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Lori's Book Recommendations

Ducks, Newburyport Cover Image
ISBN: 9781771963077
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Biblioasis - September 10th, 2019

How fitting that Lucy Ellmann’s revelatory and groundbreaking novel, Ducks, Newburyport is arriving on the centennial of Sherwood Anderson’s famous Winesburg, Ohio. Not only are both novels keenly perceptive in exploring the daily lives of “very common people” in rural Ohio, but Ellmann’s modernist masterpiece is primed to be as influential for the future of fiction as Winesburg was in its time. Ducks’ innovative style works wholly in its favor--the novel is accessible, heartfelt, and absorbing as it portrays the mind of a middle-aged mother who tries to manage the hectic demands of family and household, all the while constantly assailed by her own memories, guilt, and second-guessing. Ellmann’s protagonist worries about it all, from gun violence, Trump, and polluted drinking water, to soft boiling eggs, cleaning behind the refrigerator, and perfecting a lemon drizzle cake recipe. If it sounds quotidian, it is. But it is also brilliant, real and very much alive.

Berta Isla: A novel Cover Image
By Javier Marías, Margaret Jull Costa (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780525521365
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 3 - 7 business days
Published: Knopf - August 6th, 2019

No author explores the delicate nuances of a marriage as masterfully as Javiar Marías. Berta and Tomás know in their hearts that they are destined to marry even before they finish high school. But when Tomás goes off to Oxford for college he is forever changed in ways that Berta intuits but that Tomás refuses to acknowledge. Tomás’ work for the British foreign service often takes him away from Berta and the kids who wait for him at home in Madrid, never sure if this time he might be gone for days or years. Berta realizes that there is a sinister side to Tomás’ mysterious career when she is befriended by a foreign couple who threaten physical violence to Berta’s and Tomás’ son unless Tomás terminates his clandestine work.  Marías brings us into this couple’s marriage with empathetic and exquisite writing that reveals the couple’s changing perceptions and feelings through decades of secrets, lies, and failed expectations. We care deeply about these characters, and we feel Berta’s pain as she interminably waits--for Tomás’ return and his truth.  

The Unseen Cover Image
By Roy Jacobsen, Don Shaw (Translator), Don Bartlett (Translator)
ISBN: 9781771963190
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Biblioasis - April 21st, 2020

The Unseen will validate your belief in the power of stories to transport and transform us. With rich detail and simple yet exquisite prose, Jacobsen’s novel depicts life on a tiny Norwegian island inhabited by only one family—the Barrøys--who for centuries have made the island their home and the sea, their life.  The book opens with the christening of three-year-old Ingrid Barrøy and follows her into adulthood as she becomes a woman and mother, responsible for her family’s livelihood and continued survival on Barrøy Island. Jacobsen (along with his translators Don Bartlett and Don Shaw) makes you feel the intensity of the live and death struggle that the Barrøys confront in fulfilling their sea-bound legacy. On nearly every page are sentences so heartbreakingly beautiful that you will want to stop and read them again. The Unseen is a quiet, understated masterpiece. 

The Aosawa Murders Cover Image
By Riku Onda, Alison Watts (Translator)
ISBN: 9781912242245
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Bitter Lemon Press - February 18th, 2020

In The Aosawa Murders author Riku Onda unfolds her disturbing tale of a prominent Japanese family who, during a birthday celebration in their home, are poisoned with cyanide-laced drinks. The only survivors are the family’s long-serving maid and their daughter, Hisako, who has been blind since she was a young girl. Years later an unidentified interlocutor talks to various residents of the town who had some connection to the event, among them a retired police detective who cannot shake the notion that the man who confessed to the crime in a suicide note did not act alone, and Makiko, a childhood friend of Hisako who later wrote a controversial book about the poisonings, ‘The Forgotten Festival.’ The author layers characters’ conflicting impressions of the mercurial Hisako as well as Makiko and her intention in writing her book. Onda is masterful at building suspense as the psychological tension among the characters grows and a stagnant, evil air saturates the Japanese coastal town that is the novel’s setting.  The Aosawa Murders is so much more than a crime novel or police procedural. It is a stunning examination of evil and an uncommonly compelling story. I look forward to putting this extraordinary book into the hands of many readers.

The Cheffe: A Cook's Novel Cover Image
By Marie NDiaye, Jordan Stump (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780525520474
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - October 29th, 2019

With her latest novel to be translated into English, The Cheffe, Maria NDiaye again demonstrates why she is among the most astonishing and brilliant writers of our time. The Cheffe is the story of a poor girl from rural France who rises to become one of her country’s greatest chefs. The narrator of the Cheffe’s story is her young apprentice, a man whose feelings for the Cheffe grow from admiration to obsession. The apprentice’s memories of his kitchen tutelage under the Cheffe are interspersed with his own invective against the Cheffe’s selfish daughter and his misgivings about an anticipated visit by his own estranged child. NDiaye trademarks in creating a palpable sense of foreboding—her imagery unsettles, her pacing provokes, and her sensuous writing produces a vertiginous atmosphere. If you are not familiar with NDiaye, you need to be, and there is no better place to start than with The Cheffe, perhaps her most accessible translated work to date.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel Cover Image
By Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780525541332
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - August 13th, 2019

What a fun and smart novel!  Tokarczuk threads weighty existential questions into the fabric of her Agatha Christie-style mystery. Set in a remote village on the Czech-Polish border, the novel’s heroine seeks clues to a set of seemly random murders by mapping the victims’ horoscopes. Like a locked room murder puzzle, the isolated village with its bungling cops and quirky personalities allows for a build-up of suspense as thick as the fog that pervades the rough landscape. This exceptional novel is for everyone: readers who love mysteries, or love translated fiction, or just simply love a great book! 

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Frankissstein Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802129499
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 3 - 7 business days
Published: Grove Press - October 1st, 2019

Jeanette Winterson’s latest novel, Frankissstein, is absolutely exhilarating. It examines immortality and science’s ethical obligations through the alternating narratives of two people living centuries apart: Frankenstein author Mary Shelley and Ry, a transgendered medical doctor interested in cryogenics.  Winterson’s characters wrestle with the profound questions of what it means to be alive, how the brain could survive outside of its mortal body, and whether the soul would be reborn in a reanimated mind. What makes the novel extraordinary is the humanity, hubris and moral self-doubts of Winterson’s complex and wonderfully rendered actors. At turns irreverently funny and deeply sad, Winterson has created her own beautiful monster--a masterful, spinetingling tale that is unforgettable.

Divide Me By Zero Cover Image
ISBN: 9781947793422
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tin House Books - October 15th, 2019

Lara Vapnyar’s Divide Me By Zero is the captivating story of a middle-aged author and mother of two who, while caring for her terminally ill mother, tries to find meaning in her own life. From the time she was a small girl in the Soviet Union Katya admired her mother not only as the creator of acclaimed mathematics textbooks but because of the all-consuming love that she shared with Katya’s father. With humor, intelligence, and empathy, Vapnyar depicts the joys and disappointments of Katya’s married life in America alongside her indominable mother who is her closest friend and confident. As Katya writes her novel about love and death, she discovers that the math concepts in her mother’s final textbook apply to the human condition as well. At once both profound and funny, Divide Me By Zero is an inspired modern take on the classic Russian novel.