Staff picks from co-owner Lisa Howorth.
This debut novel by a Canadian journalist who has reported on war from Afghanistan to the Black Lives Matter movement imagines a Second Civil War in the US in the years 2074-2093 and its aftermath. Not surprisingly, the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia ("the MAG") secede over oil issues from a Union that has quite literally, mostly due to climate change, deteriorated into a smaller country whose capital is Columbus, Ohio. Mexico has reclaimed its old territories, a president has been assassinated, the Mississippi River is now the Mississippi Sea... Well-drawn southerners struggle to keep body and soul together and to undermine the northern aggressors One woman in particular, Sarat, emerges as a hero but....no spoilers! Compelling and scary.
LOL! Recent UM Grisham writer and Jacksonian Miller writes stories about characters and situations to which the cool, frenchy expressions apply: ennui, malaise, je ne sais quoi. Her young women slouch through their days with men who in one way or another seem not up to snuff, but what exactly is the right snuff they're looking for? Even when her ladies care, they don't. Perceptive and hilarious. Hail Mary!
These linked stories, "beautifully crafted," as Adam Johnson says, are set in the bright here and now in the very old world of Mobile and the Alabama coast. Knight knows the place and its history intimately and nails his many characters from Cashdollar, a feckless thief, to Dean and Kendra Walker, a Fairhope attorney and his Sweet Briar-grad wife, to Sister Benedicta, a refugee teacher at Our Lady of the Roses, to the Tenpenny Brothers, old-school owners of the Dauphin Bar and Grill. Their lives are not so unusual—home invasion, perfect parties, real estate, guns, an impending storm—but like any meticulously created fictional world so much is revealed in that very ordinariness. A great read by yet another UM Grisham writer!
From the author of the delicious 1930s period piece, Rules of Civility, comes this lively novel set in post-revolution Moscow. Count Alexander Rostov, worldly aristocrat and enemy-of-the-people expects to be "put against the wall" or incarcerated in the hellhole of Lubyanka when called before the People's Commissariat. Instead, he is sentenced to live the rest of his life in the Metropol Hotel where he has been living for four years. But—no longer will he be in the swank Room 317—he's assigned to a bleak attic room and the state takes his elegant furnishings. He will be shot if he ever leaves the hotel. The wily Rostov makes the best of things in this tale peopled by an Eloise-like 9 year old, a group of novice ballerinas, a famous actress, an old beekeeping custodian, an orphan, a musician prince, and numerous hotel employees who befriend him. Drama, intrigue, food and wine talk!
Ann Patchett’s tenth book is a charming novel about Franny Keating and her devolving, dysfunctional blended family over half a century. Set in California and Virginia, both of which are beautifully rendered, Patchett nails the vagaries and sadness of children trying to get on at the hands of sometimes loving, self-absorbed adults. Franny grows up to become the lover of a famous writer who appropriates her family’s history for a novel, causing her surviving siblings to disengage from one another over truth and perspective, and to whom do a family’s stories belong? Funny, poignant, and sharply observant—I think it’s Patchett’s best book yet.
Ross King, author of the very wonderful Brunelleschi’s Dome, takes on Monet, and the fascinating story behind the creation, in the last decade of his life, of the enormous water lily paintings that reside in the Orangerie in Paris. King brings Monet to life in his old age, living quietly in his paradise at Giverny. Given to bouts of discouragement and rage (he slashed or burned many canvases), his vision obscured by cataracts, Monet worked obsessively until his death at 86. King focuses on life in the French countryside during WWI and on Monet’s relationship with his closest friend, Georges Clemenceau, war hero and Prime Minister of France, who kept Monet buoyed up with frequent lunches, drinking, smoking, and amusing correspondence. Clemenceau was instrumental in Monet’s donation of the water lily panels to the people of France, although their friendship nearly ended when year after year Monet would not, or could not, let go of the paintings. Highly recommended for art and WWI buffs.
He’s out there again--the coyote in the backyard of contemporary literature. Powell creates characters and tales that strike you as so real, yet surreal, and are rendered in language that somehow is stark but also stunningly intricate and profound. His original and wildly comic existential prose shows that Donald Barthelme and Barry Hannah are his closest literary kin--a rare pack to run with.
Michael Hastings, the kick-ass young journalist of the McCrystal affair and the first to write about Bowe Bergdahl in Rolling Stone in 2012, died last year in a car wreck. In his file was the manuscript for this novel, edited by his widow, Elise Jordan. Loosely based on Hastings’ experiences in the magazine world, it is a biting commentary full of guts, sex, and arrogant or off-kilter characters. A great read, realistically animating the intense and crazy world of political journalism.
A cool little memoir about the author's family textile company in Tuscany and its struggle to survive in an new Italian economy troubled by outsourcing, corrupt politics, and poorly paid workers. Revealing and engaging.