Shelf Awareness for Thursday, October 18, 2018

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Henry Holt & Company: Mihi Ever After (Mihi Ever After #1) by Tae Keller, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez

Berkley Books: River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

Oxford University Press, USA: The World According to Proust by Joshua Landy

Chronicle Chroma: Bob Willoughby: A Cinematic Life by Bob Willoughby

Charlesbridge Publishing: Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson

Tor Teen: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard


San Francisco Gives $103K in Grants to 11 Bookstores

In a highly unusual move, a U.S. government entity has given grants to help independent bookstores. As detailed by Mission Local, the city of San Francisco this week gave a total of $103,000 in grant money to 11 bookstores. The grants are part of the Bookstore SF Program, which Mission Local described as "a pet project of the late Mayor Ed Lee," which aims to fund bookstore "revitalizations," emphasizing their roles as social hubs.

Joaquin Torres, director of the city's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said, "There's nothing online that can recreate the experience of walking into a bookstore--the art you see on the walls, the performances that take place, the cultural conversations."

In addition to the grant money, the bookstores will receive technical assistance for marketing, human resource consulting, and help negotiating long-term leases.

The recipient stores were Green Apple Books, EastWind Books, Dog Eared Books Valencia, Dog Eared Books Castro, Alley Cat Books and Gallery, Adobe Books and Arts Cooperative, Comix Experience, Bolerium Books, Mission: Comics & Art, Stevens Books and Just a Touch Christian Bookstore.

The Office of Economic and Workforce Development says there are 57 independent bookstores in San Francisco that together generate more than $9.8 million in sales, create and retain more than 100 jobs, host more than 40 free community events each month, and have been in business for an average of 21 years.

As owner of the two Dog Eared Books bookstores and Alley Cat Books and Gallery, Kate Razo received three checks from the city. She told Mission Local that the Dog Eared shop in Valencia has secured a new 10-year lease but she had "many sleepless nights" before a deal was reached. She also had news: Dog Eared Books is opening a small location in a new social-justice-oriented café called Manny's.

Razo expressed delight and surprise about the grant money, saying, "I never thought I'd see the day where the city says, 'Hey, here's a check.' "

Scribe Us: Our Members Be Unlimited: A Comic about Workers and Their Unions by Sam Wallman

B&N's New Board Member Recommended by Schottenfeld

Barnes & Noble has appointed Irwin D. Simon, founder, president, CEO and chairman of the Hain Celestial Group, to its board of directors. Simon, who will serve as an independent board member, was recommended by Richard Schottenfeld, the investor who has increased his stake in B&N to at least 6.9%. He has met with chairman Len Riggio and is advocating changes at the executive and board level, operational improvements and "the desirability of selling the company."

An organic foods and personal care products company, Hain Celestial Group is best known for its Celestial Seasonings herbal tea. It also owns Arrowhead Mills, which sells whole grain foods, and FreeBird chickens.

Simon might also have been recommended by Schottenfeld because of the example he is setting as a company founder and longtime head who is slowly handing over control of the company: Simon announced in June that he would step down as CEO and become non-executive chairman when a new CEO is appointed.

Flyaway Books: The Coat by Séverine Vidal, illustrated by Louis Thomas

Arcadia Goes Hyper Local with Edelweiss+

Arcadia Publishing, which in August launched a partnership program called YourTown with the American Booksellers Association to help booksellers find hyper-local assortments of Arcadia's and the History Press's 14,000 local-interest books, has joined with Above the Treeline to offer a "YourTown Store Match" option on Edelweiss+. Booksellers who select the option will receive a custom assortment recommendation within 24 hours. The feature goes live today.

Above the Treeline founder and CEO John Rubin commented: "We are always focused on providing booksellers with the tools they need to succeed."

ABA CEO Oren Teicher said: "We could not be more pleased to have Edelweiss+ providing booksellers with access to the customized hyper-local assortments available through the YourTown program. This is another important step in helping independent booksellers reinforce their central role in their communities and bring more customers into their stores."

Arcadia CEO David Steinberger said, "We heard from ABA and from individual booksellers how valuable it would be to access their hyper-local title assortment through Edelweiss+. We are looking forward to helping booksellers everywhere find the perfect titles unique to their individual communities."

Steinberger emphasized that the technology behind the "YourTown Store Match" continues to be ever more sophisticated. "We're overlaying more and more data to make it more and more precise, so it's not just a zip code-bases analysis," he said. He pointed to some books that might be easily missed otherwise--a title about Route 66 or about a river.

Steinberger added that the "magic button" on Edelweiss+ aims to make it as easy as possible for busy booksellers to find the titles that fit their market best.

PNBA Holiday Catalog 2022

Susan Moldow, Head of Scribner and Touchstone, to Retire

Susan Moldow

Susan Moldow, president of the Scribner Publishing Group and publisher of Touchstone, is retiring at the end of the year, Simon & Schuster president and CEO Carolyn Reidy announced in an e-mail to S&S staff yesterday. She wrote, in part, that after Moldow informed her of her decision, "while I could only honor her desire with the deepest gratitude and some regret, since then I have had occasion to happily recall the innumerable highlights of a long career in which she has been an inimitable presence within our company and our industry, with accomplishments that have had considerable impact here and on our culture."

She recounted that Moldow entered the publishing world in 1966 as a summer intern at Workman Publishing, and the following year, after her graduation from Smith College, she joined Doubleday, where she worked until 1971. After a period in San Francisco and Boston, she returned to New York and joined Pocket Books, part of S&S, and worked at Washington Square Press before joining Avon Books from 1976 to 1981.

She then held senior editorial management positions at Dell Publishing, Penguin Books, Doubleday again, and HarperCollins. She returned to S&S in 1994, shortly after the Macmillan acquisition. "Her first order of business was to rationalize and reorganize a collection of three disparate adult imprints--Charles Scribner's Sons, Macmillan and Atheneum--and forge them together as one: Scribner, a single powerful brand that at once acknowledged and cherished the distinguished history and tradition of those diverse imprints, while also signaling a new and contemporary focus that would revitalize and move Scribner forward." In 2012, she became president of the larger Scribner Publishing Group, taking on overall responsibility for both Scribner and Touchstone, and since 2013 she has also been Touchstone's publisher.

Among authors she has published are Barbara, Laura and George H.W. Bush, Anthony Doerr, Angela Duckworth, Janet Evanovich, Philippa Gregory, S.C. Gwynne, J.A. Jance, Charles Johnson, Stephen King, Chuck Klosterman, Phil Knight, Rachel Kushner, John le Carré, Frank McCourt, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Reynolds Price, Annie Proulx, Kathy Reichs, Geneen Roth, Lisa See, Andrew Solomon, Colm Tóibín, Jeannette Walls, John Edgar Wideman and Reese Witherspoon.

Reidy added: "To talk with Susan, whether one-on-one or in a meeting when she is giving one of her trademark, carefully composed and enthusiastically delivered presentations, is always an adventure. No matter the subject, or the book involved, she is always ready with an arch remark or self-deprecating quip, demonstrating her encyclopedic knowledge of the publishing marketplace and her love for what we do.  And let's not forget that Susan, who never used a computer, played a major role in launching the digital revolution as the publisher of Stephen King's Riding the Bullet, the first-ever major e-book success. While she was a demon e-mailer with her classic-model Blackberry, which she insisted on using well beyond its date of obsolescence, and has never met a piece of paper she didn't annotate and keep in the world's most curious filing system, she also led Simon & Schuster in finding ever-new, cutting-edge digital marketing techniques to highlight Stephen King's publications."

Book Warehouse Opens in Oshkosh, Wis.

Last Friday, Book Warehouse opened its third store in Wisconsin, in Oshkosh, the Oshkosh Northwestern reported. The 3,6000-square-foot store is at the Outlet Shoppes and stocks a range of books, puzzles and audiobooks.

Manager Seth Michels said, "I think, as a bookseller, I've always been impressed at how books shape young people's lives, and I think we can be that source in Oshkosh beyond the public library."

In September, Book Warehouse opened a store at the Pleasant Prairie outlet mall in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. The company, with headquarters in Tennessee, has discount stores across the country.

PEN America Suing Trump Over First Amendment Violations

PEN America filed suit Tuesday against Donald Trump, asserting that he has violated the First Amendment by "using the powers of the federal government to retaliate against journalists and media outlets he finds objectionable."

The complaint, which PEN America filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks to have the court not only declare that Trump's retaliations violated the First Amendment, but also prohibit the president from ordering any employee or government agency to take any action against the press "in retaliation for coverage the President views as hostile."

In its complaint, PEN America points to several incidents that it believes were meant to pressure and intimidate journalists, reporters and other members of the press, as well as the media companies for which they worked.

Among those incidents: the Department of Justice's antitrust enforcement against the merger of Time Warner, CNN's parent company, and AT&T, after the president made "credible threats" to retaliate against CNN over negative coverage; Trump's executive order to the Postal Service that led to USPS announcing proposed rate increases for the parcel service used by Amazon, in response to negative coverage of Trump that appeared in the Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; Trump's various threats to revoke White House press credentials as well as the removal of a White House correspondent from a press event; and threats to revoke broadcast licenses of certain television stations.

"We have grown sadly accustomed to near daily attacks by President Trump on the media, but when his speech crosses the line into retaliatory actions or credible threats of reprisal against critics, the President's actions are not only egregious, but also unconstitutional," said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. "At a time when hostility toward the press has fostered a climate of threats and even violence, it is essential for courts to step in and affirm the role of the first Amendment and free press in our democracy."

Novelist and PEN America president Jennifer Egan said: "PEN America has long risen to the defense of writers around the world who face peril for expressing themselves. With journalism under unprecedented attack from the White House, we feel compelled to fight back."

PEN America is being represented in this case by the nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy as well as the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic. More information about the case can be found here, and the complaint can be read in full here.


Image of the Day: The Beautiful Bad Pre-Pub Dinner

Park Row/HarperCollins sales rep Cathy Schornstein invited booksellers to a pre-pub dinner at the Kitchen in Chicago for Annie Ward's upcoming thriller, The Beautiful Bad (March 19, 2019). Pictured: (l.-r.) Erika VanDam, owner of Roscoebooks; Suzy Takacs, owner of the Book Cellar; Maxwell Gregory, manager at Lake Forest Bookstore; and Annie Ward.

Retirement Party Set for Sonny the Bookstore Cat

Prairie Fox Books in Ottawa, Ill., is hosting a retirement party this Saturday for Sonny, the bookstore cat who is stepping down from his job greeting customers to move in with a familiar family, the Times reported. Prairie Fox Books opened in 2016 as the spiritual successor to longtime local business the Book Mouse.

Special events coordinator Dylan Conmy said Sonny doesn't know life outside of a bookstore, having come to the Book Mouse as a kitten in the summer of 2008. Now he will join a family with two children at the recommendation of Eileen Fesco, who owned the Book Mouse.

"They have been contacting us frequently. They can't wait to get him. I think he's going to be very happy and spoiled," said Conmy, who has been Sonny's bookshop colleague since moving to Ottawa in 2012. "I have very fond memories of him and Ernie, the chinchilla. It was the one super unique thing when I started working at the Book Mouse, because you don't often see a chinchilla walking around either. So to have this very uniquely colored cat co-existing with the chinchilla, just chilling, it was great. You don't see many Barnes & Nobles with a fuzzy mascot."

Personnel Changes at the University of Washington Press

At the University of Washington Press:

Effective October 22, M'Bilia Meekers is joining the press as publicity manager. She formerly was publicist and copywriter at LSU Press. A published poet, she has also been an editorial fellow at Poets & Writers Magazine.

Julie Fergus is joining the press as exhibits and direct marketing manager. She was formerly an associate marketing manager at Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, and earlier worked in marketing at Oxford University Press.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Susan Orlean on PBS Newshour

NPR's Here & Now: Sally Field, author of In Pieces (Grand Central, $29, 9781538763025).

Wendy Williams: Busy Philipps, author of This Will Only Hurt a Little (Touchstone, $26.99, 9781501184710).

PBS Newshour: Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476740188).

TV: Tales of the City

"For the first time in her onscreen life, Anna Madrigal will be played by a trans woman," Indiewire noted in reporting that Emmy-nominated Her Story creator Jen Richards has been cast as a young Anna in Netflix's Tales of the City revival, based on the books by Armistad Maupin. Daniela Vega (A Fantastic Woman) will play her friend, Ysela. Reprising their roles from the original miniseries, which began airing on PBS in 1994, are Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton and Olympia Dukakis as an older Anna. Ellen Page is playing Linney's daughter.

In addition to Vega and Richards, Netflix announced 15 new cast members, including Caldwell Tidicue (Bob the Drag Queen), Michelle Buteau, and Looking stars Murray Bartlett and Matthew Risch. Paul Gross reprises his role as Brian Hawkins, Mary Ann's ex-husband. Production on the 10-episode limited series is expected to start later this year with a 2019 release date planned.

This Weekend on Book TV: The Milford Readers and Writers Festival

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, October 20
2 p.m. Susan Faludi, author of In the Darkroom (Picador, $20, 9781250132697), at the third annual Milford Readers and Writers Festival in Milford, Pa.

3:07 p.m. Jane Friedman, former CEO of HarperCollins and co-founder of Open Road, Brooke Warner, publisher of She Writes Press, and self-published author Julie Barton discuss the future of the publishing industry at the Milford Readers and Writers Festival.

4:22 p.m. Frances FitzGerald, author of Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (Back Bay Books, $19, 9780316159197), and Phil Klay, author of Redeployment (Penguin Books, $16, 9780143126829), at the Milford Readers and Writers Festival.

5:32 p.m. Alan Alda, author of If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating (Random House, $17, 9780812989151), at the Milford Readers and Writers Festival.

7:30 p.m. Lisa McCubbin, author of Betty Ford: First Lady, Women's Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer (Gallery, $28, 9781501164682). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 a.m.)

8:40 p.m. Juan Williams, author of What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?: Trump's War on Civil Rights (PublicAffairs, $27, 9781541788268).

10 p.m. Beth Macy, author of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316551243). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Matthew Horace and Ron Harris, authors of The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America's Law Enforcement (Hachette Books, $27, 9780316440080).

Sunday, October 21
12:30 a.m. John J. Mearsheimer, author of The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (Yale University Press, $30, 9780300234190). (Re-airs Sunday at 5:30 p.m.)

2:18 p.m. New Yorker cartoonists Chris Weyant, Marisa Marchetto, Bob Eckstein and David Bo discuss their work at the Milford Readers and Writers Festival.

3:35 p.m. Sherry Amatenstein, author of How Does That Make You Feel?: True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch (Seal Press, $11.99, 9781580056243), at the Milford Readers and Writers Festival.

6:10 p.m. Mary Robinson, author of Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future (Bloomsbury, $26, 9781632869289).

7:30 p.m. David A. Kaplan, author of The Most Dangerous Branch: Inside the Supreme Court's Assault on the Constitution (Crown, $30, 9781524759902).

10 p.m. Nick Bunker, author of Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity (Knopf, $30, 9781101874417).

11 p.m. Deborah Blum, author of The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Penguin Press, $28, 9781594205149), at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.

Books & Authors

Awards: Warwick Prize for Women in Translation

A 15-title longlist has been unveiled for the £1,000 (about $1,310) Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, which was established by the University of Warwick in 2017 to "address the gender imbalance in translated literature and to increase the number of international women's voices accessible by a British and Irish readership." A shortlist will be announced in early November, and the winner named November 13. This year's longlisted titles are:

Bang by Dorrit Willumsen, translated from Danish by Marina Allemano
Belladonna by Daša Drndić, translated from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft
Go Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from German by Susan Bernofksy
Hair Everywhere by Tea Tulić, translated from Croatian by Coral Petkovich
Land of Smoke by Sara Gallardo, translated from Spanish by Jessica Sequeira
Letti Park by Judith Hermann, translated from German by Margot Bettauer Dembo
Maybe Esther by Katja Petrowskaja, translated from German by Shelley Frisch
1947 by Elisabeth Åsbrink, translated from Swedish by Fiona Graham
Of Dogs and Walls by Yuko Tsushima, translated from Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt
River by Esther Kinsky, translated from German by Iain Galbraith
The Emperor of Portugallia by Selma Lagerlöf, translated from Swedish by Peter Graves
The House with the Stained-Glass Window by Żanna Słoniowska, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
The White Book by Han Kang, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith
Vernon Subutex One by Virginie Despentes, translated from French by Frank Wynne

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, October 23:

The Reckoning: A Novel by John Grisham (Doubleday, $29.95, 9780385544153) follows a murder case in 1946 Mississippi.

The Fox by Frederick Forsyth (Putnam, $28, 9780525538424) is a thriller about a teenager with master hacking skills.

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, $27, 9780316262378) takes place 30 years from now on a Moon dominated by Chinese colonists.

Thanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite: My Story by Roger Daltrey (Holt, $30, 9781250296030) is a memoir by the lead singer of the Who.

Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me by Charlamagne Tha God (Touchstone, $26, 9781501193255) looks at a lifetime of anxiety and paranoia.

Trump, the Blue-Collar President by Anthony Scaramucci (Center Street, $27, 9781546075929) is written by the man who lasted 11 days as White House communications director.

Let It Bang: A Young Black Man's Reluctant Odyssey into Guns by RJ Young (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9781328826336) is the memoir of a man who learned to use firearms.

Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History by Michael Witwer and Kyle Newman (Ten Speed Press, $50, 9780399580949) is an illustrated history of a landmark role-playing game.

Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook by Dorie Greenspan (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35, 9780544826984) shares recipes from a food writer.

The Whole30 Slow Cooker: 150 Totally Compliant Prep-and-Go Recipes for Your Whole30--with Instant Pot Recipes by Melissa Hartwig (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9781328531049) gives crock pot recipes.

I'm an Immigrant Too! by Mem Fox, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh (Beach Lane Books, $17.99, 9781534436022), is a picture book about how cultural diversity enriches all lives.

Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Geneva B (Random House, $16.99, 9781524770457), features Jax, a child working to return a clutch of baby dragons to their magical world.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Mariner, $14.99, 9781328911247) is a debut short story collection.

Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles: An Alphabettery by Becket and Anne Rice (Anchor, $20, 9780525434726) is an encyclopedia of information from the Vampire Chronicles series.

InstaStyle: Curate Your Life, Create Stunning Photos, and Elevate Your Instagram Influence by Tessa Barton (Alpha, $19.99, 9781465476685).

Hunter Killer, based on the book Firing Point by George Wallace and Don Keith, opens October 26. Gerard Butler stars as an American submarine captain chasing a Russian sub.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle: A Novel by Stuart Turton (Sourcebooks Landmark, $25.99, 9781492657965). "I didn't know how badly I needed to escape my own life and sink into someone else's, or, in this case, many lives. Multiple perspectives give this book a mind-blowing mash-up feeling of Clue and the best Agatha Christie. There's a certain delicious joy to being confused and then ignoring the rest of the world while you read, desperate to discover the answers. Sure, it's the basic premise of a mystery, but for some readers it's a forgotten joy in need of reviving. Fun, inventive, and thoroughly entertaining, perhaps 'leave your own reality' reading is the new binge-watching." --Beth Reynolds, Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, Vt.

Hardcover: An Indies Introduce Title
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung (Catapult, $26, 9781936787975). "Nicole Chung's memoir is a moving account of a young woman's gradually evolving understanding of family and of herself as she uncovers the truth about the circumstances behind her adoption. Refusing the false dichotomy of adoption as inherently positive or negative, she reminds us that adoption is a fact and that it's always complicated. This is an extraordinary account, told with candor and empathy. Though the transracial adoption of Asian Americans into white families and communities is common, few books have been written from the perspective of the adoptee. Chung has much to teach us, and readers approaching this book with a heart as open as hers will find much to nourish them here." --Karen Maeda Allman, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.

This Could Hurt: A Novel by Jillian Medoff (Harper, $16.99, 9780062660770). "Who knew that a novel about a faltering company's HR department could be so gripping and compassionate? Anyone who has worked in a company with other people will appreciate the resentments, friendships, and competitions that develop in a long-time team. Medoff does a great job of making the reader care about each and every character." --Susan Taylor, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

For Ages 4 to 8
King Alice by Matthew Cordell (Feiwel & Friends, $17.99, 9781250047496). "Idea: get this book for every child in your life who rightly, knightly deserves their own kingdom and the freedom to create their own perfect day and fantastic story." --Joanna Parzakonis, Bookbug, Kalamazoo, Mich.

For Ages 9 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (Scholastic, $16.99, 9781338209969). "Twelve-year-old Marinka is not like most girls. She has a pet jackdaw, a foundling lamb, a yaga for a grandmother, and a house that routinely walks, runs, or canters to an entirely new location without consulting its occupants. What Marinka THINKS she wants most is to just be a normal girl with normal friends and the chance to determine her own future. What Marinka REALLY wants is indeed something very, very different. A bit of folk tale, a dose of adventure, and a lot of quirky humor tossed in, The House With Chicken Legs takes readers on a ride they will not soon forget." --Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, N.C.

For Teen Readers
Mirage by Somaiya Daud (Flatiron Books, $18.99, 9781250126429). "Amani is stolen from her home on the moon of Cadiz and forced to serve as the princess's double for the heartless Vathek, usurpers of her people. With her life at stake, Amani must now learn how to think and act like her enemies while trying to keep true to her own people's outlawed customs and beliefs--and to herself. Whereas some young women might become depressed and lose hope in the face of such a loss of control, Amani boldly embraces her new circumstances with a rare surety; she waits, and she plans. The narration is poetic, the worldbuilding beautifully crafted. This Moroccan-influenced fusion of fantasy and science fiction is a positively stunning debut novel." --Leah Atlee, Changing Hands, Tempe, Ariz.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Those Who Knew

Those Who Knew by Idra Novey (Viking, $26 hardcover, 256p., 9780525560432, November 6, 2018)

Lucky readers have not had to wait long for Idra Novey to follow up her playful and vulnerable Ways to Disappear with a novel equally tight and captivating. Those Who Knew, like its predecessor, clocks in well under 300 pages, and goes to show that Novey wields considerable strength in crafting high-suspense complexity in lean, literary prose.
Shortly after Maria P., a student activist, was killed by an oncoming bus, Lena, a college instructor in an unnamed country, discovers the woman's black sweater in her tote. She hands it off, but minutes later "it was back, bunched up again inside her bag." This obstinate garment isn't the only thing Lena has in common with Maria P.; both held the affections of Victor, a force of the nation's progressive politics.
"The young senator, with his ardent eloquence and intense gaze, has become a darling of the age group least likely to vote... [leading] to predictions of an easy bid for reelection." He is also a man whose ambitions have repeatedly and substantially taxed the women around him. With the sweater as her mantle, Lena sets herself on a collision course with a history she might have preferred to remain buried.
The skeleton is familiar enough: an influential man transgresses against a woman--or several--but must remain untouched because his downfall would be too costly for everyone. It rattles through the contemporary moment as insidiously as in the early '90s, when Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment and Joyce Carol Oates published Black Water, which echoes a 1969 scandal about a woman who died in a powerful senator's car.
But rather than run cold with didacticism, Novey exercises her considerable talents in crafting lush, riveting threads, which she braids into a spectacular crime novel. As Lena grapples with her past and attempts to uncover what really happened to Maria P., competing narratives crowd together over the ensuing years, each offering a fresh take on the events in question. Victor's brother, Freddy, a playwright, mines his family life for material and brings these veiled truths to life on the stage. And as the knots in these threads tighten, it becomes apparent that what seems like an isolated incident is usually anything but.
There may be an impulse to pin this story to a modern moment, a prominent movement of reckoning for men of intimidating and violent machinations. Those Who Knew, however, serves to remind readers that those who have known know now, as they did then and before then. Although the plight is timeworn, Novey renders it with fresh vigor and keen insight. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness
Shelf Talker: In Idra Novey's compelling second novel, a woman scrutinizes the death of a student activist and their similar experiences with a prominent senator.

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