February 27, 2021
From piercing fiction about hearts and minds in conflict to words of heartfelt wisdom from a life well lived, read on for this week’s selection of remarkable writing.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
Klara and the Sun
By KAZUO ISHIGURO
Published by KNOPF
Imagine shopping for your AI companion in a department store. The luckiest of these get to stand by the window drinking up the sun that powers them. Josie, a teenage girl, chooses Klara, because her special powers of empathy set her apart from the competition. This is Klara’s story, at once coolly straightforward and heartrending. Reminiscent of Never Let Me Go, one of the author’s best books, and Ian McEwan’s recent Machines Like Me here is a novel that examines Artificial Intelligence as an increasingly fascinating subject. Ishiguro’s touching tale depicts a possible not-so-distant future. It is a beautiful book!
By RUSSELL BANKS
Published by ECCO
Leonard Fife, an acclaimed Canadian documentarian, has agreed to be filmed from his wheelchair surrounded by a nurse and his wife. The filmmakers intend to capture Fife’s view of his past achievements as a cultural chronicler of the 60s onward, but instead Leonard spews a fuzzy but fascinating monologue in order to set the record straight to his wife before he dies. His ravings, regrets, and reminiscences (Joan Baez, draft dodging, abandoning two families) become this unreliable narrator’s version of his life as he literally moves toward his last moments. Banks’s best in years and vividly powerful..
By Viet Thanh Nguyen
Published by Grove Press
The Sympathizer, Nguyen’s acclaimed 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel, introduced us to a mixed race (French/Vietnamese) captain who comes to America after the fall of Saigon. Happily, the author was not finished with his story and has penned a sequel spy thriller that is a serious satire and a critique of colonialism, misogyny, racism, and sexuality. This time we are in Paris in the 1980s, and Man’s misadventures with his Vietnamese blood brother, drug deals, interactions with like-minded refugees, and the threat of betrayals make for another great modern noir.
We Begin at the End
By Chris Whitaker
Published by Henry Holt & Company
This literary mystery stars a police chief whose childhood friend has returned from prison after 30 years, and features a crime that still resounds in their Western coastal town. All the members of the ensemble of flawed characters in Whitaker’s stunning novel are on their way to either perdition or redemption. Some are so full of bad luck that nothing could save them, some scraping by with a fiercely determined sense of justice and nostalgia, attempting to arrive at a state of grace. The landscape plays a role too, both Montana and California—Whitaker writes as beautifully about place as he does people. His novel should become an American classic if there is any justice in the world of literature.
Whitaker discusses his work with Amy Einhorn, President and Publisher at Henry Holt, on our website..
The Life of the Mind
By CHRISTINE SMALLWOOD
Published by HOGARTH PRESS
I found myself underlining numerous passages in Smallwood’s terrific first novel. It also has a great first page including the sentence, “In the asymmetrical warfare of therapy, secrets were a guerilla tactic.” Our heroine, Dorothy actually has two therapists and is struggling to deal with the event and aftermath of a miscarriage, which is described in such detail it includes adjectives like ‘gelatinous.’ Dorothy, a young adjunct professor, is often filled with anxiety and dread in the best of circumstances, but her dark humor and careful observations save her, and the reader. It’s like the first time you read Ottessa Moshfegh.
By Michelle Obama
Published by Crown
Now more than ever, we want and need Michelle. Perfectly timed for the end of Black History Month and the onset of Women’s History Month, her essential memoir is finally in paperback. And what’s almost more exciting is the simultaneous Young Adult version. Note its cover photo of Michelle in the cute white tee, where she looks about twenty. From growing up in Chicago, through her political coming of age, to marriage, children, and the White House, this honest, warm book sends an inspiring message to all citizens. She’s added a new introduction, a letter to her younger self, and some questions tailor-made for book clubs..