Blake Bailey has written notable biographies of authors John Cheever and Richard Yates, both difficult and brilliant men. While he was sifting through their lives, he was also reflecting on his own. The Splendid Things We Planned is the resulting portrait, a story of mental illness and addiction and the difficult orbits they force upon the healthy. It’s also a tribute to one family’s best efforts and inevitable failings.
Debbie Stier faced a crisis. The oldest of her two children was approaching college age, and she hadn’t saved for tuition. What’s more, Ethan was, in her words: “a boy who was ‘happy getting B’s’ and had gotten an awful lot of them.” He was neither an honors student nor an extracurricular overachiever.
An epistolary tale told through emails, interoffice memos, legal documents and handwritten notes, The Divorce Papers is a witty and engaging first novel from author Susan Rieger. As is obvious from the title, the book features a divorce at its center. However, Rieger makes it about much more as she covers topics ranging from childhood trauma and fresh romances to office politics and literary theory.
Is there anyone who hasn’t wondered which actions and incidents most gave shape to their lives? In Tessa Hadley’s Clever Girl, Stella is the author of her own life, recounting her story in a series of gracefully drawn but honestly expressed episodes starting in the 1960s and running to the present day.
If you’re very observant and know a little something about the wilder shores of human genetics, then you may be able to figure out the big mystery of Carol Cassella’s new novel by, oh, page 260 or so. Oh yes, the title also gives one a hint as to what’s going on with one of the book’s well-drawn characters. But we should start at the beginning.
BookPage Top Pick in Children's Books, March 2014
When Lucy’s family moves to an old house on a New Hampshire lake, she must adjust to new surroundings and new friends—all without her father, a professional photographer, who is gone on yet another extended business trip.
Dreaming of April in Paris? In How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City, astute cultural observer Joan DeJean argues that Paris has been a modern, alluring city far longer than we usually imagine. Although we tend to think of 19th-century Paris as the bustling epitome of “la vie moderne,” the roots of all we know and love about Paris today actually came into being in the 17th century.
In her memoir, The Ogallala Road, Julene Bair chronicles the last days of her family’s Kansas farm, as well as the bittersweet love affair that feeds her hope of saving the place her folks called home. She makes the case that modern farming practices are inexorably eroding the vast resources her ancestors took for granted, and she mourns the unraveling of the tapestry that once bound together her family, their history and the land they shared.
There’s something enchanting and timeless about the art of Barbara McClintock. Where’s Mommy? is a lovely follow-up to Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary, her previous collaboration with writer Beverly Donofrio. In the first book, Mary formed a friendship with a mouse; now, Mary’s daughter Maria has a secret bond with Mouse Mouse, unbeknownst to their moms.
Kim Church has created an unforgettable and gripping tale about a young woman’s passage to adulthood in a small town in North Carolina in her excellent debut novel, Byrd. There are books we like to read because they provide a window to a world wholly unfamiliar, but there are others like Byrd that give insight into our own lives: our hopes and dreams, what we’ve done right, opportunities missed.