We also wanted to let you know, beloved patrons, that our elevator will be out of service all day on Monday, April 8. Our West and South Branches will be open and functioning as usual. Our staff will also be on hand to help you access any area of the library over the course of the day. We are very sorry for the difficulties this will cause, but we hope that the results (namely, a fully functioning elevator) will be worth it!
But now, on to the books!
The Parade: David Eggers has not only made great contributions to literature himself, but his work with young writers and literacy programs is ensuring that lots of other young wordsmiths will also be making contributions as well. And thus, we’re quite excited to showcase his newest novel. An unnamed country is leaving the darkness of a decade at war, and to commemorate the armistice the government commissions a new road connecting two halves of the state. Two men, foreign contractors from the same company, are sent to finish the highway. While one is flighty and adventurous, wanting to experience the nightlife and people, the other wants only to do the work and go home. But both men must eventually face the absurdities of their positions, and the dire consequences of their presence. These men are introduced only by numbers, and their pasts are hidden from us, replicating the odd, and subtly disconcerting tone of the state in which they are working. The result is a story that Kirkus described as “An unassuming but deceptively complex morality play, as Eggers distills his ongoing concerns into ever tighter prose.”
The Lost Night: Andrea Bartz’s debut has muscled its way onto a number of ‘best of’ lists, and is raising the eyebrows and pulses of readers, as well. In 2009, Edie had New York’s social world in her thrall. Mercurial and beguiling, she was the shining star of a group of recent graduates living in a Brooklyn loft and treating New York like their playground. When Edie’s body was found near a suicide note at the end of a long, drunken night, no one could believe it. Grief, shock, and resentment scattered the group and brought the era to an abrupt end. A decade later, Lindsay has come a long way from the drug-addled world of Calhoun Lofts. She has devoted best friends, a cozy apartment, and a thriving career as a magazine’s head fact-checker. But when a chance reunion leads Lindsay to discover an unsettling video from that hazy night, she starts to wonder if Edie was actually murdered—and, worse, if she herself was involved. As she rifles through those months in 2009—combing through case files, old technology, and her fractured memories—Lindsay is forced to confront the demons of her own violent history to bring the truth to light. We love ourselves a good unreliable narrator here at the Free For All, so this book is on our To Be Read list, as well! Milwaukee Magazine gave this book a great review, noting “.If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers with strong female protagonists, like Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects or Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, put The Lost Night on your must-read list.”
A Woman Is No Man: Here is another stunning debut from Brooklyn-based author Etaf Rum, that looks at the immigrant experience inside one very unique family. Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law Fareeda and strange new husband Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children—four daughters instead of the sons Fareeda tells Isra she must bear. In Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. Deya can’t help but wonder if her options would have been different had her parents survived the car crash that killed them when Deya was only eight. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man. But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths about her family—knowledge that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her parents, the past, and her own future. The New York Times Review of Books wrote a powerful review of this book, describing it as “A dauntless exploration of the pathology of silence, an attempt to unsnarl the dark knot of history, culture, fear and trauma that can render conservative Arab-American women so visibly invisible…. The triumph of Rum’s novel is that she refuses to measure her women against anything but their own hearts and histories…. Both a love letter to storytelling and a careful object lesson in its power.”
Murder By The Book: The Crime that Shocked Dickens’ London: In May 1840, Lord William Russell, well known in London’s highest social circles, was found with his throat cut. The brutal murder had the whole city talking. The police suspected Russell’s valet, Courvoisier, but the evidence was weak. The missing clue, it turned out, lay in the unlikeliest place: what Courvoisier had been reading. In the years just before the murder, new printing methods had made books cheap and abundant, the novel form was on the rise, and suddenly everyone was reading. The best-selling titles were the most sensational true-crime stories. Even Dickens and Thackeray, both at the beginning of their careers, fell under the spell of these tales–Dickens publicly admiring them, Thackeray rejecting them. One such phenomenon was William Harrison Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard, the story of an unrepentant criminal who escaped the gallows time and again. When Lord William’s murderer finally confessed his guilt, he would cite this novel in his defense. In this recounting of the case and its literary roots, Claire Harman combines a thrilling true-crime story with an illuminating account of the rise of the novel form and the battle for its early soul among the most famous writers of the time. Kirkus Reviews gave this wonderfully-researched book a starred review, calling it “An endlessly fascinating, bookish tale of true crime in Victorian England . . . Lovers of Drood, Sherlock, Jack the Ripper, and their kin real and fictional will relish the gruesome details of this entertaining book.”
An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System; A Tale in Four Lives: A terminal cancer patient rises from the grave. A medical marvel defies HIV. Two women with autoimmunity discover their own bodies have turned against them. Through these fascinating human stories, Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer Matt Richtel takes us on a journey of the human immune system winding from the Black Plague to twentieth-century breakthroughs in vaccination and antibiotics, to the cutting-edge laboratories that are revolutionizing immunology. Based on extensive new interviews with dozens of world-renowned scientists, Matt Richtel’s new work is both an investigation into the deepest riddles of survival and a profoundly human tale that is movingly brought to life through the eyes of his four main characters, each of whom illuminates an essential facet of our immunological defense system. Kirkus also gave this book a starred review, hailing it as “An expert examination of the immune system. … Richtel illuminates a complex subject so well that even physicians will learn.”
Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!