DISCOVER YOUR NEXT GREAT BOOK
MIRACLE CREEK Secrets ignite in Angie Kim’s debut novel, a courtroom thriller with a heart of gold.
Heather B. Armstrong’s achingly honest memoir of depression
features 9 13
Heather B. Armstrong Rebooting her brain to save her life
Mother’s Day Reflections on maternity
Novels of mothers and daughters Secrets revealed and secrets kept
Thomas Lockley The astonishing true story of African Samurai
Malaka Gharib Meet the author-illustrator of I Was Their American Dream
24 13 13
27 YOUNG ADULT top pick: We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra
Untold American history San Francisco’s dark past
31 CHILDREN’S top pick: Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange
LGBTQ stories Coming-of-age while out and proud
Julie Buxbaum The shadow of 9/11
Seaside picture books Four vacation-ready reads
Carter Goodrich Meet the author-illustrator of Nobody Hugs a Cactus
31 13 13
PRESIDENT & FOUNDER Michael A. Zibart
ASSOCIATE EDITOR Christy Lynch
CONTRIBUTOR Roger Bishop
MARKETING Mary Claire Zibart
PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Trisha Ping
ASSISTANT EDITOR Hilli Levin
PRODUCTION MANAGER Penny Childress
ASSISTANT EDITOR Savanna Walker
OPERATIONS DIRECTOR Elizabeth Grace Herbert
DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC MARKETING Stephanie Koehler
CHILDREN’S BOOKS Allison Hammond
ADVERTISING OPERATIONS Sada Stipe
DEPUTY EDITOR Cat Acree
14 A tragic explosion rocks a rural town in Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek
Graduation gifts Road maps for what lies ahead
CONTROLLER Sharon Kozy
B O O K P A G E · 2 1 4 3 B E L C O U R T AV E N U E · N A S H V I L L E , T N 3 7 2 1 2
book reviews 18 FICTION top pick: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips 23 NONFICTION top pick: Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer
columns 4 5 5 6 7 8 9
Audio Lifestyles Romance Whodunit Book Clubs The Hold List Well Read
EDITORIAL POLICY BookPage is a selection guide for new books. Our editors evaluate and select for review the best books published in a variety of categories. BookPage is editorially independent; only books we highly recommend are featured. ADVERTISING To advertise in print, online or in our e-newsletters, visit BookPage.com or call 615.292.8926, ext. 37.
SUBSCRIPTIONS Public libraries and bookstores can subscribe to BookPage in quantities for their patrons. Subscription information for libraries, bookstores and individuals is available at bookpage.com/subscriptions. BookPage is also available on Kindle or NOOK. All material © 2019 ProMotion, inc.
B O O K PA G E . C O M
by anna zeitlin
LISTENING READ BY GEORGE NEWBERN
“What a treat. Glamorous and nostalgic and very sexy... Brilliantly unsettling.” —Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train
READ BY ORLAGH CASSIDY
“Sarah Blake is such a beautiful writer; she can make any world shimmer.” —Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife
READ BY GEORGE NEWBERN, WITH AN INTRODUCTION READ BY RICK ATKINSON From the bestselling author of the Liberation Trilogy comes the extraordinary first volume of his new trilogy about the American Revolution
READ BY KATHLEEN M C INERNEY “This entertaining narration by Kathleen McInerney...captures the story’s colorful characters.” —AudioFile on The High Tide Club
READ BY SASKIA MAARLEVELD AND GABRA ZACKMAN “Pulse-pounding action makes you race to the finish of this addictive thriller.” —Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
AVAI L AB L E F R O M
M AC M I L L A N A U D I O
Mitchell S. Jackson (The Residue Years) is a stunning writer, and his personal memoir, Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (Simon & Schuster Audio, 13.5 hours), ties his experience of growing up in Portland, Oregon, to the stories of his family members and to the larger black experience throughout American history. None of the challenges his family faced are isolated events; they are all part of a bigger picture, wrapped up in history, tradition and laws trenched in racism. For example, he begins a section on his mom’s drug problems by taking us through the entire history of cocaine. Jackson does a beautiful job connecting all the puzzle pieces, and his rhythmic, poetic narration enhances the written word and demonstrates his mastery of language. Yes, it’s a personal memoir, but it tells a much larger story. Aimee Sinclair is a London-based actress who is wrapping up a film shoot when her husband goes missing. The police find it suspicious when she continues to live her life as if nothing has happened, and she quickly becomes the primary suspect. But Aimee has a complicated past: She was kidnapped as a child. I Know Who You Are (Macmillan Audio, 10 hours) splits the narrative between her experience with her kidnappers and the current day, when her life is once again unraveling around her. Aimee has killed before, but she doesn’t understand how she could possibly be responsible this time. Maybe she’s going crazy. Alice Feeney’s latest thriller is a compelling listen that had me on the edge of my seat to the very end. Narrator Stephanie Racine deftly portrays characters from a variety of regions and classes across the U.K. and Ireland. She shines in this first-person narration, capturing Aimee’s self-doubt, worry and determination. In Too Much Is Not Enough: A Memoir of Fumbling Toward Adulthood (Random House Audio, 7 hours), theater and TV star Andrew Rannells recounts his life and career from his first audition as a young boy to his first role on Broadway in his late 20s. From dinner theater in Nebraska to summer stock theater and finally Broadway, he tracks his career through a series of humorous and touching vignettes. A misguided tip to drop off his headshot at every stage door on Broadway surprisingly leads to his first Broadway audition. He shares lessons learned from failed romances, and you won’t believe which rock star he met in full Star Trek regalia during “kink night” at the bar. As a narrator, Rannells lets his peppy personality shine as he dishes about bad acting experiences and stooping to playing a stereotype in the musical adaptation of a children’s cartoon. This audiobook is a must-listen for fans of musical theater.
Anna Zeitlin is an art curator and hat maker who fills her hours with a steady stream of audiobooks.
by susannah felts
Top Pick What good can’t a walk do you—especially with the perfect sidekick? The beautifully designed Afoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking (Clarkson Potter, $14.99, 224 pages, 9780525574811), a combination of journal and quote compendium, is just that. Each of the book’s six sections—Sense of Place, Well-Being, Attention, Exploration, Devotion and Transcendence—helps you attain the benefits of walking in a different way. Each features thoughtful prompts for filling the blank pages and a wealth of passages from diverse literary and philosophical texts. Author and Belmont University professor Bonnie Smith Whitehouse brings a deep knowledge to this endeavor, so even if you never pen a word on these pages, you’ll be wiser just having perused them. Should you wish to track down the books, poems and essays she draws from, “For Further Reading” at the back of the book is a fine place to start. I’d like to give a copy of this smart, fetching book to everyone I know. A cookbook is a popular wedding present, so why not gift one specifically written for a new duo? The Newlywed Table: A Cookbook to Start Your Life Together (Artisan, $29.95, 304 pages, 9781579657987) makes the brilliant assumption that both spouses will be getting their hands dirty at mealtime: “Let’s do away with any notions of who should be responsible for cooking and start with a clean slate,” writes author Maria Zizka. “You’re in this together. You’re a team.” This solid, basic guide is full of modern recipes with origins in diverse culinary traditions. A section on “Common Cooking Issues and How to Fix Them” is a godsend. And there’s a recipe for Chocolate Toast. Um, hello. Newlywed I am not, but my husband of 13 years and I will find much to work with here. “Perhaps we have reached peak distraction,” Rob Walker writes in the introduction to The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday (Knopf, $22.95, 256 pages, 9780525521242). “Attention panic” is another term he uses to describe this modern crisis. In this ingenious book, Walker compiles 131 specific ways to restore our capacity for attention. These activities are designed to employ the senses strategically: look with the eyes of a child or historian; listen selectively; create sound maps and inventories of objects around you. Some of these exercises are more surprising than others, as Walker draws from his own experience teaching at the School of Visual Arts as well as research on artists, designers, writers and entertainers. One of my favorites? A prompt from cartoonist Lynda Barry. What do you notice and why? It matters, and you can control it, and this book will show you how.
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.
by christie ridgway
Top Pick Something very special happens within the pages of Red, White & Royal Blue (St. Martin’s Griffin, $16.99, 432 pages, 9781250316776), Casey McQuiston’s dazzling debut. What begins as an irreverent chronicle of the first female president’s reelection year through the eyes of Alex Claremont-Diaz, the FSOTUS (first son of the United States) becomes an account of the love story of said FSOTUS and England’s Henry, Prince of Wales. This modern fairy tale unfolds in a gossipy, insider tone until emotion takes over and McQuiston gives us an aching glimpse of what it is to want someone you believe you cannot have. Yes, Red, White & Royal Blue is funny and fun, and the family and political dynamics feel spot-on, but it’s the frank and unforgettable romance between these two young men that will compel readers to start it all over again when faced with the last page. It’s that hard to say goodbye to this couple. Helen Hoang introduces a unique and delightful couple in The Bride Test (Berkley, $15, 320 pages, 9780451490827). In Vietnam, struggling single mom Esme Tran meets a woman who presents an intriguing proposal: spend a summer in California to see if she’ll suit the stranger’s handsome, successful son. It’s a risk, but Esme is willing to take a chance at a new life. Her intended, Khai Diep, is a mystery to her, and the autistic Khai finds his potential bride just as difficult to understand. As the two come to know each other, feelings between them grow— the very feelings Khai is convinced his autism precludes. This emotional courtship-of-convenience story has a fantastic sense of humor and a stellar cast of sidekicks, but it’s the exploration of the inner life of quiet, contained Khai and the insecurities and determination of Esme that set it apart. Two words sum up this romance: just lovely. The suspense is high-octane and the sexual chemistry explosive in Every Last Breath (Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, 448 pages, 9781492686088) by Juno Rushdan. Covert government operative Maddox Kinkade takes on her latest mission with her usual zeal, but the civilian she’s tasked to recruit turns out to be her first love, Cole Matthews, whom she thought for years was dead. The two must set aside their former relationship and all the recriminations that go with it as they partner to stop a lethal world threat. The detailed plans and gritty action are authentic and exciting, and scenes from the point of view of a villain bent on vengeance add more chill to Rushdan’s already thrilling plot. Readers will feel immersed in the action as this fastpaced story rockets to a satisfying conclusion that still leaves questions for future entries in the series. Buckle up for this romantic thrill ride!
Christie Ridgway is a lifelong romance reader and a published romance novelist of over 60 books.
by bruce tierney
Jeffery Deaver already has two major suspense series to his credit, and now he’s starting another with The Never Game (Putnam, $28, 416 pages, 9780525535942), which features arguably the most unusual protagonist of his career thus far: itinerant reward seeker Colter Shaw. An expert tracker thanks to his survivalist father, Shaw travels the U.S. in a Winnebago in search of missing persons. In Berkeley, California, he undertakes an investigation into the disappearance of a teenage girl, a case the local authorities are treating as a simple runaway. It turns out to be anything but. The search leads Shaw to team up with a young female gamer, and it begins to dawn on them that the disappearance bears a striking resemblance to level one of a popular internet survival game called “The Whispering Man.” When a second disappearance occurs, their suspicions seem to be confirmed, except now the unidentified perpetrator has ramped up the difficulty level with an altogether more dangerous and potentially lethal set of outcomes. I would characterize Deaver’s previous novels as mysteries, but The Never Game occupies thriller territory, and it has film adaptation written all over it. Young Carline Darcy appeared to have it all. Presumptive heir to Darcy Therapeutics, the largest pharmaceutical company in Ireland, by all rights she should have lived a charmed life. But early on, it all went sideways. First, there was her parents’ vitriolic divorce, fueled largely by her selfish and vindictive mother. Then her father was killed in a skiing accident, forcing her to live out her teen years with the unfeeling mother she had rarely seen over the course of her childhood. This personal history comprises the first chapter of Dervla McTiernan’s The Scholar (Penguin, $16, 384 pages, 9780143133698), setting the stage for what’s to come. Fast-forward eight years, and Carline is a university student and researcher. One evening when Darcy Therapeutics medical researcher Emma Sweeney is returning home, she comes upon the dead body of a young woman, the apparent victim of a hit-and-run. Emma summons her boyfriend, Detective Cormac Reilly, to the scene. They are shocked to discover that the ID card carried by the corpse identifies her as Carline Darcy. And if they are shocked, it doesn’t hold a candle to the media frenzy about to be set loose. As the evidence mounts, it becomes increasingly clear that there is involvement on the part of Darcy Therapeutics and perhaps even Emma, whose “discovery” of the body is entirely too convenient for some people to swallow. Cormac must walk the fine line between loyalty to his lover and loyalty to the force, a path liberally strewn with land mines by the fiendishly clever McTiernan. “Stone mothers” was a Victorian epithet for mental institutions, implying that within their stone walls help and nurturing could be found for those in need. In reality, of course, the opposite was often true. Stone Mothers (Minotaur, $26.99, 368 pages, 9781250113719) is also the title of Erin Kelly’s latest thriller, set in and around a nowclosed mental institution in the remote fictional town of Nusstead, England. Marianne Thackeray is no stranger to mental illness–her mother suffers from dementia, and her daughter hovers on the brink of mental instability as well. Marianne grew up in the shadow of Nazareth Mental Hospital, but she left some 30 years ago and made a good life for herself and her family. Now she is being dragged back to the town she escaped, first to assist her mother, then (rather more ominously) as a blackmail victim for a long-ago act that she thought would never again see the light of day. Before long, a former lover will become an enemy, a former enemy will become an unlikely ally, and the reader will be exposed to institutional horrors that make One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest look as inviting as Disneyland. It’s disturbing to the max, but hey, that’s what we read thrillers for, right?
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 It’s Christmastime in the U.K., and all the cops are hoping that maybe this will be the year they’ll get to spend the holidays with their families. It is not to be. “Everything is slack, unurgent. It all smacks of too late,” one of the detectives muses as they pull up to the crime scene. Someone at the scene comments, “She’s been more than killed. She’s more than dead.” And it was then, a scant 17 pages in, when I realized that I would not be putting this book down until I had reached the end. The detectives at the center of Patrick McGuinness’ Throw Me to the Wolves (Bloomsbury, $27, 336 pages, 9781620401514), narrator Ander and his partner Gary, could scarcely be more unalike. Ander is sensitive and introspective, while Gary is a throwback to an earlier time, when beating a suspect or drinking on the job, while not publicly condoned, was not privately condemned either. The suspect is a retired boarding school teacher, someone Ander knew from his school days a lifetime ago, a man seemingly incapable of such a heinous killing. Thus, two parallel narratives emerge, one about the investigation of the murder and a second about events of times long past. McGuinness delves into current events (Brexit, et al.) and lobs numerous digs at the tabloid media, all while delivering a first-rate whodunit. It’s only May, but Throw Me to the Wolves looks like a strong candidate for mystery of the year. Or any year.
by julie hale
Top Pick Sheila Heti’s brave, unflinching novel Motherhood (Picador, $18, 304 pages, 9781250214782) tells the story of one woman’s indecision about having children. The book’s unnamed narrator, a writer approaching the age of 40, is surrounded by friends who are starting families. She lives in Toronto with Miles, her boyfriend, who has a daughter from another relationship. In the midst of this domesticity, she’s plagued by uncertainty about reproducing. She’s honest about her ambivalence but fearful that she’ll one day regret not having kids of her own. Heti combines poignant first-person storytelling with a compassionate consideration of the traditions and implications of motherhood. The novel is a rich meditation on society’s expectations, personal agency and the evolving roles of women. Selected as a best book of 2018 by the New York Times and NPR, this provocative novel is sure to resonate with female readers, regardless of parental status.
BOOK CLUB READS FOR SPR ING BY INVITATION ONLY by Dorothea Benton Frank
“If I could only read one writer from now until the end of my life, it would be Dorothea Benton Frank.” —ELIN HILDEBRAND, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Perfect Couple
THE WONDER OF LOST CAUSES by Nick Trout
“If you cried at the end of Marley and Me, if you appreciated A Dog’s Purpose, you’ll love the wonders found within the pages of this heartwarming story.” —JAMES ROLLINS, New York Times Bestselling Author
YOU, ME, AND THE SEA Transcription by Kate Atkinson Back Bay, $16.99, 368 pages, 9780316176668 Enlisted by England’s MI5 at the age of 18, Juliet Armstrong becomes enmeshed in a web of espionage and betrayal that will haunt her for a lifetime in Atkinson’s thrilling World War II novel.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner Scribner, $17, 352 pages, 9781476756585 When Romy Hall kills her stalker, she gets slapped with two life sentences. The story of her transition to life in a California correctional facility makes for a riveting read in Kushner’s latest novel.
Severance by Ling Ma Picador, $17, 304 pages, 9781250214997 In Ma’s haunting, satirical take on the apocalypse, a young ChineseAmerican woman continues to live and work in Manhattan despite a fever that spreads across the globe and turns victims into zombies.
There There by Tommy Orange Vintage, $16, 304 pages, 9780525436140 Orange’s impressive debut chronicles the struggles and triumphs of 12 Native American characters in California, offering a complex, compelling look at contemporary Native life.
A BookPage reviewer since 2003, Julie Hale selects the best new paperback releases for book clubs every month.
by Meg Donohue
“An enchanting and imaginative story about soulmates, family, and forgiveness…I was swept away by this evocative modern take on Wuthering Heights.” —ELISE HOOPER, Author of Learning to See
by Bridget Collins “A rich, gothic entertainment that explores what books have trapped inside them and reminds us of the power of storytelling. Spellbinding.” —TRACY CHEVALIER, New York Times Bestselling Author
f William Morrow I Book Club Girl
the hold list: books on a plane Each month, the editors of BookPage share special reading lists—our personal favorites, old and new. Whether you’re traveling for a graduation, wedding season or summer vacation, you’re going to need a good book on that plane, train or automobile. These five books will help while away the hours to your destination (and through any delays in between). Bon voyage!
Outlander By Diana Gabaldon If you haven’t heard of Outlander (how’s the weather under that rock?), a brief synopsis— a forward-thinking World War II nurse accidentally travels back in time to 1743 and falls in love with dashing highlander Jamie Fraser. Much of the press for Outlander has focused on the central romance, which, while wonderful, isn’t the only selling point. Gabaldon has a knack for making period detail as enthralling as her central couple, and she brings the harsh politics and rural beauty of Scotland to vivid life. Also, Outlander clocks in at 850 pages, as Gabaldon never encountered a chapter-long diversion she didn’t take. You’ll have no shortage of historical shenanigans and dramatics to entertain you during your travels. —Savanna, Assistant Editor
Magic for Beginners
A Gentleman in Moscow
The Woman in White
Choose Your Own Disaster
By Amor Towles
By Wilkie Collins
By Dana Schwartz
By Kelly Link
Of the many embarrassing things I could admit about myself, at the top of the list is the fact that I’ve never read Towles’ masterpiece about a Russian aristocrat who is sentenced by the Soviets to house arrest in a grand Moscow hotel. I reserve long flights for such blind spots in my reading history, and the time has come for Towles’ stylish, charming bestseller, which is (finally!) out in paperback. His imprisoned hero, Count Rostov, is the perfect traveling companion—witty, gentlemanly, philosophical, passionate about food, never lonely (thanks to the hotel’s other denizens) and, most importantly, confined to a limited setting, much like a reader suffering the indignities of the middle seat. —Cat, Deputy Editor
Tired of being let down by wildly hyped thrillers? Let me direct you to the granddaddy of them all: The Woman in White. While Collins’ tale of an asylum escapee and the conspiracy surrounding her was an honest-togod phenomenon upon its release in 1859, I’ll confess I doubted I’d be entertained when I first picked it up. But within a few chapters, The Woman in White was all I cared to think about, and it made an hours-long train ride seem too short. Wildly entertaining and blessed with one of the most uncomfortably likable yet still diabolical villains in literature, The Woman in White is also a searing critique of institutional sexism and a moving depiction of female solidarity. —Savanna, Assistant Editor
If you’re like me, you could happily spend a long flight taking “Which Disney Princess’ Favorite Hogwarts House-Inspired Ice Cream Flavor Are You?” quizzes online. However, if you’re (also like me) too cheap to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi, Schwartz’s Choose Your Own Disaster is the perfect low-tech substitute. Part memoir, part personality quiz, this book is fun to read without sacrificing any of the honesty or humor you crave from a memoir. Schwartz takes readers on an unflinching tour of her own personal disasters (Locked in a coffin by her lawyer boyfriend? Check.), and since the book is laid out like a Choose Your Own Adventure story, you can read through it multiple times with different results. —Christy, Associate Editor
With the beverage carts, moments of turbulence and general feelings of discomfort that come with being confined to what’s basically a tin can hurtling through the sky, it can sometimes be tough to focus on a big, juicy novel—or much of anything. If you’ve found yourself needing to abandon your chosen read because of these tiny papercuts, then a collection of short stories might be just the ticket. I have sky-tested Link’s fantastical 2005 collection, and I can vouch for the fact that it’s perfectly suited to being consumed in short bursts. Page around as much as you like, but these dreamlike and twisted fairy tales will stick with you well after you exit baggage claim. Just don’t skip “The Faery Handbag”! —Hilli, Assistant Editor
well read | by robert weibezahl
feature | graduation
Becoming Dr. Seuss
Great gifts for grads
Brian Jay Jones offers a richly detailed, admiring biography of Theodor Geisel, the man whom children and adults the world over would come to love as Dr. Seuss.
Got a graduate in your life? Give the priceless gift of wisdom with one of these four books.
Is there anyone who doesn’t like Dr. Seuss? There may be a few grinches out there, but for the rest of us, his children’s classics never fail to evoke some blend of delight, amusement, wonder and nostalgia. However, nearly 30 years after his death, few people may know the story of the sui generis illustrator and writer whose real name was Theodor Geisel. Brian Jay Jones’ capacious new biography, Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination (Dutton, $32, 496 pages, 9781524742782), provides a meticulously detailed yet thoroughly engaging look at the life and artistry of this American original. Jones, who has previously written biographies of George Lucas and Jim Henson, gives the full measure of the imaginative man who, from childhood, “turned minnows into whales.” Geisel was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of a German-American brewer who was prosperous until Prohibition destroyed the family business. At Dartmouth, Geisel found his true calling working on the university’s humor magazine. An ill-advised stint at Oxford did not secure him a graduate degree, but it did introduce Geisel to fellow American student Helen Palmer, who became his first wife and invaluable, albeit uncredited, collaborator. After Oxford, with dreams of writing the Great American Novel, Geisel tried the Jazz Age bohemian life.
(He frequented the same Parisian cafe as Hemingway but never had the nerve to speak to him.) Back in New York, Palmer convinced Geisel to concentrate on his true talents: humor, illustration and cartooning. The man who would give us Horton and the Cat in the Hat first hit it big in advertising, drawing humorous ad campaigns for such pedestrian products as mosquito repellent and motor oil. The work was lucrative, if unfulfilling, and Geisel flexed his creative muscles with cartoons, both topical and, during World War II, political. But still, he hankered to write children’s books. Considerable persistence and a stroke of luck led to the publication of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937. While fame (and book sales) were slow, Dr. Seuss had arrived. Becoming Dr. Seuss chronicles Geisel’s wholly creative, if not particularly scandalous, life but doesn’t shy away from darker aspects—particularly Palmer’s suicide, which may have been tied to Geisel’s affair with Audrey Dimond, who became his second wife, or Geisel’s lifelong wish to be taken more seriously as an artist rather than a “mere” children’s author. Overall, Jones paints a loving portrait filled with telling details. And when the 82-year-old Geisel returned to Springfield to find the real-life Mulberry Street lined with hundreds of cheering schoolchildren, it’s hard to imagine even the most hardened grinch’s heart failing to grow at least three sizes.
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.
With plenty of observations on success, love and health, The Algebra of Happiness (Portfolio, $21, 256 pages, 9780593084199) offers concise, invaluable lessons on how to create a joy-filled life. Author and NYU professor Scott Galloway gives glimpses into his own experiences, like how he was initially rejected from UCLA but later wrote the admissions office, got accepted and then ended up founding nine firms and being named one of the “World’s 50 Best Business School Professors.” But that kind of success isn’t everything: “In the end,” Galloway concludes, “relationships are all that matter.” For more on living well, you can’t go wrong with The Atlas of Happiness (Running Press, $22, 288 pages, 9780762467877). Expanding on the hygge craze, happiness researcher Helen Russell takes readers on a world tour, presenting “a catalog of cultural customs” on living well. This attractive, intriguing book—chock-full of colorful illustrations and breezy, informative essays—will be enjoyed by all, young or old. Those who are college-bound may want to put How to College (St. Martin’s, $16.99, 304 pages, 9781250225184) at the top of their summer reading list. This no-nonsense, comprehensive guide covers everything from term papers to roommates and on-campus health care. Author and professor Andrea Malkin Brenner knows the nitty-gritty, having created American University’s first-year experience course. This book is well-organized and packed with tips, illustrated charts and useful exercises. The way to a college student’s heart is often through their stomach, and at some point cafeteria food is bound to get tiresome. Katie Sullivan Morford’s Prep (Roost, $18.95, 192 pages, 9781611806106) is the perfect antidote, filled with plenty of basics and crystalclear instructions. Recipes include dishes like Spicy Sweet Potato Rounds and Mix-in-the-Pan Applesauce Cake (with frosting!), while other chapters cover topics like “Fix a Killer Plate of Pasta” and “Turn a Pot of Beans Into a Meal.” This is a wonderful crash course in Cooking 101. —Alice Cary
“I didn’t realize how amazing it is to get help.”
© ANGELA MONSON
interview | heather b. armstrong
We’re all familiar with the concept of a reboot, whether it’s a finicky computer, a TV show that trades in nostalgia or a health-centric resolve to start fresh. Heather B. Armstrong took the reboot concept many, many steps further in a bid to save her own life. As Armstrong explains in The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live, she recently took part in an experimental medical treatment in which doctors put her in a coma akin to brain death 10 times—a series of reboots meant to calm her brain activity and offer relief from severe depression. We’ll go ahead and confirm that Armstrong is no longer in crisis. Rather, she’s in advocate mode. As she says during a call to her Utah home, “As much as I want [this book] to help people suffering from depression, I also really want to reach people who don’t understand it.” She adds, “If I can offer the slightest glimpse of where our brains go, that’s what I want this book to accomplish.” Armstrong’s wildly popular blog, Dooce.com, celebrated its 18th anniversary in February. Around that time, Armstrong also recorded the audiobook of The Valedictorian of Being Dead. “It was such an emotional experience to read it out loud . . . and really brutal. Who wrote this?” she says with a laugh. There is a sort of beautiful brutality in Armstrong’s memoir, to be sure. She writes movingly, and often with dark humor, about the 18 months of psychic pain that led her to the medical trial: “Even though I wanted to be dead, I needed to get my kids to piano practice the following night. If I died, they would be late.” That determination to survive her illness while being present and strong for her kids was a struggle that routinely drained her and left her screaming and sobbing in countless phone calls to her ever-supportive mother. “My mother has given so much to all of us,” Armstrong says. “She always picks up the phone, is always empathetic and just so giving.”
But despite Armstrong’s loving relationship with her kids and family, nothing was working. She felt as if her body was “an upright corpse.” She also feared that her ex-husband, who “intended to take away my kids in 2014,” would do so again if she admitted she was suffering so badly. Her psychiatrist insisted she get help despite these concerns and told her about the study that would change her life. In it, the patient is given IV anesthesia three times a week for 10 sessions. “The study is designed to determine if ‘burst suppression’—quieting the brain’s electrical activity—can alleviate the symptoms of depression,” Armstrong writes. She chronicles her journey in fascinating detail, from her eerie experiences after emerging from “the abyss” to an astonishing 10-day bout of constipation, an unfortunate side effect of the drugs. She also includes her parents’ and siblings’ perspectives, as well as the profound experience of the treatment itself. As on her blog, her writing feels off the cuff, by turns moving and irreverent, always conveying gratitude for the help she received from her family and the medical team. Such gratitude wasn’t new for Armstrong, but asking for help and allowing herself to receive it was. After all, the book’s title refers to her urge to be the valedictorian of everything since childhood, when she became a high achiever to feel some control over a tumultuous family life. “I was going to be the best,” she says. “I show up and perform; you can always count on me to get the job done. In the process, part of my soul is really hurting.” And so, learning to accept help from her mother and stepfather (who drove her to and from every appointment) “did feel self-
The Valedictorian of Being Dead Gallery, $26, 272 pages 9781501197048, audio, eBook available
Memoir ish—this time I took away from my parents. For me, needing anything is being super-selfish.” Throughout The Valedictorian of Being Dead, Armstrong pays a visit to her past. She writes of the legacy of depression that has been passed down from her great-grandmother, who was institutionalized for her mental illness. And she casts fresh eyes on her triggers, from issues with food to toxic relationships to unresolved emotional pain. “It’s something I’m very hyperaware of, getting into situations that will trigger anxiety and depression,” she says. “It’s surrounding myself with nontoxic relationships or being able to call my mother and say, I can’t drive the kids this week. I have to go against a lot of my personality—I don’t ask for help, I have to do it all myself—and go into uncomfortable places. But I didn’t realize how amazing it is to get help.” Armstrong hopes to spread awareness about depression and the potential of this new treatment approach via The Valedictorian of Being Dead (which includes an afterword by study creator Dr. Brian Mickey) and her upcoming book tour. “[I wish] people could understand that depression is an illness,” she says. “It has really detrimental effects on how we process and see the world. I want this book to be successful in the sense of reaching as many people as I can. I really feel like it’s the most important thing I’ve done.” —Linda M. Castellitto
A story of sisterhood, secrets, and survival. Don’t miss this richly told debut from Juliet Grames!
“Like listening to the rollicking stories of your Italian grandmother— full of memorable characters and speckled with fascinating bits of history. This is a fantastic and timely family story.” —Jessica Shattuck “This quintessential American immigrant story feels important right now, and I highly recommend it.” —Lisa See
Enter for a chance to win a copy of
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna as well as a collection of new novels from Ecco! To enter, visit www.BookPage.com/Contests
On Sale May 7, 2019
Available in hardcover, ebook, and digital audio
www.JulietGrames.com tI: @julietgrames
The Stella Fortuna BookPage Sweepstakes is sponsored by HarperCollins Publishers, 195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007. Must be legal U.S. resident 18 or over. Sweepstakes begins 5/1/19 at 12:01am and ends on 6/15/19 at 11:59pm. Offer void outside the U.S. and wherever prohibited or restricted by law. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. For more information and Official Rules visit http://bookpage.com/contests
feature | mother’s day
The fine art of parenting while female The connection we share with our mothers—and/or the state of being a mother ourselves— can range from loving and reverential to difficult and draining. No matter how you feel about motherhood, these books offer insight for all. In his compelling memoir, Mama’s Boy: A Story of Our Americas (Knopf, $27.95, 416 pages, 9781524733278), Dustin Lance Black, writer of the Oscar-winning screenplay Milk, chronicles the life of his brave, determined mother, Anne, and the evolution of their relationship. Anne was born into a family of poor Louisiana sharecroppers and was paralyzed by polio as a child, yet she went on to have a fulfilling career and marry three times. She brought up Black and his two brothers in a Mormon household, which led to friction as Black came of age in the 1980s, grappling with his identity and concealing his sexual orientation from Anne and the rest of his family. But as he entered film school and became involved in the gay marriage movement, he and Anne discovered common ground. The story he tells is one of perseverance, acceptance and, ultimately, hope. “If my mom and I could find the bridges between us, then perhaps our neighbors and those closest to us could too,” he writes. “Perhaps we could live on a higher plane than politics.” A group of today’s leading authors explore freighted family bonds in What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence (Simon & Schuster, $26, 288 pages, 9781982107345). Assembled by Michele Filgate, a contributing editor at Literary Hub, this stirring collection of essays offers diverse takes on the ties that bind mother and child. In “Her Body/ My Body,” Nayomi Munaweera recalls growing up in a family that, due to her unstable mother, was filled with upheaval and violence. André Aciman shares poignant memories of his deaf mother in “Can You Hear Me?” Filgate, in the book’s powerful title essay, writes about the stepfather who abused her and how his actions affected her mother. Other contributors include Alexander Chee, Carmen Maria Machado and Kiese Laymon. Readers seeking to make sense of their own family histories will find much to savor in these eloquent, insightful essays. The incomparable Anna Quindlen explores a modified form of motherhood in her delightful new memoir, Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting (Random House, $26, 176 pages, 9780812996104). With the arrival of little Arthur, the child of her eldest son, Quindlen writes, “I became something different than I’d ever been before.” As a grandmother, she finds fresh use for her maternal skills and works to redefine her place in the family, a process that proves at times to be bittersweet. “We were mother and father, most of us, before we became grandmother and grandfather,” she writes. “And because of that it is
sometimes hard to accept that we have been pushed slightly to the perimeter.” Along with sharing episodes from her time as a newly minted nana, she contemplates developments in childrearing and reflects on her own past as a mom. Quindlen puts her stamp on topics that are timeless, and her faithful followers will welcome this revealing, beautifully crafted account of family life. Journalist Dani McClain delivers an electrifying assessment of contemporary parenting in We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood (Bold Type, $26, 272 pages, 9781568588544). Given the current social climate, “motherhood is deeply political,” McClain says, as black mothers contend with inadequate healthcare and widespread racial prejudice. A frequent contributor to The Nation and Slate, McClain herself is the mother of a young daughter, and she wrote We Live for the We as an exploration of how best to raise a black girl in today’s world. McClain interviews activist mothers working to bring about social change to find out how they’re handling parenthood. The perspectives of these women—artists and academics, health care workers and teachers—are honest and heartfelt. McClain structures the text around the life of a child, moving from babyhood to the tween years and beyond while looking at parenting issues such as education, religion and sex. Earnest and inspiring, We Live for the We offers invaluable guidance for bringing up the next generation of black Americans. Providing a weird, wonderful overview of family life in the 19th century, Ungovernable: The Victorian Parent’s Guide to Raising Flawless Children (Little, Brown, $25, 288 pages, 9780316481908) is a catalog of extremely questionable child-rearing techniques collected by brilliant satirist Therese Oneill. She presents this strange-but-true slice of Victorian life in the form of a Q&A between a genial narrator advocating for old-school approaches and a somewhat befuddled modern-day mother. “Here you will learn about discipline, morals, and the devastating repercussions of allowing a child to eat fruit,” Oneill writes. (In Victorian times, fruit was thought to be harmful to youngsters.) Typical disciplinary measures included dunking a child’s head in a water barrel, spankings and, in the classroom, the use of a dunce cap. Mothers who take themselves to task for being imperfect parents need only peruse Ungovernable to feel better about their efforts. —Julie Hale
perfect little gifts for mom Helen Ellis’ essays in Southern Lady Code (Doubleday, $22, 224 pages, 9780385543897) are witty missives from a woman both delighted and bemused by modern life. With bone-dry humor and seen-it-all poise, Ellis takes us through her childhood and into an adult life of uncomfortable mammogram appointments and, in one instance, a dinner party full of dishes that were popular in 1979. And New Yorker writer Patricia Marx shares her mother’s particular approach to parenting in Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It?: A Mother’s Suggestions (Celadon, $20, 112 pages, 9781250301963), illustrated by Roz Chast’s signature hand. Case in point—when a young Marx announced that she was planning on running away, her mother said her goodbyes, packed her a lunch and then told her she could go wherever she wanted as long as she didn’t cross the street.
ANNE TYLER “A joy to read.” —Baltimore Magazine
“Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors.” —Liane Moriarty “Delightfully zany.... Charming.... Tender.” —The Washington Post
“Anne Tyler is one of our national treasures.” —Jennifer Weiner
“A gorgeous gem of a novel about family and second chances.” —Bustle
New in paperback
“Stirring.... Celebrates the joys of self-discovery and the essential truth that family is ours to define.” —People
“A great writer. She writes simply and with humor and with soul.” —Nick Hornby
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR O, The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, The Christian Science Monitor
Also available from Anne Tyler’s extensive and beloved backlist
Find a complete list of books, excerpts, reading group guides, and more at AnneTyler.com
cover story | angie kim
© TIM COBURN PHOTOGRAPHY
fully constructed whodunit web. (Kim modeled the structure after two books: Korean bestseller Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin, and Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter, which begins with a deadly school bus accident, then describes the aftermath.) Kim’s choice of subject came naturally. Her second son was born with profound hearing loss in one ear, and later diagnosed with celiac disease and ulcerative colitis. Soon after, she accompanied him to a series of HBOT treatments. Because of the fire risks associated with oxygen chambers, everyone inside had to wear special cotton clothing, while items that might spark a fire were forbidden, including belts, eyeglasses, electronics and even underwire bras. (An explosion in a poorly maintained chamber in Florida killed a 4-year-old and his grandmother in 2009, leading to a manslaughter conviction.) Kim saw literary possibilities in both the danger and the drama of the HBOT setting, which she compares to a confessional in her novel. “You crawl in, and it’s dark and like a tube,” she recalls. “There’s also an emotional tension when you’re sealed up with other parents of kids who have different disabilities and illnesses. You start comparing and contrasting your lives, and it makes an intimacy that builds. But at the same time, jealousy can develop. I thought that was a really rich setting to be able to explore.” One mother whose child had particularly serious issues jokingly told Kim, “I don’t know why you do this. If I had a son like yours, I would just lie on my couch and eat bonbons all day.” One of Kim’s characters makes the same comment to another mother, and Kim’s She’s a Korean immigrant, a former trial lawyer and the mother of three boys initial working title for her with serious medical issues. With her debut novel, Angie Kim has seamlessly manuscript was “Bonbons in the Blue Submarine.” woven these disparate strands of her life into an emotionally sprawling Noting that her sons are all yet psychologically taut legal thriller. doing fine now (one has peanut allergies; the other was With such a masterful blending of fiction and real life, it’s particularly born with an abnormally small head and exhibited skin symptoms that fitting that Angie Kim will celebrate her 50th birthday the same week that could’ve been Elephant Man Disease), Kim says of her family’s medical her highly anticipated debut novel, Miracle Creek, is published. ordeals, “It’s probably something I’ll be exploring for the rest of my life. “I’m really excited,” she says in a call to her home in Great Falls, Virgin- When you have a kid that’s sick, it just brings so many things to focus. ia. “It’s a good excuse to have a big party.” And no doubt it will be a fun And when you have three kids that are sick with three different things, it’s one, as the author radiates energy and enthusiasm even over the phone. just awful. I probably have many, many novels where I could talk about At the center of her book is the Yoo family (Young; her husband, Pak; this stuff.” and their 17-year-old daughter, Mary), who have emigrated from Korea In addition to writing about HBOT, Kim initially contemplated writing and landed in the rural town of Miracle Creek, Virginia. In a barn, they run a murder mystery involving a family who had emigrated from Korea. A Miracle Submarine, a center for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) where friend suggested she combine these two ideas, leading Kim to model the people go on “dives” in the pressurized oxygen chamber as an experimen- Yoo family after her own: She and her parents emigrated from Seoul to tal treatment for a variety of conditions, including autism, cerebral palsy, the Baltimore area when Kim was 11. Just as Young works behind bulinfertility and more. Disaster strikes in the very first chapter when the Yoos’ letproof glass in a grocery store when she first comes to America, Kim’s chamber explodes, killing two people and injuring and disfiguring others. parents worked in such a store, living in a small back room, while Kim The accident, it turns out, is the result of arson, and the rest of the novel stayed with her aunt, uncle and cousin. unfolds during four days of a trial held one year later, told from multiple “I was a complete mess, very upset to be here,” Kim recalls of those points of view, weaving past and present together in a tangled yet beauti- years. “In Seoul we were really poor—we didn’t have indoor plumbing or
THE DEEPEST DIVE
anything like that—but we were just so happy, from my memory of it.” Kim felt abandoned as her parents worked long hours, and she eventually rebelled. “I was a really horrible teenager,” she recalls. “I knew intellectually that it wasn’t their fault. Korea is such a patriarchal culture, and that’s one of the reasons my mom wanted to move to America; she didn’t want that for me. But I just wanted to punish my parents, and I did, acting like a complete teenage brat for a really long time.” Kim struggled with English and excelled in math but later decided to challenge herself with liberal arts classes at Stanford and became a philosophy major. She fared so poorly in a creative writing class, however, that she dropped it. Although she never considered herself a writer, she eventually became an editor at the Harvard Law Review. Kim’s legal career blossomed, and as a junior lawyer she loved being in the courtroom. After a grueling period working on three successful trials, however, Kim joined her soon-to-be husband on a weekend trip to San Francisco and experienced an epiphany. While he spoke at a legal conference, she spent the day sitting by the ocean at the Cliff House, reading Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods. “As a lawyer, I hadn’t had the opportunity to have a day like that in years,” she says. “I decided that I needed to find something that I love, that I could do every day and say, ‘Oh, I love this.’ So that night I told my husband, ‘Oh, by the way, I decided I’m going to quit being a lawyer.’” She became a management consultant and co-founded a software company. Meanwhile, her confidence in her writing grew, and she began writing essays and short stories. Not surprisingly, Kim particularly enjoyed working on the courtroom scenes in her novel. “I could have witnesses say whatever I wanted them to say,” she says. “They were my puppets, which is what you desperately wish for when you’re actually practicing.” Kim’s finished product was going to be called “Miracle Submarine,” but after concerns that it sounded too military, the title became Miracle Creek. Kim is pleased, especially since she chose the town’s name as a nod to another of her favorite books, Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River. “I just love the way that it’s a literary mystery where you don’t know what’s happening, and there are all these great voices that are so raw and honest,” she says. Those words of praise apply equally well to Kim’s debut. In the decades since she reluctantly boarded a plane from Korea to America, Kim’s life has taken many unexpected turns. As she writes near the end of Miracle Creek, “Every human being was the result of a million different factors mixing Miracle Creek together. . . . Good things and Sarah Crichton, $27, 368 pages bad—every friendship and ro- 9780374156022, audio, eBook available mance formed, every accident, Debut Fiction every illness—resulted from the conspiracy of hundreds of little things, in and of themselves consequential.” “That has just sort of become a theme throughout my life,” Kim admits. “I think it’s so interesting how little things can happen that can really take your life on a totally different strand.” —Alice Cary
Solves A Case LIKE A
The Domestic Diva Mystery Series The Marygene Brown Mystery Series
Event planning is deadly in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia!
Murder is the pits in Peach Cove Island, Georgia!
The Book Retreat Mystery Series
Not all murders are by the book in western Virginia!
The Cleo Mack Mystery Series
The Ditie Brown Mystery Series
Death visits a Civil War reenactment In Atlanta, Georgia! Retirement is killer in Fairhope, Alabama!
Available Everywhere Books Are Sold ENSINGTONCOZIES.COM
feature | novels of mothers & daughters
My mother before me Four compelling stories of mothers and daughters center on secrets revealed and secrets kept, with powerful consequences that reverberate through the years. A wealth of history turns Wunderland (Crown, $27, 384 pages, 9780525576907) into a novel that’s both beautiful and devastating. Author Jennifer Cody Epstein (The Painter From Shanghai ) taps into the 1930s prewar era, laying out an unsparing narrative that details tragic events and horrifying legacies. Renate and Ilse, Jew and Gentile, are best friends in pre-World War II Germany, but they’re driven apart in the terrible buildup to war when Ilse joins Bund Deutscher Mädel, the female division of the Hitler Youth movement. Many years later, in 1989 New York City, Ilse’s estranged daughter, Ava Fischer, receives her mother’s ashes and a trove of letters, addressed to Renate but never sent, that reveal her mother’s terrible secrets. In turn, Ava resists sharing Ilse’s history with her own daughter, Sophie, and Ava realizes that she “has kept Sophie from her own story.” The narrative unfolds from several characters’ perspectives, making plain “the things we lie about to make our crimes bearable,” while also opening a new door that may lead to redemption and joy for future generations. The Daughter’s Tale (Atria, $27, 320 pages, 9781501187933) is a detailed, immersive chronicle of World War II’s tragedy, the power of love and the lengths to which a mother will go to save her children when there are no choices left. With his second novel, Armando Lucas Correa (The German Girl ) depicts the meager options available to Jewish people caught in the vise of war, highlighting two real historical events: the ill-fated voyage of the liner St. Louis, in which Jews were not allowed to debark at their destination of Havana, Cuba; and the 1944 SS massacre of French villagers in the town of Oradour-sur-Glane, where only a few survived. In the novel, a Jewish woman named Amanda Sternberg flees Germany in 1939 with her
two daughters, Lina and Viera, but she makes a fateful decision that separates the children and forever alters their lives. Viera is sent to Cuba, but Correa’s novel follows the youngest daughter, Lina, as she escapes wartime imprisonment to begin a different life in France,
where her relative freedom is short-lived. Correa starkly portrays the many horrors that were visited on an innocent citizenry. In her new novel, Feast Your Eyes (Scribner, $28, 336 pages, 9781501197840), Myla Goldberg, author of the 2001 bestseller Bee Season, has again turned her talent for detail into a powerful story about gifted yet flawed characters who can’t escape tragic missteps. Lillian Preston is a singularly talented photographer whose early work runs afoul of
obscenity laws in the 1950s. Photographs of her seminaked 6-year-old daughter, Samantha, lead to trial, tragedy and a rift between mother and daughter that never quite heals. The book is structured like an exhibition catalog that Samantha has organized for a retrospective of her mother’s work. Through the diaries and letters of Lillian’s loved ones, Samantha uncovers Lillian’s gifts, her struggles and intense ambition, tempered by sorrow and love for her daughter. Like a photograph that captures the inner light of its subject, Feast Your Eyes catches such moments on the page, illuminating the power of both beauty and heartbreak. Goldberg unsparingly reveals a driven artist whose propulsive talent is also her Achilles’ heel. The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters (William Morrow, $26.99, 320 pages, 9780062645142), the fourth novel from Balli Kaur Jaswal (Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows), is an absolute delight. It interweaves multiple family stories within the colorful panorama of a journey to India, resulting in a novel that is sad, joyful and exciting all at the same time. Jaswal’s narrative entwines the stories of three adult sisters whose disparate lives are catapulted on a new and completely different trajectory when their mother makes a request. With her death only hours away, Indiaborn Sita Kaur Shergill, who raised her children in England, says she wants her daughters to undertake a pilgrimage to India—one she was unable to take— and provides detailed instructions for the trip that are daunting, life-changing and often hilarious. The Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina—live very separate lives, each with its own secrets. The author enfolds readers in deceptively simple stories that reveal the hidden depth, humor and pathos of each sister’s life, as little by little they learn and accept each other’s stories. The teeming, textured setting of India is captured through the author’s evocative scenes, as the sisters navigate on-the-ground travel as well as their own inner terrain. —Barbara Clark
Exciting Acclaimed Works .·.· .·.· new in paperback
One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year
One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year “ Edugyan has created a wonder of an adventure story.”
“An astonishing literary debut.” —Margaret Atwood via Twitter
Before George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, there was Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles
“An elegiac thriller with the immediate allure of a dark fairy tale.” —The Washington Post
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize
“Exciting, dangerous, fascinating.” —The Boston Globe
“My ideal type of armchair travel: immersive, insightful, seductive.” —Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter
“ Entrancing.... A tapestry of extraordinary nuance and richness.” —The Wall Street Journal
Also available in eBook VINTAGE
READ EXCERPTS AND MORE AT READINGGROUPCENTER.COM
reviews | fiction
H Top Pick: Disappearing Earth By Julia Phillips Knopf, $26.95, 272 pages 9780525520412, audio, eBook available
Debut Fiction Although it may seem that every square inch of the earth has been mapped, there are still places that are mysterious. The Kamchatka Peninsula is one such place. You’ve seen it on a map, extending like a swollen appendage from the northeastern edge of Russia into the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk. Maybe you’ve wondered about the people who live there. Does anyone live there? Of course, people do live in Kamchatka, both in real life and in Julia Phillips’ powerful debut novel. There are those from the indigenous and the white Russian population. The book opens when two little white girls are snatched from the seaside by a creep. The rest of the book concerns both the search for these two girls and the mystery of how they could have vanished on a peninsula all but cut off from the rest of Russia by a mountain range.
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna By Juliet Grames Ecco $27.99, 464 pages 9780062862822 Audio, eBook available
Debut Fiction Juliet Grames’ entrancing multigenerational family saga is based on the life of her grandmother, Stella, who was born in 1920 in the small Italian village of Ievoli and, 16 years later, immigrated with her family to Connecticut as World War II loomed over their homeland. Throughout The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, the author inserts fictional details into the life of her ever-stoic grandmother while focusing on her near-death experiences, which were well documented by family members and passed down over the years, including severe burns from cooking oil, an attack by a hungry pig, almost dying in
The book’s many characters are introduced in the preface, which calls to mind all those classic Russian novels with sprawling casts. But at the same time, Disappearing Earth is utterly contemporary. Cellphones are as inescapable in Kamchatka as they are anywhere else, even though they’re frequently out of range. Phillips’ focus is on her female characters. There are the missing Golosovsky girls and their desperate mother; unhappy schoolgirls; a new mother going out of her mind with boredom; and a bitter vulcanologist with a missing dog. We hear from a native woman whose own daughter disappeared years before, as well as from her other daughter
childbirth and falling down basement steps at the age of 68. Just as compelling as Stella’s story is that of her mother, Assunta, who was born in Ievoli in 1899 and was married at age 14 to a domineering and abusive husband. At first, Assunta’s sad marriage convinces Stella to remain single, but eventually she gives in to traditional mores and weds Carmelo Maglieri, another Italian immigrant. Stella’s independent spirit is stifled, finally, and she ends up raising 10 children, the last one coming when she’s 44. The final 30 years of Stella’s life, following a partial lobotomy after her fall, are lonely ones. Estranged from her younger sister, whom she blames for her “seven or eight deaths,” Stella lives by herself, her grandchildren knowing her only as “an unintelligible crocheting grandmother engaged in a blood feud with her sister.” They have heard the facts of her many near deaths but know nothing of her feisty, independent spirit, now long gone. Embellished with details of the extreme hardship experienced by Italy’s poor throughout two world wars and the bigotry encountered by those who immigrated to the U.S., Grames’ debut will find broad appeal as both an illuminating historical saga and a vivid portrait of a strong woman struggling to break free from the confines of her gender. —Deborah Donovan
and her daughter’s children. Most of these women brush or bump up against each other, connected, sometimes tenuously, by the disappearance of the Golosovsky girls. The men in their lives aren’t so much useless as they are in the way. The cops give up the search, and husbands, fathers, boyfriends and brothers just don’t get it. Besides the deep humanity of her characters, Phillips’ portrayal of Kamchatka itself is superb. Has there ever been a novel, even by Dostoevsky or Tolstoy, set in such a strange, ancient, beautiful place, with its glaciers and volcanoes and endless cold? It’s a place where miracles might happen—where what is lost can once again be found—if you jump over a traditional New Year’s fire in just the right way. Phillips’ stunning novel dares to imagine the possibilities. —Arlene McKanic
H Exhalation By Ted Chiang Knopf $25.95, 368 pages 9781101947883 Audio, eBook available
Short Stories Reading a Ted Chiang anthology is an experience that slowly claims little corners of your brain until eventually your whole head is devoted to it. You read and digest one story, but each tale is so compelling and complex that no matter how long you wait, that first story will continue to beg questions even as you try to digest a second. One after another, Chiang’s stories claim their place in your mind until you’re completely swept up in his provocative and at times even charming world. Exhalation, Chiang’s latest collection of stories covering almost 20 years of his work, gathers nine tales that ponder questions of the nature of consciousness, the rigidity of history, our relationship with the machines
reviews | fiction that increasingly take control of our lives and more. In the title story, the narrator uses their own artificial lungs as the basis for a study on the nature of reality. In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” Chiang explores time travel as it might have existed in a time before science fiction pushed it into the public consciousness. “The Great Silence,” one of the book’s shortest tales, explores the intellect and mortality of a parrot. Then there’s the collection’s centerpiece, the novella-length “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” which explores the growth and developing lives of a group of digital organisms and the humans who care for them. Each story is a carefully considered, finely honed machine designed to entertain, but this collection also forces you to look at things like your smartphone or your pet with new eyes. What makes Exhalation particularly brilliant is that not one of the stories feels like it’s designed to be thought-provoking in a stilted, academic way. Chiang is an entertaining, empathetic writer first, before being one of contemporary sci-fi’s intellectual powerhouses, and each story reads that way. Exhalation is a must-read for any fan of exquisitely crafted sci-fi. Chiang has reminded us once again that he’s one of the most exciting voices in his field, and that we shouldn’t expect him to wane any time soon. —Matthew Jackson
A Good Enough Mother By Bev Thomas Pamela Dorman $26, 352 pages 9780525561255 Audio, eBook available
Debut Fiction Is there any experience more transformative than motherhood? It changes not just a woman’s body but also her very outlook on life. Somehow, everything becomes both sweeter and more frightening. Ruth Hartland experienced the intensity of motherhood twice over with the birth of her twins, Carolyn and Tom. Her daughter is outgoing and self-assured, easily navigating school and friendships. But Tom is anxious and painfully sensitive, never quite finding his place in the world. When Tom disappears at 17, Ruth enters a
hellish limbo, with days “when missing him feels like a hole in my chest.” She throws herself into her work as a highly respected therapist, tucking away her own personal turmoil as she works with people recovering from trauma. But how well can she ignore her own pain while helping others work through theirs? Ruth starts treating a new patient, a young man recovering from a brutal assault. He bears a striking resemblance to Tom, a professional red flag Ruth chooses to ignore. She knows she can help this traumatized boy, even though she couldn’t help Tom. As Ruth finds herself crossing professional boundaries to help the troubled young man, the relationship hurdles toward unimaginable tragedy. Bev Johnson, herself a psychologist, paints a sympathetic portrait of a grieving mother— one with no body to bury—and the choices she makes just to survive. A Good Enough Mother is both a heartbreaking story of love and loss and a hopeful meditation on the winding path to healing. —Amy Scribner
suitcase named Grendel (after the friendless monster in Beowulf ), May sets out on a transformative pilgrimage to reconnect with the four women she considers her dearest friends. A 21st-century novel for those with old- fashioned sensibilities, Rules for Visiting is an empathetic yet enigmatic read. May’s story is not for the impatient, as the narrative perambulates through a series of discursive musings on friendship, flora, family, grief and how connections can fail or flourish in this modern age. For much of the novel, May keeps the reader at arm’s length, charming with her wry wit but using these rhetoric sleights of hand as substitutes for real understanding and intimacy. But as May becomes more comfortable with the art of connecting with the people in her life, she reveals more of her true heart to the reader as well, gradually shedding light on the trauma that led to such a closed-off life. Rules for Visiting takes its time to fully take root, but the end result is a sturdy novel that blossoms rather beautifully. —Stephenie Harrison
Rules for Visiting
Lanny By Jessica Francis Kane Penguin Press $26, 304 pages 9780525559221 Audio, eBook available
Literary Fiction Perhaps the greatest irony of our modern era is that in a time when we appear more connected than ever, most of us have never felt more alone. Certainly this is true for May Attaway, the protagonist of Jessica Francis Kane’s meditative second novel, Rules for Visiting. Largely preferring the company of plants to people, May is a single, middle-aged woman who lives in her childhood home with her father and cat and works as a gardener at the local university. She is the first to admit that although her world is relatively small and uneventful, the life she has cultivated for herself is a comfortable one (albeit mundane and vaguely hermitic). When she is gifted with an unanticipated month of paid vacation, May is inspired to revise her stance on relationships and broaden her horizons. Armed with little more than an Emily Post guide to etiquette, a book of quotations on friendship and a
By Max Porter Graywolf $24, 160 pages 9781555978402 Audio, eBook available
Literary Fiction There are a handful of novelists from the past century whom I think of as sorcerers. Like Merlin of Arthurian fame, such authors (T.H. White, A.S. Byatt and others) find a way to inhabit vast stretches of time, accounting for everything that’s happened before and what’s to come, making past and future converge with vertiginous force onto the present moment. Wordsworth and Coleridge, Keats and both Shelleys, Blake and Byron all worked this time-dissolving magic as well, weaving into a single spell the opposite principles of ancient myth and modernity, city and countryside, nature and the supernatural, individual history and collective fate. Still in his 30s, Max Porter has securely joined this order of poets and novelists with two short novels. In Grief Is the Thing With Feathers (2015), a widower with two little sons suffers the shattering visitation of Crow. There is no way around grief, Crow instructs; you must grind through it, all its bitter nonsense,
reviews | fiction derangement and chaos. Now, in Lanny, Porter turns this same screw of his imagination, offering the ultimate incarnation of nature and its pitiless sovereignty: a being who haunts the edges of a village, chronicling every word uttered in pub, house or street. It calls to the sweet, brilliant boy Lanny, drawing him into the woods, away from his parents’ home and from his kind old friend Mad Pete. The creature summons little Lanny to a doom we cannot know or understand, even after we’ve read this magnificent story. This awful, awesome personage—this human-hungry thing—goes by many names, such as Dead Papa Toothwort, Pan, Oberon or the Green Man. Toothwort sings the ancient, recurrent Song of the Earth, rising above a chorus of perplexed and panicked human voices. Boy, mother, father, artist, the entire village— all must face the music. All are done for. Lanny is one of the most beautiful novels of the past decade. —Michael Alec Rose Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Max Porter.
The Flight Portfolio By Julie Orringer Knopf $28.95, 576 pages 9780307959409 eBook available
Historical Fiction Varian Fry was a young Harvard- educated journalist and editor who worked for the American Emergency Rescue Committee during World War II. His primary goal was to prevent notable artists, writers and political exiles, many of them Jewish, from being interned in concentration camps. Stationed in Marseilles in 1940, Fry procured visas, created false passports and sought out escape routes on both sea and land for almost 2,000 people, including Marc Chagall, André Breton and Max Ernst. His inherently dramatic tale is the basis for Julie Orringer’s thoughtful and absorbing new novel, The Flight Portfolio. For just over a year, Fry and a core staff of Jewish and non-Jewish expats focused their efforts in the south of France, collaborating with an extensive network of forgers, blackmailers and petty thieves. Working out of a hotel room,
Fry eventually rented a villa to provide a temporary home for refugees who needed a safe residence. The Flight Portfolio opens after an unpersuasive visit to the Chagalls, who show no interest in leaving France. Fry is approached by Elliott Schiffman Grant, an old friend and lover from their student days at Harvard, where both men were part of Lincoln Kirstein’s inner circle. Now teaching at Columbia, Shiffman—or Skiff, as he is called—has followed his German-born Jewish lover, Gregor Katznelson, to Europe in hope of locating Katznelson’s son. Both father and son need to leave Europe, and swiftly. Although Fry and Skiff haven’t seen each other in over a decade, they become romantically involved as they work together to provide the Katznelsons with safe passage. Like Orringer’s earlier novel, The Invisible Bridge, The Flight Portfolio mixes historical fact with imaginative fiction. Though Skiff is an invention, Fry’s bisexuality is well documented, and Orringer makes use of the relationship to explore Fry’s sense of growing empathy and to highlight the moral issues inherent in deciding who is and who is not worth saving. Orringer is a meticulous researcher, and the novel’s cloak-and-dagger thrills keep the pace lively in this lengthy but intriguing tale of resilience and resistance. —Lauren Bufferd
All My Colors By David Quantick Titan $14.95, 288 pages 9781785658570 Audio, eBook available
Fantasy An innocent joke takes a raucous turn in Emmy-winning television and comedy writer David Quantick’s latest novel, All My Colors. Todd Milstead is at a turning point in 1979. His wife, Janis, has had enough of his wisecracks, incompetence and affairs. When she leaves, Todd must support himself by actually publishing something instead of just acting like a writer. It just so happens that at a Saturday night gathering, Todd is showing off his eidetic memory by reciting lines from a successful novel titled All My Colors—but no one else at the party knows this novel. In
fact, it doesn’t seem to exist. So Todd decides to write this book as if it were his own, but his disturbing (albeit funny) encounters with similarly plagiarizing storytellers bring devastating results. Quantick brings his TV prowess to his third novel through its episodic pacing, dark humor and satirical reflections on story crafting. The novel excels in scenes like Todd’s book signings in small towns and his run-in with other authors at a mysterious library in Michigan. In between these episodes, the narration moves quickly and succinctly. The tone is sarcastic and biting as details of Todd’s shenanigans reveal the underbelly of his deception. Todd and fellow bibliophiles, like bookstore owner Timothy who calls himself “an old fraud,” make fun of themselves. Todd is a “bad copier,” a caricature of himself. But behind the hoaxes and hijinks, these clowns and other characters pose serious, timely questions about what happens when stories are told. How does a writer change by writing his story? Can fiction become more truthful than fact? Part mystery, part fantasy, All My Colors’ rainbow of sensations won’t leave readers unfazed. —Mari Carlson
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek By Kim Michele Richardson Sourcebooks Landmark $25.99, 320 pages 9781492691631 Audio, eBook available
Historical Fiction Contemporary postal carriers don’t realize how good they’ve got it. Yes, there are the occasional dogs, inclement weather or the gloom of night, but these inconveniences pale in comparison to the would-be rapists, bigots and crazed preachers on the trail for Cussy Mary Carter in Kim Michele Richardson’s impassioned new novel, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. A courier for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famed Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Cussy is tasked with delivering library books over treacherous paths to impoverished hill folk, rural farmers and coal miners who toil in the
reviews | fiction Appalachian Mountains during the Great Depression. Cussy, 19, who makes her deliveries on the back of her faithful pack mule, considers her job a necessary one and part of “a respectable life” despite her father’s protestations. Cussy is one of the last of her kind, a blue-skinned woman (resulting from a real-life genetic blood disorder called methemoglobinemia), and so Pa wants her safe. He’d rather see her married off so she’ll have someone to take care of her when he no longer can. He even arranges such a marriage, only for her husband to die from an apparent heart attack while raping her. Freed of the marriage she didn’t want, Cussy returns to her true passion in her old job of traveling librarian. For many, her visits are more than welcome, and the books she brings offer hope for brighter days, an escape from their daily doldrums and a singular connection to the outside world. But there are also those who distrust both the books she brings—some women complain that “she’s carrying dirty books up them rocks”—and her mysterious blue hue. And there are the aforementioned threats along the trail itself, including Pastor Frazier, the unstable cousin of her late husband, who fears she’s delivering the word of Satan. But Cussy’s strong will and commitment drive her forward. Richardson has penned an emotionally moving and fascinating story about the power of literacy over bigotry, hatred and fear. —G. Robert Frazier Visit BookPage.com to read a Behind the Book feature from Kim Michele Richardson.
H Light From Other Stars By Erika Swyler Bloomsbury $27, 320 pages 9781635573169 eBook available
Coming of Age Erika Swyler’s first novel, The Book of Speculation, mixed historical fiction and fantasy in an appealingly offbeat way, featuring a lonely librarian, circus mermaids and an old family curse. Like her debut, Swyler’s new novel, Light From Other Stars, bends genres as it explores how the past intrudes on the present. But that’s where the similarities end.
On a cold January morning in 1986, everything changes for Nedda Papas, an 11-yearold science geek and astronaut fangirl. Ten miles from Easter, their small Florida town, the space shuttle Challenger lifts off and explodes. Soon, strange things happen: Electricity surges and fails, ponds freeze and boil, the sky takes on a green glow. At first, Easter’s residents chalk up the weirdness to the Challenger explosion, but Nedda and her dad, Theo—a physicist who’s been laid off from NASA—begin to suspect otherwise. Theo and his wife, Betheen, both grieving a loss, have begun to live separate lives. Theo works obsessively on a project he calls his entropy machine, while Betheen, a frustrated scientist, has devoted herself to her baking business, cutting herself off emotionally from her husband and daughter. The novel alternates the 11-year-old Nedda’s story with that of the grown Nedda, who’s narrating from aboard the spaceship Chawla. The adult Nedda is part of a crew of four on a long-term mission to an unnamed planet, and the crew has learned that power spikes have affected the ship’s generator. As Nedda and her crewmates work to head off disaster, so does the 11-year-old Nedda, along with Theo and Betheen. Although Light From Other Stars includes plenty of science fiction elements, it’s also a coming-of-age story, as the young Nedda gains a new understanding of her parents and then works to rescue them and the rest of her town. Juggling dual timelines, wonderful mid-1980s period details and a large cast of secondary characters, Swyler has set herself an ambitious task. But the novel is wellpaced, with a satisfying twist near the end that readers are subtly prepared for but that still feels surprising. —Sarah McCraw Crow
The Farm By Joanne Ramos Random House $27, 336 pages 9781984853752 Audio, eBook available
Debut Fiction There are a number of compelling arguments for surrogacy. Some would-be mothers are unable to conceive.
Gay couples may wish to become parents. But, as with any legal arrangement, complications can arise, especially when mercenaries try to exploit people’s emotions for monetary gain. Joanne Ramos imagines such complications in The Farm, her ambitious dystopian debut. The novel’s effectiveness lies in the power of its premise. Financially straitened women, most of them Filipina immigrants—Ramos, an American, was born in the Philippines and moved to Wisconsin when she was 6—are recruited to carry the babies of an ultra-rich, typically white clientele in exchange for a huge payout. Among the immigrants is protagonist Jane Reyes, the Filipina mother of a 4-year-old girl who left her husband after she discovered his affair. After Jane loses her nanny job, she takes a tip from her 67-year-old cousin with whom she lives, and applies for a job at Golden Oaks, a fancy resort in New York’s Hudson Valley. At Golden Oaks, surrogate mothers reside in luxury, and this opulence includes organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages—all for free. But the pregnant women are constantly monitored, and they are restricted from leaving the grounds or from having any contact with the outside world. The person running Golden Oaks is Mae Yu, a high-achieving Chinese-American woman who, in a marvelous phrase, has “a lusty Ayn Randian love of New York.” Her job is to recruit Hosts who are willing to carry babies for the company’s wealthy Clients. Not all Hosts, however, are treated the same. A few are Premium Hosts, which means they’re white. They include Jane’s roommate Reagan, who represents the holy trifecta of Premium Hosts because she’s white, pretty and educated. She aspires to a career in photography and wants to break free of her domineering father. Another Premium Host is Lisa, who sees Golden Oaks for what it is and recruits Jane and Reagan in her plans to undermine its authority. And then there’s Jane’s cousin, whose motivations may not be what they seem. Although The Farm has too many digressions and sometimes makes its points too obviously, Ramos still does an excellent job posing complex questions surrounding surrogacy, immigration, capitalism and more. At one point, Reagan tells Jane, “Everything’s conditional. Everything’s got strings attached.” The Farm shows how intricately laced those strings can be. —Michael Magras Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Joanne Ramos.
behind the book | thomas lockley
Out of the past When the black solider Yasuke arrived in Japan, he became a sensation and later a respected samurai. Thomas Lockley shares how he first encountered the incredible man at the center of African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan. It was sometime in 2009 when, while reading a Wikipedia article about William Adams, the English navigator who became a samurai, I happened to notice a link to a page on Yasuke, an African samurai. My interest piqued, I clicked to find out more, and his story drew me in immediately. Like Adams, Yasuke rose from a humble background abroad to greatness in Japan, but unlike Adams, he actually fought in battles at the side of Oda Nobunaga, one of Japan’s greatest warriors who helped unify the country in the 16th century. I started to write a novel about his life in 2010, but other things got in the way, and the project dropped by the wayside. Nevertheless, I kept on researching, and Yasuke’s world and time started to reveal themselves to me. It was an era when humanity was on the move, the first global age of navigation when people from all over the world were traversing the seas. That surprised me, as I didn’t remember learning about the globe-trotting exploits of Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Arab, Jewish, African or Japanese people! Most books made it seem as if only Europeans were “discovering” the globe at this time. I found out that people of African descent around the globe formed royal houses in India, were present at the Chinese court, held noble ranks in Europe and were employed virtually everywhere as skilled professionals such as interpreters, divers, musicians, navigators, merchants and warriors. Yasuke was not unique for being an African success story far from home. Another stereotype, the one that claims all Africans out-
side their home continent were slaves, flew out the window. When I wanted to contribute a paper to a special issue of my university’s journal, my aborted Yasuke project sprung to mind. I turned the rough beginning of the novel into an academic paper and eventually published it online in 2015. It was an instant hit, and I was contacted by people all around the world for more information. I asked many of the Yasuke fans why they felt drawn to him. The answers were varied and compelling: his rags-to-riches story, his success in another culture, his physical strength, his potential as a positive role model, his ethnicity. Yasuke gave them hope for a better world. All of the respondents connected Yasuke’s story to modern-day issues such as the refugee crisis, social mobility, immigration, social alienation and racism. The African samurai is a man for today, a fact reflected by his portrayal in Japanese books, manga and computer games over the last two decades. As the swell of interest increased, I made an interesting discovery about Japan—one that, as an immigrant to that country, came as a surprise. The country of Japan is often thought of as racially homogeneous, but in the decades before and after Yasuke’s time, there were at least 300 to 500 Africans living in western Japan and several thousand more if you include temporary visitors. Of other foreigners, there were tens of thousands. Japan was far more diverse historically than people believe, and as Japanese cities move speedily toward multiculturalism, and as mixed-heritage sports stars such as Naomi Osaka and Asuka Cambridge find global success, Yasuke’s story again bears relevance to the present day. I urge readers to look for more Yasukes, for there are millions of them. History is not only about kings and queens. “Normal” people in history can inspire us today. We can connect with them and emulate them to lead our own meaningful lives. In many ways they were just like us. But in many ways, of course, they were not like us. Most readers of this book will not face early death from horrible diseases and childbirth, nor will they have the need to bear arms and kill at close quarters. And that aspect of historical change can help us see that our world is not so bad. The barbarians are not at the gateway, and human health is better than it has ever been before. The vast majority of humanity is very lucky, and we owe it to our ancestors to realize that and do positive things with the world they have left us.
Thomas Lockley is an associate professor at Nihon University College of Law in Tokyo, where he teaches courses concerning the international and multicultural history of Japan and East Asia. He authored the first academic paper on the life of Yasuke, which led to the release of a Japanese-language book on the historical figure and now to African Samurai (Hanover Square, $27.99, 480 pages, 9781335141026), a narrative history co-written with thriller and speculative fiction author Geoffrey Girard that relays Yasuke’s story in a cinematic, endlessly fascinating fashion.
reviews | nonfiction
H Top Pick: Rough Magic By Lara Prior-Palmer Catapult, $25, 288 pages 9781948226196, audio, eBook available
Memoir Racing across the Mongolian desert in a pony express-style horse race isn’t a challenge many folks would choose to tackle. But when British 19-year-old Lara Prior-Palmer stumbles across a website detailing this very thing, she impulsively decides to throw her hat in the ring. The result is Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race, a stunning debut memoir detailing Prior-Palmer’s journey entering, competing in and ultimately winning the Mongol Derby, often dubbed “the world’s longest, toughest horse race.” It’s an extremely demanding test, not for the weak-spirited, requiring riders to change steeds 25 times through 14 different microclimates. In witty, open and revealing prose, Prior-Palmer details
H The British Are Coming By Rick Atkinson Holt $40, 800 pages 9781627790437 Audio, eBook available
History Six years ago, Rick Atkinson published The Guns at Last Light, the final volume of his brilliant, award-winning Liberation Trilogy, a narrative history of Americans in combat during World War II. This month, Atkinson returns with The British Are Coming, the first volume of the Revolution Trilogy, a history of the American Revolutionary War. This book is, in a word, fantastic. It offers all the qualities that we have come to expect from the author: deep and wide research, vivid detail, a blend of voices from common soldiers to commanders, blazing characterizations of the leading personalities within the conflict and a narrative that flows like a good novel. The British Are Coming begins in 1775 with the lead-up to the battles of Lexington and Concord and ends in January 1777 after the battles of Trenton and Princeton. Many of us
a slew of obstacles—from searing heat and pelting rain to food poisoning, uncooperative ponies and, most importantly, a lack of experience and preparation. Her tale could be pulled from the pages of a Hollywood script, with its sweeping, scenic descriptions of the Mongolian steppe and the allies and fierce competitors who emerge among the unique cast of characters (like the skilled and highly trained Texan rider Devan, with her striking
have heard of these places, and some of us have visited them. One of the many virtues of Atkinson’s skill as a researcher and writer is that he is able to strip away contemporary accretions and give readers a tactile sense of those times and lands. Few of the Founding Fathers appear in these pages; they are off in Philadelphia writing their declarations and acts of the Continental Congress. But Ben Franklin, nearing 70, makes an arduous winter journey to Quebec as the Americans try and disastrously fail to split Canada away from Great Britain. Then there is Henry Knox, an overweight bookseller who turns out to be a brilliant artillery strategist. And the brothers Howe, leaders of the British Army and Navy, waver between punishing their enemies and treating them lightly to coax them back into the arms of the mother country. Towering above them all is George Washington, famous for his physical grace and horsemanship. During much of this time, he is such a failure that some officers plot against him, and he fears being dismissed as the military leader. Under his leadership, the army retreats again and again and again. The enemy mocks Washington, ironically calling him “the old fox.” He must beg soldiers to stay when their enlistments expire. He endures. One of this book’s great achievements is that it gives readers the visceral sense of just how much the American forces endured. It’s moving to read accounts from soldiers who slept on the snow and frozen ground with their bare feet
American accent and corporate sponsorships). In spite of being an amateur navigator and rider, who didn’t even bring enough food or clothing, Prior- Palmer makes her way with true grit and determination. And we passionately cheer her on, especially when she muses that the race is “a live show of humans slowly falling to pieces.” Against all odds, she wins, becoming the first woman and youngest person ever to do so. The ride is a learning experience for Prior-Palmer, one that helps her overcome fears of fleeing and teaches her to tap into her gut to make her way. As she says once she’s gotten her stride, “The race has got me going so fast I’ve lost hold of my ducking-out technique.” Rough Magic is a true page-turner, told in gorgeous, descriptive prose that readers will tear through like the ponies racing across the plain. —Becky Libourel Diamond
to a fire, then rose and marched without shoes or jackets to cross the icy Delaware River on Christmas night 1776 to rout British-paid mercenaries in Trenton. The British Are Coming is a superb ode to the grit and everyday heroism that eventually won the war. —Alden Mudge
Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Rick Atkinson.
Furious Hours By Casey Cep Knopf $26.95, 336 pages 9781101947869 Audio, eBook available
Biography While Harper Lee fans were almost unanimously disenchanted with the 2015 publication of her eons-awaited second novel, Go Set a Watchman, they’ll likely be intrigued by Casey Cep’s account of the true crime book that Lee attempted but ultimately failed to write. Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the
reviews | nonfiction Last Trial of Harper Lee tells the strange saga of Reverend Willie Maxwell, a black Alabama preacher accused of murdering five members of his family for insurance money in the 1970s. Law enforcement officers and insurance officials suspected something was up but had no hard evidence, while Maxwell’s followers whispered rumors of voodoo after his relatives kept turning up dead by the side of the road. At the funeral of Maxwell’s last victim, his 16-year-old stepdaughter, he was shot dead by one of the girl’s relatives, Robert Burns, who until that moment had been a hardworking, law-abiding family man. Amazingly, despite the fact that hundreds of mourners witnessed the shooting, Burns was ultimately acquitted of his crime. Attending the trial was Lee, who wrote that Maxwell “might not have believed in what he preached, he might not have believed in voodoo, but he had a profound and abiding belief in insurance.” After studying law at the University of Alabama, Lee was naturally intrigued by the Maxwell story—although she realized
“all too well that the story of a black serial killer wasn’t what readers would expect from the author of To Kill a Mockingbird.” She spent nearly a decade working on a manuscript she called “The Reverend” but ultimately abandoned the project, much to the disappointment of many of the citizens of Alexander City, where Maxwell’s murder took place. Cep, a thorough researcher and polished writer, divides this sprawling tale into three parts: first telling Maxwell’s story, then chronicling the lawyer who once had Maxwell as a client and ultimately represented Maxwell’s killer, and finally explaining the famous novelist’s fascination with and involvement in the case. Harper Lee fans may find themselves impatient to read about her, as she doesn’t appear until more than halfway through the book, but they’ll be rewarded for the wait. While the myriad mysteries about Lee’s life seem unlikely to ever be resolved, Furious Hours offers an absorbing glimpse into the gifted but guarded life of this enigmatic literary hero. —Alice Cary
H Once More We Saw Stars By Jayson Greene Knopf $25, 256 pages 9781524733537 Audio, eBook available
Memoir A parentless child is an orphan. A spouse whose partner dies is a widow. But what, muses Jayson Greene, do you call a parent whose child has died? “It seems telling to me there is no word in our language for our situation,” he writes. “It is unspeakable, and by extension, we are not supposed to exist.” Greene and his wife, Stacy, find themselves in this nameless state after their only child,
meet MALAKA GHARIB Describe your book in one sentence.
Why did you love the TV show “Felicity” so much when you were growing up?
What about your Filipino and Egyptian cultures have you most enjoyed introducing to your husband, Darren?
What does your American dream look like today?
What is your favorite food to make when you are missing home?
What advice do you have for young firstgeneration Americans?
The daughter of Filipino and Egyptian parents, artist and journalist Malaka Gharib shares her coming-of-age experience as a first-generation American in her graphic memoir, I Was Their American Dream (Clarkson Potter, $16.99, 160 pages, 9780525575115). Gharib is the founder of The Runcible Spoon, a food zine. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband.
spotlight | untold american history Greta, dies at age 2. Greta was sitting on a bench with her grandmother when a brick fell from a nearby windowsill and struck her on the head. The couple quickly turn to one another for comfort; while some families are torn apart by such a tragedy, the Greenes find hope in working through their grief together. But grief is a tremendous thing, and mourning Greta is a gargantuan task. Jayson and Stacy open themselves to healing possibilities outside of their norm. They didn’t think of themselves as the sort of people who would turn to a medium in times of grief, but she becomes part of their journey when the couple travels to the Kripalu Institute for a seminar called “From Grieving to Believing.” A grief expert at this retreat tells them, “Grief is a reflection of a connection that has been lost. . . . It is a reflection of that love you had for that individual.” The Greenes find comfort in these words, and in the family and friends who rally around them. Even as they move forward—sometimes literally, like when they sell their home—the Greenes carry Greta’s memory and their pain. “The act of grieving our daughter continues on, and on, and on,” Greene writes. “We have held our firstborn child’s corpse in our arms, and now there is no limit to what we can endure.” Once More We Saw Stars isn’t about the tragedy that befell a family—although Greene recounts with exquisite detail how he felt in the tragic days that ended his daughter’s life. The memoir is instead a story of a couple who faced one of the worst things imaginable and still continued to choose life. —Carla Jean Whitley
D-Day Girls By Sarah Rose Crown $28, 400 pages 9780451495082 Audio, eBook available
History Admit it. When you hear “female spy,” you see images of Mata Hari beguiling her hapless victims into confiding secret enemy plans. But beauty so fatally powerful can easily transform from a spy’s best weapon into her greatest liability.
Trouble in the City by the Bay Ah, San Francisco—a tourist mecca with cable cars, the Golden Gate, steep hills and more. But the city’s cosmopolitan image doesn’t quite match up with its rough-and-tumble, often racist history, as demonstrated by two new books that might cause you to look at its past differently. Already a bustling seaport while Los Angeles was still in its infancy, San Francisco in the mid-19th century was a major entry point to the American West and beyond. At the height of the California gold rush, thousands of men streamed in from China in search of jobs. Women followed, of course, and many encountered challenging and dangerous conditions—including involuntary prostitution. In The White Devil’s Daughters: The Women Who Fought Slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown (Knopf, $28.95, 448 pages, 9781101875261), Julia Flynn Siler recounts the history of these girls and women, as well as the social pioneers who battled Chinatown gang leaders and the city bureaucracy to rescue them from sex slavery and indentured servitude. At the center of the story is Donaldina Cameron, a Presbyterian missionary nicknamed the “White Devil” by her many opponents in an attempt to keep their victims from fleeing to her. Operating from the Occidental Mission Home at the edge of Chinatown, Cameron provided a refuge for escapees, even seeking them out and spiriting them away from their captors. (Ironically, once safely at the mission, the girls and young women were subject to strict supervision, partly for their safety, and required to convert to Christianity.) Siler tells the stories of many of these women in episodic fashion, with short chapters that keep the reader turning the pages. Heart-tugging personal stories in-
clude the history of Tien Fuh Wu, who was brought in the arms of a policeman to live at the mission as a child, and Tye Leung, who fled at age 12 to avoid an arranged marriage with an older man. Both women became trusted aides at the mission. Iconic San Francisco historical events are prominent in Siler’s book, including the 1906 earthquake and fire and two outbreaks of the bubonic plague in the first decade of the 20th century. David K. Randall focuses on the plague in Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America From the Bubonic Plague (Norton, $26.95, 304 pages, 9780393609455). Chinatown is again the locus of events, as the first victim of the city’s plague outbreak in 1900 was a Chinese immigrant, and city officials immediately ordered a quarantine of the neighborhood. Racist leaders demanded that Chinatown be burned down, and corporate interests minimized the threat of danger to “European” residents of the city. It took a man of science with a compelling personal story, U.S. Public Health Service official Rupert Blue, to convince civic and corporate leaders that only the eradication of rats—and the fleas that carry the plague virus—would stop the disease’s spread. Randall brings Blue to life through letters to his family and co-workers and convincingly maintains that, had his efforts not been successful, the disease would have spread across the continent and San Francisco would not be the dream destination we know today. —Keith Herrell
reviews | nonfiction Instead, to be a successful female spy, a woman needs to be outwardly ordinary, a human chameleon who can hide in plain view. She must also have brains, courage and obstinacy. An ability to react quickly to unpleasant surprises—such as concealing incriminating evidence during a Gestapo arrest—is a plus. And the capacity to withstand torture without divulging any information about your spy ring is also desirable. These are the women of D-Day Girls, Sarah Rose’s gripping account of a generation of heroes. In 1942, the Special Operations Executive, established by Winston Churchill to organize sabotage in German territory, decided to train women to operate behind enemy lines. This decision was not the result of early feminist principles but was instead born out of necessity, since men were rare commodities in wartime. It wasn’t a popular decision either: Colonel Maurice Buckmaster had to sell his idea directly to Churchill before he could get permission to implement it. But the accomplishments of these extraordinary “ordinary” women outweighed any skepticism. They organized, trained and armed thousands of resistance fighters who, on and after D-Day, were able to divert German attention away from the beaches in Normandy. But their story is also marked by sadness and tragedy. Betrayed by the incompetence and arrogance of their commanders and fellow agents, scores of these women died under hideous circumstances. Others survived but were scarred. Their deeds may have been forgotten and their names obscured, but with her book, Rose has resurrected them, so that Odette Sansom, Andrée Borrel, Lise de Baissac and their sisters in arms will be remembered and honored. —Deborah Mason
Monson, fatally shot by her abusive husband, Rocky. He also killed their two children before committing suicide. Years later, Snyder sat down with Michelle’s father, trying to unravel what happened. She watched hours of home videos. She connected with Michelle’s family, law enforcement and community members who were traumatized by the crime. Most didn’t want to talk about Michelle. They felt complicit, wracked with regret and grief. The suffering induced by domestic violence is bigger than we can begin to understand, Snyder explains. Because these crimes are generally perceived as private, it’s nearly impossible to trace the collective impact. Snyder sets herself to the task, arguing that we need a broader research-based view of domestic violence. Snyder’s careful reporting about Michelle’s case lays the foundation for the many other stories she examines. Beyond the victims and their families, Snyder profiles several men who are trying to overcome their violent tendencies. She visits them in prison and sits in on counseling sessions, showing how hard it is for them to be aware of their processes of escalation—and how easy it is for them to slip back into violent tendencies that put them and those around them at risk. Finally, Snyder examines what interventions are interrupting the cycle of violence. This section offers tangible hope that our collective efforts, especially those that unite professionals around high-risk cases, can result in real change. Although No Visible Bruises is not easy or light reading, Snyder’s willingness to tell the intimate stories of domestic violence sheds light on an often neglected subject. All of us have a stake in becoming more aware of and responsive to private violence, and this book proves why. —Kelly Blewett
H No Visible Bruises
The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez
By Rachel Louise Snyder Bloomsbury $28, 320 pages 9781635570977 eBook available
Social Science “I talk to a lot of people who don’t want to talk to me,” writes author Rachel Louise Snyder on the first page of No Visible Bruises. She begins with the case of Michelle Mosure
By Aaron Bobrow-Strain FSG $28, 432 pages 9780374191979 Audio, eBook available
Biography The American dream has always been conditional for this country’s marginalized peoples. For young, undocu-
mented Mexican mother Aida Hernandez (not her real name, for reasons of protective anonymity), the U.S. immigration system exposed the cruelties and complexities of what it really means to be free. Aida was born and raised in Agua Prieta, Mexico. After her mother endured years of physical abuse, she left her husband, Aida’s father, and set out for the border town of Douglas, Arizona, with 9-year-old Aida and her two other daughters in tow. But Aida’s mother’s next partner echoed the patterns of abuse. As Aida grew up, the turbulent and unpredictable nature of her mother’s relationships added to the micro and macro challenges that accompanied living as an undocumented citizen. As a result, Aida’s inner world reflected the chaos of her unstable adolescence. Author Aaron Bobrow-Strain, a professor of politics at Whitman College and the founding member of the Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition in Washington state, presents Aida’s narrative in The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez as “somewhere between journalistic nonfiction and ethnography.” Bobrow-Strain’s genre-bending book isn’t so much an example of immigrant “exceptionalism”—the idea that Aida is deserving of citizenship because she’s “not like the others”—as it is an example of how American cultural and societal norms frame immigration as a meritocracy. In the book’s extensive back matter, Bobrow- Strain writes, “By framing support for undocumented immigrants in the language of virtue and achievement—‘hardworking,’ ‘family values,’ ‘not criminals,’ and ‘success stories’—I, and some parts of the immigrant rights movement, had tacitly condemned people like Aida who could not fit their lives into our narrow windows of approval.” The author’s tone, coupled with the overall narrative execution, shakes off the objective lens typically required of straightforward journalism. Bobrow-Strain is equal parts sympathetic and unabashedly honest in his re-creation of Aida’s life, seamlessly blending the intimate details of memoir into the historical and political context of U.S. immigration policies. Her journey to young adulthood is marked both by its universality (dancing to Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, the anxieties of trying to fit in at school) and by the adversities specific to being “other” in America (dealing with undocumented citizenship status, Border Patrol). While Aida’s story is not meant to serve as the sole representation of life as an undocumented immigrant, it’s a sharp portrait of a country where equality is designed only for those deemed worthy. —Vanessa Willoughby
reviews | young adult
H Top Pick:
We Contain Multitudes By Sarah Henstra Little, Brown, $17.99, 384 pages 9780316524650, audio, eBook available
Romance In Sarah Henstra’s We Contain Multitudes, an unlikely duo are paired up as pen pals for a weekly writing assignment, an arrangement that leads to friendship and even love. Senior Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky and sophomore Jonathan “Jo” Hopkirk couldn’t be more mismatched: Kurl plays football and works for his family’s roofing business, while Jo plays the mandolin and loves Walt Whitman so much he dresses like him. Telling the story solely via their exchanged letters, Henstra pulls off an especially neat
H How It Feels to Float By Helena Fox Dial $17.99, 384 pages 9780525554295 Audio, eBook available
Fiction In Australian author Helena Fox’s debut, How It Feels to Float, 17-yearold Elizabeth’s father still appears to her 10 years after his death. Biz, as she’s called by friends and family, finds comfort in his ghostly presence and indulges in his stories about her childhood and his love for her mother. But Biz also feels at home among her self-described “Posse” of classmates and with her best friend, Grace. During Biz’s junior year, her life starts to unravel. She discovers that she may be attracted to Grace, but her sexual orientation is still a conundrum. And when rumors about her sexuality start to spread around school, the Posse officially shuns her. Worst of all, her father disappears one night while she’s at the beach. As she finds herself alone, Biz may start to understand what it’s like for her father to float, “to watch and not be seen.” In this lyrical story, we follow Biz as she sets out to find her lost father. As she con-
trick: Jo and Kurl start off as different as night and day in both voice and temperament, but over time they begin to sound more like one another as they discover common ground and learn a bit more about each other’s lives. Jo is bullied mercilessly at school but is also
nects with a new boy at school named Jasper (whose sexual orientation is also undefined) and an older female mentor, Biz’s narration occasionally turns from prose to poetry. In order to connect with her father, she will have to do the hard work of confronting her PTSD and unresolved grief. This is a frank story of mental illness, loss and sexual identity, and Fox responsibly concludes her story with information and support services for readers facing similar issues. How It Feels to Float is a beautifully crafted story of finding hope and love when both appear to be gone forever. —Angela Leeper
With the Fire on High By Elizabeth Acevedo HarperTeen $17.99, 400 pages 9780062662835 Audio, eBook available
Fiction Still waters run deep in With the Fire on High, the second novel from Elizabeth Acevedo, author of the award-winning The Poet X. Emoni Santiago, known for her amazing
grieving a loss from early childhood; Kurl is obsessed with his brother’s military service in Afghanistan, yet he fails to make the connection between combat trauma and his own perilous home life. Henstra doesn’t sugarcoat any of these challenges, which makes the teens’ love story a hard-won treasure. Throughout the Minneapolis-set novel runs a sad and lovely thread about Prince, which encourages playlist creation while reading. There’s something about seeing the world through these boys’ separate points of view that brings the story to life in a visceral way. We Contain Multitudes is a heartbreaker in many ways, but it’s ultimately a beautiful story about how love (and poetry) are sometimes enough to carry the day. —Heather Seggel
skills in the kitchen, is a senior at her Philadelphia charter school, but her family is closer to the forefront of her mind than classes and college applications. Her 2-year-old daughter, Emma, whom Emoni calls “Babygirl,” has just started daycare. Babygirl’s father, Tyrone, is sweet to the child, but he’s a headache for Emoni. Emoni’s own father, Julio, is an activist who couldn’t handle single parenthood after Emoni’s mother, a black woman from North Carolina, died during childbirth. Now, when Julio visits from Puerto Rico, he leaves without goodbyes. And Emoni’s grandmother, ’Buela, keeps having doctor’s appointments that she doesn’t fully explain. But at school, a new guy is testing Emoni’s resolve not to deal with pretty boys, and then there’s the elective class she’s taking a chance on—culinary arts. When Emoni cooks at home, her dishes are inspired and have the power to bring people to tears. (Readers can try out Emoni’s dishes for themselves with the many recipes peppered throughout.) But the class assignments feature as much science as they do art, more discipline than creativity, and Emoni isn’t the school-achievement type. Plus, she’s not sure what to do about the culinary class’s study-abroad trip to Spain, which she has no money for. Readers will connect with Emoni as she navigates complex relationships, her irritation at being misunderstood and her self-identity with confidence and sass while trying to keep her dreams realistic and motherhood on the front burner. Although not as lyrical as Acevedo’s debut, With the Fire on High stands out for its
reviews | young adult unique, realistic subject matter and memorable characters. —Autumn Allen
You Must Not Miss By Katrina Leno Little, Brown $17.99, 304 pages 9780316449779 eBook available
Thriller Katrina Leno’s You Must Not Miss is a YA thriller with teeth. Sixteen-yearold Magpie Lewis has a yellow notebook. As her home life falls to pieces around her, she starts writing fiction about a new and perfect world she calls Near, one where her father hasn’t cheated on her mother and then left, where her mother hasn’t spiraled into alcoholism, where her sister still cares for her and where Magpie’s best friend hasn’t made her into a pariah at school. When Magpie finds a doorway into Near, it isn’t long before she realizes that the world she’s created is the perfect location to test how much power she holds and exact some revenge. Leno (Summer of Salt) spares her main character very little. Assailed from all sides, Magpie has deadened herself against pain. Even her burgeoning friendships with the kids at the cafeteria’s reject table can’t keep her from the addictive pull she feels from Near, the alternate reality that erases all the real world’s harm. When Magpie starts to lure people from the real world into Near, the horrors unfold quickly, but readers can never be sure what’s real and what Magpie has imagined. That off-kilter feeling runs throughout the book. Book clubs will have a great time arguing different theories of what really happens in Leno’s thriller, which has a resolution that raises at least as many questions as it answers and a protagonist who can be hard to love at times. The murkiness of Magpie’s everyday reality and the too-bright sparkle of her fantasy world—where the power of imagination can be as dangerous as a drug—combine to great effect. You Must Not Miss is a gritty, unsettling modern-day fairy tale. —Heather Seggel
spotlight | lgbtq stories
Coming-of-age while out and proud In decades past, the world of queer YA literature comprised cautionary tales and sob stories. Thankfully, these two new novels stand out for their uplifting and romantic perspectives. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a funny, sweet romantic comedy, and How (Not) to Ask a Boy to Prom (Roaring Brook, $17.99, 240 pages, 9781626724013) by S.J. Goslee delivers. Sixteen-year-old Nolan Grant would be content to secretly crush on the handsome Si while making art, working at the gardening store and hanging with his adoptive family during their board game tournaments and pancake marathons. But his older sister, Daphne, has other plans. When Nolan is pressured into a very public promposal orchestrated by Daphne, things go horribly wrong. Instead of asking Si, Nolan accidentally asks Ira “Bern” Bernstein, a bad boy everyone (including Bern himself) thinks is straight, as he recently split with his girlfriend. When Bern accepts, Nolan finds himself in a pickle. To keep up appearances, he has to pretend to date Bern until prom night. Meanwhile, the GayStraight Alliance—which Nolan reluctantly joins in his ongoing effort to impress Si—taps Nolan’s art talents for the prom after-party, and the situation between Nolan and Bern might be on its way to becoming real. As the prom approaches, art projects go awry, siblings squabble and a budding romance overturns everyone’s expectations. Will prom night be everything Daphne has in mind for Nolan, or will nothing go as planned? And when everything starts to go wrong, does that mean that everything’s actually going right? Comedy, romance and feel-good family dynamics combine in
what’s sure to be one of this summer’s most fun YA reads. Things take a turn toward the fabulous in Tanya Boteju’s Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens (Simon Pulse, $18.99, 384 pages, 9781534430655). Biracial teen Nima Kumara-Clark anticipates another boring summer of working, hanging out with her best friend and hoping to win the affections of her crush, Ginny. But when Nima takes a chance and sees an unusual act featuring drag queens at her town’s annual festival, she meets the mesmerizing Winnow and is instantly smitten. Hoping to see Winnow again, Nima follows her to a drag show, where she connects with Deidre, a drag queen who takes Nima under her wing. What follows is a summer that’s anything but what Nima expected. Attending drag shows awakens her, and soon she’s ready to do more than just watch. As Nima learns the art of being a drag king—a woman who dresses and performs as a man—she also gains new knowledge about long-hidden family secrets, her friends and even herself. Why did her mother leave her family, with only the briefest of notes, a year and a half ago? Why has Gordon, once a friend, become so bitter and distant? And why, if Nima’s confident that she likes girls, does being labeled a lesbian feel so awkward? Boteju uses her own life experience in the world of drag to tell a story filled with glitter, feather boas, lip-syncing and dancing, where gender identity is flexible and performance is the embodiment of joy. —Jill Ratzan
interview | julie buxbaum
A love story born from a national tragedy Julie Buxbaum’s new YA novel balances a story of first love with a look at the ripple effects of 9/11 for today’s teens. Hope and Other Punchlines is a sweet and funny romance set at a summer camp. But its main characters—unlikely camp counselors Abbi and Noah—happen to live in a New Jersey town that lost dozens of its residents on September 11, 2001. And even though that tragedy happened nearly 16 years before the events in Buxbaum’s novel, their community still lives in its shadow. Seventeen-year-old Abbi definitely feels like she can’t move past it. Although she can’t remember it, she became a symbol of hope after a photo of her as a baby being rescued from the World Trade Center day care became famous around the world. Abbi’s fellow camp counselor, Noah, is an aspiring journalist and political comedian, and he wants to interview all of the survivors captured in the iconic picture of Abbi—but he may have his own personal reasons linked to the tragedy for doing so. We caught up with Buxbaum by phone from her home in California to ask her what it was like to write a 9/11 novel for a generation that wasn’t even born when it happened. OK, I have to ask: Where were you on September 11, 2001? I was in Boston in law school. And my husband—who was my boyfriend at the time— was in London, and he’s the one who called me and told me to turn on the television. And it was this moment when the world suddenly shifted: We were in one world that morning and a completely different world when we went to bed that night. These memories are so vivid for those of us who were old enough. Was it strange to realize that by writing a novel about 9/11, even one that’s essentially set in the present, you were writing about something that today’s kids learn about from history books? That was the entire purpose of writing this book. It was born out of a tweet written by a teen I really admire. She always has really smart things to say, but in this tweet, she was basically complaining about having to learn about 9/11 every year on the anniversary. When I saw her tweet, I burst into tears, and it occurred to me that although those events seem to me like they happened yesterday, my readers were babies or not yet even born. It’s ancient history to them. So I wanted to find a
way to make 9/11 accessible and digestible to this generation, for whom 9/11 feels like what Pearl Harbor feels like to me. Writing a character like Noah, who’s an aspiring comedian, is a good way to inject some humor into what could otherwise be a bleak story. Was it hard for you to balance the funny and tragic parts of your novel? It was hard, but one of my goals for the book was to make people laugh, not just to make them cry—and sometimes both in the same paragraph. I find that in real life, people can be funniest in their darkest moments. It’s a way that we can cope with those difficult times. So I wanted to explore that in the book. And more importantly, I wanted to make a statement about how we use comedy to endure pain. What were you trying to explore about memory and what we remember, and why? I lost my mom quite young, which is something I return to again and again in my fiction. But one of the things that I think about constantly is about how a big loss can feel so traumatic, but over time we lose our memories of the small moments that make up our days. Memory—what we lose and what we retain—haunts me and is a theme I return to repeatedly in my writing and in my life, especially my life as a parent. I had heard about the pretty terrible rate of sickness and death that persists among people who were at the World Trade Center site, but I really hadn’t understood the extent of it. Why did you decide to work this health issue into the novel? I think it’s really important for people to
Hope and Other Punchlines Delacorte, $18.99, 320 pages 9781524766771 Audio, eBook available
Fiction remember, especially since it’s not consistently covered in the media. This is one of those tragedies that has reverberated around the globe in countless political ways, but the actual explosion and its aftermath continues to perpetuate sickness and death among survivors— there are thousands of types of cancers directly linked to 9/11 exposure. And I worry that because we don’t talk about it, people just don’t know. There’s this feeling that we have moved on, but those who are still coping with the physical or emotional effects can’t move on. Your characters model different ways of coping with trauma and grief. What do you want readers to take away from their resilience? I think everyone processes loss and trauma differently, but it’s all hugely damaging. And it’s interesting to think how lives change course as a result of those defining moments. In some cases, they propel us forward, and in other cases, they propel us backward. Losing my mom was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but I also think it changed who I am as a person—partly in some wonderful, miraculous ways. I would trade anything to go back and have it be different, of course, but I can’t discount that I am who I am because of those experiences. —Norah Piehl
feature | seaside picture books
Tales of sun, sand and surf Get little readers ready for a great summer vacation with one of these four picks. Waiting for Chicken Smith (Candlewick, $16.99, 32 pages, 9781536207712, ages 3 to 7), written and illustrated by David Mackintosh, is a quirky, touching book that captures the essence of summertime friendships. At the beach, a young boy awaits the arrival of his pal Chicken Smith, who stays in a nearby cabin each year with his father. The boy looks back on summers spent in the company of Chicken and his dog, Jelly, as they trekked to the lighthouse in hopes of seeing a whale. “Chicken Smith knows the beach like the back of his hand, and I do too,” the boy says. But Chicken never shows, and a rental sign appears on the house he usually stays in. On the bright side, the boy connects with his own pesky little sister, Mary Ann. Mackintosh’s charming line drawings are deceptively simple, and the story’s text appears to have been pecked out on a typewriter. Innovative visuals and a poignant plot make this story a winner. Sea Glass Summer (Candlewick, $16.99, 32 pages, 9780763684433, ages 4 to 8), written by Michelle Houts and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, is a beautifully depicted story about family, discovery and the mysteries of nature. Thomas is spending the summer with his grandmother at her island home. Down on the beach, they pick up bits of sea glass, and Thomas wonders how the pieces got there. “I’m not sure,” his grandmother says, “but your grandfather used to say that each piece of sea glass has a story all its own.” At night, Thomas dreams about the origins of the glass. In one dream, a schooner sinks into the sea, taking with it broken jars and bits of crockery. Ibatoulline’s gorgeous, realistic illustrations capture the fine details of the natural world and Thomas’ sense of excitement. Readers will be intrigued by this tale and the lessons it imparts about being attentive to the wonders of the great outdoors. An essential book for young beachcombers, Seashells: More Than a Home (Charlesbridge, $16.99, 32 pages, 9781580898102, ages 6 to 9) provides a fascinating overview of 13 kinds of Illustration from Sea Glass Summer © 2019 by Bagram Ibatoulline. shells. In her accessible text, author Melissa Reproduced by permission of Candlewick Press. Stewart covers the form, function and native habitat of each shellfish, from the beautifully curved chambered nautilus and the heart-shaped cockle to the Atlantic bay scallop with its rows of fine ridges. Stewart uses analogies from everyday life to help readers understand how these “treasures from a secret world beneath the waves” house clams, snails, oysters and other creatures. Artist Sarah S. Brannen brings the narrative to life through watercolor scenes of boys and girls exploring the seashore and collecting specimens. Precise sketches and diagrams of the shells lend a naturalist feel to the proceedings. Suggestions for further reading and a listing of mollusk types round out the volume. This fun, fact-filled book will inspire up-and-coming collectors while equipping them with important information. A friendship is born in author and illustrator Kate Pugsley’s sweet seaside story, Mermaid Dreams (Tundra, $17.99, 32 pages, 9780735264915, ages 3 to 7). Little Maya arrives at the beach with her parents on a picture-perfect day. She’s eager to play, but they’re ready to relax. Left to her own devices, Maya climbs on her turtle float and falls asleep. She dreams that she’s riding on the turtle’s back in the ocean. Together, they dive down into the sea and find “a secret underwater world” filled with bright fish of every imaginable kind. There, Maya becomes a mermaid with a gorgeous blue tail. She swims among the coral and meets an octopus and a group of seahorses, and she even meets another mermaid. When Maya wakes up from her dream, she’s no longer in the watery wonderland, but a little girl named Pearl is standing by her turtle float, ready to play. Pugsley’s illustrations have a naive, childlike simplicity that kids will connect with. Bursting with color and a sense of adventure, Pugsley’s book has the makings of a summertime classic. —Julie Hale
reviews | children’s
H Top Pick: Our Castle by
the Sea By Lucy Strange
Chicken House, $17.99, 336 pages 9781338353853, audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12
Historical Fiction In the follow-up to her acclaimed debut, The Secret of Nightingale Wood, author Lucy Strange explores the harrowing history of England at the start of World War II through the eyes of a young, fearful girl. Eleven-year-old Pet has grown up on the southeast coast of England with her mother, father and older sister, Mags. Her tight-knit family tends to their village’s lighthouse and has always led a quiet, happy life. But as the
1940s begin and the war moves ever closer, Pet’s beloved cliff tops turn from an idyllic place for a child to roam and play to a battleground of barbed wire and a target for bombings. As the war rages, everyone in her family seems to have a secret to hide, which strains their bonds
when they need connection the most. Pet, a girl prone to freezing up in times of fear, will have to learn to be braver than she’s ever been if she hopes to untangle the mysteries shrouding her family. Set during one of the most momentous periods of world history, Our Castle by the Sea is a powerful novel, and the steady pace of the narrative will keep readers engrossed. Strange’s incorporation of coastal English folklore and legend adds a layer of depth to both the narrative and characters, making for a rich and immersive reading experience. At the heart of the story is Strange’s heroine, however unlikely, as well as her journey of growth and change during a time that absolutely necessitated it. —Hannah Lamb
Subscribe to our children’s and YA newsletter for more reviews, interviews and features: bookpage.com/generationread
meet CARTER GOODRICH How would you describe your book?
What books did you enjoy as a child?
Who has been the biggest influence on your work?
What one thing would you like to learn to do?
Who was your childhood hero?
What message would you like to send to your readers?
In Carter Goodrich’s picture book Nobody Hugs a Cactus (Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 48 pages, 9781534400900, ages 4 to 8), Hank the prickly cactus wants to be left alone. But when he gets his wish, he just might change his mind about friendship. Goodrich has been the lead character designer for films like Brave and Despicable Me and frequently illustrates covers for The New Yorker. He lives in Los Angeles.
C O M RY TA EN Y LIM P P CO
Debut Fiction Sampler — SPRING 2019 —
w What Will You Read Next?