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L I T E R AT U R E REMEMBERS
WO M E N women’s history month with
MALLORY O’MEARA • KATE QUINN • SALLY ROESCH WAGNER MARGARET VERBLE • ELIZABETH LET TS • FEMINISTA JONES AMBER TAMBLYN • CAROLINE CRIADO PEREZ AND MORE
W O M E N’S H I S TO R Y M O N T H march 2019
8 books celebrate Women’s History Month How far we’ve come, how far we’ve yet to go
Women in historical fiction Four authors share the true stories that inspired their novels
Unearthing monsters with Mallory O’Meara A Hollywood horror legend gets her due
Kate Quinn soars through World War II history A Soviet aviatrix goes on the hunt
Picture books of history’s heroines Beautiful books pay tribute to pioneers
features Elly Griffiths Murder between the lines
Sea stories Destiny lies beneath the waves
Inspirational fiction Out of the darkness, into the light
LGBTQ+ nonfiction Beyond the binary
Lucy Knisley Meet the author-illustrator of Kid Gloves
24 13 13
Julie Berry A stirring epic of first love
Andy Rash Meet the author-illustrator of The Happy Book
31 13 13
book reviews 16 FICTION top pick: Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi 23 NONFICTION
Emily Windsnap is surrounded by pirates — and on a life-changing adventure!
top pick: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe 27 YOUNG ADULT top pick: We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia 30 CHILDREN’S top pick: How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons
columns A new escapade in the New York Times best-selling series
The Hold List
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Dive into Emily’s other adventures!
Cover image from The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara. Reprinted with permission from Harlequin, a division of HarperCollins.
PUBLISHER Michael A. Zibart
CHILDREN’S BOOKS Allison Hammond
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the hold list: five books to brighten your St. Patrick’s Day Each month, BookPage editors share special reading lists—our personal favorites, old and new. There’s no shortage of brilliant Irish books, but they can tend to be a wee bit bleak. (It’s either the weather or the centuries of oppression.) So we’re sharing a few of our favorite stories set on the Emerald Isle that are a bit lighter. With humor, magic, young love and classic mystery, any of these books would be perfect for reading with a pint or whatever libation tickles your fancy.
Brooklyn By Colm Tóibín To be fair, there is sadness in Tóibín’s story of Eilis, a young Irish woman who emigrates to New York City—homesickness has never been so effectively portrayed. But as Eilis adapts to a dizzying amount of opportunity and freedom, she sees how her new life can be more fulfilling than anything she could have attained in Ireland. Brooklyn is masterfully understated, and Tóibín’s ability to capture his protagonist’s emotional state is astonishing. The tentative warmth of new love, the longing for a family across an ocean and the rush of liberation are nearly tangible on the page, and Tóibín’s evenhanded depictions of both Ireland and America give the novel a lingering, melancholic beauty. —Savanna, Assistant Editor
Conversations with Friends
By Sally Rooney
By Roddy Doyle
Friends become lovers, lovers become friends— Rooney’s debut novel is an introspective tale of fleeting pleasures, female sexuality, chemistry and miscommunication, as readers are invited to explore between the cracks of a 20-something woman’s relationships. Frances performs her spoken-word poems in Dublin with her best friend and former lover, Bobbi, and at one of these events they meet an enigmatic photographer named Melissa. Frances and Melissa’s husband, Nick, soon become entangled, and Frances finds herself sinking into a dark place, as her life becomes a web of messy emotions and convoluted motives. The drama is a slow build, the humor is sly, and the dialogue is on point. —Cat, Deputy Editor
Doyle is known for his ability to spin an incisive yarn about the painful challenges of modern life and the struggles of the Irish people, like his Man Booker Award-winning novel, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. But his 1987 debut, The Commitments, is decidedly lighter fare. There’s just something about a story of disaffected youth who forge a bond through a shared love of music and pop culture that’s simply irresistible to me, and if you feel the same way, then you’ll inhale this story of a bunch of cheeky, working-class Dubliners determined to bring soul music to their fair city. It’s a rollicking and irreverent story steeped in the 1960s sounds of Motown. Be prepared to fall in love with these brash and complicated lads. —Hilli, Assistant Editor
By Jess Kidd
By Tana French
A darkly comic murder mystery set in a small Irish village, Kidd’s debut also has a macabre twist. Her handsome sleuth Mahony, who rolls into town to catch his mother’s murderer, can see and talk to the dead. His unjustly slain mother, Orla, had the same powers—which may or may not have led to her death while Mahony was still an infant. To catch the killer, Mahony teams up with one of the town’s many eccentrics, former actress Mrs. Cauley, and they hatch a plot straight out of a Shakespearean drama. They’ll put on a play and place their suspects in the cast. If you’ve read or seen Hamlet, you know things aren’t going to go well. In Kidd’s hands, the chaos is glorious. —Savanna, Assistant Editor
If you haven’t read French’s bestselling six-book Dublin Murder Squad series, now is the time, as Starz is planning an adaptation of the first two books, but it’s not necessary to read them in order. Broken Harbor (the fourth book) is my personal favorite. It’s more of a classic murder mystery than some of the others (and not nearly as emotionally eviscerating as In the Woods), and I loved the narrator, Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, who was a bad guy in Faithful Place but gets a second chance during this investigation of a grisly triple homicide in Dublin. Add in Scorcher’s sister, a troubled woman who dregs up some unsavory childhood memories, and readers are in for a hell of a ride. It’s chilling, creepy and addicting—a perfect police procedural. —Cat, Deputy Editor
by susannah felts
Top Pick New Age practices have been getting updated lately, and Erica Feldmann’s HausMagick (HarperOne, $25.99, 256 pages, 9780062906151) is one of the best examples I’ve seen yet. This “spellbook of interior alchemy” is an offshoot of HausWitch, Feldmann’s Salem, Massachusetts, shop where she sells all of the necessary tools for domestic witchery. Here, she lays out information on essential oils, herbs, energy work, crystals, astrology, tarot, cozy crafts and a few recipes to teach you how to create a happier, more aesthetically grounded home. Your personal space may just be cleaner, tidier and more welcoming with the help of various home-focused spells, which she calls “prayers with props,” but overall, Feldmann shares ways to help you feel empowered, less stressed and more selfaware by paying attention to your domestic surroundings.
by christie ridgway
Top Pick When Phoebe, Lady Clare, travels to her brother’s wedding at the beginning of Lisa Kleypas’ Devil’s Daughter (Avon, $7.99, 384 pages, 9780062371935), she’s a reluctant guest. Phoebe knows she’ll meet West Ravenel, who bullied her sickly late husband at boarding school. But the old stories don’t do the mature West justice, even though he doesn’t deny the ugliness of his past. Phoebe sees the good man that West has become, and the only bad left in him is precisely the kind that a woman like herself finds oh-so-tempting. The romance is delicious as West’s best intentions to stay clear of Phoebe battle her resolve to get what she wants, and that pushpull drives the narrative. The reformed bad boy is a staple of the genre, and West is just the sort that readers adore. His regrets and overwhelming feelings for the heroine make him an unforgettable hero. Add in cameos from Kleypas’ beloved Wallflowers (Phoebe is the daughter of Devil in Winter’s Evie and Sebastian), and Devil’s Daughter is a must read.
As a self-described Japanologist and life coach, author Beth Kempton was surprised when she asked Japanese people to define wabi sabi—the concept of perfect imperfection—and the most common answer was, “It’s difficult to explain.” But Kempton persisted, and in Wabi Sabi (Harper Design, $19.99, 256 pages, 9780062905154), she lays out the characteristics of this concept and explains how they can be applied to our goal-oriented, consumer-driven, productivity-obsessed Western lives. An early section, “How is wabi sabi relevant today?” makes a compelling argument for its usefulness, and in chapters such as “Simplifying + beautifying,” “Acceptance + letting go” and “Reframing failure,” Kempton applies wabi sabi in practical ways, going beyond the common interior-styling or object-related application of the concept. This meaty book in a pretty, petite package is grounded by the author’s passion for and knowledge of Japan.
Former lovers get a second chance in Stefanie London’s Bad Influence (Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, 384 pages, 9781492655237). On the eve of a big move for her boyfriend’s job, Annie Maxwell decided to stay in New York City to support her mother during a medical crisis. The man in her life, Joseph Preston, left her behind, inspiring her to anonymously create a now-infamous app, Bad Bachelors, where women rate and review men of the city. Joseph returns just as a hacker threatens to reveal Annie’s identity, and she finds herself confiding in him, giving them a chance to face past mistakes and find closure. But will love rebloom instead? Annie and Joseph are flawed, authentic characters who must tread a fine line between loyalty to family and to each other. This is love with the blinders off, and it is all the more sophisticated and refreshing for that.
I don’t often cover health books here—there are so many, all filled with worthy but seemingly similar content. But Dr. Frank Lippman’s updated edition of How to Be Well (HMH, $16.99, 256 pages, 9781328614186) caught my eye. “[A] manual of the essential skills that anyone can use to navigate safely and smoothly through the wild terrain of wellness today,” this one is so gorgeously designed that I genuinely wanted to keep looking at it. Lippman’s advice covers everything from bone broth to foam rollers to electromagnetic frequencies. A lot of what’s here is textbook health-service journalism fare, but also included is a list of healthy fats (think smoothies, tahini, Brussels sprouts with bacon), eight ways to “harness the power of dark to improve your sleep,” 10 baking-soda cleaning hacks and more. An index of basic protocols for common complaints and goals—brain fog, acne, weight loss, anxiety—is an especially nice way to close out this book.
Readers who like their romance spiced with mystery can’t go wrong with Stroke of Luck (HQN, $7.99, 384 pages, 9781335041029) by B.J. Daniels. Will Sterling has opened his ranch to a special group early in the season, and when his cook can’t make it, he turns to his childhood friend Poppy Carmichael, who’s now a caterer. Will hasn’t seen Poppy in 20 years, and he’s grateful when she commits to four days at the isolated location. Poppy is delighted at the opportunity—she’s harbored fantasies about making the man fall for her like she fell for him as a young girl—but she’s not prepared for the very adult feelings she has for the sexy cowboy. To make matters worse, tension among the guests leads to murder. A blizzard delays the arrival of law enforcement, and it’s up to Will and Poppy to discern friend from foe, as well as to decide how to manage the undeniable attraction between them. This kickoff to Daniels’ new Sterling’s Montana series provides engrossing entertainment.
Susannah Felts is a Nashville-based writer and co-founder of The Porch, a literary arts organization. She enjoys anything paper-related and, increasingly, plant-related.
Christie Ridgway is a lifelong romance reader and a published romance novelist of over 60 books.
well read | by robert weibezahl
What it takes to create A second volume from Mason Currey explores the idiosyncratic daily rituals and survival strategies of women in the arts—and beyond. If you attend author readings, you know that some of the most frequently asked questions involve a writer’s methods: Do you write every day? Longhand or computer? Morning, noon or night? This fascination with writerly habits is really an attempt to understand the slippery mystery of creativity rather than its bare mechanics, and it provided the impetus for Mason Currey’s immensely popular Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (2013). Currey took some flack because he only included 27 women in that book, so as a corrective he has put together a follow-up volume, Daily Rituals: Women at Work (Knopf, $24.95, 416 pages, 9781524732950). Of the 143 artists profiled, 63 are writers (a handful of others count writing among their multifaceted accomplishments). The rest run the gamut—visual artists, filmmakers, dancers, choreographers, actors, performance artists, composers, costume designers, one scientist (Marie Curie) and a few who share that peculiarly French occupation, the salonniére, or a host of literary salons. Most are Western, and the majority are white (a fact that may open up Currey for further censure), but the selection is broad enough in disciplines and chronology to offer an interesting cross section of daily approaches to art. We learn that Edith Wharton wrote in bed each morning, avoiding houseguests until noon. At the opposite end of the economic spec-
trum, Harriet Jacobs wrote “at irregular intervals, whenever I could snatch an hour from household duties.” Alice Walker wrote The Color Purple in the brief hours when her daughter was at school, while Katherine Anne Porter, whom Marianne Moore called the world’s worst procrastinator, wrote in fits and starts, producing only one novel and 27 stories despite living to 90. Many of these profiles underscore the struggle to carve out creative time amid wifely or motherly duties, as well as other constricting expectations placed on women. Painter Stella Bowen ceded to the needs of her husband, Ford Madox Ford, lamenting, “Pursuing art is not just a matter of finding the time—it is a matter of having a free spirit to bring to it.” Others, such as painter Lee Krasner and actress Lynn Fontanne, cherished the symbiosis they shared with their equally accomplished husbands. Workaholics like Coco Chanel, Edith Head and Martha Graham subsisted on very little sleep, while Tallulah Bankhead admitted, “I hate to go to bed, I hate to get up, and I hate to be alone.” There are many pearls of creative wisdom strung throughout Daily Rituals. Still, the overriding lesson one takes away from this charming book is that the path to achievement is as specific to each artist as her art is unique to her vision. We cannot replicate genius by copying another’s idiosyncrasies— we need to cultivate our own.
Robert Weibezahl is a publishing industry veteran, playwright and novelist. Each month, he takes an in-depth look at a recent book of literary significance.
by chris pickens
sci-fi & fantasy
Top Pick Do you ever find yourself wondering what the next blockbuster epic fantasy series will be? Howard Andrew Jones’ For the Killing of Kings (St. Martin’s, $26.99, 368 pages, 9781250006813) might be it. When Elenai’s mentor is murdered after discovering that a legendary sword hanging on display is a fake, she has no choice but to flee the city of Darassus with the help of Kyrkenall, a reckless warrior who knew the sword’s owner. While wandering the wilds and struggling to keep ahead of a vengeful conspiracy that traces all the way back to the queen, Elenai and Kyrkenall must unravel the mystery of the sword in order to clear their name and bring justice to the dead. This is a traditional epic fantasy with all the stops pulled out— an interesting magic system, squabbling warrior factions—but its vivid, varied characters set it apart. And Jones puts additional weight into the history just prior to the story’s setting, adding mystery and depth to this perfect introduction to a new fantasy universe. Sci-fi heavyweight Ann Leckie pens a unique fantasy debut in The Raven Tower (Orbit, $26, 432 pages, 9780316388696). The ruler of Vastai is bound to the Raven, a god who watches over the city. If the god dies, so does the ruler. Mawat, the heir to the throne, returns to Vastai to find his uncle sitting in his father’s seat. Eolo, Mawat’s attendant, captures the attention of another god, who needs a physical vessel to carry out his will. What is uncovered is a lifetime of conspiracy and agendas that threaten the lives of everyone in the kingdom. In a characteristically ambitious move by Leckie, first- and second-person perspectives alternate, mixing palace intrigue with the new god’s mythical backstory. Eolo’s sections are narrated by this god, who may or may not be reliable, lending the entire tale a voyeuristic, ephemeral quality. Leckie’s confidence pays off here, establishing her unique perspective in an entirely new genre. In Elizabeth Bear’s richly textured Ancestral Night (Saga, $25.99, 512 pages, 9781534402980), there’s a hole in space-time, and the good ship Singer is going to see what’s on the other side. A sentient ship capable of complex thought, Singer is helmed by Haimey and her shipmate Connla. When Haimey boards a derelict ship the crew hopes to salvage and inadvertently discovers a heinous crime, the team realizes they’re in way over their heads. Bear gives her characters the space to develop on their own terms, never missing a chance to world build in the interim. It’s often by the slimmest of margins that our heroes avoid disaster, and only a thin layer of metal separates the “slowbrains” (read: things that breath air, according to Singer) from the vastness of space. But the profound connection between man and machine at its heart will keep readers turning the pages.
Chris Pickens is a Nashville-based fantasy and sci-fi superfan who loves channeling his enthusiasm into reviews of the best new books the genre has to offer.
by julie hale
Top Pick Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend (Riverhead, $16, 224 pages, 9780735219458) focuses on the powerful connection between a grieving woman and her dog. The unnamed female narrator inherits Apollo, a 180-pound Great Dane, from a late professor friend who committed suicide. As she comes to grips with her friend’s death, the narrator finds herself increasingly concerned for Apollo, who is also clearly mourning his owner. Because pets aren’t allowed in her apartment building, the narrator refuses to leave him alone for extended stretches of time. Although her concern for him keeps her at home—and causes her friends to question her emotional well-being—the relationship revitalizes both woman and dog. Nunez delivers a compassionate, sharply realized study of one woman’s experience with grief, and she does so without lapsing into sentimentality. The Friend is an unforgettable exploration of loss, healing and canine love.
BOOK CLUB READS FOR SPRING THE HUNTRESS by Kate Quinn
“A searing tale of predator and prey, transgression and redemption and the immutable power of the truth. An utter triumph!” —PAM JENOFF, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Orphan’s Tale
by Karen Harper
Before there was Meghan Markle, there was Consuelo Vanderbilt... the original American Duchess.
That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam Ecco, $16.99, 304 pages, 9780062667618 Affluent white couple Rebecca and Christopher decide to adopt the infant son of their late nanny, Priscilla, who was black. Alam’s portrayal of the fraught nature of contemporary race relations rings true in this empathetic novel.
Eat the Apple by Matt Young
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A. J. Finn
THE #1 INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
“Astounding. Thrilling. Amazing.” —GILLIAN FLYNN
Bloomsbury, $16, 272 pages, 9781632869517 In his debut memoir, Young uses a wide range of narrative tones and techniques to tell the story of his years as a Marine, and how unprepared he was for the horrors that awaited him in Iraq.
Aetherial Worlds by Tatyana Tolstaya Vintage, $11, 256 pages, 9780525434184 Fantasy and reality intermingle in these compelling short stories, which have earned Tolstaya comparisons to Gogol and Chekhov.
The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar Atria, $16.99, 384 pages, 9781501169052 Nour’s family relocates to Syria when her father dies, but war forces them into exile. Her story is linked with that of a 12th-century girl who also fled her home in this powerful novel of the refugee experience.
THE QUINTLAND SISTERS by Shelley Wood
“An impeccably researched historical novel that will enthrall you. I could not get this story out of my head long after I finished reading it.” —JOANNA GOODMAN, author of The Home for Unwanted Girls
t @Morrow_PB A BookPage reviewer since 2003, Julie Hale selects the best new paperback releases for book clubs every month.
f William Morrow I Book Club Girl
by bruce tierney
T.J. Martinson’s The Reign of the Kingfisher (Flatiron, $27.99, 352 pages, 9781250170217) is a bit outside my wheelhouse, but I didn’t let that get in my way, and you shouldn’t either. This genre-bending book has plenty for suspense fiction aficionados to revel in. Thirty years back, a superhero known as the Kingfisher performed heroic deeds in the mean streets of Chicago. Revered by some, reviled by others, he was by any measure a Windy City legend. And then he died, or so the official story goes—conspiracy theories and rumors of a high-level cover-up abound. And now, a person or persons unknown have taken a room full of hostages, threatening serial execution unless the police confirm the true fate of the Kingfisher. For retired journalist Marcus Waters, the Kingfisher story was a career maker. And now, three decades later, the revived legend could put him back on top, if he can be the one to break the story. So with a ragtag support staff consisting of a talented hacker and a police officer who has fallen from grace, Waters reopens the investigation into the life (and maybe death?) of the Kingfisher. Meanwhile, the lives of the hostages hang in the balance. The title: A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself (Pegasus, $25.95, 320 pages, 9781643130583). The author: William Boyle: The place: Brooklyn. The cast of characters includes Wolfie, an erstwhile porn star and quite the pneumatic bad girl in her day; Lucia, a precocious teenage girl with a larcenous hit-man boyfriend; Rena, the 60-ish widow of an infamous mob boss; and perhaps best of all, a lovingly cared-for 1962 Chevy Impala, an ideal chariot for making one’s getaway from the scene of the crime. Especially when the crime is clocking (with a heavy glass ashtray) a geriatric neighbor making unwanted advances, and then leaving him for dead on his living room floor. The perpetrator, Rena, is in full-on panic mode, and the ’62 Impala is her ticket out. But this is only the initial crime, with a bag full of purloined mob money and a coalition of women inadvertently on the run with their ill-gotten gains. This all sounds a little bit loopy, along the lines of Carl Hiaasen or Tim Dorsey, and there is indeed a surreal element to this caper. But there is also more than a little Thelma & Louise in Boyle’s terrific tale, which has some of the most stylish noir prose to grace the page in some time. Calcutta has been much less safe for murderers and brigands since Captain Sam Wyndham and his Indian assistant, Surrender-Not Banerjee, hit the crime-solving scene, first in A Rising Man, then followed up by 2018’s A Necessary Evil. They return this month in Abir Mukherjee’s riveting novel of the investigation of a serial killer, Smoke and Ashes (Pegasus, $25.95, 352 pages, 9781643130149). Having returned from the Great War, Wyndham takes on the role of captain in the British Imperial Police, finding it essential to keep secret one major aspect of his life. In the aftermath of the war, he has developed a rather severe opium addiction. An opium den is no proper place for a policeman, of course, so when Wyndham is present at a den that gets subjected to a raid, he beats a hasty retreat. In doing so, he comes upon the brutalized body of a Chinese man, a man who clearly suffered grievously before being put to death. Murder piles upon murder, and Wyndham must walk the fine line between investigating the crime without exposing himself as an addict. Mukherjee has a substantive grasp of colonial Indian history, and his books have the feel of a modern-day and much more progressive Kipling, full of high intrigue and derring-do, yet overlaid with the day-to-day reality of a struggle with addiction.
Bruce Tierney lives outside Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he bicycles through the rice paddies daily and reviews the best in mystery and suspense every month.
Top Pick When you read as many suspense novels in the run of a month as I do, you naturally gravitate toward characters that it would please you to count as friends in real life. For me, that list would include (among others) Martin Walker’s Périgord protagonist, Bruno, Chief of Police; James R. Benn’s wartime hero Billy Boyle; and this month’s entrant, Donna Leon’s Venice Police Inspector Guido Brunetti. His 29th adventure, Unto Us a Son Is Given (Atlantic Monthly, $26, 320 pages, 9780802129116), starts when a wealthy, elderly man adopts a younger man as his son, causing some consternation among the rich man’s intimates, as the adopted son now stands to inherit the entire estate. Naturally, the old man dies shortly thereafter, and tongues start wagging. Then, when one of his closest confidantes is found strangled to death in her hotel room, the plot begins to thicken like roux over a blue flame. Leon is a multifaceted, effortlessly assured writer. Her plots are innovative and layered, her characters have developed and matured over the course of a lengthy series, and her prose is imbued with wit and compassion on virtually every page. If you are a fan of Louise Penny (and who isn’t?), Leon should be on your short list.
interview | elly griffiths
Read between the lines Elly Griffiths puts a contemporary twist on classic gothic mysteries with The Stranger Diaries, an entertaining collision of spooks and modern manners set in a British high school. English teacher Clare Cassidy is deeply troubled after the murder of fellow teacher and friend Ella Elphick. Ella’s death eerily mimics the plot of Clare’s favorite Victorian ghost story, “The Stranger,” by author R.M. Holland, whose historic home remains a landmark on the school’s campus. When Clare seeks solace in her daily diary, she finds a chilling message written by another hand: “Hallo, Clare. You don’t know me.” When another teacher is found slain, this time inside the notorious Holland House, Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur believes Clare is the link between the two deaths, prompting the teacher and her teenage daughter, Georgia, to flee Sussex on a sleeper train to Scotland. Griffiths, the bestselling author of the Ruth Galloway and Magic Men mystery series, wisely chose to set her first standalone mystery on a campus similar to West Dean College in West Sussex, where she teaches creative writing. “I love gothic fiction and Victorian stuff, but I wanted to set the book somewhere very everyday as well, somewhere that can bridge the everyday and the more spooky and surreal,” she explains by phone from her home in Brighton. “That’s why I chose an ordinary school.” Every gothic tale needs a creepy building, and the mysterious Holland House—which is rumored to be the site of a murder at Holland’s own hand—has its roots in two vintage homes from Griffiths’ life, one an art patron’s home that now houses part of West Dean College, the other on the grounds where Griffiths attended secondary school in Sussex. “It happened to be in a very old building that was meant to be haunted,” she says. “And being a Catholic school, it was of course haunted by a spooky nun.” Much like the presence of an ominous manor, the diary has a notable history in gothic fiction. Consider The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, in which Count Fosco reads Marian Halcombe’s diary and then writes in it. It’s a singular betrayal, a breach of an intimate space—and a clear inspiration for The Stranger Diaries. Griffiths, who has kept a diary since
she was 11, admits that her ongoing fascination with the practice provided the tool that knit her mystery together with alternating first-person narration from Clare, Georgia and DS Kaur. “Why do people keep diaries?” the author says. “I mean, I’d invite anyone to read mine, but then, why am I doing it? Sometimes I’ll put in a little quote and put in little brackets—King Lear, Act 1, Scene 5—and I think, why am I doing that? Who cares? You’re documenting your life for some particular reason.” These traditional elements place The Stranger Diaries firmly among the finest of modern gothic—but much of the narrative charm that sets Griffiths’ novel apart comes from Georgia’s chapters, which feature a teenager’s often-overlooked wisdom. Griffiths credits this voice to her twin son and daughter, now 20. “I do remember that feeling as a teenager [when adults] don’t really ask your opinion,” she says. “[Georgia’s] working things out ahead, and maybe some things she hasn’t got quite straight, but she certainly does have a view that they should be listening to. I really like Georgia, and I do feel we should listen to teenagers a bit more, because they do have this wonderful ability to observe things. Quite often my kids have said things and I’ll think, oh my gosh, they’re exactly right! I should have asked them before about that!” As for Griffiths, who will release her first YA novel, A Girl Called Justice, this fall in the UK, weaving mysteries began at a very early age. “I wrote a full-length mystery when I was 11,” she says. “It was called The Hair of the Dog, and it was a mystery set in a village in Sussex. It’s lost— my mom kept it for ages, and I’ve still got the beginning of it. Then when I was at secondary school, I used to write little episodes of ‘Starsky & Hutch’ that would be passed around in class, and kids would read them. And because I quite often used to kill Starsky or Hutch (’cause what can you do, really?), I remember that people
The Stranger Diaries HMH, $25, 352 pages, 9781328577856 Audio, eBook available
Mystery would cry from them and be upset, and I suppose there was a moment when I realized, oh, you can do that with words.” After earning a master’s degree in Victorian literature, Griffiths went to work in publishing at HarperCollins and ended up as an editorial director for children’s fiction. While on maternity leave, she wrote her first book, a memoir about her Italian immigrant father. After four more books written under her real name, Domenica de Rosa, she transitioned into crime fiction. “My then-agent said, ‘Oh, you need a crime name.’ So that’s how I became Elly Griffiths.” Are we likely to revisit the academic world of The Stranger Diaries in a sequel? Maybe yes, at least in part. “I really had meant it to be a standalone,” Griffiths says. “I think that was very liberating as well, because I was in this quite long-running series with Ruth Galloway, 10 books and the 11th coming up [The Stone Circle], and you’re writing a lot of books about specific characters, and you’ve got them into terrible complicated relationships by now. So I haven’t meant for there to be another [series]. Having said that, I did like the detective, Harbinder, and I could see that she might come into another book, maybe a different sort of book. . . . She felt like a cat you could write a bit more about.” —Jay MacDonald
© ALLAN AMATO
q&a | mallory o’meara
Unmasking the mother of monsters With The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, horror film producer Mallory O’Meara sets the record straight about the talented and glamorous Milicent Patrick, one of Disney’s first female animators and the only woman to have designed a classic movie monster— the Creature from the Black Lagoon. When you first heard about Milicent Patrick at age 17, the discovery felt “like being struck by lightning.” How long did it take you to understand how important her inspiration would be? It wasn’t until I started working in the film industry at age 23 that I understood the impact Milicent Patrick had on me. I was plunged into a male-dominated world, and suddenly the knowledge of her went from being inspirational to being crucial to my sanity. She was a constant reminder that I belonged in the world of monster movies. Getting the tattoo of Milicent Patrick and the Creature from the Black Lagoon must have been one of the best decisions you ever made. Now that tattoo art is featured on the cover of your book. How’s that for a Hollywood ending? Milicent was a metaphorical talisman during my first years as filmmaker, so it felt right to have her tattooed on my arm as a concrete reminder of everything she represents to me. No matter how far we advance in our chosen careers, we all still need reminders that we are capable and that what we do matters. Milicent Patrick is the embodiment of chasing your dreams in the face of hardship, even if—maybe especially if—your dreams are making strange things that the world has never seen before. How would you spend a dream day with Milicent? One of the many things that Milicent and I have in common is our love of cocktails. My dream day with her would be the two of us at a bar—hopefully a tiki bar—talking over drinks. Writing this story must have been a research nightmare. Your book contains 177 footnotes, which are informative and often hilarious. How did you decide on your footnote style? And when did you decide to include both your own story and the story of your investigative digging? [At the time I was writing the book,] I was talking with a friend, and she wanted to know why someone who isn’t a fan of monster movies should read The Lady from the Black Lagoon. Immediately I said, “Because every day I, and thousands of other female filmmakers, go through what Milicent went through.” That was when I realized that including my own story and my own struggles against sexism would help illustrate how important both Milicent and her legacy are. The footnotes came along because that is my voice. I’m nerdy and sarcastic, so including footnotes with extra facts and bad jokes reflected how I actually talk. I’ve worked hard not to swear or say anything silly in this interview! Milicent’s life and art have influenced countless artists like yourself. What was your experience of seeing the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water, which was inspired by Milicent’s creation of the Creature? Besides being a Creature fan, I’m also a massive fan of Guillermo del Toro, so I went to see The Shape of Water opening night. I burst into tears during the opening credits, cried throughout most of the movie and was sobbing so hard by the end of the film that my best friend had to bring me to the bathroom to clean all the mascara off my face. Seeing a film where the Creature was the hero and the protagonist was a woman with agency made my heart explode.
You note that “Women have always been the most important part of monster movies,” and yet horror is the least likely genre in which women work. Why is that, and is this changing? There is a myth that women are less capable of making action-packed, violent or scary films. Therefore, less women get considered for jobs and hired. Male filmmakers get the jobs and get more experience, and are then considered more often and get even more work. It’s a cycle. It is changing, but slowly. The ratio of public outcry versus the amount of women actually getting hired is still pathetic. That’s why it’s important for fans to pay attention to who is making the films they see and to support the films made by women and gender-balanced crews.
The Lady from the Black Lagoon Hanover Square $26.99, 336 pages 9781335937803 Audio, eBook available
What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? And the scariest book you’ve ever read? I saw Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining when I was a kid, and it ruined me. It still scares me as an adult, even though now it’s one of my favorite movies. For books, I have a really high tolerance for scariness. The last book that really terrified me was Stephen King’s It, which I read as a teenager. I gave my copy away afterward to get it out of my bedroom! Have you gotten any more life-changing tattoos? So far, none of the tattoos I have gotten have caused such a monumental shift in my life as the portrait of Milicent has. Although I will say that one of the tattoos I have gotten in the past couple of years holds a clue to what my next book will be. —Alice Cary
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“A page-turning tapestry of INTRIGUE and GLAMOUR.” —Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece
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“ELECTRIFYING… a rollicking nineteenthcentury thrill ride.” —Amy Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of Girl Waits with Gun
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“A A fun, hilarious read that will make a FANTASTIC ADDITION TO YOUR FEMINIST LIBRARY.” —Ann Shen, author of Bad Girls Throughout History
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We’re living in a time of transformation—an era defined in no small part by women who are acting collectively to create a more equal world. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve selected eight nonfiction books that are essential reading for today’s take-action women and their allies. By focusing on historic victories that led to the present day, these terrific titles provide direction for the future.
became an outspoken champion of women’s rights, joining forces with like-minded activists to establish the Time’s Up movement. In this candid, unapologetic book, Tamblyn—now 35—reflects on her awakening as a feminist and discusses vital topics like workplace discrimination and sexual assault. Throughout, she weaves in anecdotes about marriage and the birth of her daughter, her participation in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the challenges of being a woman in Hollywood. An “era of ignition,” she explains, is a time “when dissatisfaction becomes protest, when accusations become accountability, and when revolts become revolutions.” Briskly written, earnest and honest, her book is sure to galvanize a new generation of women.
8 new books celebrate female leaders and achievers
The year 2020 will mark the centennial of the 19th amendment, which prohibits the U.S. government from denying citizens the right to vote based on sex—a major achievement in women’s fight for suffrage, albeit one that primarily benefited white women. In anticipation of that date, an important new anthology, The Women’s Suffrage Movement (Penguin Classics, $17, 560 pages, 9780143132431), brings together a wealth of writings related to the social crusade that changed the nation. Edited by renowned author and women’s history expert Sally Roesch Wagner, the collection features a diverse sampling of historical material dating back to the 1830s. The variety of perspectives and backgrounds represented in the volume is extraordinary. Letters, speeches and articles by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells, Jane Addams and Victoria Woodhull give readers a sense of the visionary minds that shaped the movement, while pieces focusing on Native American and African-American women illuminate the experiences of minorities in light of the campaign. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem provides the foreword to the book. Capturing the spirit and purpose of a pivotal period in American history, this stirring collection honors the forward-thinking women who fought hard to win the vote.
That fighting spirit is alive and well today, as actor Amber Tamblyn makes clear in her book Era of Ignition: Coming of Age in a Time of Rage and Revolution (Crown Archetype, $25, 272 pages, 9781984822987). Tamblyn, whose show-business career began when she was 12, hit a wall as she approached the age of 30. An aspiring writer and director, she found few opportunities in the male-dominated entertainment industry and decided to take charge of her life. She worked hard to bring her own creative projects to fruition and
In She the People: A Graphic History of Uprisings, Breakdowns, Setbacks, Revolts, and Enduring Hope on the Unfinished Road to Women’s Equality (Seal, $17.99, 208 pages, 9781580058711), writer Jen Deaderick and artist Rita Sapunor paint a vividly compelling portrait of the women’s movement using rousing quotes and clever cartoons and illustrations. Throughout, they spotlight wonder women such as suffragists Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone, African-American activist Mary McLeod Bethune and modern-day role models Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. Organized into 12 sections, the book covers more than two centuries of history, and Sapunor’s dynamic, comics-inspired sketches help bring the past into focus. Rewinding to the American Revolution, when Abigail Adams famously counseled her husband, John Adams, to “remember the ladies” at the Continental Congress, and progressing through the decades, Deaderick covers the ups and downs of the fight for equality in a style that’s lively and conversational. Her advice for women: “We shouldn’t look for leaders to save us. We make change together. We’re stronger together.” Those are words to live by, and social-justice advocate Feminista Jones shows that women are doing just that in Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets (Beacon, $14.95, 224 pages, 9780807055373). An up-
feature | women’s history month date from the front lines of the fight for equality, Jones’ book explores how black women are coming together to make their voices heard. She explains that because the digital world has provided fresh, effective platforms for the expression of ideas, black women are now more visible and vocal than ever before. “Go to almost any social media platform today and you will see a gathering of some of the most important feminist thinkers of modern generations,” Jones writes. In this impassioned volume, she examines how black women are harnessing the power of the internet and using hashtags to bring awareness to issues such as self-worth, motherhood and sex. She also considers the roots of black feminism and takes a deep dive into the concept of black female identity. Featuring insights into her own story and conversations with other influencers, Jones’ book is a powerful call to action. The ongoing need to move women out of the margins and into the mainstream lies at the heart of Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (Abrams, $27, 432 pages, 9781419729072). In tackling the topic of big data, Perez makes some startling discoveries. The numbers that impact everything from healthcare systems to workplace conditions and public transportation—figures that affect the day-to-day workings of society in countries around the world—are inherently biased, because they use men as a standard reference. Since women are left out of the equation, Perez says, data is discriminatory. “Most of recorded human history is one big data gap,” she writes, because “the lives of men have been taken to represent those of humans overall.” An activist, feminist and academic, Perez conducted scores of studies in Europe and the United States and presents an engaging account of her findings. By looking at the way women live today—as breadwinners and consumers, wives and mothers— she brings immediacy to what could have been a dry collection of figures. An invaluable study of a critical subject, Invisible Women powerfully demonstrates the dangers of biased data. Female visibility is also emphasized in Women: Our Story (DK, $35, 320 pages, 9781465479570), a comprehensive, impressively organized survey of the triumphs, achievements and differing ways of life for women across the globe. Organized by era, the book opens in prehistoric times and moves forward through the centuries. It’s an ambitious, far-reaching volume that takes stock of how women have shaped every aspect of society, from politics and religion to education and the arts. Along with standout graphics, the book is packed with photos, illustrations, vintage ads and other historical memorabilia. Featuring text by scholarly experts, it tells an epic story through brief sidebars and timelines, as well as substantive sections on the rise of feminism, women in the workforce, the lives of notable figures (Sojourner Truth, Maya Angelou, Simone de Beauvoir—the list goes on) and what
the future may hold for tomorrow’s reformers. As journalist Rebecca Boggs Roberts writes in the book’s foreword, “When we neglect women’s stories, we aren’t only depriving women and girls (and boys) of role models and empowering lessons; we are getting history wrong.” This spectacular retrospective gets it right. The importance of looking back in order to move forward is underscored in Pamela S. Nadell’s America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today (Norton, $28.95, 336 pages, 9780393651232). Spanning more than three centuries, it’s a compelling and well-researched chronicle of the women who worked behind the scenes and in the public eye to establish a place for Jewish women in this country. Nadell—a noted women’s history scholar—is the daughter of Jewish immigrants, and she imbues the book with urgency and personal insight. From the nation’s earliest Jewish women, who set up homes in Philadelphia, Charleston and New York in the 1700s, to groundbreakers like Emma Lazarus and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Nadell looks at the shifting roles of Jewish women and their influence on American culture. As her research reveals, the meaning and significance of being Jewish has differed among women over the years, as some set their religious practice aside to pursue careers, while others maintained strict, orthodox households. Differences abound, Nadell writes, yet “one thing binds America’s Jewish women together: all have a share in the history of their collective American Jewish female past.” The contributions of these remarkable women shine in Nadell’s impressive book. The centuries are rich with inspiring examples of female empowerment, including many a madam president. All Hail the Queen: Twenty Women Who Ruled (Chronicle, $19.95, 136 pages, 9781452166735) showcases these lady leaders—notable stateswomen whose accomplishments were often eclipsed by those of men. Writer Shweta Jha contributed the text for this intriguing book, which tracks the careers of Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette, as well as those of less familiar figures, like Japanese ruler Himiko and Maya queen Lady Six Sky. Some were born monarchs; others achieved eminence through marriage. Nearly all of them—as is only fitting for a queen—led operatic existences filled with incident and spectacle. Jennifer Orkin Lewis’ lush, colorful artwork gives readers a sense of the time and place that produced each leader—and of what the lady herself might have looked like. “Had they followed the cultural norms of their times, they ought to have been quiet and unassertive,” Lewis writes of the female leaders. “Each and every one of them overcame those expectations and made her mark on the culture and people she ruled.” Perfectly suited to its subject matter, this regal volume has golden endpapers and a cover that sparkles. Here’s to the royal treatment—and here’s to women who make history. —Julie Hale
interview | kate quinn
© LAURA JUCHA PHOTOGRAPHY
writing: “He knew every pulse point to push in those paragraphs, every emotional trigger to pull.” Those words serve as an apt description of Quinn’s latest tale, which will no doubt appeal to fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. Similarly, Quinn’s previous novel, The Alice Network, was a historical thriller involving real-life female spies in France. After that book’s tremendous success, Quinn knew she wanted to write something war-based and set in the 20th century. She experienced a “lightbulb moment” when she stumbled across the story of Hermine Braunsteiner, a Nazi war criminal discovered in the 1960s living as a housewife in Queens, New York. “That was the story I realized I wanted to tell,” Quinn says. “What does it mean for someone to discover someone in their family literally has this kind of past?” To make such a complex story play out, Quinn had to interweave multiple characters, plot points and timelines. In addition to Nina and Ian, she introduces readers to Jordan McBride, a young girl growing up in Boston who begins to suspect that her new German stepmother, Anneliese Weber, may be hiding unspeakable secrets. “I am really fascinated by aftermaths,” Quinn confesses. “Not just what happens, but what happens after. After VE-Day, a lot of people had to pick up and go on with lives that had been catastrophically, irrevocably altered. How did they do it? I find that an extremely interesting problem and an extremely interesting sort of character dilemma to examine through my fictional people.” Quinn owes her fascination with history to her mother, a librarian and history scholar who entertained her with bedtime stories about Alexander and the Gordian Knot and Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon. “I was really head-down in history Kate Quinn takes to the skies for her new novel of Nazi hunters, from a very young age,” she says, “so when I startNight Witches and a truly evil stepmother. ed telling stories of my own, it was very natural to gravitate toward the past.” As a young writer, she “Gentle or thrilling—you decide,” reads the ad for private charter comrelied on her mother’s deft edipany Fun Flights in Carlsbad, California. Although novelist Kate Quinn torial skills for critique, a pracadmits she is “not terribly fond of flying,” she opted for adrenaline when tice she continues today. “She’s she booked a 1929 open cockpit biplane in the name of historical revery incisive and doesn’t give search for her latest novel, The Huntress, a spellbinding Nazi-hunting me a pass just because she’s my saga that spans continents and decades. mother.” After her British pilot took off, Quinn found herself soaring through Today Quinn lives with two the air, experiencing the same kind of rush that her novel’s character, rescue dogs (Caesar and CalNina Markova, might have felt during a World War II bombing run. After purnia) and her husband, an growing up in the wilds of Siberia, Nina becomes a fearless member of active-duty member of the Navy the Night Witches, the Soviet Union’s legendary all-female night bomber whom she’s nicknamed “the regiment. Quinn was mesmerized by the hair-raising escapades related Overseas Gladiator.” She’s alto the Night Witches and the tales of navigators who climbed out on the ready hard at work on her next wing in the middle of a flight to dislodge a stuck bomb. “I read that and book, tentatively called The Rose said, ‘You people are crazy, and that’s totally going in the book!’” she says. Code, about a group of female “A lot of things they experienced I would not have dared to make up.” code breakers at Bletchley Park. So as Quinn’s aerial courage grew, she asked the pilot, nicknamed Fortunately for readers, Quinn “Biggles,” if he would consider momentarily cutting the engine, imitatknows she’ll never tire of the ing the method the Night Witches often used to silently descend over power of historical fiction: “OfGerman troops before releasing their bombs. “Absolutely not,” Biggles ten when we are examining isquickly responded. “That is not going to happen!” sues that are delicate or sensitive Spine-tingling bombing runs are just one of the many highlights of or just dynamite, they feel too The Huntress Quinn’s intricately plotted novel about a trio of characters that converge close in the modern age. But if William Morrow, $16.99, 560 pages after World War II to locate “the Huntress,” the mistress of an SS officer you can examine some of the 9780062740373, audio, eBook available who slaughtered six innocent souls on the shore of a Polish lake. Pilot same issues through the lens of Historical Fiction Nina, who narrowly missed becoming one of the victims, later marries the past, it puts them in a slightly Ian Graham, a British journalist and brother to one of those killed. An safer remove. That way it doesn’t unlikely pair and a study in opposites, Nina and Ian are determined to hurt as much to look as closely at something that is perhaps a little too deliver this war criminal to justice. sensitive to examine in our own lives.” In the novel, Quinn describes one of Ian’s articles as “Dynamite in ink,” —Alice Cary
Slip the surly bonds of earth
feature | women in historical fiction
We remember Four historical fiction authors explore and celebrate American womanhood Elizabeth Letts, author of Finding Dorothy In writing Finding Dorothy (Ballantine, $28, 368 pages, 9780525622109), I had to imagine what would it have been like to meet Judy Garland in person, as my heroine, Maud Baum, did on the set of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. To write about someone so beloved, so well-known, at first seemed a bit daunting. Luckily, I had a secret source. As it happens, my mother met Judy Garland—not just once, but twice. As a little girl, she visited MGM, and watched up close
as Judy Garland rehearsed scenes from The Harvey Girls. Years later, working as a waitress on Nantucket, she encountered Judy again. Every night for a week, Judy and her glamorous entourage came in for lobster dinners while my mom, totally star-struck, carried plates and refilled drinks. On the last night, Judy took note of the shy waitress and beckoned her over, offering her autograph, scribbled on a cocktail napkin. My mother never forgot those two encounters. She described a Judy Garland
who in person was lovely, gracious and fully larger than life. We now understand the high emotional price female movie stars often paid to succeed in a man’s world, and with Judy Garland it’s hard to untangle her incredible legacy from her often tragic life. But in writing Judy, I kept in mind the real flesh-and-blood person my mother encountered. This is the young woman I’ve portrayed in Finding Dorothy—courageous and tough, young and vulnerable, and of course, utterly dazzling.
Margaret Verble, author of Cherokee America A woman named Cherokee America Rogers inspired my novel, Cherokee America (HMH, $27, 400 pages, 9781328494221). I’ve been able to locate only one picture of her. In it, her eyes look worried. Her lips are full, but not smiling. Her hair is pulled back into an untidy bun, and her jacket is buttoned up over a blouse and secured at the collar by a large cameo. She’s not looking at the camera,
but her hands are folded in front of her. If she sat for this picture as a portrait to last through the ages, she should’ve had a better photographer. Or maybe not. She was an Indian who dressed as a Victorian. That alone makes her interesting. She was also the widowed mother of several children and ran a large farm. I bet she was uneasy every day, and far too busy to be neat. While researching, I discovered her male relatives—a chief, a governor, generations of warriors and sol-
dier—made it into several history books. But the only words about her were less than a page accompanying that picture. The writer, “Dub” West, describes her as “a small woman . . . who could take care of herself in any matter,” “shrewd,” “legendary” and “a dominant figure.” He also says that because she was “ever going about taking care of the sick” with “almost magic results,” she was universally affectionately called “Aunt Check.” Who would want a woman like that lost to history? Not me.
Stephanie Marie Thornton, author of American Princess As a history teacher, it boggles my mind to think that Alice Roosevelt, the eldest daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, lived a whopping 96 years and witnessed the administrations of 18 presidents ranging from mustachioed Chester Arthur all the way to peanut-farmer Jimmy Carter. Coming of age at the turn of the 20th century, Alice hosted her debut ball at the White House during her father’s presidency, influ-
enced events like the veto of the League of Nations and enjoyed an open invitation to the executive mansion even after JFK’s administration. She rubbed elbows with Eleanor Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and even Jackie Kennedy! A woman with this sort of Washington insider access is a novelist’s dream, but even more appealing to me was Alice’s rapier wit, which kept everyone in the Capitol on their toes. Alice, a self-proclaimed hedonist, made me laugh out loud to discover that she
kept a needlepoint pillow that read, “If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.” I adored bringing her colorful character to life in scenes of American Princess (Berkley, $16, 448 pages, 9780451490902), especially her early days when she shocked everyone— including her father—by bringing a snake to parties in her handbag. However, older Alice is exactly the tough sort of woman I hope to be 30 years from now—willing to speak her mind and take no prisoners!
Alan Brennert, author of Daughter of Moloka'i Why do I write historical novels from a woman’s perspective? It’s often the history itself that dictates what voice to use to tell a particular story. Early in my research for Moloka'i (2003), I learned that those with leprosy weren’t just taken from their homes and exiled to Moloka'i—their newborn babies were taken away, too, to prevent them from becoming infected. Many parents never saw their children again. I knew that my protagonist had to be a girl, LETTS PHOTO © TED CATANZARO / THORNTON PHOTO © KATHERINE SCHMELING PHOTOGRAPHY / BRENNERT PHOTO © DAVID WELLS
taken from her family, who would grow up, marry and have her baby taken away. There seemed no more compelling way to frame the whole tragic story, which continues in Daughter of Moloka'i (St. Martin’s, $27.99, 320 pages, 9781250137661). Honolulu (2009) sprang from my desire to write about the so-called “glamour days” of Honolulu, the 1920s, but told against the backdrop of the hardscrabble lives of immigrants that made up Hawai'i’s workforce. Then I read about the “Hotel of Sorrows,” from which neigh-
bors could hear the sobbing of women. These were Asian picture brides who were shown photographs of “rich young men in Hawai'i” seeking wives—but after crossing an ocean, discovered that their husbandsto-be were decades older and poor laborers on plantations. These women’s lives formed the sad but perfect prism through which to view Hawai'i’s glamour days. In my books, I try to tell the truth of these often unexamined lives. But I can’t say I choose these women; more like they choose me.
reviews | fiction
H Top Pick: Gingerbread By Helen Oyeyemi Riverhead, $27, 272 pages 9781594634659, audio, eBook available
Family Saga If Gingerbread is your first Helen Oyeyemi novel, then there is something you need to know. You are about to love a story that you may or may not understand. It straddles the familiar and the world of make-believe so remarkably well that you may be left believing in that which doesn’t quite exist, while questioning what you consider to be facts about family, friendships and, of course, gingerbread. We follow the life of a girl named Harriet Lee, daughter of Margot and Simon, who grows up in the land of Druhástrana amid the idyllic wheat fields, in a life of serfdom to the
Beautiful Bad By Annie Ward Park Row $26.99, 368 pages 9780778369103 Audio, eBook available
Debut Fiction Annie Ward’s debut has all the familiar ingredients of the recent outpouring of psychological thrillers—dynamic but unreliable female narrators, a story that bounces between different characters’ perspectives, and secrets that remain buried throughout years of friendship or marriage—but it’s set apart by its unusual settings. Maddie and Jo met as high school students on a summer exchange program in Spain. After college graduation, Maddie is in Bulgaria, teaching English at Sofia University, and Jo is an aid worker based in Skopje, Macedonia, a five-hour bus ride from Sofia. In 2001, the third pivotal character arrives in the midst of Jo and Maddie’s sojourn overseas: Ian Wilson, a security officer serving in the British army. Both women are fascinated by Ian, especially Maddie, who seems to be obsessed with him. Jo and Ian’s fling is brief, leaving Jo bitter and convinced that Ian is hiding evil underneath his humanitarian facade. Maddie continues to harbor feelings for him, even over years with little com-
wealthy and legendary Kercheval family. But Druhástrana, once a powerful small nation, seems to have fallen off the map, and now only exists as a myth for the rest of the world. No way in. No way out. Or so it seems— until Margot gets a message via a homing pigeon from a very distant cousin in Britain (also a wealthy Kercheval), who somehow comes across a video clip of Harriet and sees promise in the young girl. He wants to rescue the Lees, so to speak,
munication. Eventually, when Maddie returns to New York, she and Ian reconnect, which leads to their marriage in 2012. They move to her hometown of Meadowlark, Kansas—the only place where Ian feels he can cope with everyday life after the horrors he experienced in Bosnia and Rwanda—and start a family together. Interspersed with these events are chapters from “The Day of the Killing,” though the reader doesn’t know the identities of the victim or killer. Maddie has suffered head injuries twice in her life, which may have affected her brain, and Ian suffers from PTSD. But which one is sick enough to commit a brutal murder? A twist in the closing pages will catch even the most jaded reader off guard, making Beautiful Bad a good read for fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins and A.J. Finn. —Deborah Donovan
H When All Is Said By Anne Griffin Thomas Dunne $26.99, 336 pages 9781250200587 Audio, eBook available
Debut Fiction The Irish have a reputation, deserved or not, for being storytellers, drinkers and fighters, not
and thanks to Margot’s magical gingerbread, Harriet and Margot are able to leave Druhástrana, but with a new debt to the Kerchevals. That was then, and this is now. Living in a seven-story walk-up apartment, Harriet is now 34 years old and a mother to a very curious 17-year-old named Perdita. Will Perdita be the reason that Harriet and Margot are finally forced to revisit their Druhástranian roots? And were they really able to escape their history while forging a new life in Britain? Thoroughly strange yet absolutely mesmerizing, the sixth novel from award-winning Oyeyemi is the perfect escape. —Chika Gujarathi
necessarily in that order. Eighty-four-year-old Maurice Hannigan, the gruff, unsparing narrator of Dublin-born writer Anne Griffin’s satisfying first novel, When All Is Said, is no exception. Without informing his son, Maurice has sold his home and farm, given away his dog and told everyone he is retiring to a nursing home. First, though, is a nightlong stop at the well-appointed bar of the Rainsford House Hotel, where Maurice will raise a glass five times to five different people, and remember, as he says, “All that I have been and all that I will never be again.” Maurice’s full and prosperous life is now filled with ghosts: the older brother he watched waste away with tuberculosis; his daughter, Molly, a stillborn he held for just 15 minutes but has seen every day of his life; and his beloved wife, Sadie, who has been dead two years to the day he steps into the bar. His son, whom he loves with a fierceness more evident for his inability to express it, lives across the ocean in New Jersey and has a family of his own. So it’s alone Maurice sits, toasting and remembering. In a rough-hewn voice smoothed by whiskey and as mesmerizing as a coiled cobra, he spills out a life of joy and regrets, full of tender love and bitter, enduring hatred, by turns accepting his sins and mitigating them. As he toasts and talks, a mystery surfaces. Why, after all those close-mouthed decades, is Maurice finally opening up? Is he really going to a nursing home, a place he’s about as well-suited for as for a yurt? Or does he have another destination in mind? Griffin, the author of numerous short stories, is an exciting new voice in Irish literature. Her versatility makes When All Is Said a pleasure
reviews | fiction to read. Maurice’s story is told with wry humor and pathos that avoids sentimentality, giving us a clear-eyed look at a man fumbling with a question we all must eventually face: What do you do with your life when all you have left are memories and regrets? —Ian Schwartz
H The River By Peter Heller Knopf $25.95, 272 pages 9780525521877 Audio, eBook available
Action & Adventure Fresh on the heels of 2017 bestseller Celine, Peter Heller has struck gold again with The River, about two college friends whose peaceful camping trip turns into a nightmarish combination of natural dangers, life-threatening disasters and human malice. Dartmouth classmates Jack and Wynn have cleared a few weeks for fly-fishing and whitewater canoeing in northern Canada. Raised on a ranch in Colorado, Jack finds camping and hunting to be as natural as breathing. Wynn is a gentle soul from rural Vermont whose random trailside installations of stones, twigs and flowers do not take away from his acumen out of doors. The young men share a love of literature and outdoor sport, and imagine their two-week trek to be one of leisurely paddling, blueberry picking and reading around the campfire. This idyll is abruptly shattered when they sniff out the fumes of a swiftly approaching forest fire. Wynn and Jack agree to turn back and warn a couple they heard arguing the day before. This proves to be a fateful decision, as the woman, Maia, is found injured and bloody, and her husband, Pierre, no longer on the scene. The two men, with the badly shocked Maia in tow, are now on the run from the fire and, equally threatening, from a possibly homicidal husband. As if this weren’t bad enough, the crises put a strain on the two men, and an element of mistrust creeps into their friendship. Masterfully paced and artfully told, The River is a page turner that demands the reader slow down and relish the sheer poetry of the language. Heller is an experienced outdoorsman and has an extensive background in journalism, having written for Outside and Men’s Magazine and with several nonfiction
books on surfing, camping and fishing to his long list of credits—and his familiarity with all facets of the river trip shows. Though stories of man versus nature date back to the Odyssey, The River thrills as Heller invites his characters to confront their own mortality without losing sight of the deep connections between humans and their environment. —Lauren Bufferd
Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Peter Heller.
The Wolf and the Watchman By Niklas Natt och Dag Atria $28, 384 pages 9781501196775 Audio, eBook available
Debut Fiction When you’re dead drunk, the last thing you want to deal with is a dead man. Yet duty calls for Swedish night watchman Mickel Cardell, who laboriously hauls his war-wounded body off to retrieve a drowned carcass. But the cause of death is no ordinary drowning: The corpse’s eyes have been gouged out, his teeth removed and his limbs severed. Accordingly, Cardell finds himself paired with special investigator Cecil Winge, a man so wracked with consumption and close to death that he has earned the nickname “Ghost of the Indebetou.” This unlikely couple is tasked with solving the unidentified man’s murder, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to do so before the coffin lid slides over Winge himself. But that’s just one obstacle they’ll have to overcome. The year is 1793, just one removed from the regicide of Swedish King Gustav III, mere months after French King Louis XVI had a date with a guillotine, soon to be followed by his queen consort Marie Antoinette. Swedish adventurism has left the national treasury in shambles, and the stark divide between the ruling classes and the peasantry has left the masses in a state of agitated discontent. The sense of a ticking clock pervades Niklas Natt och Dag’s swift-paced, cinematic first novel, which was named Best Debut by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers last year. Though they seem to be the oddest of couples—one a man of action, the other a man of deliberation—Cardell and Winge prove to be
an effective team as they crisscross political, cultural and economic strata to establish the dead man’s identity, and ultimately try to effect some rough form of justice. In some ways, The Wolf and the Watchman calls to mind another auspicious debut murder mystery set in an unfamiliar place and time: Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. It’s been nearly 40 years since that foreign-language historical thriller captured the world’s imagination, thoroughly engrossing readers and propelling its author into international stardom. So we’re about due, and Natt och Dag is certainly a worthy candidate. —Thane Tierney
H The Care and Feeding of
Ravenously Hungry Girls
By Anissa Gray Berkley $26, 304 pages 9781984802439 Audio, eBook available
Debut Fiction The wonderful debut novel from Emmy-winning journalist Anissa Gray, who has a background in English and American Literature, is a brilliant culmination of her talents. Its remarkable craftsmanship and honest, pure tone make it an absolute pleasure to read. Comparisons to Brit Bennett’s The Mothers are spot on, and Gray’s penetrating prose is also reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s work. The novel follows a family of three grown sisters after Althea, the oldest sister and the family matriarch, is sent to jail along with her husband. Her sisters, Viola and Lillian, must rise to the occasion to care for Althea’s twin daughters. While each woman battles demons of her own, they take turns carrying the story, each adding a beautiful and vivid layer to the plot as the narrative torch is passed. Viola, the middle sister, struggles with the eating disorder that has plagued her for years. As she contemplates whether or not she has what it takes to raise her teenage nieces, she’s also trying to reconcile her own marriage. Lillian, the youngest, has tenaciously held onto and restored her family’s old house, a place where she experienced profound pain and loneliness during her adolescence. She has a history of taking on the responsibilities of other people’s
reviews | fiction families: Along with Althea’s twin daughters, Lillian cares for her late ex-husband’s grandmother, Nai Nai. Althea’s twins are as different as sisters can be and have dealt with the fallout of their parents’ incarceration in vastly different ways. When Kim, the more headstrong of the twins, goes missing, Lillian and Violet must band together to bring her home. The fourth narrator is Proctor, Althea’s husband, whose capacity for love is apparent in his letters to his wife. Through these letters, Proctor offers a subtle but brilliant contrast to the women’s internal monologues. Through these intimate perspectives, the family becomes a breathing entity, giving space to peripheral characters such as the parents (both deceased) and the brother, a troubled teen turned preacher. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls has an unforgettable force. Gray possesses the ability to avoid judging her flawed, utterly human characters, who are without exception crafted from the heart. —Leslie Hinson
Daisy Jones & The Six By Taylor Jenkins Reid Ballantine $27, 368 pages 9781524798628 Audio, eBook available
Coming of Age If you are a fan of a certain troubled rock ’n’ roll band from the 1970s, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the eponymous character of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new novel is based on Stevie Nicks. You’d also be forgiven for wondering, wait, did Stevie really marry an Italian prince? This will send you racing to Wikipedia, where you will learn that no, Stevie did not marry an Italian prince. However, like
the marriage of Daisy Jones and her cracked Italian nobleman, Stevie’s one marriage was just as impulsive and just as brief. Daisy, a talented singer and a gorgeous, drug-addled train wreck, falls in with a band called The Six at a critical juncture. The group’s fame and fortune blow up, and Daisy rides the rocket with them thanks to her passionate duets with their founder and leader, Billy Dunne. Inevitably, Daisy and the married Billy fall in love. They also hate each other’s guts. It’s beautiful. Readers will feel for Billy though. A recovering druggie and alcoholic, he’s saved from dissipation by his wife, Camila, and their kids. His integrity and lack of cynicism keep the reader from resenting him the way his bandmates sometimes do. At the same time, Reid is adroit enough to make us understand why his white-knuckled virtue gets on people’s nerves. A multinarrative interview style of storytelling allows Daisy, Billy, the members of The Six and others in their orbit, such as managers, producers, rock critics and loved ones, to recall their memories. They’re being interviewed
spotlight | sea stories
Dive in deep Windswept islands protect, isolate and irrevocably shape the course of events in two new novels about the lives of people in far-flung places. Readers who gravitate toward glorious prose will find a feast in The Dragonfly Sea (Knopf, $28.95, 512 pages, 9780451494047), a mesmerizing new novel by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Dust, 2014) that delves into the discoveries, joys, sorrows and epiphanies of a singular coming of age—that of Ayaana, a stubborn, imaginative girl from a small island off the coast of Kenya who discovers that she can trace her heritage to a 14th-century Chinese seafarer. Early in her life, Ayaana’s compass is set when her mother tells another character, “You shall only point my daughter to eternal possibilities. She was not born for limits.” From her childhood on Pate Island to her adventures in the Far East as a charming young woman, Ayaana’s life is marked by both violence and great beauty. Assorted characters alter her destiny, from a sailor who fills the role of the father she’s always wanted to a powerful Turkish mogul who seeks to possess her soul. The story is deftly interwoven with a sense of life’s fragility, as if it’s holding its breath in anticipation of some danger. This feeling of vulnerability assails Ayaana: “Life was passage, nothing lingered.” Jealousies and troubled kinships affect husbands, fathers and lovers who travel on the ocean tides and are often lost, swept away by storms or twists of fate, but the author brings the story full circle with passages that dazzle and enlighten. The singular culture of the haenyeo (sea women) of the Korean island of Jeju is at the center of bestselling author Lisa See’s captivating new novel, The Island of Sea Women (Scribner, $27, 384 pages, 9781501154850), a quietly amazing story of two close companions whose friendship is transformed by misunderstanding, cultural prejudice and the terror of war. Young-sook and Mi-ja are part of Jeju’s female free-diving collective, which forms the economic backbone of the island community in the years leading up to World War II. The friends are bound by ancient female spirits that watch over the island, and by the age-old ties of cooperation that enable their community’s survival. See interweaves details of the island’s semi-matriarchal culture with the adventures and travails of the two women, whose differences grow throughout the decades. Poignant chapters reveal the perspective of an aging Young-sook as she encounters the family of her old friend, forcing her to confront past missteps and the horrors of a 60-yearold massacre, ultimately bringing the generations together to forgive and heal. Within this enthralling story is a fascinating historical perspective on Korea, a country long victimized by war and foreign occupation, and the ways in which the strains of modernization have forever altered Jeju’s island culture. —Barbara Clark
reviews | fiction around 2012 or so, and everyone is now of a certain age, so some of those memories contradict, and many are funny or sorrowful and startlingly candid. Their confessions become even more surprising when we learn the identity of the interviewer. It’s hard to be good is the message of Reid’s humane, delectable, rollicking novel. But goodness is still worth the trouble. —Arlene McKanic
H The Bird King By G. Willow Wilson Grove $26, 416 pages 9780802129031 Audio, eBook available
Fantasy With her debut novel, Alif the Unseen, G. Willow Wilson announced herself as a powerful new voice in the realm of speculative fiction. With her new novel, The Bird King, she has cemented her place as one of the brightest lights of fantasy storytelling. Granada, the last Muslim emirate in Spain, is nearing the end of its existence, as the Spanish crown rises and the Inquisition comes with it. In this turbulent time, Wilson introduces us to Fatima, a concubine to the sultan, and her cherished friend Hassan, a mapmaker with a strange gift. Hassan can draw maps of places he’s never seen, and sometimes even alters the landscape around him to carve new paths. When a representative of the Spanish government visits and brands Hassan a sorcerer and sinner, Fatima feels compelled to save her friend, and the pair flees the relative comfort of court for the unknown. Guided by a resourceful and witty jinn, the pair ventures out into the world, buoyed by little more than faith and a story they’ve told to each other about a mythic bird king. Wilson’s tale unfolds with all the grace and swiftness of a classic magical adventure, with strange encounters and new lands waiting with each turn of the page. There’s a familiarity, a lived-in quality, to the prose and sense of character that evokes an almost fairy-tale sensibility, but then Wilson digs deeper, into something as timeless as a myth but much more intimate. As it spreads out before the reader like a lavish tapestry, Wilson’s story becomes a gorgeous, ambitious meditation on faith, platonic love, magic and even storytelling itself, with a trio
of unforgettable personalities serving as its beating, endlessly vital heart. The Bird King is a triumph—immersive in historical detail and yet, in many ways, it could have happened yesterday. Wilson has once again proven that she’s one of the best fantasy writers working today, with a book that’s just waiting for readers to get happily lost in its pages. —Matthew Jackson
Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with G. Willow Wilson.
Bangkok Wakes to Rain By Pitchaya Sudbanthad Riverhead $27, 368 pages 9780525534761 eBook available
Debut Fiction Krungthep, Bangkok, New Krungthep—the Thai capital city goes by many names and assumes many, ever-changing facades in Bangkok Wakes to Rain. Past and future intermingle like the waters that converge in the Chao Phraya river running through the heart of the city. Pitchaya Sudbanthad’s first novel ranges wide in time and scope, and the author masterfully captures dozens of different voices and thoughts in his vast cast: the vagabond photographer who avoids returning to his ancestral home; a 19th-century missionary doctor who wants nothing more than a transfer to another posting when he first arrives in Siam; studious young swimmer Mai who achieves success in business that is the stuff of sci-fi dreams; a wandering jazz pianist who goes by “Crazy Legs” and plays for hours in the nightclubs; sisters Nee and Nok, who find themselves forever affected by the student political protests of the 1970s. Teenage girls obsessed with their looks grow into mothers, spouses cheat, parents age and die, and sons and daughters are born. This ambitious novel’s many overlapping stories chart a fast pace, and at times, the connective thread between them gets muddled. Sudbanthad’s narrative flits around and back and forth, much like the colorful parrots that inhabit the old colonial house at the epicenter of the novel and, later, the animatronic birds used to scan the infrastructure of the city in a
technologically advanced future. The lives of the people who call, or once called, Krungthep home are inextricably tied to this place. In this city prone to flooding, rain is a constant, continually washing away what once was. And yet, in the words of a mother, “truth lingers, unseen like phantoms but there to rattle and scream wherever people try hardest to forget.” —Melissa Brown
Landfall By Thomas Mallon Pantheon $29.95, 496 pages 9781101871058 eBook available
Political Fiction Long before first lady Laura Bush mentions The Prime Minister, the fifth of Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels, readers familiar with his sextet of political works will have detected the similarity between them and Landfall, Thomas Mallon’s new book. Instead of Prime Minister Plantaganet Palliser and discussions of the Irish Land Tenant Bill, Mallon gives us the first two years of George W. Bush’s second term and its challenges, self-inflicted and otherwise, from the Iraq War to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. The writing style is the same, however, with a huge cast of characters and long conversations about politics. Amid the real-life personages, Mallon has added two that are fictional: Ross Weatherall, a director of the merged National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, where he is updating a 1938 Works Progress Administration guidebook on New Orleans; and Allison O’Connor, a civilian lawyer whom Donald Rumsfeld brings to D.C. to work at the National Security Council as “an assistant to a special assistant to the president.” Ross and Allie haven’t seen one another since a romantic evening after a 1978 campaign event in Texas, when Bush unsuccessfully ran for Congress. Decades later, when they reunite, Ross is a committed Bush supporter, while Allie questions the wisdom of the Iraq invasion. Their positions evolve, however, as Katrina and other events force them to recalibrate. Throughout Landfall, Mallon shifts perspectives among many characters, most notably Condoleezza Rice, portrayed as a relentlessly
NEW from Chicken Soup for the Soul
reviews | fiction ambitious person who feels that if Prince Charles “could inherit his one lifelong job, she could be appointed to all of hers.” And he writes many scathing portraits of the era’s figures, including Barbara Bush, who, when she and George H.W. Bush call on dying former Texas governor Ann Richards, wants nothing more than to hurry the visit along. If Mallon tries too hard to cram in references to every major news story of the day, Landfall is still a well-researched view of the jealousies and back-room dealings of early 21st-century American politics. —Michael Magras
H Little Faith By Nickolas Butler Ecco $26.99, 336 pages 9780062469717 Audio, eBook available
100% made in the USA $14.95 www.chickensoup.com
In a polarized world, Nickolas Butler’s third novel, Little Faith, offers a touching portrait of people working to heal divisions. Lyle Hovde and his wife welcome home their adopted daughter, Shiloh, and her 5-year-old son, Isaac, who need help getting back on their feet. Lyle dotes on Isaac, taking him to neighbor Hoot’s house for ice cream or to the apple orchard where Lyle works in retirement. But when Shiloh joins a radical church in nearby La Crosse, Wisconsin, she pushes her parents away. Lyle, with the help of his mates, must decide how to act when his beloved grandson’s health is in danger. Little Faith is filled with biblical elements, starting with its bucolic, Eden-like setting, where the Hovde family enjoys togetherness after a long estrangement. Lyle is tempted to savor this fairy-tale scene, but like the apples he tends, the moment doesn’t keep well. Salvation is an open-ended question in this story. Is Lyle saved? Or is it Lyle who saves Isaac? Like a good parable, the novel’s message is worth patient interpretation. Little Faith resides in a tenuous middle ground between extremes: stoic, agnostic Lyle against the charismatic pastor who attracts his impressionable daughter; Hoot’s unhealthy smoking and drinking habits versus teetotaling church-goers; medical treatment versus faith-healing. Natural rhythms bind these op-
posites, as the novel is organized by the year’s seasons, and their abiding serenity accompanies the many tensions. The book’s conclusion is as enigmatic as its title. Little Faith might be diminutive, but it’s far from fragile. —Mari Carlson
The DNA of You and Me By Andrea Rothman William Morrow $26.99, 256 pages 9780062857811 Audio, eBook available
Debut Fiction Andrea Rothman’s debut novel tells the story of Emily Apell, an accomplished scientist who studies smell: “Smell is an illusion, my father used to tell me: invisible molecules in the air converted by my brain into cinnamon, cut grass, burning wood.” Illusion or not, Emily’s work is certainly illusive. Allergic to cut grass from a young age and raised by a scientist single father, Emily comes to a new job at a laboratory in New York City, where she is hired to map how smell is processed. Emily’s research is closely related to that of two other lab workers, Aeden and Allegra, who are less than thrilled with Emily’s presence. As Aeden and Allegra’s research misses its mark, Emily pulls Aeden onto her project, which has the potential to be a success. And despite her usual lone-wolf nature, Emily is attracted to Aeden. Emily and Aeden’s research progresses, as does their relationship, and soon Emily finds herself at a crossroads: She can continue with her career aspirations or leave the lab with Aeden and explore whether the things society wants for her—a husband and children—are things she actually wants for herself. With crisp descriptions and keen observations, author and neuroscientist Rothman creates a realistic picture of the life of a scientific researcher, including the long, lonely hours in a lab, the envious and possessive behavior of other scientists and the highly competitive nature of publishing scientific results. Fresh and intelligent, The DNA of You and Me is a tale of a modern woman in science, though it can be enjoyed by any reader working to balance career ambitions with the possibility of a family. —Jessica Bates
feature | inspirational fiction
Even in the darkest moments, do not be afraid In each of these inspiring novels, undaunted heroines navigate tumultuous pasts to find joy in the future, as they discover that faith has the power to take them further than they ever dreamed possible. A year after her debut novel, Missing Isaac, struck a chord with readers, Valerie Fraser Luesse once again directs a symphony of characters, charming readers with her storytelling expertise and captivating dialogue. Set during World War II in Blackberry Springs, Alabama, Almost Home (Revell, $15.99, 336 pages, 9780800729639) finds Dolly and Josiah Chandler struggling to make ends meet and renting out rooms in their fading family home to folks seeking financial opportunities at a nearby munitions plant. Dolly is the quintessential Southern hostess, whose castiron skillet is always serving up delicious meals and whose heart overflows with her faith in God, especially when it comes to guiding her boarders through hard times. The disparate souls who come to Dolly’s boardinghouse share impoverished circumstances and the pain of war, but they discover even more in common as their bonds of trust grow. A sisterhood blooms among the women as they connect the dots of a mysterious love story between a preacher’s daughter and the river pirate who built the family home. Old trunks and journals, abandoned shacks and river caves, speculation and surprise take center stage as the women search for the truth—and in the end find themselves, healed and whole. Award-winning novelist Kristy Cambron weaves a tale of faith and resilience in the newest of her Lost Castle series, Castle on the Rise (Thomas Nelson, $15.99, 368 pages, 9780718095499). Ireland’s struggles for independence in both 1798 and 1916 provide the background for this modern-day story that hinges on the secrets of Ashford Manor, a castle left to brothers Quinn and Cormac. The brothers, along with Quinn’s wife and her best friend, follow intriguing clues whose answers are revealed in chapters that alternate between the three time periods. The 1916 story, set during the Easter Rising, is vivid and fast-paced, filled with a rebellious spirit and heart-pounding suspense
as a photojournalist named Issy battles cultural norms to become a valued member of the rebellion. The 1797-1798 story finds noblewoman Maeve resisting expectations that she cannot become involved in the family estate, even in the midst of uprisings and a strange encounter with an injured stranger. All three stories are laced with love, pain, faith and forgiveness as the characters fight their way to freedom, not just for Ireland but also for themselves. In The Glovemaker (Skyhorse, $24.99, 336 pages, 9781510737839), historical novelist Ann Weisgarber beautifully paints the harsh, lonely
the last storm passes and Deborah finds peace within herself. With a masterful dual narrative, subtle romance and spine-tingling suspense, acclaimed author Jaime Jo Wright navigates the lives of two young women seeking a sense of identity in her third novel, The Curse of Misty Wayfair (Bethany House, $14.99, 384 pages, 9780764230301). In the early 1900s, Thea Reed, abandoned at an orphanage at age 4, travels as a post-mortem photographer while searching for her birth mother. Her journey leads her to Pleasant Valley, a small community that is
environment of the Utah Territory during the winter of 1887-1888 while creating tense moments and life-altering revelations for her heroine, Deborah. While awaiting her husband’s return from his work as a wheelwright, Deborah is visited by a stranger of her own Mormon faith. She knows he is running from the law, and she knows why: The U.S. government has ruled polygamy to be a felony. Although she does not agree with his personal choices, she knows he is a persecuted brother of her faith, so she decides to help him and risk her home and well-being to do so. When the lawman tracking the stranger appears at her door, Deborah has both religious and ethical decisions to make. Is it a sin to lie if a life is in jeopardy? Should the reality of these life-and-death situations outweigh her faith? Through the snow and wind, Deborah balances precariously between the tenets of her faith and her newfound courage. Weisgarber’s strong grip on suspense keeps the pages turning until
believed to be haunted by the ghost of a murdered woman. When given the chance to photograph asylum patients, Thea begins to solve the mysteries of her own past—and she may also unravel the ghostly legend. In the current day, Heidi Lane has returned home to Pleasant Valley, a place she never felt she belonged. Her mother’s dementia has created even more of a chasm between them, with cryptic questions and answers from her mother that insinuate that Heidi is dead. Everywhere Heidi turns, she sees what the townspeople believe is the ghost of Misty Wayfair. Heidi’s search opens longclosed wounds and leads her to the same asylum where the haunting began years ago. Both women are driven by a passion for the truth and a desire to know that their lives have meaning. By accepting that God created them with a plan in mind, the two women are then able to find that purpose. —Lonna Upton
feature | LGBTQ+ nonfiction
Joy and love, resilience and strength Queer communities can find healing through the sharing of stories, creating a web of common experiences that remind us that we are not alone. These four books contain narratives of triumph, loss, trauma and healing, with optimism toward liberation and new understandings of gender, desire, sexuality, love and family. These stories are accessible and relatable even as they reveal how identity is far more complicated than what social rules or cultural expectations determine it to be. Encompassing a range of emotions and experiences, they declare that queer stories don’t have to end in tragedy, but can reign triumphant despite struggle. Pain and trauma are not glossed over, but also within these tales are the joys and love that are so often threaded into queer experiences. Acclaimed essayist and editor-inchief of the literary journal No Tokens T Kira Madden shares a story of incredible resilience in Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls (Bloomsbury, $27, 336 pages, 9781635571851). In her debut memoir, Madden beautifully chronicles her journey to find herself while reckoning with the trauma, abuse and addiction that have surrounded her and emering with a deeper understanding of her experiences. Madden captures the complexities of loving those who wound you deeply, as well as the healing that is possible within those relationships. Through Madden’s achingly raw and honest prose, the extreme privilege she experienced in Boca Raton, Florida, the deep and complex bonds she finds in her adolescent friendships, the transformation of her relationships with her parents in addiction recovery and her queer awakening all become relatable, regardless of how far removed they are from the reader’s own experience. Within this necessary book, Madden weaves together an utterly human paean to belonging, to healing, and to loving and being loved. Trans activist, writer and performer Jacob Tobia’s debut memoir, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story (Putnam, $26, 336 pages, 9780735218826), refreshingly defies the typical trans narrative (“I was born in the wrong body, did these things to transition and now live as a boy/girl/etc.”). In their fabulous, fierce voice, Tobia tells their story of coming out as genderqueer. In adolescence, they found themselves falling into society’s familiar and static categories of what is assigned at birth or assumed (“gay” or “male”), but as Tobia came of age, they looked past the binary and began a fluid, exciting exploration of gender. Tobia’s story unfolds in the South, and they contend with their relationships with both family and religion. In particular, Tobia’s relationship with their father and with
their childhood church evolve throughout the book, and these growing pains are detailed honestly but hopefully. Tobia is strong and confident (even calling themselves out as arrogant), and as a result of their strength, drive and overachieving nature, they have established themselves as a highly visible trans activist. What many may realize after reading Sissy is that expectations of gender affect not only those who identify outside the binary but also everyone who ascribes to it. There are creative and imaginative possibilities available to everyone through liberation from strict, patriarchal expectations. By the end of the prologue of The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation (Ballantine, $28, 352 pages, 9780399179013), I was already in tears, overwhelmed by entrepreneur, social activist and former magazine ad executive Jodie Patterson’s empathy, acceptance and willingness to listen to her child, Penelope, when he reveals to her at 3 years old, “Mama, I’m not a girl. I’m a boy.” Patterson travels to Georgia to take a break, to heal, to figure out where to go from there, but even in her exhaustion, she wholly accepts Penelope as her son. Patterson begins the story in her own youth, as a quiet young black girl growing up in a wealthy family on New York’s Upper West Side, coming into her own strength and power as a black woman—in her words, becoming a “badass.” Patterson’s memoir is highly recommended for any parent raising a transgender or gender-nonconforming child. Her struggle is not with her transgender child but rather with a world that may not accept him as readily as she does. Robyn Ryle’s She/He/They/Me: For the Sisters, Misters, and Binary Resisters (Sourcebooks, $22.99, 400 pages, 9781492666943) is a chooseyour-own-adventure-style book that explores the intersections of identities and how gender impacts every aspect of our lives. There are over 100 ways you can read this book, with paths that lead readers into different societies throughout history. The journey, and the myriad options in how to move through it, reveal how gender affects every aspect of our culture and our experiences in love, sex, careers and more. Ryle empathetically explores the complications and intersections of gender, hopefully illuminating otherwise invisible structures in pursuit of new conceptions of power and being. She/He/They/Me is a recommended read for anyone living in a body in this world. —Liz Clayton Scofield
reviews | nonfiction
H Top Pick: Say Nothing By Patrick Radden Keefe
Doubleday, $28.95, 464 pages 9780385521314, audio, eBook available
Social Science Jean McConville was 38 years old in December 1972 when a masked man kidnapped her from her flat in a bleak housing project in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her 10 children, some of whom were clinging to her legs as she was dragged from her home, never saw her again. It was soon rumored that McConville, a Protestant once married to a Catholic, had been snatched—and probably executed—by the outlawed provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army because she was an informer. So begins Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, The New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe’s gripping, revelatory and unsettling account of McConville’s murder and its reverberations throughout the 30-year spasm of violence known as the “troubles,” which left 3,500 dead
H The End of the Myth By Greg Grandin Metropolitan $30, 384 pages 9781250179821 Audio, eBook available
Social Science Among the many flaws of the frenzied 24/7 news cycle is the lack of context for the latest breaking news story. That’s what makes New York University professor and historian Greg Grandin’s The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America such a valuable contribution to our understanding of the fractious debate over immigration and the attendant controversy over a wall along the United States’ southern border. Grandin’s compact survey of American history spans the pre-Revolutionary War era to the present, but at its heart is historian Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous 1893 “Frontier Thesis,” which argued, as Grandin summarizes it, that “the expansion of settlement across a frontier
in its wake. To tell the story, Keefe delves into a long and devastating history of open and hidden conflict, parts of which remain entombed within the IRA’s code of silence. With visceral detail, he describes life in the embattled neighborhoods, where suspicion and betrayal festered on all sides. Keefe also offers compelling portraits of some of the leading figures in the conflict, among them Gerry Adams, who helped broker the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to armed conflict. He went on to preside over Sinn Féin, sometimes called the political arm of the IRA.
of ‘free land’ created a uniquely American form of political equality, a vibrant, forward-looking individualism.” Relying on a rich trove of source materials, both primary and secondary, Grandin pointedly contends that this mythic “Edenic utopia” has now been eclipsed by the shadow of a concrete and steel border wall, “America’s new myth, a monument to the final closing of the frontier.” Whether he’s decrying the “Jacksonian consensus” over the means of westward migration, which promoted a ruthless regime “forged in frontier expansion and racist war,” or critiquing free trade agreements like NAFTA and post-9/11 American foreign policy, with its open-ended wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Grandin finds plenty of targets of all political stripes. But he reserves some of his harshest criticism of a country he says has “lived past the end of its myth” for President Trump and the segment of the American electorate he represents. “Instead of a critical, resilient, and progressive citizenry,” Grandin writes, “a conspiratorial nihilism, rejecting reason and dreading change, has taken hold. Factionalism congealed and won a national election.” Grandin concludes The End of the Myth on an even more ominous note, observing that future generations will face a stark choice between “barbarism and socialism, or at least social democracy.” Regardless of whether one accepts Grandin’s Manichaean prophecy, with
But the most riveting figure in this narrative is Dolours Price. She and her younger sister, Marian, were radicalized as students after a peaceful march for union with Ireland was violently attacked. Described as having a quick tongue, flaming red hair and a peacock personality, she was chosen by Adams for an elite squad. She played a part in McConville’s abduction, organized a car bombing attack on London and, when imprisoned, led a hunger strike that inflamed the romantic revolutionary imagination. But as a true believer, she, along with others, was devastated when Adams first denied that he was ever in the IRA and then brokered a peace agreement that did not include the unification of Ireland. She was, allegedly, not an inherently violent person, and she was left wondering what it was all for. Which is one of the most profound and unanswerable questions this searing book will leave in a reader’s mind. —Alden Mudge
all the bitterness of the conflict it foretells, there is no escaping the need to come to terms with the painful legacy that’s meticulously revisited in this unsettling book. —Harvey Freedenberg
The Lost Prince By Michael Mewshaw Counterpoint $26, 288 pages 9781640091498 Audio, eBook available
Memoir Author Pat Conroy was larger than life, and his work vividly described the dark shadows and bright corners of family life in the South. Like William Faulkner and James Dickey, Conroy told sprawling tales about himself, his family and his friends. He was a lovable, irascible rapscallion and a raconteur who never met a story he couldn’t tell with humor, relish and gusto. Since Conroy’s death in 2016, several books have followed: A Lowcountry Life: Reflections on a Writing Life, a posthumous
reviews | nonfiction collection of his own writings; My Exaggerated Life, an oral biography by Katherine Clark; and Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy, a collection of fond memories. Michael Mewshaw’s The Lost Prince joins in this flood of memories, offering an intimate, affectionate and candid portrait of his friendship with Conroy. While Mewshaw was living in Rome in the 1980s, Conroy called him one day out of the blue, looking for the companionship of another American writer in Rome. When the two first met, they discovered their shared love of basketball, their similarly dysfunctional families and their fear of flying. Over the next decade, Mewshaw and Conroy and their families were almost inseparable, enjoying parties with well-known literary figures such as Gore Vidal and William Styron. However, after a seismic event in the mid-1990s, the lights went out in their relationship, and the two never reconciled. In a letter to Mewshaw in 2003, Conroy asked him to write about “you and me and what happened.” In The Lost Prince, Mewshaw lovingly, colorfully and splendidly does just that. —Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
The Art of Dying Well By Katy Butler Scribner $26, 288 pages 9781501135316 Audio, eBook available
Aging Journalist Katy Butler first wrote about death in her 2013 memoir, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, which charted the decline and death of her father. Six years later, she offers a tremendously helpful follow-up, The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life. This substantial book, written for the aging and those who love them, offers a stage-by-stage look at the path toward death. It might not seem like fun reading, but the
salience of the topic is undeniable: Seventy-five percent of Americans want to die at home, but fewer than 33 percent do so. Butler points out that basic documentation can ensure a patient’s end-of-life medical intentions, yet more than 70 percent of us haven’t filled out the paperwork. Cultural conversations overvalue dramatic medical interventions that traumatize both the dying and those who love them. Butler writes, “There is a way to a peaceful, empowered, humane death, even in an era of high-technology medicine.” She goes on to offer a road map for the journey. Organized into seven chapters that begin with “Resilience” and end with “Active Dying,” Butler’s book is a nutsand-bolts guide to supporting ourselves and each other through the final stages of life. For her, the path toward a good death begins years in advance, and no detail is too small. For most of us, the shift toward death is invisible, frightening and largely idiosyncratic to our own circumstances. What Butler offers here is an overview of the terrain and helpful commentary about empowering, meaningful actions for people in a wide range of circum-
meet LUCY KNISLEY Describe your book in one sentence.
What do you wish you could tell your younger self about pregnancy?
If you could dismantle one myth about women’s health, what would it be?
What did you enjoy most about being pregnant?
Of all the many 1980s and ’90s movies about babies, which is your favorite and why?
Words to live by?
Bestselling author and illustrator Lucy Knisley shares the emotional, often astonishing experience of becoming a mother in her intimate graphic memoir Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos (First Second, $19.99, 256 pages, 9781626728080), which is as delightful and heartwarming as it is informative about motherhood and pregnancy. Knisley lives in Chicago with her husband and child.
reviews | nonfiction stances. If you are aging or love someone who is, this is a book to add to your list. —Kelly Blewett
H The Catalogue of
By Edward Wilson-Lee Scribner $30, 416 pages 9781982111397 Audio, eBook available
Biography Despite the dark legacy of colonialism, it’s unquestionable that Christopher Columbus was a master mariner, explorer and promoter. He also had apocalyptic beliefs about the end of days that were either visionary or bizarre, depending on your point of view. His admiring son Hernando Colón, educated in Renaissance humanism, downplayed his father’s millenarian ideas when he wrote his biography of Columbus. But Colón had the same wide-ranging imagination as his father, no matter how different their beliefs. Born out of wedlock in 1488 but acknowledged by Columbus, Colón was a brilliant man whose intellectual ambitions directly provided the seed for modern libraries and whose sorting system indirectly anticipated internet search engines. Edward Wilson-Lee’s engaging new biography of Colón, The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Christopher Columbus, His Son, and the Quest to Build the World’s Greatest Library, is at once an adventure tale and a history of ideas that continue to resonate. As a teenager, Colón accompanied Columbus on his fourth voyage to the Caribbean. But as an adult, his own ambitions led him to the great European book marts, where he conceived his dream of a universal library that would include every book ever printed. He collected thousands of books, pamphlets and prints—the “shipwrecked books” of Wilson-Lee’s title were some 1,700 from Venice lost on a voyage back to Spain. As he assembled his vast library in Seville, Colón led a project to describe all of Spain in a gazetteer, created a pioneering botanical garden and was the top Spanish negotiator (and probably spy) in a dispute with Portugal. But his greatest legacy was his series of book catalogs that attempted to categorize all human
knowledge, a pre-digital Google. After Colón’s death in 1539, his library ended up at Seville Cathedral, where it remains, sadly reduced in size by theft, mold and the Inquisition. Happily, Wilson-Lee’s insightful and entertaining work refreshes the memory of Colón’s sweeping vision. —Anne Bartlett
I.M. By Isaac Mizrahi Flatiron $28.99, 384 pages 9781250074089 Audio, eBook available
Memoir In the 1995 documentary Unzipped, Isaac Mizrahi is a flurry of genius, spouting ideas and stories and impersonations. He’s a fashion designer at the height of his fame, smoking cigarettes and hanging with his pals Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington. His wonderfully introspective new memoir, I.M., makes clear that Mizrahi is still the same creative force of nature, just polished down and with more years under his well-crafted belt. The youngest of three children in a conservative Brooklyn family, Mizrahi was an outlier from the get-go. “The Syrian-Jewish community had never seen anything like me before,” he writes. “I stuck out like a chubby gay thumb.” While his peers were playing ball, Mizrahi was sewing costumes for his puppet shows and belting out Liza Minnelli tunes. He was perhaps destined to be a designer: His mother subscribed religiously to Women’s Wear Daily, and his father manufactured children’s clothing. But while his parents could tolerate—even nurture—his creativity, their hearts were not open to the possibility of a gay son. He thrived at Parsons, an elite Manhattan design school, but essentially lived a double life for years throughout the late 1970s and early ’80s: dutiful Jewish son at home, openly gay man in the city. Even as he struggled with his personal identity, Mizrahi’s star rose as he worked at Perry Ellis and Calvin Klein and opened his own atelier. He gained a reputation as the rare male designer who really understood women and their bodies, in part because of conversations with his mother about fashion. “Any kind of fashion sets down its demand for a singular kind of per-
fection; one way or the highway,” he writes. “It translates essentially as one large punishment on women. Only recently are we beginning to acknowledge that beauty is a broad subject, one in which all people can participate.” I.M. is as generous a memoir as I can remember. Mizrahi lays bare his struggles with body image, insomnia and relationships. He meditates on the fickle nature of the fashion industry and spills a little tea on his many celebrity friends. The book is like a classic Mizrahi design: joyful, colorful and always with a twist of the unexpected. —Amy Scribner
Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Isaac Mizrahi.
Never Enough By Judith Grisel Doubleday $26.95, 256 pages 9780385542845 Audio, eBook available
Biology A timely, educational blend of neuroscience and memoir, Judith Grisel’s Never Enough tackles the devastating problem of addiction. Current statistics speak to a dire state of affairs: Nearly 16 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 fits the criteria for substance abuse disorder. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared our current opioid epidemic to be a public health emergency. Drawing from her own experience as a recovering drug addict, Grisel is uniquely positioned to study the neuroscience of addiction. She understands both the allure of drugs and the devastation they leave in their wake. Indeed, it seems that the way she has managed to stay sober for over 25 years is to make the study of addiction her life’s work. Now a professor and scientist, Grisel is a compassionate and empathetic guide to the hard science behind drug use. Chapter by chapter, Grisel examines the effects of different drugs on the human brain: alcohol, marijuana, stimulants, tranquilizers and psychedelics. Unfortunately for users, most of these operate by the “opponent process theory,” the idea that any stimulus to the brain will eventually be neutralized into its opposite. Sim-
reviews | nonfiction ply put, the high gives way to the low. The brain adjusts to the dosage, and the withdrawal lasts longer than the desired effect, creating a vicious cycle of dependency and diminishing returns. How is it that some people can enjoy a drink and stop, while addicts can never have enough of their chosen substances? The answer involves genetics, environmental and social context and significant exposure to drugs, particularly during adolescence as the brain is developing. There are no easy solutions to the problems of addiction, but Grisel suggests that knowledge and kindness can go a long way. —Catherine Hollis
Bending Toward Justice By Doug Jones All Points $29.99, 384 pages 9781250201447 Audio, eBook available
History On the morning of September 15, 1963, an explosion at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killed four girls gathered in the church’s ladies’ lounge and injured 22 other people. Ku Klux Klan members were immediately suspected of bombing the African-American church. But years passed, and for a variety of reasons, the suspected domestic terrorists walked free. In November 1977, national attention was drawn back to the case and to the city once nicknamed “Bombingham” when attorney Bill Baxley successfully prosecuted a suspect in the bombing. A young law student, Doug Jones, looked on from a balcony. He was raised only a few miles from 16th Street Baptist Church, yet like many young white people at the time, Jones was largely ignorant of the strife faced by children of color. And though that trial was successful, more bombing suspects remained free. In Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing That Changed the Course of Civil Rights, current Alabama U.S. Senator Jones recounts the church bombing that became a rallying point for the civil rights movement, as well as the criminal cases against the two surviving bombing suspects that he prosecuted in 2001 and 2002 as a U.S. attorney. Some people around the nation—and certainly in Birmingham—argued that the past should stay in the past. A prison guard once told Jones
that the elderly bombers shouldn’t be left to die in jail. Jones disagrees. Throughout the book, he reiterates the importance of justice—for the girls’ families, certainly, but also for all people affected by this act of terrorism. Bending Toward Justice is a vivid journey toward that understanding. As Jones and co-author Greg Truman lay out the details of these pivotal civil rights cases, they also examine how much the country has learned—and how much it still has to grow. —Carla Jean Whitley
Thompson’s book sheds light on a fascinating region. Sea People is a revelatory summation of this vast area steeped in culture and tradition. —Becky Libourel Diamond
H Mama’s Last Hug By Frans de Waal Norton $27.95, 336 pages 9780393635065 eBook available
Biology By Christina Thompson Harper $29.99, 384 pages 9780062060877 Audio, eBook available
History The isolated islands of the Polynesian Triangle have been a source of fascination since European explorers first sailed into their harbors in the 16th century and discovered thriving communities previously unknown to the rest of the world. But much of their lore still remains a mystery. Where did these people come from, when did they arrive, and how on earth did they manage to traverse the mighty Pacific and settle these remote locales? In Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia, Harvard Review editor Christina Thompson weaves together history, science, folklore and the islands’ ancient oral traditions, archeology and genealogy, creating a mesmerizing, page-turning account of Polynesia. Thompson includes an intriguing cast of characters ranging from Captain James Cook and Tupaia, the Tahitian navigator he befriended, to modern explorers such as anthropologist Ben Finney and his Micronesian master navigator, Mau Piailug, who together sailed from Maui to Tahiti in 1976 in a traditional 60-foot canoe using only ancient navigation tools to prove it could be done. Thompson’s personal interest in the subject was piqued by her Maori husband and sons, who are direct descendants of Polynesians. This deep curiosity shines through in the meticulous background and details she provides such as diary entries, maps, Polynesian chronologies, geological topographies and weather patterns. While much of the Polynesian puzzle is still a mystery (and may never be completely solved),
In 2016, the 80-year-old biologist Jan van Hooff visited his old friend Mama, a dying 59-year-old chimpanzee matriarch. Their videotaped emotional reunion was seen around the world. In Mama’s Last Hug, Frans de Waal begins with that endearing goodbye, then dives into his decades of experience studying our fellow hominids. With wit and scholarly perspicacity, the renowned primatologist and ethologist offers an abundant study of animal and human emotions, urging a kinder, gentler approach to those with whom we share our planet, from apes and rats to plants and single-cell organisms. Citing a wealth of experiments and studies, the genial scientist raises new awareness of our shared evolutionary history and suggests that a strictly behavioral model is no longer accurate or adequate. In fact, de Waal writes, previous theoretical constructs were largely based on assumptions (made by men) about male dominance. The matriarchal society of bonobos offers a conflicting example. These primate hippies make more love than war and are pros at peacemaking. Perhaps we humans are more like them—or should be. Chief among de Waal’s studies are animal emotions: who has them, how they work and why humans should care. De Waal provides examples of a full range of emotions experienced by our fellow hominids like empathy, sympathy, disgust, shame, guilt, fear and forgiveness. He proves that rats enjoy being tickled; chimps and elephants can console, conspire and retaliate; and plants release toxic scents to protect against predatory insects. We are all animals, de Waal reminds us, and he has provided a rich perspective on—and an urgent invitation to reconsider—every aspect of life around us. —Priscilla Kipp
reviews | young adult
H Top Pick:
We Set the Dark on Fire By Tehlor Kay Mejia Katherine Tegen, $17.99, 384 pages 9780062691316, audio, eBook available
Fantasy After spending the last five years at the prestigious Medio School for Girls, 17-year-old Daniela Vargas is ready to graduate at the top of her class. But instead of heading to college, Dani’s next step is becoming the Primera, or first wife, of the capital’s most promising young politico. Tehlor Kay Mejia’s debut dystopian novel is set on an island where a border wall divides its citizens, and where ancient folklore prescribes two wives for the government’s elite rulers: a logical Primera who runs the household and a
H Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite
By Jeff Zentner Crown $17.99, 400 pages 9781524720209 Audio, eBook available
Fiction Josie and Delia are so similar that they’re often confused for sisters, especially when they’re decked out as their alter egos Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood in order to host their campy public access horror show, “Midnite Matinee.” But as graduation approaches, Josie dreads having to choose between staying in her hometown with Delia and leaving to pursue her TV career. Delia, meanwhile, is desperate to find a way to make each Saturday broadcast of “Midnite Matinee” good enough to hold Josie’s attention and maybe even bring back her own estranged father. Tensions come to a head, but eventually the friends realize that moving on doesn’t have to mean breaking up. In Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite
more sensual Segunda who bears the children. Dani’s path should be straightforward, and she should enjoy the Latinx-inspired delicacies and life of luxury that come with being a Primera, but secrets from her past threaten to reveal
Matinee, bestselling author Jeff Zentner (Goodbye Days) trades in his signature weightiness for a story filled with campy humor and a dash of feminism as he takes us behind the scenes of Josie and Delia’s public access show—and their friendship. But in making the shift in tone, Zentner has successfully retained his knack for crafting unique and charming teen characters who are tackling tough issues—like abandonment and mental illness—with grace and wit. Josie and Delia’s spitfire dialogue will have readers in stitches, while the tough lessons they learn about growing up (despite all their best efforts) will be a powerful catharsis for anyone who’s felt the pain and loss that so often comes with changing friendships. —Sarah Weber
H Shout By Laurie Halse Anderson Viking $17.99, 304 pages 9780670012107 Audio, eBook available
Memoir Laurie Halse Anderson’s groundbreaking
her true (lower) social status and destroy her family, who are from the “wrong” side of the wall. Adding to the story’s tension are revolutionaries who want Dani to join their cause as a spy, gather intel on the Medio School and secretly aid the impoverished and illegal border crossers. With blackmail, clandestine meetings between Dani and the resistance, riots, a rival Segunda and more smoldering intrigue to deal with, Dani’s decisions aren’t always clear-cut. Mistrust, red herrings and plenty of twists and turns color the path as the once no-nonsense, go-with-the-flow Dani tries to find strength, passion and perhaps even love. Although this is a fantasy, Mejia’s rich world building results in plenty of scorching, believable scenes. Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, We Set the Dark on Fire burns with parallels to today’s biggest news headlines. Readers will walk away with thought-provoking questions to ponder, and the story’s ending will ignite further fascination and hopes for a series. —Angela Leeper
1999 novel, Speak, drastically changed the ways in which authors wrote about teenage characters, helping to usher in the modern young adult genre as we know it today. After Anderson’s story of a high school student reckoning with the rage and pain of her rape became a bestseller, the dark and painful parts of adolescent life were up for exploring, and the coming-of-age experience was worth writing about. Now, Anderson is breaking ground again with a memoir-in-verse that challenges categorization and the ways we’ve thought about the YA genre for the past 20 years. Anderson, now 57, begins with short glimpses into her tumultuous early childhood in upstate New York, and we quickly learn about her veteran father’s PTSD and ensuing domestic violence, which informed her 2014 novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory. But the ferociously raw, burning heart of this memoir is the recounting of her rape at the age of 13. In searing free verse, Anderson unloads decades of trauma on these pages. Although younger teens will benefit from being able to unpack and discuss many passages with an emotionally available adult, there’s good reason to believe that Shout will become popular assigned reading in classrooms around the country—especially in light of our atrocious cultural problem with rape, sexual abuse and consent. Longtime Anderson fans will appreciate this deeply personal look into how the author channeled her pain into the writing of Speak, and readers new to her work will be swept up in her
q&a | julie berry
reviews | young adult
Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Laurie Halse Anderson.
H Lovely War By Julie Berry Viking $18.99, 480 pages 9780451469939 Audio, eBook available
Historical Fiction Julie Berry, a modern master of historical fiction for young readers, follows the epic love stories of four teens in Lovely War, set against the dramatic backdrop of World War I and narrated by the Greek gods of love, war, music and death. Brits Hazel and James meet at a parish dance, and thanks to gentle intervention from Aphrodite herself, sparks fly. But James is on his way to the fighting in France, so they continue their relationship via letters. Hazel, a talented pianist, puts her future on hold to volunteer as a YMCA relief aid in France. There, she befriends Colette, a Belgian teen who lost her whole family (and her beau) during the Battle of Dinant. Colette’s grief still consumes her four years later, but when she meets Aubrey, a black American soldier with a gift for ragtime, Colette has to admit that spending time with him—singing and making music like she’s never heard before—lessens the pain. The most brutal war the world has ever seen brought these four together, but will it also tear them apart forever? While the device of using the gods as narrators could take away from the main characters for some, Berry’s superb research and attention to detail are perfectly suited to the layers of this story of love in wartime. The scenes revealing the complex web of trenches inhabited by the British soldiers, the effects of post traumatic stress disorder, and the racial injustice and brutality in the American barracks and camps are particularly excellent. Fans of Marcus Sedgwick, Lois Lowry and Elizabeth Wein will love this romantic yet unflinching look at teenagers coming of age during World War I. —Annie Metcalf
A love story of divine importance Julie Berry explores passion and destruction in Lovely War. I love a World War II novel, but it’s so refreshing to see a World War I story. And for American readers, this is far off our radars. What made you choose this time period? My grandmothers were teenage girls during WWI, so they would have been contemporaries of Hazel and the main characters in the story. I found myself thinking, now why did WWI start again? And it’s murkier, it’s more confusing. We talked about it last in high school history, and we haven’t talked about it since. I’m really drawn to stories that are less known and moments in history that we might overlook. How did you decide to weave in the mythology and have Greek gods narrate? I kept wrestling with the questions of a vantage point. How can you write about something as enormous as this war and encapsulate something of its enormity while still having an intimate relationship with one or two or three mere mortals? When you focus in on one girl, you gain intimacy into her heart and mind, but you forfeit anything she can’t see or experience. I just really wrestled with who was in a position to show how big this war actually was. I knew I wanted to tell a love story and a war story. And I thought, what if there was a way for love and war personified to tell this story? I realized, we already have love and war personified . . . and they’re lovers! My feeling is there is no Hazel or James without Aphrodite and Ares. We can’t know them unless we see them through those divine eyes—there’s no other way. My belief is that they are absolutely the creations of their divine creators. This wasn’t a stunt, so to speak. I couldn’t find Hazel until Aphrodite revealed her to me. I’m sure that changed the whole game! It was a hard book to write. I was determined that I wasn’t going to create events that didn’t really happen in the war. So to construct a story and attach it to real historical events wasn’t simple, but I absolutely felt that these gods carried it in their capable hands. They were in control, and that sounds hokey, but it’s kind of true! [Laughs] Your novels often explore how violence can upend communities and young lives in particular. With this book, did you find any fresh angles that you hadn’t previously explored? It’s funny you say that. Why do I keep writing stories where war and conflict keep happening? I’ve never lived in a war—I’m not sure why I keep going there! Maybe it’s partly because I grew up hearing about my
mom’s and dad’s experiences living through the wars. I think that there is something about a war that strips away everything you thought you knew about who you were and what was important. There’s this dramatic recalibration of priorities, both for the individual and for a community and society. I guess artistically that moment of truth really interests me, where the complacencies of life are no longer possible. The romance in Lovely War feels so universal—everyone remembers their first love. That’s a powerful topic to write about. From your lips to god’s ears—any god! [Laughs] I wanted to write a young adult novel, but the war aged everyone who was involved in it. I just found that no matter how old you were, when your life was
© TRAVIS TANNER
singular style, which melds bold honesty with fluttering moments of lyrical beauty. —Hilli Levin
touched by this war, you grew up overnight. So I wondered about how that would translate into a YA novel—this sort of sobering, aging aspect of the hardships and the horrors of the war. And ultimately, I just had to say, well, it is what it is. A lot of teens have to grow up overnight. This book is so powerful. I’m curious what you hope readers will take away from it. My hope is that I can offer characters and a story so compelling that readers will really open their hearts to them and feel those experiences in a new way. I think if we can see ourselves in the past and realize that, just like us, our forebears were doing the best they could with a really hard time, it creates a kind of empathy and a kind of healing. —Hilli Levin
feature | women’s history picture books
Paying tribute to history’s heroines Young readers will love these stories of extraordinary women who broke new ground and made the world a better place. Sure to inspire the explorers of tomorrow, Lori Mortensen’s Away with Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird (Peachtree, $17.95, 36 pages, 9781682630051, ages 6 to 10) chronicles the evolution of an intrepid 19th-century writer. Raised in the English countryside, Isabella Bird has a delicate constitution, but when her doctor prescribes fresh air and a change of scenery, the course for her future is set. Soon after, she hears news of her uncles’ travels in India and Africa, and Bird begins to dream of following in their footsteps. Eschewing the comforts of a settled existence, Bird journeys to America, Tibet and Malaysia, studying new cultures and recording all of her observations in a notebook. Over the years, she writes bestselling books based on her travels and becomes the first woman to join the Royal Geographical Society. Mortensen relates the details of Bird’s life in straightforward prose that has a poetic spark. Illustrator Kristy Caldwell’s clean, colorful depictions of faraway settings and remote locales bring wonderful immediacy to the story. The crux of this unforgettable tale is that if you can dream big and be brave, anything is possible. Gloria Takes a Stand: How Gloria Steinem Listened, Wrote, and Changed the World (Bloomsbury, $17.99, 48 pages, 9781681196763, ages 4 to 8) by Jessica M. Rinker delivers a terrific overview of the life of a feminist icon. From a young age, Steinem displays an independent streak, setting her sights on college, even though many institutions refuse to accept women in the 1950s. After graduating from Smith College, she pursues a journalism career, forging her own path and forgoing a husband and family. In 1971, with the help of a friend, she launches Ms., a magazine focusing on women’s issues, and uses her voice and position to bring momentum to the feminist movement. Through the arc of the narrative, Rinker demonstrates how courage and strength of character enabled Steinem to mature into a leader. Rinker skillfully weaves in quotes from Steinem herself (“Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”) and provides recommendations for further reading. Artist Daria Peoples-Riley renders the marches and
rallies in soft, mixed-media illustrations, and her Warhol-esque Ms. covers as the book’s endpapers give the proceedings a fun 1970s feel. Readers will find a heroine to look up to in this vivid and informative book. Suzanne Slade pays tribute to another icon—featured in the film Hidden Figures—in her fine new book, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon (Little, Brown, $18.99, 40 pages, 9780316435178, ages 4 to 8). A math prodigy from the get-go, Johnson skips grades in elementary school and begins college at the age of 15. Her remarkable talents with numbers land her a job at NASA, but because she’s a woman, she’s barred from important meetings with the organization’s male engineers. Thanks to her skills and determination, Johnson is eventually allowed to join in, and she uses her expertise to help plan space missions, including the one that will put men on the moon for the first time. Slade’s use of numbers to underscore the events in Johnson’s life adds an extra dimension to the story, while Veronica Miller Jamison’s out-of-this-world illustrations play up starry skies and math equations written on chalkboards. A Computer Called Katherine arrives just in time for the 50th anniversary of the U.S. moon landing, and this impressive title will connect readers with important STEAM subjects as well as an important role model. Another math whiz takes center stage in author and illustrator Rachel Dougherty’s Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge (Roaring Brook, $17.99, 40 pages, 9781250155320, ages 5 to 8). Growing up in 19th-century New York, Emily Roebling has an inquisitive mind. “A bright shiny spark who loved to learn,” Emily gravitates toward math and science. As a young woman, she meets her match in engineer Washington Roebling. The pair marries, and Washington immerses himself in a major undertaking: the building of a bridge that will connect Manhattan and Brooklyn. But when Washington gets sick and can no longer work, Emily steps in, learning about the science of engineering and supervising the project. Thanks to her efforts, in 1883—after almost 14 years— the Brooklyn Bridge was completed. Emily radiates confidence and a can-do attitude in Dougherty’s dynamic illustrations, which feature blueprints and other architectural items that give insights into the complex project. A helpful glossary and a bibliography supplement the tale. Youngsters will be captivated by this special story. —Julie Hale
reviews | children’s
H Top Pick: How High the Moon By Karyn Parsons Little, Brown, $16.99, 320 pages 9780316484008, eBook available Ages 9 to 12
Middle Grade “Don’t you let how nobody treats you in this world make you think that you ain’t worthy,” 12-year-old Henry’s grandfather tells him. It’s one of the many valuable lessons waiting to be discovered in Karyn Parson’s absorbing middle grade debut, How High the Moon, about a trio of African-American cousins trying to find their place in Alcolu, South Carolina, amid the turmoil of 1944 America and the Jim Crow South. Henry, 11-year-old Ella and 14-year-old Myrna all live with their Poppy and Granny. The standout narrator here is biracial Ella, who yearns to know her father’s identity and worries about the
H Another By Christian Robinson Atheneum $17.99, 56 pages 9781534421677 eBook available Ages 4 to 8
Caldecott-winning illustrator Christian Robinson makes his authorial debut in this wordless tale made for twisting and turning in young readers’ hands. As a girl sleeps in her bedroom, a mysterious portal to another plane of existence appears in the darkness. In his illustrations, Robinson plays with perspective in thrilling ways: The girl, a big smile on her face, hangs upside down out of the portal as she goes through it, using her bed sheets to lower herself down. Copious amounts of white space take the stage as she walks up and down gravity-defying stairs, ventures down a red hill filled with multicolored dots and crosses a rainbow-colored conveyor belt. Eventually, she sees that other children are there making mischief and playing with their other-dimensional twins. The girl takes this whole trip joyfully and, once home, goes back to sleep with a smile. Robinson uses simple shapes—the oval of
colorism she experiences as a result of her light skin tone. Ella soon joins her mother in Boston, where she’s working in the Naval Yard as a shipfitter while trying to make it as a jazz singer. Ella is excited by the prospect of living with her mom, and she’s eager because “Up there, colored folks could go anywhere they wanted.” Parsons sensitively tackles important issues by weaving in real historical figures and details throughout this story. For example, Myrna has a crush on George Stinney, the 14-year-old African-American boy who was executed in Alcolu after being wrongfully
the portal, the triangle of the girl’s dress, the small squares of the stairs—to tell this multilayered, mind-blowing and truly out-of-thisworld adventure. Was the girl dreaming? A small twist on the final page will leave readers wondering. —Julie Danielson
Far Away By Lisa Graff Philomel $16.99, 272 pages 9781524738594 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12
Middle Grade National Book Award nominee Lisa Graff (A Tangle of Knots) deftly captures that brief moment in childhood when you’re young enough to believe in magic while also coping with very real, serious life concerns in her latest novel, Far Away, about a girl must decide what to believe in—and whom to trust. CJ Ames has been on the road for pretty much all of her 12 years. She’s traveled to all 48 contiguous states on a huge tour bus with her Aunt Nic, who has developed a growing reputation as a medium. Nic’s ability to communicate with the spirit world comes in handy for CJ
convicted in the murder of two young white girls. You may recognize Parsons as the actress who portrayed Hilary Banks opposite Will Smith on the 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” but with How High the Moon, she proves her talent as an author, adroitly packing plenty of plot, characterization and feeling into this story. Begging worthy comparisons to One Crazy Summer and Brown Girl Dreaming, How High the Moon heralds an exciting new voice in historical fiction for young readers. —Alice Cary
Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Karyn Parsons.
since her mother, Aunt Nic’s sister, died when CJ was a newborn. Fortunately for CJ, she’s been able to maintain a closeness with her mother thanks to Aunt Nic’s gifts. But when Aunt Nic reveals that her mother is being drawn “Far Away” and will no longer be able to communicate with the living, CJ is distraught. Along with a new friend, she follows a series of mysterious signs that, she hopes, will help her find a tether that can draw her mother’s spirit back to her. But what she finds is something even more profound—and more devastating. Far Away is a novel about learning to appreciate the truth, even when it’s not pretty, and knowing when to trust in portents—and when to trust the knowledge in your own heart. —Norah Piehl
H The Moon Within By Aida Salazar Arthur A. Levine $17.99, 240 pages 9781338283372 eBook available Ages 8 to 12
Middle Grade Debut author Aida Salazar’s The Moon Within is an important coming-of-age tale of a girl learning about
reviews | children’s her changing body and all of the questions and revelations that come along with it. Celi Rivera is a mixed-race girl with black, Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage, and she’s on the brink of womanhood. She’s dealing with her first attraction to a boy, her best friend’s questions about gender identity and, most infuriatingly, her mother’s insistence that she participate in a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. Celi prefers to keep her journey private, but her mother can’t understand why Celi doesn’t want to celebrate these exciting changes with her community. Soon, a rift forms between mother and daughter, but can the two find some common ground and mark this event in a way that honors both of their wishes? Salazar’s use of verse in this story adds a layer of raw emotion and honesty that makes the reading experience all the more poignant. The Moon Within is both unique and universal, relatable to women and girls everywhere and singular in its context within Latinx culture. Salazar handles this story with beauty and grace, giving young girls a picture of what it
means to stand in your own power and reclaim your own story. —Hannah Lamb
Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles By Thomas Lennon Illustrated by John Hendrix
Amulet $17.99, 272 pages 9781419734915 eBook available Ages 10 to 14
Middle Grade Actor Thomas Lennon—who has appeared in TV’s “Reno 911!” and films such as Memento—and acclaimed illustrator John
meet ANDY RASH
Hendrix (The Faithful Spy) have teamed up for a rollicking new fantasy adventure series. Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles follows 14-year-old Ronan, a new recruit in a secret unit of the Irish police focused on the crimes of leprechauns. Ronan’s parents have been jailed for theft, but Ronan is convinced they were framed by the faerie folk. Overcoming his own shortcomings (severe food allergies, social awkwardness), Ronan sets out to prove his parents are indeed the innocent, bookish curators they claim to be. Humor wins out over drama here, and Hendrix’s detailed maps and full-page illustrations of Ronan’s exploits contribute to the tongue-incheek nature of the tale. Footnotes that define Irish terms also add to the hilarity, but along with its high spirits and high jinks, Lennon’s debut novel is clearly rooted in an authentic love and appreciation of his Irish heritage. And best of all? Ronan survives to win a promotion just in time for his next adventure, which is sure to delight fantasy fans eager for a new hero. —Deborah Hopkinson
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A happy little camper and a happy, land-dwelling clam discover a whole world of feelings in Andy Rash’s The Happy Book (Viking, $17.99, 40 pages, 9780451471253, ages 3 to 7). Rash’s previous books include Archie the Daredevil Penguin and Are You a Horse?, and his illustrations have appeared in publications such as The New Yorker. He lives in Milwaukee with his family.
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