In his frequently hilarious memoir The World's Largest Man, Harrison Scott Key recalls his Mississippi childhood, his domineering father and how both shaped him into the man he is today. Our reviewer says, "Both laugh-out-loud funny and observant about the ways we become our parents while asserting ourselves, The World’s Largest Man is a wise delight." (Read the review.)
We asked Key to tell us about three books he's enjoyed reading lately.
It's hard to imagine Twain as a debut author, age 34, looking like a young game show host with a black coiffure and a bed skirt attached to his lip. Published in 1869, his first book may also be the first funny, creative nonfiction book ever written, a story about a cruise to Europe and the Holy Land, long before David Foster Wallace made us want to jump overboard with A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. Twain writes such terrible things about Muslims that if he said them today I'm sure he'd be stoned by every tolerant progressive in North America, although they'd probably feel bad about it once they see how he treats the Church and her relics. Nevertheless, everything we love about Twain is here, especially that tenuous balance between cynicism and a genuine wonder at how beautiful the world can be anyway.
Many of these stories were first published in The New Yorker, including the longest one in the collection, a novella called "Sell Out", which is easily the funniest novella ever written by a human being in the land we know as America. In it, Rich tells a timeless tale about a Jewish immigrant who is preserved for a hundred years in a large vat of pickle juice and then reanimated. I know, I know, you've heard that story before. But Rich has a fresh take. For example, there's a character in the story named Simon Rich, and the pickled immigrant is his great-great-grandfather, and if you think that sounds too silly to be very funny, then maybe you should fall into a vat of something vinegary and see how it feels.
I remember a theologian making reference to this book as being very sad and depressing, a sort of portent of the meaninglessness of postmodernity, and I've already got enough sadness in my life, thank you very much, what with Facebook and bloating. But then I remembered that Heller was the guy who wrote Catch-22, and that book was sort of funny, so maybe the theologian was confused? Turns out, the theologian was right! It is sad and depressing! But it's a very funny kind of sadness, for example, when the narrator says this about his job: "It's a real problem to decide whether it's more boring to do something boring than to pass along everything boring that comes in to somebody else and then have nothing to do at all." I guess theologians are sometimes wrong.
Thank you, Harrison! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Chia Chong)
Best-selling author Lisa Lutz's latest novel, How to Start a Fire, follows the lives of three women who became friends during their college years. Our reviewer writes, "With wit and a gift for capturing the repartee between siblings and old friends, Lutz brings us a memorable and ultimately uplifting saga of three strong, unique women." (Read the review.)
We asked Lutz to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker
I’m interested in medicine in general, but pre-modern medicine especially fascinates me. Blood Work is an absorbing and gruesome account of the history of blood transfusions, with a bizarre cast of characters from the procedure’s vanguard. It focuses on the 1600s and the physician Jean Denis, who is framed for murder after a failed transfusion attempt between a calf and a madman. But it’s also about the public’s perception and the politics of medicine, and it’s a great murder mystery. Although I must admit that I had to time my reading very carefully, away from meals.
This was the novel that stuck with me the most from last year. I read it cold, without having any notion of what it was about, and that’s how I’d want everyone else to read it. But if you must know something: It’s narrated by Rosemary Cooke, the daughter of two psychology professors. She has a brother on the run from the FBI and a sister, Fern. That’s all I’ll give away. This insanely brilliant, complex and funny novel is about family and much, much more. The writing is just so perfect and alive. I can’t recommend it enough.
Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
I’ve had Stewart’s Wicked Plants on my coffee table for ages, so I was thrilled to get a galley of her first novel, which is apparently the first in a series. It’s basically the origin story of the first female deputy sheriffs. In 1914, Constance Kopp and her two sisters go into town one day, and a silk factory owner runs over their buggy. Constance goes to great lengths to get reimbursed for damages, soon igniting a full-on war. With the aid of a local sheriff she learns to defend her property, and the first female “lawman” is born. It’s a totally absorbing, often funny tale based on real characters who make you proud that women like them existed back then. I’m looking forward to the next installment.
Thank you, Lisa! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
Patricia Park reimagines the perennial Jane Eyre as a Korean-American young woman in Queens in Re Jane. Our reviewer writes, "Park’s portrait of Korean-American life feels authentic and is ultimately endearing. Charlotte Brontë would be proud." (Read the review here.)
We asked Park to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
After I turned in the last manuscript pages for Re Jane, I finally turned my eye back to the stack of books on my TBR (To Be Read) list. I read fiction and nonfiction, and I’m thrilled to share my latest reading rotation with you now:
I was woefully late to the Frank McCourt conversation; I finally read it because my dentist told me Frank McCourt was her teacher at Stuyvesant High School. Angela’s Ashes touched me on so many personal levels—themes of migration and reverse migration, steeped in the blue-collar world. It reminded me of my father’s own immigrant struggles—scrapping and saving to make it to America (or in McCourt’s case, making it back to America) with nothing more than a suitcase and a dream. I have never read more delicious descriptions of floury potatoes or milky tea or fried toast (pig heads, maybe not so much). And all told with such humor! I don’t come from a family of big readers, but it was the kind of book that immediately made me want to buy it for everyone I loved. I forced my older brother to listen to the audiobook, and as we laughed at McCourt’s hilarious retellings of his otherwise miserable childhood, I think the experience brought us (if a little) closer together.
I’ve read Lahiri’s short stories, but hadn’t read her first novel until just recently. Then I reread it for a conference presentation I was giving on Show Vs. Tell in literature. Lahiri does an enviously skillful tell—one expository paragraph with details like “ashtrays the size of serving platters” and whiskey and wine bottles stacked on top of the refrigerator will do the work of pages and pages of scenes. I love the way she presented the main character Gogol’s attempts to fit in—with both his Bengali and his American identities. I think his struggle is one that many of us “hyphenated-Americans” deal with on a daily basis.
What a wealth of information about the Brontës! With each page turn I found myself learning a new Brontë fact, and it changed the way I (re)read Jane Eyre. Brontë had set out to show that a female lead “as plain and as small as myself” deserved her own novel, at a time when convention dictated that only beautiful female characters got airtime in literature. There was a real-life St. John Rivers—modeled after Brontë’s friend Ellen’s brother, a rather straight-laced clergyman who saw in Charlotte the makings of a good pastor’s wife. But she turned him down with the following quip: “I have no personal repugnance to the idea of a union with you—but I feel convinced that mine is not the sort of disposition calculated to form the happiness of a man like you.” There was also a real-life Rochester. While teaching in Brussels, Brontë carried on an emotional affair with the married professor Monsieur Heger, whom she first described as “small, ugly, short-tempered and, above all, Catholic.” The Brontës is a 1,000-page whopper, but what a comprehensive and quite readable biography of a prolific family.
Thank you, Patricia! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Allana Taranto)
In The Year My Mother Came Back, Alice Eve Cohen explores the ways in which her deceased mother re-enters her life as she copes with an onslaught of unwelcome difficulties. Our reviewer writes, "This thoughtful memoir shows how our past and present remain constantly intertwined, and how being a mother is a complex journey that’s often full of stunning surprises." (Read the full review.)
As we prepare to celebrate our mothers this Sunday, we asked Cohen to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
Two years after first reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, I still dip into it on a regular basis, savoring the language of favorite passages, or trying yet again to unravel its mysteries. I’ve had the good fortune to meet Ruth Ozeki on several occasions. We had coffee together a few years ago while I was worrying that the memoir I was writing contained too much fantasy and read like a novel. Her encouragement gave me the courage to continue in that direction. When I read A Tale for the Time Being, I found that it was a novel that read like a memoir. A middle-aged woman named Ruth (like the author), lives on a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest, where she finds a zip-close bag, loaded with stuff, washed up on the beach. Ruth thinks it’s detritus from the recent 2011 Tsunami. Inside the bag is a diary of a 16-year-old Japanese girl with a fabulous imagination, sardonic wit and suicidal fantasies. Fictional Ruth becomes entranced with the girl’s diary and deeply concerned about its author. The diary writer fantasizes about her imaginary reader. Ruth Ozeki is a writer and a Zen Buddhist priest. Philosophical and spiritual questions are intricately woven into the fabric of the book. Edgy, contemporary storytelling is juxtaposed with ancient, timeless stories. It’s a brilliant book.
I recently read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, because my daughter was studying it in her 10th-grade English class. Though I’d read other powerful novels by Morrison, I found myself overwhelmed by this tragic tale. The first lines of the book fracture the seemingly innocuous patter of Dick and Jane—Remember those very white children from the ubiquitous schoolbooks of the 1940s and ’50s? Dick and Jane, fragmented and reassembled, becomes a ghoulish leitmotif when we meet the young black protagonists whose sense of self-worth is warped by the white standards of beauty exemplified by Shirley Temple and Dick and Jane. Reading The Bluest Eye was so heartbreaking that I had to enlist my daughter to talk with me about it every day, surreptitiously reaping the benefits of her high school English teacher’s smart questions and comments. While the book is unbearably sad, it provokes new ways of thinking, and the staggering beauty of Toni Morrison’s writing is redemptive.
I teach playwriting to undergrads, and I always assign my students Tony Kuschner’s Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches. It’s one of my very favorite plays, so I reread it each year. It’s a great read—even better on the page than on the stage, in my opinion. With each new reading, more layers are revealed. The canvas is huge—NYC at the end of the millennium, ravaged by the AIDS epidemic, Reaganism and homophobia; It covers loss, death, religion, politics, homosexuality, gender ambiguity, spirituality and on and on and on. Kushner is a brilliant writer, his dialogue alternately realistic and otherworldly, comic and tragic, and always deeply musical—his dialogue and split scenes are as rhythmically nuanced as a jazz ensemble. He combines realism with magic and in so doing, he arrives at a greater truth than if he’d stuck to the plain ole real.
Thank you, Alice! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Janet Charles)
In British author Nina Stibbe's latest novel, Man at the Helm, the children of an unconventional single mother do their best to find her a new husband. Our reviewer writes, "Man at the Helm is a beguiling, often wickedly funny look at an unusual family trying to find its place in a conventional world." (Read the review here.)
We asked Stibbe to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
H is for Hawk is by historian and naturalist Helen MacDonald (who, by the way, begins writing about nature for the New York Times Magazine any minute now), and while I knew I’d like this book, I had no idea I’d love it so much. It begins when the author's father, acclaimed photographer Alisdair Macdonald, dies suddenly from a heart attack. Macdonald descends into a kind of grief-stricken madness in the midst of which she buys a captive-bred female goshawk called Mabel and takes her home. She stocks up on hawk food and begins the gruelling task of training her. Along the way we come to know of similar endeavours, notably, T.H. White's 1951 memoir The Goshawk. But mostly we share Macdonald's extraordinary quest, and though it’s sad and sometimes brutal, it is utterly beautiful and unforgettable.
Shortly after I read H is for Hawk, MacDonald wrote a piece for The Guardian about books that had influenced her. One of them was My Side of the Mountain, the story of Sam Gribley, a boy who runs away from his family in New York City to the Catskill mountains, taking only an axe, a flint-and-steel, $40 and a ball of string. It’s a book I was completely captivated by as a child. It’s relatively unknown in the UK—though, looking it up now, I notice it has almost 700 reviews on Amazon.com (compared with 21 on Amazon UK)—so, I guess you don’t need me to tell you about it. I reread it in the ‘80s with the children I was nanny to and then, more recently, with my own children. I’d probably over-egged it, because they were slightly underwhelmed. Still, it remains one of my favourite books of all time.
This is a wartime romance told through real letters discovered recently and bequeathed to a British national archive. In September 1943, Chris Barker was serving as a signalman in North Africa when he wrote to a former work colleague, Bessie Moore. Bessie’s warm and enthusiastic reply changed both their lives forever. You might expect (as I did) much humorous British reserve, silliness and jingoism—But not at all, these letters are incredibly candid, loving and sensitive. And, they’re a lovely reminder of the power of a good letter.
Thank you, Nina! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Rebecca Dawe)
As a copy editor at The New Yorker, a bastion of grammar perfection, Mary Norris knows a thing or two about the oddities of the English language. In her memoir, Between You & Me, Norris mixes grammar tales with personal stories, and the result is fascinating. Our reviewer writes, "While Norris may have a job as a “comma queen,” readers of Between You & Me will find that “prose goddess” is perhaps a more apt description of this delightful writer." (Read the full review.)
We asked Norris to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
When I had finished my book about grammar and usage and copy editing at The New Yorker, and was free to read about other things, I poked around on my shelves for books that I had been saving as a reward for good behavior. Here are three that I especially enjoyed.
Frank Delaney, an Irishman transplanted to Connecticut, uses his boyhood fascination with ships and the sea to extol Kurt Carlsen, the real-life captain of the Flying Enterprise. Soon after leaving Germany, in December of 1951, the ship gets hit by a rogue wave and cracks, then gets hit by a second rogue wave and lists precariously. Carlsen does everything in his power to bring passengers and cargo to safety. I read this while commuting to work on a ferry and soaked up all things nautical: the etymology of the word knot, the strategy of the ship’s owners, and sailors’ superstitions about renaming a ship (don’t do it!) and leaving port on a Friday.
One might think that after revisiting The Elements of Style while writing a book about writing, I would want to take a break from E. B. White, but this book made me fall in love with him all over. Elwyn (En) White had an old-fashioned patrician upbringing in Mount Vernon, New York, and spent summers at a lake in Maine. (His parents gave him his own canoe.) His early interest in nature informed Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. In addition to all the influences and arachnid research that went into Charlotte’s Web, Sims includes gossip about White’s editors and publishers and about children’s librarians.
One of the things I have always loved about journalist John McPhee’s writing is the way he keeps himself out of it. This study of his work and life made me feel like a stalker. McPhee is from Princeton, New Jersey (where he still lives). His upbringing and education and the summer camp he spent time at all inform his work. He once wrote a novel! Pearson organizes his critical remarks around McPhee’s own topics, from Bill Bradley to physics and geology, and analyzes the techniques through which he raised journalism to an art. I was heartened to see that after Oranges and The Pine Barrens I still have plenty of McPhee to read, and beguiled by the realization that some of my favorite writers—White, McPhee, Thoreau—started out in canoes. Did paddling canoes make them better writers? If I tried it, would I capsize?
Thank you, Mary! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
Award-winning poet Mary Jo Bang explores perceptions of time, tragedy and the human experience in her latest collection, The Last Two Seconds. Our reviewer writes that this collection "demonstrates Bang’s rare gift as a writer: her uncommon capacity to shake and awaken us." (Read the full review here.)
We asked Bang to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
This is the third part of a six-part autobiographical novel by the Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgaard in which a character named Karl Ove recounts in mesmerizing detail how he navigated the vicissitudes of growing up, leaving home, marrying twice, having children and becoming a writer. I read Volume II because I loved Volume I and read Volume III because I liked Volume II. Volume III is, unfortunately, limited to Karl Ove’s early childhood. It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make years one to 14 of a life interesting to a reader—especially if an author insists on including the names of every playmate and the locations of their houses. Whatever drama is in Volume III comes from the narrator’s experience of having a mercurially abusive father. The boy’s horror of the father is just enough to keep the story moving, especially if you have read I and II and know there’s karmic justice in store. Volume IV will be published soon, and it will be interesting to see how that volume measures up against the pleasure of the first two volumes. Volume I is nothing short of amazing. Read that and then you may feel, as I have felt, compelled to read the others.
Suspended Sentences consists of three novellas written between 1988 and 1993. This book was my—and many other American’s—first introduction to Modiano following his 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature. Like Knausgaard, Modiano uses a steady stream of minor but precise quotidian detail, including place names and secondary characters, to create both the narrating character’s interiority and an atmospheric sense of place. In the work of both, there’s a muted undercurrent of suspense. The suspense in Modiano’s novellas rests not on what happens in the narrator’s life as much as what happened to others who lived and died before the narrator became an adult, namely those who suffered through the Vichy years in France. The menace is far greater in Modiano and also less easy to identify. The Occupation years are long gone in the Paris of these stories, and yet, what can’t be reclaimed can't be vanquished. While the engine that drives Knausgaard’s books forward is personal memory, in Modiano, it is memory inhabited by history. Or history inhabited by memory. The two constructs, once they marry, are impossible to tease apart and haunt every aspect of the present.
Dora Bruder, also by Modiano, was first published in France in 1997. The Occupation of Paris under the Nazis (a geographical placeholder for the massive destruction of the Holocaust) is again the theme. The subject is a 15-year-old girl, the eponymous Dora, whose disappearance comes to the narrator’s attention in 1981 when he happens upon a “missing” notice in the personal ads of a December 31, 1941, Paris Soir. Using archives, and eventually interviews with a few remaining family members, he documents the facts of Dora’s short life, obsessively tracing her lifeline back to before she was born—documenting her parents’ lives: where they lived, met and may have worked—and forward to that moment in September 1942, when both Dora and her father are placed on a train bound for Auschwitz. The thread at that point is lost, which only confirms the tragic outcome. The narrator’s own father, who abandoned him and his mother and brother when the narrator was quite young, just missed, possibly because of Gestapo connections related to extra-legal activities, being sent on a similar transport. The narrator’s early losses become entangled with the loss of this girl who goes missing not just once, but twice: first when she runs away from a strict Catholic boarding school (which gives rise to the newspaper advert) and again once she boards the train headed for the death camp. The narrator, who lives with an ineradicable sense of bereavement, finds in Dora an object for his grief. For readers, the story of an unremarkable, and only slightly rebellious, teenager brings home the crude randomness of the destruction suffered by many and refreshes our sense of bewilderment.
Thank you, Mary Jo! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Kellie Spano)
Hannah Nordhaus explores her family's history and its fabled connection to a restless spirit in American Ghost. Our reviewer writes that while she focuses on history, "inevitably, Nordhaus’ journey really is a search for self, and we are privileged to be able to accompany her." (Read the full review here.)
We asked Nordhaus to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
I discovered Mary Doria Russell’s books recently, and frankly, I’m furious that I haven’t been reading her longer. Russell is most famous for The Sparrow, a science-fiction tale of alien first contact that is so much more than that. She knows how to tell a story in striking language, and she also knows how to make us think. Epitaph is a follow-up to her 2011 novel, Doc, which traced the paths of the true-life Western icons Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp through the duo’s time in Dodge City, Kansas. Epitaph takes up where Doc left off, following their trail—and that of Wyatt Earp’s common-law, Jewish wife, Josephine Marcus—to Tombstone, Arizona, in the days leading up to the famous OK Corral shootout. Yes, there are guns and cowboys and horses aplenty, but this is no stock shoot-em-up Western; it’s a majestically wrought, intricately detailed, thoughtful, surprising and provocative examination of memory, heroism, character and mythology in the 19th-century West.
I recently stumbled upon Kent Haruf’s most celebrated novel on the remainder table at my local bookstore, which just seems wrong. He’s the iconic writer of the Colorado plains and my state’s finest literary product—and yet I had never read his work. A few weeks later, I learned that Haruf had died. I fished the book from the stack on my bedside table and read it through. And then I read it again. Every word matters in that book; Haruf’s language is taut and carefully considered, the story so lovely, the characters so human and flawed all at once, that you want to hold them close long after the book has ended. In Haruf’s hands, the flat and seemingly unexceptional lives of his characters are, like the furrowed grasslands in which they live, transformed into something wondrous. I live at the intersection of mountains and Haruf’s immense and exacting prairie. It extends far beyond what the eye can see. Now, when I look east, I look to Haruf.
I’ve recently developed a fixation on the Spanish Inquisition, and I decided it was time, finally, to read that era’s most famous piece of literature. The critic Harold Bloom has called Don Quixote the first modern novel—and it’s modern all right. One might even describe it as postmodern: The book is ironic, intertextual, meta-fictional and deeply weird. There’s tilting at windmills, yes, and blood-drenched beatings, burning books, horse-on-pony sexual assault, serial vomiting, cruelty, burlesque and all manner of lunacy. I have used the word “quixotic” often in my writing; only now do I realize that I have been using it wrong. Don Quixote may be lovable, mostly, but he’s no impractical idealist; in my opinion, he’s downright demented.
Thank you, Hannah! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Casie Zalud)
James Hannaham's bold debut novel and our March Fiction Top Pick, Delicious Foods, centers on a mother's search for her son as she struggles with grief, addiction and the diabolical business of Delicious Foods Farm. Our reviewer writes, "Few novels leap off the page as this one does. Delicious Foods is a cri de coeur from a very talented and engaging writer." (Read the full review here.)
We asked Hannaham to tell us about three books he's enjoyed reading lately, and he graciously agreed to share.
Last year, indie publisher The Dalkey Archive released the first 14 of a planned 25 translations of modern Korean works of fiction. And if you think K-Pop, bibimbap, and Kias are all that nation has to offer, the books that have appeared so far are already revelatory. No One Writes Back exemplifies a lot of what’s terrific about Dalkey's Library of Korean Literature: It’s ostensibly the story of a man compelled by a family tragedy (unnamed until late in the novel) to wander purposelessly, accompanied by his aging and blind dog, Wajo, sending letters to everyone he meets. But the story isn’t as thin as it seems; Jang deftly illuminates the alienated tone of our times through the hero and his animal companion, balancing hipness and heartbreak.
When I visit a new place for the first time, I sometimes read a well-known novel set there, hoping it will deepen the experience culturally, perhaps emotionally. My partner and I visited Cartagena, Colombia, recently, so I chose this one, which is supposedly based on his parents’ relationship. Gabo, as they call Marquez there, was on my mind after he died last year, and I’d already read One Hundred Years of Solitude. Gabo never mentions the old city of Cartagena by name in his mordant and ironic, yet intensely romantic, tale. But as I meandered, entranced, through the gorgeously well preserved, 16th-century walled city on the Caribbean coast, with its belated Christmas decorations still glittering everywhere, it was unmistakable. I sometimes felt as if I had opened the book instead of going for a walk.
Almost like a black remake of Jennifer Egan’s first novel, The Invisible Circus, Bridgett Davis’ Into the Go-Slow is also a story about a young woman who idolizes an older sister who perished in a foreign country and decides to re-trace the older woman’s steps. In Egan’s case, the protagonist travels from San Francisco to Italy; Davis’ heroine, Angie, flees a dead-end life in Detroit to follow her late sister's adventures in Lagos, Nigeria. As she learns shocking new details about her sister, she begins to discover herself, Africa and how different the realities of these things are from everything she expected. Davis makes all these moves feel fresh and almost effortless in this wonderfully engrossing book.
Thank you, James! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Ian Douglas)
In Jill Ciment's Act of God, things begin to fall apart for four women, as well as the entire city of New York, when a dangerous mold takes over. But Act of God goes far deeper than a typical bio-suspense novel. As our reviewer writes, "Ciment has pulled off an admirable literary feat, creating a novel that moves at the speed of light, all the while urging us to pause and look inward." (Read the full review here.)
We asked Ciment to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately, and she graciously agreed to share.
This novel, recently reissued by New York Book Classics, follows the life of William Stoner, an everyman. Stoner might have become a farmer as his parents had, but in college, studying agriculture, his life is diverted by literature. One of the great gifts of this novel is watching a mind come awake and then alive. What I most admired is the novel's tempo—slow, precise, correct and private—a life lived before contemporary media.
This book, by one of the great memoirists, explores the transformative power of art. As an alumni of Cal Arts, where much of the memoir is set, I was enraptured by the way Cooper captures the fearlessness and rapture of falling in love with the avant-garde.
This fascinating study of Ted Bundy is more than a recreation and delineation of a monster. Rule knew Bundy personally: she worked beside him on a crisis hotline for eighteen months and continued her friendship with him for the remainder of his life. What makes this true crime book exceptional is that it is an exploration of denial: Rule, an expert in all matters of crime, misses what is beside her.
Thanks, Jill! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Arnold Mesches)