Best New Books: Week of 8/9/22

“In modern life we move from one insulated igloo to another… serially abstracting ourselves from nature and its impacts.” – Rinker Buck, The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Always Faithful: A Story of the War in Afghanistan, the Fall of Kabul, and the Unshakable Bond Between a Marine and an Interpreter by  Major Tom Schueman &  Zainullah Zaki

Nonfiction / MEMOIR / HISTORY / War.

In August of 2021, just days shy of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, America ended its longest war. The speed of Afghanistan’s fall was so stunning that thousands of Afghan citizens who had helped American forces over the course of two decades–and had been promised visas in return–were suddenly stranded, in extreme, imminent danger. As the world watched the shocking scenes of desperation at the Kabul airport in the final two weeks of August, Maj. Tom Schueman fought–both behind the scenes and through a social media campaign–to get his friend and former Afghan interpreter, Zak, out of Afghanistan before he and his family were discovered by the Taliban. When Zak and his family finally took off from the airport mere days before the US left the country, the years-long effort to get Zak to America culminated in two simple words on Instagram: “Wheels up.”

Now in Always Faithful, Tom and Zak tell the full story of the divergent paths that led them to Afghanistan, the dangerous road they walked together in service to America, and how their commitment to each other ended up saving them both. Brilliantly told in Tom’s and Zak’s alternating first person voices, Always Faithful tracks the parallel lives of these two men who each spent their childhoods in fear, peril, and poverty, and turned to war in attempt to build a meaningful future. On an inevitable course towards each other, their lives dovetail in Afghanistan’s deadly Helmand Valley, where they formed a brotherhood that transcends even the most overwhelming of odds, eventually culminating in Zak’s harrowing, eleventh-hour rescue.

The end result is an intensely personal and uniquely ground-level account of Tom and Zak’s experience, Always Faithful gives readers a 360-degree view of the war. At once provocative and heart pounding, their stories together form a microcosm of the complicated and lasting effects of America’s longest war. Through their eyes and their experiences, they challenge readers to explore the legacy of the war for American and Afghan citizens alike, as we all collectively seek to understand whether twenty years of war was worth the price.

Description from Goodreads.

“An affecting memoir that weaves its way through bullets, explosives, and red tape.” – Kirkus Reviews

“This is the first book I have read with such background depth of both the US and Afghan allies’ experience surrounding the war… As the world once again finds itself mired in complex security challenges it would be beneficial to practice some the lessons learned by 20 years of blood recounted in Always Faithful.” – Small Wars Journal

“Effortlessly straddling the genres of memoir and military history, Always Faithful is a standout among the literature emanating from America’s two-decade conflict in Afghanistan… powerful and compelling… Approachable for any audience, it is a must-read for those hoping to come to terms with our Afghanistan endeavors.” – Washington Examiner

Diary of a Void by  Emi Yagi; translated by  David Boyd &  Lucy North ★

Fiction / COMEDY.

When thirty-four-year-old Ms. Shibata gets a new job in Tokyo to escape sexual harassment at her old one, she finds that, as the only woman at her new workplace–a company that manufactures cardboard tubes–she is expected to do all the menial tasks. One day she announces that she can’t clear away her colleagues’ dirty cups–because she’s pregnant and the smell nauseates her. The only thing is… Ms. Shibata is not pregnant.

Pregnant Ms. Shibata doesn’t have to serve coffee to anyone. Pregnant Ms. Shibata isn’t forced to work overtime. Pregnant Ms. Shibata rests, watches TV, takes long baths, and even joins an aerobics class for expectant mothers. But pregnant Ms. Shibata also has a nine-month ruse to keep up. Helped along by towel-stuffed shirts and a diary app on which she can log every stage of her “pregnancy,” she feels prepared to play the game for the long haul. Before long, though, the hoax becomes all-absorbing, and the boundary between her lie and her life begins to dissolve.

A surreal and wryly humorous cultural critique, Diary of a Void is bound to become a landmark in feminist world literature.

Description from Goodreads.

“One of the most intriguing new novels of the summer.” – The Independent

“You can’t take your eyes off the page.” – Croissant

“Yagi artfully blurs the boundary between truth and lies with this riotous solution to women’s workplace challenges.” – Washington Post

“A surreal, engrossing meditation on loneliness, womanhood, and what it actually means to have a work-life balance.” – Mother Jones

“Riveting and surreal… Absurdist, amusing, and clever, the story brings subtlety and tact to its depiction of workplace discrimination—as well as a touch of magic. Readers will eagerly turn the pages all the way to the bold conclusion.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Family Remains by  Lisa Jewell

Fiction / suspense / Mystery.

Early one morning on the shore of the Thames, DCI Samuel Owusu is called to the scene of a gruesome discovery. When Owusu sends the evidence for examination, he learns the bones are connected to a cold case that left three people dead on the kitchen floor in a Chelsea mansion thirty years ago.

Rachel Rimmer has also received a shock—news that her husband, Michael, has been found dead in the cellar of his house in France. All signs point to an intruder, and the French police need her to come urgently to answer questions about Michael and his past that she very much doesn’t want to answer.

After fleeing London thirty years ago in the wake of a horrific tragedy, Lucy Lamb is finally coming home. While she settles in with her children and is just about to purchase their first-ever house, her brother takes off to find the boy from their shared past whose memory haunts their present.

As they all race to discover answers to these convoluted mysteries, they will come to find that they’re connected in ways they could have never imagined.

In this masterful standalone sequel to her haunting New York Times bestseller, The Family Upstairs, Lisa Jewell proves she is writing at the height of her powers with another jaw-dropping, intricate, and affecting novel about the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love and uncover the truth.

Description from Goodreads.

“Lively… Jewell effectively keeps readers off balance all the way to the happy ending. Though this tale of child abuse and mayhem works as a standalone, those who haven’t read The Family Upstairs will immediately want to rush out and do so.” – Publishers Weekly

“…thrilling… Come for the twists, the chilling whodunits, and the jaw-dropping reveals, absolutely, but it’s the finely tuned insight into human psychology and relationships that stick with me.” – Book of the Month

“…exhilarating, thought-provoking and rewarding… A thoroughly gripping read.” – Books Up North

The Fishermen and the Dragon: Fear, Greed, and a Fight for Justice on the Gulf Coast by  Kirk Wallace Johnson

Nonfiction / True Crime / History / politics.

By the late 1970s, the fishermen of the Texas Gulf Coast were struggling. The bays that had sustained generations of shrimpers and crabbers before them were being poisoned by nearby petrochemical plants, oil spills, pesticides, and concrete. But as their nets came up light, the white shrimpers could only see one culprit: the small but growing number of newly resettled Vietnamese refugees who had recently started fishing.

Turf was claimed. Guns were flashed. Threats were made. After a white crabber was killed by a young Vietnamese refugee in self-defense, the situation became a tinderbox primed to explode, and the Grand Dragon of the Texas Knights of the Ku Klux Klan saw an opportunity to stoke the fishermen’s rage and prejudices. At a massive Klan rally near Galveston Bay one night in 1981, he strode over to an old boat graffitied with the words U.S.S. VIET CONG, torch in hand, and issued a ninety-day deadline for the refugees to leave or else “it’s going to be a helluva lot more violent than Vietnam!” The white fishermen roared as the boat burned, convinced that if they could drive these newcomers from the coast, everything would return to normal.

A shocking campaign of violence ensued, marked by burning crosses, conspiracy theories, death threats, torched boats, and heavily armed Klansmen patrolling Galveston Bay. The Vietnamese were on the brink of fleeing, until a charismatic leader in their community, a highly decorated colonel, convinced them to stand their ground by entrusting their fate with the Constitution.

Drawing upon a trove of never-before-published material, including FBI and ATF records, unprecedented access to case files, and scores of firsthand interviews with Klansmen, shrimpers, law enforcement, environmental activists, lawyers, perpetrators and victims, Johnson uncovers secrets and secures confessions to crimes that went unsolved for more than forty years. This explosive investigation of a forgotten story, years in the making, ultimately leads Johnson to the doorstep of the one woman who could see clearly enough to recognize the true threat to the bays—and who now represents the fishermen’s last hope.

Description from Goodreads.

“Xenophobia, the ethical limits of free speech, environmental disaster, the psychological effects of war, corporate greed—Johnson tackles all of these and more in his follow-up to 2018’s The Feather Thief… a sprawling historical narrative with sobering connections to our current moment. Book clubs interested in nonfiction selections will find much to work with here.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] fast-paced though complex account of ethnic collision among the fisheries of Gulf Coast Texas… [Johnson’s] fascinating and disturbing narrative is a winning mix of biography, true crime, and ecological study. A carefully written investigation full of villains—and the occasional hero.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Though The Fishermen and the Dragon is ostensibly an investigative accounting of past events… it reveals much to us about our future. What happens when multinational corporations destroy traditional, local ways of life through greed, incompetence, and malfeasance? And then what happens when displaced communities, with no agenda other than to feed their families, are added to the mix? Kirk Wallace Johnson tries to answer these questions—and more—in this deeply reported story of struggling Texas Gulf Coast fishermen, Vietnamese refugees, rampant and widespread pollution, blatant xenophobia, and the deeply racist violence that inevitably ensues. There is a lesson here, and we’d better learn it fast.” – Literary Hub

Heat 2 by  Michael Mann &  Meg Gardiner

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

Described by Michael Mann as both a prequel and sequel to the renowned, critically acclaimed film of the same name, Heat 2 covers the formative years of homicide detective Vincent Hanna (Oscar winner Al Pacino) and elite criminals Neil McCauley (Oscar winner Robert De Niro), Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), and Nate (Oscar winner Jon Voight), and features the same extraordinary ambition, scope, rich characterizations, and attention to detail as the epic film.

This new story leads up to the events of the film and then moves beyond it, featuring new characters on both sides of the law, new high-line heists, and breathtakingly cinematic action sequences. Ranging from the streets of L.A. to the inner sancta of rival Taiwanese crime syndicates in Paraguay to a massive drug cartel money-laundering operation just over the border in Mexico, Heat 2 illuminates the dangerous workings of international crime organizations and the agents who pursue them as it provides a full-blooded portrait of the men and women who inhabit both worlds. Operatic in scope, Heat 2 is engrossing, moving, and tragic—a masterpiece of crime fiction from one of the most innovative and influential filmmakers in American cinema.

Description from Goodreads.

“Propulsive.” – New York Times

“As in The Godfather, Part Two, Mann and Gardiner’s riveting thriller functions as both a prequel and a sequel… The best thing about this innovative tale is the way the fully fleshed human stories support and even transcend the often-breathtaking action.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Prepare for an epic journey… The world of international drug cartels and crime syndicates has never been so gripping… Heat was a cinematic spectacle, and this sequel manages to create the same immersive experience in written form… Gardiner and Mann are legends, and this book will be the best seller that leads the cry for a film version.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

A Killing in Costumes by  Zac Bissonnette

Fiction / Mystery.

Jay Allan and Cindy Cooper were soap opera stars in the late ’90s, a wholesome young husband-and-wife duo who combined musical talent with humor and charisma. When the truth about their sexual orientations came to light, their marriage and TV careers ended, but decades later they have remained friends. Together, they open Palm Springs’ chicest movie memorabilia store, Hooray for Hollywood–but no customers and dwindling finances spell trouble.

A Hail Mary arrives in the form of Yana Tosh, a ninety-year-old diva of the silver screen who has amassed a valuable collection of costumes and props and is looking to sell. But first, Jay and Cindy have to beat their competition, a vice president from a mega-auction house with ten times their resources. And when he winds up dead, they become prime suspects in the murder.

With their freedom and livelihoods on the line, Jay and Cindy desperately need to clear their names. There are plenty of other potential suspects, but they’ll have to solve it soon before they’re forced to trade in their vintage costume collection for two orange jumpsuits.

Description from Goodreads.

“Fans of movie memorabilia will have a field day.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A lively series launch… Bissonnette’s message of new beginnings after devastating losses inspires.” – Publishers Weekly

A Killing in Costumes has all the hallmarks of a great cozy: a unique setting, an intriguing cast of characters and an exciting mystery.” – BookPage

Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew by  Michael W. Twitty

Nonfiction / Memoir / cookbook / History.

In Koshersoul, Michael W. Twitty considers the marriage of two of the most distinctive culinary cultures in the world today: the foods and traditions of the African Atlantic and the global Jewish diaspora. To Twitty, the creation of African-Jewish cooking is a conversation of migrations and a dialogue of diasporas offering a rich background for inventive recipes and the people who create them.

The question that most intrigues him is not just who makes the food, but how the food makes the people. Jews of Color are not outliers, Twitty contends, but significant and meaningful cultural creators in both Black and Jewish civilizations. Koshersoul also explores how food has shaped the journeys of numerous cooks, including Twitty’s own passage to and within Judaism.

As intimate, thought-provoking, and profound as The Cooking Gene, this remarkable book teases the senses as it offers sustenance for the soul.

Description from Goodreads.

“A thoughtful, inspiring book that will have readers pondering their own ancestors and their presence in the kitchen.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Koshersoul is a wonderful exploration of identity and the intersection of identities.” – Cannonball Read

“Twitty stuffs his follow-up to James Beard Award winner The Cooking Gene with wide-ranging ideas as generously as he fills kreplach with collards… a rich call-and-response between the academic and the personal as Twitty explores the shared customs and cuisines of his African and Jewish roots… Evocative descriptions of food provide a rich through line… Serving up a hefty helping of heart and wit, Twitty’s narrative is thrilling in its originality.” – Publishers Weekly

The Last Karankawas by  Kimberly Garza


Welcome to Galveston, Texas. Population 50,241.

Carly Castillo has only ever known Albacore Avenue. Abandoned as a child by her Filipina mother and Mexican-American father, Carly returns each morning from her nursing shift to the house she shares with her grandmother, Magdalena. But when Magdalena slips into dementia, Carly begins to imagine a life elsewhere. Jess Rivera, her boyfriend and all-star shortstop turned seaman, treasures the salty, familiar island air. Years ago, he had a chance to leave Galveston for a bigger city with more possibilities. But he didn’t then, and he sure as hell won’t now. Deftly moving through these characters’ lives and those of the individuals who circle them—Mercedes, Jess’s undocumented cousin; Kristin, Magdalena’s daytime nurse; Luz, the wife of Carly’s best friend; Schafer, Jess’s coworker out on the gulf—Garza presents a mosaic depiction of everyday survival in Southern Texas. As word spreads of a storm gathering strength offshore, building into Hurricane Ike, they each must make a difficult decision: board up the windows and hunker down, or flee inland and abandon their hard-won home.

Unflinching, lyrical, and singular, The Last Karankawas is a portrait of America scarcely witnessed, where browning palm trees and oily waters mark the forefront of ecological change. It is a deeply imagined exploration of familial inheritance, human perseverance, and the histories we assign to ourselves, establishing Kimberly Garza as a brilliant new literary voice.

Description from Goodreads.

“Stunning… Garza gracefully moves through the lives of various characters as they contend with family history and the meaning of home.” – BookRiot

“Written in lyrical, nearly hypnotic prose that makes the reader feel the Texan humidity, this is a brilliantly plotted, startling, and richly rewarding exploration of the myths that bind people together, generational traumas, and the remarkable adaptability of humans.” – Booklist

“Garza highlights the diverse origins and worldview behind the brown faces of Texas’s south coast… Evocative, sometimes heartbreaking, and full of rich descriptions, The Last Karankawas is a love letter to the Galveston most tourists never see and a tribute to the people who sustain, and are sustained by, their adopted homeland.” – Shelf Awareness

Life on the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure by  Rinker Buck

Nonfiction / History / Travel.

Seven years ago, readers around the country fell in love with a singular American voice: Rinker Buck, whose infectious curiosity about history launched him across the West in a covered wagon pulled by mules and propelled his book about the trip, The Oregon Trail, to ten weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Now, Buck returns to chronicle his latest incredible adventure: building a wooden flatboat from the bygone era of the early 1800s and journeying down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

A modern-day Huck Finn, Buck casts off down the river on the flatboat Patience accompanied by an eccentric crew of daring shipmates. Over the course of his voyage, Buck steers his fragile wooden craft through narrow channels dominated by massive cargo barges, rescues his first mate gone overboard, sails blindly through fog, breaks his ribs not once but twice, and camps every night on sandbars, remote islands, and steep levees. As he charts his own journey, he also delivers a richly satisfying work of history that brings to life a lost era.

The role of the flatboat in our country’s evolution is far more significant than most Americans realize. Between 1800 and 1840, millions of farmers, merchants, and teenage adventurers embarked from states like Pennsylvania and Virginia on flatboats headed beyond the Appalachians to Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Like the Nile, the Thames, or the Seine before them, the western rivers in America became a floating supply chain that fueled national growth. Settler families repurposed the wood from their boats to build their first cabins in the wilderness; cargo boats were broken apart and sold to build the boomtowns along the water route. Joining the river traffic were floating brothels, called “gun boats”; “smithy boats” for blacksmiths; even “whiskey boats” with taverns mounted on jaunty rafts. In the present day, America’s inland rivers are a superhighway dominated by leviathan barges—carrying $80 billion of cargo annually—all descended from flatboats like the ramshackle Patience, which must avoid being crushed alongside their metal hulls.

As a historian, Buck resurrects the era’s adventurous spirit, but he also challenges familiar myths about American expansion, confronting the bloody truth behind settlers’ push for land and wealth. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced more than 125,000 members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, and several other tribes to travel the Mississippi on a brutal journey en route to the barrens of Oklahoma. Simultaneously, almost a million enslaved African Americans were carried in flatboats and marched by foot 1,000 miles over the Appalachians to the cotton and cane fields of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, birthing the term “sold down the river.” Weaving together a tapestry of first-person histories, Buck portrays this watershed era of American expansion as it was really lived.

With a rare narrative power that blends stirring adventure with absorbing untold history, Life on the Mississippi is a mus­cular and majestic feat of storytelling from a writer who may be the closest that we have today to Mark Twain.

Description from Goodreads.

“Audacious… Compelling… An antidote to the cynicism of the times… Life on the Mississippi sparkles… His prose, like the river itself, has turns that quicken the pulse.” – Wall Street Journal

“Buck’s ability to deftly balance the intimate and the epic, along with his pervading charm and literary panache, make Life on the Mississippi an entertaining and engrossing read… The book’s most poignant aspect is achieved thanks to the author’s ability to sketch brief, affecting portraits of the people with whom his voyage brings him into contact.” – Shelf Awareness

“An invigorating blend of history and journalism informs this journey down Old Man River… Besides being a willing and intrepid traveler, Buck is also an able interpreter of history, and it’s clear that he’s devoured a library of Mississippiana. It all makes for an entertaining journey in the manner of William Least Heat-Moon, John McPhee, and other traveler-explainers. For armchair-travel aficionados and frontier-history buffs, it doesn’t get much better.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Long Gone by  Joanna Schaffhausen

Fiction / Mystery / suspense.

Chicago detective Annalisa Vega shattered her life, personally and professionally, when she turned in her ex-cop father for his role in a murder. Her family can’t forgive her. Her fellow officers no longer trust her. So when detective Leo Hammond turns up dead in a bizarre murder, Annalisa thinks she has nothing to lose by investigating whatever secrets he hid behind the thin blue line.

Annalisa quickly zeroes in on someone who had good reason to want Hammond dead: a wealthy, fast-talking car salesman who’d gotten away with murder once and wasn’t about to let Hammond take a second shot. Moe Bocks remains the number one suspect in his girlfriend’s brutal unsolved death, and now he’s got a new woman in his sights—Annalisa’s best friend.

Annalisa is desperate to protect her friend and force Bocks to pay, either for Hammond’s death or his earlier crime. But when no one else believes the connection, she takes increasingly risky chances to reveal the truth. Because both Hammond and Bocks had secrets to die for, and if she doesn’t untangle them soon, Annalisa will be next.

Description from Goodreads.

“Loads of exciting action, balanced with dramatic personal revelations and some fine nuts-and-bolts police work, keep the pages turning. Readers will look forward to the next outing for the complex, introspective Vega.” – Publishers Weekly

“If you’re after a thriller that will deliver on the suspense, give you characters to cheer on, and wrap it all up with a thoroughly satisfying conclusion – look no further.” – Mystery & Suspense

“Schaffhausen again weaves family dynamics, terrible decisions, and long-festering secrets with love and bitter regret to create a riveting story. The delightfully exasperating main character and cast are a bonus.” – First Clue

Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe by  David Maraniss

nonfiction / Biography / Sports / History.

Jim Thorpe rose to world fame as a mythic talent who excelled at every sport. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, was an All-American football player at the Carlisle Indian School, the star of the first class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and played major league baseball for John McGraw’s New York Giants. Even in a golden age of sports celebrities, he was one of a kind.

But despite his colossal skills, Thorpe’s life was a struggle against the odds. As a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, he encountered duplicitous authorities who turned away from him when their reputations were at risk. At Carlisle, he dealt with the racist assimilationist philosophy “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” His gold medals were unfairly rescinded because he had played minor league baseball. His later life was troubled by alcohol, broken marriages, and financial distress. He roamed from state to state and took bit parts in Hollywood, but even the film of his own life failed to improve his fortunes. But for all his travails, Thorpe did not succumb. The man survived, complications and all, and so did the myth.

Path Lit by Lightning is a great American story from a master biographer.

Description from Goodreads.

“Maraniss’s book is the most comprehensive Thorpe biography to date.” – Library Journal

“A sensitive and compelling life of the great, ill-treated athlete Jim Thorpe… Racism was a powerful element in Thorpe’s life, and Maraniss explores this topic with insight and nuance, just as he did in his biography of Roberto Clemente… A tale that, though well known in outline, Maraniss enriches with his considerable skills as a writer and researcher.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“While much attention is given to the prejudices Thorpe faced—and, later, his struggles with alcoholism—Maraniss’s work offers an equally fascinating look at his subject’s outsize talent as a man who excelled in the realms of baseball, football, and athletics broadly, tacked onto a vivid backdrop of sports culture in the first half of the 20th century. This essential work restores a legendary figure to his rightful place in history.” – Publishers Weekly

This Story Will Change: After the Happily Ever After by  Elizabeth Crane

Nonfiction / Memoir.

One minute Elizabeth Crane and her husband of fifteen years are fixing up their old house in Upstate New York, finally setting down roots after stints in Chicago, Texas, and Brooklyn, when his unexpected admission—I’m not happy—changes everything. Suddenly she finds herself separated and in couples therapy, living in an apartment in the city with an old friend and his kid. It’s understood that the apartment and bonus family are temporary, but the situation brings unexpected comfort and much-needed healing for wounds even older than her marriage.

Crafting the story as the very events chronicled are unfolding, Crane writes from a place of guarded possibility, capturing through vignettes and collected moments a semblance of the real-time practice of healing. At turns funny and dark, with moments of poignancy, This Story Will Change is an unexpected and moving portrait of a woman in transformation, a chronicle of how even the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are bound to change.

Description from Goodreads.

This Story Will Change captures the long arc of a marriage and its messy, human ending: ambivalence, heartbreak, deep grief and unexpected flashes of hope and joy… Elizabeth Crane’s wry, vulnerable memoir chronicles the dissolution of her marriage in sharp, intimate detail.” – Shelf Awareness

“In This Story Will Change, Crane uses her narrative skills to excavate her relationship. Crane writes in the third person, creating emotional distance as though she can objectively describe the dissolution of her own marriage. This technique makes the memoir read more like a novel, akin to Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation with short, punchy chapters and unflinching self-analysis.” – BookPage

“In this gorgeous, impressionistic memoir, fiction writer Crane turns to nonfiction to investigate her marriage and its dissolution… [She] resists cliché and refuses easy resolution, offering instead a fractured yet richly drawn portrait of a painful year and its surprising gifts.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City by  Edward Chisholm

Nonfiction / Memoir.

A waiter’s job is to deceive you. They want you to believe in a luxurious calm because on the other side of that door… is hell.

Edward Chisholm’s spellbinding memoir of his time as a Parisian waiter takes you beneath the surface of one of the most iconic cities in the world—and right into its glorious underbelly.

He inhabits a world of inhuman hours, snatched sleep and dive bars; scraping by on coffee, bread and cigarettes, often under sadistic managers, with a wage so low you’re fighting your colleagues for tips. Your colleagues—including thieves, narcissists, ex-soldiers, immigrants, wannabe actors, and drug dealers—are the closest thing to family that you’ve got.

It’s physically demanding, frequently humiliating and incredibly competitive. But it doesn’t matter because you’re in Paris, the center of the universe, and there’s nowhere else you’d rather be in the world.

Description from Goodreads.

“Throwing open the vibrant underbelly of the City of Light in all its depraved, degenerate, and dangerously addictive magnificence, Chisholm’s account of his time spent as a Parisian waiter abounds in electrifying anecdote and jaw-dropping revelations.” – Waterstones

“A Dickensian tale of a young man’s trial by fire in a French bistro gives rise to biting commentary on Parisian culture in Chisholm’s intoxicating debut. Chisholm renders the City of Light in vivid scenes of squalor and splendor, its romance and wretchedness mirroring that of the ‘great piece of theater’ he starred in before eventually leaving the restaurant himself. Bittersweet and enchanting, this serves as a potent look at the gritty underbelly of a glittering world.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“An absorbing and moving inside look at a Parisian restaurant. [Chisholm] brings the restaurant world to life as he relates the stress, pressure, and anxiety felt by all the workers. The long hours, the competition among the waiters, the petty grudges, and the poor treatment by supervisors are all exposed. Most poignant are his coworkers’ stories: they share their hopes and dreams with him. With this book, Chisholm has achieved his own dream to become a writer.” – Library Journal

The Women Could Fly by  Megan Giddings ★

Fiction / Horror / Fantasy.

Josephine Thomas has heard every conceivable theory about her mother’s disappearance. That she was kidnapped. Murdered. That she took on a new identity to start a new family. That she was a witch. This is the most worrying charge because in a world where witches are real, peculiar behavior raises suspicions and a woman–especially a Black woman–can find herself on trial for witchcraft.

But fourteen years have passed since her mother’s disappearance, and now Jo is finally ready to let go of the past. Yet her future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of 30–or enroll in a registry that allows them to be monitored, effectively forfeiting their autonomy. At 28, Jo is ambivalent about marriage. With her ability to control her life on the line, she feels as if she has her never understood her mother more. When she’s offered the opportunity to honor one last request from her mother’s will, Jo leaves her regular life to feel connected to her one last time.

In this powerful and timely novel, Megan Giddings explores the limits women face–and the powers they have to transgress and transcend them.

Description from Goodreads.

“Combining the misogynist oppression of The Handmaid’s Tale with the sharp insight and science fictional tone of Octavia Butler, Giddings’s latest is a chilling but all too plausible tale.” – Library Journal

“[A] dynamite story… Giddings ingeniously blends her harrowing parable of an all-powerful patriarchy with insights into racial imbalances… This is brilliant.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“For a book about witches, The Women Could Fly feels pretty gritty and grounded, and has plenty to say about the regular old dystopia we’re stuck in.” – Philadelphia Inquirer


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