I was drawn to these essays by a love for Kushner’s fiction and they definitely didn’t disappoint. Her searing voice and formidable intellect blaze through each sharp portrait of compelling artistic and cultural issues, including her own lawless youth on the San Francisco music scene.
Gina Frangello bares her soul with unflinching candor as she takes you through the self-inflicted destruction of her marriage. As her story unfolds you despise her, you pity her, you admire her, you want to scream at her and you can't take your eyes off her as she examines the cumulative pressures of a women's traditional place in our society.
A husband negotiates forgiveness of a betrayal for his wife's freedom to exact three instances of revenge. The specter of what and when they will be hangs over them both. Intense and oh, so imaginative, this story captivated me from the first page.
When an ill-conceived bank robbery goes horribly wrong, a real estate open house turns into a farcical hostage situation. The determined realtor, the potential buyers, the inept perpetrator and the squabbling police officers are all delightful, if reluctant, participants in this clever, entertaining and poignant escapade.
No one knows you better than your oldest, dearest friends and perhaps that’s part of the problem for this quartet of older women whose fragile equilibrium is rocked when one of them dies. Faced with insecurities of aging and long-suppressed hurts, the remaining three find the ties that bind them beginning to fray. The Weekend is a poignant look at life-long friends growing older and growing apart.
I couldn’t turn away from this fascinating account of the Galvin family as they cope with the devastating impact of schizophrenia on six of their twelve children. Compelling and heartbreaking, this book sheds a light on a poorly-understood disease and the generosity of a unique family who makes itself available for important scientific studies on the role played by genetics.
The author of The Mothers has given us another affecting novel about family, relationships and race. At the center of The Vanishing Half are identical twin sisters Stella and Desiree who grow up in Mallard, a small Southern town inhabited entirely by light-skinned African Americans. Inseparable as girls, the twins both long to escape their small town, yet once they break away they embark on very different paths. Stella’s decision to secretly pass as a white woman opens up economic opportunities that her sister never experiences, but her material comfort comes at enormous personal cost. Beautifully written and full of psychological insights and plot twists, Bennett examines the long-reaching consequences of decisions regarding race and community on the twins’ lives, their identities and their families.
What an exquisite book of stories this is! Although varied in setting and voice, each vignette contains characters seeking explanations for phenomena they are grappling to understand. Whether exploring matters of science, faith, magic or merely survival, these elegant, almost Victorian, tales make captivating forays into the intricacies of human nature.
In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Simon navigates the harsh Texas landscape in pursuit of two things: a plot of land to purchase and Doris Ahearne - the woman he intends to marry. Standing in his way are Doris’ employer, drunken bandmates, rowdy bar crowds, and his own hot temper. This is a fast-paced adventure story with a tender, musical heart.
This luminous debut paints a powerful portrait of strong women’s hard-scrabble lives. Gloriously set against the barren landscape of Texas oilfields, Valentine is tightly wound and perfectly crafted.
A family tale like no other, Wild Game is an unflinching look at the dynamic created when a beloved mother makes her 13-year old daughter her confidante in a love affair with her husband's best friend. As the years go on, unquestioning devotion and complicity between mother and daughter are undermined by their destructive secret.
In this charming and lyrical little book, a Welsh gardener eloquently juxtaposes the grim reality of authentic mole-catching with a celebration of the natural world and all its creatures. As he perfects the craft of ridding farmers of a destructive nuisance, he poetically contemplates the role of humanity in taming the world around us. He also teaches us a lot about moles!
This little book packs a powerful punch! The story of Melody, her young and confused parents, and her formidable grandparents is touchingly rendered in gorgeous poetic language. Jacqueline Woodson has created a treasure.
A shattered family, rampant drug use, a sense of hopelessness--Maureen Stanton's slide into delinquency feels as inevitable as the shadow cast by nearby Walpole prison. Only her innate intelligence and fierce independence keep her outside those walls despite her mother's predictions. Distinctly New England in setting, this straight-shooting and astutely observed memoir is spot-on with social and cultural references that will resonate with anyone who grew up in 1970's America.
Already my favorite book of the year! This extraordinary coming-of-age tale is based on the author's own early life in the suburbs of Brisbane, Australia, where his beloved mother and stepfather were heroin dealers and his babysitter was a notorious prison escapee. Stubborn, charismatic and ever-resilient, Eli Bell is an unforgettable character.
This is the rare celebrity memoir in which the author's own voice resonates with clarity and truth. Self-reflective, insightful, and fiercely intelligent, Sally Field hits the perfect note as she unfolds the story of a naïve girl with a difficult family, struggling to forge her own path in a world that refuses to acknowledge her potential. This candid and moving account deserves a standing ovation!
I absolutely love Heartland. Through her gorgeous writing, Sarah Smarsh manages to weave memoir, history and social commentary with a lyricism that is both tender and steely. Her focus on the women in her community is heartbreaking and important and she tells their stories with a delicate touch, full of respect, affection, and compassion.
Lyrical, romantic, and at times heartbreaking, this is the moving story of an inexperienced medical student conscripted to a skeletal field hospital during the First World War. In this brutal crucible, Lucius learns what he is capable of -- hard work and determination, occasional heroism, and, more often, human frailty. Against a bleak background of wartime hardship, this is a magnificent tale of resilience, atonement, and love
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A young Russian emigre falls under the spell of a venerable author who has taken a teaching position at the school where she works. Already enchanted by his writing, Zoya becomes infatuated by his attentions but fails to account for the machinations of Orlov's formidable wife, who is playing her husband while he plays Zoya. Inspired by Vladimir Nabokov's real-life marriage, and fraught with tension from the get-go, this novel is beautifully written and completely absorbing; I almost needed to take step back to avoid getting burnt!
The Mercy Seat tells the haunting story of a sweltering summer weekend in a small Louisiana township, where a young man awaits execution in his jail cell and a traveling electric chair wends its way down the highway toward him. Short, exquisitely-drawn chapters describe the impact of this harrowing event on various members of the community. In her sparse, perfectly crafted prose, Winthrop conveys a powerful sense of place permeated with the dreams, tensions, disappointments, and secrets of the imperfect characters it contains.
Andrea leaves Nebraska and her small-minded family when she moves to edgy 1990's Portland, Oregon, where she finds a queer community which finally gives her a sense of belonging. Life gets more complicated when she discovers that even that group has its limits, particularly when Andrea finds herself drawn to a straight white male drummer. Affectionately set against the backdrop of a free-spirited but gentrifying city, this is a charming story of figuring out home, love, and what it means to be a family.
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When a beautiful young teacher is found murdered in a small Australian town, Detective Gemma Woodstock is confident that her own complicated past with the victim won't compromise her ability to solve the case. She couldn't be more wrong!
In 1917, a freighter left NY laden with explosives intended for the trenches of France. Seeking refuge from German U-boats in Halifax harbor, it collided with a Norwegian relief ship which ignited its deadly cargo. The ensuing explosion levelled the city, killing and wounding thousands. The City of Boston immediately rushed in to help, transforming the dynamics of US-Canadian relations. Even now, a Christmas tree arrives on Boston Common each year as an expression of gratitude from Nova Scotia. Bacon gives a gripping account of a staggering but largely-unknown historical event.
In honor of the 450th Anniversary of Shakespeare's birth , the Globe Theatre in London mounted a production of Hamlet and sent it to every country in the world. Some audiences rolled out the red carpet and others understood no English and had never heard of the Danish prince. This beautifully-written and irreverent account of an extraordinary two-year journey across this crazy globe of ours celebrates the universality of a timeless story that resonates from refugee camps to opera houses.
This extraordinary book is unlike anything I've ever read. The author received his MFA in fiction writing but is now serving a life term in prison for murder. He writes about existence behind the walls of the "Graybar Hotel," his eloquent vignettes illuminating the complexity of retaining one's humanity under the worst of circumstances.
This graceful and timely novel follows Alia and her family through a series of displacements, from Palestine to Beirut and on to Paris and Boston. Despite heartbreak and misfortune, powerful family bonds help each generation reconnect and create a sense of home wherever the vagaries of war and life deposit them.
Do you remember hearing about Christopher Knight, the hermit who was caught in the Maine woods after living outdoors for twenty-two years? It turns out he was only a few miles from home and a few yards from the very cabins he was raiding for supplies! This book tells the incredible story of why he chose to disappear from the world, how he survived on his own for so long, and what has happened to him since. I couldn't put it down!
The author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist delivers another compelling twist on life in the Middle East. This time, a desperate young couple abandons home and family, escaping a war-torn city by way of hidden doors that rumors promise will lead to a better life.
This sharply-observed debut novel about family and friendship is narrated Greek chorus-style in the single voice of elderly church women. They wisely observe the triangle of relationships between three unforgettable young people in their community, two of whom are grieving the loss of their own mothers. Brit Bennett is an exciting new storyteller!
When Eva and Jim have a chance encounter in Cambridge, do they meet and fall in love, barely notice each other, or become intrigued but feel duty bound to honor prior commitments? Each outcome produces a vastly different story but with some intriguing similarities. As Barnett plays with fate, destiny and choice in this effortless journey in three simultaneous versions of Eva and Jim's lives, we are completely drawn in to each story and the inescapable results of choices made along the way.
Absolutely wonderful! This whimsical collection of poems by Sox announcer Dick Flavin will move baseball fans of all ages to laughter and tears. Be sure to recite them out loud!
I got completely caught up in this unnerving, lyrically-written story of imperfect people coping with unimaginable circumastances.
Grace is one of 39 passengers who escape a sinking ocean-liner onto an overcrowded lifeboat. On trial for murder as a result of her own choices, Grace describes the best and worst of human behavior under desperate conditions.
A middle-aged couple longing for a child of their own hope for a fresh start on the Alaskan frontier. The reader shares the couple's doubts and wonder when a wild but delicate child emerges from the wilderness and into their lives.
"How did she ever think of that?" I kept asking myself, as I luxuriated in the author's extraordinary descriptions of an enchanted traveling circus, crafted entirely in black and white, and open only from dusk to dawn. Amid tarot card readers, contortionists and acrobatic kittens, rival magicians engage in a deadly competition, leaving circus goers and readers unsure whether they are witnessing magic or merely magic tricks.
The Tiger's Wife is an exquisitely written first novel about a young female doctor in the Balkans, and the stories she learns from and about her beloved grandfather.
A searing, clear-eyed look at life inside a women’s federal prison. The author describes in detail the relationships and code of behavior among the female prisoners, none of whom have had her own advantages in life.