GAIMAN’S MAGICAL JOURNEY
Versatile and acclaimed author Neil Gaiman targets adult readers in his latest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a spellbinding short novel set in England. The book’s ­middle-aged narrator, who remains anonymous throughout the tale, grew up in Sussex with some very odd neighbors—the Hempstocks: a witchy old woman, a little girl and her mother. When the narrator returns to Sussex many decades later, he finds the old woman and mother at home, just as they were years before, unaltered. The girl, who was gone the last time he saw the family, remains absent. Looking back on his childhood, the narrator recalls his magical involvement with the Hempstocks, who are in reality formidable, ageless figures working to protect the world from an evil supernatural power. With typical skill and imaginative genius, Gaiman combines elements of mythology, mystery and fantasy in an irresistible story that his legions of followers will love. Richly atmospheric and wonderfully original, this is a tale from an author whose inventiveness seems to know no bounds.

FAMILY BUSINESS
David Gilbert’s widely acclaimed second novel, & Sons, is a masterfully constructed narrative about a New York novelist coming to terms with the passing of time. Andrew Dyer is adored by the reading public but leads an isolated life. Motivated by the death of an old friend, he’s eager for his three sons to forge a friendship with one another. His teenage son, Andy, whose out-of-wedlock conception proved the undoing of Andrew’s marriage, is half-brother to his older sons, Richard and Jamie. Richard hopes to become a screenwriter and lives in Los Angeles, while Jamie travels around the world documenting catastrophes. Their story has a few madcap elements, including a fake manuscript and a viral video, but at bottom, it’s a profound examination of family ties and the delicacy of human relationships. Gilbert’s depiction of Andrew as a reclusive, gruff author is spot-on, and his portrayal of sibling relations is sure to resonate with readers. A shrewd observer of humanity, Gilbert has crafted an engaging family story that fans of Franzen and Chabon will savor.

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Khaled Hosseini’s beautifully crafted third novel, And the Mountains Echoed, opens in 1952 in Afghanistan, where Saboor, a poor man struggling to survive, sells Pari, his 3-year-old daughter, to a wealthy couple. As subsequent sections of this powerful novel reveal, Saboor’s actions directly affect the family members who follow him, including his young son, Abdullah, who is torn apart by the loss of Pari. Hosseini tracks the repercussions of Saboor’s decision across five decades, as the action shifts outside of Afghanistan to France, America and Greece. He weaves many different plot strands into this remarkable narrative, controlling them all with remarkable skill and clear intent. A poignant tale of generational ties and the inescapable bonds of kinship, this is an impressive follow-up to Hosseini’s previous books, The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007).

 

This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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