Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 7, 2018


Putnam: Dracul by Dacre Stoker & JD Barker

Workman: Disturbingly Dangerous Elements by Sean Connolly

Gibbs Smith: Books & Mortar by Gibbs Smith

Thomas Nelson: The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

Tor: The Darkest Star by Jennifer L Armentrout

Harper Children's: My Father's Words by Patricia MacLachlan

News

Portland, Ore.'s In Other Words Closing

In Other Words, the Portland, Ore., feminist bookstore and community center dubiously made famous by the show Portlandia, is closing at the end of the month, the store announced on its website. As the Oregonian summed it up: "The statement cites reasons including increased expenses and the lack of funds, volunteers, and board members, along with an inability to 'reform and re-envision' a space founded on 'white, cis feminism (read: white supremacy)' to make it more reflective of contemporary feminism."

Founded in 1993, the store had financial difficulties in recent years. In 2014, it publicly sought funds and more volunteers to help it continue to operate. And in 2016, it repudiated Portlandia, which had set some sketches in the store, which it called Women and Women First, run by humorless feminists. (The store charged, among other things, that filming crews left the store in a mess, that it didn't profit from the filming and that the show's politics and take on Portland were negative.)

In Other Word's closing announcement said that the store "periodically discusses closing because of a lack of money and people. This isn't sustainable, especially emotionally, for the people who come here and work to provide this space as a resource to Portland Feminist communities. Even if funds poured in, and masses of people showed up in response to this announcement, we would not continue our tenure here.

"We cannot continue because we know reform does not work. The current volunteers and board members stepped into and took over a space that was founded on white, cis feminism (read: white supremacy). It's really difficult, actually, impossible, for us to disentangle from that foundational ideology. Volunteers and board members tried to reform and re-envision the organization, and have found it unattainable to do, especially with so little resources. We have experienced this as a very real reminder that reform doesn't work. Patriarchy, White Supremacy, Capitalism cannot be reformed and ever serve the people. Abolition is the goal."

In Other Words added that Critical Resistance Portland, which "seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe," is working to keep the space open as a community center.


House of Anansi: Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio


Kinokuniya Opens in Cambodia

Kinokuniya Company has opened its first store in Cambodia, in the new Aeon Mall Sen Sok City in Phnom Penh. The 5,700-square-foot store is on the first floor of the mall and offers primarily English-language books, stationery and general merchandise, as well as some Japanese-language books and magazines.

Kinokuniya said that the inventory "has been arranged to entice Cambodia's young population, with an average age of 24, to visit with ease. Kinokuniya aims to build a bookstore that is hard to tire of, even if frequented every day." The store is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The Aeon Mall Sen Sok City is a shopping complex of more than a million square feet in the northern part of Phnom Penh close to the city center. Developers are building commercial structures and housing in the area.

The new store is Kinokuniya's 30th store outside Japan. It also has branches in the U.S., Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Taiwan, the UAE, Indonesia and Myanmar.


University of Minnesota Press: The Contest: The 1968 Election and the War for America's Soul by Michael Schumacher


Oprah's Summer Book Club Pick: The Sun Does Shine

Oprah Winfrey has chosen Anthony Ray Hinton's The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row (St. Martin's) as her summer 2018 Oprah's Book Club pick. The book recounts Hinton's harrowing story, beginning with his 1985 arrest in Alabama at the age of 29. Charged with two counts of murder in what Hinton said was a case of mistaken identity, he was convicted and sentenced to death in the electric chair. In 2015, he was freed after new ballistics tests contradicted the sole evidence used to convict him.

Calling Hinton "a man you should know" during her announcement on CBS This Morning, Winfrey said, "Now, over the years I've chosen many great novels--very few memoirs for my book club--but this story reads like an epic novel, and it is all true. It's unimaginable.... He is a remarkable storyteller and when you read it, you will be swept away into this unbelievable, dramatic true story. And I'm sure you'll think a lot like I did: How is it possible to find light and freedom on death row? It is a must read."

In an interview with Winfrey, Hinton said the book's title reflects the first words he said after being released from death row: "I never will forget that morning. It seemed as though the sun was shining on no one but me.... It was just as though the sun was following me."

Hinton co-wrote his book with Lara Love Hardin.


KidsBuzz for the Week of 6/18/18


Zoro to Head Marketing and Publicity at Random House

Theresa Zoro

Theresa Zoro is being promoted to executive v-p, executive creative director, marketing and public relations at Random House, effective immediately. She was formerly executive v-p, director, publicity and communications.

In announcing the move, Gina Centrello, president and publisher, Random House, called Zoro "a superb leader and outstanding publishing partner who is more than ready to take on this new responsibility, and I'm eager to work with her on the formation of a dynamic, fully integrated creative department.... By unifying [marketing and publicity] under a single leadership vision--at a time when our priority is to become more effective in connecting readers to our books--I believe that we can now be even stronger by applying the powerhouse expertise of an aligned marketing and publicity group whose mandate will be to foster innovation, to garner traditional and social media attention for our books, authors, and publishing programs, and to establish new discovery opportunities for readers with consumer insights and analytics."

Centrello added: "With her deep passion for books and her growing focus on new methods for discovery, Theresa has masterfully orchestrated the publicity strategy for our list--from evolving literary debuts into prizewinners to turning unknowns into bestselling author franchises--in every format in which we publish. As a nurturing and motivating manager of her staff, she provides crucial support for our authors, editors, and publishers. And, as we all have seen, Theresa's groundbreaking creative promotions and Random House Events are being emulated throughout the industry."


HMH Children's: Path to the Stars by Sylvia Acevedo


Obituary Note: Jill Ker Conway

Jill Ker Conway, author and the first woman to be named president of Smith College, died June 1, the New York Times reported. She was 83. Conway, who was raised on a giant sheep ranch in the remote grasslands of Australia, followed up her decade leading Smith with the publication of "three acclaimed memoirs, among other books, and championed feminist causes and ideas."

"One of the things I really like about Jill's life as a model is that she had different chapters in it," said Kathleen McCartney, Smith's current president, adding that she was struck not only by what Conway did for the college, but also by her multiple roles as feminist, author, scholar and woman of influence on the boards of companies like Nike and nonprofits like the Kellogg Foundation.

Her books include the memoirs The Road from Coorain (1989), True North (1994) and A Woman's Education (2001), as well as When Memory Speaks: Reflections on Autobiography (1998). She was also the editor of several books, including Written by Herself: Autobiographies of American Women (1992) and In Her Own Words: Women's Memoirs From Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States (1999).

When she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2013, the citation noted that "her deepest legacy may be in her autobiographical writings. Studies in achieving the examined life, Conway's books have taught countless women and men to practice self-awareness, to acknowledge their own ambition, and to relish leadership."


Ingram: Children's Institute


BookExpo 2018: Diversity and Inclusion Tactics for Booksellers

At BookExpo in New York City last week, members of the American Booksellers Association's Diversity Task Force led a discussion session aimed at providing booksellers with some "tactical takeaways" for making their bookstores more diverse and inclusive spaces.

The three task force members, Hannah Oliver Depp of WORD Bookstores in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y., Veronica Santiago Liu of Word Up Community Bookshop in New York, N.Y., and BrocheAroe Fabian of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C., began by offering some practical tips from their own stores.

Hannah Oliver Depp leading a group discussion during BookExpo.

Depp recalled that one of the first things she addressed was WORD's hiring policies. In an attempt to reach out to people who may have already "self-selected out" of bookselling, the store began advertising open positions on social media and at local community colleges. She said she realized eventually that although the store's buying was "on point" in terms of bringing in diverse titles, those titles were not prominently featured and, as a result, the shelves were "extremely homogeneous." WORD then made sure diverse books were more visible on shelves, and merchandising became "day two" of staff training.

Prior to opening Word Up in northern Manhattan, Liu had "all day" meetings with staff and volunteers during which they pored over local census data in order to determine how best they could reach different parts of their community, including distributing flyers and running advertisements in a variety of languages. Liu said that Word Up has lowered price points to help make the store more accessible, and she noted that while events can be a great way to connect with the community, she made sure to keep some nights free so that people can come in, relax and get to know other community members. Word Up has also established writing programs so they can make books alongside "everyone in the community."

BrocheAroe Fabian at BookExpo.

Fabian reported that one of the biggest community building projects Quail Ridge has undertaken was the creation of a consignment program for North Carolina-based authors. The store maintains a database of local authors, and staff members keep track of whether they've been contacted and if there's been any follow up. While she acknowledged that consignment can be "tricky" and the program requires a lot of effort, it has brought returns in both community inclusion and profits. Fabian also suggested that if booksellers decide to make a permanent clearance section in-store, not identifying it as sale or clearance might make shoppers from a lower socioeconomic background less self-conscious about browsing there.

During the open portion of the discussion, a bookseller recommended off-site and authorless events as ways to extend a store's reach into a wider community, and it was further suggested that bookstores that want to bring in a more diverse audience need to make an effort to "go where the people are," whether that be community centers, churches or other similar organizations. Liu, Depp and Fabian all recommended getting involved with local government and attending community meetings, while a librarian in attendance pointed out that most libraries should have resources for finding American Sign Language interpreters for events.

When it came to stocking and finding diverse books, Fabian urged booksellers to ask any Edelweiss representatives they interact with to request keyword tags from publishers that pertain to diverse and inclusive books. Keywords are not only helpful for learning about new diverse titles, she said, but also come in handy for finding titles related to a specific subject in one's own inventory. Publisher keywords, she explained, were the "start of the pipeline." --Alex Mutter


Notes

Image of the Day: Full House for House

Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, Ky., hosted the launch for Silas House's novel Southernmost (Algonquin). More than 400 people attended the event, which was held at the Crescent Hill Baptist Church, located down the street from the store's Frankfort Ave. location. House was accompanied by musicians Joan Shelley and Daniel Martin Moore, who performed the Dolly Parton song "My Blue Tears."


Photos: 'We Are New York Indie Booksellers'

"We Are New York Indie Booksellers" is a shared project by Franck Bohbot (photographs) and Philippe Ungar (interviews), "a pair of bibliophilic Frenchmen who met and befriended each other in Brooklyn" and have showcased 50 New York indie booksellers in a series of portraits, the Guardian reported.

They "have taken great pleasure in traveling across the city, to neighborhoods in every borough, to meet and photograph booksellers in their habitats," the Guardian wrote. "Despite their diversity, the way their distinct personalities and passions are reflected and amplified in their shops, they are all, says Ungar, 'looking for the same thing--a generous vision of sharing culture.' "

He added that a "bookstore is much more than a bookstore, it's much more than selling books. It's a public shelter. Whoever you are, you don't have to buy anything, they won't ask you for your ID. You're free--you can stay for hours and browse. There's a generosity, an optimism. And that's what we wanted to enhance."

Although no one is getting rich as an indie bookseller, everyone they spoke with professed contentment. "Everyone," Ungar stressed. "Every bookseller says: 'I'm happy.' "

"They are heroes of their neighborhood, monuments of their neighborhood," added Bohbot, who "sought to shoot them accordingly, with dramatic, dimmed lighting and cinematic composition in which the subject is alone, surrounded by their books," the Guardian wrote.


Personnel Changes at Ecco; Ingram Content Group

Meghan Deans has been promoted to senior marketing director at Ecco.

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At Ingram Content Group:

Bailey Davis has been promoted to publisher engagement manager for Lightning Source.

Eileen Armour has joined Ingram Library Services as senior sales representative, covering the Mid-Atlantic terrirtory. She has more than 28 years of experience in public libraries, beginning at a public library in Kentucky. She was later manager of purchasing at Book Wholesalers, Inc. and was most recently a children and teen services specialist at Baker & Taylor.

Josh Floyd is now the senior key account sales manager for IngramSpark.

Kristal Smith has been promoted to manager, business ops support for Ingram Publisher Services.

Lori Bowen has been promoted to senior manager, specialty retail for Ingram's wholesale business.

Renee Lamine has been promoted to marketing manager for IngramSpark.


Patty Garcia Has Left Tom Doherty Associates

Patty Garcia has left Tom Doherty Associates. She had been with Tor since 2006 and was, the company said, "a passionate advocate for the books they publish. TDA thanks her for all her efforts." Garcia can be reached via e-mail.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Eric Dyson on Real Time with Bill Maher

Tomorrow:
Megyn Kelly: Jen Waite, author of A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal (Plume, $25, 9780735216464).

Morning Joe: Dan Abrams, co-author of Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency (Hanover Square Press, $26.99, 9781335424693).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Bill Clinton and James Patterson, authors of The President Is Missing: A Novel (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316412698).

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Michael Eric Dyson, author of What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America (St. Martin's Press, $24.99, 9781250199416).


This Weekend on Book TV: The Printers Row Lit Fest

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, June 9
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Live coverage of the 34th annual Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago, Ill. (Re-airs Saturday at 9 p.m.) Highlights include:

  • 11 a.m. Kerry Kennedy, author of Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope (Center Street, $28, 9781478918240).
  • 12 p.m. Vicki Huddleston, author of Our Woman in Havana: A Diplomat's Chronicle of America's Long Struggle with Castro's Cuba (The Overlook Press, $29.95, 9781468315790).
  • 1 p.m. Arlene Stein, author of Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity (Pantheon, $27.95, 9781524747459).
  • 2 p.m. Jonah Goldberg, author of Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy (Crown Forum, $28, 9781101904930).
  • 3 p.m. Roger Biles, author of Mayor Harold Washington: Champion of Race and Reform in Chicago (University of Illinois Press, $34.95, 9780252041853).
  • 4 p.m. Jacqueline Jones, author of Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical (Basic Books, $32, 9780465078998).
  • 5 p.m. Wendy Pearlman, author of We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria (Custom House, $24.99, 9780062654618).

7 p.m. Cecile Richards, author of Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead--My Life Story (Touchstone, $27, 9781501187599).

8:20 p.m. Richard Munson, author of Tesla: Inventor of the Modern (Norton, $26.95, 9780393635447). (Re-airs Monday at 1:30 a.m.)

Sunday, June 10
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Continuing live coverage from the Printers Row Lit Fest. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m.) Highlights include:

  • 11 a.m. A panel discussion on race relations in America with authors Issac Bailey, Vegas Tenold and Christian Picciolini.
  • 12 p.m. A panel discussion on free speech with authors Nadine Strossen and Laura Kipnis.
  • 1 p.m. Monte Reel, author of A Brotherhood of Spies: The U-2 and the CIA's Secret War (Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385540209), and Cam Simpson, author of The Girl from Kathmandu: Twelve Dead Men and a Woman's Quest for Justice (Harper, $27.99, 9780062449719).
  • 2 p.m. Eliza Griswold, author of Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, 9780374103118).
  • 3 p.m. Jack Davis, author of The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea (Liveright, $17.95, 9781631494024).
  • 4 p.m. Robert Kurson, author of Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon (Random House, $28, 9780812988703).

7:30 p.m. Michael McFaul, author of From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin's Russia (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780544716247).



Books & Authors

Awards: Women's Prize; IndieReader Discovery; Wolfson History

Kamila Shamsie has won the £30,000 (about $40,375) 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction for Home Fire (Riverhead). Chair of judges Sarah Sands commented: "We chose the book which we felt spoke for our times. Home Fire is about identity, conflicting loyalties, love and politics. And it sustains mastery of its themes and its form. It is a remarkable book which we passionately recommend."

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The winners of the IndieReader Discovery Awards, sponsored by IndieReader, were announced at BookCon in New York City by IngramSpark's Robin Cutler. All top winners' titles will be considered by literary agents Dystal, Goderich & Bourret for representation consideration. Winners in more than 30 categories can be seen here. The winners of the fiction and nonfiction categories are:

Fiction:
First place: Pancake Money by Finn Bell
Second place: Live for This by Kathryn Biel
Third place: Seeking Father Khaliq by William Peace

Nonfiction:
First place: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Breast Cancer by Janet Maker, Ph.D.
Second place: The Workplace Writer's Process by Anne H. Janzer
Third place: How to Meditate and Why by Mara M. Zimmerman

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The winner of the £40,000 (about $53,555) Wolfson History Prize, "recognizing and celebrating books which combine excellence in historical research with readability for a general audience," is Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation by Peter Marshall (Yale University Press).


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, June 12:

Fight No More by Lydia Millet (Norton, $24.95, 9780393635485) connects 12 short stories about broken families in Los Angeles.

Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna (Random House, $32, 9780399589195) is a blend of biography and memoir about the visionary film/TV director.

Before and After Alexander: The Legend and Legacy of Alexander the Great by Richard A. Billows (The Overlook Press, $32.50, 9781590207406) explores the conquests and consequences of Alexander the Great's life.

Final Draft by Riley Redgate (Amulet Books, $17.99, 9781419728723) portrays a young woman's attempts to impress her critical and sadistic writing teacher.

Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos, illus. by T.L. McBeth (Holt, $17.99, 9781250134882) features two stegosauruses and a stegothesaurus who loves synonyms.

Paperback:
Who Is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht (Tin House Books, $15.95, 9781947793019).

Movies:
Loving Pablo, based on the memoir Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar by Virginia Vallejo, opens June 15. Penélope Cruz stars as a journalist who has a relationship with Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar (Javier Bardem). A movie tie-in edition (Vintage, $16.95, 9780525433385) is available.

Eating Animals, a documentary based on the memoir by Jonathan Safran Foer, is narrated by Natalie Portman. It opens June 15.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
The Ensemble: A Novel by Aja Gabel (Riverhead, $26, 9780735214767). "My goodness, I love the quartet of flawed and wonderful characters Aja Gabel brings to life. I felt the heartbreak and triumph each time the ensemble performed. The Ensemble captures everything from the relentless rehearsals to the particular hand injuries musicians worry over to the conflict within the group. Henry, Daniel, Jana, and Britt are each characters unto themselves, but together they create a fifth character: the quartet itself. An inventive novel about the lives of musicians and the world they inhabit, full of tension, ambition, confusion, and loyalty. The Ensemble is a remarkable achievement." --Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books, Wichita, Kan.

Tin Man: A Novel by Sarah Winman (Putnam, $23, 9780735218727). "Michael loves Ellis, Ellis loves Annie, and Annie loves them both. Yet Sarah Winman's blistering novel Tin Man is anything but the usual love triangle. Instead, Winman asks us to consider what remains of love after its object is gone. She crowds this spare little book, set in London, Oxford, and the south of France, with vivid portraits of loss and mourning. At once terse and expansive, Tin Man is a firework flashing in the night--gone too soon but burned forever into the reader's memory." --David Enyeart, Common Good Books, St. Paul, Minn.

Paperback
The Windfall: A Novel by Diksha Basu (Broadway, $16, 9780451498922). "The Jhas are a fairly normal family in Delhi, but when Mr. Jha sells his company for millions and decides to move himself and his wife to a fancy new neighborhood, he sets in motion changes for not only his wife, but also his son studying in New York and his former and future neighbors--changes that are sometimes good, sometimes bad, and uncomfortable either way. Jam-packed with fun and lovable characters, this novel is both a delicious, gossipy indulgence and a fascinating glimpse into the lives of people very different from one another. Those who loved the drama of The Nest will adore this warm, tender, and very funny debut from a fresh new voice." --Kelly Morton, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio

For Ages 4 to 8
Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel (Chronicle, $17.99, 9781452150147). "Hello Hello is filled with colors, patterns, shapes, and comparisons so beautiful and original you get that elusive feeling of surprise and delight on each page. Brendan Wenzel has created another gorgeous book perfect for anyone who has the innate longing to find a connection in the natural world. Best of all, his illustrations are mostly of endangered or threatened animals, and the book includes a lovely note on how readers can help!" --Caitlin Jordan, Kepler's Books, Menlo Park, Calif.

For Ages 9 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (Charlesbridge, $16.99, 9781580897778). "All I can say is thank goodness the '80s are back in fashion, because this gem of a book is best read sitting in front of a TV tray in a recliner. Inspired by Vanessa Williams' 1983 Miss America win, a headstrong and pushy teacher, and a supportive and scheming grandfather, Vanessa Martin braves the small-town pageant circuit, the potential disappointment of her father, and the challenge of being dark skinned. Vanessa touches the dreamer spirit in all of us, and I cheered her on right through to the end." --Kim Bissell, Broadway Books, Portland, Ore.

For Teen Readers
Tempests and Slaughter: The Numair Chronicles, Book One by Tamora Pierce (Random House, $18.99, 9780375847110). "This is the first book I've read by Tamora Pierce, and I now understand why she is referred to as a master of fantasy writing! Tempests and Slaughter tells the story of Arram Draper, a young boy with the potential to become one of the world's most powerful mages. With the support of his three friends--a 'leftover' prince, a clever girl, and an extremely sassy bird--Arram faces the challenges and adventures of student life at one of the most well-renowned universities for young mages. This fun and magical world Pierce has created was such a pleasure to experience!" --Colleen Regan, An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: All That Is Left Is All That Matters

All That Is Left Is All That Matters: Stories by Mark Slouka (W.W. Norton, $24.95 hardcover, 192p., 9780393292282, June 26, 2018)

In the space of a decade, Mark Slouka has produced an essay collection, two novels, a memoir and a book of short stories. With the publication of another collection of short fiction, All That Is Left Is All That Matters, Slouka (Nobody's Son) showcases not merely his productivity and versatility, but his gift for creating consistently engaging and emotionally resonant stories in whatever literary form he chooses.
 
Though there is no overarching unity to the collection, a recurring theme is the relationship between fathers and sons. That's explored most powerfully in the terrifying concluding story, "Crossing," in which a "weekend dad" heedlessly risks his own life and that of his young son in an effort to ford a fast-moving river. The narrator of "The Hare's Mask," who possesses a self-proclaimed "precocious ear for loss," recounts the heartbreaking story of how his father evaded capture in World War II-era Czechoslovakia; he could not, however, escape the "long needle of association, of memory, for years" after losing the remaining members of his family to the Nazis. "King's Cross" features a protagonist who returns to the "darker, older overgrown" childhood home he has inherited after the death of his father, an event that summons up memories of his mother's passing and of his father's verbal abuse. And stories like "August," "Conception" and "1963" draw on a narrator's memories of his father from long-ago summers spent at a family lake house.
 
While Slouka's stories generally adhere to a more traditional style, they don't lack for the occasional narrative surprise. "Dog" is the chilling story of a cherished pet whose skin begins to sprout razor blades, but even with that bizarre premise, the tale's devastating ending reveals that it's as much about the power of love as any of Slouka's more conventional stories. In "Half-Life," an aging Florida woman recognizes that "the half-life of love is not that long" when her husband leaves her. Afterward, she experiences a series of unusual occurrences, like a vine that penetrates the wall of her home and a "cat print the size of a plate," signaling the arrival of an exotic beast in the aftermath of a hurricane.
 
"Everything's taken from us anyway. Without mercy. To give it away is like saying you quit just before you're fired," muses the narrator of the story "Russian Mammoths." That provocative observation sums up the pervasive tone of the stories in All That Is Left Is All That Matters. Despite their austere sensibility, stories as tender and beautiful as these are among those things that might, paradoxically, serve to persuade thoughtful readers that life is worth living. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
 

Shelf Talker: Mark Slouka's melancholy short stories explore some of the darker aspects of our lives.


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