Marie's Staff Picks History
Trust Marie's taste? Here's what she's picked in the past!
Marie Kent Recommends:
The time: the present. The place: a Balkan country ravaged by civil bloodshed. Grieving for her grandfather, Natalia, a young doctor struggles to determine why he left their family to die alone in a field hospital far from home. Natalia grows increasingly convinced that her grandfather, a prominent physician, was searching for an odd character from his past--a vagabond who called himself "the deathless man." This brief synopsis only scratches the surface of The Tiger’s Wife. In this debut novel, Tea Obreht, one of the youngest writers ever to be featured in The New Yorker, combines a masterful storytelling cadence with the rich depth of a plot and place that is both “old world” and time transcendent. Expertly crafted, The Tiger’s Wife takes on a subtle mythical quality, leaving the reader with the sense that he or she is engrossed in a story that will surely stand the dusty-shelved test of time.
| $25.00 | Penguin Random House | HC | March
One of the great pleasures of working in book publishing is getting to witness and be a part of the advance buzz that crops up pre-publication. It happened with The Passage and Cutting for Stone and now with Richard Harvell�s debut novel, The Bells. A few weeks ago Erica began raving about it so I decided to give it a go. Last week, I parked myself in her office every morning to discuss the pages I�d read the night before. This book is unlike any piece of historical fiction I�ve read before. Gone are the queens and other royal figures, the courtiers and painters. Moses, the son of a deaf-mute, grew up in a belfry before being cast out, found by two monks and taken to live in the Abbey of St. Gall where he sings in the choir. He is the one that no one wants with an operatic voice so in demand it becomes his curse. Gothic in tone with gorgeous language that has an ear for sound this book will pull you into the landscape of the Swiss Alps, Mozart�s Vienna, and Moses� world.
| $24.00 | Crown | HC | September
978-0-307-35823-3 | $32.00C | Penguin Random House Canada | HC | September
Life of Pi author Yann Martel�s new novel is about a novelist, Henry, and a taxidermist who write a play about a donkey and a howler monkey. The play, which the reader quickly learns is a metaphorical take on the Holocaust, takes place on a shirt. Just stay with me on this� In Beatrice & Virgil, Martel blurs the lines of human and animal, addresses issues of morality and humanity, and does it all in one of the most original novels I have ever read. While it is easy to read this novel as another Holocaust story, to me it was more about the process of writing. As Henry and the taxidermist discuss the play, that process is peeled back, exposing the ways in which storytelling and metaphor are used to explore the hideous nature of humanity. But I digress� This book is a unique endeavor that will have you thinking and processing long after the last page is read.
| $24.00 | Spiegel & Grau | HC | April 2010
978-0-307-39877-2 | $29.95C | Knopf Canada | HC | April 2010
Becca Burke’s Winnie-the-Pooh watch won’t keep time for her and there is a halo around her head in photos. This is because on a sunny day in 1977, eight-year-old Becca was struck by lightning. Her parents, who are too caught up in their own lives, don’t take her seriously. Buckley R. Pitank is sailing on a boat Galveston, Texas when a bolt of lightening hits his mother. Left an orphan, Buckley must pick up the pieces and journey back to a home he never really had. This wonderfully character-driven novel journeys from South Carolina to Arkansas to New York as the lives of these two young people turn, twist, and become tied together seamlessly thanks to the delightfully poignant pen of Michelle Young-Stone. Herself a lightning-strike survivor, Young-Stone reminds the reader that stories do not have to be filled with horror and crashing catastrophe to be captivating. This book has great Young Adult potential and will resonate with any reader who has ever pondered the power of chance and connection.
978-0-307-46447-7 | $24.00/$29.95C | Shaye Areheart | HC | April 2010
Previously published in hardcover by a smaller publishing house, this Library Journal award winner is like a great find in a little cluttered, unknown bookshop. Since reading the galley, I’ve been talking it up and passing it along in hopes that it will become the “little book that could.” Set in the mountains of Pope County, Kentucky, this is the story of Olivia Harker Cross, a woman driven by pride and legacy – the legacy of her father, her land and the wolves that inhabit it, and a charming town whose members have wonderful names like Wing and Love Alice. But this is more than just her story – it is a narrative of mystery, justice, family and race set in a world where the color lines are still solidly drawn. Reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, Sweeping Up Glass is a surefire classic-in-the-making and a great selection for young adults and book groups. Ms. Wall has penned a true gem.
978-0-385-34303-9 | $14.00/$16.50C | Dell | TR | August 2009
When author Carolina de Robertis began writing as a child, her parents begged her to put their family stories on paper. Available in August, the result of family oral tradition and lots of listening and research, is her debut novel. The Invisible Mountain is as lush in character, plot and language as the South American landscape in which it is set. More than a narrative of the Firrelli’s, a Uraguayan family with Italian roots that run deep within the Venetian canals, de Robertis’s novel traces the stories of three generations of women: Pajarita, the baby who went missing only to be discovered in a tree; her daughter, Eva, a rebellious poet who finds love in the most unlikely of places; and Eva’s daughter, Salomé, who risks her life hiding weapons for guerilla rebels under bed. Infused into the societal and political unrest of Eva Perón’s Buenos Aires and the gleaming city of Montevideo are the bits of magical realism, sweeping sticks-in-your-mouth prose, and an addictive storyline rich in cultural significance. This striking start will delight fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende who will find themselves fully immersed in the “sharp t’s and j’s, y’s and g’s” that tie these women together.
978-0-307-27163-1 | $24.95/NCR | Knopf | HC | August 2009
There is great joy to be had in recommending something written by a first-time author. Atlas of Uknowns is no different. As in many other books, the reader gets caught up in the plot�s central relationship, this time between the two sisters: homely Linno, kept in the shadows of the family home in Kerala, India and Anju, the dreamer, whose good fortune brings her to New York City where she must navigate the city streets, her family�s dreams, and a life-altering secret all at once. Add to that a set of parents with secrets of their own, a wealthy Hindu-American host family, and a lonely hairdresser with ties Anju and Linno�s past, and you�ve got an interesting cast of characters. Yet what is most striking about Tania James�s new novel are the ever-present myths and realities of the American Dream as seen through the eyes of modern immigrants. These opposing forces are woven together to showcase the balancing act each character faces in an attempt to gain a sense of self and cling to a family identity all at once. A great storyteller, James creates depth in her characters and plot by highlighting the emotional truth associated with the realization of a dream above any fictional fantasies created for the story�s sake. Such poignancy is enough to turn the pages in this refreshing read.
978-0-307-26890-7 | $24.95/$27.95C | Knopf | HC | April 2009
At first glance this novel appears to be straightforward historical fiction surrounding the life of Ann Eliza Young, the outcast wife of Brigham Young, a founding prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Yet, intertwined is a modern tale of a murder mystery involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. The research lengths the author went to for his novel are impressive. At a recent lunch event he told attendees stories of interviewing former members of FLDS communities, of visiting one Utah community himself, and of hours spent poring over historical documents. While the connection between the historical and fictitious is especially strong, what is most extraordinary are the “documents” interspersed within it: a Wikipedia entry, newspaper articles, a college thesis paper, and more, all penned by the author himself but seemingly so authentic that I had to flip back to the Author’s Note to check for citations. A complex, timely and addictive mixture of past and present, this book will no doubt spark discussion and entice readers to learn more about this piece of American religious history. Great for book clubs!
978-1-4000-6397-0 | $26.00/$30.00C | Penguin Random House | HC | August 2008
I admit it. I considered Teach for America. I suppose you could say it was a “Plan B” for me. But after reading this book I realize as a “Plan B”er I never would have made it. Never mind the rigorous admissions process involving rounds of interviews and calculated formulas, the duties bestowed upon TFA corps members demand nothing less than amazing tenacity and voracious devotion. Foote’s book weaves stories of four young teachers at a South Central Los Angeles high school with historical accounts of the birth and growth of the organization which, since its 1990 founding, has taken on the monumental task of closing the U.S. educational achievement gap. These corps members represent a select few of the many thrown into the most desperate classrooms after only one summer of intense training. This is a book that informs as much as it challenges, addressing criticisms and spotlighting the problems that face so many of America’s young and disadvantaged. A humbling read not just for this former TFA enthusiast but also for those interested in learning more about Teach for America and the discrepancies within our country’s public education system.
978-0-307-26571-5 l $24.95 l Knopf l HC l April 2008