The best new books this month chosen by us and other
independent booksellers across the country.

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick...

Exit West

By Mohsin Hamid

(Riverhead Books 9780735212176, $26)

"Exit West will take your breath away as it magically weaves together a story of falling in love while the world falls apart. Spirited Nadia captures the heart of the thoughtful Saeed, but as their different paths in life converge, ordinary life gives way to the insults of war. Mohsin Hamid conveys the story of these young refugees with tenderness, humanizing the horrors that we too often see as merely headlines. As chaos touches so many lives around the globe, Hamid writes eloquently of the beauty found in our struggle to survive. This is more than a timely story; this is a remarkable work of art."
--Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick Author Interview

photo: Jillian Edelstein

The novel Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books), chosen by independent booksellers as the number-one Indie Next List pick for March 2017, follows a young couple, Nadia and Saeed, as they leave everything behind to join the droves of migrants fleeing their war-torn country.

Hamid is the author of a book of essays, Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches From Lahore, New York, and London (Riverhead Books), and the novels How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (Riverhead Books), a March 2013 Indie Next List pick; The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harvest Books), an April 2007 Book Sense pick (the precursor to the Indie Next List) and a Man Booker Prize finalist; and Moth Smoke (Riverhead Books), his debut.

"I've felt this sense of dislocation and of being a migrant my whole life," said Hamid about what inspired him to write Exit West. At the age of three, Hamid moved from Pakistan to California, then back to Pakistan at nine, again to America at 18 to study, to the United Kingdom at 30, and once again to Pakistan, where he lives now.

"When I moved back to Pakistan, it struck me that so many people I met wanted to leave," he said. It was Hamid's many encounters with people who asked him why he returned to Pakistan that turned into the seed for Exit West; he began to imagine what would happen if the many people who wanted to leave his country suddenly could.

In many ways, said Hamid, the modern country of America is the result of people fleeing places they felt they needed to leave. "We think of that as an easy step, but it isn't really an easy step to leave behind your family, your parents, your loved ones, your language, your food, your music, and to go somewhere far away. It's a very difficult decision, a very painful decision," he said.

People who leave their homes and families really only do so when times are so difficult that they must, he noted. "Just like Irish Americans came en masse after the potato famine in Ireland, there are people in the world today who face equally bleak circumstances," said Hamid. "Many times when you live in a peaceful, comfortable place it's hard to imagine that sense of being trapped."

In Exit West, Nadia and Saeed make their way through secretive "black doors"--portals that bring them and other migrants to safer countries, such as Greece, England, and America. As they move from migrant camp to migrant camp in search of a final home, they encounter and make connections with other people from their homeland, a country Hamid chose to keep nameless.

"I wanted to open up the possibility of where it was, so that many different readers could imagine it being potentially their own country and their own city," said Hamid. While he was thinking of his home city of Lahore while writing, he said, "I just didn't have the heart to write about such a tragedy befalling Lahore. I just couldn't bring myself to do that, even fictionally, to the place where I live."

In contrast to the gravity and reality of the couple's journey throughout the novel, the "black doors" that Nadia and Saeed move through transport them to these new countries in just an instant. That element may not conform with the laws of physics, said Hamid, but it does have an emotional truth that he wanted to convey.

"We think about the saga to get to a place, but often that's just a tiny part of the story, even though it gets so much of our attention," said Hamid. "The bigger part of the story is what happens before you move, and what happens when you get to the place you think you're going to. The few days or weeks of perilous transit--although it seems like a great story, the stuff of great narratives--actually isn't really the experience. The real experience starts when you arrive."

Hamid's own world is filled with people who have experienced the effects of migration, he explained; while his four grandparents all lived their adult lives and died in the city of Lahore, just half of their children live there, and only a third or a quarter of their grandchildren, his generation, remain. "One hears the stories and meets the people. The experience of migration is all around us," he said. "The emotional register of it is present even if you're not in such a desperate situation as Saeed and Nadia are."

"The one important strand in the novel is my belief that everyone is a migrant, and this, actually, is something that unites us," said Hamid, noting that we tend to think of ourselves as locals versus foreigners, migrants versus natives, but we all migrate through time.

"Everybody, as they get older, feels that they live in a world that's at least partially unrecognizable to them," he said. Exit West, Hamid explained, "is a love story that tries to touch upon the shared sense of migration we all participate in. What you take away from that is up to you, but, hopefully, it establishes this shared humanity of migration."

People around the world hear many stories coming out of America, but Americans tend to hear just one story about Pakistan. His home country, said Hamid, is just as varied and diverse as America. "We have bookstores and libraries and art galleries and universities and schools and young couples in restaurants. There are also Taliban insurgents and deserts and bleak mountains and a terrorist attack in Lahore just yesterday," he said. "And these things coexist. If you imagine just how diverse and different America is--El Paso from Yonkers, Honolulu from Topeka--Pakistan is just as diverse, if not more so."

Pakistan also has a varied literary culture. This month, the Lahore Literary Festival, for which Hamid serves as an advisor, will feature among its many regional writers Nigerian-American author Teju Cole and British actor Michael Palin; in the past, the festival has welcomed New York Times columnist Roger Cohen and The Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler.

Bookstores in Pakistan are much like they are in the U.S. or U.K., said Hamid. The Last Word, a bookstore in Lahore, is full of the latest hardcover and paperback fiction, nonfiction, and children's books. "People from America who have a favorite indie bookshop wouldn't find it at all dissimilar to what they're used to," said Hamid.

The same goes for Readings, which carries a broad set of books--from science fiction to comic books, literary fiction to nonfiction, and news and current affairs. Readings, said Hamid, reminds him of a smaller version of Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, as it also shelves used books side-by-side with new.

Beyond Pakistan, that area of the world has enormous veneration for writers and poets, said Hamid. In his experience, when talking about being a writer in the West, the question often comes up as to whether one can make a living off it; conversely, in Pakistan, "if you say you're a writer, the first and most powerful reaction you usually get from people is a gesture of respect; how wonderful you dedicate your life to something like this," said Hamid.

"I've always been struck by that," he said. "The instinctive reaction isn't that a writer is somebody who is seeking fame or fortune but somebody who has chosen to commit themselves to a project that benefits humanity." --Sydney Jarrard for INL

More Indie Next List Great Reads

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

By Michael Finkel

(Knopf 9781101875681, $25.95)

"This is the fascinating true story of Christopher Knight, who lived in the Maine woods for 27 years and survived by stealing supplies from vacation cabins while living in extreme conditions to avoid detection. After more than 1,000 burglaries, he was finally caught and partially reintegrated into society. His story is told together with the history of hermits and those who have sought solitude in order to have insight. Chris defies psychological profiling, and it's amazing Finkel was even able to interview him to write this book. This level of solitude would drive most people insane, but for Chris, it seems like an almost pure contemplative state. An excellent read."
--Todd Miller, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI

A Piece of the World

By Christina Baker Kline

(William Morrow 9780062356260, $27.99)

"A Piece of the World is a beautifully rendered novel about the life of Christina Olson, the inspiration for Andrew Wyeth's famous painting Christina's World. Moving back and forth between Christina's childhood and her long-term relationship with Wyeth during her middle years, A Piece of the World captures the internal struggles of a young woman living with a physically debilitating disease in rural Maine. Baker Kline does a masterful job of giving us insight into a fiercely independent woman who has suffered so many disappointments but still manages to create a fulfilling life for herself and inspire those around her with her strength."
--Phyllis Spinale, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

Celine

By Peter Heller

(Knopf 9780451493897, $25.95)

"There should be an excused absence from life when a new Peter Heller novel is released to the world. There is a pace and a quality to his writing that will make you want to drink it down in one gulp. Heller's strong narrative voice and complex plotting have always stood out to me and Celine is another example of this. Loosely based on Heller's mother, Celine is a hard-nosed--if a bit worn down--private investigator living in post-9/11 Brooklyn. She has a stellar reputation, but when she is sent on a case to locate a young woman's missing father, it's clear that her age (and lifestyle) has caught up with her. You will fall in love with Celine and connect with everyone who populates this book. I would give just about anything to follow her on more adventures."
--Katelyn Phillips, WORD, Jersey City, NJ

Edgar and Lucy

By Victor Lodato

(St. Martin's Press 9781250096982, $27.99)

"Edgar and Lucy is about a terribly broken family that faces crisis after crisis yet never gives up trying to be a family. The main narrator is eight-year-old Edgar, a child brilliant beyond his years but who has a problem relating to almost everyone except his grandmother, Florence. Edgar's mother, Lucy, loves him in her own way but thanks to Florence, Lucy really doesn't need to make much of an effort. When Florence dies, everything changes. A stunning novel, dark at times, raw and bold, written with an uncanny feel for life and death, Edgar and Lucy kept me spellbound waiting for its conclusion but unwilling for the story to end."
--Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

One of the Boys

By Daniel Magariel

(Scribner 9781501156168, $22)

"The intensity of this novel is such that you'll be relieved that it is not longer than its 176 powerful pages. When 'the war' with his wife ends, a man uses devious methods to win custody of his two sons, 12 and 14, packs them in his Jeep, and heads from Kansas to start a new life in Albuquerque. The boys are aware that their father uses drugs, but their loyalty to him and their youth keep them trapped in a home that soon becomes little more than a torture chamber as their father sinks further into his addiction. Narrated in excruciating detail by the younger son, this is a moving story about how parent/child love can be turned on its head by drug abuse. Excellent writing keeps one riveted in hope that the boys will survive."
--Alice Meloy, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

Rabbit Cake

By Annie Hartnett

(Tin House Books 9781941040560, $15.95, trade paper)

"When Eva Rose Babbitt, mother of daughters Lizzie, 15, and Elvis, 10, drowns while sleep-swimming, her daughters are left to fend for themselves emotionally while their father tends to his grief by wearing his wife's bathrobe and lipstick. Elvis stays up at night, trying to keep Lizzie, a sleepwalker and sleep-eater, from burning the house down with her nocturnal 'cooking.' But Elvis doesn't trust the circumstances of her mother's death and is determined to finish her mother's book, The Sleep Habits in Animals and What They Tell Us About Our Own Slumber, so she does a little research of her own. Annie Hartnett has created endearing and memorable characters in a delightfully original story that is sure to become a beloved favorite of readers everywhere."
--Kris Kleindienst, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO

Abandon Me

By Melissa Febos

(Bloomsbury USA 9781632866578, $26)

"Melissa Febos has one of those minds that's as good at describing scenes as it is at clearly breaking down a complicated idea or articulating ambivalence. Abandon Me is a powerhouse collection--each essay can be enjoyed on its own, but taken together, they form a striking autobiographical portrait of a talented young writer and thinker. You won't want to abandon a voice this powerful, and you won't forget it either."
--John Francisconi, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

The Hearts of Men

By Nickolas Butler

(Ecco 9780062469687, $26.99)

"If you read Shotgun Lovesongs, you know that two of Butler's strengths are his rich Wisconsin settings and his ability to probe the depths of men's friendships. His new novel, an epic about three generations at a Boy Scout camp in the North Woods, takes it to the next level. It starts with the bullied Nelson, who finds purpose in the Scouts and winds up running the camp, and Jonathan, the older boy who becomes both his manipulator and protector. Their complicated friendship unfolds through Jonathan's son Trevor and grandson Thomas, who both wind up spending summers at Chippewa, but what's a Scout to do when the Scout Oath doesn't always hold up in reality? Is there a place for honor when nobody wants to get a stamp-collecting or radio merit badge? In Butler's hands, the answers unfold, all in the context of a heck of a good story."
--Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Close Enough to Touch

By Colleen Oakley

(Gallery Books 9781501139260, $24.99)

"It was just a kiss, but it nearly killed her. Jubilee is allergic to people. She can't be touched by strangers, well-meaning or not. She retreats into her shell, away from the world, but her high school years pass, then her parents are gone, and, finally, she must move out into the world or die. She finds a home for her quiet life in a library, until Eric finds her and insists that she discover the truth of a life lived without fear. Close Enough is filled with real life, real people, and the search for happiness that we all recognize. It is a truly moving story from a rare gem of an author."
--Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, WA

The Fall of Lisa Bellow

By Susan Perabo

(Simon & Schuster 9781476761466, $25.99)

"I was surprised by the lasting impact of this novel. Though it speaks to a horrible crime, it is not the crime that becomes the plot, but rather the crime's impact. This book is an intimate look at adolescence--of how gritty and hard it can be. Through Meredith's eyes, we are reminded of the tug-of-war between needing family and needing independence, the way that friendship and loyalty can get lost in the status wars of high-school cliques, and how innocence and wisdom twist together to leave behind something much more complex. I loved this book for its intimacy rather than its sensationalism."
--Susan McCloskey, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Eggshells

By Caitriona Lally

(Melville House 9781612195971, $16.99)

"This quirky little novel is such a delight! Reading Irish authors is typically a bit of a struggle for me--their style is almost too unusual at times. With Eggshells, I felt like I was reading an incredibly charming yet melancholy story while also poking around in the deep recesses of the mind of an exceptionally vivid personality. You will laugh, you will raise your eyebrows, and your heart will break as you follow Vivian around on her daily wanderings as she tries desperately to find the 'other world' where she belongs. Lally has made it so easy to walk around in someone else's very unique shoes--a subtle lesson in empathy that can always be re-learned."
--Hannah Hyde, Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, GA

Never Let You Go

By Chevy Stevens

(St. Martin's Press 9781250034564, $26.99)

"Ten years ago: Lindsay Nash is trapped in an abusive marriage with a man who has threatened to kill her if she runs. Today: Lindsay is a successful small-business owner and a single mom raising her teenage daughter. When her ex-husband is released from jail, however, the terror starts all over again as Lindsay and her daughter are stalked and skillfully manipulated. Her ex swears it isn't him--but is there any chance he has really changed? This fast-paced thriller will leave you guessing right up to the end!"
--Carrie Deming, The Dog Eared Book, Palmyra, NY

Setting Free the Kites

By Alex George

(G.P. Putnam's Sons 9780399162107, $27)

"This heartfelt and compelling novel from A Good American author Alex George is a story of friendship, loss, and how we deal with grief, a story about how a single friendship can change us forever. Yet again, George has developed beautiful, layered characters and you will quickly fall in love with Nathan, Robert, and Liam in blustery seaside Maine in the 1970s. You will hear the excitement each hot, blistering summer of children and families visiting the amusement park owned by Robert's family. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will grieve, but you will not be disappointed."
--Amanda Zirn, Bethany Beach Books, Bethany Beach, DE

All Grown Up

By Jami Attenberg

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 9780544824249, $25)

"Though Andrea Berg hasn't hit society's milestones for adulthood--no husband, no baby, an anemic career--she is clearly 'all grown up,' and in Jami Attenberg's wonderful new novel, she struggles to define her place to the wider world, her family, and herself. In funny, often poignant vignettes of one woman's life, All Grown Up perceptively explores what it means to be an adult."
--Sarah Baline, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC

Ill Will

By Dan Chaon

(Ballantine Books 9780345476043, $28)

"Ill Will is a house of mirrors reflecting intergenerational psychodramas in which the abuses of a parent insidiously infect subsequent generations. Violent parricide, false memories, drugs, and sex fuel a double plot line and vivid character development and taut dialogue propel the reader as scene shifts blur the roles of the offender and the injured. Chaon adroitly leads us through a literary haunted house, then leaves us to find our own way out."
--Bill Fore, Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, CT

The Wanderers

By Meg Howrey

(G.P. Putnam's Sons 9780399574634, $27)

"In The Wanderers, Meg Howrey brilliantly weaves together the vastness of outer space with the intimacy of human nature. Howrey's characters are artfully drawn--full of strengths and failings and each yearning for something in their relationships with others. The Mars simulation at the center of the story represents an exciting new frontier for human beings, but Howrey's astronauts demonstrate that even those driving the larger quest for human greatness are flawed individuals leading complicated lives. This is a wonderfully introspective novel on the meaning of space exploration and what we learn about ourselves when facing the unknown."
--Kelsey O'Rourke, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

White Tears

By Hari Kunzru

(Knopf 9780451493699, $26.95)

"An unsettling, grungy, gorgeous tale of white appropriations of black culture, legacy, and memory, of the harrowing effects of racism through the years, of a haunting that resonates through generations through a blues song that should have been stamped on vinyl, that maybe was but never was. This is a story of the costs of a lack of reparations, of money and power and powerlessness, all tied up in the viscerally kinetic prose of an author writing about obsession. Beautiful, ugly, indelible writing makes this a book I won't soon forget."
--Gretchen Treu, A Room of One's Own Bookstore, Madison, WI

The Mother's Promise

By Sally Hepworth

(St. Martin's Press 9781250077752, $26.99)

"The Mother's Promise is an emotional story of a mother's love for her teenage daughter, who is struggling with severe social anxiety. Alice and her daughter, Zoe, cope with their problems until Alice becomes critically ill and is faced with a heartbreaking prognosis. She turns to two strangers for help with Zoe and her future. As the relationship among Zoe and these women evolves, they all confront their own personal problems and secrets. This beautifully written story will move readers to tears of grief, compassion, and, at its conclusion, hope."
--Fran Duke, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham, MA

WHEREAS: Poems

By Layli Long Soldier

(Graywolf Press 9781555977672, $16, trade paper)

"When pain is obvious but goes unrecognized, it feels like trying to strain salt from sugar. With the poems in WHEREAS, Layli Long Soldier engages with where she's 'from' through history and memory, analysis and reflection. Her mission? To stay angry--to declare, 'I'm here I'm not / numb to a single dot.' From rants and dreams and one lexical box to a pantomime of legalese, Long Soldier is agile, aware, and not asking for pity. She aims, instead, for action--'whereas speaking, itself, is defiance.' "
--Annalia Luna, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

The Atomic Weight of Love

By Elizabeth J. Church

(Algonquin Books 9781616206901, $15.95)

"Church deftly traces the life of Meridian Wallace, an intelligent young woman who is searching for who she is and what she wants to become. As America braces for entrance into WWII, Meri falls for the ambitious Alden Whetstone, a much older but brilliant scientist. Aspiring to be a 'good wife,' Meri abandons her own academic pursuits in ornithology to follow Alden to Los Alamos, but the years that follow are filled with dashed hopes and compromises. Over the decades of her marriage, Meri attempts to fill the void of unrealized dreams by making a home and reclaiming her sense of self. Filled with sharp, poignant prose, the novel mimics the birds Meri studies, following her as she struggles to find her wings, let go, and take flight. Church gives readers a thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of the sacrifices women make in life and the courage needed for them to soar on their own."
--Anderson McKean, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL

Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

By Steve Olson

(W.W. Norton 9780393353587, $16.95)

"Eruption is everything a nonfiction book should be: Marvelous storytelling mixed with a great cast of characters, fascinating science, and little-known history. Anyone with even a passing interest in the Pacific Northwest or volcanoes will love this book. I read it in three long, satisfying gulps, and, like all great books, its stories linger in the mind long after you've read the last page."
--Tom Campbell, The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

By Chris Cleave

(Simon & Schuster 9781501124389, $16)

"Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, from best-selling author Cleave, is storytelling at its finest. Ranging from the decimated streets of London after the Nazi blitz in WWII to the barren island of Malta under siege, Cleave's mastery is to introduce readers to characters in the midst of chaos who bring humanity to the sordid landscape of war. A book that will leave you both laughing and crying on the same page, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven reminds readers about the power of the novel in telling the fascinating stories of everyday people living in extraordinary times."
--Casey Protti, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

The Gun

By Fuminori Nakamura,

Allison Markin Powell (Transl.)

(Soho Crime 9781616957681, $14.95)

"Alienation and obsession are dissected in this unsettling, spare novel. Nishikawa, a listless college student, happens upon a dead man during a nighttime walk. He inexplicably picks up the pistol lying by the body and brings it to his apartment. Nishikawa finds his tedious reality taking on new meaning through the possibilities of an object that was designed to kill, and yet he must conceal his fetish from his classmates, lovers, and--most importantly--the police, who suspect that he has the gun. This award-winning noir novel, translated from Japanese, is an unflinching, dark story of one man's expanding consciousness--and threat."
--Cindy Pauldine, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, NY

Heat and Light

By Jennifer Haigh

(Ecco 9780061763496, $14.99)

"Haigh has been building a body of work around Bakerton, Pennsylvania, for more than a decade. In this new novel, she once again unleashes the sweep of historical forces as out-of-state companies look to drill for natural gas deposits. There is hope among residents that the future will be brighter, but there is also risk that they will just end up victims of greed and further environmental ruin. This is a big, issue oriented book, but its success is found in the brilliance with which Haigh crafts her characters and makes their lives a vehicle for looking at the moral, political, environmental, and economic questions about fracking."
--Anmiryam Budner, Main Point Books, Bryn Mawr, PA

I'm Thinking of Ending Things

By Iain Reid

(Gallery/Scout Press 9781501126949, $14.99)

"With his debut novel, Reid sets an extremely high bar for all future psychological thrillers. The entire story takes place in little over 24 hours as Jake and his girlfriend travel to meet and have dinner with his parents. Narrated by the unnamed girlfriend, something unsettling surfaces early and builds with the passage of every page. Readers will become riveted, reading faster and faster as the 'unsettling' becomes frightening, and then terrifying. Recommended for all who enjoy a good mind-twisting scare!"
--Nancy Simpson-Brice, The Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

Lab Girl

By Hope Jahren

(Vintage 9781101873724, $16)

"This book has it all: nature, love, science, drama, heartbreak, joy, and plenty of dirt. Not since Cheryl Strayed's Wild have I read such a rich and compelling nonfiction narrative. Lab Girl is the story of Jahren's life in science, and her writing on the wonders of nature will renew your sense of awe. But more than that, it is an exploration of friendship, mental illness, parenthood, and the messiness of life. The only flaw--these pages fly by too quickly, leaving you wondering what you could possibly read next that will be just as good."
--Pete Mulvihill, Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA

Lilac Girls

By Martha Hall Kelly

(Ballantine Books 9781101883082, $17)

"Lilac Girls is a powerful and moving debut told through the voices of three women during World War II. Caroline is a New York socialite working at the French consulate and sending care packages to French orphans. Kasia, a young Polish girl, is arrested for helping the underground resistance and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Herta is the only female German surgeon stationed at Ravensbrück. The way these three women's lives intersect both during and after the war will grip you and tug at your heartstrings. I would recommend this to anyone who loved Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale."
--Melissa Law, Island Bookstore, Corolla, NC

Most Wanted

By Lisa Scottoline

(St. Martin's Griffin 9781250010148, $15.99)

"An infertile couple decides to use a sperm donor to create the perfect family they have always wanted. When the wife sees a picture of a man who looks very similar to their donor on the evening news, the story is set in motion. Could their donor be a serial killer? Christine will stop at nothing to find out who the biological father is, even if it means the end of her marriage. This latest novel of suspense from the bestselling Scottoline is fast-paced and will keep readers guessing until the end!"
--Sarah Harmuth Letke, Redbery Books, Cable, WI

Shelter

By Jung Yun

(Picador 9781250118097, $16)

"Shelter is the perfect example of that extraordinary kind of story that careens down a path toward a conclusion that feels somehow both completely surprising and totally inevitable. Kyung Cho is a young father whose anxiety over present financial concerns couples with damage from past traumas to inhabit every breath he takes. His precarious equilibrium is shattered when his parents are the victims of a cruel act of violence and he is called upon to react with a compassion and forgiveness that he may not possess. This novel is a dark and moving portrait of a family and what it ultimately means to love."
--Mary Cotton, Newtonville Books, Newton Centre, MA

The Summer Before the War

By Helen Simonson

(Random House 9780812983203, $17)

"Witty, engaging, elegiac, and tragic--with this tale Simonson has once again captured our hearts. Set in an East Sussex village in the summer before the tragedy of the First World War, Simonson's latest details a battle of wills between Agatha, Lady North, and the mayor's wife over the new Latin master--a woman! Beatrice Nash arrives to her new post, charming everyone including the reader. Since readers know the horrors that lie ahead for England's young men, the story becomes more poignant as they move closer to their destinies. I loved it!"
--Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours: Stories

By Helen Oyeyemi

(Riverhead Books 9781594634642, $16)

"There is magic in Helen Oyeyemi's writing. There is magic in the settings, which shift between the conventional and the fantastic as readers devotedly follow her characters down any path they please. There is magic in the tales themselves, as readers recognize a situation only to have it bloom into a flower they have never imagined before, full of beauty or of dread. And, most certainly, there is magic in such breathtaking prose and unimaginable characters. This is a captivating story collection, filled with both fairy tale whimsy and dark, complicated mystery. Highly recommended!"
--Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA