Leo and Fiona are 25; it’s her birthday. He tries to comfort her as she waits in a hospital bed for surgery. She’s worried about dying, despite Leo’s reassurance that “nobody dies during wisdom tooth removal surgery.” Fiona tells him she has a theory about the universe, the afterlife, and the nature of time, and it will “just blow the lid off of everything.”
You can read my review of The Life of the World to Come, by Dan Cluchey, in the Sunday, July 9, edition of the Charlotte Observer, by clicking the image below.
You can buy Cluchey’s Life of the World to Come at Barnes and Noble.
But “official secrecy act be damned” – Fanny, this plain, childless, Minnesotan daughter of immigrant parents, writes that third memoir, “so that something I’ve done will live on, and I can move on from this world.”
Friendships, after three-quarters of a century, can be strained and tested, and so is Fanny and Rosalie’s. But despite her revealing a national secret, Fanny remains silent about Rosalie’s biggest secrets: “Secrets shared by women are sacred. They transcend the duties of country or marriage.”
You can read my review of Enchanted Islands, by Allison Amend, in the Sunday, June 5, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.
You can buy Enchanted Islands at Barnes and Noble.
The point of the story is, of course, to highlight the mistreatment and neglect of traumatized veterans. That’s made clear early when Rake says, “They failed me big-time by not taking care of me when I returned from the war … and (they) pumped me full of Tripizoid, as per treatment, and then all they did was double it down, increase what they were trying to decrease.”
You can read my review of Hystopia, by David Means, in the Sunday, May 8, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.
You can buy Hystopia at Barnes and Noble.
Allison Amend answers questions from Hemingway, Woolf, Carver, Doctorow, Plimpton, and Peschel.
Click the image below to read the interview in the Los Angeles Review of Books
The novel’s title may be a bit misleading, evoking images of mundane objects that might belong to children. They do indeed belong to children, but these red chairs, 643 of them, commemorate the deaths of the children killed during the siege of Sarajevo in 1992. Thus, the love story, set in 2012, about a lonely Irish woman who has an affair with a mysterious man becomes a political novel, since the man is later revealed to be a possible war criminal. He’s a composite fictional character who resembles the former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, who was recently found guilty of genocide and other crimes.
You can read my review of The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O’Brien, in the Sunday, April 3, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.
You can buy The Little Red Chairs at Barnes and Noble.
Rovelli gracefully eases us into thinking about our existence in a relatively strange world described by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, quantum gravity, the structure of the expanding cosmos, and tiny elementary particles, in ways that are as lucid, elegant and beautiful as the scientific theories themselves. He describes those theories one lesson at a time, giving a brief not-too-technical explanation, and using only a few simple drawings and photographs, often preferring to refer to Shakespeare, God or Homer to make a point. And he gives us but one equation.
You can read my review of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, in the Sunday, March 20, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.
You can buy Seven Brief Lessons on Physics at Barnes and Noble.
Jacobson fast-forwards Shakespeare’s play so that it’s been only a short time since the famous trial in Venice. He moves the locale and Shylock himself to present-day England. You might recall Shylock’s daughter Jessica has stolen Shylock’s ring to buy a monkey and that she’s eloped with that rascal Lorenzo and converted to Christianity.
You can read my review of Shylock Is My Name, by Howard Jacobson, in the Sunday, March 6, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.
You can buy Shylock Is My Name from Barnes & Noble.
“The revolution is over. It’s spring, 1788, in the Southeast wilderness. A party of American loyalists has been murdered, and a Frenchman tracks down the killers: a Muskogee Indian, a slave and a white man. Smith includes plenty of adventure in this story, but she and her French tracker Luis Le Clerc Milfort are more interested in what brought this disparate trio together and what drove them to murder. Smith’s decision to have the characters tell their own backstories gives the book its sociological heft.”
You can read my review of Free Men, by Katy Simpson Smith, in the Sunday, February 28, edition of the Charlotte Observer by clicking the image below.
You can buy Free Men, by Katy Simpson Smith, from Barnes & Noble.
Portis tells Percy, “Your mother’s just off somewhere stoned. Like always.” And he’s none too happy about the baby. He assures Percy that Shelton and his lunatic friends will come for the child. Meantime, Shelton lies to his friends, each a nitwit in his own right, and claims his uncle promises a $5,000 reward for the baby’s return. Still looking for Carletta, Percy, Jenna and Portis, who carries a rifle, take off and skirmish with Shelton and his ilk, each armed with pistols, shotguns and explosives.
You can read my review of Sweetgirl, by Travis Mulhauser, in the Sunday, January 31 edition of the News & Observer by clicking the image below.
You can buy Sweetgirl from Barnes & Noble.
How many novels have you read in which the missing person, in this case a female novelist in her 60s carrying a suitcase and smoking a cigar, was last seen climbing up an almond tree?
You can read my review of Ways to Disappear, by Idra Novey in the Sunday, February 14 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.
You can buy Ways to Disappear from Barnes & Noble.
Soon, children mysteriously show up. Engel finds the first child, an infant they call Moira, in a basket on the kitchen steps. Then other children arrive, including 5-year-old David, who walks in one day, and Melissa, who emerges “when a square of air above the lawn seemed to ripple as though it were silk and a knife had been drawn across it.”
You can read my review of The Children’s Home, by Charles Lambert in the Sunday, January 10 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.
You can buy The Children’s Home from Barnes & Noble.
Edna Ferber’s story from 1917, “The Gay Old Dog,” begins a showcase of 40 stories. Stories by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald hang on the pages of this book like Mona Lisas of early 20th-century American literature, and, with the inclusion of a stingingly funny story by Stanley Elkin, who taught at Washington University, Lisa grins. Stories by Flannery O’Connor, John Cheever, Raymond Carver and Joyce Carol Oates constitute just a few more exhibits from the first part of book.
You can read my review of 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor in the Sunday, December 27 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.
You can buy 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories from Barnes & Noble.
Michael Cunningham opens his new reimagined fairy tale collection by assuring us that most of us are safe from spells and curses, since we can manage our own undoing without giants, witches, or gnomes. Still, we don’t mind seeing trouble fall on the all-too rich and famous, the bold, or beauties now cursed bald and less beautiful, in stories that remake European tales by Hans Christian Anderson, W. W. Jacobs, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, or those collected by the Brothers Grimm.
You can read my review of Michael Cunningham’s Wild Swan and Other Tales in the Sunday, December 20 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.
You can buy A Wild Swan and Other Tales from Barnes & Noble.
Buckley’s story begins with a kind of preface: a news story from Aug. 28, 2017, reporting that an artifact resembling the famed Shroud of Turin, thought to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, had been mysteriously found in the tomb of Pope Leo X. It seems 500 years ago, plenty of shrouds, among other faked artifacts, crowded the market.
You can read my review of Christopher Buckley’s Relic Master in the Sunday, December 15 edition of the Boston Globe by clicking the image below.
You can buy The Relic Master from Barnes & Noble.
It’s one of those situations common enough — you see an old acquaintance or maybe a one-time dear friend and neither of you know how to shatter the silence or begin a conversation. But the reason for this couple’s silence is anything but ordinary — a shocker, really — that’s slowly revealed through the narration and interior monologues by each character.
You can read my review of Jean-Philippe Blondel’s 6:41 to Paris in the Sunday, November 22 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.
You can buy The 6:41 to Paris from Barnes & Noble.
Only 54, Juan Diego walks with a limp and looks at least a decade older. He suffers from heart trouble and erectile dysfunction, for which he takes beta-blockers and Viagra. Their side effects are bad enough, but he often fiddles with the correct dosage and even skips taking his pills. What writer wants his dreams partly censored or blocked? And does a fellow really know when he’ll need a helpful little blue pill, especially if he meets a particularly randy pair of female fans, which Juan Diego does.
You can read my review of John Irving’s Avenue of Mysteries in the Sunday, November 8 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.
You can buy Avenue of Mysteries from Barnes & Noble.
Groff writes with an exuberance, intelligence, and wit that few of her contemporaries possess. Her prose is frank and graceful, but behind her genius lingers a certain darkness in her characters and her plot.
You can buy Groff’s Fates and Furies at Barnes and Noble.
I Refuse is a distressing and moving story involving attempted suicide and child abuse by a despot of a father. Its collateral subjects include despair and, to lesser extent, Christianity versus Socialism. References to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House help explain the abuse in Tommy Berggren’s family that drove Tya to leave; similarly, allusions to John Steinbeck’s novel The Moon Is Down help explain the Christianity-Socialism theme. Despite the inherent bumpiness of reading multiple viewpoint narratives, this story moves along at a nice and captivating pace, but a few narrative chinks and clunks muck up the surface.
You can read my review of Per Petterson’s I Refuse in the August 20 edition of The Daily Beast by clicking the image below.
You can buy Petterson’s I Refuse at Barnes and Noble.
He got people singing and inspired younger performers, including Dylan, to do the same. “For Dylan, as for Pete Seeger,” Wald writes, “the attraction of folk music was that it was steeped in reality, in history, in profound experiences, ancient myths, and enduring dreams. It was not a particular sound or genre; it was a way of understanding the world and rooting the present in the past.”
You can read my review of Dylan Goes Electric!, by Elijah Wald in the July 24 edition of the Boston Globe by clicking the image below.
You can buy Dylan Goes Electric! at Barnes and Noble.
The title of this brilliant allegory comes from Claude Debussy’s prelude for piano “La Cathédrale Engloutie,” which he based on a mythological city in Brittany that was consumed by the sea. When Helen, an art historian, was a young girl, her father told her Debussy’s “?‘The Sunken Cathedral’ is the musical version of Impressionism.” Debussy was Cézanne’s musical counterpart, and as if it were borrowing techniques from the two, Walbert’s novel nudges the reader “to see in the way one must see to be alive” as they try to prepare for The Surge.
You can read my review of Kate Walbert’s Sunken Cathedral in the June 21 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.
You can buy Kate Walbert’s Sunken Cathedral at Barnes and Noble.