Recent Reviews

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Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body Cover Image
Sitting Pretty

DUE IN AUGUST: I flew through Rebekah Taussig’s memoir-in-essays, Sitting Pretty.  Her fresh voice kept me reading for hours—delighted, outraged, embarrassed (with myself, for not being as “inclusive” as I thought), hopeful.  While it contains harsh truths about our ableist society and how we contribute to it, it’s not a lecture, nor is it accusatory.  First and foremost, it’s a lovely account of interabled romance, and not in the “inspirational” way—more like the “previously unimaginable because disabled people are consistently desexualized” way.  She talks about finding balance between self-sufficiency and reliance on others, about the relationship between womanhood and disability, about disability as an identity.  I learned so much—I wish everyone would read this book! Recommended by Mary.

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Tender Is the Flesh Cover Image
Tender Is the Flesh

DUE AUGUST, 2020: In a timely and chilling story, Agustina Bazterrica presents a future where humans are raised as meat after all other animals have been destroyed due to a virus they carried that made them poisonous to humans. Tender Is the Flesh left me troubled and captivated. I keep returning to various scenes in the book, thinking about the characters and whom they have become and how. It raises questions about humanity and who we are and could become, questions emphasized for me by the way the novel’s ending took me by surprise. This is a story you won’t soon forget. Recommended by Nancy

 

 

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The Party Upstairs: A Novel Cover Image
The Party Upstairs

DUE IN JULY: Lee Conell's new novel, The Party Upstairs, offers as much double entendre as its title suggests. New York City apartment super Martin and his daughter Ruby, a twenty-something who has returned home after a series of failed attempts to find meaningful work, are the perfect working class foil for their upstairs neighbors, wealthy Kenneth and his daughter Caroline, who is hosting a party in their penthouse apartment. Always fraught with the sting of inequality, Ruby's and Caroline's long-time friendship  becomes a ticking time bomb threatening to blow up all pretense of civility. Conell's deft handling of time–her collapse of story present and past–mirrors the characters' own preoccupation with past events. The result is nothing short of astonishing, proving that no hatchet is ever completely buried. Recommended by Kelly

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Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir Cover Image
Memorial Drive

DUE IN JULY: Former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey's memoir Memorial Drive not only memorializes her own mother but also the thousands of women killed by domestic abusers. Trethewey has captured her grief on the page with heartbreaking clarity and created a stunning portrait of an intelligent, beautiful woman trapped in a marriage with a wreck of a man with untreated mental illness. Trethewey  bravely weaves themes of racism and the long-term effects of  emotional and physical trauma into a harrowing tapestry. And Memorial Drive's publication couldn't have come at a more poignant time, with many vulnerable women people sheltering in place with their abusers. Recommended by Kelly

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The Wild Laughter Cover Image
The Wild Laughter

DUE IN JULY: Hart’s devotion to his father is complete and leads him to fateful decisions and actions throughout his life. His relationship with his brother Cormac is difficult and tangled. And with his mother, he shares little. It took some time for Caoilinn Hughes’s The Wild Laughter to fully pull me in, but once it did, I was hooked, unable to put it down. This  deceptively thin book holds a full, rich story of many conflicts. There are characters who evoke great sympathy and others who ultimately invite very little. Father, sons, brothers on an unstoppable trajectory towards a powerful ending. Recommended by Nancy

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Mother Land: A Novel Cover Image
Mother Land

DUE IN JULY: What an unexpected delight was reading Leah Franqui's Mother Land during a pandemic. In the midst of the humid overcrowding of Mumbai, India, she creates a claustrophobic setting unlike any Western readers are likely to have encountered. While white ex-pat Rachel's attempts to gain her footing and find her purpose in her husband's native India, her mother-in-law leaves her husband, moves with Rachel and her husband, and takes over the house. This alternately hilarious and moving cultural mash-up produces one of the most unlikely friendships imaginable. Recommended by Kelly

A Delhi Obsession

AUDIO BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH LIBRO.FM: A Delhi Obsession by M. G. Vassanji is a love tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. But for those of us who are not drawn to that genre, it is much more. Vassanji gives us a glimpse into modern-day India with its beauty and turmoil. This complex country serves the perfect backdrop to the complicated yet pure romance of Munir and Mohini. We see the dangers of religious zealotry and fierce nationalism through the lens of this impossible relationship. Vassanji contrasts the perspectives of Mohini, an Indian-born Hindu woman and Munir, a secular Canadian man. The need to label people by religion seems strange and foreign to Munir while being central to Mohini’s world-view. It is the exploration of these different perspectives and the look at modern-day India and her politics and their effects that make this an excellent listen. Recommended by Nancy

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World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments Cover Image
World of Wonders

DUE IN AUGUST: World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil left me buzzing with joy! A brown girl raised among white people, Nezhukumatathil can relate to many of animals featured in this collection of short essays, who, like her, have contrived wondrous adaptations to get along in surroundings that can be less than welcoming. Her poet's eye, irrepressible spirit, and unquenchable love of nature bestow previously untold riches. Highly recommended by Kelly.

 

Murder Is Easy Cover Image
Murder Is Easy

The Libro.fm audio version of one of Christie's lesser known works, Murder Is Easy is just the ticket for listening during a pandemic. The magnificent reader manages 15-plus voices, giving character and individuality to each. Also, the mystery is set in a small English village, and the retired police detective gets help from Marple-esque little old ladies. Delicious escapism. Recommended by Kelly (Purchase at the following link to support the Raven Book Store, https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9780063031241-murder-is-easy).

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Miracle Country: A Memoir Cover Image
Miracle Country

DUE IN JULY: The desert strips people’s souls bare, especially a desert in a warming climate. It makes the most sensitive of them into writers yearning to understand both the things it has taken from them and all it has given. Reminiscent of Terry Tempest Williams’ memoir Refuge, Kendra Atleework’s book, Miracle County, weaves natural history, history, and memoir with elegy for a mother’s life cut short by cancer. We view most elements in Atleework’s narrative through their absence: water, indigenous people, her mother, the one-time stability of a now-shattered family. She makes exquisite beauty of loss. Recommended by Kelly