Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 20, 2020


Scholastic Press: Chicken Little: The Real and Totally True Tale by Sam Wedelich

Random House: How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Mira Books: The Lost Orphan by Stacey Halls

Custom House: Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Poisoned Pen Press: Before She Was Helen by Caroline Cooney

Sounds True: The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey by Jill Koziol and Liz Tenety with Diana Spalding

Candlewick Press: Judy Moody and Friends: Prank You Very Much (Judy Moody and Friends #12) by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Erwin Madrid

Flatiron Books: The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America's 16th President--And Why It Failed by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

News

Village Books Coming to Houston, Tex.

Village Books, a 1,400-square-foot independent bookstore, is coming to the Houston, Tex., area in April, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Owner Teresa Kenney, who's been a freelance writer and editor, will open the store in the Woodlands, a planned community in the Houston metropolitan area with a population of more than 93,000. The store will carry only new books, and Kenney will offer free coffee and tea for customers. She's currently building her opening inventory and is soliciting community feedback to help guide her buying decisions.

Village Books store dog Oso

"It is something that I've always wanted to do, and it just felt like the right time," Kenney told the Chronicle. She began seriously looking into opening a bookstore last September. "I am 56 years old, and I thought, this would be a really wonderful thing to do as a second chapter in my career."

Her event plans include children's storytime sessions held in a variety of languages, including Hindi, Spanish and American Sign Language, as well as events for children on the autism spectrum. In addition to author events, she intends to host book clubs and writers' groups for both teens and adults.

While Village Books doesn't have an official opening date yet, Kenney plans to start selling books and welcoming customers in April.


Rick Riordan Presents: Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (a Sal and Gabi Novel, Book 2) by Carlos Hernandez


Lost City Books Reopening This Month

Lost City Books in Washington, D.C., has completed its renovations and will officially reopen this month, with a grand reopening party scheduled for Saturday, February 29.

In early 2019, Adam Waterreus purchased Idle Time Books from retiring owner and founder Val Morgan. Last June, Waterreus renamed the nearly 40-year-old store Lost City Books, and the store was closed last month as it underwent major renovations. In addition to new floors, light fixtures, a new paint job and more shelf space, the shop has a brand-new children's room. A few walls have also been knocked down, allowing for the creation of modular spaces for events and meet-ups.

The reopening party will feature food, drinks and live music performed by local artists and DJs. At the same time, four local visual artists will have their work on display around the store. General admission is free, and multiple packages are available featuring more drink tickets and literary gifts.

The new Lost City Books team includes artists, educators, musicians and writers, and features a combined 30-plus years of bookselling experience. Since Waterreus took over, the store has had a renewed focus on community engagement and multidisciplinary connections. Event plans include not only book clubs and author events but also art classes, teach-ins, workshops and a variety of community gatherings.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Voter File by David Pepper


Coronavirus Blamed for 90% Sales Drop in China's Private Bookstores

China's 70,000 private bookstores are struggling to survive as sales have dropped as much as 90% and many stores remain closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the South China Morning Post reported. A survey of more than 1,000 physical bookstores across China in early February revealed that more than 90% had no revenues.

Owspace, originally from Beijing, operates four stores in China, but only one store--in a shopping center on the eastern side of the capital city--has opened for business, with daily traffic down to around 10% and sales dropping 90%.

"Even if all of our bookstores reopen, and our business is like what it is now, then we won't be able to stay in business after two to three months," said Wu Yanping, a manager at Owspace. The company's Hangzhou store has yet to confirm a date when it will reopen even as the city slowly returns to normal.

The survey also said that a third of small-scale bookstores with expenditures of less than 500,000 yuan (about $71,455) per month "would face serious cash flow problems if they remained closed for one month or if revenues did not improve quickly once they reopened," the South China Morning Post wrote.

"The recovery of physical bookstores since 2013 will be declared over, and there will be a large-scale emergency adjustment and even the closing of small and medium-sized physical bookstores in the future," said Zeng Feng, the co-author of the survey. The central government started subsidizing bookstores in 2013, recognizing their social and cultural value.

"Quite a few bookstores worry that the virus could change consumption behaviors in the long term," Zeng added. "The overwhelming majority of people who really love books are already consumers of online platforms. If physical bookstores lose even more customers, the business environment for bookstores focused on the humanities and social sciences will be increasingly difficult."


Storey Publishing: The Illustrated Crystallary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Magical Gems and Minerals (Wild Wisdom) by Maia Toll


Brad Johnson Elected ABAA President

Brad Johnson of johnson rare books & archives in Corvina, Calif., has been elected president of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, succeeding Vic Zoschak of Tavistock Books, San Francisco.

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers noted that Brad and Jennifer Johnson are well known in the U.S. and international bookselling communities, and also "as organizers of the ILAB Congress in Los Angeles, Pasadena in 2018 and their active role in the American association and book fairs."

Regarding his appointment, Johnson wrote to ILAB: "I greatly appreciate all the words of congratulations and well wishes I've received from the international rare book community these past few days, and I very much look forward to contributing to the good work of ILAB."


GLOW: Flatiron Books: Dear Child by Romy Hausmann, translated by Jamie Bulloch


Obituary Note: K.S. Maniam

Revered Malaysian author K.S. Maniam, best known for his novels The Return (1981) and In a Far Country (1993), died February 19. He was 78. The Star reported that Maniam (born Subramaniam Krishnan) "was revered in the local literary scene, and widely remembered as a thought-provoking writer who shaped the course of Malaysian literature. While many of his works touched on the plight of the Malaysian Indian community and working class, his themes, characters and plots were also praised for their universal appeal."

"I believe we should leave a record of ourselves and of our times in fiction. Everyone has a short story in him or her," Maniam told the Star in 2002.

His other works include the novel Between Lives (2003), short stories and poems, as well as plays The Cord (1983), The Sandpit: Womensis (1990) and The Skin Trilogy (1995), which "are regarded as important contributions to the Malaysian performing arts canon," the Star wrote.

In 2000, Maniam became the inaugural recipient of India's Raja Rao Award for outstanding contribution to the literature of the South Asian diaspora. Last year, he was honored at the K.S. Maniam's Writing: A Celebration, organized by the University of Nottingham's School of English (in Selangor) and Maya Press. The event also featured the launch of the collection K.S. Maniam Selected Works.

Malachi Edwin Vethamani, a friend and fellow writer, said, "When one thinks of Malaysian Literature in English and post-colonial literature, K.S. Maniam will be in the foreground of that literary canvas. He's among the most studied and researched Malaysian writers worldwide. His achievements received so much international recognition but none from our governmental literary institutions. He did not hanker for any. He wrote because he loved writing. His work will testify to the wonderful writer he was."


Red Wheel: The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have (20th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Nepo, foreword by Jamie Lee Curtis


Notes

Image of the Day: Dinner with Broken People

TIME culture editor and author Sam Lansky (The Gilded Razor) joined a group of independent booksellers for dinner at Che Fico in San Francisco to introduce his fiction debut, Broken People (Hanover Square Press; June 9, 2020). Seated (l.-r.): Sheryl Cotleur, Copperfield's Books; Kristin Bowers, HarperCollins; CALIBA director Calvin Crosby; standing: Kevin Ryan, Green Apple Books; Kevin Atkin, Bookshop West Portal; Tyrinne Lewis, Rakestraw Books; Carolyn Hutton, Mrs. Dalloway’s Books; author Sam Lansky; Jim Hankey, HarperCollins; Pam Stirling, East Bay Booksellers; Paul Laffoon, Folio Books  (not pictured: Karen West, Book Passage).


Loganberry Books' Black History Month Challenge

Black History Month display at Loganberry Books.
Loganberry Books in Cleveland, Ohio, is challenging its "readers and friends to read only #blackauthors (or illustrators) during February." Each week Loganberry is sharing its favorites in various categories on Facebook, using the tag #loganberryreadsbhm.


Media and Movies

This Weekend on Book TV: Nicholas Kristof

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, February 22
12 p.m. Carl Hiassen, author of Squirm (Knopf, $18.99, 9780385752978), at the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

12:43 p.m. Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 9781476740195), at the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival.

1:29 p.m. Tim Harford, author of Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy (Riverhead, $16, 9780735216143), at the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival.

3:30 p.m. Samuel Woolley, author of The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth (PublicAffairs, $28, 9781541768253), at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.

4:15 p.m. Coverage of the National African American Read-in, an event that promotes literacy during Black History Month. (Re-airs Sunday at 8:20 a.m.)

6 p.m. Kevin Merida, co-author of The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99, 9781328940629). (Re-airs Sunday at 8:15 p.m.)

6:45 p.m. Mary Beth Norton, author of 1774: The Long Year of Revolution (Knopf, $32.50, 9780385353366). (Re-airs Monday at 4:40 a.m.)

8 p.m. Layla Saad, author of Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor (Sourcebooks, $25.99, 9781728209807).

10 p.m. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, authors of Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope (Knopf, $27.95, 9780525655084). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. A discussion on race in America with Valerie Jarrett, author of Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward (Viking, $30, 9780525558132), and Susan Rice, author of Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781501189975), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m.)

Sunday, February 23
2:45 a.m. Kim Ghattas, author of Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (Holt, $30, 9781250131201). (Re-airs Sunday at 6:50 p.m.)

5:55 p.m. John Tierney, co-author of The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It (Penguin Press, $28, 9781594205521).

9:50 p.m. Vincent Brown, author of Tacky's Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Belknap Press, $35, 9780674737570).


Books & Authors

Marina Antropow Cramer on the Path from Reading Child to Bookseller to Author

Marina Antropow Cramer at Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., for last week's launch party for her new novel, Anna Eva Mimi Adam.

Born in postwar Germany into a family of Russian refugees, Marina Antropow Cramer has been a waitress, fabric store manager, traveling saleswoman, telephone fundraiser, used book dealer, business owner and bookseller. She holds a B.A. in English from Upsala College. Her work has appeared online in Blackbird, Istanbul Literary Review and Wilderness House Literary Review. She left bookselling in 2014 to focus on writing full-time, and now lives in New York's Hudson Valley. She is the author of the novels Roads, published by Chicago Review Press, and Anna Eva Mimi Adam, just released by Runamok Books.

My father, who lacked a formal university education, was a learned man. After the privations of the war years and with the refugee experience behind us, he filled our home in Paterson, New Jersey, with books--a steady stream of volumes bought with his laborer's salary, arranged on floor-to-ceiling shelves he built to house our growing library. Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy shared space with Dickens, Shakespeare, Dumas, Jack London, Conan Doyle. Russian literary and scientific journals piled up in stacks on his side of the bed until my mother found room for them in the basement; to throw them away would have been unthinkable.

I was too young to read Doctor Zhivago when, in the 1950s, the phenomenon of its publication outside the Soviet Union became an international sensation. From the heated discussions around our kitchen table, I realized for the first time that literature was sometimes more than stimulating entertainment, that telling a story in a book of fiction could be political and treacherous. Pasternak's treatment was tempered by the approbation his work received in the free world, but not enough to lift the indignity of virtual house arrest or allow him to accept the Nobel Prize. Writing, I learned, could be an act of defiance, perceived as treason by those with the power to suppress the work and punish the author. I was old enough to become aware, even as a child, that reading could be more than a pleasant pastime. Books were not only delightful; they were important.

My father was pleased when I opened my bookshop, Cup & Chaucer Bookstore in Montclair, N.J., in 1985; it was almost as if his life's purpose in nurturing my mind had been fulfilled. For me, the work of acquiring inventory, stocking shelves, talking to people about reading, spending untold hours in the presence of books – all that came naturally, like an extension of the book-filled rooms of my growing years. To be a link, no matter how insignificant, in the chain that passes thoughts from one mind to the next, was intensely gratifying. I was, in my small way, a conduit for civilization.

He encouraged my early writing, too, praised the effort even if the results were clumsy and naive. The many years of stops and starts, of abandoned projects, of putting story after story aside to take care of life's imperatives--much of this happened against the backdrop of being a bookseller. My shop was a constant reminder of what a writer could achieve with the necessary diligence, the vision made real through the application of time and work needed to add another book (mine) to the shelf.

Eventually, the shop closed, subject to economic realities and illness in the family. What would I do now? I was no longer young. I was committed to bookselling, not interested in a new career. I went to work in another bookstore, Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., doing tasks I knew and loved while staying connected to a vibrant reading community and beginning to recognize the shape of the book I needed to write.

It took a long time. Being in the bookselling world made it easy to meet other writers, to benefit from their experience and perspective. We formed feedback groups, met in each other's homes or in offices after hours, the space still resonant with the aura of the day's business; we sat together at restaurant tables, reading, talking, our pages surrounded by coffee cups and the occasional beer glass. I had to listen, to pay attention to criticism without falling back on self-justification. I started reading differently, too, with closer awareness of the craft, the use of writers' tools. What makes that sentence effective? How did the author elicit an emotional response from me, using those words? How is this story built? We studied each other's texts, relying on shared wisdom to move our own efforts toward clarity.

It was all immensely helpful, but not enough. To write this book, I needed the luxury of total focus without the distractions of job obligations. Writing had to be the main event, not an activity tucked into time left over from other schedules. I got my affairs in order and took the plunge. Within two and a half years, the research was completed, the manuscript finished, sold, edited, and published. I had earned a place on the bookstore shelf, if only for a little while.

I am not Boris Pasternak. I do not live in a society ruled by suspicion. My work does not have to demonstrate my loyalty to any political point of view, under penalty of persecution or exile. Nor is the story I tell meant to open the world's eyes to the harshness of a political system destructive of individual choice and happiness; the wages of tyranny are already well-documented. All I can hope is that it may cast a little light on ordinary people caught in bad times, doing their best to hold on to their humanity and stay alive. And that this may be, in its own way, important. Who knows?

My father did not live to see my work in print. I will never know how he would feel about the way I chose to tell the story of people like him--like us: the story of flight and displacement, of growing up too fast in a world filled with cruelty and constant danger, with chaos and hunger and death. Maybe he would approve my use of imagination in Roads, the things I added to fill out what I knew. Maybe not. But he would understand the desire, the passionate progression from reading child to bookseller to author. He would nod, and smile, and make us a cup of tea.


Awards: Reading the West; Aspen Words; Helen Bernstein

Nominees have been announced for the 30th annual Reading the West Book Awards, sponsored by the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association. Booksellers in 12 states are reviewing the books now, and the category shortlists will be announced on April 15, with the winners named May 20. Check out the complete list of Reading the West Book Award nominees here.

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Aspen Words, a program of the Aspen Institute, has chosen the shortlist for the $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize, which honors a work of fiction that illuminates vital contemporary issues:

Opioid, Indiana by Brian Allen Carr (Soho Press)
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright)
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri (Ballantine Books)
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf)
Lot by Bryan Washington (Riverhead Books)

The winner will be announced in New York City April 16.

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The New York Public Library has named five finalists for the $15,000 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, which honors nonfiction books written by working journalists that bring public attention and clarity to vital current events or societal issues of global or national significance. This year’s finalists are:

No Visible Bruises: What We Don't Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder (Bloomsbury Publishing)
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (Random House)
Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration by Emily Bazelon (Random House)
A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century by Jason DeParle (Viking)
The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier by Ian Urbina (Knopf)

The winner will be announced April 28 in New York City.


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, February 25:

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson (Crown, $32, 9780385348713) chronicles Winston Churchill's first year as prime minister.

The Dalai Lama: An Extraordinary Life by Alexander Norman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780544416581) is a biography about the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Nation City: Why Mayors Are Now Running the World by Rahm Emanuel (Knopf, $26.95, 9780525656388) is city-centric political science by the former mayor of Chicago.

Clearer, Closer, Better: How Successful People See the World by Emily Balcetis (Ballantine Books, $27, 9781524796464) is a psychology professor's explanation of how anyone can "leverage" perceptual illusions to be more successful.

Food Fix: How to Save Our Health, Our Economy, Our Communities, and Our Planet--One Bite at a Time by Dr. Mark Hyman (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316453172) pairs environmentalism with health in recommending food choices.

Coconut Layer Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke (Kensington, $27, 9781496718891) is the 25th culinary mystery with Hannah Swensen.

Robert Ludlum's The Treadstone Resurrection by Joshua Hood (Putnam, $27, 9780525542551) begins a thriller series set in the Jason Bourne universe.

Watching from the Dark: A Novel by Gytha Lodge (Random House, $27, 9781984818072) is a mystery about a woman murdered during a video chat.

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor (HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99, 9780062796783) features a 13-year-old girl who has experienced too much loss and a very bad dog.

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit (Dial Books, $17.99, 9780525554189) is a middle-grade epistolary novel about a young woman whose autism won't keep her away from the baseball diamond.

Paperbacks:
Surrender by Ray Loriga, translated by Carolina De Robertis (Mariner, $15.99, 9781328528520) is a Spanish dystopia set in a city where secrets are forbidden.

The Traitor by V.S. Alexander (Kensington, $15.95, 9781496720399).

Movie:
The Invisible Man, loosely based on the novel by H.G. Wells, opens February 28. Elisabeth Moss stars as a woman being hunted by an invisible man.

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
Everywhere You Don't Belong: A Novel by Gabriel Bump (Algonquin, $25.95, 9781616208790). "Young Claude is being raised by his grandma in Chicago's changing South Shore, and folks in his life--his parents, friends, neighbors--are disappearing. There's little he can count on besides his grandma, her friend Paul, and his not-quite girlfriend Janice. The violence that was once at a safe distance is now on their doorstep, with corrupt and racist police coming from one direction and the Redbelters gang from the other. It's hard not to imagine Claude wanting to escape, too, but trouble is likely to follow, even to college in Missouri. Told in episodic bursts and filled with emotional resonance, Everywhere You Don't Belong is a powerful coming-of-age debut that will stick with you." --Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis.

Highfire: A Novel by Eoin Colfer (Harper Perennial, $19.99, 9780062938558). "Highfire hooked me from the first pages. Vern, a grumpy dragon languishing in the Louisiana swamps, believes he's the last of his species. Squib, a 15-year-old boy, is just trying to stay out of trouble and earn some money doing odd jobs. The intersection of these two one-of-a-kind characters sucks you in like a whirlpool. I loved reading about the absurd circumstances they found themselves in. This book has all the earmarks of a great hand-seller for the dead of winter, when we all need something new!" --Patricia Worth, River Reader Books, Lexington, Mo.

Paperback
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls: A Novel by Anissa Gray (Penguin, $16, 9781984802446). "For lovers of An American Marriage comes a thoughtful debut about family, secrets, and the damage one's choices can cause to those you love. Told from many perspectives within one complex family, this novel tugged at me from all angles. I found myself understanding and empathizing with all the characters at different times, even though their choices and the consequences of those choices were vastly in contrast to one another. A very strong debut." --Jamie Southern, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

For Ages 4 to 8
Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes, illus. by Elizabeth Zunon (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $17.99, 9781492638322). "Grimes' words and Zunon's beautiful illustrations combine to create a book that has the potential to be a new bedtime classic, especially for parents looking for diverse books for their young children. Grimes uses animals and instruments to reimagine bedtime rituals in a story sure to delight readers in the same way as Eric Carle books." --Alison Perine, Hooray for Books!, Alexandria, Va.

For Ages 9 to 12
Catherine's War by Julia Billet, illus. by Claire Fauvel, trans. by Ivanka Hahnenberger (HarperAlley, $12.99, 9780062915597). "This story of everyday courage highlights the life of a Jewish teen in occupied France. Rachel Cohen must change her name to Catherine Colin and go into hiding. As she moves from safe house to safe house, she captures her journey in photographs as a way to hang on to her identity and her hopes for the future. I was so moved by Rachel's story, which is largely based on the life of the author's mother. This is an excellent graphic novel for middle grade (and beyond!) readers who want to learn more about resistance and preserving history on the home front." --Julia Steiner, The Book Cellar, Chicago, Ill.

For Teen Readers
What I Carry by Jennifer Longo (Random House, $17.99, 9780553537710). "Muir is in the final year of foster care before she ages out. She has to focus and prepare for the time when she's on her own, but in her last placement she runs into problems--problems with names like Kira, Sean, and Francine. Muir needs let go of her rules and open her heart. Longo has crafted a great story that engages as well as educates. I loved it!" --Laura Cummings, White Birch Books, North Conway, N.H.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Hannah's War

Hannah's War by Jan Eliasberg (Back Bay Books, $16.99 paperback, 320p., 9780316537445, March 3, 2020)

As World War II rages on, an international team of brilliant scientists is developing a top-secret bomb in the lab at Los Alamos. Among them is Dr. Hannah Weiss, a gifted Jewish physicist who fled Berlin to escape Nazi persecution. Major Jack Delaney, an intelligence agent sent to Los Alamos to catch a spy, has set his sights on Hannah: he believes her correspondence with her colleagues back home may contain vital nuclear information. Screenwriter and director Jan Eliasberg unravels Hannah's complicated story in her compelling debut novel, Hannah's War.

Eliasberg's narrative begins with Hannah, chained in an American prison transport, en route from Los Alamos to Fort Leavenworth for interrogation. After setting the scene at Los Alamos and introducing readers to Jack, Hannah and their colleagues, Eliasberg takes readers back to Hannah's girlhood. Diligent and gifted, she becomes a physicist at the prestigious Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, but is often overlooked by her colleagues since she is female and Jewish. Her work attracts the notice of Stefan Frei, a talented but lazy physicist and the son of the institute's director. Together, Hannah and Stefan pursue a series of experiments that lead them ever closer to splitting the atom--only to have their work interrupted when Hannah must flee.

By early 1945, Jack Delaney has risen quickly through the ranks of American intelligence and comes to Los Alamos determined to discover who might be passing sensitive scientific information to the Nazis. He harbors suspicions about several European scientists but is particularly drawn to Hannah--though his attraction to her may compromise his investigative skills. Both Hannah and Jack are hiding secrets--some of which have nothing to do with physics or politics--and Eliasberg skillfully traces the steps of their personal and professional dance.

The true strength of Hannah's War lies not only in its vivid characters and fast-paced narrative--though both of those elements are notable--but goes deeper by forcing its protagonists, and thus readers, to reckon with complex questions of political allegiance, personal loyalty, vocation and love. Hannah's colleagues, both in Berlin and at Los Alamos, recognize the undeniable power of the knowledge they are pursuing, and its potential to be used for good or for ill. Both Jack and Hannah walk the tightrope of staying true to oneself while concealing vital parts of one's identity in order to survive. And many of the characters, even minor ones, wonder whether love and decency become unaffordable luxuries in wartime.  

Inspired by true events, with a tightly drawn plot and layered characters, Hannah's War is a stunning story of a brilliant woman fighting her own war on several fronts. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Screenwriter Jan Eliasberg's gripping debut novel follows Hannah Weiss, an Austrian-Jewish physicist working on the atomic bomb.


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