Category Archives: Staff Pick
A stark tragedy unfolds in Watson’s taut, memorable novel, the winner of the publisher’s National Fiction Prize. During the summer of 1948, a solid, middle-class family in a small Montana town is wrenched apart by scandal, murder and suicide. Narrator David Hayden tells the story as an adult looking back at the traumatic events that scarred yet matured him when he was 12. His pious Lutheran mother informs his father, Wesley, the county sheriff, that David’s uncle Frank, a doctor, has been molesting and raping Native American girls during routine medical exams. Uncle Frank’s latest victim is Marie Little Soldier, the Haydens’ Sioux housekeeper. When Marie dies, presumably of pneumonia, David provides key evidence that implicates his uncle in her murder. Frank is arrested by his brother, who locks the confessed sexual abuser in the basement to save him from the embarrassment of jail. David confronts his uncle’s racism and the evasions and denials his family has constructed to cover up the affair. In crisp, restrained prose, Watson ( In a Dark Time ) indelibly portrays the moral dilemma of a family torn between justice and loyalty; by implication, he also illuminates some dark corners of our national history.
~ Publishers Weekly
A good idea—to have a novelist tell the story of Henry Morrison Flagler, the 19th-century mogul credited with developing Florida as a vacation paradise—goes sadly astray here. Readers hoping to learn about the man will be disappointed, as will those looking for a good yarn about the engineering marvel that is this tale’s centerpiece—Flagler’s creation, in the early 20th century, of a rail line that traversed 153 miles of open ocean to link mainland Florida with Key West. The narrative bumps along, frequently veering off into tantalizing detours that lead nowhere. Standiford presents pages about the power of hurricanes to destroy property and savage the human body, an emphasis that is the book’s undoing: readers are led to believe that storm damage in 1935 was the sole reason for the railroad’s abandonment. This prompts Standiford to argue that Flagler’s undertaking was a “folly” from the start, as his contemporaries claimed, and that his story constitutes a classic “tragedy.” In fact, the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) was undone as much, if not more, by a force Standiford never mentions: the internal combustion engine. After the hurricane of 1935, investors and the government considered rebuilding the FEC, but decided instead on a highway. The book’s conclusion references Shelley’s cautionary poem “Ozymandias,” a gloss on the impermanence of man’s works. The warning might apply to this unsatisfying book. 8 pages of b&w photos.
In these wise and luminous essays, Sanders takes on big themes: living a centered life, our relation to animals and to nature, the survival of human values in our greed-driven commercial culture. The leitmotif is his not-quite-extinguished hope for a livable, sane world offering people a decent future–a hope he nurtures despite the ecological devastation, family breakdown and moral decay he sees. Notable among these 15 adventurous essays are “”Skill,”” a meditation on the life-enhancing use or the misuse of one’s innate talents; “”The Way of Things,”” an attempt to reconcile modern cosmology with ancient beliefs in a divine creator; “”Body Bright,”” a Blakean call for cleansing the doors of perception, reconnecting with the planet and our fellow creatures; and “”Fidelity,”” which explores marriage as an arena for the fulfillment of desire. The thread through this labyrinth of ideas is Sanders’s account of backpacking in the Colorado Rockies with his son whose optimism tempers the fatherly pessimism. Although these beautifully written pieces are reminiscent of Wendell Berry’s essays in their economy, grace and moral passion, Sanders projects his own distinctive voice, at once recognizably Midwestern (he’s from Indiana by way of Ohio) and universal. Editor, Deanne Urmy; agent, John Wright.
I first heard about this book about a month ago and liked the idea of the story immensely. Then I saw the book and fell in love with the jacket and the red edging on the pages. Now, I am about half way through and ready for more of this sad strange story. As the title suggests this is a story about the last werewolf. His name is Jacob Marlowe and he has been a werewolf since the mid-nineteenth century. The story begins when he learns that he is the last werewolf and that an organization of werewolf hunters are close on his heals.
What I like most about this story is that Jacob is not entirely a good person. He kills and eats people, but I want to know more.
Please share your thoughts about this story or any others like this and I’ll return when I have finished it. If you want to know more about the story, here is an excerpt. If you are into book trailers check this out.
In this delicious sequel to The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book , Fforde’s redoubtable (and now throwing-up-pregnant) heroine Thursday Next once again does battle with philistine bibliophobes, taking a furlough from her duties as a SpecOps Literary Detective to vacation in the Well of Lost Plots, the 26 noisome sub-basements of the Great Library. Pursued by her memory-modifying nemesis Aornis Hades, Thursday joins Jurisfiction’s Character Exchange Program, filling in for “Mary,” sidekick to the world-weary detective hero of Caversham Heights , a hilariously awful police procedural. At the imminent launch of UltraWord, the vaunted “Last Word” in Story Operating Systems, Thursday’s friend and mentor Miss Havisham is gruesomely killed, and Thursday gamely sets out to restore order to her underground world, where technophiles ruthlessly recycle unpublished books and sell plot devices and stock characters on the black market. Meanwhile, Aornis is doing her fiendish worst to make Thursday forget Landen, her missing husband and father of her child. If this all sounds a bit confusing, it is—until the reader gets the hang of Fforde’s intricate mix of parody, social satire and sheer gut-busting fantasy. Marvelous creations like syntax-slaughtering grammasites and the murderous Minotaur roam this unusual novel’s pages, and Fforde’s fictional epigraphs, like his minihistory of “book operating systems,” are worth the cover price in themselves. Fforde’s sidesplitting sendup of an increasingly antibookish society is a sheer joy.
A 13-year-old girl’s summer of self-discovery in a rural Southern town unfolds in impressively graceful prose in this poignant first novel. Meg’s summer begins traumatically when she stumbles upon a dead three-year-old girl along the banks of the Little Jordan River. Isidore, the missing infant’s grief-crazed, pregnant mother, attempts suicide; but she later recovers, and Meg helps deliver her next child. The usual rites of adolescence materialize when Meg develops a crush on a neighboring farmboy, who gives Meg her first kiss. Combining lyricism with uncompromising realism, Youmans conjures Meg’s churn of emotions as she copes with her mother, whose latest lover is a cruel, shifty jerk, and with her absentee father, a drunk who abandoned the family for another woman and ran off to teach English in Mexico. Although Youmans-whose work has appeared in Ploughshares, the Little Magazine and other small magazines-doesn’t develop her characters or situations fully, her sensitive portrayal of a girl wise beyond her years, struggling to grow up as she negotiates grim realities, makes this a fine novella.
MacNeil, co-anchor of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS-TV, has always seemed an earnest, traditional sort, and that’s the kind of first novel he has written. It is also, however, warm-hearted, has a thoroughly original background and setting, and offers an offbeat romantic triangle focusing on an unusually appealing heroine. The story begins with a bang–literally, as a munitions ship blows up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1917 in what will be the biggest, most destructive man-made explosion until the atomic bomb. Picking up the pieces in the well-evoked ruined city are young parson Peter Wentworth, an ambitious man in an unhappy marriage, and Stewart MacPherson, a psychiatrist just beginning to treat shell-shocked returning soldiers. The two read a diary accidentally lost in the wreckage, belonging to Julia Robertson, a young, unconventional woman whose beauty and self-acknowledged sensuality ensnares each of them in turn. Such narrative suspense as MacNeil provides involves which man she will choose after her husband dies a hero’s death at the front. But this leisurely, rather creakily plotted novel does not strive for suspense; it is a portrait of a narrow provincial society in its first stirrings of doubt regarding many previously fixed notions: patriotism, religion, cowardice, honor. As such, it brings Halifax and its anguish sensitively to life, and in Julia Robertson creates the kind of woman who will always set men dreaming.