Tag Archives: paperbacks

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (Vintage; 320 pages; $15.95).

One of my favorite novels from 2012 is now available in paperback.  Trust me–you’ll love it.

Reading Ayana Mathis’ epic debut The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, I could not help but think of the poem “A Dream Deferred” by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967).

hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

 

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

and then run?

Does it stink like rotting meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

 

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

 

Or does it explode?[1]

 

hattie paperbackHattie, Mathis’ central character, and her family left their home in Georgia as part of the African-American exodus to the North during the Great Migration. Six million blacks moved out of the rural South to the Northeast, Midwest, and West from around 1910 to 1970.

When their exodus began, slavery had long been abolished.  Yet, African-Americans were still very much bound.  Segregation, discrimination, and physical violence prompted blacks to hope for better lives in urban centers like Chicago and New York City.  Some may have had families in those cities; others set out with uncertainty, knowing no one but desperate for better lives.  The dreams of many were fulfilled as they found jobs and discovered new avenues open to them.  The dreams of others, as Hughes lyrically laments, were deferred.

Hattie belongs in the latter category. In 1925, she and her husband, August, live in Philadelphia, where they rent a house and where August works long hours.  Hattie gives birth to twins, Philadelphia and Jubliee, appellations “that weren’t already chiseled on a headstone in the family plots in Georgia…names of promise and of hope, reaching forward names, not looking back ones.”

The names she chooses for her children are significant.  Philadelphia represents their new home, the city of Philadelphia.  Hattie has high hopes for her family’s future in this great city.  The name then carries with it all of Hattie’s optimisms and dreams.  The name Jubilee evokes echoes of the African-American Juneteenth celebrations that marked the end of slavery (the first celebration occurred June 19, 1865).  In the North, Hattie’s children are free and do not have to worry about seeing August beaten, as Hattie once saw happen to her own father.  In Philadelphia, Hattie is certain that her twins will have opportunities she did not have growing up in Georgia.

When the twins become ill with pneumonia at seven months old, Hattie’s world is shaken. She tries to lessen their cough with eucalyptus, but the plant is difficult to find in Philadelphia.  When Hattie finds the plant, she has to buy it.  This feels so wrong to her.  Back home in Georgia, a eucalyptus tree is located directly “across from Hattie’s house.”  Such a stark realization leaves her bitter–especially when she cannot save them.

What happens to a dream deferred?  For Hattie, losing the twins is earth-shattering.  She feels as if a part of her dies with Philadelphia and Jubilee.  Hattie and August go on to have other children, but Hattie is never the same after the tragedy.

For her other offspring to survive in this world, Hattie must harden herself so she can harden them.  If they are to survive, then Hattie must be a survivor.  She will hold them at arm’s length if it means they will reach adulthood.  She will close herself off from them if it means they will grow up.

Mathis then switches gears and focuses on what happens to Hattie’s eleven children and one grand-child, her twelve tribes.  When we meet each of Hattie’s progeny in wholly intimate chapters, they are all on the cusp of something: grappling with identity, homophobia, abuse, jealousy, and sickness.  Mathis also illustrates through these chapters how Hattie’s children see her as a cold, bitter, and sometimes hateful woman.   The structure of the chapters also allows us to see how things change as the years pass.  Although Hattie and August grow apart, she still stays with him, even after she has a baby by another man and runs away.  She feels bound to August and stays by his side through affairs and economic hardships.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie cuts to the quick.  Mathis employs incisive, gritty dialogue that lodges itself deep in the hearts and guts of readers.  She can be elegantly precise yet equally coarse and raw when necessary, showing an amazing range of talent.

For me, Mathis’ other characters pale next to Hattie.  The author provides fascinating windows into Hattie’s psyche through her twelve tribes.  We know what they do not.  We know why she is cold, bitter, and sometimes hateful.

ayana-mathis-AUTHORMathis is by no means using Hattie to represent all African-American women who left the South to make new lives in the North.  Instead, Mathis is re-presenting one possible story through the character of Hattie.  Mathis wants to show the gritty underbelly of a family who took part in the Great Migration with all the sufferings and ordeals such an epic journey would entail.

Hattie’s dream of a new life did not go the way she had hoped it would.  Hattie’s was a dream deferred that festered, crusted over, and dried up.  Surely, Hattie would say her heart rotted and stank.  Perhaps she exploded from the pain.  Hattie had to survive so her children would.  What a heavy load she carried.  What a stunning literary achievement from Mathis as she chronicles one woman’s trials and tribulations.  The Twelve Tribes of Hattie resonates with meaning and with beauty.

 


[1] Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under book review, books, Debut Novels, fiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, new in paperback, Oprah's Book Club 2.0, paperbacks

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

I reviewed this book back in July of 2012 but it’s now out in paperback and deserves a second look.

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann (Back Bay Books; 384 pages; $15).

Klaussmann channels F. Scott Fitzgerald in her decades-spanning tale, which suspensefully and chillingly allows us to witness events as five different people see them, showing how much point of view matters in storytelling.” –Jaime Boler, Laurel, MS

tigers in red weatherWhen I discovered that Liza Klaussmann was the great-great-great-granddaughter of Herman Melville, my heart sank.  What debut novelist can live up to such a pedigree?  If Ancestry.com announced that Stephen King was the great-great-great-nephew of Edgar Allen Poe, I would nod and think what great sense that made.   The same would be true if a genealogist found a link between National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward and Zora Neale Hurston.  But these are established authors.  Their previous work stands alone; nepotism played no role in their success.

 

I will admit that it was with great reluctance that I picked up Klaussmann’s debutTigers in Red Weather.  My expectations were high; however, Klaussmann surpassed all of my hopes for the novel and then some.  I think Herman would have been proud.

 

If you are looking for traces of Melville within Klaussmann’s work, though, you will not find him.  Instead, Tigers in Red Weather opens with smidgens of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It is September 1945.  World War II has just ended.  Cousins Nick and Helena endure a hot summer night on Martha’s Vineyard at an old family estate called Tiger House.  The cousins are “wearing their slips and drinking gin neat out of old jelly jars.”  On the record player, “Louis Armstrong was stuck repeating that he had a right to sing the blues.”  It feels like the 1920s rather than the 1940s.  Nick would have been right at home in that earlier era.  She is a reckless free spirit, much like Zelda Fitzgerald.  Nick wants to “stuff the whole world into her mouth and bite down.”

 

With the war over, the cousins eagerly begin their lives.  Nick and her husband, a veteran, settle in Miami.  Helena and her husband settle in Los Angeles.  Nick gives birth to Daisy; Helena to Ed.  Nick puts up a front as she is unhappy in her present circumstances.   Martha’s Vineyard feels far away, and Nick longs for home.  Hughes is not the man that Nick believed him to be.  In her eyes, Hughes had become “something rationed,” ordinary, and “asleep.”

 

In 1959, the cousins and their families reunite for the summer at Tiger House.  For them, the estate reminds them of a more idyllic time, when the world was full of promise and so were they, a time when they could do anything and be anything, but that time has long passed.  Nick especially misses her youth on Martha’s Vineyard: “We could do exactly as we pleased and no one expected anything of us.  I even miss those horrible ration books.  I wish it could be like that now, for me and Hughes.  Not all stuffy and respectable.”  Sometimes, Nick confesses, “I want to rip my clothes off and go running down the street stark naked and screaming my head off.  Just for a…change of pace.”  Nick longs to recapture that moment when she wanted to stuff the world in her mouth and bite down.  Since she cannot, Tiger House becomes her refuge.  There, she is like a general.

 

All that changes on a beautiful summer day when Daisy and Ed make a gruesome and shocking discovery.  They find the dead body of a Portuguese maid.  As Klaussmann writes, “Half of the girl’s face looked like it had collapsed or something, with the Man of War swimming out from her dark curly hair.  The eyes were open and bulging like a frog’s, the fat tongue running between her teeth.”  Just like that, the idyll is over.  Tiger House loses its innocence; the real world creeps in and will not let the family go.

 

Klaussmann expertly tells this story from five different perspectives, which is not an easy thing to accomplish.  Each voice is distinctive and compelling.  As she carries us back and forth through time, Klaussmann allows us to witness the same scene as different people experienced it.  She changes the lens to show how point of view matters in a story and can enhance the storytelling.  Klaussmann manages to keep her plot suspenseful, especially with all of her time and character shifts.  This is what makes Tigers in Red Weather so readable and enjoyable.

 

The events of the summer of 1959 leave a mark on Klaussmann’s characters.  We see this clearly.  The author would be remiss if she did not emphasize this alteration.  Helena retreats deeper and deeper into her world of prescription drugs and alcohol.  In fact, Helena’s narrative is jumbled and broken in parts to show her state of mind.  She cannot cope with reality.  Meanwhile, Ed is in his own little world.  Finding the dead girl fascinated him.  Perhaps he is not the boyscout his mother thinks he is.  For Daisy, the discovery shakes her to the core.  Hughes must confront his past and the secrets he is keeping.

 

cn_image.size.liza-klaussmannNick, though, is Klaussmann’s most interesting and most central character.  Nick is the protagonist of the story.  Yet many of Klaussmann’s characters also view her as their antagonist.  That is no easy feat either, yet Klaussmann pulls it off without a hitch.  She has such a hold over a young Daisy that Klaussmann intersperses her mother’s voice throughout Daisy’s narrative.  Nick admonishes her daughter to do this and not do that.  “Only horses sweat,” Daisy hears her mother say in her head, “men perspire and women glow.”  Klaussmann peppers Daisy’s account with more echoes of Nick.  Nick’s shadow looms over the whole story really as the other characters alternatively envy, admire, resent, love, and loathe her.

 

In addition to Nick, Ed’s account also stands out, but for different reasons.  In contrast to Klaussmann’s other narratives, she writes that of Ed in the first person.  The change is gripping, intimate, and engrossing.  What we learn from Ed is shocking, but nothing Klaussman writes is implausible.  Her plot is always believable.  Tigers in Red Weather ends with a satisfying denouement, leaving readers to ponder the story well after they close the book.

 

Just as I was reluctant to begin Tigers in Red Weather, I was just as equally hesitant to finish the novel.  Upon closing the book, I said aloud, “Herman who?”

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under beach books, book review, Bookmagnet's Best Books of the Month, books, Debut Novels, fiction, literary fiction, mystery, Summer Reading

It’s May–What Should I Read?

May is here, and everything’s coming up books!  And that is indeed a wonderful thing.  There’s lots of variety, meaning there should be something for everyone this month.

Titles To Pick Up Now

dear-lucy.jpgDear Lucy by the extraordinarily talented Julie Sarkissian is available now.  I loved Sarkissian’s debut and feel fiercely protective of her main character, Lucy, who is developmentally delayed.  If you are a fan of Gothic tales, this will be perfect for you.  I spotlighted the book and interviewed Sarkissian.  Book review is coming soon.

I go down the stairs quiet like I am something without any weight. I open the door in the dark and the cold sucks my skin towards it. It is the morning but there is no sun yet, just white light around the edges. It is the time to get the eggs. Time for my best thing. The eggs they shine with their white and I do not need the light to find them. The foxes need no light either. I am a little like the fox, he is a little like me.—From Dear Lucy

Dear Lucy is a very unique book, one that you will be sorry you missed.

 

Another recently-released debut that I am enjoying is  Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley.  Check out my spotlight on the novel.  amity and sorrow

A mother and her daughters drive for days without sleep until they crash their car in rural Oklahoma. The mother, Amaranth, is desperate to get away from someone she’s convinced will follow them wherever they go–her husband. The girls, Amity and Sorrow, can’t imagine what the world holds outside their father’s polygamous compound. Rescue comes in the unlikely form of Bradley, a farmer grieving the loss of his wife. At first unwelcoming to these strange, prayerful women, Bradley’s abiding tolerance gets the best of him, and they become a new kind of family. An unforgettable story of belief and redemption, AMITY & SORROW is about the influence of community and learning to stand on your own.

Riley’s tale is gripping, even from the first page when she introduces readers to sisters who are tied together at the wrist.  Amity & Sorrow is an unflinching, timely, and intriguing look at a fundamentalist cult and a mother who will do anything to save her daughters.

 

Claire Messud, author of The Emperor’s Children, returns with a new novel called The Woman Upstairs.  

the woman upstairsNora Eldridge, a 37-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is on the verge of disappearing. Having abandoned her desire to be an artist, she has become the “woman upstairs,” a reliable friend and tidy neighbour always on the fringe of others’ achievements. Then into her classroom walks a new pupil, Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents–dashing Skandar, a half-Muslim Professor of Ethical History born in Beirut, and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist–have come to America for Skandar to teach at Harvard.  But one afternoon, Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies who punch, push and call him a “terrorist,” and Nora is quickly drawn deep into the complex world of the Shahid family. Soon she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora’s happiness explodes her boundaries–until Sirena’s own ambition leads to a shattering betrayal.  Written with intimacy and piercing emotion, this urgently dispatched story of obsession and artistic fulfillment explores the thrill–and the devastating cost–of giving in to one’s passions. The Woman Upstairs is a masterly story of America today, of being a woman and of the exhilarations of love.

I’m so proud of debut novelist Julie Wu.  Her dazzling historical epic, The Third Son, was featured in May’s O, The Oprah Magazine and chosen as one of Amazon’s best books of May.  The Third Son is a rich debut featuring a character who I came to see as family.  Saburo is a very special character, one who will steal your heart.  Wu’s story is perfect for fans of Samuel Park, Jamie Ford, Janice Y.K. Lee, and Lisa See.  I spotlighted the book and interviewed Wu.  A review is coming soon.

It’s 1943. As air-raid sirens blare in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, eight-year-old Saburo walks through the peach forests of Taoyuan. the third sonThe least favored son of a Taiwanese politician, Saburo is in no hurry to get home to the taunting and abuse he suffers at the hands of his parents and older brother. In the forest he meets Yoshiko, whose descriptions of her loving family are to Saburo like a glimpse of paradise.  Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again. When he finally does, she is by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival.

Set in a tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history—as the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island and one autocracy replaces another—The Third Son tells the story of lives governed by the inheritance of family and the legacy of culture, and of a young man determined to free himself from both.  In Saburo, author Julie Wu has created an extraordinary character, a gentle soul forced to fight for everything he’s ever wanted: food, an education, and his first love, Yoshiko. A sparkling, evocative debut, it will have readers cheering for this young boy with his head in the clouds who, against all odds, finds himself on the frontier of America’s space program.

 

Coming Soon

On May 7, Bloomsbury USA will publish the latest novel from bestselling author Gail Godwin.

floraTen-year-old Helen and her summer guardian, Flora, are isolated together in Helen’s decaying family house while her father is doing secret war work in Oak Ridge during the final months of World War II.At three Helen lost her mother and the beloved grandmother who raised her has just died.A fiercely imaginative child, Helen is desperate to keep her house intact with all its ghosts and stories.Flora, her late mother’s twenty-two-year old first cousin, who cries at the drop of a hat, is ardently determined to do her best for Helen.Their relationship and its fallout, played against a backdrop of a lost America will haunt Helen for the rest of her life.

This darkly beautiful novel about a child and a caretaker in isolation evokes shades of The Turn of the Screw and also harks back to Godwin’s memorable novel of growing up, The Finishing School. With its house on top of a mountain and a child who may be a bomb that will one day go off, Flora tells a story of love, regret, and the things we can’t undo.It will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.

Caroline’s Leavitt’s tenth novel, Is This Tomorrow, comes out May 7 from Algonquin Books.

 

In 1956, when divorced working-mom is this tomorrowAva Lark rents a house with her twelve-year-old son, Lewis, in a Boston suburb, the neighborhood is less than welcoming. Lewis yearns for his absent father, befriending the only other fatherless kids: Jimmy and Rose. One afternoon, Jimmy goes missing. The neighborhood in the era of the Cold War, bomb scares, and paranoia seizes the opportunity to further ostracize Ava and her son.Lewis never recovers from the disappearance of his childhood friend. By the time he reaches his twenties, he s living a directionless life, a failure in love, estranged from his mother. Rose is now a schoolteacher in another city, watching over children as she was never able to watch over her own brother. Ava is building a new life for herself in a new decade. When the mystery of Jimmy s disappearance is unexpectedly solved, all three must try to reclaim what they have lost.

 

 

constellationA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra will be released on May 7 by Hogarth.  A resilient doctor risks everything to save the life of a hunted child, in this majestic debut about love, loss, and the unexpected ties that bind us together.  In his brilliant, haunting novel, Stegner Fellow and Whiting Award winner Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in Chechnya, where eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night, accusing him of aiding Chechen rebels. Across the road their lifelong neighbor and family friend Akhmed has also been watching, fearing the worst when the soldiers set fire to Havaa’s house. But when he finds her hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.  For the talented, tough-minded Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. And she has a deeply personal reason for caution: harboring these refugees could easily jeopardize the return of her missing sister. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weave together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

Also on May 7 comes Daniel Wallace’s latest yarn, The Kings and Queens of Roam, from Touchstone.

kings and queens

 

From the celebrated author of Big Fish, an imaginative, moving novel about two sisters and the dark legacy and magical town that entwine them.  Helen and Rachel McCallister, who live in a town called Roam, are as different as sisters can be: Helen older, bitter, and conniving; Rachel beautiful, naïve – and blind. When their parents die an untimely death, Rachel has to rely on Helen for everything, but Helen embraces her role in all the wrong ways, convincing Rachel that the world is a dark and dangerous place she couldn’t possibly survive on her own … or so Helen believes, until Rachel makes a surprising choice that turns both their worlds upside down.  In this new novel, Southern literary master Daniel Wallace returns to the tradition of tall-tales and folklore made memorable in his bestselling Big Fish. The Kings and Queens of Roam is a wildly inventive, beautifully written, and big-hearted tale of family and the ties that bind

 

Unbridled Books will publish River of Dust by Virginia Pye on May 14.  On the windswept plains of northwestern China, Mongol river of dustbandits swoop down upon an American missionary couple and steal their small child. The Reverend sets out in search of the boy and becomes lost in the rugged, corrupt countryside populated by opium dens, sly nomadic warlords and traveling circuses. This upright Midwestern minister develops a following among the Chinese peasants and is christened Ghost Man for what they perceive are his otherworldly powers. Grace, his young ingénue wife, pregnant with their second child, takes to her sick bed in the mission compound, where visions of her stolen child and lost husband begin to beckon to her from across the plains. The foreign couple’s savvy and dedicated Chinese servants, Ahcho and Mai Lin, accompany and eventually lead them through dangerous territory to find one another again. With their Christian beliefs sorely tested, their concept of fate expanded, and their physical health rapidly deteriorating, the Reverend and Grace may finally discover an understanding between them that is greater than the vast distance they have come.

 

americanahOn May 14, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new novel, Americanah, hits shelves from Knopf.  From the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, a dazzling new novel: a story of love and race centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face difficult choices and challenges in the countries they come to call home.  As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.   Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.   Fearless, gripping, at once darkly funny and tender, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s most powerful and astonishing novel yet.

 

Patricia Beard’s A Certain Summer will be ready for your beach bag on May 21.  The publisher is Gallery Books.  “Nothing ever a certain summerchanges at Wauregan.” That mystique is the tradition of the idyllic island colony off the shore of Long Island, the comforting tradition that its summer dwellers have lived by for over half a century. But in the summer of 1948, after a world war has claimed countless men—even those who came home—the time has come to deal with history’s indelible scars.  Helen Wadsworth’s husband, Arthur, was declared missing in action during an OSS operation in France, but the official explanation was mysteriously nebulous. Now raising a teenage son who longs to know the truth about his father, Helen turns to Frank Hartman—her husband’s best friend and his partner on the mission when he disappeared. Frank, however, seems more intent on filling the void in Helen’s life that Arthur’s absence has left. As Helen’s affection for Frank grows, so does her guilt, especially when Peter Gavin, a handsome Marine who was brutally tortured by the Japanese and has returned with a faithful war dog, unexpectedly stirs new desires. With her heart pulled in multiple directions, Helen doesn’t know whom to trust—especially when a shocking discovery forever alters her perception of both love and war.  Part mystery, part love story, and part insider’s view of a very private world, A Certain Summer resonates in the heart long after the last page is turned.

we need new namesAlso published on May 21 is We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo from Reagan Arthur.  Darling is only 10 years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad.

But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America’s famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few. NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut calls to mind the great storytellers of displacement and arrival who have come before her–from Zadie Smith to Monica Ali to J.M. Coetzee–while she tells a vivid, raw story all her own.

 

 

Riverhead releases what may well be another bestseller for author Khaled Hosseini on May 21, And the Mountains Echoed.  Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.

and the mountains echoed

Who doesn’t love a good thriller?  While I was no fan of The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, I am looking forward to the release of Inferno, out May 14 from Knopf Doubleday.  As The Lost Symbol showed me, Robert Langdon works best in Europe, and not in America.

In his international blockbusters The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown masterfully fused history, infernoart, codes, and symbols. In this riveting new thriller, Brown returns to his element and has crafted his highest-stakes novel to date.  
In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante’s Inferno.  Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.

Paperback Releases

If you didn’t catch these amazing reads last year, they are either now available in paperback or are coming out this month.  Don’t miss them!

yellow birdsThe Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers is out now from Little, Brown.  Powers was nominated for a National Book Award in fiction for his tale of the Iraq War.

The Yellow Birds is unlike other Iraq War novels.  Powers actually fought in combat so he knows his stuff.  This is fiction, but there are kernels of truth within these pages.  He drives home the point that the War in Iraq has irrevocably changed a whole generation and our country will not ever be the same.  The Yellow Birds is penetrating, poignant, and deeply personal for Powers.  I can’t stop thinking about Bartle and Murph.  This is the debut of the year.  —Bookmagnet’s review

 

 

 

the dog starsPeter Heller’s The Dog Stars comes out in paperback May 7 from Vintage.

Hig is an “old man at forty” who lost his wife and their unborn child to the flu.  Hig’s narrative is unconventional as Heller uses flashbacks and sometimes strange streams of consciousness to tell us his story.  After the flu struck, encephalitis felled Hig.  “Two straight weeks of fever, three days 104 to 105,” Hig explains, “I know it cooked my brains.”  There is no pattern to Hig’s thoughts.  They are often jumbled and mish-mashed, often without segue from one thought to the next.  He begins many of his sentences with “and” or “so” and most of his thoughts are fragments.  What Hig has lived through and what he has lost speak to us from the page.  Heller uses a very powerful device, and Hig just would not be Hig without it.–Bookmagnet’s review

 

 

 

 

On May 7, Vintage releases Maggie Shipstead’s debut, Seating Arrangements, in paperback.  seating arrangements

Seating Arrangments is THE read of the summer, but this is no fluff piece.  Shipstead constructs a many-layered story in the same way a baker creates a layered wedding cake or a designer sews a wedding gown.  There are layers upon layers, and we must peel them back chapter by chapter. There are debut novels, and then there are debut novels.  Messy, disorganized jumbles lacking cohesion.  Unrealized characters with nothing to drive them.  Settings that fall flat.  A plot that isn’t.  This is not one of those debut novels.  —Bookmagnet’s review

 

 

 

wilderness

 

Lance Weller’s electrifying and shocking debut Wilderness comes out May 14 from Bloomsbury USA.

I interviewed Weller and he had this to say about coming up with the story:

“Abel Truman came to me well before I had any notion whatsoever that Wilderness would become what it ended up becoming.  I wanted to try and write a really excellent dog story and, to that end, started writing a short story about an old man and his dog and what became of them.  Before I really knew it, they were living on the Washington State coast and the old man was an American Civil War veteran and I was beyond the point where it was a short story by a good number of pages.”

From my interview with Weller

 

Mariner Books will publish Jennifer Miller’s smart debut The Year of the Gadfly May 28.  gadly

Foreshadowing is just one of the plot devices in which Miller shows off her skills.  Traveling to the school with her mother, Iris notices that “the mountainous peaks resembled teeth.  The road stretched between them like a black tongue.  And here we were, in our small vehicle, speeding toward that awful mouth.”  One cannot help but wonder if the school will swallow Iris…I recommend The Year of the Gadfly to fans of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, Amber Dermont’s The Starboard Sea, and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.  Miller’s story is intelligent, sharp, and eye-opening.  Miller shines as she describes the pain of adolescence and aptly compares high school to the political dealings of a Third World nation.  “In high school,” Miller warns, “you never knew who was your enemy and who was your friend.”  Keep that warning in mind as you readThe Year of the Gadfly.  As in Miller’s novel, our enemies sometimes disguise themselves as our friends.  Iris should be vigilant.  —Bookmagnet’s review

5 Comments

Filed under beach books, book review, books, contemporary fiction, fiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, mystery, Southern fiction, Southern writers, thriller, women's lit