by Julie HaleJune 2012
New paperback releases for reading groups
A LONER’S STORY
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, Denis Johnson’s atmospheric novella, Train Dreams, is set in the early 1900s in the American West. Arriving in the Idaho wilderness as a young orphan, Robert Grainier comes of age, makes a living as a logger and slowly awakens to the changes of a new century. Grainier marries and becomes a father, only to lose his little family in a tragedy from which he never fully recovers. After the loss, he hunkers down in the wilderness, building a cabin where he lives in solitude. The modern world intrudes at times in the form of airplanes and television, yet Grainier stubbornly adheres to a hardscrabble way of life. Adapting a lean, finely honed prose style, Johnson has fashioned a starkly beautiful portrait of a man struggling to find his place in the world. Brief yet visionary, this is a quiet classic from a master storyteller.
In her entertaining memoir, The Memory of All That, novelist Katharine Weber gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at her funny—and famous—family. Weber’s maternal grandmother was Kay Swift, the Broadway composer who had a decade-long affair with George Gershwin. At the start of their romance, Kay was married to James Paul Warburg, a banker and advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Over the course of this fascinating narrative, Weber offers snapshots of her remarkable relatives, including well-known financier Paul Warburg and the famously odd art historian Aby Warburg. Weber’s own father, Sidney Kaufman, was a philanderer and filmmaker who brought smell to the movies for the first time using a method called AromaRama. With its rich cast of characters, unforgettable incidents and sly dialogue, Weber’s mesmerizing family tale has enchantments aplenty—enough to rival any piece of fiction.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
J. Courtney Sullivan, author of the 2009 bestseller Commencement, offers a compelling and resonant family drama in her second novel, Maine. It’s summertime, and the female members of the Kelleher clan are gathering at their family home in Maine for a reunion that’s full of surprising revelations. Overseen by strong-willed grandmother Alice, who, most afternoons, enjoys a strong drink and a cigarette, the clan includes 32-year-old Maggie, who is secretly pregnant; Maggie’s mother, Kathleen, who dreads the summer get-together; and Ann Marie, Alice’s meek daughter-in-law. As the summer unfolds, each woman comes to terms with herself and the family in ways she never expected. Writing with compassion and insight, Sullivan dramatizes female relationships in a style that is both original and illuminating. Her expertly crafted novel perfectly captures the atmosphere of the Kellehers’ transformative summer—a season fraught with change and growth.