Also published on this date: Thursday, January 18, 2018: Maximum Shelf: Never Anyone but You

Shelf Awareness for Thursday, January 18, 2018


Avery Publishing Group: Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic by Matt McCarthy

Grove Press: Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

Spiegel & Grau: Last Day by Domenica Ruta

Other Press: Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Andrews McMeel Publishing: The Blue Day Book Illustrated Edition: A Lesson in Cheering Yourself Up by Bradley Trevor Greive, illustrated by Claire Keane

Shadow Mountain: A Song for the Stars (Proper Romance) by Ilima Todd

HMH Books for Young Readers: Camp by Kayla Miller

News

Meriwether to Succeed Horne as Harvard Book Store G.M.

Alex Meriwether

Effective March 1, Alex W. Meriwether will become general manager of Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., succeeding Carole M. Horne, who will continue on a part-time basis in the buying group and as a senior adviser to the management team. She has been with the store for 43 years and in 2007 was named its first general manager.

Meriwether joined Harvard Book Store in 2004, serving in a variety of areas and has been marketing manager the last four years. During that time, he expanded the author event series to more than 500 events annually and oversaw the growth of the store's web presence that includes a Twitter following of more than 50,000.

Harvard Book Store co-owner Jeff Mayersohn commented: "We are thrilled about Alex's taking the general manager position at a time when there is a resurgence in independent bricks-and-mortar bookselling. He has done an extraordinary job in our marketing group. With Alex in charge and with Rachel Cass as head buyer and Mark Lamphier as store manager, we have a remarkably strong and experienced leadership team."

Mayersohn said, too, that he is "so grateful to Carole Horne, who told me almost a year ago that she wished to retire. Apart from being widely revered as a leader in bookselling, Carole is one of the individuals most responsible for the development of Harvard Book Store into the remarkable institution that it is. Although she will now have time to pursue some of her other interests, we are delighted that she has agreed to stay with us on a part-time basis, allowing us to benefit from her wisdom and experience for years to come."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson


Delaware's Ninth Street Book Shop Closing But May Reopen

The Ninth Street Book Shop, Wilmington, Del., will close January 26 but may be "revived" in the spring by a group of investors interested in keeping the store open, Delaware Business Times reported.

Jack and Gemma Buckley, who have owned Ninth Street Book Shop since 1977, announced last July that they were retiring in January and wanted to sell the store.

According to the Delaware Business Times, there were initially 18 prospective buyers but only the group of "writers, artists and a professor from the University of Delaware's satellite city campus" are left. The group aims to raise money and find a manager and reopen the store "in the coming months."

Jack Buckley said that the landlord will allow the furniture and fixtures to stay in the shop until the long-term fate of the store is clear.

Gemma Buckley said she hopes the buying group is successful in its efforts to take over the store, adding, "It would be wonderful for the city."


Soho Crime: Flowers Over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti, translated by Ekin Oklap


Water Main Break Damages Rare Bookstore in Bangor, Maine

Gerald Winters posted this photo of the flooded basement on Facebook; note the high-water mark on the left.

A water main break that flooded several businesses in downtown Bangor, Maine, ruined more than 2,000 books and related items in Gerald Winters & Son, a rare bookstore that specializes in Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, the Bangor Daily News reported.

The ruined items include "dozens of first- and limited-edition King books, galleys, signed copies, prints in different languages, rare ephemera, and seven of King's original manuscripts." Owner Gerald Winters told the newspaper he had moved most of the items in his store to the basement while reorganizing the shop and that 90% of his inventory had been damaged.

Stephen King told the paper he was "horrified" by the news, adding, "As a book lover, my heart goes out to him. I will eventually reach out and see if I can help in any way."

On Facebook, Winters thanked the many people who have offered "condolences, assistance and their prayers," saying that he is working "20 hours a day alone, trying to recover as many Stephen King and Tolkien pieces as I can" and has recovered several original manuscripts. "Pennywise gave his best, and it was a truly devastating blow, but I will persevere, and fight on in the face of adversity."

Winters had moved to Maine from Thailand a year ago and set up the store for his collection, which he had amassed over decades.


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 03.18.19


London Bookseller Proposes Indie Bookshop Alliance

Simon Key, co-owner of the Big Green Bookshop in London's Wood Green, has proposed setting up an independent bookshop alliance "through which indie bookshops can work together to negotiate better discounts and exclusive offers with publishers," the Bookseller reported. His initial tweet suggesting the idea was posted January 16 and has been retweeted more than 600 times, receiving support from both bookshops and publishers.

In a blog post on the bookshop's website, Key cited the controversy last year surrounding the deep discounting of Philip Pullman's La Belle Sauvage and Waterstones' exclusive deal to sell 5,000 signed special editions of the title. "It makes perfect sense if you have a large number of bookshops all being able to offer the same deal," he wrote. "That is one of the advantages of being a large book chain and having the facility to centrally buy titles such as this."

He suggested that a group of independent bookshops should get together in a "semi-official capacity" to approach publishers and pitch for exclusive deals and offers. "If this happened, I suspect that there'd be quite a few publishers and authors who'd take notice, and want to support this."

Key told the Bookseller: "My idea is, say 150 indie bookshops got together in a consortium and put in an order for a big books.... we could secure a higher discount and compete with the chains on big titles like that. We wouldn't want to do it for all books, what would be the point?... But if we could do it for the big titles, such as the Philip Pullman Book of Dust trilogy, or the next Neil Gaiman for example, and secure a discount and signed copy like the chains, that would put us on an equal footing. I have spoken to a couple of publishers about it and they like the idea." Thus far, Key said 38 bookshops have expressed an interest in being part of the Indie Bookshop Alliance.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais


Booksellers Recommend: Winter & Spring Nonfiction

Continuing our look at upcoming books for the first half of the year, today Shelf Awareness presents a list of nonfiction titles for the winter and spring, put together with the help of booksellers around the U.S. Our fiction list ran yesterday; the series will conclude with a look at children's and young adult titles tomorrow.

Arriving on February 6, Heart Berries is Terese Marie Mailhot's account of her traumatic upbringing on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia. Mailhot began writing about her life while still in the hospital following a dual-diagnosis of PTSD and Bipolar II Disorder; the work in that notebook would go on to become the interconnected, experimental essays that make up Heart Berries. Carol Spurling, owner of Bookpeople of Moscow in Moscow, Idaho, and Angela Maria Spring, owner of Duende District Bookstore in Washington, D.C., recommended this memoir. Featuring an introduction from writer Sherman Alexie and an afterword from poet Joan Naviyuk Kane, Heart Berries will be available from Counterpoint.

In The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, writer Francisco Cantú recounts the years he spent as an agent for the United States Border Patrol and the immense mental and emotional toll the job claimed. Cantú, the grandson of Mexican immigrants, joined the Border Patrol in 2008 and for the next four years worked in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In 2012, "plagued by nightmares," Cantú left the agency. Casey Coonerty Protti, the owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif., called The Line Becomes a River a "really powerful, absolutely beautiful book," that delves not only into the history of the Border Patrol and immigration policy but also provides fascinating "portraits of humanity." Available February 6 from Riverhead Books.

While growing up in the Idaho mountains in an isolated survivalist family, Tara Westover never went to school or even a doctor's office. In addition to helping her mother with her practice as a midwife and healer and scavenging metal in her father's junkyard, Westover was taught to prepare for the end of the world. Educated is Westover's account of how, after an older brother managed to leave home and go to college, she taught herself to take the ACT, eventually making it to Brigham Young University. From there, her education took her to Harvard and Cambridge, where she earned a Ph.D. Available from Random House on February 20, Educated was recommended by Carol Spurling of Bookpeople of Moscow.

In The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder, journalist Nikki Meredith writes of her experience visiting Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, two of the most notorious members of the Manson family, in prison. As Meredith got to know Krenwinkel and Van Houten over the years, she increasingly came to wonder how seemingly normal people can come to commit such vicious, barbaric acts. Nicole Yasinsky, marketing manager and sidelines buyer at Novel in Memphis, Tenn., recommended The Manson Women and Me, saying Meredith "asks the questions that have nagged many of us for years--how does this happen? Why them, and why not me?" Look for it March 27 from Citadel.

On April 3, historians Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts team up for Denmark Vesey's Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy, a timely, important look at competing narratives of slavery and the Confederacy in Charleston, S.C. Charleston was the port through which almost half of the U.S. slave population entered the country, and ever since the Civil War ended, some have fought to show a whitewashed, romanticized version of slavery and the Confederacy. At the same time, former slaves, abolitionists and others have worked to depict the horrors of slavery as they really existed. Staff members at Source Booksellers picked Denmark Vesey's Garden as a book to watch in 2018. It will be available from The New Press.

See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticisms, and Commentary is a collection of more than 50 nonfiction pieces from award-winning author Lorrie Moore. Available April 3 from Knopf, it includes critical essays about television shows like Friday Night Lights, The Wire and True Detective; reviews of novels by Nora Ephron and Margaret Atwood; cultural commentary on environmentalism, the GOP and racial inequality; biographical pieces on the lives of Anais Nin, Marilyn Monroe and John Cheever; and much more. Emma Straub, author and owner of Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, N.Y., called Moore's essays just as "sharp, moving and funny" as her beloved fiction. "It's almost too much for my heart to take."

On April 10, William T. Vollmann will begin a new nonfiction series on climate change with the publication of No Immediate Danger: Volume One of Carbon Ideologies (Viking). After an examination of the many human-caused factors that have led to climate change, Vollmann takes a detailed look at nuclear power generation and, in particular, the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011. In addition to interviews with disaster victims, government workers, activists and more, Vollmann draws from several of his own research trips into the Fukushima exclusion zone. Benjamin Rybeck, general manager of Brazos Bookstore in Houston, Tex., wrote that in No Immediate Danger, Vollmann--"America's reigning literary maniac"--continues "his career-long battle with Armageddon."

Michael Pollan returns May 15 with How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. Pollan's research into psychedelics began with a look into how LSD and psilocybin are used to help treat conditions as varied as PTSD, anxiety and depression, but after he became fascinated with what he saw, he chose to delve much deeper into the subject. Combining history, science and personal experience, How to Change Your Mind is Pollan's "mental travelogue" of that journey. Cheryl Mesler of Burke's Book Store in Memphis, Tenn., recommended the title. Available from Penguin Press.

Rounding out today's list is No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America by Darnell L Moore. When Moore was 14 years old, three boys from his neighborhood cornered him while he was walking home from school, poured gasoline on him and tried to light him on fire, all because they thought he was gay. Moore barely managed to escape, and as an adult went on to become a writer, activist and leader in the Movement for Black Lives. According to Angela Maria Spring of Duende District Bookstore, Moore tells his story with "unflinching honesty." No Ashes in the Fire will be available from Nation Books on May 29. --Alex Mutter


Chronicle Books: The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North American by Matt Kracht


Notes

Image of the Day: Say My Name Launch

Mira launched Allegra Huston's debut novel, Say My Name, with a party at the Hayward House, on Manhattan's Upper East Side, which is owned by Marin Hopper, daughter of the late actor/director Dennis Hopper. Pictured (from l.): Lucinda Rosenfeld, Marin Hopper, Joan Juliet Buck, Allegra Huston and Molly Ringwald.


HMH Books for Young Readers: Click by Kayla Miller

'At Least Now I Have a Bookshop'

Humans of New York, which is currently sharing stories from India, featured a Mumbai bookshop-themed post yesterday:

"I came to the city when I was twenty-one because I wanted to meet my favorite actor. I thought that I'd wait outside his apartment, and he'd appear shirtless on his balcony just like in the Bollywood movies. But he never came out. I didn't want to go home without meeting him because all my friends would laugh at me. So I slept on the streets. I had no money to survive. I began working at a bookstall just so I could eat. And every day after work I'd return to his house to see if I could find him. I finally got my chance when there was a big movie premiere. I knew he'd be there. I waited along the rope line and met all of the other actors. But when my favorite arrived, he walked past without greeting anyone. He didn't even make eye contact. I was heartbroken. He didn't even acknowledge his fans. At least now I have a bookshop. I can thank him for that."


Disney Lucasfilm Press: Queen's Shadow (Star Wars) by E.K. Johnston


Personnel Changes at Barbour Publishing; Crown

At Barbour Publishing:

Mary Burns has been promoted to president and COO. She has been with the company for 23 years, serving as v-p of marketing for most of that time.

Timothy Martins, who has been president for more than 20 years, will continue as CEO and a member of the board of directors.

Shalyn Sattler has been promoted to v-p of marketing. She joined the company in 2005 and was mostly recently director of marketing.

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Sarah Grimm has been promoted to senior publicist, Crown, Hogarth, Tim Duggan Books and Broadway Books.


Media and Movies

TV: Fire and Fury

Endeavor Content, the financing and sales arm formed between sister companies William Morris Endeavor and IMG, has purchased film and television rights to Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury, the exposé of the Trump White House, and plans to adapt it as a TV series. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the "massive deal is said to be in the seven-figure range.... A network is not yet attached, as Endeavor will now begin shopping the project." Wolff will executive produce the series, with Two Cities Television CEO Michael Jackson on board to produce.


Media Heat: Christian Picciolini on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Christian Picciolini, author of White American Youth: My Descent into America's Most Violent Hate Movement--and How I Got Out (Hachette Books, $15.99, 9780316522908).


This Weekend on Book TV: Michael Wolff

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, January 20
5:15 p.m. Lance Izumi, author of The Corrupt Classroom: Bias, Indoctrination, Violence and Social Engineering Show Why America Needs School Choice (Pacific Research Institute, $10, 9781934276358). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

6:30 p.m. Stephen Kotkin, author of Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 (Penguin Press, $40, 9781594203800).

9 p.m. Roger Kimball, author of Vox Populi: The Perils and Promises of Populism (Encounter, $23.99, 9781594039577). (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m.)

10 p.m. Linda Sarsour, co-author of Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World (Dey Street, $30, 9780062843432). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Holt, $30, 9781250158062), at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Sunday at 7:45 p.m.)

Sunday, January 21
12:15 a.m. Max Boot, author of The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam (Liveright, $35, 9780871409416). (Re-airs Sunday at 6:40 p.m.)

1:15 a.m. Gerard Magliocca, author of The Heart of the Constitution: How the Bill of Rights Became the Bill of Rights (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780190271602). (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)

2:15 a.m. A panel discussion on race in America moderated by April Ryan, author of The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Four Presidents and Race in America (Rowman & Littlefield, $16.95, 9781538106631), at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Sunday at 4:30 p.m.)



Books & Authors

Awards: Arabic Fiction Longlist; Plutarch Longlist; Farm Book

The longlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2018 has been announced. To see the 16 titles, click here. The shortlist will be announced in February, and the winner on April 24.

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Biographers International Organization has selected 10 nominees for the 2018 Plutarch Award. After the Plutarch committee selects four finalists, members will vote and the winner will be announced at the annual BIO convention, in May in New York.

Grant by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press)
Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Richard Nixon: The Life by John Farrell (Doubleday)
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (Metropolitan)
Milosz: A Biography by Andrzej Franaszek, translated by Aleksandra Parker and Michael Parker (Belknap Pres)
Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel by Francine Klagsbrun (Schocken)
Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray by Rosalind Rosenberg (Oxford University Press)
Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror by Victor Sebestyen (Pantheon)
Gorbachev: His Life and Times by William Taubman (Norton)

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John Deere, That's Who!, the picture book by Tracy Nelson Maurer, illustrated by Tim Zeltner (Holt), has won the 2018 American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Book of the Year Award. The award honors books that are "educational, help to create positive public perceptions about agriculture, inspire readers to learn more and touch their readers' lives as well as tell the farmer's story."


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, January 23:

Fall from Grace: A Novel by Danielle Steel (Delacorte, $28.99, 9781101884003) follows a widow excluded from her husband's will and facing criminal charges.

All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, the Superstar Whose Life Ended on Murderers' Row by James Patterson and Alex Abramovich (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316412650) looks at the New England Patriots player convicted of murder who killed himself in prison. (January 22)

Brass: A Novel by Xhenet Aliu (Random House, $27, 9780399590245) takes place in Waterbury, Conn., where a poor waitress marries an Albanian immigrant.

Eternal Life: A Novel by Dara Horn (Norton, $25.95, 9780393608533) follows a 2,000-year-old woman who made a supernatural bargain to save her first son's life.

Our Lady of the Prairie by Thisbe Nissen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9781328662071) finds a Midwestern theater professor grappling with several tragicomic crises.

The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World by Charles C. Mann (Knopf, $28.95, 9780307961693) looks at two 20th-century scientists who advocated different solutions for overpopulation and environmental problems.

Rise and Grind: Outperform, Outwork, and Outhustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life by Daymond John and Daniel Paisner (Currency, $27, 9780804189958) gives business and time management advice.

The Rough Patch: Marriage and the Art of Living Together by Daphne de Marneffe (Scribner, $26.99, 9781501118913) provides tips for long-term relationships.

Llama Llama and Me: My Book of Memories by Anna Dewdney (Grosset & Dunlap, $14.99, 9780448496405) is a book for children and caregivers to fill out together, celebrating all the "firsts" in a child's life.

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi (Philomel Books, $17.99, 9780399546839) is a story narrated by Destiny about a young refugee and his family escaping Syria.

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780544828704) explores the health impacts of childhood abuse and how to heal them.

Paperbacks:
Against All Odds: A Novel by Danielle Steel (Dell, $8.99, 9781101883938).

Two Nights: A Novel by Kathy Reichs (Bantam, $9.99, 9780345544094).

Judgment Road by Christine Feehan (Berkley, $7.99, 9780451488510).

Movie:
Maze Runner: The Death Cure, based on the YA book by James Dashner, opens January 26. This is the third entry in the dystopian Maze Runner series. A movie tie-in edition (Delacorte, $10.99, 9781524714451) is available.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

Hardcover
The Wolves of Winter: A Novel by Tyrell Johnson (Scribner, $26, 9781501155673). "When all the terrible things imaginable--and unimaginable--happen, all that is left is your family, whether blood or those you bond with in the aftermath of devastation. Teenager Lynn McBride remembers the world before--before nuclear war, before the flu, and even before her family moved to the Canadian Yukon--and those memories tease and haunt her while giving us clues to her history. While her family struggles daily for food and warmth, they are together and they watch out for each other, never encountering strangers--until Jax shows up..." --Eileen McGervey, One More Page Books, Arlington, Va.

Green: A Novel by Sam Graham-Felsen (Random House, $27, 9780399591143). "Please read Green. You will fall in love with Graham-Felsen's David from his first utterances on page one of this original, thought-provoking twist on an important subject--race relations. Thank God David has such a great voice and there are so many humorous moments, or else I may have felt extremely sad about his experiences of being such an outsider. A truly memorable moment-in-time novel and a great read." --Sue Roegge, Chapter2Books, Hudson, Wis.

Paperback
Beneath the Mountain: A Novel by Luca D'Andrea (Harper Paperbacks, $16.99, 9780062680174). "This thriller starts off with a shock and then turns in an entirely different direction that will leave you torn between wishing the troubled filmmaker Salinger will drop his obsessive pursuit of a decades-old mystery and praying he doesn't so you can see how the mystery unravels. D'Andrea's characters and their relationships draw you into the story of how Salinger's relentless pursuits affect those around him. This is a cleverly crafted thriller with twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end." --Brent Bunnell, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, S.C.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Pink Hat by Andrew Joyner (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99, 9781524772260). "For your woke little girl, here is the story of a woolly pink hat that makes several stops on its way from the knitting basket to a place in a march for women's rights. It's a cozy, joyful journey, exuberant every step of the way." --Susan Kunhardt, Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif.

For Ages 9 to 12
Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi (Dutton, $17.99, 9781101994795). "I adored this touching, magic-filled Persian fantasy. At times dark and disturbing, it retains the sense of whimsy and tenderness that I found so charming in Furthermore. In her job as a mordeshoor, Laylee is responsible for preparing the dead to cross over into the afterlife, a burden bigger than anyone her age should bear alone. She is a lonely but caring girl and in desperate need of some help and friendship when two strange visitors arrive in Whichwood, changing her life more than she could have imagined." --Kelly O'Sullivan, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn.

For Teen Readers
As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti (Sourcebooks Fire, $17.99, 9781492642312). "To outsiders, Madison may look like an ordinary town in the middle of the Mojave Desert, but it's anything but ordinary, because every Madison-born resident gets to go to the cave and make a wish on their 18th birthday--and that wish will come true. Eldon has seen how those requests for money, beauty, and athletic prowess, among more unique wishes, have rarely brought true happiness. Now he has to decide what to ask for on his own wishing day, knowing that what he wants more than anything--for his sister to recover from the accident that left her dying in a hospital in Las Vegas--is against the rules of wishing. Chelsea Sedoti's layered story hooks readers from the first page." --Carla Ketner, Chapters Books & Gifts, Seward, Neb.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: The Friend

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (Riverhead Books, $25 hardcover, 224p., 9780735219441, February 6, 2018)

Sigrid Nunez (Sempre Susan) has not graced the literary world with a novel in almost a decade--but the wait has surely been worth it. In The Friend, she takes readers on a reflective journey through a labyrinth of grief, loss and loneliness. This meditative, beautifully written novel reads as intimately as a memoir. It is narrated by a sensitive intellectual, an unnamed woman--a writer and teacher--who lives an isolated life in a tiny, barely 500-square-foot, rent-controlled New York City apartment.

The suicide of her mentor--a writer and teacher, one of the narrator's closest and oldest friends--forces her to grapple with the role he played in her life, the meaning of his life and death, as well as her own existence in the world. When she is ultimately asked to take in the deceased's dog--a 180-pound Harlequin Great Dane named Apollo--she is reluctant. The narrator lives alone, without a partner, kids or pets. She works mostly at home. And she prefers cats. However, the affection and devotion her mentor had for Apollo sways her decision. Despite her building not allowing pets, she agrees to take the dog temporarily. His entrance adds a new dimension to the landscape of loss, as he mourns his master in his own way. But, as the narrator says, "You cannot explain death to a dog."

Humans, however, can reckon with death. This is evidenced by the narrator's intriguing stream-of-consciousness monologue that winds through the past and present, offering ruminations about the sacrifices of a truly creative life, while referencing great writers and thinkers like Flaubert, Hemingway, Coetzee et al. The narrator recalls how her friend shaped her life--personally, professionally and artistically; how he helped cultivate her writing as a vocation. She also offers details about his numerous romantic affairs and the three wives with whom he shared his life. The wives each had disparate personalities and complicated relationships with the deceased--as well as with the narrator.

The friend may be physically absent, but his presence is strong as the narrator addresses passages to him directly: "The dead dwell in the conditional tense of the unreal. But there is also the extraordinary sense that you have become omniscient, that nothing we do or think or feel can be kept from you. The extraordinary sense that you are reading these words, that you know what they'll say even before I write them."

The pain of the narrator's bereavement is dealt with through remembering and writing. But the bond she forms with the dog--how they acclimate to each other and a world darkened by an aching void--forges this thought-provoking, philosophical story. Ultimately, The Friend ponders the meanings of loyalty, love, friendship and a buoyant creative spirit. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines.

Shelf Talker: A writer who lives in isolation takes in her deceased mentor's unwanted dog, and the two of them come to grips with death and loss--and each other.


AuthorBuzz: Graydon House: The Summer Cottage by Viola Shipman
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