BookPage Fiction Top Pick, February 2014
“The first time I saw a sleeper, I was nine years old.” Best-selling author Jennifer McMahon (Promise Not to Tell) opens her new novel, The Winter People, with a sentence that offers a tantalizing glimpse of the horrors to come in this marvelously creepy page-turner.
“Rebecca Winter” remains a household name, thanks to the iconic photograph “Still Life with Bread Crumbs” that catapulted her art career into the public eye. But Rebecca Winter, the person, has changed significantly in the decades since she captured that domestic image of her kitchen counter after her husband and son retired for the evening. She’s no longer married, for one. And it’s been so long since she made a significant sale that she can no longer afford the upscale Manhattan apartment that contains the kitchen immortalized in that famous picture.
I was skeptical when I found out the author of The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating stars on “The Real Housewives of New York.” And when the epigram was a Lady Gaga quote, I thought I was in for a long slog. What a pleasant surprise, then, when the book turned out to be one of the richest, most deeply satisfying stories I’ve read in a long time.
What are the effects of children on their parents? Academics have long studied the question, and most readers have some back-of-the-hand knowledge of the subject. But rarely have those two groups been in conversation—until now. Jennifer Senior successfully connects a barrage of scholarship with the real experiences of moms and dads, and the resulting book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, is completely fascinating.
Fourteen-year-old Victoria Secord loves nothing more than her 16 Alaskan huskies. Like her dad, she loves racing, and she races to win. But after her father’s untimely death, Vicky and her mom are at odds. Vicky could never leave Alaska, but her mom keeps talking about moving back to Seattle.
Patrick Ness has made a well-deserved name for himself in the realm of young adult fiction, where he’s crafted magical tales full of sensitivity and raw emotional energy. With The Crane Wife, he brings all of those talents to a story for adults, and the result is a viscerally beautiful, subtly magical and instantly memorable realistic fairy tale that will linger in your brain.
On the heels of solving her first mystery in the Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, Mo LoBeau faces more intrigue in her tiny North Carolina town of Tupelo Landing. Just when her adoptive kin buy the old Tupelo Inn, now abandoned and rumored to be haunted, her sixth-grade teacher assigns an oral history report to coincide with the community’s 250th anniversary. Extra credit goes to the student who can interview the town’s oldest member, so Mo decides to interview the ghost of the Tupelo Inn because “[t]here ain’t nobody older than dead.”
Cheryl Strayed wrote about how the death of her mother changed her life in the best-selling Wild. In a similar and yet very different vein, Kelly Corrigan writes about the effects of her mom’s presence in a wonderful new memoir, Glitter and Glue.
When your mom is the president of the United States, you’d think your life would be perfect. But, as eighth grader Audrey Rhodes is discovering, living at “1600” (as she calls her new home) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Having friends over becomes an issue of national security, a Secret Service agent follows her everywhere and class trips are out of the question.
Author Matthew Quick probably is tired of hearing the word “quirky,” but it really is the singularly best way to describe his storytelling. After his first novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, was adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, Quick delivers a new story featuring Bartholomew Neil, a uniquely likeable protagonist who at nearly 40 has lived with his mother his entire life.