THE GREEN ROAD
The 2007 Booker Prize Winner for THE GATHERING has written a flawless, heart-breaking portrait of Irish siblings who reunite for Christmas at their mother’s home in rural Ireland. Spanning thirty years, beginning in County Clare but including masterful depictions of AIDS-devasted Manhattan and famine-stricken Africa, this is a story of family dynamics, of characters who struggle with anguish, illuminated by occasional glimpses of grace and humor.
CONGRATULATIONS, BY THE WAY
The store is full of inspirational titles, but this is the one that made me want to change. Saunders, author of Tenth of December, is critically acclaimed, hip, funny and wise. He has written a book, not just for those starting out, but for anyone who needs to take stock and remember what is really important. I want to give a copy to everyone.
These stories, by one of my favorite authors, are laugh-out-loud funny as well as full of pithy commentary on contemporary life. In Moore’s earlier fiction, the protagonists were often young girls or young mothers. Here, they are divorcees. They have teenagers. They’ve variously tried and failed at dating, holding down jobs, being kind or being sane. Perhaps that’s why there’s an undercurrent of sadness – and the book’s relationships, with one desperate exception, don’t end well. Moore’s stories, like Alice Munro’s, will haunt your dreams.
Nasaw was granted unrestricted access to the founder of the twentieth century’s most famous political dynasty. The elder Kennedy’s seemingly limitless ambition took him from an East Boston outsider to the first Irish American Ambassador to Britain, where his antiwar position made him the subject of White House ire and popular distaste. The tragedies that befell his family marked his final years with unspeakable suffering. Nasaw addresses the questions that have haunted the legend of the patriarch: Was he an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer? Why did he have his daughter lobotomized? Did he push his second son into politics then buy the election for him? Always fascinating, occasionally repugnant, this is a look at a supremely influential man.
THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz, is splendid. He is young, dazzling and totally unique. This collection of his short stories is one of my favorite new books.
Gen-Xers cannot get enough of Jonathan Tropper (BOOK OF JOE). ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO is touching and outrageously funny. This was the requested title from both of my thirty-something offspring.
RULES OF CIVILITY, by Amor Towles
Towles has written a good old-fashioned novel of manners with overtones of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is set in New York City, 1938, with a bright, first-generation heroine who rises from secretary to a power in the publishing world. The Gatsbyesque hero, Tinker Grey, is an investment banker with “a smile on his face that could have lit every lamp on the North Pole.” One of the charms of the novel is the re-creation of the period, still mired in the depression, on the verge of a bloody war, with a class structure struggling to preserve its elegance and boundaries–and is just about to collapse.
TURN OF MIND, by Alice LaPlante
Turn of Mind is the best literary thriller since Presumed Innocent. The narrator is a hand surgeon who has dementia, though she experiences lucid moments. She is also the prime suspect in the murder of her best friend, who was found with her fingers surgically removed. She doesn’t know whether she did it or not. This is a page-turning thriller and a moving and fascinating glimpse into the deteriorating mind of a tightly controlled, intelligent woman who is slowly succumbing to her disease. Alzheimer’s works brilliantly as a literary device, revealing family secrets, tragedies and an ending you won’t expect. It will be one of the most read and talked-about books of 2011.