Does Nicholas Sparks ever get writer's block? It seems unlikely. Fresh off the release of The Last Song, the popular novelist will publish a 15th book on September 14. Saying Goodbye (Grand Central) is poised to join the rest of the Sparks canon and sounds full of tear-jerking twists.
Like The Notebook, Saying Goodbye centers on the rediscovery of a lost love—and throws in a dying best friend for good measure. But Audrey, who has been diagnosed with cancer, has enough life left in her to revive Renee's memories of the boy she fell in love with during their study abroad trip in Spain more than 20 years ago. Could there be a chance for the two to reconnect? The answers may be predictable, but readers are sure to come along for the ride come September.
The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
Doubleday, April 6, 2010
I’m pleased to say The Swimming Pool has lived up to its own hype—and then some. It’s the tangled story of two families linked forever by a love affair and a shocking murder. Marcella Atkinson fell in love with her summer neighbor, Cecil McClatchey, but before their relationship could even get off the ground, his wife was murdered. Seven years later, Marcella’s daughter is hired to nanny for Cecil’s daughter; Cecil is now dead, but his grown children are spending the summer at the family’s Cape house. And then his handsome son, Jed, finds an old swimsuit in his father’s closet, and begins to connect the dots between his father’s affair, his mother’s death and this mysterious older woman, Marcella.
At the bottom of the closet, among the dust bunnies, was a half-crushed shirt box. It felt light, and he opened it expecting to find nothing, or, at most, some old, ill-considered birthday gift. But instead, neatly folded, there was a woman’s bathing suit.
He felt he was seeing it not only with his eyes but with his whole body. A one-piece, plunging neckline, dark blue with vertical white stripes. Almost clownish—but then he lifted it out of the box and held it up by the straps. Yes. He remembered.
How old had be been?—that afternoon by the pool, their pool, when Marcella Atkinson had been stretched out in a lounge chair, alone at the corner of their patio? She had seemed separated from the rest of them, from the party that was going on, not only by a few feet that the chair was pulled but also by her stillness and, Jed had sensed, her sadness. And her beauty. Her perfect legs and olive skin and dark upswept hair had not seemed to belong with the cheerful Yankees in their madras shorts and flowered dresses, grilling fat American burgers and drinking gin and tonics.
Once rare, book trailers are now popping up for all but the most obscure titles. It's a wild world out there, so every Tuesday we'll post one—or two—that we consider notable for your entertainment.
This week's trailer is for The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen's third novel, which goes on sale today. Allen's work blends the everyday with the magical, not unlike that of Alice Hoffman. Check out the trailer, and then read our review of the book—a web exclusive.
Also in BookPage: A review of Garden Spells.
Some of you may look forward to college basketball in the spring. As for me, I get my March Madness fix every year (well, since 2005, anyway) with the Morning News Tournament of Books, which puts the year's best fiction in head-to-head competition.
The race for the Rooster started this week, and so far the commentary and matchups have been epic. Where else would you find John Wray's Lowboy facing off against Kathryn Stockett's The Help? (I won't give the winner away, but judge Andrew Womack concludes, "Were the two books somehow collated into a single work, the result would be more formidable: a cooler, more memorable, disarming contender. Something with teeth of its own.")
And don't miss the commentary on each round from returning hosts Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner. A sample from the discussion of the aforementioned Help/Lowboy matchup:
Take the following one question quiz—If a black person were in your house, where would you send her if she asked to use your restroom? If your answer is not “the driveway,” The Help will make you feel good about yourself.
Faithful Place by Tana French
Viking, July 13, 2010
"Howyis," I said, in the doorway.
A ripple of mugs going down, heads turning. My ma's snappy black eyes and five bright-blue pairs exactly like mine, all staring at me.
"Hide the heroin," Shay said. He was leaning against the window with his hands in his pockets; he'd watched me coming down the road. "It's the pigs." . . .
"Francis," Ma said. She eased back into the sofa, folded her arms where her waist would have been and eyed me up and down. "Could you not be bothered putting on a decent shirt, even?"
I said, "Howya, Ma."
"Mammy, not Ma. The state of you. The neighbors'll think I raised a homeless."
Somewhere along the way I'd swapped the army parka for a brown leather jacket, but apart from that I still have much the same fashion sense I left home with. If I'd worn a suit, she would have given me hassle for having notions of myself. With my ma you don't expect to win.
I first heard about Helen Grant's debut, The Vanishing of Katherina Linden, in a British look ahead at anticipated debuts of 2010. Intrigued by the description of the novel, which is told in the voice of an 11 year old in a small German town who is the last one to see her missing classmate alive, I searched for a U.S. release date. No dice.
Until today, when I heard that Delacorte would be publishing the book in August. I love the deliciously creepy cover, which is a good fit for a book that sounds like a blend of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the Brothers Grimm. According to the Guardian, "The excellent writing, and the eschewing of anything remotely winsome or mawkish, make this an eerily subtle literary page-turner." Sleeper hit? We'll find out.
Last week's mail brought a copy of the latest from Ann Brashares. Best known for her work on the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series (read our interview with her on the books here), she's now making her second foray into adult fiction after The Last Summer (of You and Me), your basic first-novel narrative of love and friendship.
My Name Is Memory sounds a bit more exciting. Like the Traveling Pants stories, it has a magical angle. The book follows a pair of star-crossed lovers—Daniel and Sophia—through several incarnations as they find, and then lose, each other again. The twist? Daniel can remember his past lives.
Brashares says on her blog, "This new book is kind of a departure for me. Not a total departure--it's mainly about love. But it takes place on a broad canvas of time." Though the novel won't hit stores until June, it's already been optioned by New Regency, who saw the book as a blend of Twilight and The Time-Traveler's Wife. Sounds like a bestseller, but judge for yourself—there's an excerpt on Brashares' site. We'll be digging into this one soon and will keep you posted!
Were any other New York Times Book Review watchers as surprised as I was to see this week's cover? Their choice of Angelology makes two fiction covers in the last three weeks, which has to be a record. What's more, Danielle Trussoni's first novel is more commercial than not, with a supernatural angle and plenty of action—not the usual NYTBR material.
But hey, maybe they've seen the wisdom in the BookPage philosophy of featuring books that many people will want to read—we also tagged Angelology as a spring standout. In a BookPage.com exclusive, Trussoni wrote about her inspiration for the novel, first in a planned series ("As you can imagine, the places and characters in my book are extremely different from my “real life” as a 30-something mother of two.").
Other BookPage.com highlights this month include an interview with Sam Lipsyte for his new novel, The Ask—a must read for dark humor fans—and a review of Peter Bognanni's "punk-rock-fueled" debut, The House of Tomorrow.
Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart
Harper, May 2010
Sarah and Nathan are just your average American couple: still in love after more than 10 years together, they have a toddler daughter and an infant son; Nathan is a novelist poised for commercial success with the release of his new book, Infidelity. But when Sarah learns that the book isn't all drawn from Nathan's imagination, what they thought they knew about their relationship is called into question.
Leah Stewart (Body of a Girl, The Myth of You & Me) is an acute social observer, and her take on this oldest of stories is worth reading. Told from Sarah's perspective, the novel puts readers in her place and asks them to consider the temptations and trials of a longterm relationship.
"Do you still love me?" I asked, as though I was just now following up on what he'd said as we got in the car. Two hours ago it wouldn't have crossed my mind to ask this question. Now I heard how tremulous my voice sounded when I did. I stared at his profile. The corners of his mouth turned down, as in a child's drawing of a sad face.
"Of course I do," he said, but this time he didn't sound sure, and I said so. "It's just . . ." He shot a look at me, gripped the wheel with both hands. "Sometimes, part of me wishes I didn't."
"What do you mean?"
"I wish I could say I didn't love you, or we were unhappy, or I was in love with her. At least then I'd have a reason for doing what I did."
"Yes," I said. "That would be much better." "You're gazing at me adoringly!" I used to cry, when I caught him looking at me, and he'd deny it, and then I'd insist that he was, that he was freaking me out, and I'd pretend to flee his presence, and he'd chase me and tickle me and fix me with wide eyes, a goofy smile, and say, "I love you, I love you, I love you, you can't get away."
"Let me go!" I'd shriek, laughing and squirming. "Let me go!"
"I'm sorry," he said now. "I don't know what I'm saying. I don't really mean any of that. I love you. I just feel so bad."
I said nothing, though what I wanted to say was, Yes, you love me, you do, and how could you ever for one moment wish that away?
I don't know yet if I'm taking a vacation this summer, but if it happens, Ayelet Waldman's latest will be tucked in my suitcase. Red Hook Road is being published in July 13. It's her first novel since 2006's Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, which interviewer Alden Mudge called "sharply observed, completely absorbing and sometimes wickedly humorous. Like Lionel Shriver and Zoe Heller, Waldman has a gift for creating flawed, and therefore human, characters. You may not always like them, but you root for them.
Red Hook Road sounds a little more dramatic than Love, which centered on the not-so-unusual dilemma of a stepmother struggling to accept her role. In an interview with Amazon, Waldman says that Red Hook Road was inspired by a newspaper story—a young couple, killed in a car crash on their way to their wedding reception. On her twitter feed, she describes it more succinctly: "Abt 2 families in Maine, connected & divided by tragedy and hope. Hey, just pulled that outa my butt. Pretty good!"