Monogamy by Sue Miller

Monogamy

A new novel from Sue Miller is always a cause for celebration!

MONOGAMY is a sophisticated story of marriage and grief and betrayal and beyond. It’s haunting and  might even make you feel a tad uncomfortable.

Annie meets Graham  one spring evening at his  bookshop  in Cambridge, Massachusetts  when she wanders in to attend an event with another man, someone she sometimes has sex with.  There is an immediate attraction that quickly becomes more.

Graham is a larger than life man who fills every room he enters with his vibrant personality.  He attracts friends like the pied piper and he and Annie often have exuberant  parties after bookstore  events. Everyone loves Graham.  Annie is a quieter soul. She’s a photographer and so her private life is more subdued. They do say opposites attract….

Both Annie and Graham have previously been married. Graham to a woman who, even though she is his ex, is still a good friend and they share a son. Annie’s first marriage was brief with no children.  Graham and Annie have a daughter who lives in San Francisco .  Each character is grappling with an inner dilemma.

Kirkus Review says: A thoughtful and realistic portrait of those golden people who seem to have such enviable lives.  You know who they are talking about. We all do. The grass looks greener on the other side.  From afar Annie and Graham do seem to have an idealistic life together.  But we get to visit the innards and stir it around and see what’s really there. 

Marriage is complicated. Death even more so.  And, when, in the midst of grief an infidelity is discovered posthumously, you can expect to feel undisguised and unmitigated rage and the feeling of never-ending disaster.

Miller takes us behind the scenes in this thirty -year marriage and shows us who these two people really are. So we know what makes them .  They are both really just human beings. I have to say this: if only Graham could have kept “it” in his pants . He was never true to anyone, ever. Even though Annie was the love of his life, this “other” got in the way.  And so Annie has to deal with this betrayal after the fact and figure out if she ever really knew her husband. We, the reader, are shown his feelings. So we know. But Annie, the betrayed, does not know. It’s devastating. Was painful to read. But beautifully told.

Sue Miller writes with such deep empathy and  sharp insight.  MONOGAMY is sure to be on the top of every book club list this season and far into the future.

You can purchase your autographed copy of MONOGAMY at Copperfish Books where it will be discounted 20%.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

I have Harper Collins to thank for sending my review copy in exchange for an honest opinion. MONOGAMY  is honestly one of the finest novels I’ve read this year. I can easily see it climb the NYT bestseller’s list quickly. Very impressive.

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet

Maggie O’Farrell has magnificently  tackled a little-known story. William Shakespeare’s eleven-year-old son Hamnet died of the plague in 1596 in Stratford, England.  He was survived by his mother, twin sister Judith, older sister, and his father, as well as various other members of his family. But nothing was ever spoken of this. Was kept  silent.  Until now, when O’Farrell brings forth with this marvelous new novel that shows the depth of grief and the strength of the human spirit.

The story begins with Hamnet finding his twin sister Judith has suddenly become very ill. He goes for help but his entire family seem to have vanished just when he needs them most. Judith lies on a pallet in an upstairs bedroom falling deeper into the throes of the bubonic plague. But they don’t know this at the time.

O’Farrell manages to introduce us to Hamnet’s mother Agnes ( pronounced Ann-yis ) as she tends to her bees in a field a mile away not knowing her child is desperately ill and needing her attention. She’s well-known as a healer and can even see into a person’s  future ……all the while you, the reader, find yourself tensing up and wishing to God she would hurry even as you know the outcome.

Although William Shakespeare is never named as such in this story, we know it is he who is Hamnet’s father.  And why the name Hamnet? It’s a variation of Hamlet. We are shown the life of the most famous play- rearight who was first a Latin tutor who married a free spirit and mostly lived in London.

Judith and Hamnet loved playing tricks on their family by swapping identities. This is a pretty common way for twins to have fun with people who think they know them so very well.  So when Judith is lying dying, Hamnet decides to trick the Gods by pretending to be his twin. It’s tragic. It’s heartbreaking.

As Agnes prepares her son’s body for burial any mother can not help but be brought to her knees with grief. And the thoughts that are careening through her head are brought to the page in a way that is so real it hurts. The grief, the guilt, the death.

I try to avoid books that deal with the death of a child. Too painful. And there are those of you who will avoid this book for that reason. But this story is one to wrap yourself up in. It’s important.  I believe this book is one of those that is bound for glory. It’s an OMG book.

About halfway through the book several pages are dedicated to the events that carry the pestilence to England and to the home of Judith and Hamnet.  These colorful pages, a dozen or so, will change the way you think about how disease is passed from person to person and from animal to animal.  Here we are going through a global pandemic of monumental proportions and I’m actually about the bubonic plague that took place four hundred years ago. Utterly up front and way too personal. I have read and reread these passages over and over. Amazing.

This is a book that will be widely read and should be on every bookclub list for discussion in the coming months.  I can almost smell a nod for Pulitzer or Man Booker or both.  Be sure to put it on your list.

You can purchase a copy of HAMNET from Copperfish Books. They are on the shelves right now and discounted 20%.  Just a heads’ up. Elaine Newton has read HAMNET and loved it!

Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell is an Irish born writer who has many a great novel under her , however, this is her best!

 

 

 

 

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

The Exiles

Love the cover! Love the story! Kline has once again knocked it out of the book park . She did it with THE ORPHAN TRAIN years ago. Now she’s back with this wonderful novel of colonial  Australia and the convicts who made it what it is today.

The prologue introduces us to Mathinna  the 8-year-old orphaned daughter of an Aborigine chief.  Living quite wildly on the island of Flinders in Australia in 1840, she’s been hiding in the bushes for almost two days hoping to avoid the clutches of a visiting governor and his wife who have taken a fancy to her. You see, they plan on taking her back to civilization where she will be treated as a trinket.

Chapter one and we are in London where we meet Evangeline who has also been recently orphaned and is working as a governess in a big where her employer’s son has given her much  more than the “ring” that belongs to his family. When she is wrongly accused of stealing it, she’s  sent off to Newgate Prison and from there on to Van Dieman’s Land ( now known as Tasmania ) in Australia.

Evangeline meets Hazel on the ship. Hazel’s sixteen with plenty of hard-living under her young . Her crime was stealing a silver . And the worst part of it is that her own mother had set her to it. But Hazel has learned midwifery from her mother and even how to use herbs in healing.  The ship is filled with woman convicts and sets sail in a former slave ship. Months and months of horror. Kline’s attention to detail captures every single harrowing moment. I can not even imagine surviving a trip such as this in my wildest dreams.

This epic historical novel brings us a powerful and painful rendering that shows  us what it took to build a new world.  These three women each orphaned in their own way, find opportunity where none existed, and freedom of a challenging sort.

I read and loved THE ORPHAN TRAIN several years ago.

Aurhor

Christina Kline

I’ve been waiting for Kline to show us more of this brilliant I know she is capable of. And here it is. You will not be disappointed. You’ll be deeply moved and find yourself anxious to learn more about the building of Australia. Don’t miss this novel. It will be on every reader’s lips this season.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

Copperfish Books has copies of THE EXILES on sale right now and they’re discounted 20%. You need this book.

My digital review copy of THE EXILES was provided by Edelweiss through Harper Collins.  I am grateful to them both for this opportunity. And what an amazing story. Thanks guys.

 

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Migrations

MIGRATIONS, by Charlotte McConaghy, is certainly a novel for our times. In the not so distant future in a time of extreme climate change, a young woman named Franny Stone takes us on one of the harshest journeys any protagonist ever has. And so we begin.

THE ANIMALS ARE DYING. SOON WE WILL BE ALONE HERE.   This is the first line of the novel.  It was a total attention-getter for me. We begin in Greenland as Franny is hard at work tagging the tiny legs of arctic terns. You see, she’s bound and determined to follow what could very well be their last yearly migration from Greenland to Antarctica. Franny’s been out in the freezing cold and wet for six days before she finally decides its time to move on to the next step: finding a ship headed to sea . 

Who is Franny Stone? Nobody, really. She’s the wife of Niall who is a renowned ornithologist and we get to meet him throughout the book in spits and starts.  To say Franny is a lover of nature and birds in particular is a gross understatement. She’s totally infatuated.  To the Nth degree.  Niall has always had a special affinity toward the plight of the Arctic tern and so Franny is following his passion.  And she’s about to get the attention of a wild group of fisher people who spend the majority of their lives on the sea  and working in the most basic conditions.  Franny is able to coerce captain Ennis to take her on their journey by convincing him that she is his only ticket to finding  fish in these challenging times. Follow her terns, the fish  will appear.  And off they go; the most unlikely of  crews.

McConaghy shows us bits and pieces of Franny’s life over the chapters. And we come to slowly see where she came from. Abandoned by her mother at a young age, she spends the rest of her life trying to find her and who she was . This can’t help but affect how she lives her life and why she  can not stay anywhere for any length of time.  By the time Franny meets her husband it might just be too late for change…. And where is Niall anyway?

Every time I thought I knew all there was about Franny’s background, along some new reality would  bang down right in front of me smashing my thoughts to smithereens. This is a character I will never forget but I can’t say I liked her.

So, here we are, in a future so close we can almost touch it. Surrounded by desperate people doing mostly desperate things.  Climate change is a very real thing.  Animals are pretty much extinct in this novel and birds are going the same way.  Will people be next? I don’t usually read novels that are  apocalyptic. However, this story is so very important as well as not so very far in the future. I took a chance. It’s important. It’s timely.  It will move you and may change you forever.

McConaghy has written a haunting and visceral novel that is unbelievably ballsy and accomplished.  She’s a writer out of Australia who is writing  what we now call eco-fiction.  MIGRATIONS may remind some readers of STATIONS ELEVEN or FLIGHT BEHAVIOR.   Her attention to detail is second to none. Her sense of place is stunning.

I know I’ll be telling  everyone about this new novel for a long time. I feel it’s going to be one of the important books of the year!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

We have copies of MIGRATIONS for sale at Copperfish Books right now and they are discounted 20% off.  My review copy came from Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, one of the best books of the year!

Book Of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

The Book of Lost Names

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek , it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small  town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

*****************************************

The above synopsis of THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES is taken from Goodreads and does a great job of introducing this amazing novel based on real historic events during WW11. Those of you who follow my blog already know I’m a big fan of Kristin Harmel. I’ve been reading her wonderful historical novels for years and love them all. Kristin puts her heart and soul into each book. She also is the queen of research. THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES  is no  exception.

There really is an old religious text called Epities et Evangiles that Kristin used as the basis for THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES.  It does not include code like she used in  THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES, though. Kristin has a copy of this 1732 text. She was kind enough to show it  to me through the magic of the internet. Kristin also has a copy of the Journal Officiel from 1944 which is in THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES.  Great inspiration.

I’ve read a lot of fiction set during WW11. I still love reading about it. And I especially love finding new stuff.  I love that this book is based on a true story. That enhances the experience for me. It’s continual learning.  And I’m finding that I am even more of a sponge now than ever.  I learned an awful lot about the intricacy of forgery in this new novel. At times, when Eva was working on a document, knowing how critical it was for it to be perfect, I could actually hear my own heart pounding in my chest.

This novel of courage, survival, and endurance is such an inspiration to all women everywhere.  The sense of place is superb. The roundups in Paris were very real. The losses were profound. The scenes in the tiny town of Aurigon in the safe zone way atop the mountains were breathtaking and perfectly set the tone for the story. I still close my eyes and see the inside of the book room within the church . And I can almost hear the voice of the priest as he’s going about the business of safekeeping.

Raves from PW

My review copy of THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES came from Gallery Books  in exchange for an honest review. Yes, Yes, I loved it!

Kristin Harmel

Kristin Harmel is the internationally bestselling of WHEN WE MEET AGAIN, THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING, and most recently THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE, as well as other novels.  She lives in Florida with her husband and young son. We’ve been so fortunate to have her visit Copperfish Books and sign her books in years past. I can tell you firsthand that Kristin Harmel is an absolute delight!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

You can purchase copies of THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES at Copperfish Books on July 21. They will be discounted 20%. Don’t miss out on this amazing book. And, you can sign up for a virtual event with Kristin tomorrow from our website. How cool is this.

 

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.

The Second Home by Christina Clancy

The Second Home

Christina Clancy

Look at this cover. It screams “beach.” I’ve been waiting months for this novel to be available to you readers. I read it way back then in the middle of the winter when covid-19 was not even a thought yet.

We may not all be able to go to the beach this summer so we really need reading material that will take  us there… Literally. THE SECOND HOME already does that by just looking at the cover.

Just when you find yourself looking for the next great summer read along comes THE SECOND HOME and you’ve got your book. But what have you got? Is it a light summer read? Well, yeah, but it’s not light and fluffy like you might expect. Filled with beach aroma, beach activities, beach food, and lots of crazy summertime stuff, but this writer brings so much more to the feast. She’s got a page-turning adventure that is unlike any other. Perfect for this summer.

I grew up on the Eastern shore. All winter long I dreamt of going back to the beach, the place I loved more than any other. My happiest times growing up were spent at the beach. So I know what it’s like to look forward to going to the beach.

Ann and Poppy have always thrived during summers spent at their beat up cottage on the back bay in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. Their parents would load up the car and head on out for the coast from their home in Milwaukee.  Their home was nothing expansive and not on the ocean. It was on the back bay and practically falling apart. Still, it had been in their family for generations and they loved it.  Then, they decided to adopt a teenage boy named Michael. And he came to the beach with them that fateful summer fifteen years ago. And nothing was ever the same.

  • Second homes.
  • Second families.
  • Second chances. 

The story opens telling us that the parents have been killed in a tragic car accident. Ann is returning to the cottage to make arrangements to sell it. She thinks she wants no part of it anymore. After all, it’s where the secrets lie.  Now Ann and Poppy have to make some decisions.  All is going as planned until Michael resurfaces and lays claim to his share of the house and he does not want to sell it.

What actually happened that summer all those years ago hangs over your head throughout the novel. And it would keep you blowing through the pages on its own. But the writing and the characters are so compelling. Not to even mention the biggest character of all: the saltbox house.  Clancy beautifully evokes feelings of Cape Cod and the shore to the pages. The coolness of the sand filtering through your toes, the tangy aroma of the beach, and the laid back adventurous atmosphere that spells BEACH in capital letters.  It’s all here plus the drama of not knowing what caused the treacherous rift between the family members.

Christina Clancy

This might be Christina Clancy’s debut novel but, it’s not going to be her last. I know I’m already sitting on the edge of my reading seat waiting for her sophomore effort!

This novel is on the summer reading list for the Critic’s Choice Artis-Naples. You know you need it. We will have copies of THE SECOND HOME at Copperfish Books.  They will arrive this week. They will be discounted 20%.

My review copy was provided by St. Martin’s Publishing Group.  I can’t thank them enough. THE SECOND HOME is going to be one of the BIG summer reads this year! I loved this book.

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!