Staff Picks for Adult Readers
Russo's ability to capture the humanity and humor of small-town life is what continues to draw me to his work. Getting to hang out again with the characters from Nobody's Fool, published over two decades ago and turned into a memorable film starring Paul Newman as Donald "Sully" Sullivan, makes this novel my pick. But you don't need to have read the earlier book, also set in North Bath, N.Y., to appreciate the plot, which features Philip Seymour Hoffman's character, Douglas Raymer, now the chief of police. —Judith Rosen, senior bookselling editor
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible both honors and updates Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Curtis Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today.
This version of the Bennet family--and Mr. Darcy--is one that you have and haven't met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help--and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master's degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won't discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane's fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip's friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.
The “insightful, stark, and heartbreaking” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) novel about three lives entangled during World War II from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Little Bee.
The day war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up.
Tom Shaw decides to ignore the war—until he learns his roommate Alistair Heath has unexpectedly enlisted. Then the conflict can no longer be avoided.
Young, bright, and brave, Mary is certain she’d be a marvelous spy. When she is—bewilderingly—made a teacher, she finds herself defying prejudice to protect the children her country would rather forget.
Tom, meanwhile, finds that he will do anything for Mary.
And when Mary and Alistair meet, it is love, as well as war, that will test them in ways they could not have imagined, entangling three lives in violence and passion, friendship and deception, inexorably shaping their hopes and dreams.
Set in London during the years of 1939–1942, when citizens had slim hope of survival, much less victory; and on the strategic island of Malta, which was daily devastated by the Axis barrage, Everyone Brave is Forgiven features little-known history and a perfect wartime love story inspired by the real-life love letters between Chris Cleave’s grandparents. This dazzling novel dares us to understand that, against the great theater of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs that change us most.
In this “charming debut” (People) from one of Sweden’s most successful authors, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. “If there was an award for ‘Most Charming Book of the Year,’ this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down” (Booklist, starred review).
At the age of 36, on the verge of a completing a decade's worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi's health began to falter. He started losing weight and was wracked by waves of excruciating back pain. A CT scan confirmed what Paul, deep down, had suspected: he had stage four lung cancer, widely disseminated. One day, he was a doctor making a living treating the dying, and the next, he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined, the culmination of decades of striving, evaporated. With incredible literary quality, philosophical acuity, and medical authority, When Breath Becomes Air approaches the questions raised by facing mortality from the dual perspective of the neurosurgeon who spent a decade meeting patients in the twilight between life and death, and the terminally ill patient who suddenly found himself living in that liminality. At the base of Paul's inquiry are essential questions, such as: What makes life worth living in the face of death? What happens when the future, instead of being a ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present? When faced with a terminal diagnosis, what does it mean to have a child, to nuture a new life as another one fades away? As Paul wrote, "Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn't know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn't know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn't really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live." Paul Kalanithi passed away in March 2015, while working on this book"-- Provided by publisher.
The stunning companion to Kate Atkinson's #1 bestseller Life After Life, "one of the best novels I've read this century" (Gillian Flynn). "He had been reconciled to death during the war and then suddenly the war was over and there was a next day and a next day. Part of him never adjusted to having a future." Kate Atkinson's dazzling Life After Life explored the possibility of infinite chances and the power of choices, following Ursula Todd as she lived through the turbulent events of the last century over and over again. A GOD IN RUINS tells the dramatic story of the 20th Century through Ursula's beloved younger brother Teddy--would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather-as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world. After all that Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is living in a future he never expected to have. An ingenious and moving exploration of one ordinary man's path through extraordinary times, A GOD IN RUINS proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age.
From the internationally best-selling author of SARAH'S KEY comes an irreverent yet heartfelt collection that examines our most intimate and forbidden desires Does a fruit taste its sweetest when it is forbidden? Is that which is prohibited always the most pleasurable? In this passionate and perceptive collection, Tatiana de Rosnay paints a portrait of the most forbidden of loves, in many different shades--sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, sometimes heartfelt, always with a dry wit and an unflinching authenticity. A PARIS AFFAIR is an enjoyable "undressing" of intimate delights, where laughter mingles with compassion and the heartbeats of illicit desire.
Five kind and honorable people are caught up in the depredations of the Great War in this first stand-alone novel by the author of the Maisie Dobbs mystery series (Leaving Everything Most Loved, 2013, etc.)
In 1914, as war looms, newlyweds Tom and Kezia Brissenden are making a go of the farm Tom inherited from his father, a farm that would have been part of the estate of wealthy gentleman Edmund Hawkes had not his great-grandfather lost it to Tom’s great-grandfather in a darts game. Kezia, a vicar’s daughter, is earnestly striving to supplant her finishing school ways with those of a farm wife, consulting a housewifery guide, The Woman’s Book. Although Hawkes is attracted to Kezia, he keeps a respectful distance, just as he is cordial but not friendly toward Tom. This distance persists as Tom and Hawkes both enlist and are sent to the front line in France, where Tom, a private, serves under Capt. Hawkes. Kezia keeps Tom’s spirits up with her letters describing the sumptuous meals she prepares for him in her imagination, where wartime food shortages and government inroads on the farm’s production aren't problems. The whole battalion soon looks forward to her letters and the occasional fruitcake. However, Tom is scapegoated by this novel’s closest thing to a villain, the cynical and embittered Sgt. Knowles, who resents the influx of so many green recruits. Meanwhile, Tom’s sister (and Kezia’s best friend), Thea, anguishes over whether she will be arrested for her activities as a suffragette and pacifist. Ultimately, she decides that the only way to escape government oppression is to reaffirm her loyalty: She becomes an ambulance driver at the front, where Kezia’s father, Rev. Marchant, is ministering to troops in the trenches. Without questioning either the cause of the war or the dubious tactics employed, seemingly, to ensure maximum loss of life for minimal military advantage, these characters simply get on with it, reaffirming our faith in the possibility of everyday nobility.
A sad, beautifully written, contemplative testament.
Ackerman (One Hundred Names for Love) addresses a currently vogue topic, the Anthropocene—the geologic age humans have shaped by altering the world’s ecosystems—and in doing so raises the bar for her peers. “We’ve subdued 75 percent of the land surface,” Ackerman points out, “preserving some pockets as ‘wilderness,’ denaturing vast tracts for our businesses and homes, and homogenizing a third of the world’s ice-free land through farming.” Yet in the face of massive changes that have “created some planetary chaos that threatens our well-being,” she finds hope. Ackerman views the efforts of the tiny, deluge-prone Indian Ocean nation of the Maldives to be carbon neutral by 2020 as “a model for changes radical enough to help fix the climate.” Her critical eye focuses on changes at the human as well as the global level: “Anthropocene engineering has penetrated the world of medicine and biology, revolutionizing how we view the body.” The greatest strength of her work, though, is the beauty of her language, the power of her metaphors, and the utterly compelling nature of her examples. Whether Ackerman is writing about an iPad-using orangutan or Polynesian snails whose “interiors belong in a church designed by Gaudí,” her penetrating insight is a joy to behold. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor. (Sept.)
A deftly plotted novel that probes the deepest mysteries: sin, redemption, love, evil, the human condition.
After he seemingly brought Harry Hole back from the dead in his last novel (Police, 2013), Norway’s Nesbø gives his popular protagonist a breather, shelving the detective in favor of a stand-alone novel that plunges deeply into the religious allegory that has frequently framed his work (The Redeemer, 2013). In fact, the symbolism might initially seem laid on pretty thick for readers looking to solve a satisfying whodunit. Sonny Lofthus, the son of the title, is introduced as a prisoner with “healing hands,” one who was “prepared to take your sins upon himself and didn’t want anything in return.” Like Christ, he suffers for the sins of others and offers redemption. He is also a hopeless junkie. His back story suggests that Sonny was a boy of considerable promise, a champion wrestler and model student, proud son of a police officer. Then, when he was 18, he was devastated by the suicide of his father, who left a note confessing his corruption as the mole within the department, and the subsequent death of his heartbroken mother. After Sonny turned to drugs, he found himself in a web of evil; if he would confess to murders he hadn’t committed, the corrupt prison system would keep him supplied with heroin. Then a fellow prisoner comes to him for confession and reveals a secret that turns Sonny’s world upside down, inspiring him to kick his habit, plot an ingenious escape and turn himself into an “avenging angel,” delivering lethal retribution. The inspector obsessed with the case had a complicated relationship with Sonny’s father, and it remains uncertain until the climax (in a church, naturally) whether he wants to be Sonny’s captor or his collaborator. It’s a novel in which one character muses on “how innocence walks hand-in-hand with ignorance. How insight never clarifies, only complicates.”
One of Nesbø’s best, deepest and richest novels, even without Harry Hole.
Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.
In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.
Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.
In his former life, the escapee was employed by British intelligence under the code name Peanut. After he finds a place to lay low and recover from the physical abuse he suffered at the prison camp, he tracks down a one-time fellow academic and spy who is now a well-off military researcher; he forces his old colleague to make copies of secret documents by threatening to expose his past—and by beating him to a pulp. When he hears about Mangan, a famous British reporter who lives in the area, Peanut passes the documents to him and asks that Mangan give them to his contacts in the British Embassy. Though he thrives on danger, the last thing Mangan wants is hot papers in his possession; he's already under close scrutiny by state security for a story he wrote on a cult after sneaking into the blockaded town it was occupying. After Mangan is talked into working for British intelligence, all manner of reversals, betrayals, arrests and killings have him and Peanut running for their lives. Brookes, a one-time China correspondent for the BBC, knows this turf exceedingly well and translates that knowledge into a novel that is as strikingly different as it is thrilling. In hinting at China's capabilities as a cyberenemy, the author may be giving us a clue about the subject of his next novel. One can't wait to read it.
One of the best and most compulsively readable spy-fiction debuts in years.
Debut Afghan-American author Nadia Hashimi's The Pearl That Broke Its Shell , the entwined stories of two Afghan women separated by a century who find freedom in the tradition of bacha posh, which allows girls to dress and live as boys...until they are of marriageable age. "I think it is time we change something for you. I think it would be best if we let you be a son to your father." Kabul, 2009: Growing up in a family of with five daughters and no sons, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and then, as they grow older, can rarely leave the house. Their mother struggles to support the family as their father becomes increasingly addicted to drugs. But one day their aunt, Khala Shaima, makes a suggestion: as a bacha posh, Rahima can become a son-dressing as a boy, with a boy's name, treated as a boy-until she is of marriageable age. She will be able to attend school and go to the marketplace. It's an old custom, but one that most of society turns a blind eye to when girls are young. And then Khala Shaima begins to tell a story that transforms Rahima's life: the story of her great-great-grandmother, Shekiba. Kabul, 1909: Shekiba, the daughter of a rural farming family, is disfigured in an accident as a child. When her parents and siblings die in a cholera epidemic, she has no one left to support her and is treated as little better than a slave in a relative's home...until she is able to escape her life of drudgery by dressing as a man. Through a rare stroke of luck, she becomes one of the guards of the king's harem in a lavish palace in the capital city, and eventually manages to make a life for herself...one that ultimately includes a husband and children. Shekhiba, at turn of the 20th century, and her great-great-granddaughter Rahima, in modern-day Afghanistan, have parallel destinies. Rahima relishes her newfound freedom as a boy-but when she is of marriageable age, her freedom ends. She and her sisters are sold in marriage to the family of a local warlord. Facing a dark reality with an abusive family, can she ever become accustomed to the way a woman must behave? Can she adapt and overcome like her great-aunt Shekiba? And if she can't-will she survive? A riveting , poignant tale about family, freedom, and determination, perfect for readers of A Thousand Splendid Suns or Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
The Circle is the exhilarating new novel from Dave Eggers, best-selling author of A Hologram for the King, a finalist for the National Book Award. When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users' personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company's modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can't believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world--even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman's ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
What goes on behind closed doors, especially when those doors are of the gilded variety, has fascinated novelists and journalists for centuries. The private lives of the rich and famous are so tantalizing that Robin Leach made a career out of showcasing them. One of the biggest eccentric, rich fishes out there was Huguette Clark. Deceased for more than two years, Clark, brought to life by investigator Dedman and Clark's descendant, Newell, owned nouveau riche palaces in New York, Connecticut, and California. An heiress, Clark disappeared from public view in the 1920s. What happened to her and her vast wealth? Answering this question is the book's mission. Based on records and the hearsay of relations and former employees, the book pieces together Clark's life, that of a woman rumored to be institutionalized while her mansions stood empty, though immaculately maintained throughout her life. Clark left few clues about herself, but she willed vast sums to her caretakers and numerous charitable endeavors. Still, her absence acts as a shade to seeing her fully, hinting at possible financial malfeasance, all the while conspiring to produce a spellbinding mystery.--Orbesen, James Copyright 2010 Booklist
*Starred Review* In 1919, British aviators Alcock and Brown made the first nonstop transatlantic flight, from Newfoundland to Ireland. McCann, in his first novel since the National Book Award-winning Let the Great World Spin (2009), imagines a letter handed to Brown by a young photographer, written by her mother, Emily, a local reporter covering the flight, to be delivered upon their landing to a family in Cork. Years earlier, while on a speaking tour in Ireland with the mission to raise money for the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass forms a bond with young Isabel, the daughter of his host family in Cork. Lily, a young servant, emboldened by Douglass' visit, sets out for America, in the hope of a better life. About a century and a half later, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell is coaxed out of retirement to broker talks between the various factions, with the intention of getting a peace agreement by Good Friday. At the tennis club, he meets a woman in her nineties who, years earlier, had lost her grandson to the Troubles. It is Lily and her offspring's stories set across different times and in many different places that ultimately tie everything together, as McCann creates complex, vivid characters (historical and otherwise) while expertly mixing fact and fancy to create this emotionally involving and eminently memorable novel. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Prepub buzz about McCann's latest suggests it will be among the summer's leading literary fiction titles.--Segedin, Ben Copyright 2010 Booklist
Working at renowned Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Paterniti discovered a fabulously tasty Spanish sheep's milk cheese unlike any other. A writer by trade, Paterniti found himself fascinated by this cheese, and he embarked on a quest to find its birthplace in Castile, a small town some distance from Madrid. There he met a hulking man with a fondness for storytelling. Since Paterniti already had a predilection for tales, he became utterly entranced with this cheese-making Spaniard, Ambrosio Molinas de las Heras, who had won numerous awards and garnered kudos even from Fidel Castro. But by the time Paterniti reached him, Molinas had shut down production. Molinas' entrepreneurial naivete and betrayal by a business partner had bankrupted the fledgling company. Paterniti's detailed narrative overflows into long, digressive footnotes, but the story of dashed hopes will resonate with lovers of cheese and of rural Spanish life.--Knoblauch, Mark Copyright 2010 Booklist
Readers of the best-selling memoir The Glass Castle will be familiar with Charlotte Holladay's parenting style in Walls's new novel. Charlotte, a narcissistic single mother of two, is an aspiring actress and singer with grandiose dreams who deeply loves her daughters but is incapable of providing them with a stable home. In summer 1970, after their mother abandons them for weeks, as she puts it, "to make some time and space for myself," 12-year-old narrator Bean and her 15-year-old sister Liz embark on a cross-country bus trip to seek out the relatives they've never met. Their Uncle Tinsley, an eccentric bachelor, reluctantly takes the girls into their mother's old family home in Byler, VA, a small, stratified Southern town on the cusp of integration. Older sister Liz is a lover of puns and fan of author Lewis Carroll, and her charming wordplay enlivens Bean's narration. VERDICT This engrossing story is told with the warmth and humor that will appeal to fans of Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees. Readers will find themselves rooting for the spunky heroine and her smart, offbeat sister as they persevere in the face of multiple hardships. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/13.]-Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Genial Founding Father and revered statesman Benjamin Franklin was a man of large appetites, and this affecting first novel fictionalizes a little-known story. Anne is a young servant girl in a tavern who is lured into prostitution by a charming young Benjamin Franklin. When she becomes pregnant with their child, he talks her into giving the baby up so that he might have a chance for a respectable life. But Benjamin's wife, asked to raise the bastard child, William, as her own, struggles with suspicions of her husband's infidelity, especially when they lose their own child to smallpox. Forever seeking the affections of his stepmother and the approval of his father, William finally comes into his own but lands on the wrong side of history and becomes locked in a bitter feud with his father over the Revolution. Cabot laces her assured novel with Shakespearean overtones as the characters continually misconstrue one another's motives. From Franklin's intense intellectual curiosity to Anne's stubborn insistence on leading an independent life, this memorable cast makes for spellbinding reading.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2010 Booklist
Greenlaw (Seaworthy, 2010) veers from her more traditional fishing tales in this intimate memoir that proves without a doubt that it takes a village to raise a child. Set on her beloved home of Isle au Haut, off the coast of Maine, Greenlaw's chronicle is about discovering a child in trouble and doing the necessary but difficult work to save her. Writing in the same bracing manner as in her high-seas adventures, Greenlaw relates how a new island resident misrepresented himself and his adopted daughter and the chaos that ensued as the truth was slowly revealed. In the midst of her own low-key midlife crisis, and at odds about her romantic relationship and professional future, both on the sea and off, she considers herself an unlikely candidate for parental stand-in. But as the island does its own collective soul searching, she finds herself pondering a future she never envisioned. With newfound poignancy, Greenlaw addresses family and kinship in a clear-eyed manner that defies expectations and should easily bring her new fans. Book clubs will want to take note.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2010 Booklist
A memoir about a broken-hearted, middle-aged man who stumbles upon solace, meaning, and Larry David while hitchhiking his way around Martha's Vineyard One summer day on Martha's Vineyard Paul Samuel Dolman was hitchhiking, and none other than Larry David pulled over and asked, "You're not a serial killer or something, are you?" The comedic writer and actor from Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm not only gave Dolman a ride, but helped him find his way during his summer of soul-searching and hitchhiking. Dolman found himself on Martha's Vineyard that summer having made the catastrophic mistake of visiting "The Parental Asylum" in the wake of a painful breakup. His mother is welcoming, albeit senile and neurotically rigid. But his dad "only has the social energy to be nice to humans for about 10 minutes a day." Desperately seeking companionship, Dolman begins hitchhiking around the island and meets a wide array of characters: the super-rich and the homeless, movie stars and common folk, and, of course, Mr. David. Astonishingly, it is Dolman's growing friendship with the famous comedian that becomes the lodestar of his spiritual quest. (Yes, Larry David gets deep!) Written with disarming honest humor and perfectly capturing Larry David's unique comic genius, Hitchhiking with Larry David will leave readers simultaneously laughing and crying as they ponder the mystery and spirituality of life.
*Starred Review* Saboor, a laborer, pulls his young daughter, Pari, and his son, Abdullah, across the desert in a red wagon, leaving their poor village of Shadbagh for Kabul, where his brother-in-law, Nabi, a chauffeur, will introduce them to a wealthy man and his beautiful, despairing poet wife. So begins the third captivating and affecting novel by the internationally best-selling author of The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007). An immense, ancient oak stands in Shadbagh, emblematic of the complexly branching stories in Hosseini's vital, profound, and spellbinding saga of family bonds and unlikely pairings forged by chance, choice, and necessity. We meet twin sisters, one beautiful, one plain; one an invalid, the other a caretaker. Two male cousins, one a charismatic wheeler-dealer; the other a cautious, introverted doctor. A disfigured girl of great valor and a boy destined to become a plastic surgeon. Kabul falls and struggles to rise. Shadbagh comes under the rule of a drug lord, and the novel's many limbs reach to Paris, San Francisco, and a Greek island. A masterful and compassionate storyteller, Hosseini traces the traumas and scarring of tyranny, war, crime, lies, and illness in the intricately interconnected, heartbreaking, and extraordinary lives of his vibrantly realized characters to create a grand and encompassing tree of life. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The immense popularity of Hosseini's previous books ensures a high-profile promotional campaign and mounting word-of-mouth excitement in anticipation of the release of his first new novel in six years.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
Philbrick's newest work chronicles the cradle of the American Revolution, Boston's action-packed years of 1773-76. Opening with the consequences of the Boston Tea Party, Philbrick depicts the arrival of British army and naval forces, the manifestation of the royal government's intention to quash the burgeoning rebellion in Massachusetts. Its leaders, patriots like John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Joseph Warren, provide the drama's counterpoise to British officials. Having deployed his characters, Philbrick launches each side's resort to military preparations and operations, a narrative that benefits from one of the author's several imaginative services to readers, detailing in word and map the geography of Boston and environs at that time. Another audience benefit is Philbrick's evocation of the look of patriot militias and British regiments, which enliven his crackling accounts of military movements that produced the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. Displaying, as in Mayflower (2006) and The Last Stand (2010), a superior talent for renewing interest in a famed event, Philbrick will again be in high demand from history buffs.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Bo
From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new book of essays taking his readers on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler's experiences. Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marveling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist's shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten.
Located in western Ireland on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Stone House is run down and neglected. When Chicky Starr decides to buy the property and turn it into a hotel, the town thinks she's gone crazy. The project brings unexpected peace and understanding to Chicky and her staff, and after months of tireless work, Stone House is ready for business. The first out-of-towners arrive with disappointment, disgrace, and doubt, but nearly all experience a catharsis on the cliffs and trails and in the gardens that can be found in the surrounding countryside. Verdict Written in a style similar to that in Whitethorn Woods, this title features Binchy's unsurpassed storytelling as she weaves together the lives and experiences of her characters. Finished shortly before Binchy's death in 2011, this final offering will please many of the author's fans, but some may be disappointed that it isn't on a par with her earlier works. While it may not be Binchy's best, this tale of love, friendship, redemption, growing up, and moving on is a lovely swan song for the beloved author. [200,000-copy first printing.]-Vicki Briner, City Coll. Lib., Fort Lauderdale, FL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In 1876 wealthy Bostonian Pierson Beebe chose a secluded hill in Falmouth, Massachusetts, as the spot to build his summer cottage, Highfield Hall. The following year, his brother James Arthur Beebe began construction next door on his own mansion, Tanglewood. The Beebe Woods and the surrounding buildings do not simply belong to the history of one wealthy Boston family. Rather, the land that they preserved, the architecture they created and the cultural activities they promoted are deeply rooted in Falmouth's history. Author Kathleen Brunelle's grandparents were the caretakers of the cottages, and she grew up exploring their many secrets. Join Brunelle as she narrates the remarkable history of these treasured Falmouth landmarks and once again wanders the historic rooms of Highfield Hall.
Chiaverini's latest is based on the true story of Elizabeth Keckley, who bought freedom from slavery for herself and her son and went on to become a well-known modiste in Washington. Keckley had a front-row seat to history: she dressed Washington's A-list, including Jefferson Davis' wife before they left D.C., and, most intimately, Mary Todd Lincoln. Mrs. Lincoln is mercurial, scheming, extravagant, and troubled, but Elizabeth stands by her as she is lambasted in the press. Long stretches of battle history and descriptions of Lincoln's political rivals lag, while more time spent on Elizabeth's work with newly freed slaves in D.C. would have been welcome. Still, Elizabeth Keckley is an admirable heroine successful, self-made, and utterly sympathetic. Readers of the Elm Creek Quilt series who have enjoyed Chiaverini's narrative jaunts into Civil War and Underground Railroad history will be interested in Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and there is even a little bit of quilting in the story. This is also a good choice for readers of Christian historical fiction, as both Elizabeth's and Mr. Lincoln's faiths are important elements in shaping their characters.--Maguire, Susan Copyright 2010 Booklist
*Starred Review* Stedman's haunting tale opens in 1918 with the return of Tom Sherbourne to his home in Australia after serving four years in the Great War. He applies for a job as a lighthouse keeper and is assigned to the light on Janus Rock, a remote island off the southwest coast where he hopes to erase his horrific memories of war. Several years later, Tom brings to the island his bride, Isabel, a free-spirited young woman who is determined to adapt to Tom's solitary life with their only contact with the mainland a quarterly visit from the supply boat. Four years later, after Isabel has suffered two miscarriages and a very recent stillbirth, an event occurs that forever changes them. A dinghy washes up on the beach carrying a dead man and a newborn baby girl, giving Isabel hope that she may become, at last, a mother. The choice they make as a couple comes to haunt them, their unexpected happiness replaced by guilt and mistrust. Stedman draws the reader into her emotionally complex story right from the beginning, with lush descriptions of this savage and beautiful landscape, and vivid characters with whom we can readily empathize. Hers is a stunning and memorable debut.--Donovan, Deborah Copyright 2010 Booklist
Near-death experiences, or NDEs, are controversial. Thousands of people have had them, but many in the scientific community have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those people.
A highly trained neurosurgeon who had operated on thousands of brains in the course of his career, Alexander knew that what people of faith call the “soul” is really a product of brain chemistry. NDEs, he would have been the first to explain, might feel real to the people having them, but in truth they are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.
Then came the day when Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by an extremely rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human— shut down completely. For seven days Alexander lay in a hospital bed in a deep coma. Then, as his doctors weighed the possibility of stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.
Alexander’s recovery is by all accounts a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.
This story sounds like the wild and wonderful imaginings of a skilled fantasy writer. But it is not fantasy. Before Alexander underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. That difficulty with belief created an empty space that no professional triumph could erase. Today he is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.
This story would be remarkable no matter who it happened to. That it happened to Dr. Alexander makes it revolutionary. No scientist or person of faith will be able to ignore it. Reading it will change your life.
*Starred Review* This was not the life smart and lovely Hattie expected to live after fleeing Jim Crow Georgia in 1923 and settling in Philadelphia. Two years later, married (at 16) to an irresponsible man, she is poor, cold, hungry, and desperate as her twin babies sicken with pneumonia. Writing with stunning authority, clarity, and courage, debut novelist Mathis pivots forward in time, spotlighting intensely dramatic episodes in the lives of Hattie's nine subsequent children (and one grandchild to make the twelve tribes ), galvanizing crises that expose the crushed dreams and anguished legacy of the Great Migration. While Hattie grows more stoic with each birth and each betrayal, her children struggle with her survival strategies, which they perceive as her coldness and anger. Hattie's daughters are epically depressed. Two sons end up in the South, shocked by its backward country ways : Floyd, a jazz musician painfully conflicted over his attraction to men, and badly scarred Six, who discovers a gift for preaching. Late in life, Hattie thinks, Here we are sixty years out of Georgia, . . . and there's still the same wounding and the same pain. Mathis writes with blazing insight into the complexities of sexuality, marriage, family relationships, backbone, fraudulence, and racism in a molten novel of lives racked with suffering yet suffused with beauty.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
A big novel about a small town...
When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?
A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.
Starred Review* Drawing on both her Appalachian roots and her background in biology, Kingsolver delivers a passionate novel on the effects of global warming. Dellarobia Turnbow got pregnant in high school; now, some 11 years into her unhappy marriage, she's ready for a big change, and she thinks she's found it with a randy young telephone lineman. But on her way to a rendezvous, she is waylaid by the sight of a forest ablaze with millions of butterflies. Their usual migratory route has been disrupted, and what looks to be a stunningly beautiful view is really an ominous sign, for the Appalachian winter could prove to be the demise of the species. The phenomenon draws the whole world to Dellarobia's doorstep—scientists, the media, hordes of tourists—and gives her new and galvanizing insight into her poverty-stricken life on the sheep farm of her disapproving in-laws. Kingsolver, as always a fluent and eloquent writer, skillfully sets the hook of her fascinating story before launching into activist mode with more than a few pointed speeches delivered by an eminent scientist (and Kingsolver stand-in). By that time, though, readers will be well and truly smitten with feisty, funny, red-haired Dellarobia and her determined quest to widen the confines of her world. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: On the heels of the beloved author's best-selling The Lacuna (2009), which won the Orange Prize, her latest novel will receive a 500,000-copy first printing and be supported by an eight-city author tour. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Physician and prolific author Sacks (The Mind's Eye) gives readers another gem of a book, this time about hallucinations. He discusses his own experiences stemming from migraines or drug use: "My first pot experience was marked by a mix of the neurological and the divine." Hallucinations can involve any of the five senses or memory, or be caused by brain injury. They manifest as sleep paralysis and nightmares, ecstasy and panic, music, haunting images, revenants, and doubles. Sacks's more famous subjects here include Joan of Arc, Dostoyevsky, Freud, and William James. His commentary ranges widely, from hypnosis to post-traumatic stress disorder, imaginary companions to out-of-body experience. VERDICT With a fine sense of narrative, Sacks deftly integrates literature, art, and medical history around his very human, often riveting, case histories. This book is recommended for all readers, not just those with symptoms! This is a model of humane science made compellingly readable. [See Prepub Alert, 5/2/12.]—E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec vow to discover the truth behind the untimely death of their friend Vincent van Gogh, which leads them on a surreal odyssey and brothel-crawl deep into the art world of late-nineteenth-century Paris.
Moore drops his readers into the strange world of nineteenth-century France, where the line between past and present, real and surreal, shifts with a mere brushstroke. A baker and aspiring artist, protagonist Lucien Lessard grew up surrounded by Impressionist painters, all of whom seem to have fallen under the magical spell of a particular shade of blue. Van Gogh’s death and posthumous warning of a dangerous villain, the Colorman, sets Lessard and his friend, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, off on a journey to discover the power behind the Colorman’s blue paint. Entwined in their journey is the beautiful but mysterious Juliette. Mingling comedy and mystery, Moore crafts an intricate story that teases the reader with numerous twists and bawdy humor. While Lessard is fictional, many of the characters are based on historical figures, and their use of modern slang can be jarring. Toulouse-Lautrec emerges vibrantly, but some of the other painters struggle to come to life. Still, this is an imaginative and amusing look at the Impressionist era, and Moore’s prose is fresh and engaging.
In Service, we follow Marcus Luttrell to Iraq, where he returns to the battlefield as a member of SEAL Team 5 to help take on the most dangerous city in the world: Ramadi, the capital of war-torn Al Anbar Province. There, in six months of high-intensity urban combat, he would be part of what has been called the greatest victory in the history of U.S. Special Operations forces. We also return to Afghanistan and Operation Redwing, where Luttrell offers powerful new details about his miraculous rescue. Throughout, he reflects on what it really means to take on a higher calling, about the men he's seen lose their lives for their country, and the legacy of those who came and bled before.
A thrilling war story, Service is also a profoundly moving tribute to the warrior brotherhood, to the belief that nobody goes it alone, and no one will be left behind.
The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn
Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.
At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne's head?
In the high-stakes profession of neurosurgery, the bigger you are, the harder you fall. Or so it seems in the nifty first novel by CNN's chief medical correspondent Gupta, who is also a practicing neurosurgeon and nonfiction author. At the Chelsea General Hospital in Michigan, Dr. Ty Wilson is suffering from a serious crisis in confidence after a child dies during an operation. His medical colleagues include George Villanueva, a hulking former NFL player turned ER doctor, and Tina Ridgeway, a meticulous neurosurgeon whose home life is a mess. For quirkiness, there's a patient who undergoes surgery for bleeding cerebral aneurysms and develops an unusual postoperative mania for sketching human ears. For irony, the perfectionist head of surgery makes a jumbo mistake, and a middle-aged Korean neurosurgeon is afflicted with a deadly brain tumor. Despite their flaws, these fictional physicians possess extremely high empathy quotients. They make clinical and personal blunders, yet some attain redemption, and nearly all experience epiphanies. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to write a novel, but with Monday Mornings, readers will be glad one did. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
A 14-year-old boy is stabbed to death in the park near his middle school in an upper-class Boston suburb, and Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber takes the case, despite the fact that his son, Jacob, was a classmate of the victim. But when the bloody fingerprint on the victim's clothes turns out to be Jacob's, Barber is off the case and out of his office, devoting himself solely to defending his son. Even Barber's never-before-disclosed heritage as the son and grandson of violent men who killed becomes potential courtroom fodder, raising the question of a "murder gene." Within the structure of a grand jury hearing a year after the murder, Landay gradually increases apprehension. As if peeling the layers of an onion, he raises personal and painful ethical issues pertaining to a parent's responsibilities to a child, to a family, and to society at large. Landay's two previous novels (Mission Flats, 2003; The Strangler, 2007) were award winners, but he reaches a new level of excellence in this riveting, knock-your-socks-off legal thriller. With its masterfully crafted characterizations and dialogue, emotional depth, and frightening implications, the novel rivals the best of Scott Turow and John Grisham. Don't miss it. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Druckerman, a former staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal, found herself raising three children in France after following her British husband to Paris. She was taken aback at how well behaved French children are: most will sleep through the night at two months old, are on their best behavior in restaurants, eat a wide variety of foods, and don't interrupt adults when they are conversing. Mystified as well as embarrassed that her own children were not as well behaved, she began to research French parenting techniques and came across a treasure trove of helpful information. In crisp prose and an engaging voice, she explains how the French do not even have a word for discipline, instead referring to the concept as education. And French mothers have plenty of help in educating their children in the form of affordable, high-quality day care managed by experienced, certified child-care professionals. Within a strict cadre, or framework of rules, children are given plenty of autonomy to explore the world, without the aid of high-priced toys and gadgets. Insightful reading from a wise and funny writer. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
*Starred Review* Sports fiction has a built-in plot problem. The drama usually rides on a team's success or failure as it moves through a season to the Big Game. The team either overcomes adversity and wins, following in the cliché-strewn tradition of everything from The Bad News Bears to Rocky, or it loses, a literarily more resonant route, to be sure, but inevitably unsatisfying if the reader has become a fan along the way. First-novelist Harbach finds an inventive and thoroughly satisfying solution to the Big Game problem, and it works because the reader doesn't live or die with what happens on the field. This sprawling multiple-story saga follows the coming-of-age and midlife crises of five characters at Westish College, a small liberal-arts school in Wisconsin. At the center of it all is Henry Skrimshander, a shortstop of phenomenal ability who has led the school's baseball team to unprecedented heights. Then a wildly errant throw from Henry's usually infallible arm provides the catalyst for game-changing events not only in Henry's life but also in those of his roommate, Owen Dunne; his best friend and mentor, the team's catcher, Mike Schwartz; the school's president, Guert Affenlight; and the president's daughter, Pella. In an immediately accessible narrative reminiscent of John Irving, Harbach (cofounder of the popular literary journal n+1) draws readers into the lives of his characters, plumbing their psyches with remarkable psychological acuity and exploring the transformative effect that love and friendship can have on troubled souls. And, yes, it's a hell of a baseball story, too, no matter who wins. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.
*Starred Review* Murakami writes two kinds of novels: short, intimate, crystalline portraits of lovers, often trapped in alternate worlds or struggling between secret selves (After Dark, 2007), and much longer, broad-canvas epics (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1997) that submerge the reader in a tidal wave of story. His latest definitely falls into the latter camp, and, yet, it clings resolutely to the intimacy of the shorter works. This foray into what is unquestionably Murakami's most vividly imagined parallel world begins simply, with two seemingly ordinary events: two lonely 10-year-olds, a boy and a girl, Tengo and Aomame, hold hands in an empty classroom, and for the next 20 years, while never seeing one another, they dream of meeting but are strangely paralyzed to make it happen. Then Aomame, a 30-year-old woman in 1984—and an assassin who kills men who abuse women—walks down an emergency exit from a Tokyo expressway and finds herself in another world, which she calls 1Q84, a world overseen by two moons and ruled, apparently, by the quixotic "little people." Meanwhile, Tengo has rewritten a novel by an enigmatic 17-year-old girl that accurately describes the world of 1Q84. As the lives of Tengo, Aomame, and a Dostoyevskian private investigator, who works for a religious cult that worships the little people, swirl closer and closer together, Murakami draws the reader deeper and deeper into this utterly baffling universe, switching narration between the three principal characters, each of whom grasps only a small part of their two-mooned world. Gradually but inexorably, the tension builds, as we root passionately for Tengo and Aomame to find one another and hold hands again, so simple a human connection offering a kind of oasis in the midst of the unexplainable and the terrifying. When Murakami melds fantasy and realism, mystery and epic, it is no simple genre-bending exercise; rather, it is literary alchemy of the highest order. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Murakami, whose work has been translated into 40 languages, is one of our most-honored international fiction writers. His latest will attract great interest in literary circles. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST •
In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with “the deathless man.” But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger’s wife.
Rose Bazelet is determined to fight against the destruction of her family home until the very end; as others flee, she stakes her claim in the basement of the old house on rue Childebert, ignoring the sounds of change that come closer and closer each day. Attempting to overcome the loneliness of her daily life, she begins to write letters to Armand, her beloved late husband. And as she delves into the ritual of remembering, Rose is forced to come to terms with a secret that has been buried deep in her heart for thirty years. The House I Loved is both a poignant story of one woman's indelible strength, and an ode to Paris, where houses harbor the joys and sorrows of their inhabitants, and secrets endure in the very walls...
"*Starred Review* In his suspenseful thirteenth novel, Bohjalian wraps a family drama in an eerie ghost story. Pilot Chip Linton is haunted by the crash-landing of his 70-seat regional jet in the waters of Lake Champlain, which claimed the lives of 39 persons. He and his wife, Emily, decide to make a fresh start and move with their 10-year-old twin daughters to northern New Hampshire, where an eccentric group of women known as herbalists welcomes them and seems especially interested in the twins. Not long after, Chip discovers a mysterious door in the basement, sealed shut with 39 carriage bolts. Increasingly haunted by memories of the crash and by the belief that he can hear three dead passengers speaking to him, Chip is a far-diminished version of the confident man he used to be, causing his family to fear him even as they grieve the father and husband they have lost. Bohjalian pits the vulnerability of a traumatized family against the cold manipulation of the herbalists in a page-turner of uncommon depth. Guilt, egotism, and fear all play parts in the genre-bending novel, which rivals the spooky twists and turns of Stephen Irwin's The Dead Path (2010)." Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.
|The rug is pulled out from under Meredith Martin Delinn when her husband is accused of operating a Ponzi scheme and sentenced to 150 years in prison, and she is treated as a pariah. With no home, no friends, and no money, she turns to childhood friend Connie Flute. They have not spoken for three years, yet Connie promptly picks Meredith up in Manhattan and takes her to her summer home on Nantucket. Both women have wounds to deal with. Meredith is the object not only of scorn but also of a federal investigation. Connie is coping with the death of her husband and estrangement from her daughter. Meredith's arrival gives Connie the excuse to start living again, but their once golden lives are no more, and now, once someone discovers that Meredith is staying at Connie's place, they even have to face threats and danger. Another winner from Hilderbrand (The Castaways, 2009), who in this sensitive and suspenseful tale succeeds in portraying a seemingly unlikable character, besieged Meredith, and making her human. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.|
Fall of Giants is his magnificent new historical epic. The first novel in The Century Trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families-American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh-as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.
Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man's world in the Welsh mining pits...Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House...two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution...Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London...
These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic.
In future volumes of The Century Trilogy, subsequent generations of the same families will travel through the great events of the rest of the twentieth century, changing themselves-and the century itself. With passion and the hand of a master, Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.
But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz—outré rocker and Walter’s college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become “a very different kind of neighbor,” an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street’s attentive eyes?
In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s intensely realized characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.
Weaving together the stories of three very different women loosely tied to each other, debut novelist Blake takes readers back and forth between small town America and war-torn Europe in 1940. Single, 40-year-old postmistress Iris James and young newlywed Emma Trask are both new arrivals to Franklin, Mass., on Cape Cod. While Iris and Emma go about their daily lives, they follow American reporter Frankie Bard on the radio as she delivers powerful and personal accounts from the London Blitz and elsewhere in Europe. While Trask waits for the return of her husband—a volunteer doctor stationed in England—James comes across a letter with valuable information that she chooses to hide. Blake captures two different worlds—a naïve nation in denial and, across the ocean, a continent wracked with terror—with a deft sense of character and plot, and a perfect willingness to take on big, complex questions, such as the merits of truth and truth-telling in wartime. (Feb.)
Bohjalian (Law of Similars) has built a reputation on his rich characters and immersing readers in diverse subjects—homeopathy, animal rights activism, midwifery—and his latest surely won’t disappoint. The morning after her baptism into the Rev. Stephen Drew’s Vermont Baptist church, Alice Hayward and her abusive husband are found dead in their home, an apparent murder-suicide. Stephen, the novel’s first narrator, is so racked with guilt over his failure to save Alice that he leaves town. Soon, he meets Heather Laurent, the author of a book about angels whose own parents’ marriage also ended in tragedy. Stephen’s deeply sympathetic narration is challenged by the next two narrators: deputy state attorney Catherine Benincasa, whose suspicions are aroused initially by Stephen’s abrupt departure (and then by questions about his relationship with Alice), and Heather, who distances herself from Stephen for similar reasons and risks the trip into her dark past by seeking out Katie, the Haywards’ now-orphaned 15-year-old daughter who puts into play the final pieces of the puzzle, setting things up for a touching twist. Fans of Bohjalian’s more exotic works will miss learning something new, but this is a masterfully human and compassionate tale. Starred Review (Feb.)
Set aside a full day to savor Simon Slater’s delightful reading of the Booker Prize–winning tale of Henry VIII’s court, seen through the eyes of his adviser Thomas Cromwell. Mantel’s revisionist take turns Cromwell—so frequently vilified as in A Man for All Seasons—into a modern sort of hero, shrewd and adaptable. Slater’s narration is nuanced and precise; he breathes feeling and subtle shades of emotion into every exchange of dialogue. His is a heroic undertaking, and he does admirable justice to Mantel’s lucid prose and juicy plot. A Holt hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 17). (Dec.)
Kingsolver's ambitious new novel, her first in nine years (after the The Poisonwood Bible), focuses on Harrison William Shepherd, the product of a divorced American father and a Mexican mother. After getting kicked out of his American military academy, Harrison spends his formative years in Mexico in the 1930s in the household of Diego Rivera; his wife, Frida Kahlo; and their houseguest, Leon Trotsky, who is hiding from Soviet assassins. After Trotsky is assassinated, Harrison returns to the U.S., settling down in Asheville, N.C., where he becomes an author of historical potboilers (e.g., Vassals of Majesty) and is later investigated as a possible subversive. Narrated in the form of letters, diary entries and newspaper clippings, the novel takes a while to get going, but once it does, it achieves a rare dramatic power that reaches its emotional peak when Harrison wittily and eloquently defends himself before the House Un-American Activities Committee (on the panel is a young Dick Nixon). “Employed by the American imagination,” is how one character describes Harrison, a term that could apply equally to Kingsolver as she masterfully resurrects a dark period in American history with the assured hand of a true literary artist. (Nov.)
|Evaluates the ways in which the mid-twentieth-century novelist reflected American culture and influenced literature, in a portrait that includes coverage of her relationships with such contemporaries as Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, and James Dickey.|