With our apologies, beloved patrons, for missing our typical Friday round-up of all the sensational books that are awaiting you on our shelves, we present you a special weekend bonus edition of the Free-For-All, with six new titles for your consideration!
Just a reminder, the Library will be closed until Tuesday, September 4 in honor of the Labor Day holiday. We hope yours is a safe and a relaxing weekend, and we look forward to seeing you at 9am on Tuesday!
Severance: It’s not everyday you hear a book described as a “wryly funny, apocalyptic satire”, but that’s precisely the way in which Ling Ma’s debut novel is being described. Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty, and is currently content just to carry on. So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost. Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers? This is a novel as funny and insightful as it is unsettling and imaginative, and it getting write-ups in ‘best of’ and ‘most anticipated’ lists across the country, as well as earning a starred review from Booklist, who noted, “Embracing the genre but somehow transcending it, Ma creates a truly engrossing and believable anti-utopian world. Ma’s extraordinary debut marks a notable creative jump by playing on the apocalyptic fears many people share today.”
Heartbreaker: Another wonderfully skillful coming-of-age novel that blends sci-fi and reality seamlessly, Claudia Dey’s work is getting some pretty terrific reviews. It’s 1985. Pony Darlene Fontaine has lived all her fifteen years in “the territory,” a settlement founded decades ago by a charismatic cult leader. Pony’s family lives in the bungalow at the farthest edge of town, where the territory borders the rest of the wider world. It’s a world none of the townspeople have ever been, except for Billie Jean Fontaine, Pony’s mother. When Billie Jean arrived in the territory seventeen years prior—falling from the open door of a stolen car—the residents took her in and made her one of their own. She was the first outsider they had ever laid eyes on. Pony adores and idolizes her mother, but like everyone else in the territory she is mystified by her. Billie Jean refuses to describe the world she came from. One night, Billie Jean grabs her truck keys, bolts barefoot into the cold October darkness—and vanishes. Billie Jean was the first person to be welcomed into the territory. Now, with a frantic search under way for her missing mother, Pony fears: Will she be the first person to leave it too? Told through a series of alternating voices, including the boy on whom Pony has a secret crush and the family dog, Dey’s novel earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who praised how “Dey strips away the trappings of modernity to show what humans truly are at base, while eschewing the usual cult narrative. The result is a whole-cloth, word-for-word triumph of imagination.”
John Woman: Walter Mosley has created some truly iconic characters over the course of his career, and John Woman is a fitting protagonist to join their pantheon. At twelve years old, Cornelius, the son of an Italian-American woman and an older black man from Mississippi named Herman, secretly takes over his father’s job at a silent film theater in New York’s East Village. Five years later, as Herman lives out his last days, he shares his wisdom with his son, explaining that the person who controls the narrative of history controls their own fate. After his father dies and his mother disappears, Cornelius sets about reinventing himself―as Professor John Woman, a man who will spread Herman’s teachings into the classrooms of his unorthodox southwestern university and beyond. But there are other individuals who are attempting to influence the narrative of John Woman, and who might know something about the facts of his hidden past. There is a lot with which to grapple in this book, from issues of sexuality and power to intimacy and evil, making for a thought-provoking, heady exploration. As Kirkus Reviews notes, Mosley “raises the stakes with this tightly wound combination of psychological suspense and philosophic inquiry…Here he weaves elements of both the erotic and the speculative into a taut, riveting, and artfully edgy saga…Somehow, it makes sense that when Walter Mosley puts forth a novel of ideas, it arrives with the unexpected force of a left hook and the metallic gleam of a new firearm.”
The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life: Science journalist David Quammen explores science’s tangled relationship with evolution and microbiology in this engaging and educating work. In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field (the study of life’s diversity and relatedness at the molecular level) is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or the movement of genes across species lines. It turns out that HGT has been widespread and important. For instance, we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection (in itself a form of HGT). Quammen chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them, and emphasizing how their research pertains directly to our everyday lives and longterm health. The Boston Globe loved Quammen’s new work, declaring “Quammen has written a deep and daring intellectual adventure. . . . The Tangled Tree is much more than a report on some cool new scientific facts. It is, rather, a source of wonder.”
The Life Lucy Knew: Karma Brown ‘s fiction is written with that same vital, engaging spark that she brought to her award-winning journalism career, and considering the praise this new novel is receiving, it’s sure to be a hit among fans and new readers alike. After hitting her head, Lucy Sparks awakens in the hospital to a shocking revelation: the man she’s known and loved for years—the man she recently married—is not actually her husband. In fact, they haven’t even spoken since their breakup four years earlier. The happily-ever-after she remembers in vivid detail—right down to the dress she wore to their wedding—is only one example of what her doctors call a false memory: recollections Lucy’s mind made up to fill in the blanks from the coma. Her psychologist explains the condition as honest lying, because while Lucy’s memories are false, they still feel incredibly real. Now she has no idea which memories she can trust—a devastating experience not only for Lucy, but also for her family, friends and especially her devoted boyfriend, Matt, whom Lucy remembers merely as a work colleague. Unmoored and unsure, Lucy is forced to grapple with her memories and her identity in order to come to terms with who she really is. Kirkus Reviews enjoyed this book a good deal, noting “Brown makes Lucy’s struggle vivid and stark—she has a lovely life, but, thanks to her injury, she doesn’t feel like it’s hers…A fizzy love story with a serious streak, good for readers who like their conundrums to go down as easily as one of the cocktails the characters enjoy.”
The Last Englishmen: Love, War, and the End of Empire: Deborah Baker turns her eye to the end of the British Empire, a story huge in scope, made understandable by the intimate love story at its heart. John Auden was a pioneering geologist of the Himalaya. Michael Spender was the first to draw a detailed map of the North Face of Mount Everest. While their younger brothers―W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender―achieved literary fame, they vied to be included on an expedition that would deliver Everest’s summit to an Englishman, a quest that had become a metaphor for Britain’s struggle to maintain power over India. To this rivalry was added another: in the summer of 1938 both men fell in love with a painter named Nancy Sharp. Her choice would determine where each man’s wartime loyalties would lie. The cast of this exhilarating drama includes Indian and English writers and artists, explorers and Communist spies, Die Hards and Indian nationalists, political rogues and police informers. Full of a love of language, place, and character, Baker’s history earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who noted, “Seemingly covering disparate topics, Baker beautifully connects them all with an incisive, clear writing style and sharp descriptions of the terrain.”
Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!