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“This powerful novel about a woman kidnapped for ransom in Haiti grabbed me from the first sentence and held me, riveted and breathless, to the very last page. Gay is unflinching as she conveys the emotional, psychological and physical devastation of Mirielle Jameson during and following her captivity. Mirielle’s strength is the real backbone of this novel and held me fast as I worked through the difficult scenes of brutal treatment at the hands of her captors. This novel has me thinking about freedom, what it affords me and what it really means to be free, what I take for granted, and how a presumption of freedom defines my sense of self. There’s plenty more to dig into in this book, as well: economic disparity and dangerous assumptions on both sides of the dollar, rich and poor; the cultural gulf between parents and children raised in different countries; and the power and responsibilities of love. Just a phenomenal, unforgettable read."
“Lena, the main character, works as a transcriptionist for The Record, a major newspaper based in New York City. As she becomes obsessed with the suicide of a blind court stenographer she met briefly on a city bus, we’re drawn into Lena’s isolated life. This is a thoughtful, ultimately hopeful novel about the degree of tenderness we bring to the millions of fine details about other people’s lives we encounter every day. How do we manage such a regular knowledge of so very much, particularly when we’re exposed to so many stories of pain, isolation, disaster and terror? As Lena finds her way through, so do we.”
“I laughed so hard reading this book it doubled as a work out. Singleton imagines absurd situations played out by characters who tie their luck in knots: a student in an online southern culture course looks for truth in a scrapbooking club; an uncle makes a killing selling parachutes on the off chance of sinkholes; a woman funnels her husband’s scratch ticket winnings into never-ending home remodeling. These characters manage their fates with peculiar, hilarious, sometimes heart-wringing methods. Fans of George Saunders and Kurt Vonnegut will find a lot to love here. This is the most fun I’ve had reading a collection of stories in a long time.”
“McCracken explores the unexpected avenues of loss in this absorbing new collection. What I love about McCracken is knowing that the characters I meet on her pages will never be typical. I come again and again to the little girl dressed as Patrick Henry; a room full of budgies to replace a prodigal son; the emotional terrain of traumatized librarians. The ways we deal with absence are at the heart of each story and its haunting characters. McCracken’s humor brings levity to this unique, memorable collection.”
“Holy pajamas was I pulled into this book! Lipika Pelham’s experience as the Bangladeshi wife of a Jewish Englishman living with their family in Jerusalem offers a fresh, objective, and very human perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The history of both cultures is well represented, as are the ramifications of the political decisions that shifted entire populations. Her writing is vivid and her storytelling as straightforward as you’d expect from someone who wrote for the BBC. This book will appeal to anyone interested in gaining more understanding of the tense situation in the Middle East, and will particularly appeal to parents faced with raising their children in a culture that is not their own. Five stars!”
“Lorrie Moore, you make my heart sing. And wonder about itself. Here is another collection of Moore’s strange stories of the heart, told with humor and pathos, original characters, and that particular tension Moore seems to ratchet up with each new publication that asks, Will it really all, in the end, be okay? Fans will not be disappointed.”
I won’t shut up about this book, because here’s the thing – these stories are good. Rebecca Lee is the new love of my reading life. I read the whole book on a flight from Kansas City to Austin. Sharp writing, unconventional scenarios, characters who are real. Lee’s sentences excited me. I’ve twisted the arm of everyone I know to read this collection. Lee’s talent will knock you over the head. You’ll be asking yourself the same thing I did when I finished this book: Rebecca Lee, where have you been all my life? “
This book is unlike any writing guide I’ve read, and the first in a long time that has proven useful. (Why is a writing guide summer reading? Because I read it during the summer, when it was hot out.) Klinkenborg is all about sentences. Don’t you dare ignore the faintest clunk. Don’t you dare move on without knowing exactly what that sentence not only means but actually says. Make every sentence stand up for itself and justify its existence. This book is written in what I can best describe as free verse. There are no solid paragraphs, instead sentences whose line breaks come at Klinkenborg’s discretion. The result is a fluid reading experience that demonstrates what Klinkenborg preaches. (Oh, also, I should mention that I discovered this book at the fabulous Word Brooklyn on a hot day in early June right before I sat down at a bar to trade Caldwell-esque stories with one of my best friends. Summertime reading! BAM!)
“Jennifer duBois is a master at getting inside the heads of her characters, forging an intimacy that never feels contrived. In this case, those characters are a girl in her early twenties who may or may not have murdered her roommate; the potential murderer’s parents; her sister; and her sort-of boyfriend. At turns creepy, literary, and a smart look at the mysteries of family, Cartwheel works on you.”
“Listen to these sentences: ‘She was just a girl in a red dress standing by the white-clothed trestle table with her mouth full of chicken.’ ‘What he wanted was to be able to destroy everything and still endure.’ This story of a missing young woman, a failed writer and a family coming apart at the seams is riveting, absorbing, and full of sentences that will stop you in your tracks. Every time I pick up this book I read fifty pages without cease. Ullmann won me over within the first page. Read this book.”
"I had so much fun reading this novel. I love reading about the lives of writers and O'Nan does a terrific job fictionalizing F. Scott Fitzgerald's final days. His vision of 1930s Hollywood, where Fitzgerald is neighbors with Humphrey Bogart and eats lunch in the same cafeteria as Spencer Tracy, is addictive reading. The dancing! The premieres! The stars! It's a Hollywood of a long gone era, glitzy and gilded, pure joy to experience on the page. This novel gives us a writer hanging between past and present, struggling to stay afloat, writing to save himself. O'Nan's pacing and dialogue are dynamite. Those of us who remember that made-for-cable movie starring Jeremy Irons as Fitzgerald and Neve Campbell as his final secretary, Frances, will be absolutely delighted by this story."
"Essbaum sucked me into the story of Anna, an unhappy American woman living in Switzerland. A wife and mother without her own car, bank account or job, Anna's desperation (and readers can discuss to what extent that desperation is self-defined and self-prescribed) manifests itself in extramarital affairs and conversations with her Jungian psychoanalyst. Essbaum shifts back and forth between these conversations, trysts and Anna's daily experience and memory at a brilliant pace. We are constantly quilting an understanding of Anna by what she reveals of herself, both intentionally and unintentionally, in the doctor's office and in her own mind and life. She is a sympathetic, selfish, complex, infuriating, fascinating character who had me mulling female sexuality, self-determination and self-destruction. Book clubs should read this book alongside Anna Karenina. I wanted to talk about it as soon as I turned the last page."