Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 19, 2015

Workman Publishing: So Embarrassing: Awkward Moments and How to Get Through Them by Charise Mericle Harper

Candlewick Press: Evelyn del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Scholastic Press: Illegal: A Disappeared Novel, Volume 2 by Francisco X. Stork

Tor Books: Rhythm of War (Stormlight Archive, 4) by Brandon Sanderson

Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao

Quotation of the Day

'Bookstores Make Artists'

"Bookstores make artists. The ability to wander and browse. To buy not by algorithm but by whim. To be surprised by a book or a cover or a fellow browser and what he's pulling off the shelf. Record stores, bookstores and coffee shops are the holy trinity of arts incubation. And bookstores are the Father."

--Kirk Lynn, author of the Summer/Fall 2015 Indies Introduce title Rules for Werewolves, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

University of California Press: A People's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area, Volume 3 by Rachel Brahinsky, Alexander Tarr, Bruce Rinehart


NCIBA: Author Guests at a Family Reunion

Before retiring executive director Hut Landon handed over his light saber to successor Calvin Crosby at last week's Northern California Independent Booksellers Association trade show in South San Francisco, Landon reiterated his long-held belief: the yearly event is actually a family reunion. It was a theme echoed again and again by both bookseller attendees and nearly 50 authors featured on the program over the course of two days.

Augusten Burroughs reads from Lust & Wonder, which picks up where Dry left off.

"It's good to be back home," declared Augusten Burroughs at the opening session. Reading from his forthcoming memoir Lust & Wonder (St. Martin's, March 2016), Burroughs shared that at 19, he came to the City by the Bay, which felt as if it tucked him in at night after being a "f*ck-up in every way." He said that he did not have any bad memories of San Francisco, except when his mother came to visit and tried to get a job at the ad agency where he worked in the 1980s. "I will never forget the surprise of San Francisco," said the writer, who now lives with his husband in a 200-year-old home in Connecticut.

At a luncheon that day, Charlie Jane Anders recalled doing a "Chocolate Crawl" of indie stores, then talked about All the Birds in the Sky (Tor, January 2016), about a mad scientist and a witch. She thought it was going to be a "genre mash-up" but it turned into a relationship book as she got deeper into it: "I hope there's a lot of emotional stuff in the book as much as the cool magical stuff."

Antonia Hayes, an Australian-born author whose debut novel, Relativity (Gallery, May 2016), has been praised by The Rosie Project author Graeme Simsion, talked about her first job, as a teenage bookseller. "It's really weird to be here as an author, because I really think of myself as a bookseller at heart." Hayes said her novel is based on her own experience as a 19-year-old single mom whose son suffered "shaken baby syndrome" at the hands of his biological father. She noted that she typed the words "the end" on the manuscript just as the café at Borderland Books was closing.

Hope Jahren, Antonia Hayes, Charlie Jane Anders, Cynthia Sweeney, Elizabeth McKenzie and Janice Y.K. Lee served up lots of insider info about their books at the Author Buzz lunch.

Next up was Hope Jahren, who charmingly admitted she is not a writer but a scientist. Women scientists, she said, are rare, and no one really knows how to encourage more women to enter the sciences. Even Lego has tried to make science appealing to girls with a couple of toys she held up. "I played with them for a few hours, and it was kind of fun," she said, "but I thought, 'this is not what it is like.' " To be a woman scientist, she said, you need a "strong back, a big heart and a good friend," and "you don't have to be made of plastic, you have to be real." Lab Girl (Knopf, April 2016) is her story.

Although she is of Korean descent, Janice Y.K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong, sent to the U.S. for boarding school and college, moved to New York to be a books editor at Elle, and found herself as the "trailing spouse" when her husband relocated their growing family to Hong Kong for his work. "People do different things," she said, to adjust to a new life with a housekeeper, driver and other staff. "I finished my novel." The Expatriates (Viking, January 2016) is about a group of expat women in Hong Kong--and even though Lee has since returned to live in New York with her family--she said her Hong Kong friends are a bit nervous about her book.

Elizabeth McKenzie said her latest novel, The Portable Veblen (Penguin, January 2016), was inspired by the unnecessary suffering she witnessed her father go through as part of the clinical medical trial that was more about the doctor behind it than healing people. The author held up a Roz Chast New Yorker cartoon that depicts the "corner of irate and insane," which is a place she often finds herself.

The last luncheon speaker, Cynthia Sweeney, said she was inspired to write The Nest (Ecco, March 2016) while she was in New York City on her way to a family brunch where a drama she might have instigated was going to be addressed. She thought she'd pop into a bar on her way, where she'd not be surprised to find one of her siblings doing the same. "I'm fascinated by adult siblings," she said. "The thing we all inherit just by being born is a family narrative." And, she added, we have no control over what the story is and who else is part of it.

Things got animated--as you might expect--at the children's authors tea, where Dav Pilkey, author of 60 books for kids, including the forthcoming 12th Captain Underpants title from Scholastic, shared that he went from being a dyslexic kid with ADHD to the illustrator of comics beloved by his classmates but not his teacher. His mom--who along with his father supported the young Dav reading anything he wanted to--told him to turn his teacher's negative into a positive. "Now, everyone loves Captain Underpants," he joked, adding that he thinks it's a badge of honor to be the #1 banned book for the past two years.

Katherine Applegate has written numerous books for children, including The One and Only Ivan, which is being made into a film. Crenshaw (Feiwel & Friends, September) is about the unexpected return of an imaginary friend--in this case a giant cat named Crenshaw who shows up as Jackson enters fifth grade amid his parents' economic struggles. "When you start talking about money, it pushes lots of people's buttons," Applegate said. "I wanted people to have a story they could hand to kids like Jackson, who doesn't know his family is 'the working poor,' or 'food insecure.' " But, she said, the book is also for children who are overwhelmed by other kids going hungry.

Illustrator Christian Robinson creates a coat of arms for birthday girl Roz Hilden from Scholastic.

Christian Robinson, the illustrator of Leo: A Ghost Story (Chronicle, August), told the booksellers  about growing up with his grandmother in Los Angeles, where they did not have much but he always had crayons. Leo, the titular ghost, thinks the girl who moves into the house he haunts is actually his imaginary friend. Because Jane goes on to give Leo his own family tree and make him a knight, Robinson decided to do the same for a volunteer--the audience immediately offered Scholastic rep Roz Hilden, who was celebrating her birthday, for the honor.

"I feel like this is a family gathering and I'm a visiting second cousin," said Rebecca Stead, author of Goodbye Stranger (Random House Children's, August). Stead recalled going to a feminist bookstore on Amsterdam Avenue in New York City with her mother in the 1970s. Like all of her writing, Stead said, Goodbye Stranger is about questions she has--in this case, 13-year-olds who realize that friendships can end and leave an echo. As the daughter of a friend of Stead explained, at that age, "they are all changing."

At brunch the next day, Duggan McDonnell discussed Drinking the Devil's Acre: A Love Letter from San Francisco and Her Cocktails (Chronicle, September). McDonnell is a "mixologist" at Cantina, a San Francisco watering hole known for its collection of booze from around the world, but he holds a special fondness for the drinks and saloons that helped build the great City by the Bay. "I guess you'd agree with me that reading and drinking go hand in hand," he told attendees, before sharing some colorful San Francisco history told through brave barkeeps and daring drinks.

Authors Duggan McDonnell, Lori Ostlund and David Talbot, with brunch host Melissa Cistaro from Book Passage, whose memoir Pieces of my Mother is due in paperback next year.

In her new novel, After the Parade (Scribner, September), Lori Ostlund's protagonist Aaron shares much of the author's own life trajectory. She grew up in Minnesota, in a Protestant, hardware store-owning family, then moved to New Mexico and ended up in San Francisco teaching students whose first language is not English and having neighbors who fight all the time. Ostlund said she and her partner operated a furniture business for years, where she observed lonely people who came in for companionship and surprised her by sharing often very private things. "The book started with the idea of why people stay in a place and why people leave," she said.

David Talbot--whose last book, Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love, was a "One City, One Book" pick--believes his generation is handing over to its children a San Francisco that, despite its problems, is a "progressive beacon" to the world, but he felt less sanguine about the entire United States after 9/11. This led him to extensive research to write The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government (Harper, October), about an historical figure Talbot described as "Dick Cheney on steroids." Talbot had just returned from an event at Washington, D.C.'s Politics and Prose, where he had worried some CIA insiders might not like his book, but he was pleased to find they had the same concerns about the rise of a secret state and the unleashing of security watchdogs in a dangerous world. "If I was going to be whacked anywhere, I thought that might be the time," said Talbot. Although pleased with his reception in D.C., Talbot clearly enjoyed being back among his "family" of indie bookstores in the Bay Area, which he likened to his church.  --Bridget Kinsella

Milkweed Editions: The Shame by Makenna Goodman

Notes from Frankfurt, Part 1

Remapping Frankfurt

Until this year, English-language publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair exhibited in the same booths in Hall 8 year after year, which meant that many long-time fairgoers didn't have to consult guides to find most Hall 8 exhibitors. But in 2015, the English-language world moved to Hall 6 and spread out on three floors instead of one floor.

Many long-timers were disoriented. Mike Shatzkin of IdeaLogical Company said the change upset his "Frankfurt Gestalt"--his sense that Frankfurt is "a continuous event with 51-week interruptions."

Others missed all Hall 8 exhibitors being on one floor. But there was a silver lining: English-language exhibitors were happy to be closer to the center of the fair. One exhibitor recalled this year going to an appointment in another hall, realizing he had forgotten something, and, unlike in past years, having enough time to go back and get it.

The Unofficial Iran Stand
Protesting Salman Rushdie's appearance as the featured guest at the opening press conference of the Frankfurt Book Fair last week, the Iranian Ministry of Culture announced that it was cancelling its national stand. Some Iranian publishers were reportedly present at and outside the fair, however, and there was one Iranian booth: outside Hall 4, a group protested the country's censorship and harsh treatment of dissenters.

Arnaud Nourry on Indies--and English
During Arnaud Nourry's CEO talk on Wednesday at the Frankfurt Book Fair (covered in more detail here), the Hachette Livre chairman and CEO discussed how he and his company viewed small independent presses. Asked by moderator Ruediger Wischenbart if indie publishers were "just possible prey" for acquisitions for a publisher as large as Hachette Livre, Nourry said that it was essential to the business that there be major publishing groups as well as local publishers of various sizes. Publishing wouldn't "go very well," he felt, if there were only two or three major organizations involved.

"The market has to remain diverse," said Nourry. "It's not our business to try to buy them."

Later during the talk, Nourry answered questions posed by book trade journalists from around the world, one of whom was Fabrice Piault, deputy editor in chief of Livres Hebdo, the main French book trade magazine. The event was conducted in English and after Piault asked his first question, Nourry began by saying with a little surprise, "This is the first time I'm speaking English with you."

"Whoever loves books buys them in a bookstore."

Tolino to the Top
During the book fair's opening press conference, Heinrich Riethmueller, chairman of the Börsenverein, the German publishers, wholesalers and booksellers association, revealed that the Tolino, a German e-reader backed by Bertelsmann, bookstore chain Hugendubel and book wholesaler Libri, has surpassed the Kindle in market share in Germany. Riethmueller called Tolino "the e-reader of Germany."

Finding Bookstores
At the fair and outside the fairgrounds, the Börsenverein highlighted its vorsichtbuch (warning: book) initiative, begun in 2013, that features, among other things, a searchable page that lists 4,782 German bookstores, including its location on a map, website and other information. The tagline seen all around the fair was "Whoever loves books buys them in a bookstore." The association also offered a new free app for fairgoers, allowing them to buy books they see on the show floor from their favorite bookstore, and, with its "books say welcome" slogan, recently has encouraged readers to help refugees by making contributions in their local bookstores. --Alex Mutter and John Mutter

University of California Press: The Koreas: The Birth of Two Nations Divided by Theodore Jun Yoo

New Holland to Launch in U.S.

New Holland Publishers, Sydney, Australia, plans to open an office in Los Angeles and "publish American authors and sell books in the U.S.," the Bookseller reported. Founded in 1955, New Holland publishes 120-140 titles a year in travel, biography, sport, true crime, natural history, gardens, gift and other nonfiction areas. Besides Australia, New Holland has offices in the U.K. and New Zealand.

After serving as managing director of New Holland for 14 years, Fiona Schultz bought the publisher last year from Times Media Group in South Africa. "It has always been my dream to open an American arm and now that I own it, I can fulfill that dream," she told the Bookseller.

Berkley Books: The Ballad of Hattie Taylor by Susan Anderson

New Amazon Warehouse in Fall River, Mass.

On Friday, Fall River, Mass., Mayor Sam Sutter announced that Amazon "could be breaking ground to build a mega-facility in the SouthCoast Life Science and Technology Park as soon as Monday," the Herald News reported.

Kenneth Fiola Jr., executive v-p of the city's Office of Economic Development, added "it's big news" that the projected number of jobs needed for the facility has increased from 500 to 1,000 or more, due to a change in the final project design. "The building will be higher and larger and they've added more parking spaces."

In an editorial, the Herald News gave a "thumbs up to the long-awaited construction," noting that developer Trammell Crow Co. "will purchase 77 acres of land in the biopark for a little over $3.7 million. It is expected to build the facility to Amazon's specifications... and then lease the facility to Amazon."

Obituary Note: Anthony Aris

Publisher Anthony Aris, whose Serindia Publications "introduced the Western world to the fascinating world of Bhutan and the Himalayas," died October 14, Kuensel reported. He was 69.

"Gifted with an acute eye for finesse and perfection in book craft, Anthony published a large number of books on Bhutan," Kuensel wrote. "It is no overstatement to say that his high quality publications on Bhutan made a significant contribution to the positive and posh image Bhutan enjoyed in the West as the country made its debut in the western literary arena in the last half of the twentieth century."

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Midnight Bargain
by C.L. Polk

Erewhon: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. PolkIn a world where a woman's magic is taken away from her upon marriage, sorceress Beatrice Clayborn attempts to forge a future containing both magic and love in C.L. Polk's The Midnight Bargain, a feminist fantasy that uses classic romance tropes to deliver a timely message about social, racial and gender justice. Erewhon Books editor Sarah Guan calls the novel a "gorgeous confection" and notes that she acquired the title for Erewhon's launch season because of its cleverness, which turns the "trappings of romance and fantasy worldbuilding on their heads and invites readers to question them." Guan is absolutely right--Polk's worldbuilding is whip-smart and her characters are pitch-perfect, making The Midnight Bargain a must-read for anyone who appreciates the genre's ability to make us view the real world with new eyes. --Kerry McHugh

(Erewhon, $25.95 hardcover, 9781645660071, October 13, 2020)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported



Image of the Day: Design Book Party by Design

It was standing room only at the launch party for designer and author Ayse Birsel's Design the Life You Love (Ten Speed Press), at the MoMA Design Store in downtown Manhattan last Thursday evening.

Pictured (l.-r.): Meg Thompson, director, Thompson Literacy Agency; Rebecca Stokes, director of digital initiatives and external affairs at MoMA; author Ayse Birsel; Allan Chochinov, chair of the Products Design Program at the School of Visual Arts; Fatima Cevallos, manager, MoMA Design Store SoHo; and Elena Stokes, founding partner, Wunderkind PR. 

Bookseller: 'It's Easy to Start Your Own Book Club'

Jill Hendrix at SIBA

Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction, Greenville, S.C., shared a few tips on how to start a book club with Greenville Online, including advice on deciding where to meet, select a core group of members, pick your book and choose your refreshments.

"Some groups choose [books] by group consensus, while others rotate the person who chooses," she said. "Choose books that are good for discussion and that everyone will have time to read. Sometimes it is better to choose a book that not everyone will like. If you have some people who love the book and others who hate it, it makes for better discussion."

Cool Idea of the Day: Staff Book Club

"Every two months, a core group of managers from Malaprop's Bookstore/Café and sister store Downtown Books & News gathers at a local Asheville, N.C., café or coffee shop to dish about their latest staff book club selection," Bookselling This Week reported, noting that the book club, which has been meeting for a year and a half, "gives them the opportunity to read and discuss books on a variety of topics relating to business, decision-making, social sciences and more."

"I've always been very inspired by the books that are selected for the keynote speakers at Winter Institute," said Linda-Marie Barrett, Malaprop's general manager and coordinator of the book club, which is modeled after roundtable conversations that follow Winter Institute plenaries.

"We discuss the book, how we can relate it to Malaprop's and how we manage, or just to our lives," Barrett noted. "Most of us didn't have any training in management until we came here. We have been enjoying it as a way to educate ourselves.... We will read books that are not necessarily management books but that might be useful.... We feel like it's benefited the store and our customers because we're making better decisions and looking at things anew."

Bookstore Display of the Day: 'Books from the Internet!'

A sign of the publishing times appeared on Twitter from the Booksmith, San Francisco, Calif., which featured a picture of its clever "Books from the Internet!" table display.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bernie Sanders, Bobby Jindal, Chelsea Clinton

This morning on CBS This Morning: Yotam Ottolenghi, co-author of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, $35, 9781607744184).


This morning on Morning Joe: Bob Woodward, author of The Last of the President's Men (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501116445).


Today on NPR's On Point: Bill Medley, co-author of The Time of My Life: A Righteous Brother's Memoir (Da Capo, $16.99, 9780306823671).


Today on Diane Rehm: Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594205552).


Today on Sirius XM's Howard Stern Show: Elvis Costello, author of Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (Blue Rider Press, $30, 9780399167256).


Today on Dr. Oz: Patrick Kennedy, co-author of A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction (Blue Rider Press, $28.95, 9780399173325).


Today on the View: Bill O'Reilly, co-author of Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency (Holt, $30, 9781627792417).


Today on Tavis Smiley: Senator Bernie Sanders, author of Outsider in the White House (Verso, $16.95, 9781784784188).


Today on the Chew: Michael Strahan, co-author of Wake Up Happy: The Dream Big, Win Big Guide to Transforming Your Life (Atria/37 INK, $26.99, 9781476775685). He will also appear tomorrow on Dr. Oz.


Tonight on Hannity: Bobby Jindal, author of American Will: The Forgotten Choices That Changed Our Republic (Threshold Editions, $28, 9781501117077). He will also appear tomorrow morning on Fox & Friends.


Tonight on Conan: John Fogerty, author of Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316244572).


Tomorrow morning on Morning Joe: Joe Klein, author of Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781451677300). He will also appear on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and Sirius XM's Michael Smerconish Show.


Tomorrow morning on CBS This Morning: Ray Lewis, co-author of I Feel Like Going On: Life, Game, and Glory (Touchstone, $26.99, 9781501112355).

Also on CBS This Morning: Chelsea Clinton, author of It's Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! (Philomel, $18.99, 9780399176128).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Kevin Costner and Jon Baird, co-authors of The Explorers Guild: Volume One: A Passage to Shambhala (Atria, $29.99, 9781476727394). They will also appear on the View, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight and Extra.

Also on Good Morning America: Diana Nyad, author of Find a Way (Knopf, $26.95, 9780385353618).


Tomorrow on Sirius XM's Howard Stern Show: Whoopi Goldberg, author of If Someone Says "You Complete Me," RUN!: Whoopi's Big Book of Relationships (Hachette Books, $26, 9780316302012).


Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Lawrence Lessig, author of Republic, Lost: The Corruption of Equality and the Steps to End It (Twelve, $30, 9781455537013).


Tomorrow on Diane Rehm: Dan Jones, author of Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty (Viking, $27.95, 9780525428299).


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Judah Friedlander, author of If the Raindrops United: Drawings and Cartoons (Hachette Books, $16.99, 9780316306959).


Tomorrow night on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers: Neil Patrick Harris, author of Choose Your Own Autobiography (Three Rivers Press, $16, 9780385347013).

Books & Authors

Awards: Toronto Book; Clark for Art Writing

Emily St. John Mandel won the C$15,000 (about US$11,615) Toronto Book Award, which honors "authors of books of literary or artistic merit that are evocative of Toronto," for her novel Station Eleven. The announcement was made during a ceremony held at the Toronto Reference Library. City Librarian Vickery Bowles commented: "From the opening pages of this riveting novel, where we are breathlessly seated in Toronto's Elgin Theatre, life and death unfold in a world both created and real. A remarkable achievement."


The Clark Art Institute announced that poet and writer Eileen Myles is the recipient of this year's $25,000 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing, ArtForum reported. Francis Oakley, interim director of the Clark, said, "Through her work, Eileen Myles has inspired new ideas and discourse on modern society, connecting literature and other artistic practices in fresh and provocative ways. Her selection as the recipient of this year's Clark Prize recognizes her authentic voice, her pioneering work, and her unbridled curiosity and creativity."

Midwest Connections November Picks

From the Midwest Booksellers Association, three recent Midwest Connections Picks. Under this marketing program, the association and member stores promote booksellers' handselling favorites that have a strong Midwest regional appeal:

Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise by Oscar Hijuelos (Grand Central, $28, 9781455561490). "Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Oscar Hijuelos, is a luminous work of fiction inspired by the real-life, 37-year friendship between two towering figures of the late nineteenth century, famed writer and humorist Mark Twain and legendary explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley."

Marvel and a Wonder by Joe Meno (Akashic Books, $15.95, 9781617753947). "Grandfather and grandson must journey into the underworld of the American Midwest in search of both courage and redemption."

The Birchwood Cafe Cookbook: Good Real Food by Tracy Singleton, Marshall Paulsen, Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen (University of Minnesota Press, $29.95, 9780816679867). "Bring the beloved Birchwood Cafe's kitchen home with recipes, insights, and stories."

Book Review

Review: Avenue of Mysteries

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving (Simon & Schuster, $28 hardcover, 9781451664164, November 2015)

When John Irving became a finalist for the 1978 National Book Award with The World According to Garp, he leaped from mid-list, MFA-schooled, literary fiction obscurity to international fame and enough fortune thereafter to write pretty much whatever he wanted. In the almost four decades since, he has published 10 novels (including The Cider House Rules and The Fourth Hand) and has had several works adapted to film. Often long and heavily plotted, Irving's fiction regularly features troubled childhoods, violent maiming, sexual promiscuity, circuses, sports, religion, writers and writing, domesticated animals, travel and memory. Avenue of Mysteries sits right in the sweet spot of Irving's obsessions--and as with his past books, its imaginative storytelling overcomes its plot complexity and characters' often over-the-top behavior.

Avenue of Mysteries is a rambling story that moves in and out of chronological time as it travels across time zones. At 14 years old, Juan Diego lives in a shack with his younger sister, Lupe, and their suspected father, Rivera, outside Oaxaca, Mexico. They are the "dump kids," and Rivera the "dump jefe." By the time he is 54, the novelist-protagonist Juan Diego (if a novel with many, many characters can have only one protagonist) is visiting Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Manila, Philippines, ruminating on the many ghosts and memories from his past.

He is known as the "dump reader" because of his self-taught ability to read dense religious and classic fiction texts in both English and Spanish. Lupe is born with the clairvoyance to read people's thoughts and occasionally predict the future, which she expresses in a language that only Juan Diego can understand. Along the journey of Juan Diego's life, he and Lupe join a traveling Oaxacan circus, and Rivera accidently runs over Juan Diego's foot, giving him a permanent limp. Intellectually confused, Juan Diego makes a pilgrimage to the Mexico City Virgen de Guadalupe (along the city's Avenida de los Misterios) to sort out his conflicting allegiances to the Virgin Mary and Aztec goddess Coatlicue, after which he is adopted by the transgender Oaxacan prostitute Flor and Iowan missionary priest Eduardo, who forsakes his vows for Flor. They take him to Iowa City, where he studies and then teaches writing at the University of Iowa. Falling in with a sexually obsessed, well-traveled mother and daughter on a flight to Manila, he visits the gravesite of American soldiers and worries about mixing up the dosages of his beta-blocker and Viagra pills. (Whew!)

Juan Diego is an inspired character who provides Irving with a platform from which to explore the mysteries of growing old, of religious fanaticism and fantasy, of language, of companionship and love, and especially of writing. Regarding his maimed foot, Juan Diego thinks: "A cripple's life is one of watching others do what he can't do, not the worst option for a future novelist." From wherever it came, Irving's knack for telling a good story is as strong as ever. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: The prolific John Irving tells of a broken-footed writer's journey from his youth in Oaxaca, Mexico, through a professorship in Iowa City to a middle-aged visit to Manila, Philippines.

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