In Commonwealth by Anne Patchett, a lawyer, Bert Cousins, divorces his wife Teresa and marries Beverly, the ex-wife of a cop. The impacts of their divorce and remarriage are visited upon their children, who grow up angry and resentful. Patchett “elegantly manages” (Publishers Weekly) the ebb and flow of their alliances and animosities as the children grow to middle age. Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler also plays the family saga card, this time about a family fractured by the Vietnam War. This is an “assured, elegant novel (Publishers Weekly).“ Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is a promising debut about a Cameroonian immigrant who arrives in Harlem just in time for the 2007 collapse of the housing bubble. Also in the family drama mode: Barkskins by Annie Proulx, Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlin, and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
Two new stories with unique points of view.The narrator of ”Nutshell” by Ian McEwan is an unborn child, who describes himself upside down in his mother’s womb, doing slow motion somersaults and wondering about the future. He has cause to wonder. His mother, enmeshed in an affair, is plotting her husband’s murder. “Surprisingly affecting”. Still curiouser is the plot of “The Bees” by Liline Paull. A worker bee challenges the rigid structure of her hive when a threat to its survival becomes imminent. When she finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous. The Austin Chronicle deemed it “classic storytelling at its finest.”
The 1950s often are thought of as a complacent decade when the world took a deep, calming breath after the turmoil of the 1930s and 1940s. In 1956: the World in Revolt, Simon Hall finds that the year 1956 was anything but complacent. Conflicts over colonialism, apartheid, and nationalism led to upheaval Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt (an emergent Arab nationalism), Hungary, Cuba and the United States (the Civil Rights movement). This is “a vivid, powerful, and panoramic narrative of one of the most emblematic years of the twentieth century.
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer is, as befits a comedienne, is a collections of raucous snippets from her life (riches to rags and back), her career (from to stand up to celebrity) and relationships (don’t ask). It’s all grist for her wry brand of commentary. Schumer “wears her mistakes like badges of honor (Publishers Weekly).”
Have your heard of Alicia Patterson? This headstrong heiress founded Newsday (1939) and built it into a successful, Pulitzer Prize-winning publication. In addition, she was an accomplished horsewoman, huntress, and aviatrix. In short, a feminist before the word was invented. Unlucky in love, she was thrice married and had a long liaison with Adlai Stevenson. In The Huntress, Alice and Michael Arlen detail her turbulent and eventful life.
Amber Smith enlisted in the army after 9/11 and flew Kiowa helicopters into combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Danger Close, Smith recounts her tour of duty. Glennon Doyle Melton came to fame by blogging and writing about female identity and getting clear. Things got real when she found out her husband was being unfaithful. In Love Warrior, Mellon tells how she was able to pick up the pieces. Julissa Arce made the leap from a child of undocumented immigrants to Goldman Sachs. In My (underground) American Dream, Acre tells how she made the journey and explores the emotional cost of living in the shadows.
Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance details the author’s stormy journey up the “hillbilly highway” from the Kentucky’s coal-country to the declining Rust Belt to the Ivy League. Born into a poor Scots-Irish family—with a pill-addicted mother and “revolving door of father figures”—Vance was raised in Ohio by his beloved and newly middle-class grandparents. The story does more than celebrate his breakout. Vance tries to make sense of how a culture fell into ruin. In so doing, he covers ground previously explored by Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus (also at the Nichols Library).