Shelf Awareness for Monday, February 2, 2015


Little Brown and Company: The Balcony by Jane Delury

Houghton Mifflin: Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: Based on a True Story by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil

Tarcherperigee: F You Very Much: Understanding the Culture of Rudeness--And What We Can Do about It by Danny Wallace

Katherine Tegen Books: Another Quest for Celeste (Nest for Celeste #2) by Henry Cole

Quotation of the Day

President Obama Recommends Redeployment

President Obama buying books at Politics & Prose

"Over vacation, I read a book of short stories by Phil Klay called Redeployment. It's a quick but powerful and, for me, painful set of stories about the experience of ordinary soldiers in Iraq. And I think it's a reminder, particularly important for a commander in chief, that the antiseptic plans and decisions and strategies and opining of pundits that take place in Washington is very different from war and conflict as it's experienced by people on the ground. And part of the reason that I am deliberate about decision making when it comes to foreign policy and part of the reason that I do think it's important to aim before you shoot is because I've met enough young men in Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] and talked to enough families who have lost loved ones to remember that there're costs to the decisions that we make. Sometimes we have to make them, but they're real and they're serious. We can't play political games and we can't engage in bluster or reaction or try to beat our chests when we make these decisions. If we're going to deploy folks to war, it better be for a darn good reason, and we better have a very clear objective that is worthy of the sacrifices that these folks make."

--President Obama yesterday on CNN's GPS, asked by host Fareed Zakaria to recommend a book.

Page Street Kids: Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Meyer


News

Books-A-Million Majority Owners Offer to Buy Whole Company

Books-A-Million executive chairman Clyde B. Anderson and his family, who directly and in trusts own 58.2% of the company's outstanding common stock, have made an offer to buy the rest of the company for $2.75 a share--or about $17.3 million. Their offer values the bookselling chain at almost $41.3 million. In a brief announcement of the offer, BAM said it "intends to promptly review the offer."

On Friday, after the offer became public, Books-A-Million stock rose 50.2%, to $2.52 a share, on extremely heavy volume.

The Andersons made the offer in a non-binding letter to the BAM board, in which they said, according to an SEC filing, that they would acquire the shares they don't own through "a newly formed acquisition vehicle" that they would control. The Andersons said they expect BAM to appoint a special committee of independent directors with its own legal and financial advisers to review the offer. The Andersons emphasized that they aren't interested in selling their shares to or merging with a third party.

Under the Books-A-Million, Books & Co., Bookland and 2nd & Charles names, Books-A-Million has 256 stores in 33 states and the District of Columbia and sells online at booksamillion.com. It also owns Yogurt Mountain, a retailer and franchisor of 43 self-serve frozen yogurt stores, and owns and operates several shopping centers through its Preferred Growth Properties subsidiary.

In April 2012, the Anderson family made a similar offer to buy the company, bidding $3.05 a share. At the time, it owned 53% of the company. In July 2012, the Anderson family withdrew its offer after meetings with the Books-A-Million board of directors and a special independent committee that had been set up to evaluate the offer.

As happened after the 2012 offer, on Friday, several law firms announced "investigations," citing concerns about whether the board is handling the proposal correctly and acting in the interests of all shareholders.


Soho Crime: My Name Is Nathan Lucius by Mark Winkler


Blaming Minimum Wage Hikes, SF SF Store to Close

Blaming a minimum wage proposition approved by city voters in November, Borderlands Books, the San Francisco science fiction, fantasy and horror new and used bookstore, is closing "no later than March 31," the store announced in a post. The Borderlands café will stay open at least until the end of the year.

Under the city measure, the minimum wage rose to $11.05 on January 1 and will rise steadily in several increments to $15 by July 1, 2018.

"Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principle and we believe that it's possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco--Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage," the store said.

"Many businesses can make adjustments to allow for increased wages," the store continued. "The cafe side of Borderlands, for example, should have no difficulty at all.... But books are a special case because the price is set by the publisher and printed on the book. Furthermore, for years part of the challenge for brick-and-mortar bookstores is that companies like Amazon.com have made it difficult to get people to pay retail prices. So it is inconceivable to adjust our prices upwards to cover increased wages.

"The change in minimum wage will mean our payroll will increase roughly 39%. That increase will in turn bring up our total operating expenses by 18%. To make up for that expense, we would need to increase our sales by a minimum of 20%. We do not believe that is a realistic possibility for a bookstore in San Francisco at this time."

Likewise, the store said that if it tried to decrease expenses enough to meet its need, it would have to reduce the staff to the current management of two people--Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman--"and one other part-time employee."

The store said that although the full effect of the increasing minimum wage "won't be felt for a while," the decision to close now was made because even this year's jumps (from $10.74 an hour to $11.05 on January 1, and to $12.25 on May 1) will "expend the store's cash assets," leading the store to have less inventory in six months. Closing soon "makes better business sense" and "more importantly, keeping up our morale and continuing to serve our customers while knowing that we are going to close has been very painful for all of us over the past three months. Continuing to do so for even longer would be horrible. Far better to close at a time of our choosing, keep everyone's sorrow to a minimum, and then get on with our lives."

Although Borderlands said it doesn't believe there's "any viable alternative" to closing, it is holding a public meeting on February 12 to moderate a discussion about "alternatives to closing the store."

Founded in 1997, Borderlands has weathered several major challenges, including a 100% rent hike in 2000 that forced it to move, competition from online booksellers, the growth of e-books and the recession of 2009, which hit the store hard because it had just opened its café. Last year was Borderlands' best year.

Borderlands has more than 14,000 titles in stock and 2,000 square feet of space. The cafe accounts for an additional 1,500 square feet of space.


Ecco Press: Tangerine by Christine Mangan


For Sale: Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook, N.Y.

Scott Meyer, owner of Merritt Bookstore, Millbrook, N.Y., is retiring and has put his shop up for sale after more than 30 years in business. In an announcement on the store's website, Meyer said Merritt is a well established bookstore with a solid customer base.

"The Merritt Bookstore is a beacon of light not just in the local community but in all of the Hudson Valley and beyond," he noted. "By offering many wonderful events such as introducing authors and their books, school book fairs, festivals and participation in the New York State Reading Associations events (NYSRA), Merritt Bookstore has given and continues to give exposure to authors and their books, as well as informing the communities of the latest and greatest literature."

Meyer called his store "a wonderful established business investment offering a great location, community, staff and lots of wonderful events. Please pass the word to others of this great business opportunity, and if you know someone who is interested in this type of business please pass the word."

For more information, contact Scott and Alison at scott48@earthlink.net.


With Redwood Press, Stanford Branches into Trade, Fiction

Today Stanford University Press is launching Redwood Press, a fiction and nonfiction trade imprint that will publish four to six books each year, starting with two this spring: a novel by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, The Woman Who Read Too Much ($24, 9780804793254), and The Shared Society: A Vision for the Global Future of Latin America by former president of Peru Alejandro Toledo ($29.95, 9780804795517).

"Stanford University Press's mission has always been to publish first-rate books that advance scholarship, inform public debate and influence practice," said press director Alan Harvey. "In launching Redwood Press, we are furthering that mission by reaching beyond the academy to a much wider readership. These books embody true public scholarship."

The Woman Who Read Too Much "signifies Stanford's intention to broaden the accessibility of new ideas by embracing a variety of forms," said publication director, editor-in-chief Kate Wahl. "Fiction, or any of the other formats in which we will publish, has to be thematically tied to what we do as a press. Nakhjavani's novel complements SUP's existing programs, and sets a high bar for the works of fiction we acquire in the future."


Major Fire in Russian State Library

BBC photo

A fire in one of Russia's major state libraries, in Moscow, has damaged an estimated 15% of the 10 million volumes and materials, the New York Times said. The fire broke out at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences on Friday and wasn't fully extinguished until Saturday.

Institute director Yuri Pivovarov said that while many copies of books can be found abroad, the institute had been "a research conveyor, and this conveyor has stopped."

Alexander Visly, director of the Russian State Library, told Tass that most of the rarest volumes and manuscripts at the damaged library, primarily about economics, philosophy and Marxism-Leninism, had been brought to the Soviet Union from Germany as war trophies.


Obituary Note: Jack Leggett

Jack Leggett, "who nourished a generation of poets and novelists" as director of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, died last Sunday, the New York Times reported. He was 97. Leggett took over the program's directorship in 1970, "when the major expansion of college and graduate writing programs had yet to begin," and ran it until his retirement in 1987.

"If it can be said that any one person was responsible for Iowa City being celebrated as the center of gravity for the workshop culture in the literary life of America, that person was Jack Leggett," said author Bob Shacochis, whose 1985 National Book Award-winning story collection, Easy in the Islands, was written at the Iowa Workshop. "I could never have been a writer without his support."


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Mercy Seat
by Elizabeth H. Winthrop 

In Jim Crow-era Louisiana, a handful of townspeople contemplate the impending execution of 18-year-old Willie Jones. As they consider their own roles in the young black man's fate, some with regret, others with a certain sort of vicious pride, author Elizabeth H. Winthrop builds a taut, yet tender portrait of racism, justice and our legal system in The Mercy Seat. Winthrop’s skillful plaiting of multiple viewpoints into an aching, quietly powerful tale is both impressive and effective--you will see yourself in one or more of the characters, and it will make you uncomfortable. But you'll thank Winthrop for the opportunity, which might be the most wondrous work of The Mercy Seat in the end. This is Winthrop's break-out book. --Stefanie Hargreaves, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers 

(Grove Press, $26.00 hardcover, 9780802128188, May 8, 2018)

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Notes

Image of the Day: BlueBridge Turns 10

Last Thursday, friends and colleagues joined BlueBridge publisher Jan-Erik Guerth in New York City to celebrate the house's 10th anniversary. Pictured: (front row, l.-r.) Jill Schoolman (Archipelago Books); Meryl Zegarek (Meryl Zegarek Public Relations); Robert N. Solomon, Esq.; Jan-Erik Guerth; Matty Goldberg (Perseus Books Group); George Gibson (Bloomsbury Publishing); (back row, l.-r.): Michael Gourley (Chesapeake & Hudson); Mark Suchomel (Perseus Books Group); Rachel Hundert (Meryl Zegarek Public Relations); Dan Breitkreutz (Maple Press).

Specializing in international nonfiction, including culture, history, biography, nature and science, inspiration and self-help, and distributed by Legato Publishers Group, BlueBridge has published nearly 40 books. Among them are The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister; Herzl's Vision: Theodor Herzl and the Foundation of the Jewish State by Shlomo Avineri; Queen Elizabeth in the Garden: A Story of Love, Rivalry, and Spectacular Gardens by Trea Martyn; How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life by Roman Krznaric; Island: How Islands Transform the World by J. Edward Chamberlin; Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano: The Story of the First Pianos and How They Caused a Cultural Revolution by Madeline Goold; The Door of No Return: The History of Cape Coast Castle and the Atlantic Slave Trade by William St. Clair; The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women's Movement by Laura Swan; Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life by Don Brophy; Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master by Amy Schmidt; Inviting Silence: Universal Principles of Meditation by Gunilla Norris; A Private History of Happiness: Ninety-Nine Moments of Joy from Around the World by George Myerson; One Hundred Great Jewish Books by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman; and One Hundred Great French Books by Lance Donaldson-Evans.


Coast Weekend's Best Bookstore: Lucy's Books

Lucy's Books, Astoria, Ore., was voted best bookstore in Coast Weekend's 2014 Readers' Choice poll. Noting that "the coast is awash in good bookstores," Coast Weekend wrote that owner Lisa Reid, "who bought Lucy's back in June 2013, has been surprised and grateful for how welcoming and supportive the community has been. While small, the shelves of the store are expertly stocked with a wide variety of new and classic titles in a number of genres, including a section devoted to local authors."

Coast Weekend's Readers' Choice poll runner-up for best bookstore was Time Enough Books, Ilwaco, Wash., while Beach Books, Seaside, Ore., received an honorable mention.


Santa Barbara Film Festival Brings in Book Business

Noting that the spotlight is not just on theaters during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which runs through this coming Saturday, KEYT reported that "throughout downtown thousands of people will be coming and going from movies, tributes, and special events."

Among the retailers highlighted was Granada Books, which "has a window display with many novels for kids, and some that have become popular movies. They also have a sign that encourages people to buy books that were made into movies. Overhead, large pictures of some of the festival stars are hanging in the store."  

Co-owner Sharon Hoshida said, "We thought it was important to feature all of the prize winners this year. People often times are waiting outside to see if they get in or not. They might not get in, so they might come spend some time here in between screenings."



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jessica Neuwirth, Author of Equal Means Equal

This morning on Fox & Friends: Bill Browder, author of Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476755717). He will also appear today on Fox Radio's Kilmeade & Friends and tomorrow on CNBC's Squawk Box and the Daily Show.

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Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad (Broadway, $16, 9780307955883).

Also on Diane Rehm: Robin Wright, author of Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World (Simon & Schuster, $17, 9781439103173).

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Today on Tavis Smiley: Jessica Neuwirth, author of Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment Is Now (New Press, $14.95, 9781620970393).

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Tonight on the Daily Show: Martin Short, author of I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend (Harper, $26.99, 9780062309525). He will also appear tomorrow on the View.

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Tonight on Late Night with Seth Meyers: Mike Greenberg, author of My Father's Wives: A Novel (Morrow, $25.99, 9780062325860).

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Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Reggie Love, author of Power Forward: My Presidential Education (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781476763347). He will also appear tomorrow night on Nightline.

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Tomorrow morning on CBS This Morning: Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, authors of Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476709567). They will also appear on CNBC's Closing Bell.


Books & Authors

#WI10 Buzz Books: Nonfiction

Winter Institute in Asheville, N.C., begins this coming weekend, and we talked to booksellers about the titles and authors they're most looking forward to. (Part One, Fiction, is here.)

Our Only World: Eleven Essays by Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, Feb., $24, 9781619024885)
When it comes to nonfiction buzz, Wendell Berry topped every bookseller list of who they wanted to meet most in Asheville. Long before President Obama awarded Berry the National Humanities Medal in 2010, independent booksellers like Malaprop's general manager Linda-Marie Barrett--who called Berry "the Vaclav Havel of our country"--knew his worth. Sheryl Cotleur from Copperfield's in California thinks Berry "should win the Nobel Prize for literature." Early readers of his latest essay collection, Our Only World, agreed that the poet, novelist, farmer and conservationist continues to be the eloquent voice of reason and thought that has made him a favorite of indie booksellers for more than 50 years.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (Crown, March, $28, 9780307408860)
Although booksellers under 30 might not get the reference, their older colleagues know from experience that if Erik Larson wrote the phone book, they could handsell it into a bestseller. His latest work of gripping narrative nonfiction is published to mark the centennial of the sinking of the Lusitania, which contributed greatly to the U.S. entry into World War I.

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander (Grand Central, April, $26, 9781455599875)
When President Obama tapped Elizabeth Alexander to recite a poem at his 2009 inauguration, the Pulitzer-nominated writer and Yale professor had no idea that her life would be forever changed when her 50-year-old husband and father of her two sons died suddenly. The Light of the World is Alexander's poetic memoir of coming to terms with her loss, as well as a love letter to her husband. "It's a beautiful book about so much," said Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books and Café, Wichita, Kans. "The way she reveals their relationship and his effect on people, and how she had to adapt to not having this larger-than-life person, makes you want to live your life better."

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris (Norton, April, $24.94, 9780393240184)
Mary Norris, long-time copy editor for the New Yorker, may have gotten a six-figure advance for her memoir (even the rumor gives comfort to those in a profession under siege in these autocorrect times). Sarah Bagby said, "I love this book. It's the combination of her great voice--she's so down to earth--but with enough gossip and literary anecdotes, and then this incredibly great grammar advice." Lynn Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, will also be at WI for her novel, Cat Out of Hell (Melville House, March, $24.95, 9781612194424)--we wonder what the two grammar mavens will discuss over drinks.

The Cost of Courage by Charles Kaiser (Other Press, June, $26.95, 9781590516140)
Booksellers speculate this book might be the next Suite Française. Kaiser, a former New York Times and Wall Street Journal reporter, and author of 1968 in America and The Gay Metropolis, tells a true story of three children in a bourgeois Catholic family who worked together in the French Resistance. Kaiser's uncle met the family during World War II, and the author has known them for years.

Hold Still: A Memoir in Photographs by Sally Mann (Little, Brown, May, $32, 9780316247764)
Photographer Sally Mann's pictorial memoir is being compared to Patti Smith's Just Kids for its artful combination of prose and images. The book begins when Mann discovered boxes of old family photos in an attic, setting her on a path that includes "deceit and scandal, alcohol, domestic abuse, car crashes, bogeymen, clandestine affairs, dearly loved and disputed family land... racial complications, vast sums of money made and lost, the return of the prodigal son, and maybe even bloody murder." Kate Schlademan, owner of the Learned Owl in Hudson, Ohio, said she was not sure what to expect when she first started reading the book. "Right from the prologue she sets it up," said Schlademan. "It's really nice. I can't wait to see what the finished book looks like."

Getting There: A Book of Mentors by Gillian Zoe Segal (Abrams Image, April, $24.95, 9781419715709)
In another anticipated photographic book, Zoe Segal (New York Characters), gathered essays from 30 people at the top of their fields. The subjects in Getting There are presented as role models not just for their success, but for the paths they traversed to get there.

Pieces of My Mother by Melissa Cistaro (Sourcebooks, May, $24.99, 9781492615385)
Melissa Cistaro, events coordinator at Book Passage in Corte Madera and San Francisco, will be wearing the hat of debut author at WI this year. In her memoir, she details the devastation she and her brothers experienced after their mother abandoned them one summer, and her experience, years later, trying to piece together what happened as she sat at her dying mother's bedside. Bookseller colleagues are looking forward to picking up a copy of Pieces of My Mother at a WI reception where someone else will be holding galleys for the new author to sign.

Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig (Basic Books, May, $27.99, 9780465052745)
Asheville's own Mark Essig, author of Edison and the Electric Chair, delves into all things pig-related in this new book. Even though Barrett at Malaprop's is a vegetarian, she said she enjoyed a recent dinner with the author, who shared with her how pigs, of all the animals humans eat, are the beasts most likely to return the favor--because they will eat anything! What Mark Kurlansky did for Cod, Essig might just do for swine. And after learning all about pigs, booksellers will be primed for a book of pork recipes from the Top Chef-featured, bestselling author of Fire in My Belly: Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes from Around the World by Kevin Gillespie (Andrews McMeel, March, $29.99, 9781449447076) .

The World Is on Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of Apocalypse by Joni Tevis (Milkweed, May, $16, 9781571313478)
In Joni Tevis's latest collection of essays, she continues to explore the themes of material culture, abandonment of place and atomic dread that permeated her critically acclaimed The Wet Collection. Tevis is known to bring together seemingly unrelated topics--such as Liberace's death and the entertainment complex built by the military around weapons testing--to make brilliant observations in a collection "that can break the heart but is ultimately uplifting." She teaches at Furman College in nearby Greenville, S.C.

Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean (Graywolf, May, $16 paper, 9781555977092)
Margaret Lazarus Dean, author of The Time It Takes to Fall and winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, traveled to Cape Canaveral for NASA's final space shuttle launches. She provides both a history of space exploration as well as an elegy to human space flight. Graywolf sent some lucky booksellers freeze-dried ice cream along with galleys--but it is uncertain if the treats will be at the WI author reception. --Bridget Kinsella


Anne Enright Named Laureate for Irish Fiction

Booker prize-winning author Anne Enright has been named the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction. The Irish Times reported that Enright was the unanimous choice of an international panel for the €50,000 (about $56,450) per year position, which lasts for three years.

"The laureateship is not about one writer, but about a series of writers stretching into the future who will each play a briefly emblematic role in Irish letters," she said. "It is a great honor to be chosen. I hope I can rise to the role, and maybe have some fun along the way. I take courage, as ever, from the readers I have met--especially in Ireland, but also abroad--who allow fiction do its deeply personal work; who let Irish writers into their minds and hearts, and welcome them as their own."


Book Review

Review: Screening Room: Family Pictures

Screening Room: Family Pictures by Alan Lightman (Pantheon, $25.95 hardcover, 9780307379399, February 10, 2015)

Readers familiar with the scientific and philosophical subject matter of Alan Lightman's novel Mr g or his essay collection The Accidental Universe may be startled by this elegiac memoir about his roots in Memphis, Tenn. What's not surprising is that the theoretical physicist turned writer brings to Screening Room: Family Pictures the same empathy, insight and fine prose that distinguish his other works.

The death of an elderly uncle prompts Lightman's return to Memphis four decades after he headed north to college at Princeton, and the reminiscences that loss inspires are the foundation of the book. Towering over this family story is the figure of the grandfather he idolized, Maurice Abraham Lightman, known as M.A., who built a chain of 63 movie theaters in seven Southern states while establishing himself as a world-class bridge player and womanizer. Lightman's depiction of his parents--introverted Richard and dynamic Jeanne, a talented dancer who had "too much energy to be contained within one body"--is a touching but honest one capturing the pathos of two mismatched people who somehow endured a lengthy marriage. He movingly shares scenes with his 90-year-old father in the nursing home where his life draws to an end.

As much as this is a family story, it also deals frankly with Memphis's troubled racial past. Lightman grew up in the 1950s and '60s in a city that was every bit as benighted in its views on racial equality as any town in the deepest of the Deep South. In 1960, an 11-year-old Lightman was ordered out of the "colored section" of a city bus and could find a seat in the front only when one white passenger sat on the lap of another. He describes his father's role in quietly desegregating the family's Memphis movie theaters and offers a sympathetic portrait of the family's maid, Blanche, while confessing the bell he inherited that was "pure music" when it summoned her in his childhood now "cuts like a knife."

Lightman's memories flicker like the light from an old movie projector he meticulously describes in one of the book's many artfully constructed scenes. Indeed, as he discloses in his acknowledgements, the stories he tells of his main characters "are for the most part true but have been embroidered by the vagaries of memory and the impulse for drama." Like his incomparable novel Einstein's Dreams, this memoir is, at its core, a tender meditation on the passage of time. With Lightman we can smell the "sweet honeysuckle of memory" as we appreciate the joy and sorrow of his homecoming. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: The story of Alan Lightman's return to his roots in Memphis, Tenn., is both tender and frank in its depiction of the magnetic pull of family.


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