Oh my goodness. I never thought any book would have me weeping more than A Little Life, but Catherine Newman’s We All Want Impossible Things broke that record along the floodgates. This is not to say the novel is a depressing one: in fact, its depictions of life-affirming, forever-friendships veritably burst with love and wit. Newman perfectly captures the confusing contradictions that accompany end-of-life care: the emergencies among the mundanity, the darkly hilarious moments that punctuate the slow-motion, eviscerating heartbreak. Some readers who’ve said goodbye to terminally ill beloveds may find that their wounds are too raw for this novel. I, on the other hand, read it a few months after cancer took a very close friend of mine and I found it to be incredibly cathartic. Many moments were eerily—no, magically!—similar to moments I shared with Becky toward the end. I underlined like mad and scribbled in the margins; more than once I started to make a mental note to share certain excerpts with Becky, knowing she’d recognize herself and our friendship in the words, then remembering she’s not anywhere I can reach her. Five stars. Pairs well with Kathryn Schulz’s Lost & Found and/or Janine Kwoh’s Welcome to the Grief Club.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman (List Price: $25.99, Harper, 9780063230897, November 2022)
Meredith is a completely lovable and complex character that has faced and survived some unspeakable things. Claire Alexander beautifully creates characters that exude resilience in their own ways. I found myself cheering on Meredith, Fee, Celeste, and Tom…and hoping for their happiness. Meredith, Alone is a quick read that explores the hardships of life and the value of community, family and friendships. While some of the topics are quite heavy, there is also joy and hope and laughter and triumph. I thoroughlyloved this book and have already started recommending it to folks who loved Eleanor Oliphant and Where’d You go Bernadette!
Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander, (List Price: $28, Grand Central Publishing, 9781538709948, November 2022)
“I suppose it’s typical of me that I zoom in on Billy Wilder in one of the most melancholy moments of his life, just when his star is on the wane and he’s trying to find a gracious way of becoming an elder statesman. I think it is more interesting to approach an artist through one of their flawed films, because a masterpiece speaks for itself. Whereas you watch Fedora and you think: ‘How did this film come to be? It is so peculiar, there must be a story there.” ―Jonathan Coe, Interview, The Guardian
What booksellers are saying about Mr. Wilder and Me
Told alongside a young woman’s coming of age as a film worker, this novella is a portrait of late-career Billy Wilder, after he’s made all the films you know and now worries that he’s out of touch – he remains haunted by the Holocaust, while his peers seemingly have moved on and are making movies that explore human pain and suffering instead of trying to alleviate them. It’s a gorgeously written and well-researched book, simultaneously a love letter to film and life’s pleasures and a compassionate warning about the dangers of nostalgia and the moral convictions that come with age.
―Akil Guruparan from Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia | Buy from Fountain Bookstore
Calista is a young Greek girl hired by Billy Wilder as an interpreter while he is filming the movie Fedora in 1977 Europe. This is a coming of age story along with a tribute to Wilder, his movies, and his screenwriter friend Iz Diamond. I loved the book! ―Beth Carpenter from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina | Buy from The Country Bookshop
Last night, I was listening to an old episode of This American Life, one in which a reporter goes on the road with the then-92-year-old George Burns. Immediately I thought of Mr. Wilder and Me. As in that radio story, the protagonist in Jonathan Coe’s novel is a young woman who has the rare opportunity to spend long stretches of time with an aging entertainment legend who is, more than likely, in the midst of his last big project. Mr. Wilder and Me invites us to examine notions of creativity, relevance, and fame as well as our irresistible tendency to re-examine our lives, wondering what small shifts might have changed everything. ―Janet Geddis from Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia | Buy from Avid Bookshop
About Jonathan Coe
Jonathan Coe was born in 1961 in Lickey, a suburb of south-west Birmingham. His first novel, The Accidental Woman was published in 1987. His best-selling novels include What a Carve Up! and The Rotters’ Club (2001). He is the recipient of many prizes and awards, including both Costa Novel of the Year and Prix du Livre Européen. He won France’s Prix Médicis for The House of Sleep and Italy’s Premio Flaiano and Premio Bauer-Ca’ Foscari.
“People often ask how much of myself is in a book. Generally I say all of me and none of me. It’s dangerous to associate authors with their work. It’s fiction but the more you are engaged with your writing the more the readers are also involved. I think a reader needs the author to be invested wholly in the writing, otherwise it feels a bit like cheating, in a way.
I tend to get emotional towards the end of writing a book, because so much is coming together and the story feels as though it is going to work and do what I wanted it to do. I love endings – beginnings and endings are what I like most in fiction. ” ―Kate Atkinson, Interview, Women’s Prize for Fiction
What booksellers are saying about Shrines of Gaiety
Kate Atkinson has a wonderful way with words, combining laugh-out-loud wit with unexpected pathos. I gobbled up Shrines of Gaiety – which features a motley crew of characters in 1920s London, including a nightclub boss, a chief inspector intent on weeding out corruption in the police, a teenage runaway in search of fame, and a former WW1 nurse in search of said missing teenager – in just a couple of days.
―Jude Burke-Lewis from Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi | Buy from Square Books
Atkinson’s latest novel sparkles with all her brilliance. Featuring deft character studies and a lack of sentimentality, this clever timepiece set in the roaring ’20s has an atmospheric mix of criminal and cop, ingenue and madame. Seedy SoHo has been the playground for the infamous Coker family for many years, and they must now defend their nightclub empire from attack by mysterious forces. Witty & wise, moving but never mawkish, this is Atkinson at the top of her game. ―Maggi Robe from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Buy from Flyleaf Books
Ma Coker, queen of London’s night club scene, is released from jail, at the beginning of this novel set against a London full of missing girls, many of whom worked at Coker’s clubs. Told from the point of view of Coker and her endless family members; as well as a librarian who works with a police officer to find the girls; and some of the girls themselves. Kate Atkinson is at her most imaginative in this thriller that’s almost as wild as the roaring 20s themselves.. ―Anne Peck from Righton Books in St. Simons Island, Georgia | Buy from Righton Books
About Kate Atkinson
Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her 2013 novel Life After Life was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and voted Book of the Year for the independent booksellers associations on both sides of the Atlantic. It also won the Costa Novel Award, as did her subsequent novel, A God in Ruins (2015), and was adapted into a critically acclaimed television series in 2022. Her bestselling novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie became the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs. She has written twelve groundbreaking, bestselling books and lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.
I loved the characters in this book especially Civil Townsend. She was my hero! I remember reading about the true story this book is based on and feeling what a tragedy that something like this could happen. This story brought to life the real-life trauma of the two young girls the story is based on. I loved the way Civil championed their cause, and I felt her pain when things would go sideways. I recommend reading this book to anyone who is interested in justice.
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, (List Price: $27.00, Penguin Random House, 9780593337691, April 2022)
A thought-provoking and riveting look at the difference between keeping things secret and keeping things private. Mad Honey is told in alternating voices and timelines by Olivia, the mother of Asher, and Lily, Asher’s new to town girlfriend. Both Olivia and Lily are familiar with starting over. Olivia by leaving an abusive husband and Lily by moving for her last year of high school. When Lily is found dead, all eyes focus on Asher as a likely suspect. The layers of both Lily and Olivia’s lives are revealed as the investigation and trial bring long-held secrets to light. This is a page-turner that will leave you wondering how far you would go to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult, (List Price: $29.99, Ballantine Books, 9781984818386, October 2022)
“In this moment of despair, while I was waiting on a crowded subway platform – I saw this woman in her late 50s teaching herself English. She held this kind of handbook and reminded me so much of my tías, my grandmother – all these women in my life who were laid off during the Great Recession in 2007. After working in the same factory for over 25 years, they were supposed to start over again. They had a lot to offer, but to go on a job interview is something they’d never done before. Thinking about this compelled me to go online and look up the most popular interview questions. I downloaded interview questions, and Cara Romero came to life. I heard her say, “You want to know something about my life? I’ll tell you about my life. I came to this country because my husband wanted to kill me.” ―Angie Cruz, Interview,Dominican Writers
What booksellers are saying about How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water
Cara Romero wants to work. She is drawing unemployment but must check in with a job counselor and at each of her meetings she tells of the issues she had and is having in her life which keep her from getting a job. She is truly a good person and helps her neighbors any time she is needed. Stay with this book and Cara’s stories because the end is worth it!―Beth Carpenter from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina Buy from The Country Bookshop
Cara Romero wants to work on everything and everyone but herself. She is strident, self-aware, and always always always focused on survival, trusting herself above any other human. She loves hard and takes care of the people she thinks are worse off than herself, often at her own expense. Sbe embodies what it is to live within layers of self-protection, every layer as loving as it is hard, and be confronted with the shortcomings of such an existence. Told in a series of interviews and reproductions of various paperwork (job applications, job openings, aptitude tests, etc), Cruz has created an emotional wringer of a book as unwavering as its protagonist. With an exquisite voice that is hilarious, bleak, and absolutely formidable, How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water is an expertly woven character study so bigger than itself.
―Miranda Sanchez from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina Buy from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews
I would not have thought Angie Cruz could outdo herself, but I was completely wrong. I loved Dominicana and felt so connected to the protagonist. She’s done it again with a woman in a similar situation but a completely different stage of life. Told through a set of interviews as an aging woman desperately seeks work, this is a story so full of heart you will not be able to walk away unaffected. In parts funny and tragic, this is a gorgeous portrait of life in America. ―Jamie Southern from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina Buy from Bookmarks
About Angie Cruz
Angie Cruz is the author of the novels Soledad,Let It Rain Coffee, and Dominicana, which was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize and a Good Morning America Book Club pick. She is founder and editor in chief of Aster(ix), a literary and arts journal, and is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm reads like smooth jazz music, with a full cast of interlocking characters creating a complex harmony that I could not get enough of. Circus Palmer is our main character, an aging and floundering jazz musician who charms and cheats on the women in his life. Never have I wanted so badly to grab a character by the shoulders and shake some sense into him! The women truly take center stage in this story, loved and abandoned by Circus in turns. The narrative was full of angst, but the ending was sweet and redemptive. Fans of Luster and Red At The Bone will love this one.
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell, (List Price: $28, Pantheon, 9780593316443, September 2022)
I so enjoyed reading this book. The story centers around Margie Slinas/Margo Salton and jumps from present to past to see how Margie evolved into a first rate barbecue chef named Margot. She decides to open a barbecue restaurant and names it Salt. Margot shares the building with a bakery named Sugar. She begins a relationship with one of the owners, Jerome. As their relationship progresses and Margot starts to fall in love with Jerome, she know it’s time to tell him about her past as Marjorie Salinas. While some of the parts of the book were a bit rough, it was a great story filled with love and redemption.
Sugar and Salt by Susan Wiggs, (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780062914224, July 2022)
Reviewed by Pam Crawford, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia
A poignant tale of wounded souls and their accompanying ghosts finding each other. Tinged with magic, interlaced with loss and longing, each character’s story unfolds in layers creating an intricate puzzle that teases and delights. A must read for fans of magical realism.!
Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen, (List Price: $27.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250019868, August 2022)
Subatomic super particles, string theory, parallel worlds, metaphysical, OBE—out-of-body-experience and different dimensions…. not many authors take their readers on such a tale as this paranormal story of a magician disappearing during a performance. Violet Volk disappeared a decade ago right in front of her audience and hasn’t been seen since. Her sister Sasha and Violet’s followers are still looking for answers. Is she alive? Was she really a psychic spy for the CIA? Does she exist in another dimension? Readers will not be able to put down this book as they read about the family situations and the magic that entwines this story.
Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore, (List Price: $27.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250815064, July 2022)
Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia
I loved Saint X so when I saw Elsewhere I knew it had to go home with me. This book is masterfully done in her hands. With a similar tone to Handmaids Tale you will follow Vera through her little town where mothers go missing for no reason. It is just the way things are. What happens when she goes? So good!
Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin, (List Price: $26.99, Celadon, 9781250219633, June 2022)
Reviewed by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina
This was the perfect sweet, feel good and easy summer read! I fell in love with Hannah and Jack. Watching Hannah grow as a person was real life. It shows real is so much better than fake. Katherine Center did an amazing job meshing the worlds of security service and Hollywood. One of my favorite quotes in the book was, “Love is something you generate. And loving other people really does turn out, in the end, to be a genuine way of loving yourself.”
The Bodyguard by Katherine Center, (List Price: $27.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250219398, July 2022)
Three women have shared a bond for decades. When they are reunited for one of their daughter’s weddings, the past comes back in a rush. The story is told in flashbacks and present day in a way that helps them reconcile where they have ended up and where they once dreamed they’d go. A timeless examination of all the dreams you hold for yourself, the dreams your parents and others have for you, and how much you are able to follow your heart.
Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro, (List Price: $27, Knopf, 9780593320297, June 2022)
Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Åkerström invites the reader into the complex and dynamic interior worlds of three Black women, with varying levels of privilege and proximity to whiteness, as they navigate the novel’s locations of America and Sweden. By following each of their unique and dynamic journeys, we learn about how our their intimate relationships reflect back the love and care they have learned to believe they deserve through social cues and cultural reminders. A story that paints landscapes of love and loss invites all readers to consider: if home is a feeling, how will you know you’ve found it? An extraordinary and fast-paced novel that I can not wait to recommend both solo and book club readers!
In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström, (List Price: $16.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728253169, June 2022)