by Julie HaleFebruary 2012
Best paperbacks for reading groups
SIBLINGS FOR HIRE
Patrick DeWitt’s one-of-a-kind Western, The Sisters Brothers, has the trappings of a classic but an attitude that’s decidedly contemporary. Charlie and Eli Sisters are brothers and guns for hire. When they’re enlisted by a wealthy settler to locate and eliminate a prospector named Herman Kermit Warm, they leave Oregon for California, embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. In the foothills of the Sierras, they find Warm’s prospecting claim, but along the way they encounter a variety of obstacles, including a group of crazed fur trappers, a witch and a bear. Their adventures are recounted by Eli, whose commentary infuses the novel with sensitivity and humanity. Shedding new light on old myths about frontier life, DeWitt’s book has plenty of action, and his sharply etched characters, though rooted in tradition, stand firmly on their own.
S.J. Watson’s electrifying debut, Before I Go to Sleep, has all the makings of a classic thriller. At the center of the novel is Christine, an amnesiac who has lost her memory after a strange accident. Each day, her husband, Ben—whom she no longer recognizes—must supply Christine with the backstory of their life together. At the prompting of her doctor, Christine begins writing in a journal, an exercise that will hopefully spark her memory. When Christine discovers that she’s written the words “Don’t trust Ben” in her notebook, she feels the ground beneath her feet shift yet again. Faced with fresh misgivings about the past as well as the present, Christine finds herself struggling to navigate a daily existence that’s marked by danger and doubt. Should she rely on Ben? And what, exactly, was the nature of her accident? Watson, who lives in London, writes with the assurance and polish of a seasoned author in his gripping first novel.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown’s wonderfully appealing first novel, tells the story of a trio of sisters, each named by their eccentric scholar-father for a character from Shakespeare. Raised in Barnwell, Ohio, a quiet college town, Rosalind, Cordelia and Bianca Andreas spent their childhood engrossed in books and listening to their pater quote the Bard. Once out of the nest, though, the girls have very different experiences: Cordelia hooks up with a painter in New Mexico and gets pregnant, while Bianca has legal and financial troubles in New York. Meanwhile, Rosalind, the levelheaded oldest, remains faithfully in Barnwell, working as a math teacher. When the sisters learn that their mother has cancer, they return home for an unexpected reunion. Their time in Barnwell proves to be a period of awakening as they learn all over again the importance of family. Brown’s characters, like her prose style, are fresh and original.