The latest book by Neil Abramson--tightly plotted, humane, and eye-opening. A must-read for all animal lovers!
I think Solnit is one of our most important public intellectuals working today. In this wide-ranging essay collection, she examines culture (especially music), war and natural disasters, the environment, and social responsibility. She’s a beautiful writer and so clear-eyed. This was one of my favorite books of 2015!
A deadly explosion the night before a wedding leaves only one survivor, the bride’s mother, June. Within days, June—completely distraught—has fled town without a word to anyone. The story is told from many points of view—so many people were affected by both the explosion and June’s disappearance. Beautifully written—a gorgeous book!
This superbly written and thoroughly researched biography is more than just a recitation of facts about Joan’s life. Woven into the narrative is also an examination of how Joan has been seen in popular myth, as well as in films, plays, and visual art. Harrison corrects common misperceptions about Joan and also explains why her story has resonated with people through the centuries. A fabulous read!
This is a wonderful literary biography, full of admiration for Fitzgerald’s work, but it’s also a riveting life story following Fitzgerald from her very English, very secure childhood and her Oxford years, when she was known as the “blonde bombshell,” to her impoverished adulthood and the long-delayed start to her literary career. Fabulous!
A 19th-century woman leaves her husband and their loveless marriage, as well as her family’s estate in the French countryside, to start a new life in Paris. There, she gives herself a new name—George Sand—and pursues her dream of becoming a writer. Known as much for dressing as a man and her unconventional (even scandalous) lifestyle as for her writing, she remains haunted by a painful childhood and her disturbing relationship with her mother. Berg brings remarkable insights into the heart and mind of this talented, courageous, difficult woman.
Psychologist Malcolm Dowd is working with Noah, a college freshman who is exploring his gender and identity. Malcolm, meanwhile, is navigating complex relationships in his own life and grappling with a secret he’s kept for too long. As Malcolm tries to help Noah find his true self, their lives become entangled in unexpected ways. A beautiful story, beautifully told.
I loved this book! Four adult siblings along with assorted children, spouses, and a young friend, make what is likely their last trip to the crumbling house that belonged to their grandparents. Their three weeks together reveal the cracks that lie just beneath their seemingly steady lives—memory, love, envy, and nostalgia are all part of the mix. Perfect for fans of Rachel Cusk or Kate Atkinson.
Gabriella Mondini is a woman doctor in 1590’s Venice who can no longer practice medicine because her father, also a physician and her patron-mentor, has disappeared. Desperate to resume her medical practice, Gabriella gleans clues from the letters she has sporadically received from him and travels all over Europe in search of him. Her fascinating travels take her to most of the major centers of medical and scientific learning of the period. The story is rich with details of those places and the work done there. A rare treat!
In 1912, Elinor Brooke is a free-spirited art student, while her brother Toby is studying to be a physician. Then war begins, and seemingly all the men in Elinor’s life—her brother Toby, as well as Kit and Paul, the two art students she’s been dating—ship off to France. Elinor retreats into her painting, occasionally participating in Bloomsbury weekends of art, literature, and pacifism. Jumping ahead to 1917, Toby is missing in action, and Kit, who served with him, returns home horribly disfigured. Elinor is determined to learn what really happened to her brother, and Kit holds the key. A shattering story and beautifully written.
Available now for the first time in paperback! A must-read book (from a much-loved author!), esp. if you're planning a trip to P-town!
Pianist Isabel Merton is on a global tour, and we see her passion and virtuosity on the stage as well as her little quirks—her chosen isolation, the minor irritations she feels about her tour schedule, and her inability to resist comparing herself to other pianists. But gradually we realize that Merton's world of concert halls and cocktail parties overlaps with that of diplomats and arms dealers, and even possibly suicide bombers—the desperate, the enraged in our society. This book explores the value of art in a world besieged by hatred, injustice, and violence. And how can artists experience despair and disillusionment and then keep making art? The writing is beautiful—the descriptive passages of music are lovely. But other passages will grab you by the throat and not let you go. An amazing book. Both deep and lovely.
It is 1941. Following the death of his parents, 17-year-old Wyatt Hillyer goes to live with his aunt and uncle in a tiny town near Halifax, Canada. German U-boats are sinking ferries and passenger ships just off the coast, and Wyatt's eccentric uncle becomes dangerously fixated on all war news, especially anything related to the U-boats. Wyatt falls in love with his beautiful cousin Tilda, but she falls in love with a German refugee, setting in motion a series of events in which otherwise decent people are driven to desperate and brutal acts. Norman is a master of dialogue—even exchanges between minor characters are deeply revealing—and with a remarkable economy of language he lovingly creates flawed characters of tremendous humanity.
Margaret Mayfield is single, middle class, and pretty desperate, because she's already 27 and has had no offers of marriage. Then, in the summer of 1942, along comes Andrew Early. He's a little odd, but he's very intelligent —a scientist—and from a good local family, and so Margaret (and her mother) are greatly relieved when he proposes. What follows is the story of their marriage. More specifically, it's the story of Margaret's life of quiet desperation—her entrapment both by society's expectations and her own acquiescence to Andrew's increasing obsessions and paranoia. Once she realizes how dangerous he really is, she then struggles with the ramifications of her life-long unwitting complicity.
In this brave, insightful, and quietly powerful memoir, Bell recounts the life she created for herself in the stark and beautiful Bighorn Basin of northern Wyoming. Arriving from Kentucky in 1977, Bell chooses the rough and solitary life of a sheepherder (and later, a ranch hand working cattle), moving with her flock much of the year, making rough camps and living in a trailer with her dogs and horse for company. Bell writes vividly and candidly not only about the beauty of the land and the hardships she faced there, but also about the sadness she experiences over the years from losing friends and family members.
In Sue Miller's latest novel, playwright Billy (short for Wilhelmina) Gertz has written a new play called The Lake Shore Limited, in which she explores her unresolved feelings about her lover, Gus, who was killed on 9/11. Just before Gus died, she had decided to break it off with him and move out, but she never had a chance to act on the decision and since then has never told anyone about it. In the exploration of the complicated truths that make up their lives, Miller also speculates on the alienation we feel when we are called on to enact something we don’t feel, and also on how the experience of art can be transforming for both creator and viewer. One reviewer called this "a subtle, sublime drama [that] is a quietly pulverizing experience for the reader."
This is a terrific book—the writing is beautiful, and O'Farrell makes her characters and setting come to life. This is the story of two women living in the same city, London, but fifty years apart. The first story focuses on the bohemian artistic movement in Soho in the 1950s and a young women named Lexie, a journalist working for an arts publication. In the present is Elina, a young Finnish painter living in London who has just had her first child. We experience along with Elina the shock of new motherhood, the rawness of the emotions and the exhaustion of it. And, yes, the two story connect—I won't say any more!
A man follows his wife, who he suspects is having an affair. But she's not. She is simply, night after night, following a stranger as he walks randomly all over the streets of New York. (Where and why does the stranger walk? And why is she following him?) Except that he's not a stranger: unbeknownst to the wife, he is an old college friend of her husband's. What are they all moving away from? Or toward? And what do they hope to find? (And after she stops following the stranger, why does her husband continue to follow him?) The writing is spare; the whole approach, beautifully minimalist. Read it! Newpages.com said, "Vacation is a remarkable and ambitious must-read, and Unferth herself an exciting writer to keep watch on. Without a doubt, there are more great things still to come."
This book is about both the craft of writing and the writing life. Rosenblatt, a successful writer himself, has been teaching writing for more than 40 years. In this book he tells the story of a fictional class of students (composites of real students he has taught over the years) as they create short stories, essays, and poems. We see how a wide range of work is considered—the questions asked, the ideas exchanged, and the banter and fun. Rosenblatt's tremendous intellectual spark and humor make this a joy to read. Highly recommended for anyone considering going into an MFA program—or anyone who is curious about writing and writers.
Following the sudden death of their 37-year-old daughter, Amy, Rosenblatt and his wife help raise the three young children she left behind. Doubtless there were days when the idea of just getting up each morning must have seemed impossible, and yet they did it, and their story of perseverence is a gift to all of us. This quiet but beautiful book contains innumerable small moments lovingly stitched together into a story of strength and courage.
Peter has grown dissatisfied with his life—he feels disconnected from his wife and grown daughter, and his career is stalled. Although he is an art dealer, he believes his life lacks beauty, and he longs for it. When Mizzy, Peter's wife's younger brother, comes to stay with them, Peter realizes he is attracted to him and begins to think of Mizzy as Rebecca's younger, more beautiful self come back to him. Peter is completely conscious that this situation is complicated on many, many levels, which only adds to the confusion, frustration, and despair he feels. Cunningham writes beautifully (as always!) here of desire and yearning, youth and middle age, art and beauty, happiness and complacency, self-identity, and sexual fluidity.
This book is smart, funny, and sly. The book opens with Joe and Joan Castleman traveling to a ceremony where Joe will be awarded a prestigious literary prize. But on the plane, as Joan looks back over the course of their marriage, we learn that she is actually the more gifted writer. So why is it that he's the one being awarded a literary prize? Wolitzer's dry wit and crisp pacing propel us toward a brilliant finish—and a devastating message about the price (for women) of love and the seeming impenetrability of the male ego. Wolizter clearly has great fun satirizing the academic and literary worlds but never lets anyone—neither the men nor the women—off the hook.
When an earthquake hits, nine men and women are trapped in the Indian consulate. Two are consulate employees, and the others were there to get visas. While the building slowly crumbles, and the area where they're trapped begins to flood, survival becomes an issue. To pass the time while they await rescue, Uma, a college student, suggests that they each tell an “important story” from their lives. The diverse characters and their tales—of dreams and disappointments, of youth and old age—come vividly to life. A rich book full of great wisdom and compassion.
In masterfully melodious and image-rich language, Urquhart weaves an entrancing saga of four generations of women that evokes both the spiritual and political sides of the Irish as a people. As a young girl in Ireland, Mary is taken "away" to the faeries after a young sailor dies in her arms. Mary eventually marries, has a family, and starts a new life in the Canadian wilderness, but continues to hear the call of her sailor and ultimately leaves her family to live the rest of her life alone by a lake. If you have never read this acclaimed Canadian writer, the time is now! Sadly, many of her books have recently gone out of print. Literally, read her while you can! She is a treasure.
In this beautifully crafted first novel, the unfolding of the characters moves the story along. The focus is Fenno McLeod, the oldest of three sons, a transplant from Scotland to New York City. The book is divided into three sections, each told form a different point of view and each giving the reader a different perspective on Fenno—his father's, his own, and a stranger's. The book is filled with witty, intelligent characters who must deal with the fundamental issues of life. I especially loved the author's nuanced treatment of family life. As one reviewer said, "if you want a book as messy, vivid and believable as real life, this is the book for you."
I loved this book focusing on the Bradshaw family—three brothers, their spouses and children, and their aging parents. Thomas, the novel's protagonist, is an elusive character—one we are trying to figure out to the very end. All the characters' complex interior lives unfold gradually, and we get to know them via the small moments of their days—working, picking up children from school, planning family events. The relationships (and power struggles) between the characters are also brilliantly realized, whether between husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings, or inlaws. Cusk's characterizations are, as always, razor sharp throughout. Now out in paperback!
Despite the fact that her boyfriend, Claude, has just kicked her out, Harriet insists on thinking that she has left him—and, in fact, she refuses to vacate the apartment they've shared for the last six months until she has exacted revenge on him. Harriet is a complex anti-hero—witty and intelligent, relentless, and probably more than a little crazy—but she always speaks the truth as she sees it, and sometimes we even find ourselves agreeing with her. This book is part romp, part guilty pleasure, part diatribe. (Owens, under the name Harriet Daimler, also wrote pornography for Olympia Press. She was known for her "tendency to write more explicitly than the courts would tolerate.")
Theroux now primarily teaches writing but formerly wrote for newspapers and The Newshour with Jim Lehrer. This wonderful book contains extracts from her journal from 2000 to 2006 and covers a period when, having moved from Washington, D.C. to a small town in Virginia, she settles into small-town life and lives with her idiosyncratic mother, whose activities are becoming increasingly limited because of macular degeneration. Theroux addresses a wide range of topics, including the writing life; nature and the seasons; friendships; her divorce and the financial difficulties that followed; relationships with grown children; illness, aging, and death; and being creative—and even finding love—in later life. Now out in paperback!
I can't say it any better than these reviewers: "[Thompson's] at home anywhere and everywhere. She's at home in the skins of women and men, young and old, losers and winners, tyrants and victims, flakes and dupes and dopes and geniuses and soldiers and bikers and moms. Her characters hail from small towns and big cities. In her sparkling and sometimes heartbreaking short stories . . . Thompson channels all kinds of personalities, but she does it so artfully, with such supple, unaffected grace." -Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune "Thompson takes tragic, ordinary figures and lifts them to the sublime in prose that's often as funny as it is sad." -Jeanne Kolker, Wisconsin State Journal
This wonderfully funny and warm novel explores the tensions between motherhood and work. The story focuses on four women, all vividly drawn, who have been stay-at-home moms for a while but are now considering going back to work. Making this decision involves considering a whole array of difficult questions, including: Was staying home the right thing to do? Will I have to start my career over because I've been away so long? The characters all realize they are incredibly lucky to have this choice, but the anxiety and frustration they feel are very real all the same. A wonderful book-simultaneously wry and thoughtful.
It's New York City, the summer of 1974. A Frenchman walks back and forth across a cable strung between the newly completely World Trade Towers. People look up and see the tight-rope walker, and this shared experience becomes a part of them. Beyond all expectations, the characters in this story—a radical priest, an opera lover who lives in the Bronx, a judge, a young artist, several recent immigrants and several prostitutes—come together on that day. Do things happen for a reason? Or is at all just chance? The best thing I've read in ages. Read it!!!! Winner of the National Book Award.
Jeanette Walls originally planned to write a biography of her maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, but there were too many gaps in the story, so she turned the material into a novel. Lily was born in 1901 and lived in a dirt dugout in west Texas for the first 10 years of her life. From there she went on to be a horse breaker and rancher, schoolteacher, wife and mother, ruthless poker player, airplane pilot, and Prohibition dodger. (She and her husband sold bootleg liquor from bottles hidden under the baby's crib.) Lily is a spirited heroine, fiercely outspoken against hypocrisy and prejudice. (Twice her outspokenness cost her a teaching job.) Walls gives Lily a plainspoken voice, but she is an indomitable, irrepressible character who carves her own destiny.
Olive is a retired schoolteacher in Crosby, Maine, who is stubborn, prickly, and opinionated. In the course of these thirteen stories, Olive's experiences and relationships (with her husband and grown son, her neighbors and ex-students) touch and change her. Sometimes painfully, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life. She not only comes to realize how very lucky she has been, but she also begins to understand and empathize with the plights of those around her. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition—its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires. A really terrific book!
When Mother Ravenel begins a memoir of the 60-plus years she spent at Mount St. Gabriel's School for Girls in Mountain City, N.C., she's forced to finally re-examine the most difficult year of her career, 1951–52. New arrivals that year caused some of the disruption, but the seeds of the tumult were actually sewn 25 years earlier by the previous generation of girls. Godwin renders the school and its many occupants with authority and ease, making both their spiritual and nonspiritual concerns convincing, funny, and moving. This multifaceted story unfolds slowly, so take your time and enjoy this gift of a terrific story and excellent writing.
This is as powerful and honest a narrative of friendship, loyalty, loss, and grief as I have ever read. Caldwell and Caroline Knapp have much in common: both are both mid-career writers living in Cambridge, Mass., both are painfully shy, and both have a history of drinking. Soon they are inseparable. They walk their dogs together, work out in their sculls together, and talk, laugh, and tease their way through their days. But like a bolt out of the blue, Knapp is diagnosed with lung cancer (at age 42) and is dead just seven weeks later—and Caldwell must somehow go on with her life with an enormous hole rent through it. Caldwell perfectly captures the punched-in-the-gut feeling you get when you suffer a life-changing loss, and the sense that your own life is suddenly unrecognizable to you. Caldwell's memories are clear and deep. This book will give you joy that such friendships exist, and break your heart a little, too.
Tinkers opens with the final, disjointed thoughts of George Washington Crosby as he lies dying, surrounded by his family, in the New England home he built by hand. We learn not only his remarkable story but also that of his father, a tinker who sold his wares all over rural New England. Both father and son are drawn to nature and believe life to be a great mystery. However, the father is widely believed to be crazy (even by some in his own family), at least in part due to his epileptic seizures. The story is tender but also powerful and moving. As one reviewer said, "The real star here is Harding's language, which dazzles whether he's describing the workings of clocks, sensory images of nature, or the many engaging side characters who populate the book." Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize!
A woman, moved away from her home and confined to a bed, watches a snail, first on her nightstand, then in a terrarium next to the bed. She begins to see the limited world of the snail as mirroring the limitations imposed on her by her illness. (She is suffering from a neurological condition that will remain little understood and mostly misdiagnosed for 20 years.) What follows is an oddly compelling tale of natural history, human nature, and companionship. Her witty and astute observations, as well as the scientific information she provides about these tiny creatures, are fascinating, and the peacefulness the reader feels while reading the book is a real gift.
The book opens in Sarajevo in 1996. Under the watchful eyes of many guards and officials, Hanna Heath, a 30-year-old book conservator, is about to examine the precious Sarajevo Haggadah, a lavishly illuminated 15th-century manuscript that dates from a time when Jewish belief was firmly against illustrations of any kind. Alternating with the story of Hanna's life and work on the manuscript, we are transported back to Sarajevo, Vienna, Venice, and Seville and learn the story of the Haggadah's creation and survival through centuries of purges and wars. This is a meticulously crafted work with beautifully realized characters and a richly textured plot. Storytelling at its very best!
The narrator, a successful playwright, is staying in Molly Fox's house in Dublin while Molly is out of town. Molly is a celebrated stage actress, a woman who seems mousy and nondescript in person but is inspired and charismatic onstage. The narrator is hoping to spend her time in Molly's cozy house working on a new play (something she's been struggling with lately), but she keeps being interrupted by people who stop by, not realizing that Molly is out of town. The conversations, and the memories that the conversations trigger, reveal the personal histories of the narrator, Molly, and a close circle of friends and family—Andrew, an art historian they've both known since college; the playwright's brother Tom, a priest; and Molly's troubled brother Fergus. This is a beautifully written and insightful story of relationships, identity, and home.
Wolf-like Katri Kling insinuates herself and her younger brother, Mats, into the life of the wealthiest woman in their small town in Finland, a reclusive painter and children's book artist. Katri persuades Anna, who had been a beneficent, trusting soul, that the world is not as she had thought. Is an artist's vision a kind of self-deception? And who is lying to whom? (And when do the ends justify the means?) This book is so unsentimental and understated, and the tension so fine, you will have flown through most of it before you realize just how dark the story is. I loved it! (Note: the book begins with a wonderful essay by Ali Smith, which I recommend you read after finishing the novel, not before.)
A terrific collection of short stories. As one reviewer put it, "Superior writing and well-crafted stories that touch on contemporary family issues and the inner lives of characters grappling with life-changing forces and events." My only gripe is that this reviewer forgot to mention the characters--who, despite their diversity, are all real and finely observed and often seem to communicate directly to the reader through their vivid dialogue. Now out in paperback!
This is an unflinching memoir of a not-very-happy childhood. Small's mother likely had a difficult childhood and was cold and distant to her son. His radiologist father subjected him to experimental x-rays for minor ailments, leading to cancer, which his family failed to have treated for years. Some of the most harrowing moments contain no words at all. Through the drawings, the reader sees Small's fear and anger and feels it, too. Although this is a deeply sad story, there are funny and sweet moments as well. Most importantly, Small is not judgmental and seeks to understand the people and events that made up his childhood.
Phillips' writing is beautiful, and her characters are real and complex. After supper one evening, nine-year-old Tess is sitting on the back porch, when the dark figure of a woman appears, kisses her tiny baby on the forehead, and throws it in Tess's family's well. This event causes Tess and the rest of her family to think about their lives and the lives of their neighbors, including what a woman might be driven to do out of the desperation of too many mouths to feed in Alabama in 1931. Phillips also explores issues of race. Tess's father, Albert, tries to reconcile what society and his church tell him about blacks with what he experiences working alongside them every day in the coal mines. A very moving and humane book, and beautiful written.
Beautifully written, with characters of great humanity and reality and an unforgettable setting-the desolate and unforgiving Hudson Bay region of northern Ontario. Both Annie Bird and her Uncle Will are fiercely independent but also dedicated to family and Cree culture. Will, a retired bush pilot, is in a coma. Annie may be a seer, but is struggling against her "gift," knowing it will also be a burden. Annie has just returned from Toronto and New York, where she was searching for her missing sister-and getting entangled in her sister's worlds of high fashion and illegal drugs. 2008 Giller Prize winner.
A terrific read! Dunant weaves a rich tapestry of politics, religion, art, and human nature set in a 16th-century Italian convent. This book is full of fully realized characters that you will never forget—from Serafina, the young girl brought to the convent against her will, and Zuana, her mentor, to the convent's abbess, who is steely in her defense of the convent from outside influence (even when that influence comes from the Vatican!) and who artfully manages the emotions and piety of the women in her care.
Kambili lives in fear of her religious fanatic father. Her mother, too, is paralyzed by fear and is unable to protect her children-she even stands by mutely as her husband pours boiling water over her children's feet as punishment for poor grades at school. (Kambili came in second in her class, instead of first.) But when Kambili is allowed to visit her aunt and cousins in a nearby town for a few days, her life changes. Simple joys like laughter and conversation at the dinner table are a revelation to her. So, what will happen when she returns home to her father's house? Political upheaval in Nigeria provides the backdrop for this intense personal story.
This collection of connected stories set in Pakistan are beautifully crafted and show us what life is like for both the rich and the desperately poor there. Mueenuddin shows us a society that is still recognizably feudal. The rich live lives constrained by rigid societal norms, while the poor (or those who were once prosperous) hang on for dear life to any bit of luck, or any crumb thrown in their direction by the rich and powerful. Human nature and societal structures clash again and again, but the resulting unhappiness is well balanced by hope, self-knowledge, and sheer endurance. Mueenuddin, who has also lived in the U.S., now lives and works managing a farm in Pakistan. This book was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award in Fiction.
This is the first Andrea Barrett I ever read, and it's still my favorite. The ship The Narwhal heads up to Greenland and the Canadian Arctic to search for the reamains of John Franklin and his crew. It is the mid-1800's, and no one even knows if there is an open Arctic Ocrean, so success is far from assured. The book is full of flawed and believable characters, as well as a near-perfect tension between introspection adn a narrative that moves along. The prose is gorgeous but tightly controlled. A page-turner in the best sense of the word!
Grenville (Orange Prize, Commonwealth Prize) has written another beautiful, must-read book. Posted to New South Wales in the late 1700s, young Lt. Daniel Rooke is assigned a project by the Royal Astronomer-to observe a comet that can only be seen in the southern hemisphere. After building a rudimentary observatory, this shy and solitary man settles down to watch and wait. Gradually, Rooke becomes fascinated with the natives and they, in turn, with him. For the first time of his life, he makes a real connection, with a girl named Tagaran. However, Rooke's idyllic world is shattered when he is ordered to participate in a brutal action against the natives. The Lieutenant is a searingly beautiful story about the fragility of human connection and the risks of taking a stand for what is right.
A beautifully written book with a riveting plot. Roseanne McNulty, a 100-year-old woman, has been institutionalized for decades. She is secretly writing the story of her life on scraps of paper that she hides around her room. At the same time, the superintendent is trying to get her life history so he can make a decision about her discharge when the hospital shuts down. The two versions of her life story differ vastly from each other. We see an Ireland in turmoil, a church willing to ruthlessly exercise its power over women, and a woman caught up in that history. Roseanne could easily be a mere victim of her time and gender but she is never, ever that.
A delightful book about food and life! As a child, Lillian learns she can connect with and help to heal people through offerings of food. Later, as a restaurateur, Lillian touches people who are hurting through her cooking classes (called The School of Essential Ingredients). Her students include a lawyer whose wife has died, a misfit teenager, and a young wife and mother who has lost all sense of herself. The descriptions of food are sensual and lush, and the book is full of reminders of why it is important to give gifts of our time and ourselves to the ones we love.
Three generations of a large family reunite in Dublin for the wake of Liam, the black sheep. Family secrets (some quite tragic) are revealed one by one, but doubts and uncertainty remain as well. Did the tragic events actually occur? Enright shows us that memory is fragile and that sometimes the will to forget the truth-or to hide it-is very great. A terrific book! Winner of the Booker Prize and a New York Times Notable Book of 2007.
This is the first book in Donna Leon's terrific detective Brunetti mystery series set in Venice. The setting is La Fenice opera house; the victim, world-renowned conductor Helmut Wellauer. Did the soprano do it? Or the trophy wife? And was Wellauer really a Nazi sympathizer? In addition, we meet the series' other permanent characters
This is a wonderful first novel! In 1983, 14-year-old Saira travels alone from California to Pakistan to represent her family at a wedding in Karachi. On this trip, Saira learns many family secrets, including that her maternal grandfather (who she'd been told was dead) is alive and well. She also learns about her family's experiences during the Partition and that her favorite great aunt is a college professor. Saira is soon dreaming of going to college, too-in contrast to her sister, who marries a boy selected by her parents. As Publisher's Weekly said, "Haji achieves an effortless commingling of family and social history in this intricate story that connects a young woman and her family over continents and through generations."
This novel tells the stories of ordinary people, struggling to raise families, eke out a living, keep their faith, and understand the changing times they live in. To me, this book is about love and the importance of living one’s life boldly and embracing every moment of joy that you can. And it shows that no matter who you are or what you do, you are never too old to chase your dreams. Alice Walker has said that Cooper's style "is deceptively simple and direct, and the vale of tears in which her characters reside is never so deep that a rich chuckle at a foolish person's foolishness cannot be heard."
I never had a chance to see Wallander on PBS Masterpiece/Mystery, so have been reading the books on which the series was based-and they are terrific. This one, the first in the series, focuses on the brutal killing of an elderly couple who lived on an isolated farm. Before she died, the old woman said the word "foreign" over and over again. Detective Kurt Wallander, whose personal life is in a shambles and is working for the first time with a new DA, struggles to figure out why the killers took the time to feed the couple's horse the night of the killings, and, if the killers really were foreigners, can he prevent a backlash against immigrants in his community?
Former bookstore employee and publisher's rep Buzbee has a passion for bookstores, and even after a lifetime spent in them, he is still fascinated. But this book is no mere stroll down memory lane. He wonders what makes a particular book speak to a person (and beg to be taken home) on a certain day. He ponders childhood reading habits and how they predict (or don't predict) adult reading habits. Buzbee also considers the effects of mammoth bookstore chains, big box stores, and the Internet on the business-and the experience-of buying books.
Adamson's debut novel is a terrific story and beautifully written. Mary Boulton, aged 19, has killed her husband and is now on the run. As she makes her way through the mountains of Idaho and Montana, she manages to stay one step ahead of her dead husband's brothers, who are after her and want retribution. Day after day she faces down the dangers of living in the wild. During her journey, she falls deeply in love for the first time in her life, but unfortunately her lover believes he has lived alone in the mountains too long to change his way of life for her. Somehow she finds the strength to continue on, but she soon makes a critical error that almost puts her in the hands of her pursuers . . .
In the hands of Rachel Cusk, the tried-and-true examination of marriage, motherhood, and life in the suburbs is made entirely new. You might think you know these themes, but you've never seen them in quite this way before. Cusk is not making fun of these characters, but she is definitely not cutting them any slack, either. By the end of the book, you may feel like you know Juliet, Christine, Maisie, and Solly better than you know yourself.
Set in post–September 11th New York City, three 30-somethings struggle to start their lives. Danielle is a struggling TV documentary maker, Julius is barely surviving as a freelance critic, and Marina—the stunningly beautiful daughter of a celebrated journalist—is still living with her parents on the Upper West Side. Messud has a wickedly keen eye for ironies, pretensions, and hypocrisies of all kinds—especially those sprinkled with generous amounts of sex, ambition, and naïveté. A New York Times 10 Best Books of 2006.
In this book, Lively explores the life she might have lived had she (and others around her) made different decisions along the way. What if Lively's family, evacuating Egypt during WWII, had gone to South Africa rather than Palestine? What if she had gone on an archeological dig in college and become an archeologist rather than a writer? This book will have you examining the consequences of various events and decisions you've made in your own life. A fascinating read.
In this atmospheric novel we meet an orphan girl named Silver who lives in the lighthouse of an austere Scottish seaside town. The lighthousekeeper (who raises Silver) is also a storyteller, and he tells her beautiful, interconnected stories about truth, love and loss, and staying versus leaving. When it's Silver's own turn to leave, she is prepared to embrace love and happiness. This is a complex book told with the utmost simplicity.
I love this quirky book about awkward, middle-aged love in a small town in the Australian outback. Both Harley and Douglas are shy, unattractive, and insecure people. Plus their work puts them on opposite sides of a local controversy, so it is doubly unlikely that these two will ever get together. But as one reviewer said, "Grenville's careful articulation of their social anxiety will have you smiling (or cringing) with recognition. . . . Such frankness is rare, and very refreshing." I agree! This is a very special book.
In this book Barrett explores the lives of TB patients between the wars. The residents of this sanitorium for the indigent suffer not only from their disease and its treatment but also from alienation. Many are recent immigrants from Germany and Russia at a time when distrust of all things German and Russian is on the rise. The Air We Breathe explores ideas about civil liberties that are relevant today. And as always, Barrett provides a fascinating wealth of information on subjects ranging from tuberculosis to the development of the medical X-ray.
This is a wonderful coming-of-age story as well as an exploration of grief. Both threads are handled with subtlety, and the writing is beautiful. The main character, Nico, is an innocent, confused teenager made painfully vulnerable by the sudden loss of her older sister. This is a wise and powerful book.
This book is a delight. Where you and I might see a box, a child sees a racecar, a house, or a boat! Children only need a box and their imagination to have fun. Less is certainly more in this little book that helps children unleash the power of creativity. The text and illustrations are simple and spare. This is such a great book - especially if you are tired of books full of gadgets and gimmicks and noise. This an ALA Notable Children's Book and a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book.
Gilchrist's latest book looks at the ways in which 9/11 and the war in Iraq affect the lives of three young women in the Hand family-Winifred, Louise, and Olivia. In particular, we trace the evolution of Olivia's opinions about the war through the newspaper editorials she writes for her work. Olivia ponders human nature and why it is inevitable that our opinions change when we have "some skin in the game." For Olivia, that "skin" is her new husband, a Marine reservist who is deployed to Iraq. This book will have you asking yourself not only what is right, but is it possible for a person to ever really know? And, as usual, Gilchrist's writing is beautiful. This is an interesting and enjoyable read.
This funny and uplifting memoir captures the magic of life in a big, close, loving family. The key relationship is the one between Corrigan and her father, "Greenie," a man who genuinely loves people and life. Although the two main characters are both diagnosed with cancer during the course of the book, this book is never depressing. The Middle Place explores family bonds and also how people can find the strength to stay true to themselves during difficult periods of their lives. A really terrific book!
Helen puts her own life on hold for three weeks when her friend Nicola comes to town to pursue a course of alternative treatment for cancer. Helen tries to balance her friend's needs and desires with her own but is soon battling exhaustion, guilt, anger, and despair. It doesn't help that Nicola blithely refuses to acknowledge that her condition is worsening or that she requires around-the-clock care. In a completely honest way, this book shines a light on the toll illness takes on both the patient and those around her. This well-crafted novel by veteran novelist Garner explores the limits of love, friendship, and generosity.
Tom Birkin arrives in a sleepy Yorkshire village to restore the medieval mural in an old church. He still suffers from shell shock and has been deserted by his wife. But over the course of this hot and hazy English summer (it’s 1920), he is drawn into village life and is touched by the beauty of his surroundings. This book is a celebration of peace and the healing power of art and nature.