There’s still another month of summer reading ahead! If you’ve already reached the bottom of your beach bag (or camp bag or sitting-in-the-parking-lot-waiting-for-your-kids bag), our editors have some exciting suggestions for replenishing it.
Fiction Co-Editor Kristina Riggle writes, “I just finished Defending Jacob by William Landay. This courtroom drama is not my usual reading fare, but I read it for my book club. I’m so glad I did. An assistant DA has to help defend his 14-year-old son, Jacob, against charges that he murdered a classmate. Jacob isn’t the easiest defendant, and as circumstantial evidence mounts, cracks begin to form between Jacob’s parents. This book tackles important questions about how far parental loyalty really goes when the truth isn’t clear.”
Lisa Factora-Borchers, Creative Non-Fiction Co-Editor, is conscientiously spreading hype: “I just finished An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Believe the hype, about both the book and the author. An Untamed State is a frantic, page-turning story of a Haitian-American women kidnapped and held thirteen days for a ransom that her powerful, millionaire father refuses to pay. Biculturalism, sexual violence, and redemption are vividly woven in this haunting story of one woman’s struggle to survive brutal captivity. An intense and thoroughly captivating read.”
Blog Co-Editor Amanda Jaros raves, “I recently read Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett. It is a beautiful collection of short stories, most of which take place during the 1800s, and all of which revolve around some aspect of science. The stories bring to life real historical figures and events with fictional characters that are rich and alive. One story is about a man in the days of Darwin struggling to collect exotic animal specimens to send back to England. Another stand-out involves a young woman who wants to be a scientist but is not permitted even to discuss science on account of her gender. The title story looks at the enormous influx of Irish immigrants into Canada in the mid-1800s, and the horror of the typhus from which most of them died. Although the topics are not exactly upbeat, Barrett’s tone in these stories is gentle and moving. She has captured what I think the 1800s might have felt like. The modern science we all know today, and take entirely for granted, was once unknown. This book brings that inexperience to life in an honest way. Ship Fever was one of the best books I have read in ages.”
Andrea Lani, Literary Reflections Co-Editor, shares, “I just finished the novel Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement (full disclosure: Jennifer and I attended the same graduate program). Ladydi, the book’s teenage narrator, lives on a mountainside in Mexico where the men have all left in search of better opportunities and where the girls are disguised as boys in an attempt to prevent their abduction. The mountain is a world ripped apart by drug wars, human trafficking, and the rippling effects of a highway built through its heart. It’s also a world peopled by strong mothers struggling to protect their families. Ladydi is an engaging narrator who leads the reader gently through this hostile landscape and keeps us rooting for her survival and escape.”
Editor-in-Chief Caroline Grant offers the pick of her vacation bag: “A week in the woods at family camp gave me time to read 5 (!) books last week, but the one that I can’t stop thinking about is The Wives of Los Alamos, by Tarashea Nesbit. Meticulously researched and beautifully written in a first person plural that builds like a chorus, the novel conveys the varied experiences of the women who moved with their physicist husbands to New Mexico during World War II. While the men worked on The Manhattan Project, their wives raised children, kept house, built a community, conjectured about their husbands’ work, and wrote deliberately vague letters to their parents and siblings–who knew only that these women were somewhere in the southwest. Children born to these families have a PO box number listed as their place of birth; children who left for college weren’t permitted to return home until after the war was over. The secrecy brought couples closer and drove them apart. It’s a fascinating story, inventively told.”