A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet

A Children’s Bible

A CHILDREN’S BIBLE, by Lydia Millet, is a smart, new literary novel about environmental issues.  The narrator is a teenaged girl named Evie.  Evie is spending the summer in a large rental mansion, lakeside. She’s not alone. There are several families sharing this experience.  Lots of kids and a bunch of parents who seem to care only for their own pleasure. We quickly learn that the kids are truly left  hanging out to dry. Evie has completely taken over the care of her little brother Jack who is toting around a new book one of the “mothers” has given  him.  It’s a children’s bible and filled with pictures taken from The Good Book including many animals.

Kirkus says,” A group of children are forced to fend for themselves in the face of rising sea levels, worsening storms, and willfully ignorant parents.”  That could pretty much sum it up in a nutshell. But there’s so much more. 

I see this novel as a modern-day LORD OF THE FLIES with climate change. The kids are stars of the story. The parents are living in a hedonistic mess.  The kids are figuring out the world while the parents are busy taking ecstasy and guzzling alcohol. Who’s making sure the kids are fed? Who’s keeping the kids safe? No one. During an unexpected but horrific storm the kids decide to escape with a caretaker to a nearby farm where they discover enough food to sustain them and some semblance of what seems like safety.  Jack brings along a host of animals he’s “saving” from the flood. He’s still busy with his bible.

What happens next definitely steps the tension up even more. And this is where Millet truly begins to show us where she’s going with this novel. Climate change is very real. It’s being written about an awful lot lately. So Millet has decided to show us that the next generation will have to clean up the mess the past generations have made. Her message is harsh, but the consequences are, too.

So, what did I think of this book? This is one of the first literary novels I’ve read since the pandemic came along and changed our world. I’ve been mostly reading light stories. Well-written, but light. This is as far from light as you can get. And it’s not for all my readers. But I found myself totally enmeshed in this story. I was  rooting for the kids and  it made me think. It’s extremely literary and the story packs a powerful punch. Read it if you dare! I think this novel is going to be up for many awards this year.

Lydia Millet

Lydia Millet has written many award winning literary novels. Her short story collection, LOVE IN INFANT MONKEYS was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Yes, she’s that good.

My beautiful finished copy of A CHILDREN’S BIBLE by Lydia Millet came from the very generous publishing company of Norton. I can’t thank them enough. It’s a real winner!

You can order copies of A CHILDREN’S BIBLE from Copperfish Books but they do not have them on the shelf at this time.

Colson Whitehead Wins Pulitzer Prize For Fiction Second Time.

The Nickel Boys & Colson Whitehead

Wow, wow, and WOW! I was thrilled to discover that Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his amazing novel, THE NICKEL BOYS. It’s his second win after winning in 2016 for THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD.

Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad

THE NICKEL BOYS is a slim novel packed with a monumental punch. Of course it takes place here in Florida. Most of the crazy stuff does. But this story is based on what actually happened at the Dozier Home for Boys in Northern Florida. Not all that long ago. When Whitehead read an article about the graveyard behind the school, he hit the ground writing. He is the master. He has managed to take home this prestigious award twice in a very short time, something that’s rarely been done before. I am linking to my review of THE NICKEL BOYS so you can see what I’m talking about. The book is available to purchase in hardcover with a soft cover release later this summer.  If you haven’t read this one, do it now.  It’s already a classic!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

You can get your copy now from Copperfish Books.

Elaine Newton-Critic’s Choice 2020 Summer Reading List

  • Amnesty by Aravind Adiga
  • A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
  • Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
  • Lady Clementine by Marie  Benedict
  • Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
  • These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card
  • The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles ( Feb. 2021 )
  • The Second Home by Christina Clancy (6/2/20)
  • Dominica by Angie Cruz
  • American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
  • Akin by Emma Donahue
  • Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
  • A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
  • Sea Wife by Amity Gaige (4/28/20)
  • The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
  • Writers & Lovers by Lily King
  • The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
  • Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Deacon King Kong by James McBride
  • Apeirogon by Colum McCann
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
  • Weather by Jenny Offill
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
  • Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin
  • The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine
  • All Adults Here by Emma Straub (5/5/20)
  • Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
  • A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe
  • Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler
  • Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

This list has changes in pub dates due to the pandemic. Please note the date in red. I will post more about this list soon.

Redhead On The Side Of The Road by Anne Tyler

The title seems to imply that there is a redheaded person somewhere on the side of this road. But there’s not.  So what’s this novel about?

First of all it’s slight. It’s almost more of a novella.  Micah lives alone in Baltimore in the basement apartment where he is the superintendent.  He is also what he calls a tech hermit. It sure fits the bill. He fixes mostly old people’s computers and he’s a stay-at-home kinda guy. Micah likes structure and routine. He runs in the morning and finds solace in sameness. He has a mundane relationship with his lady friend. That is until he dismisses her possible eviction  from her apartment with little more than a nod.

Anne Tyler

A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD

Anne Tyler

lives in Baltimore and has written about the city for years. She’s certainly got her fingers on the pulse of the city where I was born.  Setting her stories mostly in Baltimore is what she does. Baltimore people are mostly kind and gentle. She brings this to the page. Plus, she incorporates family angst that really takes the realness to the next level.

Tyler is one of the few female authors who can write convincingly in the voice of a male.  This is not a  small feat. She’s done a splendid job with the quirky character or Micah. And I totally enjoyed meeting his family. Real people.

So, here you are; a brand new Anne Tyler novel, ready for your summer reading pleasure. Brought to you by Knopf Publishing.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

Copperfish Books has a limited number of copies in the store or they can arrange mailing anywhere in the U.S.A.  If you’re a Tyler fan like me, you know you want this one. And, Copperfish Books always discounts new hardcovers 20%. Free shipping with orders over $35.  You may want to toss a paperback into the mix to get the free shipping. May I suggest WINTER IN PARADISE by Elin Hilderbrand. It will sweep you away to the island of St. John and make you happy!

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

A Good Neighborhood

Coming in at just under 300 pages this new novel by Therese Anne Fowler packs a helluva punch. Fowler leaves very few issues untouched. And does a bang- up job.

The novel begins in a simple old neighborhood where an upscale new house has been built where once existed a perfectly fine home. But that’s what happens when the wealthy move into this North Carolina community. Tear down the old, put up newer and supposedly better…

This wonderful novel delves deeply into the lives of two families brought together in a most unlikely way. When the wealthy Whitman family moves into the newly built McMansion next to the humble  abode and property of Valerie Holt and her son Xavier you get the feeling that all is not well.  The Whitman’s are white and entitled. Valerie Holt is African American. Xavier is mixed race. You can see where this is going, right?

Fowler takes her time building this story. She says she did tireless research. After all, her usual genre is historical fiction. This new book is contemporary and edgy. And wonderful.

The buildup is slow and you begin getting a creepy feeling about Mr. Whitman.  Who are these people. Really?  What is their background? And then we find out.

Where is Xavier’s father?  Why is Valerie so enamored with the massive oak tree in their backyard? The tension begins to ooze into the story when Valerie discovers the root system of her beloved oak has been compromised.  And she’s enraged and saddened beyond comprehension. So what does she do?

The publisher sent me this amazing card with pop up tree. I’ve been taking it along on my speaking engagements this season and it never ceases to emit gasps from the audiences. It is a great marketing device.

Oak Tree Card

Of course there is much more to this amazing story than this. One of the Whitman’s daughter’s, Juniper, is a lovely seventeen-year-old teenager.  She’s very close in age to Xavier.  They are, of course, attracted to one another.  You have to know this is not going to end well.

Watching the build- up will have you reading far into the night. It’s a quick read.  But it’s a deep novel filled with people who are dealing with life issues.  It’s being called a tragedy and it is that.

I’ve read more than one novel lately about neighborhoods.  Tranquility in a community can be breached with one problematic neighbor. It all can turn on a dime. In this case, that is exactly what happens.

Therese Anna Fowler is the New York Times bestselling author of  and A WELL DRESSED WOMAN and Z a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald that I loved.  This new novel addresses issues of race, class, and heartbreaking star-crossed love. It’s certainly provocative like the back of the book says. And it’s stunningly powerful!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

Pick up your copy of A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD at Copperfish Books. It’s discounted 20%. Copperfish is also able to send you a copy through the mail.  This is one of the most anticipated novels of the year and rightly so. This is a must-have novel!!

Therese Anne Fowler

My review copy of A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD arrived from the generous publishers at St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely LOVED it!

Lunch With Marie Benedict And Friends Of The Punta Gorda Library

Me with Marie Benedict

A festive time was had by all who were lucky enough to nab a ticket to the hottest event in town on Wednesday, January, 22 at Isles Yacht Club.  I was honored to be included in this yearly event and I will say it and Marie far surpassed expectations! Win/win.

Marie Benedict’s newest novel is LADY CLEMENTINE and it’s a wonderful behind the scenes look at the life of Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine. (Pronounced Clementeen. ) We all have heard of Winston’s wife. And we even think we know a thing or two. Well, I had to hold onto my reading hat because I had no idea she was such a positive force in Winston’s political life. Our program said LADY CLEMENTINE is a ferocious story of the brilliant and ambitious woman beside Winston Churchill, the story of a partner who did not flinch through the sweeping darkness of war, and who would not surrender either to expectations or to enemies.

Lady Clementine

Miss Benedict greeted everyone warmly and spoke directly to all her fans. She was a dream of a guest speaker. She shared so much of her research and added some fun things no one knew. She’s  a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in History and Art History, and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law. Holy cow, this woman is brilliant! Beautiful and smart. I love it.

Serena & Cathy from Copperfish Books

Serena and Cathy from Copperfish Books were on hand selling all of Benedict’s books: THE OTHER EINSTEIN; CARNEGIE’S MAID; and THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM.

Copperfish Books has copies of LADY CLEMENTINE in stock as well as her earlier books. So, come on in and see us. We had a blast at the event!

Sending a special shout out to Katie Mazzi for the invite and doing such a fabulous job organizing this very special event. Don’t forget to stop in and visit the gorgeous new library in Punta Gorda.

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Olive, Again

I was thrilled to see a new novel from Elizabeth Strout.  She’s decided to share with us what’s going on in Olive Kitteridge’s life since the end of the first Pulitzer Prize winning novel, OLIVE KITTERIDGE.

I dove into this novel head first anxious to find out what’s going on in the small seaside town of Crosby Maine since last we left it. Small towns are notorious for goings on. And since several of these characters are already known to us it  brought back memories both good and bad.

OLIVE, AGAIN, is written in interlocking stories just as OLIVE KITTERIDGE was more than ten  years ago. That format was new then, but now we know Strout practically invented it and it’s ubiquitous nowadays. I love it.

Olive is now a widow at the age of almost eighty as her husband, Henry, died two years earlier. She’s lonely.  But she’s not the only lonely soul in town.  Even though Jack Kennison who is also recently widowed doesn’t understand why he likes Olive, he does. And soon they decide to tie the knot and not be so lonely.  It’s not that they’re madly in love, they are feeling the effects of the loss of their loved ones. So they cleave to one another.

Has Olive’s personality softened at all? Possibly.  We can see she is at least trying. Trying to be nice. Trying to not be so darned brash. We get a glimpse of a side of her we had not seen before. It’s refreshing.

Olive comes in contact with people who are suffering, or grieving, or being abused, or dying. So many issues.

E. Strout

Strout is brilliant at character study in all its complicated messiness. This novel made me think. Made me look aging right in the face. Let’s face it, we’re all going to get older, face challenges, and possibly deal with loneliness. How we manage it will tell the tale of our future. Happiness or despair.

There are disturbing scenes that might make you look away from the page. It is not candy-coated. Strout writes with honesty and great depth. I loved this novel.

The ending of OLIVE, AGAIN will stick with me forever. It’s so honest that it’s painful.

Come to OLIVE, AGAIN, for the rest of the story, and stay for the brilliant writing. Bound for greatness! Do not miss OLIVE, AGAIN by Elizabeth Strout.

My review copy arrived from Random House. It is superb.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

We’ll have copies of OLIVE, AGAIN for sale at Copperfish Books. On sale at 20% off. Come on in to pick up your copy of the novel. Then stay to browse our brand new gift items. We’re gearing up for the holidays and our season is starting to ramp up. Lovely!

On The Plain Of Snakes by Paul Theroux

On The Plain of Snakes

Along comes Paul Theroux with  a heart-pounding epic journey along the border between Mexico and U.S. It’s not a novel. It’s a tell-all travel documentary written in Theroux’s signature voice. I got so involved that I whipped out a big atlas of Mexico and the border and began to voraciously follow along….sharpie in hand.

Map Mexico-U.S. Border

This book could not be more timely. Surely, I can’t be the only person who’s been wondering about the border, lately. My mind  has pictured areas of crossing both legal and illegal. Immigrants so desperate they are swimming across the Rio Grande sometimes hanging onto the back of another.   Yes, this actually happens daily. And I have spoken to a woman who did just this.

As Theroux drives his personal car across the harsh desert and dangerous roads of Mexico ( and they’re all dangerous) we begin to understand the  potential for disaster around every curve. At one point he was told if  he had chosen to drive a truck it would most certainly have  been stolen. He’s stopped by corrupt government police and officials on every leg of his journey.  Each one extracts  payment for some ridiculous infringement they have cooked up. Non payment is not an option here.  One incident comes to mind where he  encounters a policeman on a motorcycle as he reaches Mexico City.  The policeman  pulled up next to his car and indicated with the fat finger of a leather-gloved hand that he must follow him.  He was lead through heavy traffic  and down a side road, then through a series of slummy streets and finally to the end of a dead-end street.  The policeman approached his car shouting at the top of his voice.  Theroux indicated that his Spanish was poor and asked that the cop speak slowly.  More shouting. The policeman wants to see the papers for the car saying he can take it. It’s illegal to drive this car in Mexico. On and on. Theroux tries to explain that he has the proper permits etc.  By now Theroux is actually afraid. And rightly so. And he writes: ” I have written elsewhere about how I have been frightened in travel, nearly always by someone with a gun–a boy in Malawi, a shifta bandit in the north Kenya desert, and three boys with rusty spears had accosted me in a logoon in the Trocriand Islands, threatening to stab me to death.” Finally, he asked the policeman ,”What do you want?” and that became the game-changer. Money, of course.  Not long after this first encounter, Theroux was again accosted by police for driving down a one-way street. Money was again extracted for the offense. And on and on again and again throughout the  entire adventure. This is a corrupt country.

Theroux gives you a birds-eye view of all that’s hellacious about this often gorgeous but harsh land.  When he teaches a writing class in Mexico City he introduces us to the delicious and unique foods specific to this area.  I enjoyed meeting the intelligent writers in his class. As he walks the streets and uses public transport you feel as if you’re there traveling with him and making new friends as you learn more about the culture and the quirks.

Theroux travels by bus, car, and plane, through the wild wild west of Mexico. Has it always been this way?  Is it more dangerous now than twenty years ago? He even goes so far as to  post about the new four-tier advisory system for travelers to the country.

  • Level 1, Exercise Normal Precautions ( much of Mexico )
  • Level 2, Exercise Increased Caution ( Cancun, Cozumel, Mexico City)
  • Level 3, Reconsider Travel ( Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco )
  • Level 4, DO NOT TRAVEL, ( Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Taxco )

Theroux goes on to say he knew nothing about this new travel alert until after he returned from his trip. He had been warned repeatedly  to avoid driving in Guerrero state and not to visit Acapulco, warnings he heeded.

Paul Theroux

Reading through these above warnings is daunting. Some of you may remember that I’ve been writing about an upcoming novel called, AMERICAN DIRT, by Jeanine Cummins. It begins in that fine Mexican city of Acapulco. Yes, stay away, my friends!!

I will be talking about ON THE PLAIN OF SNAKES all season long and far into the future.  Get out your atlas and get ready for a wild ride that you will never forget. You need this book.

My review copy was provided by the generous publishing people at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review.  Absolutely on the top of my list this year!!! Loved it.

Akin by Emma Donoghue

Akin

AKIN by Emma Donoghue, begins with Noah, 79,  packing for a long-awaited vacation to visit the place of his birth, Nice, France.  He’s now a recently retired chemistry professor and is taking a small collection of old photographs and memorabilia along in hopes of unfolding some secrets concerning his mom’s years in Europe. Secrets from the war. Oh, I almost forgot, he’s a widow.

But there’s always something….One call from social services puts a kink in his plans. When he’s asked to become the caretaker for his eleven-year-old great-nephew named Michael, he feels ambushed. The kid has no one else. But Noah’s never met this kid. A distant relation at best. What can you do? Michael was being looked after by his grandmother who died suddenly. His mother is incarcerated. His father suffered an untimely death. Noah is “IT.” So off they go together to Nice. A totally unlikely twosome.

Michael and Noah’s grand adventure has a rocky beginning. But the kid is whip-smart with a smart mouth to go along. This kid needs a break. He’s not a bad kid, but he needs a lot of love.  It’s just for a couple of weeks. That’s what Noah reminds himself each time there is an incident….

Those of  you who know the ups and downs of living with a preteen will appreciate the candor and wit Donoghue  adds to the dialog. I honestly found myself laughing out loud more than once. But it’s not all fun and games.  The two bond over photography. Michael ends up being a huge help  to Noah in finding the locations seen in the old photos.  A story that begins with  total opposites begins to blossom into a poignant relationship.

author AKIN

Emma Donoghue has written many books, but she’s probably best known for her Internationally best-selling novel, ROOM.  She is a force.

I decided to read this novel because of the setting in Nice. I stayed for the story which is just wonderful. Noah and Michael may just be my two new favorite characters.

I borrowed AKIN from the library and so am not indebted to the publisher, Little Brown, in any way. But I can tell you this. I loved this novel. Great for book club. And great for pleasure reading. Cheers!

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

The World That We Knew

I fell immediately in love with this cover. I wish you could see the shimmery silver of the heron. I also fell in love with the heron. He’s actually a wonderfully dynamic and loving character in this amazing new novel by Alice Hoffman.

Alice Hoffman

Hoffman is no stranger at tilting a bit into magical realism in her novels.  But that is what she usually does; just dips her typing finger in. This time she jumps in with both feet and  stomps up and down.  It’s a wonderful story filled with Jewish mysticism and a wealth of  very deep emotional feelings. It’s a novel way to bring yet one more slant to the history of WW11. But it’s so unique. You need this book!

In this  lyrical tale a young German Jewish girl , Lea, is under the protection of a golem-a magical creature of Jewish myth made of mud and water.  Ava, the golem, comes into being in Berlin in 1941.  A Rabbi’s young daughter brings her seemingly to life after seeing her dad create a golem.  Ettie, the daughter, has not been given permission to do this monstrous thing…

This story takes place between 1941 and 1944. It’s about survival at any cost. What would you do to keep your child alive?

The main human characters are working with the French resistance. The golem and the heron and Azriel, The  Angel of Death, are supposedly not human. But the question is raised: What does it really mean to be human?

My favorite characters quickly became Ava and the talking heron.  Their  love story is moving and heartbreaking.  I will never forget them.  And neither will you.

I haven’t read about Jewish mysticism before. I found it both intriguing and troubling. It works in this novel.

There is a large cast of characters. They each have devastating stories to tell. Some of these stories might sound familiar, but you’ve never heard them told like this before. Hoffman brings us this stunning and beautiful tale that tells of the horrors of the Holocaust like never before.

Readers will be discussing this superb novel long into the future.

My review copy of THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW by Alice Hoffman arrived from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review! I knew it would be good, but honestly, I have to say it’s GREAT!

Copperfish Books will be offering THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW at 20% off. The pub date is officially today. We have them in stock ready to sell. Come on in to see us. This book is simply gorgeous!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books