Also published on this date: Thursday, February 28, 2019: Dedicated Issue: Odd Dot

Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 28, 2019

William Morrow & Company: The Midnight Feast by Lucy Foley

Shadow Mountain: The Witch in the Woods: Volume 1 (Grimmworld) by Michaelbrent Collings

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Indiana University Press: The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist's Guide to Putting Your Characters in Peril by Miffie Seideman

St. Martin's Press: Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder by Kerryn Mayne


Man Booker Prize Has New Sponsor

Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman

The Man Booker Prize has a new sponsor: Crankstart, the charitable foundation of Sir Michael Moritz and his wife, Harriet Heyman. Effective June 1, Crankstart will replace the Man Group, which has supported the prize for 18 years and announced early this year that it would no longer sponsor the prize, the most prestigious book prize in the English-speaking world.

Happily the prize will not be known as the Crankstart Booker but will revert to its original name: the main prize will be called the Booker Prize and the prize for literature in translation will become the International Booker Prize. Crankstart will be the exclusive sponsor for five years, with an option to renew for another five years.

Helena Kennedy, chair of the Booker trustees, commented: "We are thrilled that the Booker Prizes have found such marvellous philanthropic supporters in Crankstart, whose founders share our vision and values. With its support, we look forward to developing initiatives for the Booker to reach new audiences of every generation and background around the world."

Moritz is a British-born venture capitalist and a longtime partner at Sequoia Capital; he lives in San Francisco and is the author of The Little Kingdom: The Private Story of Apple Computer (which also appeared in a revised, updated version as Return to the Little Kingdom: How Apple and Steve Jobs Changed the World) and co-author of Going for Broke: Lee Iacocca's Battle to Save Chrysler and Leading. He is also a former staff writer at Time.

Heyman is a former journalist with the New York Times and Life and is the author of Private Acts: The Acrobat Sublime and the novel Between Two Rains.

The couple founded Crankstart in 2000 to support "the forgotten, the dispossessed, the unfortunate, the oppressed and causes where some help makes all the difference." It has provided scholarships for students from low-income families at a variety of schools, as well as gifts to the ACLU, to programs for the homeless in the Bay Area and to arts and journalistic organizations.

In the official announcement, Moritz said, "Neither of us can imagine a day where we don't spend time reading a book. The Booker Prizes are ways of spreading the word about the insights, discoveries, pleasures and joy that spring from great fiction.

"These days I'm a global traveller but, just like the Booker, I was born in Britain and before coming to America was reared on English literature. Harriet and I feel fortunate to be able to support prizes that together celebrate the best fiction in the world."

Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland

For Sale: House of Books in Kent, Conn.

House of Books in Kent, Conn., has been put up for sale by owner Robin J. Dill. Announcing the decision on Facebook, Dill wrote: "There's always a moment to begin a new story. There are no words that can properly convey to those of you--and you know who you are--who support the House of Books and have rallied for me these past seven years. If you have the dream of owning an independent bookstore, please contact me. Neil Gaiman said, 'A town is not a town without a bookstore,' and Kent wouldn't be Kent without the House of Books. It has been Kent's Literary Landmark for 43 years and my hope is that it will continue to be.

"It has been such a great honor and an enormous privilege to own such a place of solace, curiosity, inspiration, and escape, and to recommend books to our dear readers. I hope you will continue your support of HOB in 2019."

Chronicle Books: Life Wants You Dead: A Calm, Rational, and Totally Legit Guide to Scaring Yourself Safe by Evan Waite, Illustrated by Paula Searing

Penguin Classics Launching Pop-Up Bookshop in London

Penguin Classics will launch Happy Reading, its first pop-up bookshop, in the Shoreditch district of London next month with a series of events and workshops, the Bookseller reported. The shop will be open March 24-31 "to celebrate reading for pleasure and the special books that impact our lives," according to the publisher, which added that the initiative is designed to showcase the range and diversity of world literature by featuring a single copy of each of the 1,257 books in the Penguin Classics list.

"We're thrilled to be opening up a space to bring the world of Penguin Classics to life," said Sam Voulters, brand director for Penguin Classics. "Working with amazing partners from Refinery29 to the National Literacy Trust, we want to break Classics out of the classroom and celebrate these books that have created culture, changed lives and thrilled and entertained readers through the years."

NLT director Jonathan Douglas added: "We know that children and young people who enjoy reading do better at school, at work and in life. Books give children the words, ideas and knowledge they need to flourish, which is why we are so thrilled to be working with Penguin Classics to introduce these books to a new generation of readers. Filled with characters, experiences, emotions and perspectives that are still relevant today, the classics provide something to inspire every young person to fall in love with reading for a lifetime."

In 2016, Penguin Random House Canada opened Penguin Shop, a 158-square-foot bookstore, in the lobby of its building in Toronto.

GLOW: Tundra Books: We Are Definitely Human by X. Fang

ABA Promotes Jarrard and O'Brien

The American Booksellers Association announced several personnel changes yesterday:

Sydney Jarrard is being promoted to the newly created position of content director. While continuing to oversee production of Bookselling This Week, she will now also supervise and manage all content creation for and ABA social media, as well as overall member communications, with the goal of ensuring that the ABA "maintains consistency in voice and messaging across all channels."

Daniel O'Brien is being promoted to senior membership manager. He will supervise all facets of the membership department, with a renewed focus on the association's membership database, while maintaining some of his existing member relationship manager responsibilities.

In addition, management of the ABA's affinity partnerships will be handled by CFO Robyn DesHotel, with the exception of AddLibra, which will be managed by director of technology Greg Galloway.

Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman

Co-Editors Named at NYRB

Emily Greenhouse and Gabriel Winslow-Yost

Emily Greenhouse and Gabriel Winslow-Yost have been named co-editors of the New York Review of Books, which has been without a top editor since the sudden departure of Ian Buruma last September "amid an uproar over the publication and ensuing defense of an essay about the #MeToo movement," the New York Times reported. In making the announcement, NYRB publisher Rea Hederman also said that longtime contributor Daniel Mendelsohn will assume the newly created role of editor at large.

Greenhouse, who was most recently managing editor of the New Yorker, worked at the Review in 2011 and 2012 as an editorial assistant to Robert Silvers, who co-founded the publication in 1963 with Barbara Epstein and died in 2017. Winslow-Yost began working at the Review, also as an editorial assistant to Silvers, in 2009, rising to the position of senior editor.

Greenhouse and Winslow-Yost told the Times they believe that their longtime friendship, and most importantly the time they spent working together for Silvers, will help them share power.

Obituary Note: Audrey Whaley

Canadian bookseller Audrey Whaley, "described variously over the decades as the heart, head and soul" of Audreys Books in Edmonton, Alberta, died January 25, the Edmonton Journal reported. She was 94. For many years, Whaley "was a cultural ambassador of sorts, working at both Hurtig and Julian Books--Audreys' earlier incarnations--eventually co-founding the bookshop we know now with her husband Ewart when they bought the store in 1975." Audreys Books won the 1981 Roy Britnell Award for Canadian Bookseller of the Year.

Sharon Budnarchuk, co-owner of the bookshop with her husband, Steve, since 1988, was a book sales rep when she first encountered Whaley. "We'd have autograph sessions. Bobby Orr's lineup went all the way down street," Budnarchuk recalled. "Audrey was always typically gracious, wonderful, smiling. People loved to work with her. She was kind and gregarious and funny, always asked about your family."

Whaley also read across a wide spectrum: "Lots of people in this industry don't read," Budnarchuk said. "It wasn't just the Atwoods. She'd read a Danielle Steel, a Patterson--which made her a really good salesperson on the floor. Because one of the most important things is, you embrace whatever anybody reads. You don't look down on people. She was the heart of the store."

Steve Budnarchuk agreed: "The thing I recognize about Audrey is her long shadow. The fact that so many years later there are still people coming into the store with their kids who say their moms or dads brought them in and Audrey helped choose books for them, had little reading programs for them years ago. And they still remember."

He added that the "other thing I thought significant was that the Audreys name was so important." The Budnarchuks never seriously considered changing the name when they bought the shop, "and that was in part [because of] Audrey's good work."


Image of the Day: Don Winslow at Poisoned Pen

On Monday before an overflow crowd at the Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, Ariz., Don Winslow appeared for the launch of his novel The Border (Morrow), the conclusion of the Cartel trilogy, and was interviewed by Arizona Republic investigative reporter Robert Anglen. Winslow has devoted a third of his life to writing the trilogy, an epic focused on America's losing war on drugs.

Sisters Uptown Bookstore: 'My Inspiration Comes from Children'

"I grew up feeling invisible because I never saw me in a book," Janifer P. Wilson, owner of Sisters Uptown Bookstore, told amNewYork, which showcased the 19-year-old independent bookstore in Harlem where "jazz plays in the background, and three walls of bookshelves are stocked with titles organized by categories ranging from 'Black is Beautiful' to contemporary bestsellers."

Wilson, who considers Sisters Uptown "a general interest shop with a focus on black and independent authors, is 'always adding and enhancing' her business," amNY wrote. "She'll ask newcomers to the community what they want to see, and will put those titles in their hands within three or four days. Young people who grew up with the store have also looked to her for business advice for an array for startups and ventures."

When she began her bookselling quest nearly two decades ago, Wilson said, "Living in this community at that time was very, very difficult. It was a very dark place. There was a lot of drug addiction, drug sales and poverty. People were having a really hard time trying to exist. I wanted to stay in this community, raise my family and make a difference..... That was my challenge. I wanted to present, preserve and house books written to, from and by African Americans. I started that quest to bring literature to my community, so that folk could embrace their own culture and heal."

The youngest generation inspires her to keep her store running. Wilson "stocks gently-used books for children (who often think the shop is a library, she said) to read in the store. When she notices a child repeatedly reading the same book, she'll gift it to them," amNY noted.

"My inspiration comes from children," Wilson said. "If they see and learn to love reading, rather than seeing it as a chore, it can change the direction of their lives."

Frankfurt Book Fair New York Picks The Pianist from Syria

As its February Book of the Month, Frankfurt Book Fair New York has selected The Pianist from Syria: A Memoir by Aeham Ahmad, as told to Sandra Hetzl and Ariel Hauptmeier, translated by Emanuel Bergmann (Atria, $25, 9781501173493).

Frankfurt Book Fair New York said that this "astonishing but true account of a pianist's escape from war-torn Syria to Germany offers a deeply personal perspective on the most devastating refugee crisis of this century.

"Aeham Ahmad was born a second-generation refugee--the son of a blind violinist and carpenter who recognized Aeham's talent and taught him how to play piano and love music from an early age.

"When his grandparents and father were forced to flee Israel and seek refuge from the Israeli–Palestinian conflict ravaging their home, Aeham's family built a life in Yarmouk, an unofficial camp to more than 160,000 Palestinian refugees in Damascus. They raised a new generation in Syria while waiting for the conflict to be resolved so they could return to their homeland. Instead, another fight overtook their asylum. Their only haven was in music and in each other.

"Forced to leave his family behind, Aeham sought out a safe place for them to call home and build a better life, taking solace in the indestructible bond between fathers and sons to keep moving forward. Heart-wrenching yet ultimately full of hope, and told in a raw and poignant voice, The Pianist from Syria is a gripping portrait of one man's search for a peaceful life for his family and of a country being torn apart as the world watches in horror."

Ahmad fled to Germany in 2015 and now lives with his family in Wiesbaden and gives concerts all over Europe. In December 2015, Ahmad was awarded the International Beethoven Prize for Human Rights.

Emanuel Bergmann was born in Germany and is a journalist and translator. He has lived in Los Angeles since 1990. His first novel, The Trick, was an international bestseller.

Personnel Changes at Highlights

Effective March 11, Jonathan T. Ackerman is joining Highlights as sales director for its book publishing business within the Highlights Retail group. He was most recently senior v-p of sales and national accounts director at Baker & Taylor Publisher Services/Bookmasters. He earlier held senior sales positions at F&W Media, Candlewick Press, Klutz, and Simon & Schuster.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Andrew McCabe on CBS This Morning

CBS This Morning: Andrew G. McCabe, author of The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump (St. Martin's Press, $29.99, 9781250207579).

Movies: Ferrante Fever

The official trailer has been released for Ferrante Fever, a documentary film that explores the international success of pseudonymous Italian author Elena Ferrante, whose bestselling Neapolitan Quartet novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child) have sold more than 10 million copies in more than 50 countries.

Directed by Giacomo Durzi, Ferrante Fever opens March 8 in New York City, and will expand to other cities beginning later in the month.

"A journey between New York City's cultural hub and Ferrante's native Italy, the film explores how an anonymous author's visceral tales of love and friendship gained such an enthusiastic following," according to the filmmakers. "Hillary Clinton, Roberto Saviano, Jonathan Franzen and others weigh-in on the Ferrante 'craze' and what makes her work--and her mysterious persona--so uniquely captivating."

This Weekend on Book TV: The Tucson Festival of Books

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, March 2
11 a.m. Andrew G. McCabe, author of The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump (St. Martin's Press, $29.99, 9781250207579). (Re-airs Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m.)

12 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Live coverage of the 11th annual Tucson Festival of Books in Tucson, Ariz. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.) Highlights include:

  • 12 p.m. A panel on criminal justice with Shane Bauer, author of American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment, Lara Bazelon, author of Rectify: The Power of Restorative Justice After Wrongful Conviction, Albert Woodfox, author of Solitary, and Margaret Regan, author of Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire.
  • 1 p.m. Open phones with Shane Bauer.
  • 1:30 p.m. A panel on military history with Hampton Sides, author of On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War's Greatest Battle, Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic, authors of Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man, and Bruce Dinges, editor of A Just and Righteous Cause: Benjamin H. Grierson's Civil War Memoir.
  • 2:30 p.m. Open phones with Lynn Vincent.
  • 3 p.m. A panel on the U.S.-Mexico border with Francisco Cantú, author of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, Greg Grandin, author of The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, and Scott Whiteford, author of The Shadow of the Wall: Violence and Migration on the U.S.-Mexico Border.
  • 4 p.m. Open phones with Greg Grandin.
  • 4:30 p.m. A panel on Donald Trump with Greg Miller, author of The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy, Rick Wilson, author of Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever, and David Corn, co-author of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.
  • 5:30 p.m. Open phones with Rick Wilson.
  • 6 p.m. A panel on American history with H.W. Brands, author of Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants, Stephen Fried, author of Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father, and Greg Grandin, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America.
  • 7 p.m. Open phones with H.W. Brands.

9 p.m. Robert Tsai, author of Practical Equality: Forging Justice in a Divided Nation (Norton, $27.95, 9780393652024), at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.

Sunday, March 3
12 p.m. Live In-Depth q&a with Heather Mac Donald, author of The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture (St. Martin's Press, $28.99, 9781250200914). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m.)

3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Continuing coverage of the Tucson Festival of Books. (Re-airs Monday at 4 a.m.) Highlights include:

  • 3 p.m. A panel on journalism with David E. McCraw, author of Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts, Nina Burleigh, author of Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump's Women, and Rick Wilson.
  • 4 p.m. Open phones with Nina Burleigh.
  • 4:30 p.m. A panel on aviation with Dan Hampton, author of Chasing the Demon: A Secret History of the Quest for the Sound Barrier, and the Band of American Aces Who Conquered It, Sam Kleiner, author of The Flying Tigers: The Untold Story of the American Pilots Who Waged a Secret War Against Japan, Robert Kurson, author of Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon, and Karen Piper, author of A Girl's Guide to Missiles: Growing Up in America's Secret Desert.
  • 5:30 p.m. Open phones with Karen Piper.
  • 6 p.m. A panel on gun violence with Dave Cullen, author of Parkland: Birth of a Movement, and Jennifer Carlson, author of Citizen-Protectors: The Everyday Politics of Guns in an Age of Decline.
  • 7 p.m. Open phones with Dave Cullen.

10 p.m. Gloria Steinem, author of Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions: Third Edition (Picador, $20, 9781250204868).

Books & Authors

Awards: Irma Black Finalists

The shortlist for the Irma Black Award, honoring a book for young children "in which text and illustrations are inseparable, each enhancing and enlarging on the other to produce a singular whole," are:

Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins (Atheneum)
We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (Disney/Hyperion)
Sun! One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty, illus. by Stevie Lewis (Holt)
The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee (Dial)

The winner will be announced on April 19.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new title appearing next Tuesday, March 5:

The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See (Scribner, $27, 9781501154850) follows two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju.

Silent Night: A Novel by Danielle Steel (Delacorte, $28.99, 9780399179389) is about a traumatized child actress raised by her aunt.

Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope by Karamo Brown (Gallery, $27, 9781982111977) is a memoir by a cast member of Netflix's Queer Eye.

Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing that Changed the Course of Civil Rights by Senator Doug Jones (All Points Books, $29.99, 9781250201447) explores the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and the delayed prosecutions of its perpetrators.

Love and Resistance: Out of the Closet into the Stonewall Era edited by Jason Baumann (Norton, $24.95, 9781324002062) collects photographs from 1960s and '70s gay rights protests.

So Here's the Thing...: Notes on Growing Up, Getting Older, and Trusting Your Gut by Alyssa Mastromonaco and Lauren Oyler (Twelve, $27, 9781538731550) discusses women's issues.

Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine, $27, 9781524798628) tracks the rise of a 1970s rock group.

Beautiful Bad: A Novel by Annie Ward (Park Row, $26.99, 9780778369103) is a psychological thriller about a married couple.

Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez (Atheneum, $17.99, 9781534404458) is a debut novel told from three points of view about being Latinx in the U.S.

Circle by Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen (Candlewick, $15.99, 9780763696085) is the third and final picture book in the "shapes" trilogy.

The Woman in the Window: A Novel by A.J. Finn (Morrow, $16.99, 9780062678423).

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 Girls at 17 Swann Street: A Novel by Yara Zgheib (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250202444). "Through first-person narration, Yara Zgheib does a masterful job of presenting Anna, a young woman who has gradually spiraled into anorexia. So vivid are Anna's guilt and physical revulsion toward food that I was absolutely shaken. The other characters are equally well-developed. Anna's husband, Mathias, is loving and supportive but not immune to feelings of fear, frustration, and anger. Insights into the other residents and staff at 17 Swann Street provide a compelling context within which we experience Anna's excruciating struggle toward recovery. This is a very readable yet sobering reminder that eating disorders remain a serious problem in our image-conscious society and that anyone is potentially vulnerable." --Samantha Flynn, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C.

The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict (Sourcebooks Landmark, $25.99, 9781492666868). "The Only Woman in the Room is the story of a woman who recreated herself several times over the course of her lifetime, as an actress who was a constant disappointment to her mother, a wife who learned state secrets about the Nazis, a refugee who convinced a movie mogul to cast her in his films, and a genius who developed a system to track German torpedoes but was turned away by the U.S. military because they believed she was too beautiful to be smart. The story of Hedy Lamarr is so much more than that of a Hollywood actress and war refugee. The fictional account Marie Benedict has woven is insightful, moving, and impossible to put down!" --Kristin Pidgeon, Riverstone Books, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Every Note Played: A Novel by Lisa Genova (Gallery/Scout Press, $16, 9781476717814). "In a tightly composed piece of writing, novelist Lisa Genova carries the reader through the grim melody and turbulent sequencing of ALS while expertly relaying the gradual impact of the disease on the lives of patients and caregivers. With medical details balanced against the raw manifestation of the human experience, Every Note Played explores the cruel effects of loss and the profound effects of compassion and forgiveness. Richard and Karina are voluntarily alone, yet uncomfortably united by a sense of need and duty. Genova holds nothing back, producing a story that resonates with meaning and builds to a keen point of understanding." --Joan Gallagher, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham, Mass.

For Ages 4 to 8
When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland (Random House, $17.99, 9780525707189). "An important book that should be shared with children and adults of all ages. Reminding us to be mindful of our feelings, When Sadness Is at Your Door helps children understand the place that sadness has in our lives. The illustrations are beautiful and fit the story perfectly, and they don't make sadness seem scary or like something bad that needs to be driven away. I can see myself sharing this book with adult friends and family members going through difficult times as well." --Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

For Ages 9 to 12
Love Like Sky by Leslie C. Youngblood (Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, 9781368016506). "Love Like Sky tackles the complexity of a blended family, from a new home to a new stepdad and stepsister. G-Baby has difficult situations to deal with as an 11-year-old, but she succeeds with the help of her extended family and friends. Learning to open up and trust within a newly blended family helps G-Baby to emotionally tackle the sudden illness of her baby sister, Peaches." --Kathi Rauscher, Hockessin Bookshelf, Hockessin, Del.

For Teen Readers
Let's Go Swimming on Doomsday by Natalie C. Anderson (Putnam, $18.99, 9780399547614). "This is a book you won't want to put down and you'll never forget. Seeing the world through Abdi's eyes might change the way you see refugees, child soldiers, the U.S. government, and so much more. Ethical dilemmas, heart-wrenching situations, and moments of unbelievable courage abound. Although the topics are difficult, it reads easily--a page-turner with heart and a stunning back-and-forth structure. Make sure you make time for this." --Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, Wash.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Sing to It

Sing to It: New Stories by Amy Hempel (Scribner, $25 hardcover, 160p., 9781982109110, March 26, 2019)

Amy Hempel (Reasons to Live) delivers a wildly exploratory short story collection. The 15 pieces in Sing to It include a nice mix of flash fiction and longer entries. The titular first story sets an ever-mysterious tone: "At the end, he said, No metaphors! Nothing is like anything else." Of course metaphors abound, bizarre spectacles, but also a sense of specificity that could rightly be called the opposite of cliché. The same story also hints at what unites it with the others: "When danger approaches, sing to it." Hempel carves out distinctive characters in the crook of exceptional circumstances. They are imperiled people, all facing something ominous in their lives, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible. It's as if Hempel has a secret guide to her own creations, knowing the point of inflection for each.

In "A Full-Service Shelter," a volunteer at an animal shelter that euthanizes dangerous dogs explains how the animals see the humans: "They knew me as the one who loved in them what I recoiled from in people: the patent need, the clinging, the appetite." But the narrator seems to need the dogs just as much, as if caring for them makes the world more sensible. Some of the stories reach the realms of surrealism, such as the "The Doll Tornado," which includes a storm of dolls touching down in an old factory in Greensboro, N.C.

Other stories read more like parables, short illustrations drawing out some moral from an absurdly human predicament. In "The Correct Grip," for example, a woman gets a call from the wife of the man who attacked her. The wife wants to know if she should stay with the man, but the narrator says she's not in a position to offer advice. Later, reflecting upon the incident, she says, "I was dismayed by my impulse to make fun of rescue. But there is something so convenient about rescue." "The correct grip" refers to her literal grip on her dog leash, and how she comes to recognize the power to make a fist and defend herself.

If some of the flash fiction pieces feel slight, Hempel makes up for it in "Cloudland," the longest entry, at the end of the collection. It centers on a single woman living and working in north Florida. In between work days as a health aide to the elderly, she remembers a major life decision: when she went to a maternity home in Maine and gave up her baby for adoption. She imagines the child as an adult, seeing her everywhere, and is disturbed to learn the home had a dark past. As she wrestles with regret, the world around grows more dangerous. Hempel uses the setting to evoke pervasive doom: climate change, hurricanes, snakes, criminal neighbors. The sense of foreboding slowly grows. Like in her other stories, Hempel creates an all-too-human character looking to escape the past but stymied by an equally menacing future.

Sing to It fascinates. It pulses with absurdist glee, but has enough humanity to ground its characters in the hard work of looking forward. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Shelf Talker: Amy Hempel offers a smorgasbord of characters in this weirdly affecting short story collection.

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