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BETWEEN THE LINES

Delicious new books in 2013

Reading advance copies of novels is one of the pleasures of my job at the Odyssey Bookshop. Here are some of my favorites, of the books coming out this winter and early spring. I know, I know: I promised this list a couple of weeks ago. But I got sidetracked, partly with reading a lot of IVY & BEAN (very literary stuff!) to my granddaughter Josie…

KIND OF KIN by Rilla Askew will be out in January. DON’T MISS THIS BOOK. Set in Oklahoma, it tells the story of a local man whose barn is used to shelter undocumented migrant workers. When Brown is sent to prison, his young grandson tries to set things right. Told through multiple points of view holding conflicting opinions about the events, Askew shows us a community at the explosive intersection of politics and loyalty.

Ruth Ozeki’s new novel, A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING, will be out in March. I loved this dual narrative. There’s Nao, a bullied 16-year-old girl in Tokyo who writes a diary about her ruined father and beloved great grandmother who is a Buddhist nun. And there’s Ruth, the novelist who finds Nao’s diary in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, debris from the tsunami. The result is both a gripping story and a thought-provoking exploration of time, story-telling, and the wonderfully complicated connections between writer and reader.

If you ever doubted Elizabeth Strout’s ability to get inside characters’ heads, families and communities, THE BURGESS BOYS proves it once and for all. This novel takes us back to Shirley Falls and introduces us to the Burgess family as teenaged Zach throws a pigs head into a Mosque. Is it a “joke” or a hate crime? As always, Strout’s writing gives us extraordinary moments of grace in the lives of ordinary folks.

I enjoy novels that weave two parallel stories set in different time periods, and Ann Hood’s latest, THE OBITUARY WRITER, accomplishes that with enormous skill. In 1919, Vivien writes obituaries at the request of the bereaved, never giving up on the search for her lover who disappeared in the San Francisco earthquake 13 years earlier. On the day JFK is assassinated, suburban wife and mother Claire tries to decide whether or not to stay in her unsatisfying marriage. Like much of Ann’s work, this novel explores grief and loss in a way that leaves the reader feeling hopeful and healed.

I adored Christopher Castellani’s A KISS FROM MADDALENA (2004) and was equally delighted with his new novel, ALL THIS TALK OF LOVE. Maddelena has been in America for fifty years and she’s getting old. She hasn’t seen her family in Italy and has refused contact with them. But her adult daughter Prima, herself dealing with health issues, decides to take the entire family back to their small Italian village for a reunion. Castellani’s characters are deliciously real and quirky, and as infuriating as your family. This is a journey of aging and memory, of family connections – missed and repaired.

In her second novel, THE COMFORT OF LIES, Randy Susan Meyers gives us a tangled web of family yearnings, lies and regrets: Tia has an affair and gives up her baby. Caroline reluctantly adopts to please her husband. Juliette discovers that her husband had an affair that resulted in a baby. Meyer’s narrative delves into the truth and consequences of human actions, errors, and reconciation. I couldn’t stop reading this…

Finally, I don’t want you to miss HAVEN’S WAKE by Ladette Randolph. I might easily have missed it, except that my fairy godmother Mary Bisbee-Beek sent me a copy, saying she thought I’d enjoy it. And, I did. Imagine a narrative with a Nebraska Mennonite family farm growing generations of secrets, an army of clay angels at the pond, and a fatal tractor accident. The family gathers for the wake and things unravel. It’s lyrically written and a wonderful read.

What am I looking forward to reading next? Jill McCorkle’s new novel LIFE AFTER LIFE, and THE THIRD SON, a debut by Julie Wu.

So many good books….Happy reading~
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