book review

07/09/2020
(Grove Press) A 2019 National Book Award winner and a New York Times Top 10 Book, Sarah Broome’s “The Yellow House” is the history of a home, the story of a family, a treatise on urban planning, and a deeply personal memoir — all in one extraordinary package. Broome constructs an inviting narrative around the little shotgun house in East New Orleans that her mother purchased in 1963 at the age of nineteen, and where she raised twelve children before it was demolished by the city after Hurricane Katrina. The attributes of the house itself — its structure, site, décor — are a kaleidoscopic lens...
07/02/2020
(Tor Teen) To amplify Black voices, it is important to read beyond the (still very important) contextual Black history and anti-racism books; it is important to read great stories that are written by Black authors with captivating Black characters, like this one. The secretly magical teens at the heart of this story engage with and comment on some of the same social issues we are grappling with today: racism, prejudice and oppression. In Tavia and Effie’s world, not all teens are treated equally. Sirens are forced to hide themselves, or wear silencing collars, to avoid persecution. Tavia, a...
06/25/2020
(Knopf Publishing Group)   When an inflammatory social media post gets a young woman arrested, the story begins. Set in contemporary India, Jivan is a young Muslim woman accused of committing a terrorist attack on the train station near her home in the slums. Lovely, who is marginalized even beyond living almost as an exile, and PT Sir, Jivan’s former gym teacher who was most impressed with Jivan when he was her instructor, could both be instrumental in her salvation, but are they willing to risk their own comforts to do so? Three characters’ stories, told from three points of view, each...
06/18/2020
(Vintage)   Raphael Bob-Waksberg, creator of “BoJack Horseman,” delivers quirky, dark, surreal stories of love in a stunningly original and creative collection. Take the story, “A Most BLESSED and AUSPICIOUS OCCASION,” which features common quandaries for couples in the depths of planning a wedding, agonizing over details, being bombarded by well-meaning family members’ opinions, trying to balance obligations and expectations while retaining control of this celebration of love. This is a raucous and hilarious story. The couple is compelled to ask themselves: do we really need to have the...
06/11/2020
(Pantheon Books) There came a time in Helen Jukes' life when the natural world felt slightly “out of kilter,” and she was struck with a pervasive restlessness, so she embarked on a new pastime, an outlet to occupy her, to keep her grounded. Having spent a short but profound period of time assisting an experienced beekeeper, and now living in a small house at the outskirts of town, complete with an overgrown, brambly back garden, she blithely chose to get a beehive. She begins her quest with research, uncovering historical references to bees and honey as far back as Aristotle and Virgil, (as a...
06/04/2020
(Riverhead Books) From the very first page, Brit Bennett will pull you in; she is such an impressive storyteller. The story begins in the town of Mallard, a small southern black community, where everyone knows the Vignes girls, twin sisters Desiree, the restless one and Stella, the studious one. When their mother makes them quit school at sixteen to clean houses with her, Stella starts to find Desiree's ideas of running away from Mallard much more compelling. We first meet Desiree when folks in town spot her returning home, on the run from an abusive husband, and now a mother herself, to...
05/28/2020
(Riverhead Books) Five children in an unnamed postcolonial African port city, having fled their previous lives riddled with unspoken struggles, come together, one by one, to form a little family of their own, one that cares for, protects, and provides for its members. They are clever, surviving day to day by acts of petty thievery, and living, clandestinely in the shell of a downed plane; wary and guarded, they create a code to alert the others by whistling certain phrases. The two eldest — Elimane, who teaches the other children factual history from an ever-present book, and Khoudi, a young...
05/21/2020
(Woods Edge Press) Weybridge author, as well as a former teacher, bookseller and Middlebury College graduate, Susan Humphrey lost her second son, Dan, to an extremely rare form of cancer. As a means of sharing news with friends and family, Susan began writing letters, and the letters became a means of chronicling her sorrow and loss, a process to aid in coping with her reality, and a way forward to acceptance. Susan describes her intention in one passage after Dan’s passing, regarding what she would tell people going through the grieving process: be open, pay attention to the signs and find a...
05/14/2020
(Knopf Publishing Group) The premise of Lawrence Wright’s apocalyptic new thriller is eerily familiar: a mysterious new virus turned global pandemic infects untold numbers of people as scientists race to stop it. Microbiologist Henry Parsons, a smart, driven man, passionate about his science, centers the story, risking his life to fight the disease. But who would want to read such a book at a time like this? This reader was surprised to find the book oddly comforting and informative; this particular flu strain was far more deadly than the one we are dealing with in reality, and the ingenuity...
05/07/2020
(Catapult) Curious readers will discover inside information about “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” but this deeply personal and intimate account of one man’s single-minded pursuit of a career as a performer is pure François Clemmons. Director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir and Artist in Residence at Middlebury College before his retirement, Clemmons chronicles his early childhood and family history, his education and training, the numerous obstacles, racial and otherwise, he encountered along the way, and the faith and perseverance required to bring his voice to the world. He...

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