Shelf Awareness for Thursday, January 9, 2020

William Morrow & Company: Polostan: Volume One of Bomb Light by Neal Stephenson

Shadow Mountain: The Legend of the Last Library by Frank L Cole

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Elements of Marie Curie: How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science by Dava Sobel

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly


Link Disconnect: Launches Bookstore Link Just Before Bookshop Debut, which has partnered with independent bookstores to offer digital audiobooks to indie customers, has introduced a new service called Bookstore Link that connects book customers with indie booksellers. As describes it, "When someone links to a book on Bookstore Link, the reader chooses their independent bookstore and is connected to that bookstore's website to make their purchase."

The bookstore "keeps 100% of each book sale," according to, which says that anyone using the link--authors, media, people on social media, among others--will be "be driving traffic and sales to independent bookstores, boosting authors' chances of hitting bestseller lists, and using your influence for good."

The first foray by into printed books, Bookstore Link calls itself "a gift to the bookish community from, the first audiobook company to support independent bookstores. We know that while people want to support their local bookstores, most book links go directly to Amazon. Let's change that. Bookstore Link collects no money. We simply connect readers--and their book purchases--to their local bookstores."

In many ways, the service resembles the American Booksellers Association's IndieBound, which can connect book buyers with independent bookstores. And, strikingly, the introduction of Bookstore Link comes just before the official introduction in three weeks of Bookshop, the service that aims to fulfill online book sales in places where most sales otherwise go to Amazon. Bookshop intends to build "a network of publishers, authors, bookstagrammers, celebrity book clubs, and other media sites to target socially-conscious online consumers who are not yet buying their books online through an independent bookstore."

Yesterday, saying that "indie bookstores need a new approach to competing more effectively online," the ABA board announced an "affinity partnership" with Bookshop, which promises to contribute 10% of sales to a pool that will be distributed to independent bookstores, while stores that are affiliates will earn a 25% commission on sales.

Orders will be fulfilled via Ingram. Bookshop, which is a B-Corp. and was developed by publisher, web publisher and founder of Electric Literature Andy Hunter, will handle inventory, fulfillment, shipping, customer service and returns. The service doesn't include audiobooks or e-books, but it plans on "including audiobooks and possibly e-books through partnerships with other platforms after launch." ( would be the most likely candidate for such an digital audiobook partnership.)

The ABA emphasized that Bookshop is "very well connected. Bookshop expects to launch with major affiliate partners, including all the Big 5 publishers, the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, Literary Hub, Electric Literature, and many more."

The ABA continued: "We believe that there are consumers who shop online and would choose to support indie bookstores if there were a visible and convenient alternative to Amazon and others.

"Dependency on affiliate revenue and reluctance to choose one indie bookstore over another are two reasons why authors, bloggers, and publications continue to use Amazon buy buttons. Bookshop offers twice the affiliate commission that Amazon does while also providing a way to support specific indie bookstores or all ABA member bookstores. All a member bookstore needs to do is add buy buttons and create affiliate pages.

"Another advantage of Bookshop is that authors, bloggers, and publications that have more than one bookstore in their community can support all of them equally, and readers in communities that don’t have their own independent bookstore but who still want to support independent bookstores can do so through"

Running Press Kids: Your Magical Life: A Young Witch's Guide to Becoming Happy, Confident, and Powerful by Amanda Lovelace

Book Culture's Columbus Ave. Location Closes Unexpectedly

Book Culture's Columbus Avenue location in New York City, which had fallen three and a half months behind on rent over the summer, closed suddenly Tuesday morning following a seizure of the property by the bookstore's landlord, the Columbia Spectator reported.

Chris Doeblin, the bookstore's co-owner, explained in a Facebook post that despite the unpaid rent, he had operated under the belief that the "action was retracted" after he'd paid rent the past five months and cut the store's arrears by $35,000 in December.

"Our landlord was gracious enough to show the forbearance that allowed us to stay open and make payments while we clawed our way back to viability," Doeblin wrote. "Suddenly, that is no longer the case. I am working very hard to find a solution and will continue to update folks here and via e-mails."

According to the Gothamist, an eviction notice for the Columbus Ave. store was served on December 20, effective January 2. After receiving the notice, Doeblin sent checks totalling $75,000 to the landlord, at which point he believed the eviction was stayed.

Over the summer, Doeblin had appealed to community members for help, first by asking them to appeal to city and state institutions on Book Culture's behalf and then by starting a community lending program.

In an update posted on Wednesday afternoon, Doeblin further reported that by the end of the holiday season, Book Culture had managed to raise a little over $600,000 out of a needed $750,000, but the Columbus Ave. location cannot reopen until the remaining $140,000 is paid.

Doeblin said that after the repossession, he asked his landlords to allow him to "pay along on a monthly basis for several more months so we can give our recovery a chance" and "honor the Community Lenders and Book Culture team that had come so far since last June." He said he was told that "it's just business," and "nothing less than the immediate full repayment of the arrears and taxes and legal bills is acceptable."

He added that all of the Columbus Ave. staff have been moved to the three other Book Culture stores in order to keep them employed and their insurance active, and the bookstore "will do so as long as possible."

"The obvious question is when are we throwing good money after bad," he wrote. "The fact is that we will need more investment, partnerships or access to capital to ensure our viability in the long term, as much as $300,000 more. But getting the doors open again at Columbus now is our main priority."

Adding to the Book Culture crisis is a split between Doeblin and co-owner John MacArthur, publisher of Harper's. The two are in litigation, apparently over how the community lending program has been used. Doeblin told the West Side Rag, referring to MacArthur, who had no comment: "I am afraid that this very wealthy person will succeed in pushing our family out and take control of this creation that we gave life to. We will fight for our beautiful little store."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

Thank You Books Opens in Birmingham, Ala.

Thank You Books has opened at 5502-B Crestwood Blvd. in Birmingham, Ala., reported, adding that co-owners Kristen Iskandrian, Laura Lilly Cotten and Elizabeth Goodrich are hoping to create a "lively hub" for the arts and literary culture in the city.

Asked whether this is a good time to open a bookstore, Iskandrian replied: "People who have the choice to drive still ride bicycles, right? I think the assumption that technology shifts will necessarily obliterate older, time-tested forms is sort of silly. People want choices, and people will always want books. And more than books--people will always crave person-to-person connection, and real-world experiences, which simply can't be replicated online."

To celebrate the new indie, Bham Now showcased "everything you need to know about Birmingham's latest bookstore," noting that the "Crestwood community has already responded positively to the new shop. On the store's opening day, there was a crowd outside waiting for the doors to open."

"We love this location," said co-owner Goodrich. "We just feel like Crestwood is close to so many exciting things that are happening in Birmingham–so many creative and interesting people who have made their homes here. It was just was a natural fit."

Iskandrian added: "I’m most looking forward to filling the store with good energy, people having fun, making connections and getting excited about books. We are a welcoming space for all people, for any reading level, for any level of interest in any kind of book. We will make it our mission to find a book for any kind of person."

RITA Awards Cancelled for 2020

After several months of heated controversy and mass resignations by members and board members of the Romance Writers of America, the association has cancelled its RITA awards in 2020. In an announcement, the RWA said that "many in the romance community have lost faith in RWA's ability to administer the 2020 RITA contest fairly, causing numerous judges and entrants to cancel their participation." It expects the 2021 awards to encompass 2019 and 2020 titles.

The RWA added that it is hiring "a consultant who specializes in awards programs and a DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] consultant" and will seek member involvement in remaking the awards. "Recent RWA Boards have worked hard to make changes to the current contest, striving to make it more diverse and inclusive, relieve judging burdens, and bring in outside voices," but those kinds of changes have been "piecemeal," and the hiatus will allow the RWA "the opportunity to take a proper amount of time to build an awards program and process--whether it's a revamped RITA contest or something entirely new--that celebrates and elevates the best in our genre."

The move isn't a surprise after the turbulence of the past half year, which started when author Courtney Milan (the pen name of Heidi Bond), a former RWA board member and an advocate for diversity in the publishing community and in romance books, tweeted that a 1999 historical romance, Somewhere Lies the Moon by Kathryn Lynn Davis (which has a heroine who is half-Chinese, like Milan), was a "f*cking racist mess."

As recounted by the Guardian, Davis and Suzan Tisdale, a romance writer and publisher who has worked with Davis, filed an ethics complaint with the RWA, alleging cyberbullying by Milan and a loss of professional opportunities--a three-book deal--because of the tweet. (Davis later said that there had been no final deal; rather, discussions on a deal had ended.)

Bizarrely, at the time the ethics complaint was filed, Milan, the subject of the complaint, was chair of the RWA's ethics committee. The board, it says, asked her to resign and added members to the committee who had no connection with Milan.

On December 23, the RWA board suspended Milan from the RWA for a year and barred her from any leadership positions for life. In reaction, masses of members resigned and many on the RWA board left. The RWA quickly rescinded the punishment.

In the meantime, a recall petition for RWA president Damon Suede was submitted this week to the association, which has also hired a law firm to "conduct an independent audit of the recent matter involving its code of ethics and to make recommendations on appropriate adjustments moving forward on ethics policy and procedures."

Min Lee New Hachette Book Group General Counsel

Min Lee

Effective March 2, Min Lee is joining Hachette Book Group as senior v-p and general counsel, taking on the role held by Carol Ross, who will retire in June. She will also join Hachette's executive management board.

Lee has been senior v-p, associate general counsel and global head of compliance at Penguin Random House. For 12 years as an in-house attorney at PRH, she has been lead counsel for various publishing imprints, advised on complex commercial agreements, and has also served as the company's lead attorney on digital marketing, privacy, data security, and compliance matters. Prior to joining PRH, she was a litigation associate with the media law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, where she represented publishers in libel and copyright infringement lawsuits. She began her career in the intellectual property litigation department at Debevoise & Plimpton.

Obituary Note: Elizabeth Wurtzel

Elizabeth Wurtzel

Elizabeth Wurtzel, whose 1994 memoir, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America, "won praise for opening a dialogue about clinical depression and helped introduce an unsparing style of confessional writing that remains influential," died January 7, the New York Times reported. She was 52. Writer David Samuels, a friend since childhood, said the cause was metastatic breast cancer. After her diagnosis, Wurtzel became an advocate for BRCA testing--something she had not had--and wrote about her cancer experience.

Writing about her final illness was a natural choice for Wurtzel, "who had for a quarter-century scrutinized her life in relentless detail, becoming a hero to some, especially to many women of her generation and younger, but also drawing scorn," the Times noted.

"Lizzie's literary genius rests not just in her acres of quotable one-liners," Samuels said, "but in her invention of what was really a new form, which has more or less replaced literary fiction--the memoir by a young person no one has ever heard of before. It was a form that Lizzie fashioned in her own image, because she always needed to be both the character and the author."

Wurtzel's other books include More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction (2002) and Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women (1998).

In the afterword for the 1995 edition of Prozac Nation, Wurtzel wrote: "If Prozac Nation has any particular purpose, it would be to come out and say that clinical depression is a real problem, that it ruins lives, that it ends lives, that it very nearly ended my life; that it afflicts many, many people, many very bright and worthy and thoughtful and caring people, people who could probably save the world or at the very least do it some real good, people who are too mired in despair to even begin to unleash the lifespring of potential that they likely have down deep inside."

Ronan Farrow tweeted: "I met Lizzie in law school. She started mid-career as I was starting young. We were both misfits and she was kind and generous and filled spaces that might have otherwise been lonely with her warmth and humor and idiosyncratic voice. She gave a lot to a lot of us. I miss her."

In an Atlantic tribute headlined "The Glorious, Messy Life of Liz Wurtzel," Deborah Copaken observed that Prozac Nation "forever changed the literary landscape. It redefined not only what women were allowed to write about, but when they were allowed to write about it: their messy, early decades in medias res. Mental illness was no longer something to be hidden or shameful. It was a topic like any other, to be brought out into the light.... I find myself wishing, right now, that Liz could send us a missive from the beyond, one last word to let us know she made it there safely, that the music was just meh, and that she was already asking everyone not how they died but how they lived, helping each to find, without shame, the humor, pathos, and humanity in their narrative arcs."


Image of the Day: Ibram X. Kendi at Laguna Beach Books

Speaking at the Public Affairs Institute conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., this week, author Ibram X. Kendi stopped by Laguna Beach Books because his wife was in need of a book. He signed copies of his own book How to Be an Antiracist (One World).

Collected Works Bookstore Is 'More than One Person'

Dorothy Massey, owner of Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse in Santa Fe, N.Mex., was profiled by the Santa Fe New Mexican, which reported that she "is resistant to the idea that her success as a bookseller makes her worthy of attention in the local paper."

"The store is a great deal more than one person," she said. "I'm delighted to talk about the store without getting into my own history."

Massey, the store's third owner, moved the operation to the corner of Water and Galisteo streets in 2008 so she could put in a coffee bar and accommodate larger crowds, "just in time to celebrate the recession." The store made it through the tough times thanks to the goodwill of "the local people in Santa Fe and the tourists, who did not stop coming."

She also noted that what keeps the business humming is the bookshop's 10-member staff: "They're not in it for the pay. They're in it because they enjoy what they're doing and they enjoy their colleagues. We are one family--we squabble. We don't always get along, but we try to work it out."

Cecile Lipworth, the store's events curator, said, "Dorothy's vast literary knowledge, her memory of every author and the books they've written, and what events have taken place in the store, is unmatched by anyone I know. She's one of the strongest women I've worked with, and her forthrightness sets important boundaries when working with the volume of authors and members of the public we talk with daily."

Massey deflected all praise: "Santa Fe is a very literary town. The last time I looked, there were 17 independent bookstores. When I moved here, this store was already successful. I did research all over the country to find a store that was already part of a community. As my daughter said to me at the time, 'You'll be better at running a bookstore than a muffler shop.' "

Winter Window Display: Woozles

Canadian children's bookstore Woozles in Halifax, N.S., shared a photo of its window display on Facebook, noting: "Our winter display is currently looking very charming and authentic, thanks to all this snowfall! We are currently open and quite cozy!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Fred P. Hochberg on All Things Considered

CBS This Morning: Christy Harrison, author of Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being, and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating (Little, Brown Spark, $28, 9780316420358).

The View: Jennifer Ashton, author of The Self-Care Solution: A Year of Becoming Happier, Healthier, and Fitter--One Month at a Time (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062885425).

Dr. Oz: Suzanne Somers, author of A New Way to Age: The Most Cutting-Edge Advances in Antiaging (Gallery, $28, 9781982110949).

NPR's All Things Considered: Fred P. Hochberg, author of Trade Is Not a Four-Letter Word: How Six Everyday Products Make the Case for Trade (Avid Reader Press, $28, 9781982127367).

This Weekend on Book TV: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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, January 11
2:30 p.m. Alec Karakatsanis, author of Usual Cruelty: The Complicity of Lawyers in the Criminal Injustice System (The New Press, $24.99, 9781620975275), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Monday at 4:40 a.m.)

5:30 p.m. Brian Katulis and Michael Rubin, authors of Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East? (AEI Press, $35, 9780844750255). (Re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m.)

7 p.m. Jeffrey Rosen, author of Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law (Holt, $28, 9781250235169), with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

10 p.m. Peggy Orenstein, author of Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity (Harper, $28.99, 9780062666970). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Peter Bergen, author of Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos (Penguin Press, $30, 9780525522416). (Re-airs Sunday at 5 p.m.)

Sunday, January 12
12 a.m. Chris Arnade, author of Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America (Sentinel, $30, 9780525534730). (Re-airs Sunday at 7:50 p.m.)

3 p.m. Clifford Thompson, author of What It Is: Race, Family, and One Thinking Black Man's Blues (Other Press, $19.99, 9781590519059).

Books & Authors

Awards: Pacific Northwest, Crook's Corner Winners

The winners of the 2020 Pacific Northwest Book Awards, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, are:

The Cassandra: A Novel
by Sharma Shields (Holt)
The Death & Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story
by Aaron Bobrow-Strain (FSG)
Exhalation: Stories
by Ted Chiang (Knopf)
Is, Is Not: Poems
by Tess Gallagher (Graywolf Press)
My Heart
by Corinna Luyken (Dial Books)
Queen of the Sea
by Dylan Meconis (Walker Books)


The Atlas of Reds and Blues
by Devi S. Laskar (Counterpoint Press) has won the Crook's Corner Book Prize for best debut novel set in the American South. The $5,000 prize is sponsored by the Crook's Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., and the Crook's Corner Book Prize Foundation.

Organizers said that The Atlas of Reds and Blues "grapples with the complexities of second-generation American life. Inspired by the author's own terrifying experience of a mistaken police raid on her home, Devi S. Laskar's debut novel explores, in spare and powerful prose, the ways in which racism permeates and pollutes the American dream. As the protagonist, known only as Mother, lies bleeding from a police gunshot wound in her Atlanta driveway, she revisits, in a time-bending mind-flash, her life as the successful child of immigrants from India, wife of a successful white businessman, and mother of three daughters."

Charles Frazier, who was the judge this year, said of the winning book: "I loved the very focused and concise ideas and dramatic situation, the efficient and effective structure, the strong and precise language."

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, January 14:

You Can Only Yell at Me for One Thing at a Time: Rules for Couples by Patricia Marx, illustrated by Roz Chast (Celadon, $20, 9781250225139) gives humorous relationship advice for bickering couples.

Father of Lions: One Man's Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo by Louise Callaghan (Forge Books, $27.99, 9781250248947) tells the story of a zookeeper who evacuated the zoo in war-ravaged Mosul, Iraq.

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Knopf, $27.95, 9780525655084) profiles struggling rural communities.

The Fixers: The Bottom-Feeders, Crooked Lawyers, Gossipmongers, and Porn Stars Who Created the 45th President by Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld (Random House, $28, 9780593132395) looks at the tabloid owners and criminal lawyers who contributed to the Trump presidency.

Trade Is Not a Four-Letter Word: How Six Everyday Products Make the Case for Trade by Fred P. Hochberg (Avid Reader Press, $28, 9781982127367) uses goods such as the iPhone, the banana and Game of Thrones to show how international trade is good for the U.S. and other countries.

Little Gods: A Novel by Meng Jin (Custom House, $27.99, 9780062935953) follows two generations of Chinese immigrants.

A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris (Gallery/Saga Press, $26.99, 9781481494953) is the second supernatural thriller with Gunnie Rose.

Normal: One Kid's Extraordinary Journey by Magdalena Newman and Nathaniel Newman, illus. by Neil Swaab (HMH Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 9781328631831) is Nathaniel's memoir about growing up with Treacher Collins syndrome and is publishing simultaneously with his mother's memoir, Normal: A Mother and Her Beautiful Son.

Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan, illus. by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 9781534461833), about adoption and forever families, is one of the inaugural titles from the Denene Millner imprint.

Your New Name: Saying Goodbye to the Labels That Limit by Esther Fleece Allen and Andy Stanley (Zondervan, $18.99, 9780310346074).

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 German House: A Novel by Annette Hess, translated by Elisabeth Lauffer (HarperVia, $26.99, 9780062910257). "The German House captured my imagination. The author expertly unfolds the story of Eva Bruhns, a translator for the 1963 Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials, with such believability that the reader feels complicit in the denial of the past. As she hears testimonies, Eva discovers that anyone can be guilty of some horrific role in the war, however unaware they were of inhumane acts, or however prey to propaganda. The reader's nausea will build as Eva gets closer to the truth. This historical novel seethes with life and feels authentic at every turn." --Diane McGuire, Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, Minn.

The Second Sleep: A Novel by Robert Harris (Knopf, $26.95, 9780525656692). "The year: 1468. The place: a remote English village. Christopher Fairfax, a young cleric, has come to bury a priest whose interest in old, heretical artifacts may have led to his death. Robert Harris, master of the historical novel, has written a corker---I won't say anything to spoil the twist!" --Susan Taylor, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

The Water Cure: A Novel by Sophie Mackintosh (Anchor, $16, 9780525562832). "Here's what they know: men hurt women, even if they don't mean to. And the island is the only safe place in a world that has been completely corrupted by pollution--at least that's what they've been told. So, sisters Grace, Lia, and Sky occupy themselves with the painful rituals their parents have devised, exercises that will make them stronger and immune to love's sickness. Every day is the same until their father disappears and three strange men appear in his place. Violence is inevitable, but who will be the perpetrator? Gorgeously, perfectly written, The Water Cure luxuriates in an atmosphere of haunting, Atwoodian strangeness." --Lauren Peugh, Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.

For Ages 4 to 8
Freedom Soup by Tami Charles, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara (Candlewick, $16.99, 9780763689773). "Jacqueline Alcántara's energy-filled illustrations match perfectly with Tami Charles' story of a grandmother and granddaughter cooking together and learning some Haitian history in the process. A story that is sure to make your mouth water and your heart sing." --Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.

For Ages 9 to 12
The Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer (Disney-Hyperion, $18.99, 9781368043755). "Eoin Colfer's spinoff to his wildly popular Artemis Fowl series will grab readers and make them sit up straight and pay attention. The writing is both witty and informative, the plot never slows down, and the characters--both good and bad--are at the top of their games. Fans of the exploits of the Fowl family will most assuredly gobble this up and beg for more." --Tanya Parker Mills, The Book Bungalow, St. George, Utah

For Teen Readers
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean (Flatiron, $18.99, 9781250225498). "This is a book about stories as much as it is about survival. Eight boys find themselves trapped on a sea stack four miles from home when their return boat fails to come for them. As the boys struggle to survive, narrator Quill begins to tell the boys stories in order to get them through the long months. An amazing story itself, Where the World Ends is chilling and beautiful. I was captivated to the last page." --Katherine Nazzaro, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, Mass.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Heathcliff Redux: A Novella and Stories

Heathcliff Redux: A Novella and Stories by Lily Tuck (Atlantic Monthly Press, $23 hardcover, 224p., 9780802147592, February 4, 2020)

That the world can be unkind, particularly to women, isn't lost on Lily Tuck, whose sublime story collections and novels include The House at Belle Fontaine, The Double Life of Liliane, Sisters and the 2004 National Book Award winner The News from Paraguay. With her signature unembellished prose, Tuck often writes about women whose prospects are limited by their historical era and choice of mate.

Likewise, the women of the stellar Heathcliff Redux: A Novella and Stories are vulnerable in ways that the men around them are not. In the title novella, set in 1963, the narrator recounts her affair with a man who is in business with her domineering husband. Readers will detect a note of wistfulness when she reflects, "Charlie and I started dating my freshman year in college; we got married after he graduated. I got pregnant right away with the twins and did not graduate." In "The Dead Swan," another woman abandoned pursuits that could have given her more of a foothold on her future. She showed promise as a photographer--one of her pictures was selected for a group exhibition. But it was at this exhibition that she met her husband, which has led to a life of substitute teaching and awaiting his return from prison.

Also no better off for having thrown in her lot with a man--a cult leader--is the protagonist of "A Natural State," who starts receiving unnerving e-mails that force her to remember this aspect of her past. It's not that Tuck's women have worse judgment than men; it's that they need superior resources to fend off what men tend to offer them. This is shatteringly laid bare in "Carl Schurz Park," in which four white private-school boys throw a black teenage girl who can't swim into the East River.

Unlike the four other pieces in Heathcliff Redux, "Labyrinth Two" doesn't tease the theme of regret, although it anticipates the feeling. In the story, Tuck imagines the circumstances surrounding a black-and-white photo (it's reproduced on the page) of four young people at midcentury having drinks together in Capri. Tuck posits that the two women are American and staying at the villa of one of the men's vacationing parents. Here, too, the author's protectiveness of her women, who are beholden to a man they don't really know, is plain; one of them wonders "what is expected of them on this weekend in Capri."

The women of Heathcliff Redux aren't without agency: like their male counterparts, they take drugs, have affairs. But Tuck's stories' power imbalances, especially men's surpassing physical strength, keep the writer ever watchful, her sentences stark with circumspection and glistening with clarity. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: The National Book Award winner's superb third collection features women dependent on or done wrong by men.

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