Tuesday, February 24, 2014: Dedicated Issue: Grand Central Publishing

Grand Central Publishing: Dedicated Issue

Grand Central Publishing: You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Grand Central Publishing: The Blessings by Elise Juska

Grand Central Publishing: The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

Editors' Note

Grand Central Publishing

In this issue, with the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness highlights three forthcoming novels from Grand Central Publishing. The stories were written by Shannon McKenna Schmidt.

Grand Central Publishing: The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

Books & Authors

A Trio of Tantalizing Tales

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz (March 18)
A successful New York City therapist, Grace Reinhart Sachs is living the life she always envisioned for herself. A happily devoted doctor's wife and mother to a young son, she is also the author of You Should Have Known, in which she cautions women really to hear what men are trying to tell them. But just as the book is about to be published, her own marriage is suddenly thrust into turmoil with a violent death and a missing husband it turns out she never really knew. Horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice and for neglecting to see the clues in front of her, Grace must emerge from the detritus of one life to create another for her child and herself.

This smart, gripping story is "unputdownable in the most delicious way--not only are Jean's insights into family and trust brilliantly observed, but her heroine is also intelligent, sensitive and perpetually on the brink of earth-shattering disaster," said Deb Futter, the editor of You Should Have Known. "Jean has woven a page-turning story about living in New York City, learning to deal with the lies we tell one another (and ourselves) and how tricky it sometimes is to be a wife, a mother and a fully actualized individual."


The Blessings by Elise Juska (May 6)
As part of a big Irish-American family, editor Emily Griffin sets the bar high for any novelist writing about such a clan. Elise Juska's The Blessings more than passed muster, immediately hooking Griffin with its depth of emotional truth and perfectly rendered details like the pink fluff dessert often served at potlucks. 

The lively, loving Blessing family of Philadelphia is dealt a severe blow when it loses one of its own. John Blessing's untimely death leaves behind a stunned, grieving spouse and two small children. The loss reverberates through his extended family for years to come, from his recently widowed mother to siblings contending with different sorts of marital complexities to nieces and nephews trying to make their way both within the family bounds and beyond.

Spanning two decades and told from various viewpoints, The Blessings reveals the interior worlds of the members of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family and the rituals that unite them. Ultimately, said Griffin, it's an "extraordinary novel about how families shape us and how we shape them in return."


The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman (June 10)
Soon after six-year-old Malka relocates with her family from Russia to Manhattan's Lower East Side, she is crippled in a tragic accident and then abandoned. Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she survives through cunning and inventiveness, learning the secrets of his trade to seize her own destiny. She transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, the Ice Cream Queen, vanquishing her fiercest competitors on her rise to the top.

As the doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality, Lillian is the face of the nation's sweet, wholesome treat. But behind the whimsical motherly persona she has crafted for herself, she is caustic, conniving and profane. When Lillian makes a grave, public mistake, everything the enterprising entrepreneur has spent her life building is at stake.

Susan Jane Gilman has also published three nonfiction bestsellers--Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a SmartMouth Goddess, Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless and Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven. Her debut novel, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street is "a brilliant portrait of New York City, 20th-century America and a woman determined to find love, fame and power on her own terms," said editor Helen Atsma. "Last summer, it was my favorite book as I read it in manuscript form. This summer, it can be yours!"

Grand Central Publishing: The Blessings by Elise Juska

Elise Juska: Family Ties

The Blessings is a story Elise Juska has wanted to write for years. The tipping point in telling the tale came when she began thinking about the juxtaposition between individuality and being part of a large extended family, like the one from which she hails. "The identity of the clan is so much a part of who you are, but at the same time everybody has their own lives outside of that and private things going on that the other people in the family wouldn't even know or guess," said Juska.

That idea informed the structure of The Blessings, in which each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, including college student Abby, torn between the familiarity of home and the excitement of campus life; her aunt, Kate, who pursues motherhood even at the expense of her marriage; and teenage cousin Stephen, whose act of petty thievery takes a surprising turn. Although Juska's relatives need not be concerned that any of the characters are based on real-life counterparts, she did have an uncle who died young, the seminal event that ripples through the story.

Like the Blessing family, Juska is a Philadelphia area native. After several years living in New England, she returned to the city, where she is the director of the undergraduate Creative Writing program at the University of the Arts. Summers she spends writing in a cottage on an island off the coast of Maine. Juska's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Ploughshares, Good Housekeeping and other journals and magazines, and she is also the author of the novels The Hazards of Sleeping Alone, Getting Over Jack Wagner and One for Sorrow, Two for Joy.

A real-life event that occurred while Juska was writing The Blessings altered a significant aspect of the novel. If she hadn't tied the knot, the Blessings would be the Callahan family. "In the course of writing the book, I met my husband and got married. It happens that some of my in-laws had the original last name of my family, so for that reason I ended up changing the name late in the game," Juska explained.

Early readers of the novel have shared with Juska that the Blessings feel familiar and that they identify with the family members' relationships and experiences. "It's interesting because the book seems so specific to my family or families like mine," said Juska. "But of course you want it to also feel universal and accessible--some feeling of family that is relatable to readers even if their family doesn't look or act just like this one."

Grand Central Publishing: You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Susan Jane Gilman: Sweet Dreams

Lillian Dunkle would rather have a cocktail than an ice cream cone. The "delicious female anti-hero" Susan Jane Gilman envisioned writing about came to life when she happened on the perfect back story to entwine with such a commanding character.

After reminiscing with a friend about Carvel ice cream, a favorite childhood treat, Gilman began researching the company and discovered that its founder was a poor Greek immigrant whose successful business started with an ice cream truck. She even spent time learning the trade by working at a Carvel franchise.

Gilman then took creative license. "In general, ice cream makers are really nice people making a wonderful, sweet product that everyone loves," she said. "As a novelist that held no interest for me, writing about a nice person who makes a nice product and succeeds. I wanted to write about somebody who was complex and difficult. Lillian is old, she's crippled, she's difficult, she's profane, she's funny, and her story--and the story of ice cream--spans the 20th century."

A twist on the epic rags-to-riches saga, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street follows Lillian as she transcends her hardscrabble childhood to become the most popular ice cream maker in America, only to risk losing it all. Original, imaginative and broad in scope, the novel unfolds over 70 years, closely linking Lillian's story to the course of U.S. history, from Prohibition through World War II to the disco days of Studio 54.

Writing a novel has been a lifelong aspiration for Gilman, who has three nonfiction titles to her credit--Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a SmartMouth Goddess, Hypocrite in a Poufy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless and Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven: A Memoir. Written in reaction to various cultural aspects, those books "came as a surprise to me," said Gilman, who has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and has published award-winning short fiction. "My vision for myself since I was very young, like eight or nine, was to tell fictional stories."

The debut novelist dedicated The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street to her friend, the late Frank McCourt. Before he shot to fame with the memoir Angela's Ashes, McCourt was Gilman's high school English teacher and mentor. With his encouragement, as a teenager she submitted what became her first published piece to the Village Voice. When she went off to college, McCourt wrote her a letter and offered her some inspiring advice: "Let your pen rip across the page."

Book Brahmin: Jean Hanff Korelitz

Intriguing, suspenseful You Should Have Known is Jean Hanff Korelitz's fifth novel, following A Jury of Her Peers, The Sabbathday River, The White Rose and Admission, which was made into a feature film starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. She is also the author of a poetry collection, The Properties of Breath, and the children's book Interference Powder, and has contributed essays to Modern Love and other anthologies. Korelitz lives in New York City with her husband, Irish poet Paul Muldoon, and their children.

On your nightstand now:
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright; Longbourn by Jo Baker; The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.
Book you've faked reading:
Ulysses. (Though to be honest I faked listening to it by sort of not paying attention while it was playing. But seriously, does anyone actually NOT fake reading it?)
Book you're an evangelist for:
Underfoot in Show Business by my distant cousin, Helene Hanff. Utterly charming, howlingly funny tale of a failed playwright knocking around mid-century New York. (We know, as the author does not, that she will soon find wild acclaim as the author of 84, Charing Cross Road.)

Book that changed your life:
D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. The book that made me an atheist at the age of eight, while filling me with a passion for stories and art.

Favorite line from a book:
"(A)nd here my story ends. My troubles are all over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at Birtwick, standing with my old friends under the apple-trees." --Black Beauty

Also: That passage in Gatsby, about the train heading west from Chicago across the Plains--always makes me cry. And I'm not even from the Midwest.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I am very jealous of people who've never read Austen, because they can read Austen for the first time. I am also excited to recommend Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield novels to people who don't know them, because they are so breathtakingly paced and so smart.

Favorite book when you were a child:
Anything involving a horse.

Your top five authors:
I'd prefer to do books, actually:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
Edie by Jean Stein and George Plimpton
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth

Powered by: Xtenit