The Vanishing Half tells the story of two African American twins and how, when they flee their small Louisiana town as teens, one passes as white. How her choice echoes and haunts the family for generations allows Bennett to probe racism from fresh perspectives. Thought provoking and masterfully written, this one deserves every bit of praise it's receiving and then some.
Like Fates & Furies on a boat, this HE SAID/SHE SAID story chronicles a family who left everything behind to make the husband's dream voyage. How it both brings them together and tears them apart makes a for a compelling read that is equal part adventure and rich interior drama.
This YOU ARE THERE historical narrative recounts the story of the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake-at 9.2 still the most powerful in North America-specifically how events unfolded in Anchorage. Told in style reminicient of "Our Town" (complete with the author as Stage Manager) our hero is scrappy Genie Chance, an intrepid radio reporter whose voice is the only communication in the immediate aftermath of the quake. Recommended for readers who appreciate a little known slice of history or for fans of real life heroines.
Valentine exposes life in the underside of a boomtown by tracking the fallout from a violent rape as it spreads through a group of disparate women in 1976 Odessa,Texas. A debut novel that reads like anything but.
Emma Straub believes in families and her latest celebrates the ties that bind, no matter how complicated or messy. When Astrid, the widowed matriarch of the Strick family, witnesses a fatal accident it forces her to re-examine her life and her parenting and sets her on a path to make her later years her most authentic. With its lived in characters, sharp crisp descriptions and rich payoff, All Adults Here presents a family so appealing in their imperfection the reader will want to join it.
As a reader I admire writers who cast a wide story net, full of disparate threads that don’t seem to have anything in common, then pull it all tightly together. Emily St John Mandel excels at that in her latest, non dystopian, novel. The Glass Hotel is a story of ghosts, Ponzi schemes and feeling lost in your own life but more important than any mere plot description is the feeling this novel rises in the reader, feelings that aren’t easy to shake even when the last page is turned.
Jiles' usual wry, laconic style is in full bloom in this Western quest story about a poor musician seeking love and a home in messy Post Civil War Texas. Her gifted characterizations and deft hand at making the historical not at all old fashioned give her work a personal urgency sure to please readers.
Bob is back! The irascible stray with a heart of gold gets to be the hero and save the day in this sweet and redemptive sequel to The One and Only Ivan. Full of warmth, with appearances by Ivan, Ruby and all the gang, this sequel is so welcome. Fans of the original will not be disappointed.
Filled with creeping dread and contagion, this historical novel tells the story of an out of favor Transendentalist and his daughter who start a school for girls in 1871. When things start to go terribly wrong in ways that challenge their beliefs and bond, the results make this imaginary history seem all too timely.
You survived a cult-great job! Now what? You have no life skills for the 'real world'. (Your herbal medicine skills and the other end of world prep only gets you so far when the Armageddon you readied for has yet to materialize). You also have no belief system to replace the old, which leaves you susceptibile to dark overtures from the other surviving cultists who are coping even worse than you. A pitch black "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"-that's the juicy premise of The Poison Garden. Gripping and full of rich psychological detail!
Both meanings of the word blood are explored in this aptly titled poetic memoir-violence and the ties that bind. The murder suicide of her parents when she was a child has cast a long shadow over the life and career of singer/songwriter Alison Moorer. Though never directly referred to, it has been the open secret that colored everything. Finally, in this memoir (and its accompanying record) she seeks to restore her parents to more than a horrifying tragedy by filling in the blanks in their story, making them real people-beyond the simple roles of victim and murderer-and worthy of forgiveness.
This lived in novel captures one rough week in the life of a teen in the hardscrabble Midwest. Riggle is an orphan whose guardian uncle has gone missing, he's suspended from school and he needs $800 by Friday. How he manages with his spirit (mostly) intact will ring true to fellow strugglers who have to sweat the rent, feign bravery by acting out or use humor to cope.
Hitchcock himself couldn't cram anymore suspense into this lovely wordless picture book. Full of silent film homages for older readers, this sweet story will continue to delight long after the surprise is revealed.
If history belongs to the victors, true crime belongs to the perpetrators. When it comes to Jack the Ripper more people can name the suspects-the prince, the artist, the Polish barber-than the victims killed. In an effort to rectify this, historian Hallie Rubenheld not only brings the women fully to life (or as fully as possible given the sketchy records of the poor in Victorian England) and in doing so, sheds some new light on the long cold case.
For example, despite the story that everyone thinks they know, the women were not all prostitutes, most were destitute women ‘sleeping rough’. Detailed explanation of the welfare at the time (basically Scrooge’s ‘prisons and workhouses’) help the modern reader comprehend the women’s plight. Rebenheld also points out that Jack must have killed as they slept, explaining how he could murder so viciously without attention being drawn by struggle or screaming (hence his many close escapes).
Most reviews will surely say this book is a must for Ripperologists, and it is, but it is also a compelling and necessary history which restores personhood to victims formerly seen as the least interesting part of the story.
It’s 1928 and middle aged militant suffragette Mattie Simpson fears her excitement is over forever until she starts a girl’s club that brings both joy and heartbreak, proving you’re never too old to have your life upended. Filled with righteous indignation and irrepressible good cheer, Old Baggage soars.
Plucky Emmeline Lake just wants to do her part for the war effort. When she lands a job at the London Evening Chronicle she pictures herself as FEMALE WAR CORROSPONDENT. Alas, the job is actually assisting the formidible Henrietta Bird, the maddening advice columnist who refuses to actually offer any. So softhearted Emmy decides to answer a few letters on the sly because what could go wrong? How she copes with real life in wartorn London with her vibrant spirit intact makes for a delicious and uplifting treat for readers.
When done right there's something magical about books told from the point of view of an animal. With this sensitive and lovely story Pennypacker carries the torch passed down from Felix Salten (Bambi) and Sterling North (Rascal). When Peter and his fox Pax are seperated by an impending war to be reunited both must face an epic journey that will test and ultimately redeem them. A great read for children of all ages.
A poetic memoir about a literal wild ride-the 1000 km Mongol Derby-written by the first woman to win (who was only 19 at the time). A perfect read for horse lovers, armchair travelers or anyone who remembers well their pentup, wild, youthful yearning.
The noir picture book we've been waiting for! Mitten's classic hardboiled narration amply demonstrates a cat's usual level of dedication and healthy respect for the rules. Chuckleworthy and ripe for rereading!
This arresting graphic novel casts Frida Kahlo's life as one long conversation with Death appropriate, if you think, due to her poor health and tempestous love life, it really was her most constant companion. Works as both a primer for the Kahlo novice and a must have for fans.
This unrelenting portrait of the greedy squandering of our precious natural resources is both a beautiful excursion into the heart of human darkness and a brutal story that squarely combats the myth of the West. A forerunner of Cormac McCarthy, this is an underappreciated great that clamors for a wider audience.
In her first stand alone French portrays the havoc that ensues when a family's literal skeletons are revealed. Both empathetic and damning, The Witch Elm is also a complete and authentic description of victimhood-the powerlessness and desolation that result when all your safe places are ruined, including your own life narrative.
Ever seen the picture of the woman taking a bath in Hitler's bathtub? If not, treat yourself. That's Lee Miller. Vogue model, muse and lover of the photographer Man Ray, Surrealist artist in her own right, combat journalist (that dirt on the bathmat was from Dachau) Miller led a big, juicy 20th century life and this debut novel introduces the reader to all of it. Far more than your average 'woman behind the man' story this is recommended for anyone who loves a ballsy badass heroine.
When Jessilyn Harney, a protaganist True Grit's Maddie Ross would call kin, is orphaned in the post Civil War West she disguises herself as a boy and sets out to find her outlaw brother, who's become something of a folk hero. Told in a wry and weary voice, in this debut Western, as in all the classic ones, the journey takes the measure of and makes the man.
SPOILER ALERT: Women Talking could have been subtitled Canadian Mennonite Women Break Down the Patriarchy for You. Both angering and funny, this wise novel (sadly based on a true story) takes on heavy questions-'What is faith and a faith community?' 'What would you do for love?' and 'Is there a God and what does God expect from us?'-with a lightness to admire. My book of year for 2019!
Josie has always wanted to be on TV. Delia loves all things horror. Together they are Midnite Matinee, a public access show with more heart than craft. (Think Svengoolie with hashtags.) With whipsmart dialogue and smartassery for days, the journey these best friends take to reach their dreams (or some approximation of it) makes for a terrific read.