Shelf Awareness for Thursday, April 23, 2020


Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster BFYR: Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera

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

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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

Basic Books: Dog-Eared: Poems about Humanity's Best Friend by Duncan Wu

News

Riordans Start $100K #SaveIndieBookstores Matching Gift Challenge

 
Rick Riordan

The #SaveIndieBookstores campaign has received another major contribution: Rick and Becky Riordan have started a personal matching gift challenge: beginning yesterday, they are matching each dollar raised, up to $100,000.

Rick Riordan, the author of more than 20 novels for young readers, including the Percy Jackson series, the Kane Chronicles, the Magnus Chase series and the Trials of Apollo, as well as the Tres Navarre mystery series for adults, commented: "Like most successful authors, I would not be where I am today without the support of independent booksellers. Their dedication, professionalism, commitment, and passion for books are as important for nurturing writers and supporting readers today as when I started publishing 25 years ago. Becky and I are eternally grateful to our indie bookseller friends. We're proud to help support them through this unprecedented challenging time."

#SaveIndieBookstores began on April 2 with a $500,000 donation from James Patterson. It is supported by the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) and the American Booksellers Association. The campaign ends on April 30; all monies will be given to independent bookstores, who are encouraged to apply for a grant. Through yesterday, #SaveIndieBookstores has raised $258,302 in addition to Patterson's donation, for a total of $758,302.

Binc executive director Pam French said, "The unfolding economic and public health crisis has put our nation's independent bookstores at risk. Since April 2nd over 850 bookstores have applied for emergency assistance from the #SaveIndieBookstores fund. By working together and joining Rick and Becky Riordan every donation has twice the impact and helps ensure independent bookstores remain a cornerstone in their communities."

ABA CEO Allison Hill said, "ABA is incredibly grateful to Rick and Becky Riordan for this extraordinary gift to support independent bookstores during the crisis. It is especially meaningful to have support like this from the Riordan family, people who truly understand the vital role independent bookstores play in sharing a love of reading and connecting readers to books."


Berkley Books: The Ballad of Hattie Taylor by Susan Anderson


International Update: Frankfurt Is On; 'Second Spring?'; Amazon Donates to U.K. Bookseller Relief

As German bookstores reopen under stringent health guidelines, Michael Busch, head of the country's largest bookstore chain, Thalia Mayersche, has called for a loosening of the country's traditionally limited shopping hours so that bookstores can open on Sundays until the end of January 2021. As recounted by Buchreport, Busch said that the change would make it easier to keep customers separated in stores and win back some of the lost sales of the past month.

Busch acknowledged likely opposition to Sunday openings from unions and churches, but hoped that all groups could work together in an extraordinary time to do something to help the book business and maintain jobs.

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With a ban on large events in Germany until at least August 31 and the cancellation of Oktoberfest (set for September 19-October 4), Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is scheduled for October 14-18, said in a statement that "based on the information that is currently available, we expect the Frankfurter Buchmesse to take place... What Frankfurt's 72nd book fair will look like exactly, we cannot yet say. What is already clear, however, is that it will be a very special event." He stressed that the health and safety of exhibitors, trade visitors, the public and fair employees is "our highest priority."

Boos added that "it will probably be possible to provide a clearer picture as of mid-June."

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Because of closed bookstores as well as cancelled readings, book fairs, book exhibits and more, Literaturhaus.net, the network of the 14 Literaturhaus locations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, is calling on booksellers, bloggers, book fairs and others to include and publicize books published in the spring and summer 2020 season with books yet to be published. It hopes that the mixing will last into summer 2021, and would thereby create a "second spring" for books that likely are having trouble finding an audience. As quoted by Börsenblatt, "Instead of 'seasons,' we want to convey themes, histories and questions," the group said, adding that it wants "most of all to show solidarity with authors" and emphasize "the cultural value and sustainability of books."

The idea came from Hauke Hückstädt, head of the Literaturhaus in Frankfurt.

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An update from Hachette Book Group in the Australian Booksellers Association's weekly newsletter gives an idea of the pressures on international publishers during the Covid-19 pandemic. As recounted by Hachette Australia sales director Daniel Pilkington, huge increases in air freight costs, including charges 10 times above normal for flights from the U.K. to Australia, have forced the company to end air shipments for now to Australia and from Australia to New Zealand.

The company will continue importing books by sea and printing books locally, and has substantially lowered local print minimums for its international books. It will stock a greater number of titles at wholesaler ADS in Australia, a change that may become permanent. "This should mean more books more readily available for readers, but not quite yet," Pilkington wrote. "It's going to take a couple of months to get those backlist books here. In terms of front list, given the major disruption to the U.K. and U.S. markets, over 800 Hachette titles have been delayed until later in the year. The good news is that stock for many of these titles is already available and we will have time to sea freight and still match international publication dates."

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Strange days indeed... Amazon has pledged £250,000 (about $322,560) to the Book Trade Charity's crowdfunding campaign to help U.K. booksellers during the Covid-19 crisis. The donation has raised the total amount pledged thus far to about £380,000 (about $490,290).

At first, the gift was anonymous, and David Hicks, CEO of the Book Trade Charity, said that the donor "just wants to say they are committed to independent bookshops as part of a mixed bookselling economy and they want to show some support and we were their chosen vehicle through which to do that on the basis of the crowdfunder."

This morning, Hicks revealed Amazon as the donor to end mounting speculation about its identity. He added: "The additional boost of £250,000 from Amazon has put us in a very strong position to help even more booksellers suffering hardship from this crisis. We all recognise the value of bookshops to local communities, the trade, as well as the economy, and it is a privilege to represent such a broad cross-section of the industry who have put faith in BTBS to deliver support where it is needed in these difficult times. Confidential and non-judgemental as ever, a simple email to info@btbs.org will get the process started."


BINC: Book Auction to Benefit BINC - Click Here!


AirBnB Launches World Book Day Online Experiences

Coinciding with today's World Book Day celebration, AirBnB has launched a series of literary-inspired online experiences that range  from author readings to home gardening workshops and cooking classes. 

Cameron Lund

Among the events being offered are a storytime session with Jesse Byrd, author of Sunny Days and King Penguin; a lesson in propagating plants with Hilton Carter, author of Wild at Home; a novel writing workshop with Katy Lee, author of Blindsided; and a reading with romance author Cameron Lund (The Best Laid Plans), which will be followed by a q&a with bookseller Jessica Irish of Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif.

And for a limited time, Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez, authors of Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul's Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life, will host a series of virtual readings in partnership with Penguin Random House. Proceeds from these readings will support the Ali Forney Center, a community center dedicated to helping LGBTQ homeless youth.


University of California Press: Deviant Opera by Axel Englund


Publishers, Additional Indies Turn to GoFundMe

Independent publisher Cinco Puntos Press, El Paso, Tex., which publishes bilingual children's books as well as multicultural titles for teens and adults, has launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $250,000. In five days, the campaign has brought in just over $25,000. In a message to potential donors, CPP president John Byrd said the funds will go toward keeping the press's staff employed as well as paying authors and illustrators for their work, along with investing in new titles to be released in 2021.

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Small Press Distribution, the nonprofit literary book distributor founded in 1969, created a crowdfunding campaign nearly a week ago. The campaign is looking to bring in $100,000 and has so far raised more than $64,000. The SPD team reported that while they are currently able to operate on a "skeletal staff" and provide books on a limited basis, sales have decreased by more than 60%. The $100,000 will cover one month of payroll and 20% of the royalties SPD currently owes its publishers for the quarter that just closed, as the distributor waits for its various loans and grants to be processed.

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In Sandy, Utah, The Printed Garden has been closed to foot traffic for nearly a month now, and about six days ago owner Aaron Cance started a GoFundMe campaign. He has brought in just over $5,000 so far, and explained that the goal of $15,000 would account for little bit less than three months of rent, salary and utilities. He noted that there will be a "glut of invoices" to face down the road, but for the moment, he is focused on simply continuing operations.

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Over the weekend, Taylor Books in Charleston, W.Va., launched a campaign with a goal of $10,000. In just four days, the bookstore brought in more than double that number, with over $23,000 raised as of this morning. Jamie Miller, who organized the fundraiser on behalf of store owner Ann Saville, wrote that the Taylor Books team has been "completely blown away" by the "generosity of our community and friends in such a dark time. Thank you all for being light."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens


Fiction Addiction Moves, Reopens in Greenville, S.C.

On April 21, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C., reopened in a new storefront after being closed for just over two weeks. The new store is 1,000 square feet, about half the size of the previous space, and is located in the same shopping center. According to owner Jill Hendrix, the move had been decided on about six weeks ago and the closure followed about a month of preparation. 

Hendrix explained that the larger space was great for big author events, but those came sporadically and their timing was largely up to publishers. Despite that, she was paying for that extra space every month. In an effort to get her monthly fixed costs down, she decided to move to a smaller space and instead host author events off-site when they do occur.

"Now that we can't have in-person events for the foreseeable future," Hendrix said, the decision to downsize "seems extra great in hindsight."

While the store was closed, Hendrix and her husband, Lee, started offering curbside pickup, which they will continue to offer though Fiction Addiction is open to browsing once again. She noted that under the state's orders, the store was "never 100% shut down," and can allow a limited number of shoppers in at a time.

At present, Hendrix and her husband are the only staff members coming in to the bookstore. Everyone else is working remotely. One staff member with two school-age children has been at home since schools closed in the middle of March, and another employee with a family member with Type 1 diabetes has been sheltering in place to reduce exposure.

"We are basically just following what our state regulations say we can or cannot do," said Hendrix, adding that while she feels comfortable reopening her store for browsing, she understands that other bookstore owners may not.

Hendrix reported that she applied for and received a loan from the PPP and had no trouble at all working through her bank, which is local. Despite that, she still has many questions about the program, including how the loan-forgiveness aspect of it will work.

She and her team have hosted their second virtual event in a series they began on April 8. While it is starting to pick up, she said, the number of online viewers isn't anything like the turnout they would get from an in-store event. Hendrix also gave a shout-out to SIBA, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, which has been hosting virtual events and allowing member stores to use them as they see fit.

When asked about any pleasant surprises or silver linings amid all this, Hendrix answered that possibly her favorite thing has been the fact that Bookshop.org is up and running. If Fiction Addiction ever had to shut down completely, she continued, or if she or her husband caught the coronavirus, it would be their only real way of staying in business during that time.


Kensington to Use Larger Trim Size for Mass Market Titles

Beginning with September 29 releases, Kensington Publishing is introducing a larger size for its mass market books that it's calling Mass Max. Instead of the traditional 4.125" x 6.75" trim size, the new titles will be 4.75" x 7", and "look more like mini-trade paperbacks than the traditional mass markets," Kensington said. They will offer larger fonts, wider margins and "an improved overall reading experience."

The change will be made with the publisher's Zebra, Kensington Mass and Pinnacle imprints, as well as Urban Books. Books previously priced at $7.99 and $8.99 will go up $1, but paperbacks already at $9.99 will stay at that price. As a result, the retail price for all Mass Max paperbacks will range from $8.99 to $9.99.

"Not only does the Mass Max format allow for larger, easier-to-read font and spacing, but it also means people who like to save their books don't have to worry as much about breaking the spine while reading them," said Steven Zacharius, president and CEO of Kensington. "We feel this upgrade offers readers a better experience, better value, and an attractive product that looks more like a small, gift-sized trade paperback."

The traditional mass market business has been in a steady decline in recent years, in large part because of the growth of e-book sales and continued popularity of trade paperbacks. Kensington hopes to revitalize the mass market part of the business, once the most popular (as indicated by its name).


Deb Brody to Head Adult Trade at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Deb Brody

Deb Brody has been promoted to v-p and publisher of adult trade at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, effective April 27. She will head the editorial team, overseeing its fiction, nonfiction, lifestyle and Mariner trade paperback lines. She replaces Bruce Nichols, who is becoming senior v-p and publisher at Little, Brown.

Brody joined Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2016 as editorial director of the lifestyle and culinary publishing program. In 2017, she was named editor-in-chief. She earlier worked at Morrow.

Ellen Archer, president of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media, said that Brody "has always impressed me as a publishing executive who has strong leadership skills and a keen editorial eye for spotting trends and bringing books to market quickly. These are critical skills that our business will benefit from now more than ever. She's a nimble thinker and a well-respected editor and colleague. I can't think of a better person to take on the stewardship of our General Interest publishing program."


Notes

People Supporting Indies: Literati Bookstore

Indie booksellers have learned quickly over the past few weeks to reinvent their mode of doing business on the fly, sometimes daily. Fortunately, people have responded with purchases and, in some cases, heartfelt notes of appreciation and support.

Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich., posted one such note on Facebook from a long-distance patron: "I live in Fiji in the Pacific. I have followed you via Facebook and then via Twitter. I live in a country and region where there is literally zero publishing available to writers--and I write. I followed your journey from Day One and it breaks my heart to see what is happening to indies such as yourself.

"Your journey of hope and revolution against a system that has swallowed independent bookstores has always filled me with so much hope--and it still does. I just wanted to let you know that my deepest best wishes are with you--and with every customer you have served and that has kept you afloat, growing, and now, responding with so much compassion. While I live in a region at the frontlines of climate change and our voices in danger of disappearing even before we begin to talk via a growing literature, and our constant study of American geopolitics, national politics and our ever-growing conviction that we would always be left behind in global conversations, Literati, your bookstore, gave someone like me the hope that people who value stories, knowledge, and relationship built across geography and time exist and can be nurtured.

"Your bookshop gave me hope that Americans care for stories and community and that somewhere along the line, they would through bookshops and intimately personalized services such as those you offer, learn about the Pacific islands, or at least, develop the empathy to not look the other way when encountering our voices in global conversation. I wish nothing but good things for you. Take care through this season--I hope you live through this and emerge stronger. Take care and my best wishes to your family, your staff, and all your customers."


Cool Idea of the Day: Breakfast Club Dancing Writers Support Volumes Bookcafe

Yesterday, author Rebecca Makkai announced on social media that she has enlisted more than two dozen writers to put on their '80s movie dancing shoes to help raise funds for "a vital four-year old bookstore," Volumes Bookcafe & Bookstore, Chicago, Ill.

Makkai tweeted that Volumes "is in danger of losing their home and needs our help to get through quarantine. I convinced 27 amazing writers to join me in recreating the dance from The Breakfast Club when Volumes gets to $60k of their $100k goal.... & hopefully our dancing, whether embarrassing or brilliant, will get us the rest of the way there). The Chicago filmmaker Steve Delahoyde will edit clips of us dancing in isolation to We Are Not Alone and make it look like we're NOT alone, which of course we aren't, not really.... We might not have a lot of power or control right now, but listen, literary world: We can at least chip in to save ONE INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE. We can do this."

Volumes tweeted: "I mean. We are beside ourselves with this. @rebeccamakkai for president!"

And even Breakfast Club star Molly Ringwald is intrigued, posting on Instagram: "Ok, we know they can write, but can they dance? I can't wait."


Baker & Taylor Publisher Services Adds Two Publishers

Baker & Taylor Publisher Services has added two new publisher clients:

Starfish Bay Publishing, an Australian publisher of high-quality children's books, particularly picture books for children ages 3-8. It has published authors from around the world, including Iceland, Ireland, the U.S., the U.K., and China. (Effective July 1; U.S. and Canada.)

Messianic Jewish Publishers & Resources, which provides resources for the Messianic congregational movement worldwide as well as the wider Body of Messiah (the Church). It is "a three-fold ministry, reaching Jewish people with the message of Messiah, teaching our non-Jewish spiritual family (Christians) about their Jewish roots, and strengthening the Messianic congregational movement with excellent resources." (Effective May 1; worldwide.)


Media and Movies

This Weekend on Book TV: Katherine Stewart on The Power Worshippers

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, April 25
12:10 p.m. Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism (Bloomsbury, $28, 9781635573435). (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m.)

5:55 p.m. James Fallows, co-author of Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America (Vintage, $16.95, 9780525432449), and Kori Schake, author of Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony (Harvard University Press, $31, 9780674975071), discuss the impact of coronavirus on democratic systems. (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

7 p.m. Lindsay Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution (Belknap Press, $29.95, 9780674986480). (Re-airs Monday at 2:05 a.m.)

7:55 p.m. David Daley, author of Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy (Liveright, $26.95, 9781631495755). (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m.)

11 p.m. Book TV looks back at books about technology. (Re-airs Sunday at 7:30 p.m.)

Sunday, April 26
10 p.m. Michael Arceneaux, author of I Don't Want to Die Poor: Essays (Atria, $17, 9781982129309), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.



Books & Authors

Awards: Ballard Spahr Poetry Winner

Milkweed Editions announced that torrin a. greathouse won the 2020 Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry for Wound from the Mouth of a Wound. Selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, greathouse will receive $10,000 and publication by Milkweed Editions this December.

"Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is a remarkable excavation, multitasking in the best and most unforgettable ways," Nezhukumatathil wrote. "This collection attends to both beauty and 'the ugly of my tongue/ lolling serpent curled in the slick of my jaw,'--presenting visionary mediations and diagramming maps across the galaxy of a body, all while serving others as a guide or oracle. In these pages, the fragments and fusion of public and private desires dig into exhilarating terrain I didn't quite realize I had been thirsty for all along. The everlasting and intimate result of this book feels like we're holding a small thunderstorm in our hands."


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, April 28:

The Heart: Frida Kahlo in Paris by Marc Petitjean, translated by Adriana Hunter (Other Press, $25, 9781590519905) chronicles Kahlo's time in Paris in the late 1930s, where she had a relationship with the author's father.

Churchill's Shadow Raiders: The Race to Develop Radar, World War II's Invisible Secret Weapon by Damien Lewis (Citadel, $27, 9780806540634) explores a 1942 British raid on a suspected German radar installation along the French coast.

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson, illus. by Nina Mata (Bloomsbury Children's Books, $16.99, 9781547600564) is a contemporary take on Beverly Cleary's Ramona series.

Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $18.99, 9780374307097) is a stand-alone companion to The Boneless Mercies.


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
Enter the Aardvark: A Novel by Jessica Anthony (Little, Brown, $26, 9780316536158). "I've never read a novel quite like this one. The story connects two storylines, one revolving around the stuffing of an aardvark and the other around a repressed, Reagan-obsessed, Republican millennial congressman. What I loved most about this novel is that it's kind of ridiculous (in a great way!) but it is also very poignant and leaves the reader changed by the end. Bravo, Jessica Anthony!" --John McManus, Main Point Books, Wayne, Pa.

Godshot: A Novel by Chelsea Bieker (Catapult, $26, 9781948226486). "Within the first chapter of Godshot, you can hear Chelsea Bieker's fist swinging toward you, but it still won't prepare you for the punch to the gut this book delivers. Lacey springs off the page in her first moments and takes you along with her on her dust-torn, glitter-stained, bloodied journey. Sometimes I get tired of being reminded how dangerous it is to be a woman (because, dammit, I KNOW!), but Bieker's prose is so beautifully consuming I found myself whipping through words that twisted my insides. What a resounding book." --Amy Van Keuren, Savoy Bookshop & Café, Westerly, R.I.

Paperback
The End of the End of the Earth: Essays by Jonathan Franzen (Picador, $17, 9781250234896). "Exacting and meticulous, Franzen's The End of the End of the Earth reports on the state of the environment from Africa to Antarctica and relentlessly questions his role as a privileged Westerner in a world of vast inequality. Above all, he puts everything in the context of climate change. Using birds as his moral compass, Franzen evokes the deep joy they bring when he sees them in the wild and delivers heartbreaking accounts of ruined habitats, wanton slaughter of songbirds, and the devastating toll of industrial fishing on seabirds. No less tragic are the stories of impoverished people who live among these birds, and Franzen continually questions the ethics of worrying about avian suffering in the midst of so much human suffering. Ultimately as hopeful as it is anguished, Franzen's book takes biodiversity as its guiding principle: there's no one way to save the world, just as there's no single set of rules governing how to live in it." --Laurie Greer, Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.

For Ages 4 to 8
I Found a Kitty! by Troy Cummings (Random House, $17.99, 9781984831866). "With humor and charm, this book wonderfully illustrates the importance--and joy!--of finding just the right home for an animal in need. A helpful guide in the back on how to help animals in need has great advice for youngsters who may finish this book inspired to do good." --Brittany Baker, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, Mass.

For Ages 9 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros (Quill Tree Books, $16.99, 9780062881687). "This book is, unfortunately, very relevant to our current political climate and to too many young readers. That's what makes it so important. When Efrén's mother is suddenly deported, he has to figure out how to balance his relationships at school with his new responsibilities at home. As if middle school wasn't hard enough! Reading about those most affected by the immigration crisis will make anyone want to take action to change this story to fiction." --Riley Jay Davis, Next Chapter Booksellers, St. Paul, Minn.

For Teen Readers
Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed (Soho Teen, $18.99, 9781616959890). "For 17-year-old Khayyam, her family's annual summer in Paris should be a delight. But she's reeling from a disastrous scholarship application and completely unprepared to meet a handsome stranger. Their shared adventure intersects with the life of a 19th-century Muslim woman, the artist Delacroix, and the author Dumas. What could be just a meet-cute romance gets added depth with well-integrated reflections on immigrants, mixed-race heritage, and the silencing of women's voices." --Jan Blodgett, Main Street Books, Davidson, N.C.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: The Tree and the Vine

The Tree and the Vine by Dola de Jong, trans. by Kristen Gehrman (Transit Books, $15.95 paperback, 150p., 9781945492341, May 19, 2020)

Originally published in 1954, Dola de Jong's The Tree and the Vine was a groundbreaking portrayal of lesbian lives in Holland just before the outbreak of World War II. This updated translation from the Dutch by Kristen Gehrman retains what is fresh, understated and moving in the original.

Bea, a shy office worker and the narrator of this story, keeps to herself and considers social activity a chore, until she meets Erica. Within weeks, they become roommates, and Bea is increasingly fascinated by her heedless new friend: Erica, a journalist, keeps strange hours and doesn't seem to sleep. Her moods vacillate. Over many months, the pair becomes close, and Bea is simultaneously obsessed and resistant to her own feelings, telling herself that independence is paramount. "I could no longer live without her, and with her there was nothing but the strange existence that had been predetermined."

As the threat of a German invasion grows, Erica gets involved with several female lovers, often in abusive relationships, while Bea plays the loyal friend always there to bail her out of trouble. On the brink of war, realizing that Erica is half Jewish and engaged in risky behaviors, Bea takes a half-step toward recognizing what they share. "She never spoke those few words again.... We've accepted it, each in our own way."

The tone of The Tree and the Vine is often backward-looking and elegiac, told at a distance of years. But the immediate events of the women's lives feel frantic: Erica rushes about, Bea panics. What is most important almost always goes unsaid.

The prose can occasionally feel a bit stilted, or involve a bit more telling than showing; but in fact what is shown, often, is not actions or expressions but Bea's own deep feeling and anguish. The result is a love story on the brink of war in which the love never quite steps out in the open and the war remains off-stage. A sense of looming, momentous events pervades this slim novel.

In a thoughtful translator's note, Gehrman notes linguistic peculiarities of de Jong's original: Anglicisms and words and expressions from the French, for example, which Gehrman has worked to maintain, and her delicate handling of Dutch idiom. She argues that The Tree and the Vine is not just a lesbian novel but "reflective of a broader female experience." By turns emotional and restrained, this powerful story indeed offers valuable perspective on the human experience. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This sensitive novel illuminates women who love women in pre-World War II Holland.


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