Set in Hawaii, Hemmings' page-turner of a debut novel is narrated by Matt King, a wealthy, well-connected attorney, who is the head of an unusual family. As the descendant of upper-crust landowners—Hawaiian royalty, no less—Matt leads a glamorous life that includes travel, flashy motorcycles and exclusive beach clubs. But when a boating accident puts his wife, Joanie, in what seems to be an irreversible coma, Matt's fast existence takes a drastic turn. He must single-handedly care for his two daughters, Scottie, a preternaturally intelligent 10-year-old, and Alex, a moody 17-year-old who is fighting a cocaine habit.

Trying to survive without Joanie at the helm of the family is harder than the threesome ever imagined. When Matt discovers Joanie had been having an affair, he sets out to find her lover with the help of his daughters, and the quest leads them into new emotional territory. It's a journey that changes them forever. Matt's descent from golden boy to betrayed husband and struggling father is chronicled poignantly by Hemmings, who writes skillfully about family relationships, particularly the father-daughter bond. There's also a great deal of humor in the book, supplied largely by Scottie and Alex. This is a sensitively written novel from a promising new writer.

A reading group guide is included in the book.

The World Without Us
In his latest book, which was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award, Weisman, an acclaimed journalist and science writer, explores the darkest of possibilities: what would happen on Earth if mankind became extinct? To formulate an answer to this question, Weisman talked with experts in a number of fields, from biologists and environmentalists to Indian spiritual guides and museum curators. Weisman's discoveries about what might happen in a world without humans is chilling. New York City subways would quickly fill with water, vegetation would consume buildings and streets, and domesticated animals would become the prey of their wild counterparts. Litter and waste - a billion tons of plastic, built-to-last rubber tires beyond counting - would, of course, outlive mankind. However, with humans out of the way, many of the fish, birds and trees now on the endangered species list could experience a second coming. Also surviving man: radio waves transmitting TV broadcasts into outer space - forever. Thoroughly researched and elegantly written, this chilling narrative, which started out as an article for Discovery magazine, sheds disturbing new light on the state of the planet and mankind's role in life on Earth.

Towelhead
In her moving debut novel, Erian bravely examines the dynamics of sexual attraction as it develops between a young girl and the older men she encounters. The girl is 13-year-old Jasira, who attracts the attentions of her mother's boyfriend, Barry. When her mother finds out about their affair, she sends Jasira to live with her father in Houston. Stern, old-fashioned, of Lebanese descent, her father has a short temper and takes little interest in Jasira's development as a teenager, except to lay down harsh rules. He won't allow her to buy tampons - he believes they should only be used by married women - and outlaws her friendship with an African-American boy. Behind closed doors, though, Jasira experiences a sexual awakening that leads her to Mr. Vuoso, her father's slightly seedy neighbor. Mr. Vuoso's sexual interest in Jasira is complicated by her Middle Eastern lineage - a quality he finds strangely repulsive. Erian's frank portrayal of their relationship, including Mr. Vuoso's ambivalence about Jasira, lends the book a powerful authenticity. When Mr. Vuoso engages Jasira as a babysitter for his little boy, it becomes clear that nothing will prevent the two of them from pushing their relationship to its limits. Written with brutal honesty from the perspective of Jasira, the book takes an unflinching look at race, sex, gender and cultural differences, couching these complex themes in a story that's skillfully constructed and extremely readable.

A reading group guide is included in the book.

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