Taisy Cleary and her twin brother, Marcus, haven't seen much of their father since he left the family when they were toddlers. Now, Wilson Cleary wants Taisy back in his life: He's writing a memoir, and needs her help. But doing so also means Taisy has to meet her teenaged half-sister for the second time—and confront the love she lost almost 20 years ago.
"Where there's a father saying 'whorish,' there's a boy. Spill it, missy."
I opened my mouth. Shut it.
Trillium reached for my hand. "Hold on. The boy wasn't a bad one, was he? He didn't abuse you or something?"
I shook my head. "He was good."
My mouth was dry. My heart was marbles in a tin can that someone was shaking.
"Name?" asked Trillium.
"Ben Ransom." The tin can shook harder. Clatter, clatter, clatter. After all this time, all it took was saying his name.
What are you reading this week?
Works by two contemporary best-selling authors and a classic re-issue top this week's paperback releases:
By Michael Lewis
Norton • $16.95 • ISBN 9780393351590
Lewis provides an eye-opening account of the revolt by a group of Wall Street rebels who decided the financial markets were rigged and set out to expose the chicanery.
The One & Only
By Emily Giffin
Ballantine • $16 • ISBN 9780345546906
Shea has a crush on the football coach in her college town; unfortunately, he's also her best friend's father. In Giffin's hands, this story of football heroes and unexpected romance offers an insightful look at a young woman finding her way.
The Power and the Glory
By Graham Greene
Penguin Classics • $18 • ISBN 9780143107552
If (like me) you've always intended to read Greene's masterpiece but haven't gotten around to it, here's your chance: This 75th anniversary edition includes an introduction by the late John Updike. Named by Time magazine as one of the 100 best novels of the past century, Greene's book chronicles the struggles of a Mexican Catholic priest persecuted by government authorities.
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)
Believe it or not, it's the first day of spring! Raise your hand if you're sick of gray days and ice—or if you're pretty sure the spring equinox is a big fat liar (looking at you, NYC). Littlest readers can celebrate the return of spring (or dream of it) with a fresh crop of picture books:
Shawn Sheehy sneaks plenty of fun facts into his outstanding new pop-up book, Welcome to the Neighborwood. Each spread reveals the home of a different creature, from spiders to hummingbirds. I love how this delicate paper craftsmanship mirrors the intricacy and fragility of nature, encouraging little ones to both explore and respect their environment.
For another unique offering that gets up close and personal with nature, April Pulley Sayre's Raindrops Roll zooms in on the magic of rain with a captivating balance of science and poetry. Seven Impossible Things blogger Julie Danielson shares a few spreads from the book on her blog here.
The title of Kadir Nelson's If You Plant a Seed recalls the slippery-slope hijinks of a certain demanding mouse and his cookie (or moose and muffin, if you prefer), and the rabbit and mouse at the beginning of this gorgeous book certainly need to learn some manners—but fortunately they do, and their gardening efforts become a sweet allegory for the importance of kindness and sustainability.
You Nest Here with Me, written by Jane Yolen and her daughter and fellow birder, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is a classic bedtime book—but with so many baby birds tucked into their little homes, it's also a classic springtime book.
Carin Bramsen's Just a Duck? is on this list simply because of its hyper-vibrant illustrations. It's a story of unlikely best friends who learn to appreciate each other's unique strengths, but there's something about the colors, textures and, most of all, hilarious expressions that reminds me of all the best parts of spring.
Finally, the bears have it in two exceptional new picture books: The magical paper collages in Finding Spring by Carin Berger capture just how hard it is to wait for new seasons; and The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach is irresistibly full of mischief and bright, sunny adventures.
Want even more? Check these out at your local library:
You can view all our children's picture book coverage here.
Take a guess (without peeking) which book soared to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list this week. The Girl on the Train? The latest from James Patterson? Erik Larson’s gripping narrative about the sinking of the Lusitania?
Nope. The hottest seller on Amazon is a financial advice book by an economics professor and two journalists—Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security. The surging demand for the book stems from two factors: the complexity of Social Security benefits and the swelling tide of aging Americans, all determined to “get what’s coming to them,” in other words, the most they can possibly collect in Social Security benefits.
The book’s three co-authors packed its 300-plus pages with crucial strategies to follow, details on when to begin taking benefits, advice for the married, the divorced and the widowed, and helpful lists like “25 Bad-News Gotchas That Can Reduce Your Benefits Forever.” All three authors have credentials to back up their recommendations: Laurence J. Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University, Philip Moeller is an award-winning financial journalist and Paul Solman is economics correspondent for “PBS NewsHour.”
The idea for the book sprang from a chat between tennis buddies Larry (Kotlikoff) and Paul (Solman). As recounted in the book’s first chapter, Solman thought he had a solid plan for maximizing benefits for himself and his wife. But Kotlikoff suggested a different route (taking spousal benefits), which eventually led to almost $50,000 in extra benefits for the couple. Shouldn’t everyone have a chance to do what Paul and his wife did? Why, yes, they should, the authors argue, and that’s why they set out to share what they’ve learned about Social Security and its arcane rules.
Though the hardcover edition of Get What’s Yours is currently sold out on Amazon, it’s still in stock at some other vendors; eBook and audio versions are also available.
Sometimes you just need a little bit of homemade sweetness . . . and sometimes you just want a whole pie all to yourself. Try your hand at this delightful and distinctly Southern recipe for Orange Buttermilk Pie from Savannah bakers Cheryl and Griffith Day's new cookbook, Back in the Day Bakery Made with Love. We won't judge you if you don't feel like sharing.
Orange Buttermilk Pie
I created this pie in the middle of the winter, when clementines and satsuma oranges are in season. The flavor is simple and pure, and you can use any oranges that you like. Buttermilk is the key ingredient, so use the good stuff you can sometimes find in farmers’ markets if possible. I count on the old-fashioned buttermilk that we get from our friends at Southern Swiss Dairy to give this pie the old-timey flavor I recall from childhood.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the baked pie shell on a baking sheet.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter and sugar for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well to combine. Add the flour, orange zest, orange juice, and salt and mix until well blended. With the mixer on low, slowly add the buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The mixture will look curdled at this point, but don’t worry. If using a stand mixer, transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.
In the clean mixer bowl, using the whisk attachment (or in a medium mixing bowl, using clean beaters), beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Give the buttermilk mixture a quick stir just to make sure that it is well blended, then add a small amount of the egg whites and fold in. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until completely incorporated.
Pour the filling into the baked piecrust. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the filling is golden and puffed up at the edges and the center no longer looks wet but still wobbles slightly; it will continue to set as it cools. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hours.
Serve the pie at room temperature or chilled, with the whipped cream. Garnish with segments of orange, if you’d like. The pie can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 day or refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Last week, the National Book Critics Circle honored six authors for their excellent books published in 2014. The committee of book critics voted on the best books of the last year, and these are the results:
Fiction: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
General Nonfiction: The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis
Autobiography: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Biography: Tennessee Williams by John Lahr
Criticism: The Essential Ellen Willis by Ellen Willis
Poetry: Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Additionally, the John Leonard Prize for excellence in first books was received by Phil Klay for his debut, Redeployment, and Toni Morrison was honored with the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award for her significant contribution to the literary world. And, because this is a critics' award after all, Alexandra Schwartz won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.
Here's something that's definitely not normal: a serial killer as a sort of bumbling hero. Maybe "hero" is too strong, but the unnamed protagonist in British author Cameron's debut is, outside of kidnapping and murdering girls, darkly funny and even likable. His lifelong killing spree kicked off when he took out his bad dad, and now he's moved on to prostitutes and other girls, sometimes killing them and burying them in the woods, sometimes keeping them in a cage on his property. Add in some real, non-sociopathic feelings about a few of his victims, plus cops circling about a disappeared hooker, and you've got one strange story on your hands.
Erica regarded her new cellmate with a mixture of elation and disdain. Whilst a problem shared is a problem halved, she clearly wasn't overjoyed at the prospect of sharing hers with a bleeding, screeching harridan.
The hooker had told me that her name was Kerry. Then again, she'd told me that she was clean in every respect, where both her profession and her trackmarks suggested otherwise.
I'd picked her up a mile from Jeremy's house on a foolish and immediately regrettable impulse fueled by raw adrenaline and the sheer bloody-minded need to catch something, so to speak. She'd directed me to a remote riverside picnic area on the south side of the city, and had been only too eager to jump into the back of the van, the false promise of mattresses and pillows offering a welcome relief from the repeated prod of a gearlever in the sternum.
Until that point, this, in a nutshell, was the reason I never interfere with ladies of the night: it's just too damn easy. It's a game for impotents and bed-wetters. These women queue up to get in the car with you, for Christ's sake. They actually expect you to take them somewhere dark. That they exercise free will in putting themselves in harm's way only makes obligingly slaughtering them all the more cowardly.
What are you reading?
Samantha Norman didn't plan to be a novelist, but when her mother, the best-selling writer Ariana Franklin, passed away in 2011 and left a half-finished manuscript, Norman felt called to carry on her mother's legacy. In a guest blog post, she reveals what it was like to finish The Siege Winter.
Guest post by Samantha Norman
When my mother, the best-selling historical novelist, Ariana Franklin, died suddenly and unexpectedly four years ago, she left a great big hole in my life and a half-finished novel.
Although she’d always nagged me to start writing novels of my own—convinced somehow that I’d inherited her talent—I never got round to it. I’d written features, lots in fact, for newspapers and magazines but never anything longer than about 1,500 words and had no particular desire to, either. Writing is hard—I’d done enough of it to know that much—and, what’s more, I’d seen my mother—both parents actually, my father is also a novelist—sweating blood over their work and I just didn’t feel that that sort of hard labour was for me. And yet all of a sudden my Mum was dead and there was a novel to complete and I was suddenly imbued with a zeal I’d never felt about anything before, absolutely determined that I was to be the one to finish it.
It was an enormous responsibility. My mother had a large and devoted fan base whose members were vociferous in their admiration of her beautiful prose and unrivalled attention to historical detail and accuracy. Therefore, to do her justice—I should point out here that mum was an absolute pedant when it came to research and getting things absolutely right—and to continue her remarkable legacy without public outcries of “Shame!” I had to do a crash course in the medieval history she so adored, and in a matter of mere weeks—I had a fairly punishing deadline—assume a knowledge of 12th-century English history which she had carefully garnered over more than 35 years.
Not only that, but I also had to assume her writing style. I had always loved, envied even, the way she wrote, the seemingly effortless almost mellifluous way in which she strung words together, but could I emulate it? Well, only you can be the judge of that. The book’s out now and I’m terribly proud of it and I hope, I really, really hope that my mum would be too.