In a small town of apparently apathetic citizenry, 30-something Walter Mitchell, whose wife divorced him and moved to another state with their daughter, somehow ends up taking in the teenage daughter of his neighbor, a horridly neglectful mother. Maher carefully lays out Walter’s slippery slope of determining what he feels is best for this child on the cusp of womanhood. As young Amanda expresses her burgeoning awakening of sexuality, Walter supresses the natural physical response in himself, carefully talking himself and Amanda through the gauntlet to which he has inadvertently led them. In the end, he insists on the punishment he believes he deserves. Though not an ideal execution, the torment of the main character, his self-enforced isolation from support, and the self-control he exhibits, brilliantly portrays the dichotomy of nature versus civilization, the social mores that separate us from animals and their natural instinct. The only comparison to Lolita would have to consider this a retelling, but that would still belie the fact that the main characters are on opposite ends of the morality spectrum. I received this intriguing, controversial story from the publisher RedDoor publishing through NetGalley.
Fans of Elizabeth Strout can assuredly pick up a new novel by her without checking the summary, especially if it’s once again (see what I did there…) about her most interesting character Olive Kitteridge. Told from the perspectives of her fellow townspeople whose lives intersect with hers in a profound way, as well as from her own, it’s reminiscent of Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (way back in the day, but such a classic work), providing nuances not accessible from a single point of view, especially one as focused as Olive’s. Endearing she is not, but fascinating she is, so complex and surprisingly wise, even compassionate, in unexpected ways—Olive has her lovers and haters; no one is on the fence about this lady. This book could stand on its own, though it is definitely buttressed by its predecessor Olive Kitteridge. Unfortunately for OK’s fans, this may be her swan song. Dismayed at the fast forwarding of the latter half of the book, this Dear Reader saw the end coming too soon, losing Strout a precious star. I received a digital copy of this story from one of my favorite authors from the publisher Random House through NetGalley.
Pernilla contacts private detective Kouplan, a political refugee from Iran hiding in the shadows until he can seek legal asylum, to find her daughter. Kouplan gathers information from various underground sources in his investigation, eventually concluding that Pernilla’s mental instability may actually be the mystery. His compassion for another human living in the shadows encourages Pernilla to seek the truth along with him. I received this wonderful story of humanity and those living delicately on the fringes of society from the publisher Minotaur Books through NetGalley.
This is a classic tale of vulnerability leading an everyman to sell his soul for riches, until he reaches a point that he can no longer deny the evil to which he contributes. Of course the good-hearted girlfriend does her best to turn him around, and somehow her story intersects with his in a “small world” kind of way. Mitzner does a nice job of imbuing a modern take on this story, with graphic details of the unearned hedonistic life, and an interesting resolution for the everyman. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this well-written book from the publisher Thomas & Mercer through NetGalley.
Tati, Ana, Tatyana, and Tanya are the same girl, whose DNA was split to create them in multiverses by their father. This story had such potential, but the characters could have been more clearly differentiated from the beginning, the adoptive parents more credible (wealthy hippies?), and the ending less rushed to wrap it all up. Having said that, this is a unique perspective and Berla a good storyteller despite the flaws in execution. This book requires a good imagination and concentration. I received a digital copy from the publisher Flux through NetGalley.
Follow the money as you read of the origins of art as a market in NYC and around the globe, begetting dealer, galleries, and collectors, and making celebrities of contemporary artists. Shnayerson takes Dear Reader through a timeline of the rise of art as investment, exposing the politics behind the scenes, and carefully rendering the oft tenuous dealer-artist relationships. It’s an interesting read for anyone if you can keep track of the names! I was fortunate to receive a copy from PublicAffairs through NetGalley.
Fu Ping was chosen by Nainai to marry her adopted grandson, but Fu Ping merely wanted to escape her aunt and uncle’s home. Her desire to avoid the inevitable takes her on adventures where she learns about the working class individuals in her neighborhood. Chapters are told from the perspectives of these individuals, leading back to their connection with Fu Ping, always changed by her encounters. Though a little disjointed at times due to the format, this tale enlightens Dear Reader to the insights of working class Chinese who may struggle financially and feel trapped at their social level, but remain hopeful in their relationships and futures. I received this unusual novel from the publisher Columbia University Press through NetGalley.
Maggie feels something imminently dangerous coming to her daughter Emma, who just headed off on her first year of college. When police come to her door one evening, she knows her premonition has come to fruition. The widow of a police detective, Maggie conducts her own investigation into her daughter’s disappearance, with all new information obscuring who she believed her daughter to be. Simmons writes a good mystery, replete with complex family dynamics, secrets spilling out all over, and a storyline that builds until it bursts and everything makes sense. Fans of Liane Moriarty, Diane Chamberlain, and Kerry Anne King will appreciate Simmons’ writing style and storytelling brilliance. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of the book by one of my favorite authors from the publisher Sourcebook Landmark through NetGalley.
The Front de l’Indépendance is determined to print the truth free from Nazi control in 1943 Belgium. After being threatened by Gruppenfuhrer August Wolff, journalist Marc Aubrion and colleagues agree to put out a pro-Nazi issue of Nazi propaganda La Soir. Instead, they intend to put out an anti-Nazi satire issue, a “Faux” Soir, effectively condemning them to death. Based on a true story, this novel is told from the perspective of the street urchin chosen as gopher and pet by Aubrion, who gives Helene, a girl pretending to be a boy for safety sake, missions for her fellow street urchins to support their endeavor. Helene’s perspective oversteps her boundaries of knowledge throughout the book, making Dear Reader wonder why the author chose her as the 1st person narrator. Ramzipoor does brilliantly include a Nazi government official in the Faux Soir caper, with the inevitable question of where his loyalty lay, and credible gay characters, one of whom outshines the main character. The twist at the end feels delayed—it seems as though that information would have been given right up front, making the timing awkward and the twist a bit anti-climactic. Despite its flaws (unrealistic dialogue, over the top characters) in the craft, Ramzipoor is a natural storyteller, and in choosing a unique tale from the oft-drawn-from well of the WWII era, she has presented an unforgettable story of unexpected heroes where the lesbians survive. I was fortunate to receive this fascinating debut novel from the publisher Park Row through NetGalley.
After disagreeing with their father over her interactions with a traveling gypsy family and his indiscretions, Luella disappears, so Effie finagles her way into the House of Mercy, a home for wayward girls, but doesn’t find Luella there. Instead she discovers that she is trapped there, because no one believes wayward girls. Born with a hole in her heart in the early 20th century, her family has considered Effie to be living on borrowed time her entire life. Now she struggles to breathe while working hard labor, since the nuns at House of Mercy are unaware of her condition. A girl with a vague past named Mable plots escape with her, and Mable’s heart-rending story then intertwines with Effie’s. Burdick carefully lays out the challenges in Effie’s family and the obstacles of a misogynistic society that conspired to place her in such an undesirable and dangerous situation. The author provides further information on these mislabeled prisons for girls whose sexuality or unwanted status placed them there, and she also addresses the controversial use of “gypsy” as a historical reference that people in that era would have been most familiar with and used themselves. I received a digital copy of this excellent historical fiction from the publisher Park Row through NetGalley.