In the town of Steeple Chase, Pennsylvania, there’s not much for a poor farm girl other than a life of looming drudgery. And this is why, in The Hired Girl, the farmer’s daughter wises up and escapes the farm toil, striking out on her own to push back against the societal, cultural and patriarchal confines that threaten the rest of her days.
Tom Piazza’s new novel is a crisply told tale of race relations in Philadelphia a few years before the Civil War, one that brings into sharp relief the tensions that beset Northern society even as it was about to go to war to rid the nation of slavery.
Last Bus to Wisdom is told by an orphan. He’s Donal Cameron, a Montana boy who is 11 years old in 1951. The flinty grandmother who raised him after his parents were killed needs an operation. This means Donny needs to go live with Gram’s somewhat estranged sister in Wisconsin. To do this he has to go Greyhound or, as they said back in the day, ride the dog bus. Having ridden the dog bus fairly frequently over the years, this reviewer braced herself for a horror story.
Atmospheric, moody and evocative—these words describe Alice Hoffman’s latest achievement, The Marriage of Opposites. And that is no accident, because they also accurately describe the 19th-century artistic movement known as Impressionism, founded by Camille Pissarro, the third son Rachel Pomié bore to her second husband, Frédérick.
If someone were to recommend a funny novel about the London Blitz, you might think either that the person was joking or that such a book could only be tasteless and disrespectful. In some cases you’d be right, but in the case of Crooked Heart, British author Lissa Evans’ American debut, you’d be in for a pleasant surprise. Evans has written an amusing tale about morally compromised characters that, in the midst of its comedy, asks whether morally wrong actions are justified in a time of unspeakable horror.
Janis Cooke Newman, author of Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln, once again brings history to life with her sophomore novel, A Master Plan for Rescue. Here, Newman explores New York City as World War II percolates across the Atlantic. Her remarkable novel is filled with stories within stories that recall the superhero serials that its gifted 12-year-old, Jack Quinlan, wholeheartedly believes in.
For the irrepressible 12-year-old heroine of The Truth According to Us, growing up in the sleepy West Virginia mill town of Macedonia at the height of the Great Depression proves to be anything but depressing.
Mazie Phillips-Gordon was a real person. Born in 1897, she ran the ticket booth at New York’s Venice Theater from 1916 to 1938. You may not think that’s such a big achievement, but then you probably haven’t read the Joseph Mitchell New Yorker essay about her that inspired Jami Attenberg’s entertaining new novel, Saint Mazie.
Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s second novel, Balm, follows a group of refugees who meet in the bustling, reeking and bewildering city of Chicago.
In Sarah McCoy’s new book, two protagonists tell the little-known history of Sarah Brown, daughter of John Brown, the staunch abolitionist who was executed for the attack he led on Harper’s Ferry.