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The Ninth Hour: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374280147
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Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 19th, 2017

Alice McDermott’s dazzling novel, The Ninth Hour, turns on the contradictions that confound our need to become reconciled with mortality. The empathetic characters, at once agents and benefactors of Christian charity, grow to realize not just the grace but also the hubris, of their faith. A stunning work of generational storytelling that is compulsively readable and deeply thought provoking, McDermott is a master artisan of humanity.

Mikhail and Margarita: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609453756
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Europa Editions - March 14th, 2017

With this fall’s 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution I’m looking forward to recommending some great contemporary novels depicting the event and the years that followed in its wake. MIKHAIL AND MARGARITA by Julie Lekstrom Himes is a fictionalized account of the artistic and amorous life of Mikhail Bulgakov, author of the Russian classic THE MASTER AND MARGARITA. Bulgakov was at once Stalin’s favorite writer and victim of his suspicious cruelty. Bulgakov’s love for the young and beautiful Margarita makes her an easy target for Stalin’s manipulation of the writer. A gripping depiction of great art colliding with political repression.

My Heart Hemmed in Cover Image
By Marie Ndiaye, Jordan Stump (Translator)
ISBN: 9781931883627
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Published: Two Lines Press - July 11th, 2017

Marie NDiaye’s MY HEART HEMMED IN is extraordinary: an original and suspenseful novel that exposes all that is monstrous and ugly in the way that we regard those around us -- our tendency to harbor suspicions, judgments and prejudices against people we do not want or even try, to understand. Ndiaye takes us inside the disturbing mind of Nadia, her unforgettable protagonist, with writing that is arresting; the tension, immediately palpable, builds steadily. The temptation to turn the pages quickly is great but the prose is so fine that you will want to savor it. With its unsettling atmosphere reminiscent of Doris Lessing’s THE FIFTH CHILD, NDiaye’s brilliant novel obtains pride of place with the very best literary horror. MY HEART HEMMED IN is a morality tale for our times.

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The Essex Serpent: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062666376
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Published: Custom House - June 6th, 2017

THE ESSEX SERPENT by Sarah Perry contains multitudes -- unrequited loves, interrogations on the compatibility of faith and reason, and storylines that illuminate the seismic shifts in Victorian attitudes toward evolution, medicine, workers’ rights, religion and feminism.  Perry vividly draws a rural England where myth and superstition hold sway. Yet it is the personal passions and ambitions of the characters that immerse the reader in Perry’s imagined world; people whose loves and hatreds, strivings and failings are so relatable and fully evoked that they linger long after you finish the last page. 

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War and Turpentine: A novel Cover Image
By Stefan Hertmans, David McKay (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781101874028
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Published: Pantheon - August 9th, 2016

Stefan Hertmans’s eloquent novel, WAR & TURPENTINE, speaks to the longing to understand the emotional life of someone who is dead. Hertmans takes the memoir of this grandfather, a WWI soldier and portrait painter and rediscovers it in his own way by visiting the places that his grandfather visited and the original masterpieces that he reproduced in his paintings. Although duty to family and country set the course for his grandfather’s life, painting and his enduring love for his wife’s sister gave it sustenance. WAR & TURPENTINE is a sensitive and moving hymn to an ordinary man that expresses the bittersweet regret of coming to fully appreciate the depths of another, but reaching that point only after it’s too late.

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Thus Bad Begins: A novel Cover Image
By Javier Marias, Margaret Jull Costa (Translated by)
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ISBN: 9781101946084
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Published: Knopf - November 2016

Javier Marías’s THUS BAD BEGINS questions whether there are some secrets that we are better off not knowing. The novel is narrated by Juan, personal assistant to a respected Spanish filmmaker, who soon realizes that his employer holds a deep resentment toward his own wife, spurring Juan’s to discover why. At the same time, Juan is tasked to uncover a different secret -- one related to a family friend’s rumored blackmail and political exploitation. Marias braids Juan’s and the filmmaker’s narratives into a taut loop. This suspense, along with the brilliance of Marías’s writing (and Margaret Jull Costa’s translation), makes for a truly exceptional read. The book’s title is taken from a quote in Hamlet, “Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.” An admonition to leave the ugly truths about the past, in the past because it is the knowing that irrevocably changes everything. This book made me want to read all of Marias’ previous novels of which, happily, there are many.

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Reputations Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781594633478
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Published: Riverhead Books - September 20th, 2016

A renowned Columbian political cartoonist who prides himself in exposing his country’s corruption and political scandals in his daily newspaper cartoon is the protagonist of Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s REPUTATIONS. Years after one of his caricatures destroys the life of a prominent politician, events cause the cartoonist to question the infallibility of his prior condemnation and the consequences of his influence. In an effort to rectify the situation, he decides to go public with his doubts about the politician’s guilt, an act that will cause the media to turn on him, humiliating him in much the same way that his cartoons humiliated countless others in the past. REPUTATIONS is a fascinating study of a man whose entire sense of self-worth is his reputation—the very thing that he must sacrifice in order to redeem himself.

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Chronicle of the Murdered House Cover Image
By Lucio Cardoso, Margaret Jull Costa (Translator), Robin Patterson (Translator)
ISBN: 9781940953502
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Open Letter - December 13th, 2016

Winner of the 2017 Best Translated Book Award, CHRONICLE OF THE MURDERED HOUSE is a fun, and sometime funny, family melodrama involving extramarital affairs, incest, unrequited passions and revenge. Here the murdered house is the Charcara dos Menezes, the Brazilian country home of the locally prominent Meneses family and its three grown sons. The family’s arrogance leads the household and those within it down a course of decay – both spiritual and literal. CHRONICLE OF THE MURDERED HOUSE earns pride of place as a classic of world literature because it is a complete novel: fully realized characters, expressive writing, an exciting, finely plotted story and enduring reflections on the human condition.

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The Border of Paradise Cover Image
ISBN: 9781939419699
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Published: Unnamed Press - April 12th, 2016

THE BORDER OF PARADISE by Esmé Weigum Wang is a gothic suspense that explores the ricocheting effects of mental illness and cultural dissonance. David is a man of privileged means who suffers from sporadic psychotic episodes. David’s wife Daisy, a newly arrived Taiwanese immigrant, is especially ill-equipped to deal with David’s paranoia and unpredictability. David keeps Daisy and their two children secreted in a comfortable home in the mountains, a setting that along with the novel’s haunting language creates an atmosphere of inevitable fatality, accomplishing that rare, literary feat—a thrilling story paired with terrific writing. 

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The Archivist: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316158466
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Published: Back Bay Books - April 8th, 1999

In THE ARCHIVIST by Marta Cooley, the life and poems of T.S. Eliot reverberate in the lives of an archivist of Eliot’s letters and his poet wife. This beautifully written novel confronts many of the enduring literary themes of our twentieth century experience—the struggle to move beyond guilt and find redemption; the role of both religion and art in helping us make sense of our patterned existence in the face man’s aggression against his fellow man.  THE ARCHIVIST is an unconventional, sophisticated novel that encompasses so much of what it means to be human.