Shelf Awareness for Monday, September 19, 2016

Atria Books: The Silence in Her Eyes by Armando Lucas Correa

Labyrinth Road: Plan A by Deb Caletti

Harper Muse: Unsinkable by Jenni L. Walsh

Mariner Books: Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson

S&s/ Marysue Rucci Books: The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan

W by Wattpad Books: Night Shift by Annie Crown

Shadow Mountain: Under the Java Moon: A Novel of World War II by Heather B. Moore


Amazon Books Coming to Massachusetts

Next in Amazon Books' sights: Massachusetts.

After opening stores in Seattle, Wash., and San Diego, Calif., Amazon has confirmed that it will open two more stores, near Portland, Ore., and in Chicago, Ill., in the near future. Now we've seen ads for booksellers to staff a future Amazon Books location in Legacy Place, an outdoor shopping center in Dedham, Mass., in the suburbs southwest of Boston, that opened in 2009.

Besides restaurants, a movie theater and other entertainment, Legacy Place has some 60 stores, including Ann Taylor, Anthropologie, Eddie Bauer, Gap, J. Crew, L.L. Bean, lululemon, Sephora, Urban Outfitters, Victoria's Secret, Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma.

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

SIBA: Spirited Show and Debate About the Spring Move

This past weekend, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance gathered for its annual Discovery Show in historic Savannah, Ga.

The festivities kicked off Thursday night with a party at the Tybee Island beach home of author Mary Kay Andrews (The Weekenders, St. Martin's); even the rainy weather did not dampen the SIBA spirit.

The business portion of the conference began with SIBA's annual meeting on Friday morning. Board president Jill Hendrix (Fiction Addiction, Greenville, S.C.) welcomed attendees and recapped the state of SIBA: the organization has a solid reserve fund of $112,000, and core membership is up to 147 from 128 last year. Trade show attendance is up as well, to 71 stores from 65 last year. Hendrix said that a SIBA survey of owner/managers had indicated that one of the major concerns is profit margin, which led into a conversation about the recently announced plans to move the SIBA show to Atlanta in the spring in 2018, to tie in with the Great American Bargain Book Show (GABBS) and the Spring Gift, Home Furnishings & Holiday Market. The board believes that the larger profit margins on remainders and gifts will help its member stores.

Several booksellers spoke against the move, citing concerns about the timing of an event so soon after Winter Institute and before BookExpo America, as well as its effect on publishers, many of whom hold sales conferences at that time. Some booksellers complained that they had not been consulted about the change. Hendrix responded that the spring show is not set in stone and can be changed "if we don't have publisher support." Kelly Justice of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Va., said, "There was not enough information gathering, this was just dropped on us. It's too much time away from the store in a five-month period, and the first quarter is slow financially." Board member Doug Robinson noted that there will be increased financial help to get booksellers to SIBA.

SIBA board members: Jill Hendrix, Fiction Addiction; Erica Merrell, Wild Iris Books; Linda-Marie Barrett, Malaprop's; Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette; Doug Robinson, Eagle Eye Book Shop

Tom Lowenburg of Octavia Books in New Orleans (the site of next year's SIBA) commented, "GABBS can be useful, but my concern is the flavor of the show. It should be about our core business--we're sellers of new books."

SIBA executive director Wanda Jewell explained the decision process: "At first I thought no one would want this; it was on the back burner for four years. But the large majority of booksellers and publishers I spoke to wanted this. The board was unanimously in favor." Hendrix added, "Everyone has to do what's best [for their store]. Maybe some stores that don't come to the fall show will come in the spring." Jewell concluded, "I want to build a new show for you, and want your input."

The topic also came up at a meeting of the SIBA advisory board on Saturday morning. The board again addressed concerns about the cost and inconvenience of an Atlanta show for some members by promising additional scholarships and subsidies, and considering the idea of retaining some sort of additional educational component during the fall season, perhaps one that travels. Several booksellers pointed out that they already spend two full days shopping at GABBS and would not want the SIBA sessions to run concurrently.

Ruth Liebmann, v-p, director of account marketing for Random House, said, "We are always interested in new initiatives that have the potential to increase participation. SIBA has a special magic, and we look forward to working with them to make 2018 even more productive for our publishers and authors." And Gary Brooks of Baker & Taylor said, "We'll be there no matter what. We support the booksellers' decision."

The board members reiterated their support for Jewell, and Hendrix again emphasized, "We want to do what's appropriate for our members. Consider this a blank slate: What would you like to see in a SIBA show? We want to hear from booksellers."

On the show floor, Larry May of GABBS said that his show already sees some 70 attendees from 40 SIBA stores. He said, "More stores can benefit from selling remaindered titles, and GABBS offers the opportunity to meet with about 40 vendors."

Chip Mercer of Southeastern Book Travelers said, "Why not? Bigger is better, and this is all about relationships, no matter where. My only reservation would be the timing in March around [publishers'] sales conferences."

Many booksellers Shelf Awareness spoke with expressed mixed feelings about the move, but supported the organization's desire to try something new. As one said: "Let's give it a whirl. If it's not working out, we can change it back."

Jewell agreed with that, and is confident that the move will be a success: "I believe we are creating the opportunity to change the way stores and publishers do business in the South."

Around the Show

The always-busy exhibit hall at SIBA

A full day of educational programming kept booksellers busy on Friday. Highlights among the many sessions:

  • A group of booksellers from central North Carolina recounted how they created an alliance of local stores to share ideas and promotions.
  • Jamie Fiocco (Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.), Janet Geddis (Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga.) and Annie Jones (The Bookshelf, Thomasville, Ga.), with moderator Grace Bonney, author of In the Company of Women (Artisan), discussed their careers and offered advice and insights.
  • The ABA presented an update on the "Amazon and Local Storefronts" study, and demonstrated hands-on tools (available at to help booksellers reach out to their government representatives.

Rep Picks and a meet-and-greet with authors closed out the day's programming, followed by dinner at the nearby Knights of Columbus Hall with authors Jennifer Ryan, Aaron Becker, Ridley Pearson and Elizabeth Kostova.

On Saturday, the trade exhibits were open all day, with a break for luncheon with Flatiron authors Steve Cavanagh, Sarah Domet, Laurie Frankel and Sarah Pinborough. The show floor was busy again in the afternoon, and then the always entertaining Parapalooza (a dozen authors performing a paragraph from their books, enhanced by margaritas) served as lead-in to dinner featuring Beth Macy, David Arnold, Robert Hicks and Jodi Picoult.

Sunday gave booksellers a final chance to peruse the trade show floor, before the Moveable Feast closed out SIBA 2016.

The vibrant SIBA spirit was in evidence throughout, and booksellers took minor inconveniences with good humor: lines for overcrowded hotel elevators provided more opportunities for bonding, and those who were willing to climb the stairs suggested it would help burn off some of the great meals they'd enjoyed. --Robin Lenz

Britannica Books: Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica: 1,000s of Facts & Figures--About Earth, Space, Animals, the Body, Technology & More--Revealed in Pictures by Valentina D'Efilippo, Andrew Pettie, and Conrad Quilty-Harper

Mississippi's Sage Coffee & Books Relocates

Sage Coffee and Books has relocated to 19 Page St. in the Cotton District of Starkville, Miss., the Reflector reported. Before opening Sage with her mother in its original location in Meridian, owner Lara Hammond had lived for 20 years in California, where she spent a lot of time at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in Los Angeles, which closed in 2012 but may reopen again soon.

"The Bodhi Tree has both sides of the bookstore," Hammond said. "It has a building where only new books are sold, and a building more like an independent store, where they house both new and used books. Sage Coffee and Books is almost like an homage to the Bodhi Tree, since it became such a big part of my life while I was in California."

After returning to Mississippi, Hammond opened Sage with the help of her mother, who died three years later. "At first, I thought that I wouldn't be able to continue the store after I lost my mom," Hammond said, "but it just motivated me to keep it going." She called the new location "a work in progress, but I'm always open to new ideas and suggestions.... This is something I do because I believe in it, not because it will make me rich."

GLOW: Carolrhoda Books: Pangu's Shadow by Karen Bao

Homewood's Little Professor Bookstore to Move

Little Professor's current store

Little Professor Book Center and Crape Myrtle's Café in Homewood, Ala., will relocate because their current property has been sold to a private developer. The Star reported that owner Paul Seitz "is currently seeking a new location for the store, and hopes to find a building that can accommodate him and Crape Myrtle. They will be in their current location until February, though Seitz said the bookstore may close earlier to allow time to pack up books and disassemble furniture. Little Professor has been in Homewood for 43 years."

Soho Crime: My Favorite Scar by Nicolás Ferraro, translated by Mallory Craig-Kuhn

Obituary Notes: Edward Albee; W.P. Kinsella

Edward Albee

Edward Albee, "widely considered the foremost American playwright of his generation, whose psychologically astute and piercing dramas explored the contentiousness of intimacy, the gap between self-delusion and truth and the roiling desperation beneath the facade of contemporary life," died September 16, the New York Times reported. He was 88. His honors included a pair of Tony Awards for best play as well as three Pulitzer Prizes.

In 1959, Albee "introduced himself suddenly and with a bang" with his first produced play, The Zoo Story, which opened in Berlin on a double bill with Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape. "When the play came to the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village the next year, it helped propel the blossoming theater movement that became known as Off Broadway," the Times noted.

Albee's Broadway debut came with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1962, which was also adapted into an award-winning film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. During his career, Albee created about 30 works, including A Delicate Balance, All Over, Tiny Alice, Seascape, Three Tall Women, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia, and Me Myself & I.

"All of my plays are about people missing the boat, closing down too young, coming to the end of their lives with regret at things not done, as opposed to things done," he told the Times in 1991. "I find most people spend too much time living as if they're never going to die."


W.P. Kinsella

W.P. Kinsella, author of Shoeless Joe, the basis of the hit movie Field of Dreams, died on September 16. He was 81. He published nearly 30 books and wrote fiction, nonfiction, poetry and short stories.

"Kinsella's works were known for their affection toward baseball, with characters and plots frequently set around the sport," the New York Times wrote. "They also were infused with a magical realism."

In Shoeless Joe, the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson, the star banned from baseball after the 1919 Black Sox Scandal--even though he likely was not part of the conspiracy to throw the World Series--inspires an Iowa farmer to build a baseball field so that he can play the game again.

The 1989 movie starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta was a hit and introduced the phrase "If you build it, they will come"--slightly tweaked from the movie's "If you build it, he will come"--into the nation's vocabulary.

In an announcement about Kinsella's death, his literary agent Carolyn Swayze said that he had died in a doctor-assisted suicide but gave no further details about his health. She called Kinsella "a dedicated storyteller, performer, curmudgeon and irascible and difficult man."


Image of the Day: The Met's Masterpiece Paintings

Last Thursday, the Rizzoli Bookstore in New York City hosted a conversation between Thomas Campbell, CEO and director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Kathryn Calley Galitz, a Met curator and educator and author of The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings (Skira Rizzoli), which highlights 500 historic paintings in the Met collection. In a wide-ranging, informative and often funny talk, the two discussed, among many other things, how the 500 works were chosen from the many thousands of possibilities; the "challenge," as Galitz put it, of writing only 250 words on each selection; the choice of the cover; and the fact that after Western art, Asian works were the second-most represented among the selections. Noting that the Met is known for its very scholarly works and exhibition and collection catalogues, Campbell said that this "exquisite book" ought to appeal to "a broad audience."

Top 10 Chicago Indies to 'Escape to This Fall'

Urban Matter showcased its picks for "top 10 independent bookstores in Chicago to escape to this fall," noting that "it's the perfect time of year to curl up with a hot cup of coffee and a great book. If you haven't had an opportunity to explore new shops, then we've got just the list for you.... Some of these might be lesser known, others are basically city landmarks. Either way, you'll be glad to have browsed the thousands of titles at some of the best independent bookstores in Chicago."

'Resurgence of Melbourne Booksellers'

"Call us old-fashioned, but Melbourne still loves a bricks-and-mortar bookshop," the Age noted in a piece on the Australian city's independent bookseller resurgence.

Chris Redfern, owner of Avenue Bookstore in Albert Park and Elsternwick, has opened a third shop in Richmond. "In the post-Borders world there is a great opportunity for good bookstores to thrive," Redfern says. "People have realized that going to a local bookshop--with great stock and knowledgeable staff--is a cultural experience, a curated experience. We select books and we talk to people about them.... On the day we opened we had people coming in all day who were rapt to have us in their neighborhood."

Joel Becker

Joel Becker, CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association, observed: "There is something about Melbourne, a strong sense of high streets as places to shop at community-based businesses.... It's about listening to people coming into the shop--what they are interested in, what they have enjoyed reading--and putting something in their hands: not just to make a sale, but so the customer leaves satisfied."

One of Melbourne's best-known independent bookshops, Readings, "is also expanding, opening a branch at Westfield Doncaster on Monday and a dedicated children's shop in Carlton later this month," the Age wrote. Joe Rubbo, manager of the new store and son of Readings owner Mark Rubbo, said, "We're going to continue doing what we do best. We'll still be championing Australian fiction, Australian writers and publishers, and interesting literary fiction. We'll appeal to existing Readings customers, though we'll have the mass-market books, too."

Personnel Changes at Insight Editions, Workman

Darcy Cohan has joined Insight Editions as PR director. She has worked at HarperCollins, Chronicle Books, Perseus Books Group and Princeton University Press. Most recently, she was the communications director for a political think tank in Washington, D.C., and served as a marketing, PR, and events consultant in New York City.


At Workman:

Noreen Herits has been promoted to publicity and marketing director for the juvenile titles. She has been with the company for five years.

Estelle Hallick has been promoted to publicist and marketing associate for the children’s list. She had been a publicist.

Moira Kerrigan, who left briefly, has returned as associate director of marketing and will focus on the adult side of the list.

Laura DiNardo has been promoted to digital marketing coordinator.

Jenny Lee has been promoted to associate publicist.

Media and Movies

Primetime Bookish Emmy Award Winners

American Crime: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson, the FX limited series based on Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run of His Life, was a big winner at last night's Primetime Emmy Awards, with five major category Emmys. Game of Thrones broke the record for the highest number of Primetime Emmys ever won by a fictional series by running up its total to 38. Here are some of the major category-winning shows that had book connections:

American Crime: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: Outstanding limited series; Courtney B. Vance (actor, limited series or movie); Sterling K. Brown (supporting actor); Sarah Paulson (actress, limited series or movie); D.V. DeVincentis (writing, limited series for the episode "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia")

Game of Thrones, based on the novel series by George R.R. Martin: Outstanding drama series; Miguel Sapochnik (director, drama series for the episode "Battle of the Bastards"; David Benioff & D.B. Weiss (writing, drama series for the episode "Battle of the Bastards")

The Night Manager, based on the novel by John le Carré: Susanne Bier (director, limited series, movie or dramatic special)

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride: Outstanding television movie

Media Heat: Jamie Lee Curtis on Today

Hannity: Jay Sekulow, author of Unholy Alliance: The Agenda Iran, Russia, and Jihadists Share for Conquering the World (Howard, $26.99, 9781501141027). He will also appear tomorrow on Fox & Friends and Fox Radio's Brian Kilmeade.

Today Show: Jamie Lee Curtis, author of This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From (Workman, $16.95, 9780761180111). She will also appear on the View.

Good Morning America: Cookie Johnson, co-author of Believing in Magic: My Story of Love, Overcoming Adversity, and Keeping the Faith (Howard, $26, 9781501125157). She will also appear on the View, the Steve Harvey Show and Nightline.

Diane Rehm: Maureen Dowd, author of The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics (Twelve, $30, 9781455539260).

Sirius XM's Content Is King: Alejandro Danois, author of The Boys of Dunbar: A Story of Love, Hope, and Basketball (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781451666977). (See the trailer here.)

Books & Authors

Awards: BBC National Short Story

A shortlist has been unveiled for the £15,000 (about $19,500) BBC National Short Story Award with BookTrust, which "aims to promote the best in contemporary British short fiction." The winner and runner-up will be announced October 4. This year's shortlisted authors are:

Tahmima Anam for "Garments"
K.J. Orr for "Disappearances"
Lavinia Greenlaw for "The Darkest Place in England"
Hilary Mantel for "In a Right State"
Claire-Louise Bennett for "Morning, Noon & Night"

Top Library Recommended Titles for October

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, offers the top 10 October titles public library staff across the country love:

Favorite Pick
News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles (Morrow, $22.99, 9780062409201). "Readers fortunate enough to meet Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an old ex-soldier who makes a living reading the news to townspeople in 1870s Texas, and Joanna, the Indian captive he is charged with returning to her relatives, will not soon forget them. Everything, from the vividly realized Texas frontier setting to the characters is beautifully crafted, right up to the moving conclusion. Both the Captain and Joanna have very distinctive voices. Wonderful storytelling." --Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, N.Y.

The Trespasser: A Novel by Tana French (Viking, $27, 9780670026333). "Aislinn Murray is beautiful, lives in a picture-perfect cottage, and has a boy she's crazy about. Antoinette Conway is a tough member of the Dublin Murder Squad who knows no one likes her and says she doesn't care. When Aislinn is murdered, Conway and her partner Steve Moran take the case and start listening to all the stories about Aislinn. Which ones are true? Was she in love and with whom? Are the stories we tell ourselves and others anywhere near the truth? Great read from Tana French." --Kathryn Hassert, Chester County Library, Exton, Penn.

Small Great Things: A Novel by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine, $28.99, 9780345544957). "A black neonatal nurse is charged with causing the death of a white supremacist's newborn baby. The story is told from the points of view of the nurse, her attorney, and the baby's heartbroken father. As always, Picoult's attention to legal, organizational, and medical details help the tale ring true. What sets this book apart, though, are the uncomfortable points it makes about racism. The novel is both absorbing and thought-provoking, and will surely spark conversations among friends, families and book clubs." --Laurie Van Court, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, Colo.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (Del Rey, $28, 9780345540676). "Crosstalk is the perfect romantic comedy for the digital age. Briddey works for a cell phone provider that is constantly searching for the next great way to help people "connect"--nevermind that she is already inundated by calls, texts, social media, and unannounced visits from her colleagues, friends, and nosy family. When she undergoes a procedure to telepathically sense the emotions of her seemingly perfect boyfriend, things go awry and she ends up connected to the wrong person. A perfect screwball comedy from a master writer!" --Patricia Kline-Millard, Bedford Public Library, Bedford, N.H.

The Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict (Sourcebooks Landmark, $25.99, 9781492637257). "Einstein. Just hearing that name likely brings a smile to your face, as you picture the mischievous wild-haired scientist with the twinkle in his eye. In The Other Einstein, readers get a view of the woman behind the genius, his first wife Mileva Maric, a strong willed and brilliant physics student who refused to let society dictate her life's path, but who lost her way when love came on the scene. Benedict has penned an engaging tale that will likely inspire readers to investigate the true story behind Maric's genius and her personal and professional relationship with Einstein." --Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Station, N.Y.

The Mothers: A Novel by Brit Bennett (Riverhead, $26, 9780399184512). "In a contemporary Black community in California, the story begins with a secret. Nadia is a high school senior, mourning her mother's recent death, and smitten with the local pastor's son, Luke. It's not a serious romance, but it takes a turn when a pregnancy (and subsequent cover-up) happen. The impact sends ripples through the community. The Mothers asks us to contemplate how our decisions shape our lives. The collective voice of the Mothers in the community is a voice unto itself, narrating and guiding the reader through the story." --Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, Mo.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316403436). "I went into Today Will Be Different expecting the mockery of Seattle's ridiculous idiosyncrasies. What I got was different, but just as good. Eleanor is sympathetic and the story revolves around family conflicts and disappointments, as well as Eleanor's awareness of the inevitability of aging and its effects on herself and marriage. Her relationships with those closest to her are also the ones with the most secrets, and with the potential for the most harm and the most hope. I'd recommend this to readers who love family-centric women's fiction with a sharp eye for the quirks of marriage and parenting." --Jessica Werner, The Seattle Public Library, Seattle, Wash.

All The Little Liars: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery by Charlaine Harris (Minotaur, $25.99, 9781250090034). "The narrative of Aurora Teagarden was thought to be over. In a surprising, but welcome return, All the Little Liars picks up right where we left off with Roe. Newly remarried, Roe is dealing with a plethora of issues. With a missing brother and troublesome father in town, Roe is searching for answers. Pregnancy, family problems, and more make for a suspenseful, fast, and comforting read. Harris' writing shines best when she portrays the minutiae of small-town lives and the inner workings of families, friends, and relationships. I can't wait for the next book." --Mei-Ling Thomas, Rochester Hills Public Library, Rochester, Mich.

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9780544527959). "Thrilled for another opportunity to enjoy DI Stephens and Max Mephisto joining forces against crime and intrigue. It may appear light hearted with its theatrical/magician twist, but these detective stories are full of dark happenings. Solving the gruesome murder of two local children dampens the holiday spirit in this small town. The lead characters are very enjoyable and the theater setting so unique. I enjoyed the love interest/overprotected daughter story line as well! Very much looking forward to the next installment." --Carol Ward, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Solon, Ohio

The Motion of Puppets: A Novel by Keith Donohue (Picador, $26, 9781250057181). "A young couple find themselves caught in a web of magic and horror. Kay is an acrobat and goes missing. Her husband cannot believe that she has disappeared and searches the city in vain all the while not guessing that she has been spirited away by a puppet master in the toy shop that fascinated her during their walks. Kay begins life anew as a puppet and soon begins to befriend the other puppets at night when they come to life. Will the evil that has charmed Kay be stronger than her husband's love? Donohue writes a frightening account reminiscent of Grimm's fairy tales and it will keep you up reading til dawn." --Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, Tex.

Book Review

Review: The Next

The Next by Stephanie Gangi (St. Martin's Press, $26.99 hardcover, 320p., 9781250110565, October 18, 2016)

If all you know of ghost stories is from Scouts or summer camp, wait until you meet Joanna DeAngelis in Stephanie Gangi's first novel, The Next. Divorced, dying too soon from recurrent cancer; in home hospice under the care of her daughters Laney and Anna; guided to the bathroom by her 90-pound poodle, Tom; and angry as hell at her much younger lover, Ned, who walked out on her for the celebrity dermatologist Trudi with her global social media following, Joanna is prepared for the end but unclear about what comes next. To her surprise, she is transmigrated into an invisible ghost "between realms" where she needs to choose a mission "to get to the Light." Still bitter toward Ned, the answer is obvious: "Revenge. It feels right, it's a classic, why reinvent the wheel? Isn't revenge what ghosts do?" And so off she goes to haunt the self-centered Ned--texting him from the grave, flying down Manhattan from her Morningside Heights apartment to trash his new lover's High Line "starchitect-designed building, matte-black exterior with mirrored windows you cannot see into," and generally upending his newly packaged life as Trudi's arm candy and a Fox news analyst: "insightful, politically incorrect, bawdy, condensed for the attention-disordered." What fun Joanna has manipulating and destroying this cad's smug world.

Despite her somewhat over-the-top premise, Gangi, a poet and corporate communications strategist, tells a powerful story of family, love, grief and loyalty. The relationship between the accommodating Laney and the older, bossy pediatric resident Anna is a classic love-hate sisters story, as they survive their parents' divorce and confront the death of their mother and "the exhausting mix of drama and tedium that is caregiving." They even argue over the music at the wake, held at Joanna's favorite bar. Anna berates Laney: "This is a memorial service, with, like, grown-ups, not Irving Plaza in 1982. Pardon me, I left Gang of Four off the playlist." The men in Gangi's world barely register. Joanna's ex-husband is a constantly apologizing dip, and Ned is mostly just an empty head of TV hair. Only Joanna's Tom is sympathetic and reliable: "the best dog, who moved me up and out and forward with purpose into each blue morning or indigo evening for years."

As the thrill of humbling Ned wanes, ghost Joanna begins to reflect on her life with renewed pride in her daughters and the lifelong lessons she left them with: "Rise and shine. Always make the bed. Look both ways. Don't smoke after twenty-five. Three drinks maximum. Have fun but stay safe. Make your own money. Don't have a boss--be a boss. Dance, in the car, in the supermarket, on graves. Barefoot whenever possible." There's not much funny about cancer, divorce and a broken heart, but The Next is an entertaining ghost story. Gangi gives it enough heft, however, to be a thoughtful meditation as well, on how to be a good mother, daughter, sister and lover. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: A contemporary ghost story of vengeance is also a delightful and incisive portrait of a cancer-stricken woman and her two daughters striving for independence.

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