Recent Reviews

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Horse Crazy: The Story of a Woman and a World in Love with an Animal Cover Image
Horse Crazy

DUE IN AUGUST: New York Times journalist Sarah Maslin Nir spoke directly to this particular grown woman who has  always dreamed of owning a horse in her essay collection, Horse Crazy. Owning isn't the right word though. That's not what Nir or any of her readers want to do. Experience, sense, understand, relate to–that's more what anyone who reads these essays will see that someone with a love for all things equine really craves. From her early experience as a horse-infatuated toddler knocked from her first ride--to her experiences as a member of the New York City Parks Enforcement Auxiliary Mounted Patrol, Nir captures not only the struggles and triumphs of her own life but also those of the horses she has loved. This is a terrific, intelligent collection! Recommended by Kelly

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Many People Die Like You Cover Image
Many People Die Like You

DUE IN AUGUST: A good short story collection feeds our desire for interesting characters and good storytelling without demanding a large time commitment. Lina Wolff’s Many People Die Like You certainly meets those criteria. Her characters traverse compelling plots that often take them and us to unexpected and often uncomfortable places. Each of her well-crafted stories ends with enough left unexplained to keep us thinking beyond that last page and with the lingering pleasure of a story well-told. I do not often re-read, but these stories have enough complexity to bring me back to them again. Recommended by Nancy

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Little Family: A Novel Cover Image
Little Family

The legacy of colonialism is ugly, and Ishmael Beah’s Little Family offers a glimpse into some aspects of that legacy. The novel is the story of a group of teens and younger children living homeless, banded together into a family through lack of any other, trying to find their way in an unnamed post-colonial African nation. We catch glimpses into the past lives of the two oldest members of this family, Elimane and Khoudiemata, but the others’ pasts remain more mysterious. In sharp contrast to this little family are the “beautiful people” – the wealthy and powerful. Khoudi, entering into womanhood, is noticed by one of these wealthy people and is taken into their circle, able to seem like one of them thanks to the money earned through Elimani’s recent “hiring” by the shady character William Handkerchief.  Both these connections outside the family set in motion a series of events that will alter everything. Power, corruption, inequality, passion, longing, and love affect every aspect of this moving story. Recommended by Nancy

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The Guest List: A Novel Cover Image
The Guest List

The recording of The Guest List by Lucy Foley kept me hooked through several epic gooseberry picking sessions. (When I didn't have enough berries to carry me through to the end, I had to go pick more.) When all the guests arrive for a supposedly idyllic island wedding, the different voices of numerous voices begin to reveal that the bride's and groom's pasts–infidelities, betrayals, and flagrant abuses of social privilege–have erected a solid obstacle between them and wedded bliss. The patchwork of narratives builds to a stunning crescendo complete with a raging storm and subsequent power outage. Recommended by Kelly

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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