BookPage Fiction Top Pick, April 2014
The title of Maggie Shipstead’s second novel, Astonish Me, is a fitting one indeed. It’s a request, a demand, a dare, all wrapped up in two little words, heavy with promise.
Ayelet Waldman (Red Hook Road, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits) has written about personal tragedy numerous times: failed marriages, the struggles of motherhood, divided families. Her latest novel, Love & Treasure, deals with a larger human tragedy: the true story of the Hungarian Gold Train during World War II. It is a slight departure from her previous work, and yet, it remains just as powerful and inspiring.
Mohandas K. Gandhi was born and raised in India and is best known for his work there as a world-renowned social reformer, political thinker, religious pluralist and prophet. If his life had followed the traditional path for someone of his family and caste, he would have remained in India, served in a prominent position and been unknown to most of the world. But as the noted scholar Ramachandra Guha demonstrates in his eminently readable and exhaustively researched Gandhi Before India, the 20 years that Gandhi spent in South Africa before his return to his home country in 1914 were fundamental to his success.
Lantern Sam is a rare male calico cat who lives aboard a train called the Lake Erie Shoreliner (New York to Chicago in under 20 hours!) in the 1940s. Ostensibly in the care of conductor Clarence Nockwood, Sam is an intelligent and independent cat who has the ability to share his thoughts with some humans. Clarence is one of them, but when 10-year-old Henry Shipley comes aboard, Sam finds he can “talk” to him, too.
Lenny and the Mikes are back! After solving a baseball-related crime in Strike Three, You’re Dead, Lenny Norbeck and his friends Mike and Other Mike find themselves once again knee-deep in mystery. This time around, however, their friendship may suffer from the solving.
Dinaw Mengestu’s third novel skillfully blends two disparate narratives—the account of an African revolution and the story of a survivor’s new life in America—to create a moving portrait of the dilemma of identity.
The Mirk and Midnight Hour blends historical romance, suspense and the paranormal into a novel that’s a Southern Gothic tale at heart.
When we first meet Vasya Kandinsky in The Noisy Paint Box, he is dutifully studying math and history like “a proper Russian boy.” But when his aunt gives him a box of paints, the book’s color scheme shifts from dull blues and grays to bright reds and yellows. As a boy and later as a young man, Vasya can hear colors in a way that will later become known as synesthesia. Unlike his contemporaries, he’s not interested in painting houses or flowers or people; he wants to create works of art that aren’t supposed to be anything.
In 1894, Paris was rocked by the infamous Dreyfus affair, which reverberated in France for decades after Captain Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason in “a monstrous miscarriage of justice.” Robert Harris’ new novel, An Officer and a Spy, builds on the riveting trial and its aftermath, perfectly demonstrating its anti-Semitic core and the sense of justice gone awry in a rigid military hierarchy.
Moses Ebewesit Odidi Oganda is killed in the prologue of Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s first novel, Dust. From there on, everything falls to pieces.
We’re in 2007 Kenya, though the country has been tormented ever since the Brits decided to graft it onto their Empire. Add to this the Mau Mau uprisings, myriad political assassinations and the mandatory forgetting of the disappearances and torture of thousands of men, women and children. As one of the characters contemplates in this grief-stricken book, the three languages spoken in Kenya are “English, Kiswahili and Silence.”