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RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...
Karen Russell's latest collection of short stories are as bizarre, haunted and exquisitely crafted as I hoped they would be. The collection begins with "The Prospectors," wherein two young women attempt to attend an elegant affair and end up dancing with a group of dead boys. In the titular story, a new mother nurses a devil every night and all the while Russell is dissecting the postpartum experience with grace and humor. And in what is possibly my favorite of the collection, "The Gondoliers," about a girl with the qualities of a bat who navigates a dangerous, drowned new world, Russell proves that no one can write south Florida quite like her.
Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell ($25.95*, Knopf), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.
Some memoirs transcend the author's experience and become universal. I always thought of those as the good ones. Then I read Jayson Greene's memoir of loss and grief and was forced to confront the fullness of his individual humanity in a way I haven't experienced before. Grief is distinctly personal and Greene's story of the death of his two year old child is simply unfathomable to me, yet his honesty and willingness to sit in the fearfulness of life resonated deeply.
Once More We Saw Stars is a wonderfully written memoir that connects on an almost primitive level.
Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene ($25.00*, Knopf), recommended by Cavalier House Books, Denham Springs, LA.
Wax has delivered a fun, touching summer read that takes place in the Outer Banks of North Caroline with a smattering of scenes in our own town of Richmond (including a nice shout out to Fountain Bookstore)!
Lauren and Brianna, former best friends who have since fallen out, are approaching their 40th birthdays several hundred miles apart. Once as close as sisters, they now no longer speak until Lauren returns home with her new fiance to try on the wedding dress that has been in her family for generations. The girls are forced to confront some difficult decisions and secrets from their past while dealing with current family stresses.
Told in the voice of both girls plus Kendra, the mom who loves them both as her own, this story is sweet and easily devoured.
My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding by Wendy Wax ($16.00*, Berkley), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.
Nedda Papas is eleven and space-obsessed in Easter, Florida, when Challenger explodes in the sky overhead, sending shock waves through the small NASA-adjacent town. Nedda’s father, a scientist grieving the death of his infant son, the passing of his daughter’s youth, and the degeneration of his hands, has been conducting fragile and dangerous experiments, sent over the edge and altering the fabric of time in wondrous and tragic ways after Challenger’s demise.
Years later, Nedda has achieved her dream of spaceflight, hurtling toward a distant planet when a dire malfunction causes her to reckon with her past in order to preserve the possibility for a future. Light from Other Stars is a thrilling journey through space and time and a deeply moving exploration of the bond between parent and child.
Light from Other Stars by Erika Swyler ($27.00*, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.
I have always enjoyed Jaci Burton's books but was glad to see her step into a new setting outside of sports. This romance with a firehouse setting really works. There is just enough romance and drama to keep the book interesting and the story's incorporation of juvenile homelessness and the foster care system adds depth. I was hooked until the end!
Hot to the Touch by Jaci Burton ($16.00*, Berkley), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.
What a catch this book is! Every story tugs at your emotions as you enjoy a ride upstream. In a world that is surviving on espresso we all need to remember to stop, breathe, pick up a fishing pole, and tune into nature and the quiet you need to fish. This original book is a must have for every home.
Gather at the River edited by David Joy with Eric Rickstad ($16.95*, Hub City Press), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.
I had hoped that reading Casey Cep's Furious Hours would be like listening to some of my favorite true crime podcasts (S-Town, anyone?), and I was not disappointed. The book weaves together the stories of a black reverend suspected of killing off his family members for insurance fraud, the lawyer who defended him in court countless times, and Harper Lee, who had planned to write a book about them. Equal parts biography, history, and reporting, Furious Hours is the rare nonfiction book that actually reads like fiction.
Furious Hours by Casey Cep ($26.95*, Knopf), recommended by New Dominion Bookshop, Charlottesville, VA.