America’s BoOK Review
World travel guides inspire adventure
Zoë Heller Jodi Picoult Jeffrey Lent Neal Bascomb Christopher Moore
America’s BoOK Review THE BEST IN NEW BOOKS Publisher Michael A. Zibart Associate publisher Julia Steele Editor Lynn L. Green Assistant EditorS MiChelle Jones Trisha Ping Contributing Editor Sukey Howard Contributor Roger Bishop
ON THE COVER
9 Zoë Heller A family struggles after a father’s stroke 20 N eal Bascomb Tracking down a fugitive Nazi
FEATURES 5 Literary Lives Three new biographies tell all 6 M eet the Author Lisa Lutz, in her own words 12 W ell Read Jeffrey Lent chronicles the rebirth of a man haunted by tragedy
13 B ehind the Book Mary Pat Kelly’s novel is based on family history
19 D ig In! Spring into the gardening season 31 B usiness Books for pros and novices alike
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R E V I E W S Our editors evaluate and select for review the best new books published each month. Only books we highly recommend are featured. BookPage is editorially independent and never accepts payment for editorial coverage.
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Children’s books Allison Hammond
Production Manager Penny Childress
Featured on the cover of this issue is a street scene from Bruges, Belgium, one of many family travel destinations recommended in Together We Go: Extraordinary Family Journeys to Discover and Remember ($45, 256 pages, ISBN 9780307408808), to be published in April by Clarkson Potter. The excursions in Anita Kaushal’s lushly illustrated book range from the sophisticated to the simple, from those requiring passports (African safari, Indian festival) to those closer to home (the seashore, a neighborhood market). Kaushal also includes packing tips, soundtrack suggestions and a resource section.
More help for planning your next vacation
24 F irst Fiction Early readers whet kids’ appetites for
25 C harise Mericle Harper Her young heroine fights to save our planet
26 N ew Additions Becoming a big brother or sister 27 G reg Foley Meet the author-illustrator
REVIEWS Fiction 4 My Abandonment by Peter Rock 6 The Book of Night Women by Marlon James 8 Drood by Dan Simmons
Fool by Christopher Moore
Honolulu by Alan Brennert
Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue
Old City Hall by Robert Rotenberg
Nonfiction 6 A Comrade Lost and Found by Jan Wong
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
Addition by Toni Jordan
30 Hands of My Father by Myron Uhlberg
Under the Blue Flag by Philip Kearney
30 When March Went Mad by Seth Davis
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3 Buzz Girl 4 The Author Enablers
A D V E R T I S E
8 Bestseller Watch
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16 Romance 28 Book Clubs
They led the way
30 Cooking Cover photo by Christina Wilson www.christinawilson.co.uk © 2008 by Thames & Hudson Ltd., London. Reprinted with permission of Thames & Hudson and Clarkson Potter/Publishers.
buzz girl ➥ Our publishing
insider gets the skinny on tomorrow’s bestsellers There has been plenty to talk about in the book world this month, which has brought news of several sure-to-be bestsellers coming down the line for summer and fall.
➥ circus act She’s already written a novel with her mother Lynn, but Britney Spears has led a tumultuous life that is surely stranger than fiction. The book world is abuzz with the news that the pop star has been offered as much as $14 million to write the story of her life. There’s so much to tell, in fact, that Brit’s bewildering britney spears life story might be told in multiple volumes—at least three, sources say. Spears will begin writing once she returns from her world tour. Stay tuned.
➥ super series
Dead and Gone (Ace). October will bring the fourth book in Harris’ Harper Connelly series, which stars a woman cursed with the ability to find dead bodies—and see how they died. On her website, Harris says she is “increasingly convinced” that Grave Secret (Berkley) will be the last adventure for Harper, but promises a satisfying conclusion.
➥ the great kate
Christensen answers in her fifth novel, Trouble, which Doubleday will publish in June. Though she hasn’t hit the bestseller lists yet, Christensen is becoming known for her complicated characters. Her last novel, The Great Man, won the PEN/Faulkner award, and was notable for its witty, vibrant portrayal of the lives of three women over 70—despite the fact that Christensen is in her 40s.
Sarah palin Since the 2000 release of her The political memoirs just debut, Because of Winn-Dixie, keep coming. Now it’s AlasKate DiCamillo has been one ka governor Sarah Palin’s of the biggest names in midchance to write her memoirs dle-grade fiction. Several best- kate dicamillo for the right price. She’s resellers, one Newbery Medal puted to want $11 million and a feature film later, she’s set to release a fifth children’s chapter to tell her life story, and is making the book, The Magician’s Elephant (Candle- rounds with the same lawyer who helped wick), this September. Film rights have secure book deals for the Clintons. Maybe already been snapped up by the Fox 2000 that means Palin will receive a more Clinproducer who brought Charlotte’s Web ton-sized advance than former first lady and Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortu- Laura Bush did—despite rumors of major bucks, Bush reportedly ended up with nate Events to the big screen. less than $2 million for her memoirs.
➥ answered prayers
Bruce Wilkinson wrote a string of best-selling inspirational books, including The Prayer of Jabez, which has sold 10 million copies since its publication. After a six-year break from writing, Wilkinson returns this fall with You Were Born for This! (Multnomah). Readers looking for encouragement are sure to flock to his new work.
Charlaine Harris’ popular Sookie Stackhouse mysteries got even bigger when Alan Ball used them as the basis for the hit HBO series “True Blood,” which debuted last summer. The Arkansas novelist is still hard at work, with installments in two of her popular series due later this year. First up is a treat for Sookie fans: May will bring the next Southern Vampire mystery, charlaine harris
➥ a certain age Much has been written about the male midlife crisis, but how do women deal with reaching that certain age? That’s the question Kate
The loss of novelist, short-story writer, poet, critic and essayist John Updike, 76, shocked and saddened the literary community in January. But according to Nicholas Latimer, Updike’s publisher at Knopf, the prolific author had two more books ready for publication before his death. Fans can look forward to My Father’s Tears and Other Stories (June) and The Maple Stories (August).
➥ corrections dept. Despite what we said in January’s Buzz Girl column, not all of Pat Conroy’s novels have been made into movies—Beach Music remains unfilmed.
Inaugural Parthenon Prize winner is a comic tragedy by Nashville-based Hooded Friar Press. The novel, which Earley described as “Part slacker comedy and part Cainand-Abel tragedy,” is a winning coming-of-age tale. Muskin, who works as a freelance advertising copywriter, has previously published a collection of short stories. He and his wife live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 2008 Parthenon Prize went to author Geoffrey Becker for his novel Hot Springs, which will be published by Tin House books. Due to economic conditions, the Parthenon Prize will not be awarded in 2009, but they expect to renew the contest in 2010.
THE TEN YEAR NAP A “tartly funny” (New York Times) novel about female ambition, money, class, motherhood, and marriage, and what happens to women who opt-out—and then want back in.
A Member of Penguin Group (USA) penguin.com
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The New York Times bestselling novel that woke up critics, book clubs and women everywhere.
➥ updike remembered
t’s a little-known fact that one of the largest literary prizes out there comes from right here in Nashville. Book lover and businessman John Spence created the prize, which offers a $15,000 jackpot and the offer of a publishing contract with a local press, to one very lucky (and talented!) author with an “outstanding,” unpublished work of fiction. The prize was first awarded in 2007, with novelist Tony Earley (Jim the Boy) serving as the head judge. Now the winning novel, Scott Muskin's The Annunciations of Hank Meyerson, Mama’s Boy and Scholar ($23.95, 354 pages, ISBN 9780981760926), has been released
NOW IN PAPERBACK
A father and daughter face the wild By Harvey Freedenberg Inspired by a true story, Peter Rock’s fifth novel is the spare, haunting tale of a father and daughter attempting to carve out an independent life while pitted against a society decidedly hostile to their eccentric choices. It’s a strange kind of love story, inspiring us to ponder large questions—what it means to be a responsible parent, and whether, in the modern world, the tension between the urge to live a solitary existence of rugged integrity can be reconciled with the implacable demands of civilization. When the novel opens, Caroline, the precocious 13-yearold narrator whose voice Rock skillfully channels, is living with a stern but obviously loving man we know only as “Father” in a vast nature preserve called Forest Park in Portland, Oregon. They occupy an improvised dwelling, where Caroline learns geometry and chess and combs the pages of an encyclopedia, simultaneously honing her survival skills. She imbibes the lessons taught by her father’s heroes, icons of individualism like Thoreau and Emerson whose epigrams are threaded through the story. The pair is arrested after a jogger stumbles upon their hideout, and the authorities send them to a horse farm, where he will work while Caroline enters a public school. My Abandonment But it’s clear they’re not meant to exist in what amounts By Peter Rock to captivity, and soon Father engineers their escape. They Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ascend into the wintry wilderness of Oregon’s Cascade $22, 240 pages Mountains, whose harsh beauty Rock evokes in economical ISBN 9780151014149 prose, but quickly are overmatched by the conditions they confront. Events soon force Caroline to make her way alone in the world, fortified with only her native common sense and the teachings her father has shared with her. My Abandonment is a teasingly ambiguous tale that leaves our speculation about Caroline and Father to linger in the air like the smoke from a dying campfire: is their relationship empowering or toxic? Are the true lessons children learn from their parents the ones those parents intend to impart? These questions, and others equally challenging, make this novel a thoughtful one that readers will savor. o Harvey Freedenberg writes from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
THE AUTHOR ENABLERS A higher calling Dear Author Enablers, I am a minister and Christian author of five books. I have limited funds and a fear of rejection about marketing, but I am ready to launch out and get things going. Should I just target churches for my audience? Dr. Evelyn Drayton Georgetown, South Carolina Churches are a great place to start, but every author dreams of capturing a wider audience. Inspirational fiction is one area where self-published authors or those published by small and independent presses (with no marketing/publicity budgets and small distribution chains) can have a shot at breaking through to the mainstream. A famous recent example is BY SAM BARRY & The Shack by William P. Young, published by Windblown Media, a company formed KATHI KAMEN GOLDMARK specifically to publish this book. The Shack has spent weeks atop the bestseller lists, giving hope to authors who’ve been rejected by traditional publishers. Success like that is rare, though, and most self-published authors long for the legitimacy that comes with traditional publishing. We asked Cynthia DiTiberio, an editor at HarperOne and Avon Inspire, about expanding the audience for self-published inspirational fiction. “Self-publishing can be a double-edged sword,” she says. “In order for us to pay attention, a book would need to have sold substantially, but then we wonder whether the market has been satisfied and if it’s worth the risk to put more copies out. We would seriously consider publishing a new book from an independently published author with a record of strong sales. The drive and determination required for a self-published author to rack up sales indicates the kind of commitment that publishers are looking for from authors.” We think it’s “time to get back to the shack, jack,” (even though your name is Evelyn) and start a grassroots campaign, while keeping an eye out for wider opportunities. Dear Author Enablers, I self-published a detective story laden with typos and grammatical guffaws. It was my first attempt at a novel and I didn’t do all the things I have since learned to do, like rewrite and edit, edit, edit. I have gone back over the manuscript with a “fine-toothed comb.” Now I would like to “re-release the book” and am not sure what I need to do beyond the obvious (attaching a different ISBN, new cover, etc.) to self-publish it again should I choose to. What sage advice do you have for me so I don’t “screw it up” again? Larry Young Colorado Springs, Colorado
New York Times bestselling author of
MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
Me & Emma
delivers her most powerful and provocative story to date.
We think it might be time to “take a deep breath,” and a “step back.” Find a writers’ group, or start your own. Attend a writers’ conference where you can workshop your novel and get tough, constructive feedback. You may find that your book will become so transformed that you will be able to re-release it with a new title, cover and ISBN, though you should note on the cover that the work was previously published as [Title]. Or you may find yourself coming up with terrific ideas for a new project altogether! Just don’t re-release the same book if it’s not ready. Good writing takes time and effort, and publishing prematurely accomplishes nothing, as you already know. Dear Author Enablers, I belong to an ornithology group whose director owns a B&B, knows over 500,000 bird enthusiasts, has written five bird books and has online classes. If I have written a fiction on ducks, and another on birds, would it be OK to suggest collaboration? Since my fiction is completed and he is a nonfiction author, what is the best way to ask and how would he contribute to the writing? David Cross Dixon, Illinois A bird, a duck and an ornithologist walk into a bed and breakfast, and boy are their arms tired. . . . But seriously, folks. Perhaps the director could write a foreword or endorsement (sometimes called a blurb) for your book. Offer him a favorable deal to sell copies in his B&B and help you market the book to other bird enthusiasts. There are many kinds of partnerships, and this one sounds like it might be “for the birds” (or not, depending on your definition). Either way, it never hurts to ask. o
On sale March 2009
With more than 25 years experience in the industry, Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry have the inside scoop on writing and publishing. E-mail your questions (along with your name and hometown) to AuthorEnabler@aol.com.
Literary lives beyond the page By Joanna Brichetto his month sees the release of a trio of books about three very different literary figures. Flannery O’Connor, John Cheever and Paule Marshall could hardly be more different from one another, except that all have created immortal works of fiction and all have lives worth examining. But why do we necessarily want to examine them? What is it we hope to learn that we cannot glean from the stories or novels themselves? Why do we have an unappeasable hunger to know as much as we can about a person who created something we love? Should not our drive to know more be checked by the last sentence of the last page of the last work? After all, anything more, anything truly factual is really none of our business. Which is, perhaps, precisely why we want more.
Southern charmer More is certainly what we get with Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor (Little, Brown, $30, 464 pages, ISBN 9780316000666) by Brad Gooch. O’Connor did not live a long life nor leave behind a long bibliography, but the rippling impact of her two novels and collections of stories assumes a long, long reach into the world of American letters. Gooch, author of a biography of Frank O’Hara, examines O’Connor’s life with exhaustive care, giving readers a detailed picture of this very Southern, very Catholic and very private writer. O’Connor did not travel widely, socialize (as such) or date, and she spent most of her life in the company of her mother and her beloved menagerie of birds, yet her fierce insight, imagination, faith and craft create a universe that fairly burns through geographical or cultural boundaries. Flannery follows O’Connor’s early influences and traumas, her quietly determined path through school, her relationships with friends and mentors, her experiences at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Yaddo, and her supreme dedication to her work throughout even the final days of lupus, the prolonged, crippling illness that took her life at age 39.
A Cheever chronicle
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Telling her own story Paule Marshall (who pronounces her name with a silent “e”), considered the foundational author of contemporary African-American women’s literature, has just published what will, with hope, be the first of her memoirs. She is the author of several acclaimed novels and short stories, and her first novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones is a classic of Black American literature courses. Triangular Road: A Memoir (Basic Civitas, $23, 192 pages, ISBN 9780465013593) is a slim, fearless account of several episodes in Marshall’s own life, including an homage to mentor Langston Hughes, and a dark, tangential portrait of the James River as it winds through Richmond, Virginia (her first tenured position was at Virginia Commonwealth University). Most engaging, however, is the chapter on her own family, real and imagined, who came out of African slave ships, Port Comfort chattel “scrambles,” Barbados sugar cane fields and Bajan Brooklyn brownstones, growing a family tree embraced and honored by Marshall, and, at times, used as patterns for her own carefully crafted fictional characters. o Joanna Brichetto writes from Nashville.
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Novelist and short-story writer John Cheever, who died in 1982 at the age of 70, has already been the subject of a biography, but not, it should be noted, one written with the approval and support of the Cheever estate and access to the staggering amount of information made available to the current biographer, Blake Bailey. In Cheever: A Life (Knopf, $35, 784 pages, ISBN 9781400043941), Bailey has the good fortune to have at hand literally everything that bears even the slightest import to the life of John Cheever. This he deftly distills into a brick of a book fat with footnotes, taking readers year by year through the events, people, places and works of this Pulitzer Prizewinning author. Cheever was a puzzle of a man, fraught with contradictions and inconsistencies that, thankfully for American literature, evolved into luminous prose. His alcoholism and bisexuality are now well known, but not so the humanizing details, or his depression and cancer, all of which and more are set down in detail here. Bailey may soon be responsible for a fresh Cheever revival: release of this biography coincides with two new Library of America collections of Cheever’s stories and novels, both edited by Bailey. This triangulation is excellent news for readers familiar with or brand-new to Cheever—an opportunity to reassess or discover one of the best writers of the 20th century.
© DAVID MIDDLETON
Journalist faces her past in China By ANNE BARTLETT Few among us can look back without regret at some silly youthful decision that had unforeseen consequences. Canadian journalist Jan Wong has had an even bigger burden to bear than most: A Chinese Canadian, Wong was one of the first Westerners allowed to study at Beijing University in the early 1970s. The Cultural Revolution was under way, and Wong, an inexperienced enthusiast of 20, was a Maoist. When a Chinese student acquaintance named Yin Luoyi asked Wong to help her get to the U.S., Wong promptly reported Yin to her Communist professors. Years later, as a foreign correspondent with few illusions, she covered the Tiananmen Square massacre for the Toronto Globe and Mail. When she ultimately remembered her casual betrayal, she realized she had “thoughtlessly destroyed a young woman I didn’t even know.” A Comrade Lost and Found, Wong’s second book on China, is about her quest to make amends to Yin—and to tell the story of Beijing’s evolution from its grim, xenophobic Maoist past to its recent pre-crash incarnation as flamboyant boomtown. Wong is known for the amusing but ruthless candor of her celebrity interviews, and she brings that quality to her own tale. She structures the book as a search A Comrade Lost for Yin, as she travels back to Beijing with her husband Nor- and Found man, himself an old China hand, and their very Canadian By Jan Wong teenage sons. With little to go on, she pesters old friends Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and professors for information. $24, 336 pages She learns through them how many Chinese have failed ISBN 9780151013425 to come to terms with the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, even as they return to a pre-revolutionary culture of entrepreneurism and conspicuous consumption. Old Beijing is disappearing; the new city lacks distinction. Her university Red Guard pals now vie for the biggest homes and sneer at rural migrants, while remaining silent about their own tragedies and betrayals. As the book’s title indicates, Wong does eventually find Yin, with unexpected results. It turns out to have been worth the trouble, for Wong and for readers of this honest, funny, illuminating book. o Anne Bartlett is a journalist in Washington, D.C.
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Sophomore novel is full of magic
Revenge of the Spellmans (Simon & Schuster, $25, 352 pages, ISBN 9781416593386) is the third installment in Lisa Lutz’s best-selling series about a zany family of private investigators. Lutz wrote a screenplay and bounced through a series of jobs before launching her hit series in 2007. She lives in San Francisco.
By Jessica Inman If you pick up The Book of Night Women, you might lose a little sleep. The second novel from Kingston native Marlon James will having you flipping pages, thirsty for more story, late into the night. On a sugar plantation in Jamaica in the late 1700s, a slave dies in childbirth. But the baby, called Lilith, lives. As she grows up, it becomes apparent that a dark power lies within her, and she catches the eye of the leader of a group of women. They meet at night and practice magic—and make plans. Amid the events of the novel and Lilith’s tragic life, there are questions stretched taut across the background: can these women upend their dehumanizing lives—can they free themselves? Before it’s all over, we’ll find out how cruelty can break a person, fracture a soul. And we’ll find ourselves just as hungry for justice as the night women. Lilith is one of the best characters in recent memory. She starts the book appropriately smart-mouthed and “uppity,” and as she grows into womanhood, she expectedly grows hardened, quieter. But her ability to hold on to her own soul, her ability to love, makes her not only endearing, but also a symbol of spirit and strength. James doesn’t spare anything in depicting the brutality of slavery. The violence is both horrifying and deeply saddening, but it spurs the reader to The Book of have hope in the characters and faith in the story—as well Night Women as the author. Well-crafted and beautifully written in the patois of 19th- By Marlon James century Jamaica, The Book of Night Women seems likely to Riverhead find itself on the short list for several literary awards (James’ $26.95, 432 pages first novel, John Crow’s Devil, was shortlisted for the Com- ISBN 9781594488573 Also available on audio monwealth Writers’ Prize). It’s certainly worthy of a book club read: nearly all of the characters are so morally complicated that they will inspire plenty of discussion. And with its unique rhythm, this book almost asks to be read out loud. The Book of Night Women is not an easy novel. But it’s one that’s rich and true, and it will stay in your mind for weeks to come. o
Simmons imagines the spark behind Dickens’ unfinished work By Michael Alec Rose If you’re making lists of classic science fiction, horror, fantasy, mystery and historical fiction, works by Ray Bradbury and Dan Simmons must appear on every one. Only these two authors have had the skill and the nerve to excel in every one of these genres. But there is more to the Bradbury-Simmons connection than mere range. What binds them together most poignantly is their fierce love and explicit regard for the literary tradition.
For instance, Charles Dickens often haunts Bradbury’s works. Now it is Simmons’ turn to raise the ghost of the creator of Ebenezer Scrooge, Oliver Twist and, of course, Edwin Drood. In Drood, Dickens is ironically overshadowed by his close friend and collaborator Wilkie Collins, the brilliant but lesser-known mystery novelist. Collins narrates a detailed, “revisionist” account of Dickens’ final years
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step. . . .
Powerful . . . [A] stunning debut from a gifted talent.”
—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
vitally important . . . Fantastic.”
after his near-fatal railway accident in 1865. Through the voice of Dickens’ jealous friend, Simmons manages to fuse all his genres, and then some. Drood is at once an intimate view of the amours of two beloved Victorian writers, an extensive and meticulously researched piece of English historical fiction, a fantasy of doppelgangers and Egyptian rites, a quaint exercise in 19th-century science fiction (including mesmeric trances and the technology of London sewage), a dark and bloody detective story, a novel of purest horror (with brain-eating beetles and walking Undead), and the latest in a long line of impossible efforts to finish Dickens’ last, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Simmons’ splendid pastiche is all the more engaging because we can never really know why Dickens was inspired to make such a radical departure in his final work, let alone how he would have completed it had he lived. Drood will shock and delight readers as a plausible Amadeus fable: the mediocre artist (Collins/Salieri) spirals into a murderous rage against his nemesis, the Inimitable Genius (Dickens/Mozart), whose greatness only he is close enough to fully understand and articulate. There’s only one flaw in the Amadeus model, and it’s a decisive one: in real life, both Salieri and Collins produced genuinely beautiful work. Simmons’ self-evident hope for his wildly macabre Drood is that it will lead a new flock of readers to Collins’ wonderful Woman in White and Moonstone. o Michael Alec Rose is a composer and Vanderbilt University music professor who owes his lifelong love of literature to Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.
Drood By Dan Simmons Little, Brown, $26.99, 784 pages ISBN 9780316007023 Also available on audio
Release dates for some of the guaranteed blockbusters hitting shelves in March:
MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
—Dorothea Benton Frank
Meet Kathryn Stockett!
Paths of Glory By Jeffrey Archer St. Martin’s, $27.95, ISBN 9780312539511
In a new novel, Archer imagines the outcome of George Mallory’s trek up Mt. Everest.
Tour details and more at:
10 Fault Line
By Barry Eisler Ballantine, $25, ISBN 9780345505088
When an inventor is murdered, two estranged brothers work together to solve the crime.
ON SALE NOW
24 The Long Fall
By Walter Mosley
AMY EINHORN BOOKS/PUTNAM A member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. www.penguin.com
Riverhead, $25.95, ISBN 9781594488580
Also available from Penguin Audio.
Mosley launches a new series with this mystery, set in New York City and starring a boxer-turned-PI.
Standing in the shadows
Heller’s wickedly funny look at a family’s unraveling
and experiences for London newspapers, being dubbed one of the first female “confessional writers.” But Heller had her doubts about the worth of this brand of journalism. “I felt slightly ludicrous writing ‘whither America’ pieces,” she admitted. “I think it caused a great flurry of similar ‘girly about town’ columns. I often get credit that I created this terribly grotesque genre.” After living in Manhattan for several years with her husband, screenwriter Larry Konner, and their two daughters, the family temporarily relocated to the Bahamas because, well, they could. “We realized we were both writers, and the theory was we could write wherever we wanted,” she said. “We considered Morocco, and then ended up, slightly dully, in the Bahamas. It’s warm, which was one of the chief criteria, and there was school for the kids.” It was a surprisingly easy transition for this self-proclaimed “big-town girl.” Her children, now ages five and nine, have transformed into “island ZOË HELLER children” who can dive and surf, although the older daughter did recently confess she missed the dirty subways of New York. Writing during this relocation to paradise has been a bit tougher than expected. “Slightly grim interior spaces are the best place for me to write,” she laughed. “But, there are all sorts of things I want to write about as a result of being here.” Which is a relief. With three novels under her belt now, including Notes on a Scandal, which was made into a movie starring Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, and this newest, the screen rights to which have already been bought, one would think Heller would see smooth sailing. But she still admits to a dread of writer’s block. “I slightly live in fear of not having anything else to write about,” she said. You wouldn’t know it by reading The Believers. It’s a richly detailed, deeply insightful peek into what happens to one family when the star of the show leaves the spotlight. In the wake of Joel’s stroke, Audrey makes some poor choices—and some unforgivable remarks—but Heller allows glimpses into the years of adultery and standing in the shadow that led to her current behavior: “The wives of great men must always be jealously guarding their positions against the encroachments of acolytes, and Audrey had decided long ago that if everybody else was going to guffaw at Joel’s jokes and roll over at this charm, her distinction—the mark of her unparalleled intimacy with the legend—would be a deadpan unimpressability. ‘Oh, I forgot!’ she often drawled when Joel was embarking on one of his exuberant anecdotes. ‘It’s all about you, isn’t it?’ ” “I attempt to describe something of the process, of why would she become so awful,” Heller said. “I always wonder about the wives of famous, charismatic men. It must be hard going home with the clown or the charmer. It must be hard living with that person.” After finishing the promotion of The Believers, Heller and her family will move back from the Bahamas to that other island, Manhattan, this summer. Living in the tropics has its perks, sure, but Heller is already clearly in a New York state of mind. She doesn’t miss a beat when asked what she’s missed the most about big-city life: “Take-out food.” o Amy Scribner writes from Olympia, Washington. © JACQUES BROUCHER
By Amy Scribner hen Audrey Litvinoff’s famous liberal-lawyer husband Joel falls victim to a stroke, she is left behind to deal with their rapidly unraveling family and a secret that makes her second-guess their entire marriage. But if this description of The Believers—the fantastic new novel by What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal author Zoë Heller—leaves you expecting to feel sorry for poor Audrey, think again. A bristlier, more complicated character is hard to recall in recent fiction. And that’s just the way Heller intended it. “I think there’s excessive emphasis on the need for likable people in fiction—people you admire or even are inspired by,” said Heller, who spoke to BookPage from her home in the Bahamas. “The job of fiction is not to present likable characters. It’s to present interesting characters. And I find [Audrey] funny. You can’t be without interest in someone if they make you laugh.” Indeed, The Believers is chock-full of engaging characters who revolve around one another in present-day New York City. There’s the bitterly funny Audrey, who seems hell-bent on alienating everyone around her in the days following Joel’s stroke—her family, the medical staff taking care of Joel and anyone else she encounters. Then there are the Litvinoff children, all of whom have their own surprising reactions to Joel’s demise. Rosa, a beauty who has spent her adult life as an ardent atheist and Marxist, suddenly finds herself drawn to the Orthodox Jewish faith of her ancestors. Karla, a dowdy social worker whose husband treats her as though he did her a favor by marrying her, is on the brink of starting an affair with a colleague. And Lenny, their youngest, is sinking further into drug use. While the subject matter is no joke, in her impossibly silky British voice—she lived in London before moving to New York City in the mid-’90s—Heller laughs about her inspiration for these powerful characters. Rosa, it seems, was inspired in part by Heller’s own self-righteous adolescence. “I was a fantastically sententious 12-year-old, berating my sisters for shaving their legs and such,” she said. “I suppose I was dredging up memories of my own past. Rosa was the hardest to write, going from militant atheism to religion. I’m sort of a skeptic by nature, and never had religion. I wanted to write about it without being patronizing.” Karla, it seems, was an easier character to sketch. “Karla was actually my attempt to write a ‘good person’ and the problems that come with being a good person,” Heller said. “People object to her passivity, but I know very few women who haven’t had at least a few moments of self-loathing.” Heller’s own self-loathing moment, at least as a writer, came as a young journalist who’d recently settled in America. She quickly carved out a niche writing dispatches about her life
“The job of fiction is not to present likable characters. It’s to present interesting characters.”
By Zoë Heller HarperCollins $25.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780061430206
MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
There and everywhere A selection of guides for the optimistic traveler
By Alison Hood he economy is bad and the dollar has taken a beating, but don’t give up on travel. If you still have the means—or just want to be ready when things improve—a new collection of travel guides will help you prepare for your next adventure.
The world is yours British travel publisher Dorling Kindersley offers four beautiful new Eyewitness titles to three diverse destinations. First up are two new slip-in-your pocket Top Ten guides: Top 10 Buenos Aires (DK, $14, 128 pages ISBN 9780756639549) and Top 10 Cape Town & the Winelands $12, 128 pages, ISBN 9780756639341). If you have a yen to learn a smoldering tango or bask on a pristine African beach, then these guides are superior passports to truly pleasurable, meaningful trips. The Top Ten guides offer the ultimate in 10-item lists that showcase top sights and activities, entertainment, restaurants and lodgings and itineraries. Well-written, efficiently cross-referenced, sparked with excellent (though small) photos, they cover all the basics (“Streetsmarts”) and also throw in pullout maps. These mini guides give big bang for the buck Two larger handbooks from DK are good for both pre-planning and lugging along on road trips. Argentina ($25, 352 pages, ISBN 9780756639358) and Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania ($28, 432 pages, ISBN 9780756639532) are rich in quality color photography and images and maps. Also, they are virtual encyclopedias on these countries’ history and monuments, arts and culture, manners and mores, sights and cuisines. Nothing has been overlooked in these compact references that you’ll want to keep permanently in your travel library. Moving east, The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget ($26.99, 1,022 pages, ISBN 9781858289533) is a densely crammed, thorough and budget-conscious guide to 10 destinations, from Brunei and Cambodia, Hong Kong and Macau to Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (and everywhere in between). For this reviewer, Rough Guides are excellent all-around travel manuals, offering top itineraries, ideas to make your trip unique and more cost-effective and, most importantly, the basics of how to get there, how to get around and how to have a grand time while connecting meaningfully with people. With more than 1,000 concise pages to inform, this book will have travelers fully briefed on Asian history and manners, mores, culture and sights before they set foot on a plane. Though bereft of color photos and pullout maps, this guide, while not “pretty,” is a must-have travel planner.
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Don’t miss the boat For help on the open seas, check out Cruising: All Questions Answered (Insight Guides, $16.95, 256 pages, ISBN 9789812589941) by nitpicky cruise expert Douglas Ward. This is a must-have for beginning and fanatic cruisers: it is impeccably researched, witty and definitive, covering every type of ship and cruise imaginable, from the huge resort-type vessels that frequent mainstream ports to the small luxury yachts that ply less-traveled waters. Ward, who has been on nearly 1,000 cruises, gives a complete rundown on the basics of cruising, how to select and custom-fit your cruise, what life is like onboard, specialty cruises, practical information (what to do if your ship sails without you) and comparisons and ratings for nearly 400 ships and cruises. Along with photography depicting shipboard life, amenities and accommodations, Ward includes complete contact information and destination maps. Most enlightening is a list of Ward’s “50 Pet Peeves,” which alone is worth the price of this book. “What I aim to do,” he says, “is help you choose the right ship for you, for the right reasons, and to leave you as well-informed as many specialists in the cruise business.” And he does just that.
All roads lead to it
If you’ve visited the Eternal City and tossed coins into Trevi Fountain, legend says you’re bound to return. If you do, peruse Dianne Bennett’s and William Graebner’s Rome 10 the Second Time: 15 Itineraries That Don’t Go to the Coliseum (Cumberland House,
$16.95, 272 pages, ISBN 9781581826951), coming late this month, which offers an offthe-beaten-path, somewhat nitty-gritty look at bella Roma. The 15 quirky and budgetconscious itineraries, described in the authors’ idiosyncratic style, highlight Rome’s waters and ancient waterways, suburbs, Nazi wartime history, Modernist and Fascist architecture, inner- and outer-city treks, cultural activities and cuisine. This book may not appeal to first-time visitors, because it takes travelers to the lesser known (and often suspect) streets, piazzas and riverside byways of complex Rome. This is an “insider’s” walking guide that connects visitors to Rome’s antiquity, but interprets Rome’s layered history with an eye toward its modernity. Very entertaining is the information on vernissages, or finding intriguing art gallery openings that offer free food and drink. This unconventional guidebook, while oddly organized (with inadequate maps) and somewhat awkward prose, will take you onto Rome’s back streets and into the hearts of its populace. o Bay Area writer Alison Hood’s most recent cruise excursion was a commuter ferry trip across San Francisco Bay.
Restful vacations are for wimps Three new guides celebrate trips that’ll test your travel mettle. On sale in late March, Guinness World Record marathoner Kimi Puntillo’s Great Races, Incredible Places: 100+ Fantastic Runs Around the World (Bantam, $16, 256 pages, ISBN 9780553385328) tempts you to don your Nikes and see the world. Puntillo has run marathons on every continent and her book lists 100+ organized events, from the challenging Antarctica Marathon to the goofy “Bare Buns Fun Run” (held in Lake Loon, Washington). With runs for every mood, inclination and ability, the joys, perks and pitfalls of each are described fully, including pre- and postrun activities. An appendix summarizes event characteristics, details and contact information. Need more adrenalin? Try daredevil Greg Witt’s Ultimate Adventures: A Rough Guide to Adventure Travel (Rough Guides, $24.99, 376 pages, ISBN 9781858281995). Witt invites you to scale heights, cozy up to wildlife and get soaking wet—outdoor experiences with a huge WOW! factor. This well-organized (typical of Rough Guides) but hefty handbook, good for pre-planning, is packed with crisp, informative prose and beautiful action-packed color photography. Included are entertaining, informative sidebars on outdoor sports, history and geography, and all the logistical information you’ll need. The suggested themed trips are global, from helisking in Canada to diving in the Red Sea, and most are not for the faint of heart (or the less than fit).
Anniversary trips Altruistic adventurers should pick up the updated 10th edition of the ever-popular Volunteer Vacations: Short-term Adventures that Will Benefit You and Others (Chicago Review Press, $18.95, 464 pages, ISBN 9781556527845) by Bill McKillon, Doug Cutchins and Anne Geissinger. Activist/actor Ed Asner contributes the exhorting foreword to this useful, down-to-earth compendium listing 150 organizations that need helping hands. Though the satisfactions of a socially conscious, working holiday are touted, the authors offer a checklist to help readers decide if a volunteer vacation is really what they desire. Concise profiles of each sponsoring organization are provided, along with short (heartwarming) anecdotes from volunteers who made a difference. Projects are worldwide, from Africa to America, and involve everything from administration, construction and law to science and human rights. Helpful indices categorize projects by type, timing, season and cost; cite which organizations are geared toward families, seniors and those with disabilities; and list opportunities for long-term volunteerism. o —ALISON HOOD
Well Read Story of grief and new beginnings Life’s sadness hangs like a morning fog over Jeffrey Lent’s new novel, After You’ve Gone, provoking a certain melancholy to be sure, yet also reminding us that lowlying clouds will clear, at least for a time, and we best get on with our days until they invariably roll in once more. Lent, perhaps best known for his first novel, In the Fall, writes elegant, gorgeous prose that penetrates not only the minds, but also the hearts of his characters. His narrative style, unrushed and elliptical, allows his story to unfold with a graceful inevitability that rarely takes the reader by surprise, yet often manages to catch us off guard with its pitch-perfect details. Set largely in the early 1920s, with flashbacks to earlier times, After You’ve Gone is the story of Henry Dorn, a professor of English in his mid-50s who suffers a double tragedy. One afternoon in May 1921, his beloved wife, Olivia, and his son, Robbie, are killed when their roadster is hit by a train. Robbie, who returned from the Great War a shattered and physically debilitated young man, was at BY ROBERT the wheel, and after the fatal accident, the resentment that WEIBEZAHL Henry has borne toward his son for his lack of direction and addiction to morphine complicates his grief. Henry carries with him an unexpressed guilt over the way he may have misunderstood and mistreated his son. A methodical man, Henry wraps up the loose ends of his life, announces his retirement and, one year after burying his wife and son, embarks on a trip to Amsterdam, the city of his ancestry. Aboard ship, he meets a fascinating American woman, Lydia Pearce, an independent-minded heiress of 40, who has lived alone in Europe since her teens. Sexually liberated and artistically daring, Lydia is on the surface nothing like Olivia—or any woman he has known in his life—yet Henry is ineluctably drawn to her. A romance that begins on the ship continues once they have arrived in the
Jeffrey Lent’s elegaic tale of a widower’s second chance at love after a great loss brilliantly evokes the Jazz Age.
MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
Netherlands, developing into a marriage of true minds. After You’ve The free-spirited Lydia introduces the highly conventional Gone Henry to a new world filled with illicit pleasures such as jazz and absinthe, and he embraces them with gusto. But By Jeffrey Lent when Henry professes his unconditional love, Lydia flees Atlantic Monthly $24, 272 pages to Paris to sort out her feelings for him. ISBN 9780871138941 In Lydia’s absence, Henry lives a solitary life in Amsterdam, filling his time with a new pursuit: learning to play the cello. Under the tutelage of a Russian political exile, he slowly tackles the mysteries of the instrument (the passages where Lent describes Henry’s immersion into the music are exquisite, deftly capturing emotions that are very difficult to convey in words). This period of voluntary seclusion affords Henry much time for contemplation, and his memories take him back as far as his childhood in a fishing village in Nova Scotia, where his character was formed under the tutelage of an indomitable mother and benevolent uncle. Later, after Brown and Yale, he lands a teaching position at Elmira College in upstate New York, and falls in love with and marries Olivia. Their life with their three children is mostly idyllic, threatened only by Robbie’s dual brushes with death—first from whooping cough as a child, and then from mustard gas during the war. As Henry takes the full measure of his life, he sorts through old family affections and resentments, coming to realize the role that those who have loved him, notably Olivia, and now Lydia, have played in shaping his sensibilities as a man. As grief slowly and unexpectedly gives way to the possibilities of happiness once again, Henry sees in Lydia a second, perhaps final, chance at life. Jeffrey Lent’s greatest talent as a writer may be his evocation of time and place, and here those elements shift often—from maritime Canada to rural New York to cosmopolitan Amsterdam, from a 19th-century childhood to the turn of the century to the Jazz Age—as Henry Dorn’s life unfolds in out-of-sequence vignettes. An arresting narrative technique, it lends After You’ve Gone an emotional power that might have eluded the book had he opted for a more straightforward approach. It is 12 a pleasure to surrender to the beauty of the storytelling, to succumb to the force of Lent’s elegiac prose and the lingering effects of this haunting novel. o
Twisted search for a missing detective By Becky Ohlsen Describing Jedediah Berry’s debut novel is no simple task. Any halfway accurate comparison requires mixing and matching things that don’t really go together, like “Columbo” and The City of Lost Children, or Alice in Wonderland and one of Kafka’s sinister office buildings. The Manual of Detection is a detective story, obviously, but the detectives in it don’t actually solve crimes, and the main character, Charles Unwin, isn’t a detective at all. In short, take everything you think you know about classic pulp-noir detective fiction, turn it sideways and look at it through a hall of mirrors—that’s pretty close. Unwin is a lowly clerk who loves and excels at his job and is deeply annoyed to wake up one day and find himself promoted. Each clerk at the Agency, where he works, is assigned to file the case reports of a particular detective, and Unwin’s detective, the superstar Travis T. Sivart, has vanished. If he wants his old job back, Unwin has to find Sivart. So far, not so weird. But consider that it’s been raining steadily for weeks, all the alarm clocks in the city are missing, everyone’s sleepwalking, and the guy who promoted Unwin is now a corpse under the desk. Also, the main surveillance technique at the Agency seems to be spying on people’s dreams. The heart of Berry’s story is the fragile balance between order The Manual and chaos. Unwin is a devoted champion of the former, while of Detection the book’s primary villain, Hoffman, wants to turn the city into By Jedediah Berry a 24-hour carnival. Penguin Press The world in which all of this plays out is a sort of retro ste- $25.95, 320 pages ampunk, noir-ish take on classic Sam Spade territory: people ISBN 9781594202117 use phonographs and manual typewriters; the detectives judge Also available on audio each other by the suaveness of their hats; two of the villain’s henchmen drive a truck that is essentially a huge boiler room on wheels. Femme fatales await Unwin around every corner, some helpful, some deadly, most of them somewhere in between. All this rich texture, delivered with deadpan style and combined with the twisty story’s fast pace, makes for an immensely satisfying read. o Reviewer Becky Ohlsen is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. Jedediah Berry, author of The Manual of Detection, is also the science fiction reviewer for BookPage.
Picoult captures family’s painful choice By Amy Scribner Reproductive choice. Disabilities. Divorce. Cutting. Our tort-happy nation. Jodi Picoult has never been one to shy away from hot-button issues. But in her newest novel, Handle With Care, she out-Picoults herself by tackling all of the above-mentioned topics, and then some. In lesser hands, such an undertaking would be unwieldy at best, but Picoult delivers a deeply affecting story about one family struggling to do the right thing. When Sean and Charlotte O’Keefe marry, he adopts her little girl, Amelia, and they immediately begin trying to conceive a second child. Charlotte is thrilled to get pregnant, but the fetus is diagnosed in utero with brittle bone syndrome. Even before birth, the fetus suffers numerous fractures, and doctors warn the O’Keefes that their baby will have a difficult, painful life. And she does: Willow breaks bones in her sleep, while playing, even if her mother hits the brakes too hard while Willow is strapped into her car seat. The O’Keefes wouldn’t trade their funny, smart daughter for anything, but they’re consumed with worry and mounting debt. Charlotte thinks she’s found the answer when a lawyer tells her that suing for medical malpractice could free them from their money problems. The only catch: Charlotte must sue her best Handle With Care friend and obstetrician, Piper Reece, on the grounds that if Piper had diagnosed their baby’s condition earlier in the By Jodi Picoult Atria pregnancy, they could have chosen abortion. Told alternatively from the points of view of Sean, Char- $27.95, 480 pages ISBN 9780743296410 lotte, Piper, Amelia and Charlotte’s attorney, Marin—all of Also available on audio whom speak directly to Willow in their narration—Handle with Care is everything faithful readers would expect from Picoult, handled in her thoughtful, elegiac prose. The book doesn’t spoon-feed all the right answers or lionize the characters. Charlotte is sometimes strong but often all-toohuman, second-guessing and justifying her own choices. Provocative and complex, Handle with Care explores what it means to do something in the name of love—and what those choices say about us. o Amy Scribner lives with her family in Olympia, Washington.
BEHIND THE BOOK
Back to her roots: tracing the Irish branches of the family tree By Mary Pat Kelly hough it’s a novel, Galway Bay is based on the life of my great-great-grand- was here last week. Two hundred and eighty thousand went to the Mass he celebrated on mother, a story I only discovered after years of research. I didn’t even know her the Galway Race Course.” Then the clerk raised the pen and used it to make a quick sign name on that October morning in 1979 when my dad and I walked into the of the cross on my father’s forehead. A papal blessing once-removed. Then he handed my dad the pen. “Here. Now you sign your name in office of the Galway City Clerk—two more Irish-Americans looking the book.” So there on the page facing the pope’s signature, my father for their ancestors. wrote: Michael J. Kelly, Chicago, Illinois, USA. “My name is Michael Kelly,” my father said. “There,” the clerk said. “You are entered on the official rolls of the “We’ve a county full of Michael Kellys,” the man replied. Wasn’t Kelly county of your ancestors. Welcome home.” the second most common name in Ireland, right there next to Murphy, The men shook hands. Perfect. and wasn’t Galway “Kelly Country”? My dad had always been impatient with details. “Summarize,” he’d What details did we have about our Kellys? Townland? No. Parish? say to my sisters and brother and me when we’d start rambling through No. Dates? Only that our ancestors left Ireland in the 1840s or ’50s. some story. Get to the point. And now he had. He had reconnected to “Along with two million others,” the clerk said. the 2,000-year history of the Kellys in Ireland. Officially. Done. My dad raised his eyebrows at me. He’d been skeptical about “this We continued our trip, driving along Galway Bay and through whole roots thing” anyway. He was very proud of being Irish. We all Connemara. Somehow we felt less like tourists. were. But Ireland itself didn’t really come into it. For me the search had only begun. I went back to the U.S. and did my We were Chicago Irish with roots in Bridgeport. “The Cradle of homework, cranking through microfilm census rolls, calling relatives I Kings,” my dad only half-jokingly called the neighborhood that gave didn’t know, hunting for death certificates, checking cemetery records. our city its mayors, beginning with his own cousin Ed Kelly, and conMARY PAT KELLY Anyone who does genealogy knows what it’s like—two steps forward, tinuing through Mayor Daley. one step back. Right name, possible date—oops, not related. And then I’d been visiting Ireland off and on for 10 years and I was fascinated by the place. I longed to show him a country richer and more complex than the land the joy when our ancestors emerge. I searched libraries in the U.S. and Ireland, and then he’d seen on a one-week tour with my mom and friends from Chicago. I planned to the Irish computerized their church records, and the floodgates opened. Genealogy is called a hobby, but that word can’t convey how soul-sustaining the inforspend the fall studying in Ireland. Would he travel with me for the first two weeks? “Go mation gathered can be. All of our ancestors endured so much—war, famine, pogroms, on, Mike,” my mom said and surprising himself, he agreed. We were having a great time. He enjoyed the landscape, the mu- genocide, the middle passage, slavery. Yet they survived, because here we are. Our lives sic, the people. My dad delighted in the conversation, enjoyed the are their victory. “Thank you,” I said to Honora Keeley Kelly when I stood where she’d been born in turns of phrase and the humor that was so like his own. Though he did comment on the low voices, the guardedness. “A nation of 1822, in the village of Bearna/Freeport, right on the shores of Galway Bay. I wish my dad were still alive to read Galway Bay. He’d say that there are a lot of pages. conspirators,” he said. But the tangible connection to “our Kellys” that I wanted But I’d assure him it moves fast. I didn’t cover all 2,000 years. I summarized. o seemed impossible. The town clerk shook his head, sad for us. The Diaspora. Cut off forever. But then he smiled. He held up a Galway Bay (Grand Central, $26.99, 576 pages, ISBN 9780446579001), the story of one family’s Irish American experience, is the second novel by Mary Pat Kelly, a former televiwonderful old-fashioned fountain pen. “Pope John Paul II used this to sign our visitors book when he sion producer who has written several nonfiction books. She lives in New York.
A Novel Approach to Fiction
09 May 20
Adrian Plass Softcover 9780310278368 $14.99
The abrupt disappearance of young Daisy Chance haunts the small town of Defiance, Texas. Fourteen-yearold Jed Pepper searches for answers in this gritty and compelling story of love and sorrow, revealing God’s hand of redemption in impossible situations. Lyrical fiction from a bright new literary talent.
Available wherever books are sold.
Softcover 9780310292036 $12.99
This poignant, moving and sometimes disturbing story blends Adrian Plass’s rich style of humor with his knack for addressing the deep issues we all face, such as faith, grief, love … and fear.
MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
WHODUNIT? A cinematic Cape Town thriller In sun-drenched Cape Town, American expat Jack Burn stands on the deck of his rented hillside house, “watching the sun drown itself in the ocean.” In moments, his space will be invaded, and his life forever changed, by a pair of gunmen cooked on speed, in Roger Smith’s taut thriller, Mixed Blood (Holt, $25, 320 pages, ISBN 9780805088755). Burn himself is on the lam from the law in the U.S., having participated in a lucrative bank robbery that a) left him financially set, and b) forced him, his wife and his young son into a life on the run. With a bit of luck, and more than a bit of ruthlessness, Burn is able to disarm the gunmen; unceremoniously, he executes them. From above, Benny Mongrel, night watchman of the house under construction next door, watches impassively as the scene unfolds. BY BRUCE TIERNEY An ex-con himself, Mongrel has no urge whatsoever to become involved. That option will not be left open to him, however, thanks to the double-teaming of corrupt cop Rudi “Gatsby” Barnard, and Gatsby’s nemesis, an honest Zulu detective with the improbable name of Disaster Zondi. That all of their paths will intersect, or rather collide, is inevitable. Barnard wants the money, Zondi wants to collar the perp(s), Mongrel wants to slip back under the radar, and Burn just wants to get the hell out of Cape Town. Some will get what they seek, but none in the way they anticipate, not by a long shot. Mixed Blood unfolds in a very cinematic scene-driven manner; no surprise, in that author Roger Smith is a screenwriter, director and producer.
Hip-hop heist They say you should never judge a book by its cover, and certainly not by its title, but come on, is a title like Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed (Schaffner Press, $24.95, 284 pages, ISBN 9780980139419) irresistible, or what? The cleverness of Marc Blatte’s edgy debut thriller doesn’t end there. Detective Salvatore Messina (aka Black Sallie Blue Eyes), a taciturn cop blessed with an unerring BS detector, leads a team of New York’s
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR
A red velvet bag holding ten sparkling gems. A woman who must confront their legacy of deceit, scandal and murder.
“Readers will be turning the pages so fast their fingers will burn…a winner!” —Susan Elizabeth Phillips www.MIRABooks.com www.CarlaNeggers.com
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finest into the mean streets and the tony suburbs on the trail of a stone-cold killer. The cast is rounded out with hip-hop impresario Sunn Volt, cultured and refined to the max, but with his feet firmly planted in the hood; Spahiu “Vooko” Congoli, a Kosovar refugee-turned-bouncer in mourning since the killing of his beloved cousin/mentor, Pashko; Lady Panther, a leather-clad muscle queen who entertains select well-heeled clients with wrestling fetishes; and Proof Positive, a talented but undisciplined up-and-coming rap group—if they can manage to stay out of the slammer long enough to make a record. I haven’t even scratched the surface here, but you get the picture: this is a seriously entertaining group of misfits, each struggling in his or her inimitable way for a bite at the Big Apple. The characters are a bit larger than life, to be sure, but that is a formula that has worked well for Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey and Janet Evanovich, to name but a few.
Murder has deep roots It is really difficult to imagine that All the Colors of Darkness (Morrow, $25.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780061362934) is Peter Robinson’s 16th Alan Banks novel. The prolific author has offered up a new installment virtually every year since 1987 (in the off years, he has given us two collections of short stories, and a pair of stand-alone thrillers). As the latest episode opens, four schoolboys on half-term break make a grisly discovery: a body hanging from a gnarled old oak tree at the edge of a woodland path. Banks is in London on holiday, so the case falls to his assistant, Annie Cabbot. She suspects from the outset that there will be little that is straightforward about this case, but even her innate cop sense doesn’t prepare her (or her boss) for the layers upon layers of deceit to come. The anti-terrorist wing of the government finds its way (quite unwillingly) into the equation, as well as a gaggle of local thespians with more than a little experience at play-acting, especially where the truth is concerned. A major bonus in Robinson’s books is his repeated reference to Banks’ somewhat eclectic musical tastes: the middle-aged detective tunes into world artists Tinariwen, Sigur Ros, Keren Ann, Sarabeth Tucek and Cherry Ghost, to name just a few, suggesting that there may still be musical discernment to look forward to in our dotage. o
Mystery of the month You’d have to be a little bit crazy to attempt to write a prequel to one of the world’s most loved examples of genre fiction. OK, it can be done, witness Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (the prequel to The Wizard of Oz) or Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys’ atmospheric prequel to Jane Eyre), but those are the exceptions. Much more often, they fall flat flat flat (did anyone ever write a James Bond novel that came up to the standards of even the worst Ian Fleming effort?). So it was with some trepidation that I opened to the first page of Joe Gores’ Spade and Archer (Knopf, $24, 352 pages, ISBN 9780307264640) to find out what Dashiell Hammett’s iconic detective Sam Spade was up to in the days before The Maltese Falcon: “It was thirteen minutes short of midnight. Drizzle glinted through the wind-danced lights on the edge of the Tacoma Municipal Dock. A man a few years shy of thirty stood in a narrow aisle between two tall stacks of crated cargo, almost invisible in a black hooded rain slicker. He had a long bony jaw, a flexible mouth, a jutting chin. His nose was hooked.” And I was hooked, too, from page one. Atmosphere: check. Hammett’s spare, clipped prose: check. Action and plot setup: check. Faithful description of Samuel Spade: check. It’s all there, in spades (sorry), without even getting past the first paragraph. Read on, and the book won’t let you down. Veteran author Gores is an Edgar Award-winning writer who has seemingly channelled Hammett from beyond the grave. That statement, however, does not give credit where credit is due. Although Gores has replicated Hammett’s signature style, he has perhaps surpassed the master in terms of plot development. The Spade he depicts is just a little less world-weary, which is to be expected; that said, he is every bit as hard-hitting, laconic and aloof as he would be later in life. Without giving too much away, Gores will have Spade dealing with all manner of crooks and dames, not the least of whom claims to be the illegitimate daughter of deposed Chinese leader Sun Yat Sen. Spade and Archer is a milestone mystery, a book that has been begging to be written for years, but which is all the better for having waited for the singular talents of Joe Gores. o —BRUCE TIERNEY
When love has your number By Carla Jean Whitley “Everything counts.” The opening line of Addition is an appropriate mantra for Grace Vanderburg’s life. Numbers dominate, to the point that the 35-year-old Australian is unable to work. From the time she wakes at precisely 5:55 a.m., Grace’s days are carefully measured. Five minutes to gather herself. Twenty-five paces to the bathroom, followed by 160 strokes of the toothbrush. She selects the day’s outfit from a rotation of 10 shirts and 10 pairs of trousers. Grace even carefully plans the numbers of each grocery purchase. When she mistakenly finds herself at the grocery store cash register with nine bananas instead of 10, Grace rounds out the bunch by plucking a banana from the basket of an attractive man in line behind her. By measuring the dimensions of her world, Grace forms a place where she feels in control and safe. Creating routines helps her avoid the unexpected. Or, well, she thinks she can avoid it, until she shows up at her preferred cafe at her prescribed time and finds every table occupied. Panic begins to set in—and then the man from the supermarket waves her to his table. Addition Slowly, Grace’s world shifts. Her life breaks from its pre- By Toni Jordan scribed pattern when she agrees to go on a date with Sea- Morrow mus. It’s an acceptable change, Grace tells herself. She can $24.99, 288 pages break routine if she wants to—she simply chooses to live ISBN 9780061582578 by the numbers. But when Grace and Seamus are together, numbers recede to the background. Their relationship changes Grace, challenges Seamus and illustrates how a relationship can bring out both the best and worst in a person. In her debut novel, Toni Jordan invites readers into Grace’s mental world, making Grace’s thoughts become their own. Jordan paints a sympathetic portrait of a young woman suffering from (and often embracing) obsessive-compulsive disorder, never talking down to her character but offering insight into her thoughts. In the end, readers will be left counting the days until Jordan’s next release. o Carla Jean Whitley lives, writes and carefully minimizes her contact with numbers in Birmingham, Alabama.
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ROMANCE Myth and marriage Romance readers love a marriage of convenience, and an ancient Irish myth is the motivation for the wedding in Bride of a Wicked Scotsman (Avon, $7.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780060899400) by Samantha James. Lady Maura O’Donnell pledges to restore the fortunes of her family and her people by recovering the fabled Circle of Light, which was stolen two centuries before by a pirate known as the Black Scotsman. She’ll do anything to get it back—even tricking the pirate’s descendant, Alec McBride, Duke of Gleneden, into bed and then into saying “I do.” The Irish lady travels with her groom to his home in Scotland, hoping to find the relic. Instead, she finds herself falling for the dashing Alec. Even while the duke curses himself for wedding a BY christie ridgway woman he’s sure is after his money, he’s still attracted to his lovely bride. As he comes to know Maura, Alec is no longer certain she’s so mercenary—he’s just certain that he’ll do anything to bring their growing passion to fruition. A story of hot passion and cursed pasts, of tragic deaths and unexpected happiness, this is a historical romance to savor.
Life and love The latest in Susan Wiggs’ Lakeshore Chronicles, Fireside (MIRA, $7.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9780778326175), returns the reader to the small town of Avalon and the familiar community and characters surrounding Willow Lake. After an ugly break-up with her client/boyfriend in L.A., Kimberly van Dorn arrives on the doorstep of her mother’s lodging house to restart her life. She’s not sure what she’s going to do next, but whatever it is, it surely won’t involve a professional athlete. She didn’t anticipate that there would be a fellow guest in her mother’s home. Baseball hopeful Bo Crutcher is a charming man’s man—almost too attractive for a father just getting to know his 12-year-old son. Both father and boy tug at Kim’s heart, but there are hard choices to be made in this story that explores the sacrifices inherent in parenting. Engrossing, with endearing characters and meaty dilemmas, this romance shows the reader that while happy endings are not always easy to come by, they are worth reaching for.
Riches and risk Sexy and suspenseful, Jami Alden’s Kept (Brava, $14, 320 pages, ISBN 9780758225474) tells the story of a beautiful celebrity heiress and the bodyguard who—reluctantly—believes in her. Alyssa Miles is the illegitimate progeny of a supermodel and the head of a jewelry empire. She’s cleaned up her badgirl act and has become the face of her father’s successful ad campaign when tragedy strikes her family. However, what looks like a murder-suicide may instead be something even darker, and Alyssa is unsure who she can trust. Security expert Derek Taggart thinks he’s drawn the short stick when he’s assigned babysitting duties for a woman he considers a society brat at best. Her reputation as a party girl makes it hard for him to sympathize with the beauty, but his libido has its own demands. As Alyssa and Derek get closer, so does danger—and they’re not sure they’ll survive long enough to see where their passion leads. Fast-paced, with scenes of bad baddies and earthy lovemaking, Kept is an exciting story of blood diamonds and a rich girl at risk of death—and love.
Cin and shivers Cin Craven—witch, vampire and warrior—returns in the paranormal historical Grave Sins (St. Martin’s, $6.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780312946173), by Jenna Maclaine, set in the early 1800s. Thirteen years after coming together, the four Righteous, a group of slayers tasked with destroying rogue vampires, have a new mission. The High King of the vampires requires them to look into the case of humans who are being killed in Edinburgh—allegedly by Marrakesh, the Queen of the Western Lands. Is the vampire royal going mad, or is there some other nefarious force at work? Cin and her friends are a compelling group, and the energetic first-person narration immediately engages the reader’s interest. While much of the action revolves around the vampires’ task, adding dimension to the story is Cin’s emotional struggle with the man she loves. Their personal drama grows as the outward danger increases. Fascinating creatures abound, but the strong Cin and her relationship with her sexy lover Michael are the stars of this otherworldly story. o Christie Ridgway writes contemporary romance from her home in Southern California.
If you lIke TwIlIghT, Then you’ll love The house of nIghT serIes
P. C. CAST + KRISTIN CAST NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHORS
ReAd by JeNNA lAmIA
“This highly addictive series offers a unique twist on the standard vampyre story…laughing hysterically and sobbing unreservedly—sometimes all at once.” —v o y a o n b o T h m a r k e d A N d b e t r a y e d
Available wherever books are sold and for download
An extraordinary novel, inspired by a true story... #1
THE SPOKEN WORD Best-selling thriller-dillers on audio If listening to mystery/thriller audios by some of the super-selling perpetrators of the genre is your cup of tea, that cup runneth over. The body of a young woman with a severed right hand, who turns out to have been a piano tutor to a super-wealthy prodigy and who may have had a slightly kinky side, is found in L.A.’s Bird Marsh preserve. More victims, all women, all prostitutes, all minus their right hands, surface in the marsh and the L.A.P.D. has another high-profile serial killer hitting the headlines. With that for openers, Jonathan Kellerman, who never disappoints, brings back his signature crimebusting odd couple, Alex Delaware, psychologist and consultant to the L.A.P.D., and Milo Sturgis, BY SUKEY HOWARD his best buddy and a gifted, gay, gormandizing homicide detective, in Bones (Random House Audio, $44.95, 8 hours unabridged, ISBN 9780739368916), his 23rd foray into the darker side of murder. John Rubinstein, narrator extraordinaire of Kellerman’s many audiobooks, plies his craft again, giving Alex and Milo such distinct voices that I feel as if I’ve known them for years. Kellerman’s forte is combining police procedural details and an insider’s take on Los Angeles and weird Angelinos with the dynamics of disturbed psyches. You’ll get a good dose of that here, plus a suspenseful, zigzagging plot to keep you tuned-in and riveted. The gang’s all here in Patricia Cornwell’s latest, Scarpetta (Penguin Audio, $39.95, 15 hours unabridged, ISBN 9780143143642), read by the estimable Kate Reading. Cornwell’s leading lady, the eponymous forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta, is a bigger deal than ever. Finally married to her longtime forensic psychologist lover, she’s a TV celebrity, has a big job near Boston and is a consultant to the N.Y.P.D. Her rough-tough former colleague, who shattered their long friendship in an outburst of drunken, pent-up lust, is back too, as well as her beyondbrilliant, pistol-packing niece, Lucy, running a cutting-edge forensic computer company in New York (wow, lots of “forensics”!). Called to New York on New Year’s Eve at the request of a suspect, an elegantly turned-out dwarf with a touch of paranoia and an obsession with Kay, who will not talk to anyone else about his girlfriend’s murder, Scarpetta finds herself not only thrust into a bizarre murder case, but also at the center of a very nasty and personal attack by Gotham Gotcha, a cyber-gossip column that pulls a gazillion hits. Cornwell manages to pull lots of disparate threads together while ramping up the chills and thrills. Will they nab the perp? Take a guess.
Sukey’s favorite MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
ReAd by RogeR AllAm
“...Roger Allam gives an award-worthy performance in this crisply paced production.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review on A Prisoner of Birth
Sashenka (Tantor Media, $49.99, 20 hours unabridged, ISBN 9781400110070), skillfully performed by Josephine Bailey, is historian Simon Montefiore’s debut novel, a totally engaging saga that sweeps across 20th-century Russia. At its center is Sashenka, an intense, gray-eyed, 16-year-old student at the posh Smolny Institute in St. Petersburg and only daughter of a rich Jewish banker. Instead of dreaming about boys, she dreams of the coming Bolshevik revolution, of comrade Lenin and of doing her all for the Party. With an historian’s depth of knowledge and a novelist’s sense of place, plot and personality, Montefiore moves from the charged early days of the Revolution to 1939, when a mere slip of the tongue could mean a trip to the gulag or the dreaded “seven grams of lead.” A dedicated, disciplined Bolshevik to her fingertips, married to a Cheka commissar, mother of two adorable children, Sashenka took Stalin’s excesses and the reign of terror in stride, never imagining she could be the victim of betrayal and denunciation, that a wild reversal of fortune could destroy her and her family. Fast-forward to 1994 and we’re looking back, as a history student, hired by a present-day oligarch to find his mother’s real parents, ekes out the truth about Sashenka’s fate. Deeply affecting. o
The love and lore of gardening inspires new releases By Kelly Sundberg Seaman eed and nursery catalogs have been arriving in gardenersâ€™ mailboxes for months already, fueling dreams of spring gardens all winter long. If thatâ€™s not been enough to make you (or your favorite gardener) plant-crazy, here are three more chances, three books ready to jump-start your garden plans. Ken Druse (author of the ground-breaking The Natural Garden and Making More Plants, among other titles) found himself compelled to come up with his own word to convey the spirit of his newest book, Planthropology (Clarkson Potter, $50, 288 pages, ISBN 9781400097838). Druse defines planthropology as the study of â€œa plantâ€™s life story,â€? its habits as well as its history. The book is packed full of stories: Druse delves into garden history, art history and science, always led by his passion for plants; chapters are interspersed with brief stand-alone pieces on garden design, art projects, conservation and more. Some of the storiesâ€”of famous plant hunters, for exampleâ€”have been told before, but what brings them together and makes them new is the voice that tells them. This is a very personal book, as its subtitle suggests: these are â€œthe myths, mysteries, and miraclesâ€? of the authorâ€™s â€œgarden favorites.â€? Druse has a fine eye as a plant portraitist, and in a profusely and inspiringly illustrated book, only about a dozen of the illustrations arenâ€™t his own. That helps make Planthropology a vision, literally, of the plants that inspire him, and any gardener who even comes close to Druseâ€™s level of plant-passion will welcome the opportunity to dig deeper into what he has to show and tell.
The name of the rose Hungry for more stories? Youâ€™ll find almost more than you can count in Douglas Brenner and Stephen Scannielloâ€™s A Rose by Any Name (Algonquin, $19.95, 352 pages, ISBN 9781565125186), and all of them are coming up roses. Brenner, a former editor of Garden Design and Martha Stewart Living, and Scanniello, former curator of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardenâ€™s Cranford Rose Garden, parse more than 1,200 rose names, spinning out enough lore to make a rosarian swoon. â€œEclecticâ€? hardly begins to cover the bookâ€™s mix, and even if roses arenâ€™t your particular thing, Iâ€™d bet thereâ€™s some bit of informationâ€”it would be unfair to call it triv-
iaâ€”relevant to whatever your specialist subject might be. Royalty? Celebrities? Writers? Soldiers? Theyâ€™re in there. Politics? Religion? Geography? Fashion? Yup. The authors make it perfectly clear that this isnâ€™t the place for rose how-toâ€™sâ€”but if knowing the â€œwho?â€? and â€œwhere?â€? and â€œwhy?â€? of your garden plants appeals to you, youâ€™ll happily read on. I have to admit that I kept picking up A Rose by Any Name and diving in wherever it fell open. Iâ€™ll never look at a rose catalog or a rose garden the same way again.
Vegetable love Last summer, after years and years when raising basil and a handful of other herbs had been all the food gardening I did for myself, I planted a small plot of summer essentialsâ€”tomatoes, peppers, runner beans (and, OK, a lot of basil and parsley). Take it as a sign of the frugal times weâ€™re in, or as more evidence that the notion of eating locally is spreading. Whatever the reason, if you find yourself inclined to grow some food this spring and summer, you wonâ€™t be alone. And if youâ€™re looking for a bit of advice, Virginia Hayesâ€™ The Gourmet Garden (Barronâ€™s, $19.99, 144 pages, ISBN 9780764140013) takes the gardener from the very beginning of the processâ€”germinating seed, designing a gardenâ€”all the way to the table, offering a harvest of recipes ranging from basics like assembling a bouquet garni to glimpses of world cuisine. The horticultural advice the book offers is straightforward, if a bit noncommittal on the details, a consequence, perhaps, of it being destined for a far-flung readership (the book suggests suppliers in the U.K. and Australia as well as in the U.S.) On the other hand, that stretch means there are plants included which are utterly new to me, and perhaps to you, too. Winged bean? African-horned cucumber? Who knew? Will they grow in New Hampshire? Thatâ€™s information I would need to track down elsewhere, but for jump-starting a kitchen garden wish list, and as a source for the basics about growing and cooking a diverse blend of vegetables and fruits, greens and herbs, The Gourmet Garden should prove handy. o Writer and gardener Kelly Sundberg Seaman is still waiting for spring to arrive in New Hampshire.
Serving justice in Kosovo I]ZcZl! ^cY^heZchVWaZ \j^YZid\gdl^c\ bV`^c\ndjg dlc[ddY#
ISBN 978-1-60342-138-6; $18.95
ÂşEVX`ZYl^i] ^c\Zc^djh^YZVh idbV`ZVcndcZ hZa["gZa^Vci#Âť â€” The Washington Post
ISBN 978-1-58017-202-8; $24.95
MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
BY EDWARD MORRIS In 2001, Philip Kearney took a leave of absence from his job as a district attorney in San Francisco to serve as a war crimes prosecutor for the United Nations in Kosovo. Although he knew next to nothing about international laws of war or the way they manifested themselves within the diverse legal systems of other countries, his sense of adventure led him to accept the assignmentâ€”albeit with some trepidation for his own safety. He arrived in Pristina, a bleak and dangerous city where the animosities between Kosovoâ€™s Albanians and Serbians were still explosive and such justice as there was tended to be frontier justice. The UN was there to bring order, openness and fairness to judicial proceedings. It was, as Kearney recounts in Under the Blue Flag, the most rigorous kind of on-the-job training. Complicated cases were dropped in his lap at the last minute. He had to work through translators and under the protection of armed bodyguards. Moreover, he was left to conduct his own investigations with only a minimum of support personnel. The courtroom practices gave him much less latitude than American courts to aggressively prosecute cases. Despite these setbacks, Kearney soon became obsessed with seeing justice done. His passion grew in no small part from face-to-face contacts with tragic victimsâ€”women sold into sex slavery, broken men who had survived brutal Under the prison camps, survivors of villages virtually eradicated by Blue Flag ethnic cleansing. After his six-month term ended, Kearney was so impassioned by his cause that he enlisted for another By Philip Kearney term, a decision that both imperiled his regular job and fur- MacAdam/Cage $27, 350 pages ther strained his marriage. ISBN 9781596923270 Without being didactic, Kearney inserts enough history into his narrative to clarify the fiendishly complex Kosovo situation to a degree that news stories seldom do. The chief value of this book, however, is not its specificity, but its demonstration that without a transparent, balanced and politically impervious legal system there can be no hope for justice. o Edward Morris writes from Nashville.
Wedlock is the thrilling and cinematic true story of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore, whose abuse at the hands of her second husband shocked eighteenth-century Britons and helped revolutionize divorce law.
Fugitive from justice
Real-life thriller retraces the manhunt for a notorious Nazi By John T. Slania hen it comes to writing, Neal Bascomb is a creature of habit. He begins his day at the same coffee shop in Greenwich Village, New York, where he has written all his books. He drinks regular coffee, and he takes it black. He reads The New York Times. When he puts the paper down, it’s time to have a second cup of coffee, and to write. He uses one of the fancy pens he’s received as a gift, and any notebook he has available. Then he sets about writing his first draft in longhand. “I’ve been coming to the same place almost every day for the past 10 years,” Bascomb says. “The place has a good feel to it. It’s public, yet no one bothers me. People come in and out. I sit at a table and open a notebook. The sounds around me become white noise. It’s beautiful.” Bascomb breaks around noon, and returns to his home in Brooklyn for lunch with his wife and two daughters. Then he returns to the coffee shop to write again until dinnertime. “Two good sessions, and a 1,000 neal bascomb words, and I’m happy,” he says. In contrast to his rigid writing routine, Bascomb’s nonfiction books are remarkably diverse in subject. His latest, Hunting Eichmann, is an engaging account of the manhunt for Adolf Eichmann, the notorious Nazi commander who was the architect of the mass extermination of Jews during World War II. Written in rich detail and with authority, the quality of Hunting Eichmann would suggest the author is an expert on World War II, the Holocaust and war crimes. But this is his first foray into such subjects. Bascomb’s first book, Higher, described the battle between America’s most gifted architects to build the world’s tallest skyscraper during the Roaring ’20s. He followed with The Perfect Mile, the tale of Roger Bannister and two other runners struggling to be the first to run the mile in under four minutes. Bascomb then wrote Red Mutiny, chronicling the 1905 munity aboard the Russian battleship Potemkin. The diversity of Bascomb’s subjects makes perfect sense, given that he is a journalist in pursuit of a good story. “I like to find stories that are very intriguing, with a strong narrative,” he explains. While his approach allows Bascomb to avoid being pigeonholed, many book authors develop a specialty, which enables them to develop an audience. “It may not be the best idea in terms of my career,” he admits. “There is value in focusing. a) You become an expert. And b) you keep your audience. In essence, I’m finding a new audience each time I write a book. I suppose there are those who love Neal Bascomb, but I’m not sure how many of them are out there.” Bascomb actually has quite a few fans, given that his books have met with critical acclaim and have made numerous bestseller lists. Hunting Eichmann has the same potential, thanks to Bascomb’s painstaking research and lively writing. The book follows the life of Eichmann, a lieutenant colonel in the notorious Nazi SS who organized the deportation of Europe’s Jews to concentration camps. When Germany surrendered, Eichmann escaped and lived under an alias in Argentina until his capture by Israeli spies in 1960. He was convicted of
crimes against humanity and hanged. Hunting Eichmann tracks the Nazi officer’s rise to power and recounts his acts of genocide. It outlines his harrowing escape, his undercover life in Argentina and his suspense-filled capture. The story is thoroughly researched and rich in detail. Bascomb, 37, first became interested in Eichmann in 1992, when he was a young college student studying abroad in Luxembourg. “I was this Midwestern kid who found himself in a place where there was a lot of World War II history. Then when some Holocaust survivors came to talk to us, it struck me in the solar plexus.” Bascomb recalls. Years later, when he was researching the subject, Bascomb was excited to discover new material on Eichmann, and he began a journey that took him around the world to learn about the fugitive Nazi’s life. He traveled to Buenos Aires to interview former Nazi soldiers. While there, he also discovered in court files the long-lost passport Eichmann used to escape Europe. Bascomb also traveled to Israel to interview former operatives with Mossad, the spy agency that tracked down and captured Eichmann. “For 50 years, they had not spoken about this. They had a pretty dramatic story to tell. [And] discovering the passport—it was a powerful feeling to add to history,” Bascomb says. Writing Hunting Eichmann also was a satisfying experience for Bascomb, in large part because the real-life manhunt for Eichmann was structurally similar to a mystery novel. “It was like writing it as a novel, except everything is true,” he says. “It was exciting to get to that level—trying to tell it as if you were reading a novel, except this is history.” While Bascomb is about to embark on an eight-city tour for Hunting Eichmann, he already is busy researching his next book, which is about high school science students. His eager pursuit of his next project, which is taking him to New York, Detroit and Santa Barbara, California, is due in part to his continued curiosity as a journalist. But there are also some practical reasons. “I write books full time. I don’t freelance, I don’t teach. So when one project is done, I like to get cracking on the next one,” he explains. But his wife has her own theory. “My wife says I pick my books depending upon where I want to travel next,” Bascomb laughs. “That may seem true when I’m researching in Santa Barbara in January. But in my defense, I was in Detroit the week before.” o John T. Slania is a journalism professor at Loyola University in Chicago. © JILLIAN MCALLEY
Bascomb interviewed former Nazis and Israeli agents
to reconstruct Eichmann’s
MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
flight and eventual capture.
*Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
Available wherever books are sold Crown Publishers CrownPublishing.com
Hunting Eichmann By Neal Bascomb Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $26, 400 pages ISBN 9780618858675
Gender-specific history Women’s contributions to politics, culture and empire
By Faye Jones ven with a strong female candidate vying for one party’s nomination and another on the opposing party’s ticket for vice president, the 2008 presidential campaigns made many ask whether sexism is really dead. Was the flurry of criticism aimed at the qualifications of the candidates or more about their gender? In any case, Women’s History Month is always a good time to reflect on women’s progress. These five books do just that.
Political trailblazer Frances Perkins was the first female member of a presidential Cabinet, and as such she made many contributions to American labor policy, including Social Security and unemployment benefits. As author Kirstin Downey points out, “Factory and office occupancy codes, fire escapes, and other fire-prevention mechanisms are her legacy. About 44 million people collect Social Security checks each month; millions receive unemployment and worker’s compensation or the minimum wage; others get to go home after an eighthour day because of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Very few know the name of the woman responsible for their benefits.” Downey brings some much-deserved attention to this political pioneer in The Woman Behind the New Deal: Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience (Nan A. Talese, $35, 480 pages, ISBN 9780385513654). Perkins was a mixture of idealist and agile politician. She might have disagreed with Tammany Hall tactics, but when she needed their support for legislation, she had no hesitation about courting them. She was also aware of how most men viewed women in politics and modified her behavior accordingly, allowing them to view her as a mother figure instead of a career woman. But she was a politician on a mission: she cared about the poor and made it clear to Roosevelt that he would have to agree to her agenda before she would sign on as secretary of labor. Downey presents a balanced picture of the woman who changed the conditions for working America. The average working person today owes a debt to Frances Perkins, and she certainly deserves to be better known than she is.
Women in the arts
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Wilhelmina Cole Holladay’s memoir of founding the National Museum of Women in the Arts, A Museum of Their Own (Abbeville Press, $50, 240 pages, ISBN 9780789210036), is both entertaining and enlightening. On one hand, the book makes it clear that it takes money and contacts to start a museum. Holladay mentions how things came to her by chance, but it is chance undergirded by means. Still, behind Holladay’s breezy tone is a woman with focus, passion and the willingness to put in a great deal of hard work. When she began working on the museum in the 1970s, she had many detractors who felt that creating a museum for women artists would only have a ghetto effect. Holladay proved that the majority of these artists had in fact been forgotten: they were not exhibited in museums nor even mentioned in art history books. The museum, opened in 1987 in Washington, D.C., has rectified that omission. One of its most important exhibits, “An Imperial Collection: Women Artists from the State Hermitage Museum,” not only displayed those paintings, but also probably saved them. The NMWA raised the funds for the conservation of the paintings, many of which were languishing in storage bins, and restoration of the frames. They are now on permanent display at the Hermitage. A Museum of Their Own includes some gorgeous works from the museum’s collection, art by women you may have never heard of, but now have an opportunity to appreciate. One of the most exciting new books this year for literature lovers is Elaine Showalter’s A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx (Knopf, $30, 608 pages, ISBN 9781400041237). With this book, Showalter adds much-needed perspective to women’s literature, putting works rediscovered by feminist literary scholars into historical context. She looks at the authors’ lives, their works and the way they fit into each phase of American history. Many of the included writers were popular during their own period but written out of the literary history books in the male-dominated 22 academy. Showalter shows respect for these “lost women,” but she also evaluates these
works with rigor. A Jury of Her Peers is a critical piece in the study of American literature—it’s also just fun to read.
Regal lives and royal pain Royal women played an integral role in women’s history. After all, queens were some of the few women with access to power during most of recorded history. Despite the palaces and jewels, however, many royal lives reflected the darker side of women’s lives. Kris Waldherr takes a tongue-in-cheek approach in Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends from Cleopatra to Princess Di (Broadway, $14.95, 176 pages, ISBN 9780767928991). She tells the women’s stories in short vignettes with witty summations at the end of each: the lesson from Princess Diana’s life, for example, is “Avoid men with cameras and Camillas.” To Waldherr, Rasputin, who led to the downfall of Alexandra Romanov, is an “Elmer Gantry on steroids.” Humor aside, Waldherr brings to the forefront the main causes of women’s doom over the years: childbirth, illness, murder and divorce. Doomed Queens’ light touch may just stir enough interest in these royal lives to encourage further reading about them. Julia P. Gelardi is more serious in her book, In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory (St. Martin’s, $29.95, 432 pages, ISBN 9780312371050). Gelardi profiles three pairs of royal mothers and daughters: Queen Isabella of Castile and her daughter Catherine of Aragon; Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Queen Marie Antoinette; and Queen Victoria and the Empress Frederick (Princess Vicky). Despite the centuries separating these pairs, they had two key things in common. The mothers ruled in their own right with husbands who supported them in their rule. The daughters, on the other hand, were all groomed to be consorts, married off to establish or solidify relationships with another country. Each of the daughters suffered. Catherine of Aragon was the first wife of Henry VIII. She was loyal to her new country and beloved by her subjects, but couldn’t fulfill the first responsibility of a royal wife: having a son to inherit the throne (or in this case, one who lived long enough to inherit the throne). Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine hated by the French people. Princess Vicky was thwarted in any attempt to bring reforms to Prussia. She persevered through the hatred of her subjects for decades only to have her husband die a mere 99 days after becoming king. Despite their tragic ends, Gelardi shows there is much to admire in the lives of these women, whether in their battles to hold on to a kingdom or in learning to be patient in the face of hatred and lies. o Faye Jones is dean of learning resources at Nashville State Technical College.
More than a doll Barbie, the stylish playmate for generations of little girls, turns 50 this month. In Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her (CollinsBusiness, $24.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9780061341311), Robin Gerber showcases Ruth Handler’s brilliance in all aspects of business and details how she not only identified the market for the doll, but also successfully sold the idea to skeptics. When Handler noticed her daughter, Barbara (the doll’s namesake), playing with paper dolls—changing their clothes and pretending to be them—she realized that “little girls just want to be bigger girls” and began searching for the perfect doll for them. She met resistance along the way, namely from people who said mothers would not buy their daughters dolls with breasts; Handler proved them wrong. Still, Gerber doesn’t gloss over the bad times. In the 1970s, Handler and her husband were forced out of Mattel, the company they’d founded, and charged with falsifying the books. While Handler always denied doing anything illegal, Gerber argues that someone as interested in the smallest details of the company as Handler simply could not have been unaware of the fraud. Handler managed to avoid jail time, but had to pay the largest fine and serve the longest community service punishment allowable by law. Nevertheless, Barbie has proved to be her greatest legacy. o —FAYE JONES
CHILDREN’S BOOKS Skills blossom with early readers
Making stone come to life
By Deborah Hopkinson here’s nothing quite as exciting for young readers as mastering chapter books. Books for newly independent readers come in all shapes and sizes, and this season brings some wonderful new titles, as welcome as the first flowers of spring.
By Dean Schneider William Edmondson (1874-1951), the son of freed slaves, never attended school and never learned to read and write, yet he became one of the great sculptors of our time. His works have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Cheekwood Museum of Art in his native Nashville. Edmondson always said he got his inspiration directly from God, so he set about carving old pieces of limestone, at first using only an old railroad spike, a chisel and a file. And from stone came solid, stocky, ancientlooking figures of the everyday, religious and heroic: porch ladies, a girl thinking, a rabbit, an owl, Adam and Eve, Jack Johnson and Eleanor Roosevelt. Poet Elizabeth Spires, in this beautifully made volume combining superb archival photographs by Edward Weston and Louise Dahl-Wolfe and her own 23 elegant poems, offers a celebration of an artist and his creations. For readers young and old who may not know Edmondson’s work, I Heard God this volume will serve as a gorgeous introduction. Edmondson pulled characters from stone, and Spires Talking To Me puts words into their mouths. The rabbit sculpture says, By Elizabeth Spires “He reached in his fingers, / caught hold of my ears, / and Farrar, Straus drew me right out / of that chunk of limestone!” And $17.95, 56 pages the narrator in “Girl Thinking” says, “Make me a girl, I ISBN 9780374335281 wished / A girl with a space of quiet around her, / a girl All ages with time to dream her dreams. / And he did. He did!” Spires has Adam and Eve comment on their place in Edmondson’s yard, cluttered with sculptures, unused limestone and tangles of grass and weeds. “It’s a different kind of Eden, / arms thrown open to Creation.” And that’s the spirit of Edmondson’s work; he carved all sorts: “Preachers and schoolteachers, / shady and upstanding ladies, / and creatures you wouldn’t believe, / some humble, some proud, / some quiet, some loud, / everyone just being themselves.” Spires, the author of such fine children’s books as The Mouse of Amherst and I Am Arachne: Fifteen Greek and Roman Myths, has crafted a memorable tribute to an important artist through words dexterously pulled from stone. o Dean Schneider is a teacher in Nashville.
A messy dilemma Spring, of course, is also the time for bunnies, and from Katherine Hannigan, best-selling author of Ida B, comes the endearing story of Emmaline and the Bunny (Greenwillow, $14.99, 112 pages, ISBN 9780061626548) featuring illustrations by Hannigan herself. Emmaline wants a bunny more than anything else. But she is the most untidy person in the very tidy town of Neatasapin, where the mayor has banned all animals. Emmaline feels lonely and isolated and a bit, well, different—she even digs holes in the dirt! As it happens, the bunny she hopes to befriend turns out to be as untidy, and as lonely, as Emmaline herself. Hannigan’s charming tale will appeal to messy children everywhere, and will also make a great read-aloud for their not-so-neat parents.
Saddle up, mate For young horse lovers, a new series launches this year with Horse Crazy 1: The Silver Horse Switch (Chronicle, $4.99, 64 pages, ISBN 9780811865548) written by Alison Lester, with illustrations by Roland Harvey. Set in Australia, where it was first published, this engaging title includes a glossary of Australian terms. (Double-dinking, for example, means two people riding on one horse.) Bonnie and Sam (short for Samantha) are horse-crazy kids in the rural town of Currawong Creek. Sam’s father is a policeman. One day they make a fascinating discovery: her father’s horse seems different somehow. Could it be that a brumby (a wild horse) has decided to exchange places with the policeman’s grumpy mare? Can this new horse face the emergencies that come her way? A second title in the series, Horse Crazy 2: The Circus Horse (ISBN 9780811866569), is also available, giving young readers another reason to ride along with Bonnie and Sam.
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All by myself How much should parents help with homework? That question is at the heart of the humorous story How Oliver Olson Changed the World (Farrar, Straus, $15.95, 112 pages, ISBN 9780374334871) by Claudia Mills, with pictures by Heather Maione. When Oliver’s teacher tells the class that one person with a big idea can change the world, Oliver wonders how he could ever come up with a big idea of his own—his parents help him too much! Ever since he started school late because of being sick, his parents have worried so much about him (and his grades) they won’t let him do anything without help, even build a space diorama. But when Oliver and Crystal team up together for the space diorama, everything is about to change. Kids—and some parents (you know who you are!)—will appreciate this warm and humorous story about one family’s struggle for balance.
Meeting in the middle
Speaking of parents, Kate Feiffer’s first chapter book, The Problem with the Puddles (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 208 pages, ISBN 9781416949619), illustrated by Tricia Tusa, boasts two unforgettable parents in Mr. and Mrs. Puddle, who cannot agree on anything—including a name for their daughter. Her mother calls her Emily; her father calls her Ferdinanda. Everyone else calls her Baby. Of course, that’s not the only thing the Puddles agree to disagree on. Like the new first family, the question of what kind of dog to get becomes a major family decision. In the case of the Puddles, since they can’t agree, the next best thing is simply to get two dogs, a big one and a little one—both named Sally. Young readers will savor this rollicking adventure that eventually brings a family together on a street that perhaps belongs in our nation’s capital: Compromise Road. o 24 Deborah Hokinson’s new book, Home on the Range: John A. Lomax and His Cowboy Songs, is a Junior Library Guild selection.
At war with a magical enemy By Angela Leeper It wasn’t terrorist attacks but a war between humans and faeries that left the Earth destroyed 20 years ago. In the post-apocalyptic Bones of Faerie, Janni Lee Simner’s first young-adult novel, 15-year-old Liza has been taught by her xenophobic father that magic leads to death. When her baby sister is born with pale, almost translucent hair, a sure faerie sign, and left to die; her mother disappears; and she begins to see disturbing visions of the War and her mother, Liza must escape before her father discovers her own treacherous secret. The teen flees her isolated village, despite warnings that trees in the adjoining forest start to kill at night. She is not alone long before she is joined by Matthew, another teenaged villager who has been hiding his shape-shifting abilities. Soon, the two are indeed attacked by sinister trees. Rescued by a wandering faerie and taken to a fey village, Liza must reconcile her trust of the faeries and her own growing magic with her teachings about the War. Riddled by more visions and a puzzling connection between her mother and her faerie caretakers, Liza must find her runaway mother. Matthew joins her again, as does Allie, a faerie healer. The three young people head for St. Louis, now known as Faerie, where the famous Gateway Bones of Faerie Arch has become a portal to a world of magic. They use their special gifts of sight, touch and smell to help one an- By Janni Lee Simner Random House other and ward off evil. Amid the recent deluge of post-apocalyptic novels, $16.99, 256 pages ISBN 9780375845635 Simner offers a unique spin, with her poetic, atmospheric Ages 12 and up prose brilliantly capturing the tug between human and faerie and the blending of the two. Because Liza narrates the story, readers, pulled into the teen’s search for her mother and questions about the War, slowly learn the answers along with her. They not only relish her gains in magic, but in her self-confidence, trust and love. Readers can only hope that lingering questions in the book will be answered with a sequel and more glimpses into Liza’s faerie powers. o Angela Leeper recently visited the Arch and saw no signs of faerie infiltration.
CHILDREN’S BOOKS Saving the planet is all in a day’s work for this third grader BY LINDA M. CASTELLITTO harise Mericle Harper’s new book, Just Grace Goes Green (Houghton Mifflin, $16, 181 pages, ISBN 9780618959570), is printed on 100-percent recycled paper—perfect for a story about a girl whose teacher announces that her third-grade class will be going green. The cover of Just Grace Goes Green is just right, too, for a story about eco-conscious kids: the book jacket is Kraft-paper brown, decorated with little hand-drawn bottles and recycle icons. Peeking through a die-cut is Grace, who holds the smiling Earth above her head. “I love the discovery of new things, and that translates into the cover,” Harper says in an interview from her home in a suburb of Manhattan, where she lives with her husband and two children. “And I love the book’s format . . . you can do so much with the combination of words and pictures.”
she’s found her rhythm. “I’m really good about self-imposed deadlines,” she says. Part of Harper’s job as an author is to plan the projects her characters enthusiastically create. In Just Grace Goes Green, Grace and her friends host a rummage sale, offer helpful ideas to family members and create a diorama in which clay eco-superheroes save the red panda. Harper made and photographed the diorama (see page 99 for the end result). The character who stars in her series—nicknamed “Just Grace” by a teacher who has several Graces in her class—is a funny, curious kid who mixes over-enthusiasm with empathy for her friends, and the Earth. Having a daughter who is Grace’s age gives Harper insight on the kid’s-eye view of things, but she thinks she’s retained that kid-like worldview herself. “Sometimes, I still can’t believe I’m a parent!” she says. “I feel that, with Grace, I can be the mom and the girl at the same time.” That helps make Just Grace Goes Green a fun read for kids and adults. For example, Grace becomes determined to save electricity by turning off lights in her house. She wishes that her parents would forget about lights so she can The author of the Just Grace turn them off, and, in her zeal, accidentally leaves her mom in the dark in the basement. Harper’s daughter is similarly Series takes a kid’s-eye view vigilant. “She’s aware you shouldn’t run the tap while you’re brushing your teeth,” she says, adding, “Kids today are being of protecting the environment. brought up so they won’t have to think about [recycling and the like].” CHARISE MERICLE The author acknowledges that it’s not easy to change long-held habits, but offers a tip: “If I were to pick one thing Harper’s skill at telling an engaging story—and augmenting HARPER to start with, [this] would be it—to try not to buy bottled it with appealing illustrations, lists, photos and diagrams—is water. If you do buy it and there’s no place to recycle it neardrawn from her lifetime love of reading (“I always got the maxiby, you have to decide to carry it home with you.” mum 10 books from the library,” she says) and other creative pursuits. The author/ilAlthough carrying a reusable bottle or remembering to turn lustrator grew up in Vancouver, and moved to Chicago in her early 20s. There, she drew off lights can be tough at first, it’s worth it, Harper says—just illustrations for magazines and newspapers, and had a weekly comic strip, too. look at the happy Earth on the cover of Just Grace Goes Green, In 2000, Harper asked an agent to help her publish a comics compilation, and he or the trees holding hands on the back. asked if she’d ever try a children’s book. “The fact that he was an agent and saying that to “I love the whimsy of the Earth smiling and talking, the trees me made me think, if he thinks I can do it, maybe I can!” saying ‘Thank you for saving me!’ ” But taking a light-hearted And she could: six months later, she sold one book to Little, Brown and another to look at going green is more than whimsical. After all, as Harper Chronicle. Since then, Harper has published more than 20 books, including the Just says, “It’s a way of making a bleak topic a lot more approachable Grace series (Just Grace Goes Green is volume four; volume five is in the works) and the and not so scary.” The Earth and the trees would be proud. o Fashion Kitty graphic novel series. While the prospect of juggling so many projects might seem daunting, Harper says Linda M. Castellitto recycles and totes a stainless steel water bottle in North Carolina.
Love that transcended science and faith
By Norah Piehl Seventeen-year-old Miranda has no idea that she’s being watched—and followed and loved—by a guardian angel. Zachary has known Miranda since the moment of her birth, watching and protecting her—and falling in love with her as she grows into a beautiful, if a bit awkward and insecure, young woman. But when Miranda’s life is threatened by a rogue band of vampires, Zachary falls down on the job. He’s been disgraced in the sight of “the Big Boss,” and he’s lost track of Miranda, who has become the gothic Princess to the reigning Dracula, head of a worldwide underground vampire network. So when Zachary is given a second chance to redeem himself, he jumps at the chance to help Miranda find her own brand of redemption. But there’s one little problem. As a human, Miranda was sometimes unhappy, sometimes ridiculed, sometimes disappointed over her parents’ divorce. Life as an eternal, where she has a horde of servants, a killer wardrobe and a tricked-out SUV, is something completely different: “I’m finally the life of the party. Eternal All I had to do was die.” Peopled with vampires, werefolk, angels and other eter- By Cynthia Leitich Smith nals, Cynthia Leitich Smith’s book continues to explore the Candlewick mythology she developed in her first gothic novel, Tanta- $18.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780763635732 lize. Riddled with references to popular culture and classic Ages 14 and up literature, filled with dozens of clever one-liners (“With each button, I feel more like a refugee from the prom of the damned.”), Eternal introduces serious ideas—about loyalty, love, faith and salvation—in a lighthearted guise. Fans of Tantalize and Eternal—especially those frustrated by the cliff-hanger endings of both novels—will be pleased to learn that these parallel story lines will unite in a future series installment. Smith has built on centuries of vampire lore to create a spooky, snarky, supernatural world all her own. o
By Dean Schneider On his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin traveled around the world, from the Cocos-Keeling Islands of the Indian Ocean to Australia, Patagonia, Brazil and Chile, collecting fossil bones, fish preserved in spirits of wine, rocks, plants, carcasses of dead animals, and beetles. Home for two years, he thought long and hard about another adventure: should he marry? Would marrying rule out future voyages? Would he miss the “conversation of clever men at clubs”? Most importantly, would he have time to develop his new theory to explain evolution—or transmutation, as it was called then—that would change the way the world thought about creation? Darwin decided to marry his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood. Where Charles was devoted to science, Emma was devoted to her Christian faith. Their love story—a true marriage of science and religion—became one of the greatest adventures of Darwin’s life, and readers will revel in the drama of the opposites captured by Deborah Heiligman in Charles and Charles and Emma Emma. Darwin’s scientific work—his theory of evolution, in By Deborah Heiligman particular—was, indeed, a real test of their relationship. Emma feared that Charles would go to hell and they Holt, $18.95, 320 pages 9780805087215 would not be together for eternity. But they were a loving ISBN Ages 12 and up couple, their marriage a leap of faith that love could transcend differences. It’s a story for all time, a story of appreciating differences and getting along in spite of them. Heiligman’s writing is so good—so rooted in particulars of time, place and Darwin’s scientific thought, yet so light and full of drama—that readers will care about Charles and Emma and their love story. The debate between science and religion continues, today, but the relationship of Charles and Emma Darwin demonstrates that science and 25 religion are not incompatible. o
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A timeless remedy for teen angst
CHILDREN’S BOOKS Welcoming a new baby into the family By Robin Smith re you expecting a new baby soon at your house? Need a little help working through the emotions of the big brother or sister? These four new picture books will help pave the way with portraits of siblings adapting to their new roles—and will bring some smiles to the whole family. What will your sister or brother look like? All children wonder . . . and parents wonder, too. But when the parents are of two different races, the possibilities seem infinite. The unnamed big brother of the story wonders if his new sibling will look like him in I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother (Knopf, $16.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780375856273) written and illustrated by Selina Alko. “I blend from semisweet dark Daddy chocolate bar and strawberry cream Mama’s milk,” exalts the boy as he imagines the hair, eyes, lips and skin options for his new brother or sister. Brilliant gouache, in shades from lemon meringue to mocha to pure coal black, bring the stylized celebration alive for all families, but will be especially appreciated by biracial families.
What babies are good at
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Barney Saltzberg’s optimistic pig is back for a third installment in Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Baby? (Candlewick, $15.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780763635961). Now that Cornelius has mastered bedtime and the first day of school, young readers and listeners can see if he is ready for the biggest job of all: being a big brother. With huge acrylic and pencil illustrations to show Cornelius’ mixed emotions, we learn that the baby can’t play, talk, walk or eat pizza, but he is very good at sleeping, drinking, peeing, pooping and crying. And once our little hero holds the new baby, we learn that he can also be a little brother. Cornelius is a kind-hearted, active and real little guy—and is on the way to becoming a fine big brother for the new arrival. On the other hand, the sibling in Baby Baby blah blah blah! (Holiday House, $16.95, 32 pages, ISBN 9780823422135), written by Jonathan Shipton and illustrated
by Francesca Chessa, is worried about the upcoming blessed event in her family. While Emily makes lists of the good things about having a little baby brother or sister, she is worried about the crying, spitting up, dribbling and, most of all, the attention that the baby will get. She imagines all the talk of babies (blah, blah, blah) and knows her world will be greatly changed. Warm, oversized illustrations show Emily processing her fears and her parents’ calm reassurances that really do make her feel better. Emily’s point of view puts the older sibling at the center of this drama. Opening endpapers show Emily at the center of her family but what’s that we see in the closing endpapers? Well, it appears that Emily’s mom has more than one baby in that growing bump!
Oh, brother What a Good Big Brother (Random House, $16.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780375842580), written by Diane Wright Landolf and illustrated by the husband-and-wife team of Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, gives us a portrait of the best big brother ever. Cameron loves Sadie, no matter what. If she needs her diaper changed, Cameron is there with the wipes. If she is tired, he is there to pat her tummy. He even knows where the nursing pillow is! Warm, realistic paintings show Cameron and his family adjusting to infant Sadie. And when she is crying for no reason, it’s Cameron who calms her and gets the best present of all: her first smile. Years ago, my family adored the sly humor of Kevin Henkes’ Julius, the Baby of the World (1990). Now it’s What a Good Big Brother I will be giving to my friends when they have their second baby. Just about perfect. o Robin Smith lives with her husband in their empty nest in Nashville. Her daughter, Julie, adored everything about her little brother, Andrew. At least that’s what Robin remembers.
Beloved larva inches toward 40
Orphans face Old West adventure
Eric Carle celebrates two milestones this year: his 80th birthday and the 40th anniversary of one of his beloved little creatures. To mark the occasion of the latter, he has translated the 1969 classic tale of a butterfly larva’s culinary and developmental adventures into 3-D. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Pop-up Book (Philomel, $29.99, 14 pages, ISBN 9780399250392) retells the familiar story—complete with the trail of holes left by the caterpillar—in Carle’s signature lush hues. The story starts on a moonlit night: the sky’s awash in turquoise, cobalt and teal; and a face emerges from the whites, grays and blues of the moon. Carle achieves these layered colors by creating collages of torn and cut hand-painted tissue paper; the resulting images elevate even the simplest pops to works of art. ERIC CARLE In The Very Hungry Caterpillar Pop-up Book, all the fruit the caterpillar devours in his first week is shown (the pears and apple are rendered especially well; they look as though snatched from an old master’s still life). His Saturday binge is a smorgasbord of chocolate cake, Swiss cheese, ice cream, pickle, lollipop and more. Once the caterpillar returns to a more suitable diet—and after he recovers from his Saturday night stomachache—our little friend experiences a Nutcracker tree-like growth spurt before settling into his magnificent accordion-like cocoon. His metamorphosis is complete by the final double spread, when he appears as a Klimt- and Hundertwasser-esque masterpiece. Carle was a graphic designer for the New York Times and got his start in books by illustrating Bill Martin Jr.’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? He then began creating his own colorful children’s books, drawing his inspiration from nature. The Very Hungry Caterpillar was his second and has remained a favorite of the youngest of readers for decades. o —MICHELLE JONES
By Deborah Hopkinson The Devil’s Paintbox begins in April 1865. At the close of the Civil War, 16-year-old Aiden Lynch and his younger sister, Maddy, are near starvation, the sole survivors on their family’s Kansas farm. So when a man named Jefferson Jackson shows up looking to recruit workers for a Seattle lumber camp, Aiden knows his only chance is to convince the man that taking them along is worth the risk. In this compelling coming-of-age adventure for teens, Victoria McKernan, author of the acclaimed Shackleton’s Stowaway for middle-grade readers, doesn’t shy away from some of the grittier aspects of life in the old West. Aiden’s journey is marked by hardship, tragedy and conflict. Through Aiden’s experiences, readers glimpse a changing world, where settlers, soldiers, timber workers, Civil War veterans, women and Native Americans struggle for existence. Aiden is a likeable, engaging hero, and the secondary characters stand out as real individuals of the time. For instance, the wagon train’s doctor is a man trying to recover from his war experiences. A young woman Aiden meets explains why she is forced to make her living as a prostitute. McKernan also captures the dramatic, often random events that transformed people’s lives: a difficult crossing, an encounter with a rattlesnake, an outbreak of disease. Smallpox and its tragic effects on Native Americans are major themes of the novel. The book gets its title from the The Devil’s words of a doctor describing this dreaded disease: “This Paintbox death is a devil child playing with a paintbox, just spatBy Victoria McKernan tering all over. You reach out to grab its hand and make it Knopf, $16.99, 368 pages stop, but you find this devil child is made of smoke.” ISBN 9780375837500 Through his unlikely friendship with Tupic, a Nez Perce Ages 12 and up boy, Aiden is thrown headfirst into the controversies surrounding the vaccination of Indians against smallpox. The author’s extensive research makes Aiden’s world accessible to readers, whether it’s daily life on a wagon train, or learning to survive in the harsh world of Pacific Northwest timber camps. The Devil’s Paintbox is a wonderful choice for teens—both boys and girls—who want a break from a diet of fantasy, science fiction and of course, vampires. o
The final verse in a landmark trilogy
MEET Greg Foley
By Dean Schneider In the 15 years since Virginia Euwer Wolff’s Make Lemonade was published, novels in verse have become a familiar genre, but Wolff was a pioneer and remains a master of the form. Interviewed by Roger Sutton for the Horn Book magazine in 2001, she said she wasn’t even sure that her writing was poetry, calling it “prose in funny-shaped lines.” But her free verse poetry was a perfect vehicle for her story of 14-year-old LaVaughn, who takes a babysitting job for down-on-her-luck Jolly, an unwed mother of two young children, and their relationship becomes a journey of discovering how to turn life’s lemons into lemonade. Wolff won the National Book Award and a Printz Honor for True Believer, the sequel to Make Lemonade. Now, in the final novel in the Make Lemonade trilogy, three years have passed since the tale began, and LaVaughn is zeroing in on her life’s ambition to be the first in her family to attend college. She has been accepted into a special program called WIMS—Women in Medical Science. Science is her passion, as is doing good works for people, and she continues to babysit Jolly’s children, Jilly and Jeremy. But she makes a startling revelation and the scientific mystery she unravels will pull readers into the narrative as LaVaughn This Full House stakes her whole future on an act of conscience that could By Virginia Euwer Wolff HarperCollins reunite Jolly with the mother she has never known. Free verse poetry serves LaVaughn’s first-person narra- $17.99, 496 pages ISBN 9780061583049 tive as a direct line to her heart and mind, carrying the Ages 14 and up energy and emotional truth of LaVaughn’s voice in natural speech rhythms. The three volumes of the Make Lemonade trilogy exemplify what the free verse novel can be, a perfect matching of form and narrative to tell a powerful story. This Full House is a memorable tale of family, friendship, conscience and tenacity. Though this third novel in Wolff’s series can stand on its own, teen readers new to the story will want to go back to the beginning and live three years with LaVaughn and Jolly. o
Clues to a forgotten life
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Greg Foley is the creative director of the magazine Visionaire and its two spinoffs, V Magazine and VMAN. He also directs music videos and teaches at the Parsons School of Design. Foley’s latest children’s book is the visually striking Willoughby & the Lion (HarperCollins, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780061547508). A native of Texas, he lives in Greenwich Village.
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By Sharon Verbeten The path to “finding oneself” can be a dark and murky one. But those adjectives take on a more frightening realism for the girl who wakes up lying cold and disoriented in a pine forest, wondering who she is, how she got there and where she came from. So begins Lexi, a tale of literally, and figuratively, finding oneself. Not knowing where to start, the girl wanders the streets until she is taken to a homeless shelter—where pieces of the unknown puzzle of her life begin to fall into place . . . in an intriguing, and somewhat fast-paced, fashion. A motley cast of characters—including a mysterious twin, a celebrity father, a caring grandmother, a deceptive would-be kidnapper and a helpful stranger—lend depth to the story, which is told in first person narrative. At the shelter, the girl learns her name (Lexi) and uncovers many more clues to her forgotten life. She also gains compassion for others around her—a quality that brings the story full circle at its conclusion. The prose is readable with a few potential stumbling points. When the shelter kids weave “stories” that may or may not be real, the lines become a bit blurred and some young readers may be a bit distracted by the symbolism. In addition to gaining her identity as well as a family, a somewhat surprising, and literal, pot of gold appears at the end of Lexi’s journey. Lest the reader find it unbelievable, Lexi the author compassionately ties up all the loose ends in a By L.S. Matthews most satisfying way. Delcorte, $14.99, 208 pages What was once lost has been found, and Lexi finds ISBN 9780385735742 much more than her identity. She finds a way to give back Ages 10 and up and to help others who are less fortunate forge a clearer path on their own personal journeys. As Lexi learns, you can go home again—and it can be an enlightening, and rewarding, experience. o Sharon Verbeten, a former children’s librarian and current freelance writer, makes her home in De Pere, Wisconsin.
Unfit for a king By Ian Schwartz Christopher Moore’s re-imagining of the King Lear story is closer to Shakespeare on acid than Shakespeare in the Park. The comic novelist kicks tragedy to the nunnery in Fool, a Monty Python-esque tale of irreverence, profanity and gratuitous sex. Who knew the mad king and his three daughters were so much fun? Moore’s story is told by Pocket, the Fool. Lear’s favorite jester, Pocket is horrified when the king disowns his youngest daughter, Cordelia, and divides his kingdom between his two older daughters, the sadistic Regan and viperish Goneril. Since Cordelia is Pocket’s favorite—and the only daughter the Fool has not shagged—he hatches a plan replete with treachery, double crosses and an invasion by the French army to get Cordelia back at court where she belongs. Aligned against Pocket are the sisters, who mistrust him almost as much as they enjoy dragging him to their royal beds; Edmund, the dastardly illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester; and the combined forces of two armies. Pocket’s allies are an old, discredited knight and his apprentice fool, Drool. Smart as his name implies, Drool nevertheless owns the uncanny ability to repeat conversations word-for-word in the exact voices of the original speakers. Also on Pocket’s side—possibly—are a comely ghost, who is not above pinning down the generously endowed Drool Fool for a spot of fun, and a trio of witches. Moore creates a fun voice in Pocket, who lives by his wits By Christopher Moore and quick tongue in a land where only strength and royal Morrow birth are important. Pocket carries a tiny image of himself $26.99, 336 pages 9780060590314 on a stick called Jones, used as a ventriloquist’s dummy to ISBN Also available on audio utter jibes that may otherwise beget a beheading. The reader gets the impression that Moore uses Pocket the same way as he both lampoons and pays homage to Shakespeare, liberally sprinkling quotes from the Bard’s works throughout. Of course, not all of the lines are Shakespeare’s. When the grizzled old king asks Pocket if he is dead—Moore’s characters often voice confusion in that regard—the jester answers in the negative, saying, “but ye were close enough to lick death’s salty taint.” Does the Royal Shakespeare Company issue fatwas? o Ian Schwartz writes from San Diego, California.
One woman’s epic journey
MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
By Arlene McKanic “Regret” is the given name of the protagonist of Alan Brennert’s beautiful, sprawling novel Honolulu. Born in Korea, which was a rigidly Confucianist country under Japanese occupation at the beginning of the 20th century, she gets her name for no other reason than that she’s a girl, and women in her country are treated just slightly better, perhaps, than livestock. When Regret asks her father to allow her to learn to read, he slaps her. But Regret learns anyway, in secret, with the help of a family friend, and her ambitions lead her to become a “picture bride,” one of many women sent to Hawaii to marry transplanted Korean bachelors. On the boat ride across the Pacific, Regret changes her name to the more appropriate Jin (jewel), and makes the acquaintance of several of the other brides-to-be. In a funny/awful scene at the dock in Hawaii, some of them are appalled when they finally meet their fiancés. The men had sent photos of themselves taken when they were much younger, posed next to swank American cars they didn’t own. One girl turns around and gets back on the boat, but Jin resigns herself to marry Mr. Noh, a plantation worker who at the time seems pleasant enough. From then on Brennert puts his heroine through her paces: Honolulu Mr. Noh turns out to be an alcoholic whose violence causes By Alan Brennert Jin to divorce him, an unheard-of act in her old society. But St. Martin’s this is Hawaii, and Jin learns to make her own way as a seam- $24.95, 368 pages stress and, at least once, as a chaste sort of courtesan. Daring- ISBN 9780312360405 ly, Brennert links her to various historical figures, including May Thompson, whom Somerset Maugham rechristened “Sadie Thompson” and turned into a character in his story Rain; Joe Kalani, a young man lynched for a rape he didn’t commit; and Chang Apana, the real-life inspiration for Charlie Chan. Brennert’s realization of Jin, a character of so different a time, place and gender from his own, is an amazing accomplishment in itself. Honolulu is a delight. o 28 Arlene McKanic writes from Jamaica, New York.
Book clubs New paperbacks for reading groups Stern Men By Elizabeth Gilbert Before she wrote the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert penned this humorous, warm-hearted novel about life in 1970s New England, now reissued in a new paperback edition. The islands of Fort Niles and Courne Haven—two lobstering communities off the coast of Maine—have a rivalry that’s several centuries old and grounded in the competition between local lobstermen. Ruth Thomas is a native of Fort Niles and the daughter of one of the island’s most ruthless fishermen. Returning home after four years at a private school, she plans to Penguin ignore her rich grandfather’s wish that she attend college and $15, 304 pages follow her own ambition, which is to become an island regu- ISBN 9780143114697 lar. But finding her place on Fort Niles turns out to be harder than Ruth thought, and when she falls in love with a man from Courne Haven, her life becomes even more complicated. Gilbert fleshes out this charming narrative with plenty of lobstering history, and the plot is further thickened by the inhabitants of Fort Niles, a group of off-the-wall islanders—including the beautiful Mrs. Pommeroy, mother of seven sons, all of them inbred—who have their own conflicts and eccentricities. When Ruth is reunited with her mother, who abandoned her many years ago, she realizes she must come to terms with what she wants for the future—and try to end the territorial rivalry that threatens the people she loves most. This is a spirited, engaging novel that should delight Gilbert’s many fans. A reading group guide is available online at www.penguingroup.com.
Chasing Windmills By Catherine Ryan Hyde The best-selling author of Pay It Forward offers an oldfashioned tale of romance set in modern-day New York City. Sebastian Mundt, who is about to turn 18, has lived a sheltered life with his father since his mother died. Homeschooled and over-protected, Sebastian is not allowed to have relationships with outsiders. One night, after his father takes a sleeping pill and passes out, Sebastian sneaks into the city and takes a long subway ride. On the train, he meets Maria Arquette, a young woman trapped in a violent relation- Vintage ship. He connects instantly with Maria and begins meeting $13.95, 272 pages her in secret on the subway at night. Together, they plan and ISBN 9780307279385 dream, hoping to escape to the Mojave Desert, to a town full of windmills that Sebastian visited as a child. But reality stands in their way: Maria has two children (something she hasn’t told Sebastian), whom she can never abandon. The novel is narrated from the perspectives of both young people, and Hyde shifts deftly between them. She writes convincingly from their viewpoints, creating well-rounded young characters who are transformed by passion and who struggle to make life-altering decisions. A contemporary West Side Story with a few twists, this is a tale of forbidden love that transcends the romance genre. A reading group guide is available online at readinggroupcenter.com.
Lush Life By Richard Price Set in 2002 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Price’s latest novel is a fast-paced tale of life in urban America. The fatal shooting of Ike Marcus, bartender at a fancy restaurant, turns out to be a tough case for detectives Matty Clark and Yolonda Bello. Their first suspect is Ike’s friend, Eric Cash, an aspiring writer who managed the restaurant where Ike worked, and who witnessed the murder. Eric claims that a pair of muggers committed the crime—a story that conflicts with accounts provided by others who saw the shooting. Through the detec- Picador tives’ questioning of Eric, the stories of the accused—Tristan $15, 480 pages ISBN 9780312428228 Acevedo and Little Dap Williams, two teens from a housing project—are introduced into the narrative. Price skillfully weaves their backgrounds into the fabric of the story, creating a searing portrait of their lives and adding an extra layer to the narrative. As Ike’s distraught father, Billy, hassles the police, who are short on clues, the novel races toward an unforgettable conclusion. Gritty yet poetic, dynamic yet thoughtfully composed, this is a brisk, thrilling narrative that features pitch-perfect, street-smart dialogue and taught suspense. As usual with Price, the best-selling author of Clockers and Freedomland, there’s never a dull moment. A reading group guide is available online at picadorusa.com. o —JULIE HALE
A mysterious young stranger at the gate
By Keith Donohue Shaye Areheart, $24, 368 pages ISBN 9780307450258 Also available on audio
Signet, $9.99, 9780451226501
Signet, $7.99, 9780451226266
Onyx, $7.99, 9780451412683
Berkley, $9.99, 9780425226704
PAPERBACK PICKS FICTION
Black Widow Doc Ford is drawn into a deadly battle when his goddaughter Shay is threatened with blackmail. He soon learns that Shay is not alone in her plight, and the woman responsible is an agent of corruption unlike any he has ever encountered—in fact, she may be the last encounter he ever has.
Casual Hex Gwen Dubois lives in Indiana, but her heart is in France with Marc Chevalier, a man she met online. Now he’s come to Big Knob to coax her back to Paris. But stiff competition is coming from another part of the world. Prince Leo of the Atwood fairy kingdom has his own plans for Gwen.
Danger in a Red Dress Desperate for work, beautiful Hannah Grey finds herself in a mansion on the Maine coast, caring for an elderly woman. On her deathbed, she entrusts Hannah with a dangerous secret. Now she’s on the run, pursued by killers, and Hannah desperately needs the one man who can keep her alive.
Hold Tight Mike and Tia Baye decide to spy on their teenage son, Adam, who has become increasingly moody and withdrawn since his best friend’s suicide. They install monitoring software on his computer and within days, a cryptic message draws them into a maze of mayhem and violence.
FICTION Nutcase Psychologist Kate Holly is about to get evicted from her office. With her oddball patients, meddling mother, and eccentric secretary thrown into the mix—not to mention a spree of suspicious fires—can Kate put her life back together before she winds up in a padded cell?
Jove, $7.99, 9780515145922
Plague Ship When the crew of the Oregon come across a cruise ship adrift in the sea, hundreds of bodies litter its deck. As Cabrillo tries to determine what happened, explosions rock the ship. He escapes with his life only to find himself pitted against a cult with monstrously lethal plans.
Spook Country Hollis Henry is a journalist on assignment for a magazine that doesn’t exist yet. Bobby Chombo is a producer, but in his day job, he is a troubleshooter for military navigation equipment. He refuses to sleep in the same place twice and meets no one—Hollis has been told to find him.
The Third Revelation After the Vatican’s Secretary of State is murdered along with a prefect of the Vatican Library, retired CIA operative Vincent Traeger must not only solve the murders, but navigate a maze through history, faith, and his own past to find the astonishing truth.
MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
Toronto’s leading radio host Kevin Brace greets the newspaper deliveryman at the front door of his luxury condo, covered in blood, a confession on his lips. His beautiful common-law wife lies dead in the bathtub. The crime appears to be solved before the first chapter is over, but the way the case unfolds makes Old City Hall (Farrar, Straus, $26, 384 pages, ISBN 9780374225421), by newcomer Robert Rotenberg, an exciting addition to the legal thriller genre. Like Scott Turow and John Grisham, Rotenberg is a criminal lawyer turned writer with almost 20 years of legal practice behind him. Old City Hall is a tightly plotted thriller, but what lifts this book to the next level is the engaging cast of characters, from the legal workers right down to the Iranian doorman at Brace’s condo. And Rotenberg writes with relish of the neighborhoods, architecture, and multicultural population of his beloved hometown of Toronto. He is sure to have some avid fans by the close of this striking debut—which luckily contains signs of a sequel in the works. o —LAUREN BUFFERD
Angels of Destruction
Berkley, $9.99, 9780425226711
New legal star
demptive wings of unconditional love. o Karen Ann Cullotta writes from Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Berkley, $9.99, 9780425226698
literary imprimaturs. Still, he shares Hoffman’s uncanny ear for capturing the libretto of childhood, not only in the preternatural Norah, but also her heart-on-his-sleeve pal, Sean. Indeed, the novel’s enchanting cast of peripheral characters possess tragic narratives of their own. They are sure to resonate with readers following the heart-rending path of a mother and prodigal daughter first torn asunder, then soaring skyward on the re-
Jove, $7.99, 9780515145939
By Karen Ann Cullotta On a bleak January night, Margaret Quinn opens her front door to a nine-yearold stranger offering neither a plausible alibi, nor an apology for the intrusion. Thus, an elderly woman’s leap of faith begets a beguiling tale of those who love well, but not wisely, unspooling like a poem embroidered on the heart—ornate, painful and true. Keith Donohue’s Angels of Destruction takes flight from the moment that Margaret allows young Norah into her home, ignoring the instinctive hunch that the orphan’s life history is fabricated. Margaret has been numbed by the loss of her own child, Erica, a runaway teen who disappeared with an anarchist boyfriend a decade ago, followed by the death of her physician husband, Paul. But her stoic resolve begins to melt as she starts to believe the visit by Norah is predestined, and that her role as surrogate grandmother is not so much subterfuge, but rather divine serendipity. Still, when the ethereal Norah’s pocket-full-of miracles makes her a legend in the classroom, but draws fear and suspicion from school officials and parents in the neighborhood, Margaret’s allegedly long-lost “granddaughter” suddenly faces social ostracism and exile. While some readers might liken Donohue’s penchant for mystical realism to that of novelist Alice Hoffman, any sweeping comparisons shortchange both writers, whose immense gifts bear separate and distinct
A childhood of sounds and silence By Howard Shirley Imagine you are a boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940s. Your world is full of sound. Buses growl, subways thunder, horns honk, people talk, laugh, yell, cry. Radios blare music from open windows. Neighbors babble around you. Weekends at Coney Island fill your ears with everything from the creak and rattle of carnival rides to the endless roar of the ocean surf. Every moment of your life is overwhelmed with sound. But for your parents, every day is silent. This was the life of Myron Uhlberg, born in 1933 to Louis and Sarah Uhlberg, both deaf since childhood. Into their silence came a boy fully capable of experiencing the sounds they could not, a boy who became a vital link to the hearing world. Enlisted at an early age to translate his parents’ sign language, the young Myron grew up within two worlds, hearing and deaf, facing challenges and responsibilities that most adults never face. But amid those challenges he still found time to be a boy, and discovered the possibilities in language that led him to success as a writer and children’s author (Dad, Jackie, and Me). Heart-achingly beautiful, Hands of My Father is a richly textured memoir of both sight and sound, a tale of life in all its range, from the pain of prejudice to the wonder of love Hands of in a family tightly knit by the rejection of the outside world. Uhlberg skillfully mixes poignancy with humor, creating a My Father book that brings laughter as readily as tears. Through nar- By Myron Uhlberg rative and vignettes of memory, Hands of My Father offers Bantam both a flowing story and delightful nuggets, moments of $23, 256 pages life captured and held, to be viewed and savored. Under ISBN 9780553806885 Uhlberg’s pen, words take form, like the shapes his father scribed into the air, his hands dancing as they spoke to Myron, and through him to the world at large. By the end, Uhlberg becomes not only his father’s interpreter, but also the reader’s, translating the richness and depth of his parent’s exquisitely expressive language down into printed words. It is a message of memory, struggle and love—and it is a message worth receiving. o Howard Shirley writes from Franklin, Tennessee.
The great game that wasn’t so great
MARCH 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
By Pete Croatto A lot of good came out of the 1979 NCAA championship game between Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans and Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores. For one thing, it kicked off the storied rivalry between the two players, one that pretty much saved the floundering NBA. And as Seth Davis writes in When March Went Mad: The Game that Transformed Basketball, the game “helped to catapult college basketball, and especially the NCAA tournament, into the national consciousness.” The great irony is that such a meaningful contest was “not a very good game,” according to Davis. Michigan State won by 11 points as the can’t-miss Bird missed almost 70 percent of his shots. Davis, a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports and a longtime writer for Sports Illustrated, doesn’t spend a lot of time detailing the game, nor does he just revel in Magic/Bird anecdotes. This entertaining, revealing book examines two very different teams’ journeys in getting to the final. Michigan State’s head student manager, Darwin Payton, was invaluable to coach Jud Heathcote, who relied on Payton for insight on his own players. Sycamores’ coach Bill Hodges discovered that bringing an unheralded small school to na- When March tional prominence did not guarantee future success. As for the basketball legends, it’s remarkable to see them Went Mad as young men. Bird may have been at ease on a basketball By Seth Davis court, but dealing with the media throngs was hell. Not only Times Books did the former garbage man want certain aspects of his per- $26, 336 pages sonal life kept secret—his father’s suicide, an ex-wife who ISBN 9780805088106 filed a paternity suit—he felt inept doing interviews. Johnson, he of the smiley persona and affable nature, was always comfortable being the man; twice a week as “E.J. the Deejay,” he’d spin records at an off-campus disco. Davis’ decision to go beyond the superstars is what makes When March Went Mad work. By highlighting the stories and thoughts of the players and staff on both teams, Davis shows that everyone contributes, especially when it comes to producing a fine piece of sports journalism. o 30 Pete Croatto owns a deadly jump shot and a Patrick Ewing replica jersey.
COOKING Good food in bad times In culinary terms, the upside of the economic downturn may be that more people will cook at home. When eating out (or take-out) strains budgets, making meals and choosing menus can become a rediscovered joy and a boon to over-stressed pocketbooks. Though we haven’t been deluged with “recession cuisine” yet, it’s bound to happen. Before the flood and before you go whole hog for stay-at-home splendor, you might want to consider a kitchen know-how refresher course. Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking (Knopf, $22.95, 144 pages, ISBN 9780375411519) by the incomparable Julia Child, now in its eighth printing, is exactly what you need. It began as Julia’s own kitchen reference, filled with BY SYBIL PRATT reminders and remedies compiled as she cooked her way through the years—a “mini aide-memoire,” as she calls it, for home cookery. As Julia moves through the menu categories—soups and sauces to sweets—she emphasizes basic, necessary techniques that work for many different main ingredients, offering a classic “master recipe” that morphs, for instance, from Beef Bourguignon to Chicken Fricassée and Osso Buco, or Génoise Cake to apricot jelly roll and chocolate almond cake. Her wisdom is delivered with her signature comforting casualness and forthright flair. Oh, where would we be without Julia? I hate to even think of it.
Cooking with a Latina accent Michelle Bernstein grew up with a “built-in comfort level with cuisines that were foreign to most American palates,” eating the food her Argentinean mother cooked and the tempting Cuban fare available everywhere in her native Miami. She learned classic French technique in cooking school, honed it during her apprenticeship, but missed the excitement of Latin cooking. So, she traveled in Central and South America, letting the vibrant Latin dishes seep into her repertoire. With three successful restaurants, including Michy’s in Miami, to her credit, Michelle shares her take on Latin flavors and more in Cuisine à Latina (Houghton Mifflin, $30, 276 pages, ISBN 9780618867509). With her expert guidance, you too can zing up your cooking with Peruvian seafood ceviche, so fresh and simple to prepare; Orange and Avocado Salad; a fantastic linguine with clams, crème fraîche and fennel; MojoMarinated Cornish Hens; Chimichurri sauces for steak—or anything else. Packed with tips, Cuisine à Latina can make Michy’s magic your own.
Elevate the everyday Charlie Trotter, renowned, award-winning (including eight James Beard awards!) chef/owner of his eponymous Chicago restaurant, plus three others, believes that “great food doesn’t have to entail frantic foraging for ingredients or performing Herculean tasks in the kitchen.” What home cooks do need is a “touch of bravado” and the 130 recipes in this newly designed second edition of Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter (Ten Speed, $25, 128 pages, ISBN 9781580089340) serve up just that, along with the solid, detailed directions to turn out flavor-loaded dishes and memorable meals. His goal is to “elevate everyday cuisine to a higher level of sophistication.” He knows, too, that planning multicourse meals for entertaining can tax the already overtaxed, time-challenged cook. Charlie proffers his ideas on how to orchestrate a flawless meal and avoid those too-often attendant panic attacks. He advises that you serve delicate before strongly flavored, cold before hot, suggests textures that contrast, and adds a caveat to beware of ethnic clashes. His starters set the scene—simple shrimp revved up with Spicy Fruit Salsa, Braised Leek Soup with Sautéed Oyster Mushrooms, Shaved Fennel and Haricots Verts (now at Costco) with Mustard Vinaigrette. Elegant entrées follow—easy-on-the-purse Sautéed Catfish with Caramelized Risotto, Cumin-Garlic Rubbed Cornish Hens with PotatoParmesan Pavé (well worth the effort), Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Garlic Mashed Potatoes. For dessert, Warm Berry Compote with Vanilla Frozen Yogurt or show-stopping Plum-Pistachio Trifle. Live it up at home! o
The good, the bad and the very best By Linda M. Castellitto usinesspeople—and the people who work for them—are forever looking for ways to be more efficient, more inspired, more informed. This quartet of books fits the profile: from the stock market to the Internet, business books to problem-solving, each of these titles will edify and entertain.
Problem-solving primer Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People (Portfolio, $22.95, 128 pages, ISBN 9781591842422) started out as a book for kids. Ken Watanabe, a Yale- and Harvard-educated management consultant for McKinsey and Company, wrote it in 2007 when the Japanese prime minister announced a focus on education via critical thinking skills instead of memorization. Watanabe felt compelled to do his part and created four case studies, or classes (e.g., Rock Bands and Root Causes, Soccer School Pros and Cons) to show how problem-solving tools can be applied to all manner of situations. Watanabe’s friendly, capable tone makes the book an enjoyable read; “tool boxes” and diagrams add clarity; and cute drawings make problem-solving playful. The book was Japan’s top business bestseller of 2007 and now it’s available in English.
How not to succeed in business Today, we have Bernie Madoff, stock-fraud mastermind of a Ponzi scheme that robbed investors of a reported $50 billion. In the 1990s, there was Jordan Belfort, head of Stratton Oakmont, a Long Island brokerage firm that specialized in “pump-anddumps”: using Belfort’s scripts, brokers cold-called potential investors and conjured up stories of demand for stocks. The firm then sold the overvalued shares, causing the price to fall and investors to lose their money. But Belfort and his minions made money and spent millions each month on drugs, prostitutes, cars and parties. Belfort chronicled much of this in The Wolf of Wall Street: Stock Market Multimillionaire at 26, Federal Convict at 36. In his follow-up, Catching the Wolf of Wall Street: More Incredible True Stories of Fortunes, Schemes, Parties, and Prison (Bantam, $25, 480 pages, ISBN 9780553807042), he tells more tales of lying, cheating and debauchery—and denies responsibility for just about everything. The key themes of the book: things just happen to him; it wasn’t really stealing; did he mention he was married to a model? Despite his rock-hard abs, Belfort cooperates with the FBI; after depositions and recorded meetings with fellow fraudsters, he goes to prison
The lion’s share of affection
Business briefs In keeping with their successful business model for 800-CEOREAD, which markets business books to businesses (the website offers top picks and reviews, plus links to order single or bulk copies), company founder and president Jack Covert and vice president Todd Sattersten have compiled The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You (Portfolio, $25.95, 340 pages, ISBN 9781591842408). It’s a busy executive’s dream: must-read titles are categorized so readers can concentrate on books that meet their needs (Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Big Ideas). “Where to Next?” items after each review suggest further reading, and sidebars recommend movies or offer inspiration via quotes. This is an excellent resource for anyone curious about business books but overwhelmed by all the choices.
We’re all friends here MySpace has been in the news a lot these last few years, from unsigned musicians who found success via its pages to the rise of competitor Facebook. In Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America (Random House, $27, 384 pages, ISBN 9781400066940), Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin takes readers on a tour of the history and business battles behind the scenes of the cultural phenomenon. Founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson launched MySpace in 2003, and sold it to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in mid-2005 for almost $600 million. In the intervening years, the site’s founders and employees alternately struggled and succeeded as they learned how to manage burgeoning popularity (41.8 billion page views per month) and legal issues (spyware, use of the site by minors, and more). Angwin skillfully blends personal sagas with business dramas, which makes for a fascinating, entertaining read. o
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By Alison Hood In 1969, Anthony Bourke and John Rendall, two Aussies new to London, wandered into Harrods. There in the second-floor “zoo” were two caged lion cubs. One cub regally pretended they didn’t exist, enchanting them. One hefty price tag and many negotiations later, the boys took the lion they ironically dubbed “Christian” home to a flat over a Chelsea furniture shop named (appropriately) Sophisticat. Soon, Christian had the complete adoration of his owners, the shopkeepers and London at large, often posing in the front shop window to the delight of fans and passersby. By late 1970, Christian, to his owners’ consternation, had outgrown his bijou digs. What follows is a wondrous, serendipitous tale that tracks Christian’s migration from London streets to Kenyan wilderness and the new friends, both lion and human (notably lion expert George Adamson of Born Free fame) that he finds there. Most astonishing, however, is that in 1971, after a year’s absence, Bourke and Rendall returned to Africa and successfully reunited with Christian who, though magnificently mature, greeted them exuberantly: Christian never forgot the men who had first fed, sheltered and played with him. The heart of A Lion Called Christian, which first was A Lion Called published in 1970 (and has since been updated due to the Christian appearance of the widely viewed 1971 reunion footage on YouTube), highlights the remarkable, enduring bond be- By Anthony Bourke tween the authors and their regal pet. Written in a simple, and John Rendall straightforward style, this book is not great literature, but is Broadway $21.95, 256 pages a memorable story that tells of the life and work of George ISBN 9780767932301 Adamson, the African wilderness and the mysterious, life-af- Also available on audio firming connection between man and animal. o
for 22 months, does easy time and befriends Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong, who encouraged him to write this book). This might be a cautionary tale if Belfort were sorry for what he’d done; instead, he’s only sorry he got caught.
By the editors of Merriam-Webster
Too many cooks Dear Editor: Can you explain the meaning and origin of the term kitchen cabinet as it is used in connection with presidential administrations? S. F. Seattle, Washington The term kitchen cabinet has been in use since at least 1832. It refers to an informal group of advisors to a person in a position of power, such as the head of a government. Kitchen cabinet originated in the United States, but it has found a home in British politics as well. The nature of a kitchen cabinet is summed up well in this statement from The [London] Times Literary Supplement of May 23, 1975: “Every ruler operates on two levels, the personal and the official; that is, he has a kitchen cabinet and a body of ministers.” In the early decades of its use, kitchen cabinet was employed by critics of U.S. presidents who, in the critics’ view, were unduly influenced by confidantes who had no official standing in government. One such president was Andrew Johnson, who took office upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson was not a particularly popular president, especially with Congress. His lenient policies for dealing with the defeated Confederate states angered the Radical Republicans, who favored punitive action against the South. Johnson was also criticized for relying on a group of personal friends instead of his Cabinet for advice. These friends, like similar groups who had advised previous presidents, were known as the kitchen cabinet because
IT’S A MYSTERY Thomas Perry
ACROSS 1. In ____ Act, Jane tracks down someone she helped 8. Tribe Jane belongs to 13. One of 100 U.S. reps. 14. Before, poetic 15. Suffix used with followers of an “-ism” 16. Hubbard or Howard for one 17. Jane’s last name 20. Dead gambler client, who visits Jane 22. Jane accepts this instead of money 23. Aboveground train 24. In the event that 25. My (Sp.) 26. Jane’s husband 29. Lies or what Jane tells people about work 32. Put on, as Jane will do a disguise 33. Cunningly or how Jane avoids police 34. Jane gives these to the river spirit 36. Library of Eng. Lit.
S O L U T I O N
of their informal status. His reliance on the kitchen cabinet enraged members of his official Cabinet, and provided more ammunition for Congress to use against him. Presidents since Johnson, however, have continued to use unofficial advisors, mostly without the criticism and controversy that surrounded the practice during the Johnson administration.
Fear factor Dear Editor: I recently read that the term the willies comes from the spirit who appears in Puccini’s opera Le Villi. The spirit in the opera is apparently based on an old German or Slavic legend about female spirits called The Willis who haunt their unfaithful lovers. Can you corroborate this theory? S. B. St. Petersburg, Florida No, we can’t, for two reasons. The first is a matter of pronunciation. The English term the willies is always pronounced with a “w” sound, while the German Willis is pronounced with a “v” sound, which is spelled with a “w” in German. Even more compelling, however, is the certainty that the willies is a colloquial American term. It first appeared in print around 1900 in the United States in the sense “a feeling of nervousness.” It seems very unlikely that a term that was first popularized in informal American speech had its origins in an opera, especially since there’s no obvious connection between the spirit in Le Villi and the meaning of the American expression. Some other suggested but unsubstantiated origins in-
clude two terms meaning “tempest”—willywaw and willy-willy—as well as will-o’-the-wisp. Another possibility is an obsolete or dialect word will borrowed originally from Old Norse and meaning “bewilderment.” Unfortunately, we lack enough information to determine if any one of these is the actual origin of the willies.
Riding high Dear Editor: Why do we say an arrogant person is on his high horse? E.P. Maywood, California The high horse in the phrase on one’s high horse is a synonym for great horse. A great or high horse was much taller and heavier than the average horse. Knights in Medieval England rode so-called great horses in battle and in tournaments. When not in a battle or jousting match, the high horses were employed in carrying members of the nobility and other high-ranking individuals in pageants and parades. Upon so large and powerful an animal, the rider would be physically elevated far above all else, symbolically manifesting that person’s superior position in society. Over time, to ride one’s high horse or to be on one’s high horse came to be used for any sort of act of superiority or arrogance and continues to be used this way today. Please send correspondence regarding Word Nook to:
Language Research Service P.O. Box 281 Springfield, MA 01102
This crossword is from Linda K. Murdock’s Mystery Lover’s Puzzle Book, published by Bellwether Books. © 2007 Linda K. Murdock.
38. Regulatory Impact Stmt. 40. Nonsense 42. Item Jane gives to the spirits 47. Jane faces many ____ or die situations 48. Exclamation of surprise 49. ____tai, a rum drink 50. Another word for 22-Across (sing.) 53. Korea, Vietnam or Iraq 55. When I take a short rest, ____ ____ 56. Jane acts as a ____ to a new life 58. ____ of the Dead involves a child and his inheritance 60. New York ex-Mayor Koch 63. He was swallowed by a “big fish” 64. Jane keeps her ____ to the ground 65. Jane’s mother died of this 70. Cry of pain 71. Two in Roman numerals 72. Superman’s vision 74. Disputed territory, the ____ Heights 75. Mr. Einstein to friends 76. Internet provider or protocol (abbr.) 77. In The ____ -Changers, Jane helps her husband’s mentor 79. Not PM 80. Crazy, as is the riskiness of Jane’s job 81. Profession of Jane’s husband 82. Jane checks surroundings for ____ and outs
DOWN 2. First Wednesday of Lent 3. Jake Reinert is Jane’s nosy ____ 4. Former monetary unit of Peru
5. Hoist or lift 6. Confused with Scottish 7. Maiden name 8. Snake-like shapes 9. Morals, which Jane seldom considers 10. Jane must ____ on the side of caution 11. Jane’s Ivy League school 12. Jane’s clients can’t have ____ links to past 15. Standing still, as a machine 17. Tribal subgroup Jane belongs to 18. Direct deposit paycheck 19. Car not up to par 21. Jane’s father dies on a construction site because of this 27. Reuben sandwich bread (pl.) 28. Too wise? 30. California city (abbr.) 31. Jane’s role in series 32. What Jane helps people do 35. Tease 37. Jane uses arrows and this in 1-Across 39. Jane tells us about Indian folk____ 41. In ____ Woman Jane and her husband are hunted 42. Martial art Jane practices 43. Conditioned reflex (abbr.) 44. Acronym for head of company 45. Operating system (abbr.) 46. Wildebeest 51. Old actor ____ Robinson (initials) 52. 7th note in “Do, re, me” scale 54. Walked quickly 57. Ancestors come to Jane in these 59. Jane collects clippings from finger____ for the spirits
61. Jane’s first client was a ____ dodger 62. Raleigh state 63. Unknown victim ____ Doe 64. Public exhibition for short 66. Grow older 67. Katrina victim for short 68. More general name for 17-Down
69. Nurse 73. Southern Chinese people 75. ML King realization “Free ____ last” 76. Jane provides clients with a new one 78. County road (abbr.)