New Fiction At The Essex Library In April

March 29, 2014

April’s new fiction releases will provide readers with memorable characters struggling with life’s big challenges: moral dilemmas, family rivalries, and elusive love. Click on the titles to place holds in the LION catalog now before the queues get long.

 

American Romantic by Ward Just
Harry Sanders is a young foreign service officer in 1960s Indochina when a dangerous and clandestine meeting with insurgents–ending in quiet disaster–and a brief but passionate encounter with Sieglinde, a young German woman, alter the course of his life. Absorbing the impact of his misstep, Harry returns briefly to Washington before eventual assignments in Africa, Scandinavia, and the Mediterranean. He marries the captivating May, who is fleeing her own family disappointments in worn-out upper New England and looking for an escape into Harry’s diplomatic life. On the surface, they are a handsome, successful couple–but the memory of Sieglinde persists in Harry’s thoughts, and May has her own secrets too. As Harry navigates the increasingly treacherous waters of diplomacy in an age of interminable conflict, he also tries to bridge the distances between himself and the two alluring women who have chosen to love him.

And The Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass
Kit Noonan is an unemployed art historian with twins to help support and a mortgage to pay–and a wife frustrated by his inertia. Raised by a strong-willed, secretive single mother, Kit has never known the identity of his father–a mystery that his wife insists he must solve to move forward with his life. Out of desperation, Kit goes to the mountain retreat of his mother’s former husband, Jasper, a take-no-prisoners outdoorsman. There, in the midst of a fierce blizzard, Kit and Jasper confront memories of the bittersweet decade when their families were joined. Reluctantly breaking a long-ago promise, Jasper connects Kit with Lucinda and Zeke Burns, who know the answer he’s looking for.

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
Astonish Me is the irresistible story of Joan, a young American dancer who helps a Soviet ballet star, the great Arslan Rusakov, defect in 1975. A flash of fame and a passionate love affair follow, but Joan knows that, onstage and off, she is destined to remain in the background. She will never possess Arslan, and she will never be a prima ballerina. She will rise no higher than the corps, one dancer among many. After her relationship with Arslan sours, Joan plots to make a new life for herself. She quits ballet, marries a good man, and settles in California with him and their son, Harry. But as the years pass, Joan comes to understand that ballet isn’t finished with her yet, for there is no mistaking that Harry is a prodigy. Through Harry, Joan is pulled back into a world she thought she’d left behind–back into dangerous secrets, and back, inevitably, to Arslan.

The Ballad Of A Small Player by Lawrence Osborne
As night falls on Macau and the neon signs that line the rain-slick streets come alive, Doyle – “Lord Doyle” to his fellow players – descends into his casino of choice to try his luck at the baccarat tables that are the anchor of his current existence. A corrupt English lawyer who has escaped prosecution by fleeing to the East, Doyle spends his nights drinking and gambling and his days sleeping off his excesses, continually haunted by his past. Taking refuge in a series of louche and dimly lit hotels, he watches his fortune rise and fall as the cards decide his fate. In a moment of crisis he meets Dao-Ming, an enigmatic Chinese woman who appears to be a denizen of the casinos just like himself, and seems to offer him salvation in the form of both money and love. But as Doyle attempts to make a rare and true connection, all that he accepts as reality seems to be slipping from his grasp.

Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman
Lauren Clay has returned from a tour of duty in Iraq just in time to spend the holidays with her family. Before she enlisted, Lauren, a classically trained singer, and her brother Danny, a bright young boy obsessed with Arctic exploration, made the most of their modest circumstances, escaping into their imaginations and forming an indestructible bond. Joining the army allowed Lauren to continue to provide for her family, but it came at a great cost. When she arrives home unexpectedly, it’s clear to everyone in their rural New York town that something is wrong. But her father is so happy to have her home that he ignores her odd behavior and the repeated phone calls from an army psychologist. He wants to give Lauren time and space to acclimate to civilian life. Things seem better when Lauren offers to take Danny on a trip to visit their mother upstate. Instead, she guides them into the glacial woods of Canada on a quest to visit the Jeanne d’Arc basin, the site of an oil field that has become her strange obsession. As they set up camp in an abandoned hunting lodge, Lauren believes she’s teaching Danny survival skills for the day when she’s no longer able to take care of him. But where does she think she’s going, and what happened to her in Iraq that set her on this path?

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber
Now wedding bells are ringing in the tight-knit community that gathers around A Good Yarn, a store in a pretty Seattle neighborhood. Knitters come to the store to buy yarn and patterns but somehow they leave richer in friendship and love. Lauren Elliott has waited years for her long-term boyfriend, Todd, to propose, yet he seems more focused on his career than their relationship. When Lauren learns that her younger sister is pregnant before she herself even has an engagement ring, she feels overjoyed yet disheartened. Knowing she can’t put her future on hold, Lauren prepares to make a bold choice–one that leads her to a man she never dreamed she’d meet.

Bread And Butter by Michelle Wildgen
Britt and Leo have spent ten years running Winesap, the best restaurant in their small Pennsylvania town. They cater to their loyal customers; they don’t sleep with the staff; and business is good, even if their temperamental pastry chef is bored with making the same chocolate cake night after night. But when their younger brother, Harry, opens his own restaurant–a hip little joint serving an aggressive lamb neck dish–Britt and Leo find their own restaurant thrown off-kilter. Britt becomes fascinated by a customer who arrives night after night, each time with a different dinner companion. Their pastry chef, Hector, quits, only to reappear at Harry’s restaurant. And Leo finds himself falling for his executive chef-tempted to break the cardinal rule of restaurant ownership. Filled with hilarious insider detail–the one-upmanship of staff meals before the shift begins, the rivalry between bartender and hostess, the seedy bar where waitstaff and chefs go to drink off their workday– Bread and Butter is both an incisive novel of family and a gleeful romp through the inner workings of restaurant kitchens.

Can’t And Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis
A new collection of short stories from the woman Rick Moody has called “the best prose stylist in America” Her stories may be literal one-liners: the entirety of “Bloomington” reads, “Now that I have been here for a little while, I can say with confidence that I have never been here before.” Or they may be lengthier investigations of the havoc wreaked by the most mundane disruptions to routine: in “A Small Story About a Small Box of Chocolates,” a professor receives a gift of thirty-two small chocolates and is paralyzed by the multitude of options she imagines for their consumption. The stories may appear in the form of letters of complaint; they may be extracted from Flaubert’s correspondence; or they may be inspired by the author’s own dreams, or the dreams of friends. What does not vary throughout Can’t and Won’t , Lydia Davis’s fifth collection of stories, is the power of her finely honed prose. Davis is sharply observant; she is wry or witty or poignant. Above all, she is refreshing. Davis writes with bracing candor and sly humor about the quotidian, revealing the mysterious, the foreign, the alienating, and the pleasurable within the predictable patterns of daily life.

Casebook by Mona Simpson
Miles Adler-Hart starts eavesdropping to find out what his mother is planning for his life. When he learns instead that his parents are separating, his investigation deepens, and he enlists his best friend, Hector, to help. Both boys are in thrall to Miles’s unsuspecting mother, Irene, who is “pretty for a mathematician.” They rifle through her dresser drawers, bug her telephone lines, and strip-mine her computer, only to find that all clues lead them to her bedroom, and put them on the trail of a mysterious stranger from Washington, D.C. Their amateur detective work starts innocently but quickly takes them to the far reaches of adult privacy as they acquire knowledge that will affect the family’s well-being, prosperity, and sanity. Burdened with this powerful information, the boys struggle to deal with the existence of evil and concoct modes of revenge on their villains that are both hilarious and naïve. Eventually, haltingly, they learn to offer animal comfort to those harmed and to create an imaginative path to their own salvation.

Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy
Across town from St. Jarlath’s Crescent, featured in Minding Frankie, is Chestnut Street, where neighbors come and go. Behind their closed doors we encounter very different people with different life circumstances, occupations, and sensibilities. Some of the unforgettable characters lovingly brought to life by Binchy are Bucket Maguire, the window cleaner, who must do more than he bargained for to protect his son; Nessa Byrne, whose aunt visits from America every summer and turns the house–and Nessa’s world–upside down; Lilian, the generous girl with the big heart and a fiancé whom no one approves of; Melly, whose gossip about the neighbors helps Madame Magic, a self-styled fortune-teller, get everyone on the right track; Dolly, who discovers more about her perfect mother than she ever wanted to know; and Molly, who learns the cure for sleeplessness from her pen pal from Chicago . . .

Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley
Like Alice Munro and Colm Tóibín, Tessa Hadley possesses the remarkable ability to transform the mundane into the sublime–an eye for the beauty, innocence, and irony of ordinary lives that elevates domestic fiction to literary art. In Clever Girl, she offers the indelible story of one woman’s life, unfolded in a series of beautifully sculpted episodes that illuminate an era, moving from the 1960s to today. Written with the celebrated precision, intensity, and complexity that have marked her previous works, Clever Girl is a powerful exploration of family relationships and class in modern life, witnessed through the experiences of an Englishwoman named Stella.

A Family Affair by Fern Michaels
In a city built on dreams, Trisha Holiday makes her living moving like one. But out of her dancer’s costume, she’s as down-to-earth as they come. That’s why she ignores the admiring note—and the accompanying $1000 bill—that arrives backstage after one of her ethereal performances. Yet the sender, a wealthy foreign prince, isn’t easily dissuaded. Seven years living and studying in the United States have made Malik long for the freedom to choose his own bride—and the woman he wants is Trisha.

In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen
In the winter of 1996, more than a hundred women and men of diverse nationality, background, and belief gather at the site of a former concentration camp for an unprecedented purpose: a week-long retreat during which they will offer prayer and witness at the crematoria and meditate in all weathers on the selection platform, while eating and sleeping in the quarters of the Nazi officers who, half a century before, sent more than a million Jews to their deaths. Clements Olin, an American academic of Polish descent, has come along, ostensibly to complete research on the death of a survivor, even as he questions what a non-Jew can contribute to the understanding of so monstrous a catastrophe. As the days pass, tensions, both political and personal, surface among the participants, stripping away any easy pretense to healing or closure. Finding himself in the grip of emotions and impulses of bewildering intensity, Olin is forced to abandon his observer’s role and to embrace a history his family has long suppressed and with it the yearnings and contradictions of being fully alive.

Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
In 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack Wiseman, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the lieutenant charged with guarding this treasure–a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie Stein, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman–a woman whose portrait and fate come to haunt Natalie, a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand the guilt her grandfather will take to his grave and to find a way out of the mess she has made of her own life.

Mimi Malloy At Last! by Julia MacDonnell
Meet Mimi Malloy: A daughter of the Great Depression, Mimi was born into an Irish-Catholic brood of seven, and she has done her best to raise six beautiful daughters of her own. Now they’re grown, and Mimi, a divorcée, is unexpectedly retired. But she takes solace in the comforts of her new life: her apartment in the heart of Quincy, the occasional True Blue cigarette, and evenings with Frank Sinatra on the stereo and a highball in her hand. Yet her phone is arguably the busiest in greater Boston–it rings “Day In, Day Out,” as Ol’ Blue Eyes would say. Her surviving sisters love to gab about their girlhood, while her eldest daughter, Cassandra, calls every morning to preach the gospel of assisted living. And when an MRI reveals that Mimi’s brain is filled with black spots–areas of atrophy, her doctor says–it looks like she’s destined to spend her days in “one of those storage facilities for unwanted antiques.” Mimi knows her mind is (more or less) as sharp as ever, and she won’t go down without a fight.

Night Diver by Elizabeth Lowell
After a family tragedy, Kate Donnelly left the Caribbean behind forever. But a series of bad management decisions has left her family’s diving and marine-recovery business drowning in red ink. Now her brother pleads with her to come back to the island nation of St Vincent. Without Kate’s financial expertise, the iconic treasure-hunting enterprise started by her grandfather will go under. Unable to say no to the little family she has left, Kate heads back to the beautiful and terrifying ocean that still haunts her nightmares. Holden Cameron was addicted to the adrenaline rush of active duty–including narrowly surviving an underwater explosives accident. The last thing the former British military diver wants is to babysit a family of thieves on a tropical island–even if they are the world-famous Diving Donnellys. But in his new civilian job, Holden must investigate the suspicious activity surrounding a Donnelly dive to recover treasure from the ancient wreck of a pirate ship. When equipment, treasure, and even divers begin to disappear, Kate and Holden form an uneasy alliance to uncover the truth. But the deeper they plummet into the mystery, the closer they come to each other.

Off Course by Michelle Huneven
The year is 1981, Reagan is in the White House, and the country is stalled in a recession. Cressida Hartley, a gifted Ph.D. student in economics, moves into her parents’ shabby A-frame cabin in the Sierras to write her dissertation. In her most intimate and emotionally compelling novel to date, Michelle Huneven–author of Blame , which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award–returns with her signature mix of fine-grained storytelling, unforgettable characters, and moral complexity.Cress, increasingly resistant to her topic (art in the marketplace), allows herself to be drawn into the social life of the small mountain community.

The Other Story by Tatiana de Rosnay
Vacationing at a luxurious Tuscan island resort, Nicolas Duhamel is hopeful that the ghosts of his past have finally been put to rest… Now a bestselling author, when he was twenty-four years old, he stumbled upon a troubling secret about his family – a secret that was carefully concealed. In shock, Nicholas embarked on a journey to uncover the truth that took him from the Basque coast to St. Petersburg – but the answers wouldn’t come easily. In the process of digging into his past, something else happened. Nicolas began writing a novel that was met with phenomenal success, skyrocketing him to literary fame whether he was ready for it or not – and convincing him that he had put his family’s history firmly behind him. But now, years later, Nicolas must reexamine everything he thought he knew, as he learns that, however deeply buried, the secrets of the past always find a way out.

The Plover by Brian Doyle
Declan O’Donnell has sailed out of Oregon and deep into the vast, wild ocean, having had just finally enough of other people and their problems. He will go it alone, he will be his own country, he will be beholden to and beloved of no one. No man is an island, my butt, he thinks. I am that very man . . . . But the galaxy soon presents him with a string of odd, entertaining, and dangerous passengers, who become companions of every sort and stripe. The Plover is the story of their adventures and misadventures in the immense blue country one of their company calls Pacifica. Hounded by a mysterious enemy, reluctantly acquiring one new resident after another, Declan O’Donnell’s lonely boat is eventually crammed with humor, argument, tension, and a resident herring gull. Brian Doyle’s The Plover is a sea novel, a maritime adventure, the story of a cold man melting, a compendium of small miracles, an elegy to Edmund Burke, a watery quest, a battle at sea—and a rapturous, heartfelt celebration of life’s surprising paths, planned and unplanned.

Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick
One does not expect to be kidnapped on a London street in broad daylight. But Amity Doncaster barely escapes with her life after she is trapped in a carriage with a blade-wielding man in a black silk mask who whispers the most vile taunts and threats into her ear. Her quick thinking, and her secret weapon, save her . . . for now. But the monster known in the press as the Bridegroom, who has left a trail of female victims in his wake, has survived the wounds she inflicts and will soon be on his feet again. He is unwholesomely obsessed by her scandalous connection to Benedict Stanbridge; gossip about their hours alone in a ship’s stateroom seems to have crossed the Atlantic faster than any sailing vessel could. Benedict refuses to let this resourceful, daring woman suffer for her romantic link to him as tenuous as it may be. For a man and woman so skilled at disappearing, so at home in the exotic reaches of the globe, escape is always an option. But each intends to end the Bridegroom’s reign of terror in London, and will join forces to do so.

Redeployment by Phil Klay
Phil Klay’s Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos.

The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
In 1860, Alexander Ferguson, a newly ordained vicar and amateur evolutionary scientist, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the remote Scottish island of Harris. He hopes to uncover the truth behind the legend of the selkies–mermaids or seal people who have been sighted off the north of Scotland for centuries. He has a more personal motive, too; family legend states that Alexander is descended from seal men. As he struggles to be the good pastor he was called to be, his maid Moira faces the terrible eviction of her family by Lord Marstone, whose family owns the island. Their time on the island will irrevocably change the course of both their lives, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after they are gone. It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets.

The Storied Life Of A J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died; his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history; and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island–from Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, he can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly. And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore.

Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland
Raymond Gunt likes to think of himself as a pretty decent guy-he believes in karma, and helping his fellow man, and all that other good stuff. Sure, he can be foulmouthed, occasionally misogynistic, and can just generally rub people the wrong way-through no fault of his own! So with all the positive energy he’s creating, it’s a little perplexing to consider the recent downward spiral his life has taken.Could the universe be trying to tell him something? A B-unit cameraman with no immediate employment prospects, Gunt decides to accept his ex-wife Fiona’s offer to shoot a Survivor- style reality show on an obscure island in the Pacific. With his upwardly failing sidekick, Neal, in tow, Gunt somehow suffers multiple comas and unjust imprisonment, is forced to reenact the “Angry Dance” from the movie Billy Elliot, and finds himself at the center of a nuclear war-among other tribulations and humiliations.

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