David Maraniss didn’t set out to write a ghost story, but Once in a Great City, his glimmering portrait of Detroit, has a lingering, melancholy quality that will leave the reader thoroughly haunted.
The Highlander’s Bride, the first in Amanda Forester’s Highland Trouble series, has all the trappings of an old-fashioned romance with some delightfully feminist twists thrown in. The heroine is a sheltered noblewoman, and the hero is a Scots warrior who offends her tender sensibilities with his legs and his disregard for her possessions. However, the Lady is no delicate flower, and the Scotsman is no domineering alpha.
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.
In Paradise of the Pacific, Susanna Moore sees the history of the Hawaiian Islands as “a story of arrivals,” one that encompasses not only flora and fauna blown by the winds but early Polynesian travelers, explorers, missionaries and whalers.
Wait, we need a Brooklyn-based writer to guide us through the swamps, thickets and kudzu of Southern literary haunts? Not to worry—Margaret Eby may live in the borough, but she grew up in Alabama and is on familiar turf in South Toward Home, a highly readable literary tour of the region that gave us Faulkner, O’Connor and Lee (Harper, not Robert E.).
Call it the male answer to Eat, Pray, Love.
James Joyce once wished for an “ideal reader with an ideal case of insomnia”; a reader of Joyce Carol Oates similarly needs an ideal insomnia to plow through the 50-plus novels of this legendarily prolific writer. As it turns out, Oates herself suffers from insomnia, and has since she was a girl, using her night hours productively and well. Her new book, The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age, offers an exquisitely rendered glimpse of her own childhood in rural upstate New York.
Stuart Stevens grew up going to Ole Miss games with his father. In 1962, in the midst of tumultuous battles over civil rights on campus, Stevens and his father cheered the Rebels to a perfect season and a national championship. More than 50 years later, having just finished leading an exhausting and unsuccessful presidential campaign for Mitt Romney, Stevens “wakes up” and realizes that what he wants most in the world is one more season, “with my father and football and the Ole Miss Rebels.”
Negroland is not a geographic locale. It’s the name Margo Jefferson gives to the place, time and circumstances of her upbringing in the upper echelons of black society. Her memoir, which reads with the blast force of a prose poem, looks back with love and no small amount of anger at a life spent navigating the freedoms of class while flirting with, and occasionally skirting, the imposed limits of race.
Chloe was born a teenager and will always be one. Like her sisters, the middle-aged Serena and the elderly Xinot, she exists only to spin, measure and cut the threads of human lives. Chloe and her sisters are the Fates of Greek mythology, living and working on an island far from human entanglements—until a desperate teenage girl, Aglaia, seeks shelter in the Fates’ home.