deaf, overprotective and plagued by

Calling all Alfred Hitchcock fans: In her debut novel, British writer Lisa Thompson has brilliantly borrowed the director’s Rear Window plot, adapting it into a middle grade novel called The Goldfish Boy. Not only is this a riveting mystery filled with twists, turns and red herrings, it’s an emotionally complex tale centered on a 12-year-old narrator suffering from severe OCD. Matthew Corbin feels safest in his home, where he constantly worries about germs and feels responsible for the death of his baby brother. He wears latex gloves


CHILDREN’S and refuses to go to school, so his parents are in the process of lining up therapy. Meanwhile, Matthew watches his neighbors, taking notes about their comings and goings. When a toddler goes missing, Matthew is the last to see him, and he knows what all the neighbors were doing at the time of the disappearance. He works diligently to solve the case, eventually joining forces with a lonely neighborhood girl, Melody, and a former friend, Jake, who’s been bullied so much that he’s become a bully himself. Despite the severity of his problems, Matthew is an energetic, likable character whose adolescent voice and increasing self-awareness ring true. Rare is the book that manages to be an entertaining page-turner while also offering meaningful insight into a serious disorder. The Goldfish Boy manages to do both in a masterful way.

tide of school integration. While sprinkling his tale with popular vintage games, music and food of the 1970s as well as uproarious humor, Frank weaves in a poignant “out of every conflict comes an opportunity” theme based on Charlie and Armstrong’s relationship. Replete with unforgettable moments, young love and unexpected plot turns, this is a hilarious, heartwarming and timely read. —ANITA LOCK

WHEN MY SISTER STARTED KISSING

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

would you describe Q: How  the book?

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

By Helen Frost

FSG $16.99, 208 pages ISBN 9780374303037 eBook available Ages 10 to 14

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

MIDDLE GRADE

This coming-of-age story opens with a lightning-bolt moment— literally the moment a young ARMSTRONG AND CHARLIE mother is struck by lightning and taken from her two toddlers. The By Steven B. Frank narrative then flashes ahead 10 HMH $16.99, 304 pages years—to 10-year-old Claire and ISBN 9780544826083 13-year-old Abigail, enjoying their eBook available usual summer at their lake house. Ages 10 to 12 But this year, everything is different: Dad and his new wife are MIDDLE GRADE expecting a baby. This novel-in-verse alternates Charlie Ross is not looking forbetween Claire and Abigail’s voices ward to starting sixth grade, since while incorporating the perspechis best friends will be attending tive of the lake itself. Throughout different schools. His dad says new these stanzas, Claire tries to come kids from a black housing develto terms with Abigail growing up: opment will be coming to Charlie’s She’s calling herself “Abi” now, has all-white Wonderland Avenue taken a definite interest in boys and is distancing herself from School. Armstrong Le Rois is not looking forward to starting sixth her little sister. With nothing but change at every turn, Claire feels grade either. Waking up at 5:30 every morning to take a bus to attend the seams of her family loosening. an integrated program at WonderGrowing up is hard; growing apart land is not his idea of fun. Charlie is even harder. Novels-in-verse must work and Armstrong butt heads more often than not, but a weeklong class double duty: The story must be camping trip gives the boys an opcompelling and the verse accessiportunity to build a friendship. ble and worthy of the story. Helen Inspired by his own childhood Frost, a Printz Honor-winning experiences, debut author Steven B. author, has done so seamlessly. Her Frank spins a tale that goes beyond mastery extends to her use of varracial issues. In first-person juxtaied poetic forms, including acrosposed narratives, Armstrong and tics, which incorporate lines from Charlie captures the viewpoints of some of Frost’s favorite poems. two preteens caught in the shifting —SHARON VERBETEN —ALICE CARY

meet  RACHEL ISADORA

Q: Who was your childhood hero?

books did you enjoy as a child? Q: What 

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

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

I JUST WANT TO SAY GOOD NIGHT The latest picture book from Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora, I Just Want to Say Good Night (Nancy Paulsen, $17.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780399173844, ages 3 to 5), is set on the African plains, where a girl deliberately stalls the bedtime process. But sleep won’t be far away for young readers who discover Isadora’s gentle “good night” refrain and lush oil paintings. Isadora lives in New York City.

31


WORDNOOK

BY THE EDITORS OF MERRIAM-WEBSTER

CENSORED

Dear Editor: My question is about the word bowdlerize. My guess is that it comes from a name, but I don’t know whose name. Please explain. R. T. Lafayette, Louisiana Few editors have ever gained the notoriety of English physician Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825). His travels through Europe led to reporting on the unsanitariness of watering places in France. He then expanded his interest in purification to works of literature. His first effort was The Family Shakespeare (1818), which promised “those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family.” It met with adverse critical reaction, but pleased the public. Bowdler then went on to expurgate Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire of all passages of “an irreligious or immoral tendency.” A decade after his death, Bowdler’s name

had become synonymous with censorship on moral grounds, and bowdlerize was used to describe the expurgation of literary works.

SHOCK AND AWE

Dear Editor: What can you tell me about the term Grand Guignol? I sometimes see it used in connection with TV shows and movies that are especially violent. F. C. Bellevue, Washington Long before cinematic violence became explicit, the Grand-Guignol theater in the Montmartre district of Paris presented to audiences graphic depictions of stabbings, assaults with sulfuric acid and assorted other mayhem. Founded in 1895 as the Théâtre-Salon, it adopted its better-known name and characteristic formula in 1897. On a single night’s bill, one-act light comedies alternated with dramas of horror, the latter featuring cleverly arranged (for the time) special effects and plenty of gore. Guignol

in French denotes both “hand puppet” and, as a proper noun, the leading character in a tradition of children’s puppet theater, but aside from the uniformity of repertoire there was nothing puppet-like about the Grand-Guignol. The theater remained a Parisian attraction until 1962 when it finally closed, having outlived an era when stage violence could provide a real shock.

SEALED AWAY

Dear Editor: I recently read an article that used hermetic to describe North Korea instead of the usual hermetic seals and compressors. It made me wonder—where does the word hermetic come from? V. S. Celina, Ohio Thoth was an ancient Egyptian god of wisdom whose cult in the Nile valley endured for millennia. After Egypt’s conquest by Alexander the Great, the Greeks who settled in the region created a blend of Egyptian and Hellenistic culture.

The Greek god Hermes and Egyptian god Thoth were worshipped as one, renamed in Greek as Hermes Trismegistos, “thrice-greatest Hermes,” a rough translation of one of Thoth’s Egyptian titles. Thoth-Hermes was the reputed author of a set of treatises, the Hermetica, containing revelations on mystical subjects as well as astrological and alchemical speculation. Hermetic entered English in the early 17th century in reference to Hermes Trismegistus, as his name was Latinized, and it was soon used to describe things that were beyond ordinary comprehension. Additionally, it was believed that he was the inventor of a seal that kept vessels airtight. From this tradition came the most common meanings of hermetic in English: “airtight” and by extension, “impervious to external influence.” These days, it can also mean “solitary.” Send correspondence regarding Word Nook to: Language Research Service P.O. Box 281 Springfield, MA 01102

Test Your Mental Mettle with Puzzles from 417 More Games, Puzzles & Trivia Challenges Specially Designed to Keep Your Brain Young

WORD TOWER

The letters of each word in this list can be rearranged in multiple ways to form other words. We provide the word and the number of anagrams that are possible to make. (Remember, you must use ALL the letters in the given word.) You should give your brain a rest if you can solve all of these anagrams in two minutes.

1. Posh (2) ______ ______ 2. Awls (2) ______ ______ 3. Scat (3) ______ ______ ______ 4. Deus (3) ______ ______ ______ 5. Fares (2) ______ ______ 6. Tarps (3) ______ ______ ______

Every word in a word tower begins with the same two letters.You build the tower by increasing the length of each word by one letter. For example, a five-word tower built on the letters FA could include: FAN, FAST, FABLE, FACTOR, FAILURE. How far can you go before you get stumped? Using the letters PA, we made a tower fourteen words high. (Note: Proper nouns are not allowed, and you cannot just add an s to make a longer word. For example, if your four-letter word is part, your five-letter word cannot be parts.) For an extra brain boost, see how tall your tower of words can get in two minutes.

ANSWERS 1. P A 2. P A __ 3. P A __ __ 4. P A __ __ __ 5. P A __ __ __ __ 6. P A __ __ __ __ __ 7. P A __ __ __ __ __ __ 8. P A __ __ __ __ __ __ __ 9. P A __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ 10. P A __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ 11. P A __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ 12. P A __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ 13. P A __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ 14. P A __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ These answers are just a suggestion; many other correct answers are possible: 1. Pa 2. Pad 3. Park 4. Patio 5. Papaya 6. Pajamas 7. Pamphlet 8. Pantyhose 9. Paintbrush 10. Pawnbrokers 11. Particularly 12. Participation 13. Pasteurization 14. Parenthetically

ANAGRAMS

WORD TOWER

7. Coats (3) ______ ______ ______ 8. Poser (4) ______ ______ ______ ______ ANSWERS

workman.com

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

1. Posh, Hops, Shop 2. Awls, Slaw, Laws

3. Scat, Acts, Cats, Cast 4. Deus, Dues, Sued, Used

5. Fares, Fears, Safer 6. Tarps, Parts, Strap, Traps

ANAGRAMS

7. Coats, Ascot, Coast, Tacos 8. Poser, Pores, Prose, Ropes, Spore

BookPage March 2017  

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