Spring Reading List

In Do, March 2018 by Jane Porter

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Crime and marriage to time travel – check out these new titles.

As suggested by the staff of Quail Ridge Books

From Mamie Potter: After reading an advance copy of A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee (Norton $25.95), I felt stunned (this is not hyperbole). When I finished the last powerful, one-sentence chapter, I went back and read the first chapter again, and realized how skillfully Mukherjee had laid the groundwork for the novel and its intricacy. Even now, as I’m writing this review, I’m thinking about the characters, wondering how in the world I’m going to find something to read next. Make time to read this book.

Tayari Jones’ new novel, An American Marriage (Algonquin $26.95), is an exposition on the criminal justice system in our country in general, and in Louisiana, where the incarceration rates are exceptionally high and disproportionately biased toward minorities. The marriage of Celestial and Roy is put to the test when he is falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned. Through letters, the couple tries to salvage their marriage and prove Roy’s innocence, facing obstacles both within their families and without. This book is full of the unexpected and the expected, but an “expected” that we cannot continue to find acceptable. I found myself deeply sympathetic to the couple’s helplessness and the strain it put on their relationship. An excellent choice for book clubs, the novel has just been chosen as the new Oprah Book Club selection, and we have a limited number of signed copies on hand.

From Ken Norris : Matt Haig is one of my favorite authors simply because, in all his books. he asks and answers the really hard question — What the hell is going on? — whether you’re an alien who finds himself transplanted into human society (The Humans) or a teenage girl who finds she’s a vampire (The Radleys). In Haig’s new novel, How to Stop Time (Viking $26), Tom Hazard looks like a regular 41-year-old man. But at the time of the novel’s narration he is some 400 years old as a result of a curious condition that causes him to age only one year for every 15. What Hazard and the reader experience is the human condition attenuated almost beyond bearing — not only the amplification of love, joy, loss, and grief but also the intensification of alienation, of always remaining an outsider, necessitated by centuries of life, something for which humans are ill equipped.

From Jon Carroll Thomas : The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch (G.P. Putnam’s Sons $27). This apocalyptic time-travel noir draws from a very deep and dark well. It is brutal, poetic, and very, very exciting. I particularly enjoyed its strong female characters and the “messiness” of time-travel and alternate realities. Highly recommended for mystery and sci-fi fans. This is Sweterlitsch’s second novel and he continues to be an author to watch.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (Holtzbrinck $28.99) is a powerful, compelling story of survival – survival of the natural elements and of the human spirit. It’s 1974, and 13-year-old Leni Allbright lives with her devoted mother, Cora, and abusive father, Ernt, who was a prisoner of war during Vietnam. America is changing after the war, and Ernt thinks their best chance at a fresh start is to move off the grid, to America’s last frontier – Alaska. Grizzlies, wolves, and dropping temperatures are Leni’s worries outside of her family’s cabin, but as Ernt’s battle with his demons rages on, it’s no safer inside. The result is a beautifully descriptive, heart-wrenching adventure.

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantu (Riverhead $26). Cantu personalizes the U.S.-Mexican border and all of its complexity in a way I’ve never seen. His writing is beautiful, with haunting and detailed descriptions of the desert, the immigrants, the cartels, and his own fears about violence and identity confusion. The criminalization of searching for a better life and the dehumanization of the process is looked at from several angles, and his journalistic approach does not make judgments, but clearly tells the facts. A great new writer to follow.

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